THE LAYERED LOOK. MY FAVORITE SHOT OF THE DAY. OUR LIVES ARE LAYERED WITH THE EVERY DAY SWEETNESS OF LIFE AND THE EXISTENTIAL THREAT OF OUR MURDER OF THE ENVIRONMENT…

3/24/2020. Must be C-19 Day #8. Remember the pretty little expressions: April showers…. The merry month of May… Swing into spring…. Not feelin’ it. Well perhaps just a little. The first hour or so of the day goes up and down and up and down. I awake feeling smothered; get up and note body feels fine (something people ‘of a certain age’ check!), spirits lift; first hot milky coffee AND news that China may be easing back toward ‘normal’ AND to top it all off a cheerful FB post from a smiling colleague AND the fact there are so many things I love to do (writing, reading, photographing, enjoying friends via media) ahead of me today—should I choose to take advantage of them.

PREPARING FOR SPRING. A GOOD SPRING FOR GARDENERS TO APPRECIATE THEIR BIT OF THE OUTDOORS.

But NOW, Pollyanna has left the building and I remember we have an incompetent narcissist leading the country in possession of the most bombs—that would be my country, this country and all of a sudden that being-smothered feeling returns. AND I remember my son’s best friend, who is also a family friend, has unexpectedly died (not from C-19) AND that my brother/sister-in-law are back in Minnesota and I miss them AND my work is closed and may or may not ever reopen AND that I’m effing old.

Oh for heaven’s sake Marjorie, stop it. You are being dim-witted, negative, maudlin, defeatist…and you are not usually all of those things at once. Hmmm…now that I’ve voiced some of the morning’s non-thoughts I can get busy with this Tuesday’s agenda. Second large cup of coffee. Download pretty pictures to go with early morning blathering, post. Brush teeth. Think how lucky I am for … well … stuff.

An early-spring, walking-around-the-hood album.

STAY CALM AND CARRY ON as the Brits say. Good advice.

Where’s Mother Teresa when we need her? In 2011 I was in Skopje, Macedonia; this is a rainy day view from a coffee shop window. One of the best trips of my life, by bus, train and long-distance taxi around eastern Europe. I posted it today just because I couldn’t think of a photo to go with my melancholy post. 

Mother Teresa memorial house in Skopje is located on Macedonia Street in the center of the city between the Old Railway Station (the city museum of Skopje) and Macedonia square.

3/21/2020. C-19 Day #5. Soon I’ll think of a different heading for this “diary.” It’s 3:51am. Just heard the paper hit my front step. Started taking the Albuquerque Journal again and it’s interesting to me how comforted I feel by getting that old-fashioned print-on-paper hometown newspaper at my front door. Home, emphasis here on hometown, is where it’s at when I’m scared….

***

My agenda for this fine time of day between 3 and 5am: Reviewing possible scenarios for the next few months and/or years of my life. I always feel better with a selection of scenarios and plans in front of me.

***PLEASE REMEMBER WHAT FOLLOWS IS IMAGINATION, NOT FAKE NEWS.

 Scenario A is best case: Covid-19 under control in another month or two, no deaths in New Mexico or illnesses among anyone I know; North Fourth Art Center open and in action, i.e. I have a job; gym available; travel plans pick up where they were in July (Africa) and the rest of the fall after these minor delays (California, Minnesota, Cuba, New England). Did I mention Sleazy T. being defeated soundly in November?

Plan A is to, above all, keep busy and healthy. Keep making notes and plans for work, writing and travel. And remember to clean a drawer or two. Projects about which I am obsessing on practically an hourly basis—maybe that’s just OCD me.

***

Scenario B is acceptable: Covid-19 tapers off naturally with summer, and a new vaccine finally ends it…though by now it’s fall and a lot of damage has been done to the economy. We’re getting by and it’s a little better every day with a new president at the helm and some degree of sanity and truth returning to the world. My friends and family are well; only minor setbacks are delays with Robert’s knee surgery and Sara’s graduating college, and time passing to quickly for ageing me. North Fourth is open again, burdened by a small business loan and the loss of the building improvement funds which the state diverted to more pressing human needs. All 2020 travel is postponed but will resume, full steam ahead, in 2021. I will not have left the state for way over a year—for me a painful record but there are worst scenarios—to which I’m coming.

Plan B: Stay in busy and healthy mode. Move ahead with additional determination (and as little existential fear as possible) on writing and travel plans. Keep closeness to family and friends created by the pandemic. Be sure and do everything possible to vote the SOB out of office.

***

Scenario C is not good. Covid-19 hangs on through 2020. Contained to some degree but in a form that doesn’t allow life and work to return to normal. Much of the population suffering economically. The SOB Sleaze is re-elected. People I know and care about have been ill. And me…well I’m now forcibly retired because North Fourth has had to close its doors and I’m not of an age to start over.

Scenario C isn’t all bad however. Here’s how it might look for me. I’m existing on rather meager retirement (which the Republican cult has tried to eliminate but so far the poor houses haven’t opened) because I spent my 55 years of wages on raising kids, paying rent, buying books, and traveling. But it’s okay. I have a tiny studio apartment in a quiet building (plants block the view of concrete out the front window), books; I can afford gym fees and a streaming channel or two; I have nice people to visit; and, since I do not like food anyway, all these ramen noodles and canned blueberries on which I subsist are fine. I’ve managed to develop excellent writing habits and happily blog away about life minutiae like ageing and family escapades with only an occasional rant, so my days are productively filled. I bought a new Surface with my last bit of savings and I did mange to get photos mounted from every country to which I’ve traveled so my walls are nicely cluttered with memories.

About travel. Well unfortunately that had to end when my job disappeared. I made it to 112 countries out of 196. Plus Guam and Greenland which are ‘other’ enough to count. My last goal was 120 but Covid-19 smashed that plan into smithereens. There are, however, my annual trips to Minnesota and one or two to California. While I badly wanted to visit the continent of Africa and my family in Norway one last time that didn’t work out. However since I’m part of a lively family of smart adventurous people, second-hand journeys must satisfy my craving for ‘going places.’

Elders Robert, Marsha and I, manage a couple of month together every year in Minnesota or here in New Mexico. We mostly take long walks or sit around commenting on the political folly of the moment and the strange ways of young people.

Plan C is to remain healthy enough to live out the scene just painted. And to try to figure out how to make enough money while-old to take one modestly big annual adventure until I cannot walk.

***

Well okay, sitting here on this early spring morning in 2020 the truth is I’m not quite convinced #C is something I’m willing to embrace quite yet. However, putting worst case scenarios down in black and white calms me. Although obviously there are way worse possibilities for me and the whole wide world than I’ve outlined above.

I’ve had a bit of milky coffee and a nice pill and it’s almost 5am. It is going to be okay isn’t it? I’m off to bed to continue “The British in India,” my favorite go-to-sleep book.

 

 

AND COUNTING…

3/20/2020. My C-19 (Day) #4—since I didn’t isolate until Tuesday. We’ll each deal with this particular foe a little differently but, for me at least, figuring out a “normal” weekly plan feels important. Perhaps all will be well in a few weeks, perhaps a few months. Waking up a 5am to check the number of new coronavirus cases in New Mexico is not the way to get through whatever time it takes! What is the way though? What’s my new normal?

How many times have I declared myself a writer with too little time to actually write? Many, many. Now there is time. Saying ‘Just do it then’ to myself isn’t quite pushing me toward my desk however. It’s not exactly depression keeping me away, not exactly the last season of “Homeland,” not exactly fear or loneliness for the ‘old days’ before C-19. For now let’s say it’s confusion about how to live in forced semi-isolation as opposed to choosing to be a brilliant but moody (perhaps alcoholic) writer in a remote cabin in the deep dark forest (waiting for Kathy Bates to appear with a sledgehammer…).

A plan then…I must have a plan. Like Elizabeth I am never short of plans, so what this really means is living according to one or more of them.

Morning Plan:

  • Get up whenever sleep has left the building.
  • Coffee perked or heated/poured.
  • Couch, Surfy on my lap, go immediately to Word. DO NOT under any circumstances check into any news or social media site. DO NOT.
  • Make a blog post. Dear Diary…today is Day #900 of C-19 lockdown; it’s been seven weeks since my last shower but I feel fine. Wearing my voodoo mask has made me feel ever so secure but the stray dogs I keep inviting in for leftover ramen are fearful. The tree-plant I purchased just before this all started is overflowing the dining area but fortunately the trunk is now substantial enough to use for firewood this winter. And so forth. To Post or Not to Post…that is…
  • Eat yogurt, drink more coffee, check out social media, numbers of new bad things, make bed, do first plank.
  • SIT DOWN AT DESK AND WRITE NEXT CHAPTER OF BOOK. (Book is now 12,000 pages long and the world has run out of paper and words…and people who can read words are fewer and fewer but …

So there you have it…mornings all planned.

Sun is creeping up over the Sandias. Isn’t the hope that warm weather will kill off Covid-19 like it does with other flu viruses? In which case I’ll welcome the glaring New Mexican sun. But if that’s true, why is the virus just now beginning to blossom on the continent of Africa where in the far south it’s preparing for winter and along the equator temps change little year round?

Time for the noontime plan to be designed.

LOCKDOWN

MY COMPANIONS. WHEN I’M RESTLESS I READ FROM SEVERAL BOOKS, BITS AND PIECES TO CHAPTERS. RIGHT NOW I’M NOT IN THE MOOD FOR ANY OF THESE SO… ALTHOUGH THE ‘BRITISH IN INDIA’ IS QUITE INTERESTING IN A LOVELY PUT-YOU-TO-SLEEP WAY.

The world is under house arrest, lockdown, it’s sheltering in place. Remember unsettling times of the past: fake ones like Y2K (we knew not to buy into the hype—but wasn’t it hard not to—just a little?); or the bona fide terror of 9/11 (when there was a real enemy—just not the one we blamed); and everything in between (like election night 2016). And now we have one doozy of an unsettlement. Covid-19. Fast and sneaky. New and mysterious. Killing in every single corner of the world.

I’m scared…I’m old…I’m isolating. A little depressed now and then. Working on that. Why should I be when I have web world in which to roam about. And streaming world. And book world. This evening all three. For starters googling pandemics and plagues and other fascinating killers. Usually I stick to Scandinavian bludgeonings and UK ax murders but now and then it’s good to get serious about Real Death by the great plagues and Spanish flu and cholera and the like. The Black Death (bubonic plague) in the 1300’s killed 200 million and that was all over the world as well. (We still have the occasional death by bubonic plague in New Mexico.) Check this site out for an interesting graphic…no idea how accurate but the site seems somewhat authentic (although market-based) https://www.visualcapitalist.com/history-of-pandemics-deadliest/

I started writing this post because I’m lonely…not necessarily for people but for regular life—and I’m only three or four days into this—what a wimp me. This is really intended to introduce some of my companions. For this post I’ll introduce the paper ones. Perhaps streaming will follow tomorrow as it’s both my pleasure and nemesis. For now: Books.

JUST RECEIVED. STARTING TOMORROW NIGHT. SEEMS THE PERFECT READ FOR THIS TIME.

THE BACKUPS. NEW FROM BOOKWORKS, OUR ABSOLUTELY FINE LOCAL BOOKSTORE.

I am a New Mexican. Michelle Lujan Grisham has inspired me to drop my Minnesotan-label for awhile and simply bask in the prideful glow of having a governor who appears to be doing it all right. Or at least controlling the aspects of this coronavirus horror that are controllable. Of course nothing is absolutely foreseeable in this situation so no matter what any one of us, leader or otherwise, does the world could be headed for one gigantic train wreck of a health crisis.

However, to have someone in a position of leadership speak in a clear and strong and articulate voice, sharing facts (you remember facts don’t you?) and making decisions for our benefit is so damn comforting. Think of Lujan Grisham as Wonder Woman saving our little corner of the world from the demented Joker in Washington who…and I defy anyone to actually deep-down believe otherwise…has not an iota of concern for anyone or thing but himself.

It has been a trying week for the world…me too. Not bad exactly for me personally, no cases of the virus in my personal or work sphere yet. Cancelling travel plans is never fun but it’s not dangerous. I will not go to California for my birthday, Teresa and I will not go to Cuba, Scott and Sandra will not go to Barcelona for Scott’s birthday—but we’ll do all that later.

We’ve (North Fourth, along with similar community-based programs) been advised/ordered by the State Health Department to close the Art Center for three weeks, syncing our activities with the public schools. Staff will remain active to some degree, helping out at our clients’ group homes and doing a big spring cleaning at our building…but it is not business as usual. I cannot remember the last time I did not have a job to go to next Monday morning. That’s not exactly true because I do have a job and I will be there Monday morning…but it somehow seems unreal, like a play without the major actors and with the audience/world waiting to see what any of us achieves with our various and sundry small efforts at containment.

MINE. FROM AN ACTUAL VOODOO SHOP IN JACMEL, HAITI. BE NICE…I CAN DO STUFF.

So here we are…it’s a whole new world in a way. One of those defining times like 9-11. And it’s irrevocably exposed the soft and disease-ridden underbelly of the governing cult in DC in an ever clearer light…a light so illuminating as to make it undeniable that anyone still professing adoration for the Joker is certifiably delusional. The man who denies science and fact, vomits lies every time he opens his mouth, knows little about anyone and anything besides himself and cares less—the mad man who incoherently stumbles ahead of a mass of shouting frightened angry stupid people. Wow. Remember those closing scenes!

But let me close with hope and possibility. I’m in that coronavirus category of the most susceptible, 22% percent chance, one chart said, of the virus killing me if I get it. Which makes it 78% likely that I’ll survive. Not really such bad odds. I’m healthy, taking care, maybe I’ll work my way up to a three-minute plank during this time of semi-isolation. I have lots of Costco shrimp and cases of Oregon blueberries in my kitchen. I’m not panicked about toilet paper (yeah, I’m old—and we were poor enough—so I remember catalogues in the outhouse—I really hate to admit that). AND I have Wonder Woman as my governor. It could be much worse.

COFFEE AND CIGARETTES

Sue and I were young Air Force wives living on Seymour Johnson AFB in Goldsboro, North Carolina. We each had one husband and two children; all of us healthy and happy and fitting some American-image well enough to have posed for Norman Rockwell. Sue, Ken, and the girls were already living on Bolling Drive where they’d landed after a tour of duty in Okinawa, when Don, I and the boys moved in across the street, fresh from two years in the Philippines. We were surely destined to be friends…but who knew it would be a friendship of the kind of depth and duration that it turned out to be. It was 1966.

Sue died a few days ago after a debilitating illness that stripped her of life’s pleasures and comforts. I hadn’t seen her for a number of years although we talked now and then on the phone, still maintaining some core of that partially unraveled but nevertheless unbreakable bond established back in the 60s.

So once upon a time…there we were. Living across the street from each other. I don’t remember exactly how we met but given that our kids were the same ages, Kim and Scott six years old and Pam and Steven about three, we were bound to start talking sooner rather than later.

Sue and I must have consumed a million cups of coffee in our years together—our drug of choice—although it did compete with cigarettes for that honor. I suppose that’s when our friendship was cemented, sitting in one of our yards as our kids ran wild in that safe and secure neighborhood called base housing. We were of similar backgrounds in many ways (although Sue grew up in the epicenter of racism called Mississippi and I grew up in liberal Minnesota); we both came from families with financial limitations (hers less severe than mine) and an overabundance of religiosity (in Sue’s case extreme—and she would resent fundamentalism’s early takeover of her family for the entirety of her life). Our 1960s’ circumstances were even more alike: pretty young women in our mid-twenties with pleasant-enough husbands and yes, those requisite two kids each. There were differences of course, Sue worked at a bank and I started college; Sue was keeper of an immaculate house, me not so much. But we were always together after the banking, studying and house and kid maintenance talking…drinking…smoking..

We drank coffee and smoked cigarettes in most of our spare hours. I wanted to include a poem or song here in honor of those days. I found several tunes but the lyrics weren’t quite right. Ditto the poems Besides, it is so very politically incorrect to sentimentalize the pleasure that was available from smoking cigarettes. And to admit we subjected our children to clouds of nicotine in their formative years…sorry kids. Nevertheless I persevered and found some lyrics that are just right. First from “Coffee and Cigarettes” by a band called Jimmy Eat World: Coffee and Cigarettes/As simple as it gets/Of all the things I think I’ll miss/There’s staying up with you/Coffee and Cigarettes/Coffee and Cigarettes. Could be our theme song.

Here’s another that fits. “Cigarettes and Coffee Blues” by cowboy singer Marty Robbins:

I guess I’ll take a walk tonight, I know that I can’t sleep
And I don’t go to bed at all, I just lay there and weep
Instead I’ll make our favorite spot, that’s what I think I’ll do
I’ve got those smokin’ cigarettes and drinkin’ coffee blues

So I’ve said we were happy. And in a way that’s true. But we were also restless, trying to figure out what could possibly be missing from what I’ve pictured as a Rockwell-worthy lifestyle. Looking back it’s hard to describe what wasn’t there…And what we would keep searching for the rest of our lives.

Our friendship continued, if sometimes in a halting way, until Sue’s death just days ago. Our dual searches for that Sixties missing ingredient had taken us in different directions for much of the time. And, although we talked occasionally—when her love of several decades died, when something tragic happened like Trump’s election, etc. and we saw each other’s photos on Facebook—we neglected to get together. Too busy? Or did we somehow think our ‘coffee and cigarettes’ friendship should be left intact—not subjected to the cynicism of our elder selves?

I know we missed each other sometimes…but what we missed most were times and places of being younger, our lives brimming over with dramas, both petty and real; our kids moving off and on center stage; our jobs exciting and frustrating by turn; the men in our lives not husbands, but lovers; our bodies smooth and strong. Now, here I am in 2020 mourning my friend Sue…actually it’s not that simple…I’m mourning us. The practically inseparable us. The leading-separate lives but talking almost daily us. The occasionally getting- together us. Most of all though I miss the coffee and cigarettes us.

MOREHEAD CITY, NORTH CAROLINA. ABOUT 1967.

The BFF phase of our friendship starting back on Seymour Johnson AFB: Sue, remember when you and I and Bonnie took our black and white kids to a Carolina beach and the women on the next blankets over gathered up their kids and moved on down a ways? Remember when you were still working at the bank and I’d started school and was off for the summer so I was watching Pam and Martin Luther King was murdered and I, glued to the TV, forgot to go pick her up at school?  Remember the beautiful Thanksgiving dinner, table prettily set, turkey glistening golden-brown on the sideboard—we were all sitting in the yard (perhaps with a beer since we weren’t sophisticated enough yet for wine) and we came back in to your cat daintily nibbling on one drumstick? Remember Scott in frustrated tears because Kimmie had socked him and he was told firmly by his father that he couldn’t hit her back because boys did not hit girls? Oh yeah, remember that restaurant manager who fell in love with you when he did his banking, gave you fifty dollars and said take your kids and go to the beach. So we did—wondering briefly if that somehow obligated us to him. Nah, we said, let’s go to the beach.

I started this post thinking I would tell the whole story of our friendship but, even as the earliest memories appear through the fog of time, it’s obvious that would be a book…so here’s a wrap…encompassing the last 50 or so years.

We went on a girls trip to Europe. Google “A TRAVEL STORY INTERRUPTION. Back to the Beginning. The Skyr, A Scone and THE DUCK. 1984.”

Sue and family moved to Dallas; my family to New Mexico. We divorced our husbands. Our kids grew into rambunctious teenagers, then responsible adults. We had jobs and lovers and visited each other with some regularity. We acquired Master’s degrees in Social Work.

SUE GRADUATES WITH HER MSW.

 

Sue ended her work life some years ago and devoted much of her time to being the most devoted of great-grandmothers. Her great love of many years, a man who lived elsewhere—in spite of which they maintained a strong attachment—died only a few short years ago and that, combined with health issues proved more than even her fierce determination to live could withstand.

AWHILE AGO. L-R TOP: PAM, SUE. BOTTOM: RYAN (WHO NOW HAS HIS OWN DAUGHTER, ME, KIM, AND MEGHAN.

I’ve been talking to her daughters…it seems to reaffirm the value of friendship when I realize how close I feel to them. We’re planning a time later this year when Sue’s girls and my boys can get together…I’m looking forward to sitting on the sidelines and enjoying the reunion…with a very large cup of coffee in hand. If I didn’t think it’d make me ill I’d have a Winston to go with it. And our assembled ageing-children could berate me and Sue in absentia for the damage inflicted upon them!

***

I always thought of Sue when I played the old songs and I did imagine us ‘years from today.’

Can you imagine us years from today,
Sharing a parkbench quietly
How terribly strange to be seventy

Old friends, memory brushes the same years,
Silently sharing the same fears

(Paul Simon)

My goal is to have one (or more) of these nicely printed and mounted photos of every country I’ve visited on my walls. Could make a less obsessive traveler a bit claustrophobic I suppose!

“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.” (Anthony Bourdain)

Let me not think or write about the dreadful state of the nation and the world for a little while. Let me just write about my travel plans for this fine (please let it be fine) year of 2020. They are brilliant. The quick view: San Diego/Visalia/San Francisco, CA; New York City; Havana, Cuba; Cape Town/Jo’burg, South Africa; Lilongwe, Malawi; Masai Mara/Nairobi, Kenya; Entebbe/Kampala, Uganda; New England (by train from Albuquerque!). My outlook brightened even as I wrote those names.

Good week. I’ve purchased one of my California plane tickets (nice son picked up most of them!); I’ve booked our (Teresa, my obsessively travel-oriented granddaughter and me) Airbnb in Havana, and looked more closely at the ‘garden tour’ (adventures up along the coast from Cape Town) and diamond mine visits near Johannesburg. Oh yeah, have also been cleaning and rearranging my office and watching the Nevada debate with Bloomberg’s first appearance. So far nothing has managed to spoil my good mood—although Bloomberg came damn close with his dreadful performance.

Travel travel travel. Best of all, the travel year begins with the April birthday in San Diego:  climbing Black Mountain and eating Russian food (always borscht) with Scott…and my annual shot of cucumber vodka.

My mood is radically different than last year at this time, waiting for what felt like birthday that would end life as I currently know it. Now I’m simply happy to be at the low end of a high decade…how’s that for renewed optimism?

Incredibly Important Travel Thoughts (a new category of travel writing I’ve just invented): I’m booking an Airbnb in Havana because we’ll be there for five nights. My general policy is to consider Airbnbs if a stay is longer than three days. It’s not worth finding the place and new check-in procedures every time for shorter stays. And there’s the leftover food problem…I mean does anyone have the secret of not excitedly investigating a ‘foreign’ grocery story without buying too much? That’s a rhetorical question…I am positive there is not a human so disciplined. Then you’re left with the agony of trying to decide what’s appropriate to leave for the next occupant and what should just be tossed. So complicated. In a hotel you only have that half-eaten bag of chips to toss or stow away for your airline meal.

About all of those amazing places on this year’s itinerary—and a focal point in each: San Diego (how many years can I hike up the incredible heights (joke, darn it) of Black Mountain and swill vodka afterward?); Visalia (Steven and Ashley’s new home—the coastal kids on their first inland experience); San Francisco (Lace in her and Jon’s new actual/real life/in the heart of San Francisco apartment—prices have gone up a bit since my $300 studio in the Mission). AND Havana, Cuba (Because Lace will be 30 this year and we needed to have one of our trips to celebrate—so, we said, what’s close by (relatively speaking) and off-the-beaten path and of great interest to both of us for many and sundry reasons—that would be Cuba of course) All in April.

Next: New York City (friend Bob and I do Broadway/four or five shows, MOMA and Central Park and even more— Stadtluft Macht Frei, “city air makes you free,” was once a statement of Germanic law: a serf who lived in a city for a year and a day was freed from his obligations to his manorial master. I’ve always been a city girl at heart (could that come from being born and raised in the deep backwoods of the north?) and have lived in a few good ones: Portland OR, Mpls/St. Paul, Orlando, San Francisco, San Diego and…well… Albuquerque is sort of a city. But NYC is the mother-of-all-cityhood in my experience and I haven’t been for awhile…so this is exciting. End of April/Early May.

Susanna and I in front of a wall of our lobby gallery. Visitors actually spend a good amount of time and attention on our giant map.

Enough. The outlines of the African and New England travel deserve their own posts for a variety of reasons. Something for the future…

I’ve made myself happy enough now with travel talk so the prospect of more rich (although I think Bernie’s barely a millionaire) old white guys running my country won’t make me throw myself in front of a truck for the time being.

 

NYT’s Sunday book review of “Weather” by Jenny Offill about …a familiar binary — between the implicit solipsism of caring mostly about “the feeling of daily life” and the more enlightened social consciousness of caring about capital-letter issues came exactly at the right moment.

I’ve been at a blogging stalemate, wanting to launch Time and Place 2020 with happy tales of my personally fulfilling and happy life while at the same time believing the world is in a tailspin from which there may be no recovery. In other words, how do I share pictures of my new fluffy green  plant and babble on about a Kenyan safari while the environment is poisoned by the rapacity of (sub) humans capable of killing rare Mongolian sheep for the pleasure of the kill…and the need to dominate/own/consume something, anything, everything to make up for moral emptiness and personal inadequacies. Just how do we live with ordinary everyday life proceeding simultaneously with disasters just over every hill? That is the conundrum Offill addresses (but for which she apparently finds no answer! Don’t have the book yet.)

The narrator … of “Weather,” cares about …the apocalyptic horizon of climate change…and the “feeling of daily life,” [and understands] the truth that we inhabit multiple scales of experience at the same time: from the minutiae of school drop-offs and P.T.A. activism to the frictions of our personal relationships all the way to the geological immensity of our (not so slowly) corroding planet. …“Weather” is a novel reckoning with the simultaneity of daily life and global crisis….”  

My satisfactory life, filled with good people and worthwhile projects, and occasionally brimming over with pleasures large and small seems worthy of sharing. Then along comes one of the symbols (sleazy-mister-trump for example) of all that’s going to destroy satisfactory life as we know it and I’m ashamed of myself for thinking a new book or plant or recipe or even a trip worthy of mention. But…write about regular old life I will…until my age or the global garbage-men make it impossible.

So I just watched the Academy Awards and thought about how we stumble on finding small hope in an event such as “Parasite” winning multiple Oscars—because the film was created and delivered by brown people, foreigners to boot, and it’s about the horrors of the growing inequality in this big wide not-so-very-wonderful world. It’s an avenue to express our solidarity with the part of humanity that isn’t white, rich, male, faux-religious, and racist and, for just a minute, we believe we will outsmart them.

And then I remember most of us—the supposedly good guys—don’t even bother voting.

2020 will, for me, certainly live up to the Chinese curse, “May you/he/she/we live in interesting times.” Interesting for us all because of global megalomania and greed, and interesting for me because I’m going on some amazing journeys and, perhaps, trying to become vegan. Tell you all about it in my next post.

HELLIG OLAV…ON WHICH MY 7-YEAR-OLD FATHER SAILED TO AMERICA. (HEADING ALSO OF HELLIG OLAV). I COULDA BEEN A CONTENDER…I MEAN NORWEGIAN…

 

STILL DIGGING MY WAY OUT OF 2019…

MOMMY AND THE BOYS…HOW DID THEY EVER TURN INTO SUCH DECENT, KIND, SMART, FUNNY MEN?

I’m cheating…this post was written in 2020 but it feels more 2019-like. Except for including Scott’s 60th birthday preview…and he would vehemently deny being a year older than his already advanced age.  

What is wrong with me…cannot seem to finish 2019…tonight I must. A few words, a few photos and 2019 will truly go away. Fini. Exhausted. Done and Dusted. All that. My family and friends and work are fine. Except for that horrendous birthday, even I am fine. Had some nice trips to California, Minnesota, South Dakota, Quebec, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan (almost died—not really), Tajikistan (offered a job), Kazakhstan (had borscht) and Turkey (best souvenir—a goldenrod sweatshirt that says Istanbul all over it!)

Today my laptop ate a document; this evening I drove over a cleverly concealed parking lot barrier and destroyed a tire and skewed a door frame; and worst of all I’m still old and poor. No that’s not the worst thing. Cult leader Sleazy T. and his very stupid and subservient minions are going to wreck the world. That’s the worst thing.

Should you think labeling the zombie-like creatures (formerly known as Republicans) at the heart of the DC goings-on as part of a cult is an exaggeration here, once again, is a dictionary definition of cult. 1) a system of religious veneration and devotion directed toward a particular figure or object. 2) a relatively small group of people having religious beliefs or practices regarded by others as strange or sinister (such as “a network of Satan-worshiping cults”). 3) a misplaced or excessive admiration for a particular person or thing. (…”a cult of personality surrounding the leaders”) Every single example fits US political leadership at this moment in time perfectly. Perfectly.

VOTE. MARCH. CONTRIBUTE. PAY ATTENTION. DO NOT DRINK THE KOOL-AID.

On to happier things: holiday gatherings. Bro Robert and Sis Marsha are here for the winter so Christmas was togetherness time—only downers were Robert having trouble with various body parts like back, knees, legs, hips, etc. (claims his brain’s fine… yeah, well, maybe) and me being old and surly. Everyone else is great. Scott came last weekend to pre-celebrate his 60th birthday (I seem to remember adopting him when I was a mere child). On his real birthday he and Sandra are going to Barcelona AND to prove he’s still young is spirit and fit in body, he and two friends are bike-packing (cycling with a tent along for sleeping in campgrounds) from Vancouver, Canada to Tijuana, Mexico for a month in September.

2020 is probably my last year of Big Travel as well as finishing the first draft of my book. Wish me luck. Wish us all luck. Wish the world luck.

PEACE. And some photos.

CHRISTMAS WITH FELLOW GYM RATS.

CHRISTMAS AT ROBERT’S…WE’RE ACTUALLY NOT VERY CHRISTMASY PEOPLE.

MORE LIKE ARBOR DAY OR LOVE YOUR PET DAY TYPES.

WE NEVER GIVE UP.

HAPPY NATIONAL FRITTERS DAY.

AND THE FINAL HOLIDAY WITH WHICH TO END 2019. SCOTT’S EARLY BIRTHDAY PARTY.

BLOG BOOKS SO FAR.

At the end of each year, the blog posts thereof become a book. I suppose it is a way of being a ‘published author’ (in case I never finish the-book-I-am-presently-writing). Blogging has also become one of my many forms of journaling and the resulting books are mainly old fashioned paper products for my grandchildren to peruse in years ahead—exclaiming over the fact I was not always the crone in a corner at ‘The Home’ mumbling to myself about cinnamon rolls.

I think three more blog posts are necessary to tie up 2019 and prepare its blog-book for publication. One about me; one about politics; and one about holidays, friends and family.

2010. AT VERSAILLES. FIRST BLOG POST.

About me. So I’ve said most of this before but since it’s the end of the year, please indulge me.  I’m deciding what to call myself for this next decade of my life. Traveler, reader, writer are how I’ve been privately describing who I am for quite awhile. It occurs to me however that traveling is soon to taper off to what will probably be annual visits to the California family and, I hope, now and then to Minnesota. This is not necessarily for lack of desire, but largely for want of money and energy. Soon then the label ‘traveler’ must become ‘traveler emeritus’ and fade into oblivion.

A FEW OF MY FRIENDS.

Reading will always fill the nooks and crannies of my life. While waiting, falling asleep, disappointed, curious; seeking knowledge, pleasure…whatever the occasion a few pages or chapters have always made it better. It pains me to say that my reading time has been cut into by Netflix/Hulu/Amazon Prime/Acorn/BritBox/MHz…so many excellent series and films (…among thousands of hours of trash of course) You must be careful not to fall down the black hole of streaming whatever flashes and booms at the moment, but it is possible to avoid that with great self-control—and an ample supply of Nordic Noir and Ken Burns series.

THIS IS MY ONE BOOK TO DATE. IT’S ACTUALLY QUITE GOOD BUT WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME ANYONE READ A MASTERS THESIS!

About writing. A big story for me right now. Because I am actually writing a book. And am far enough along to believe it will be finished sometime in 2020. Will publishers bid for the pleasure and profit of publishing it? Unlikely. But it will be a real book of literary non-fiction, perhaps to be self-published, perhaps to be selected as an NYT book of the years and adored by millions…yeah right!

About Words. Of which all writing is comprised…and I use up multitudes of them on lists (especially lists!) and diaries and journals. I blog and consume some more. Single words, sentences, paragraphs, pages…And now the book. Words everywhere. And just to prove how word-centric I am here’s a repeat of the Kyrgyzstan Incident. Sick with some variation of the plague, well, not actually the plague, but a traveler’s dysentery event as briefly horrific. I was delirious for a few hours…during which I dreamed of and babbled about…words. Not books, language, stories…just words. Rows of them, mountains of them, columns of them. I couldn’t make them line up or stack up as I wanted. Every time I came to I prattled on with great frustration about the words. Now is that a real writer’s nightmare or what? Therefore I am a writer.

Anything else I should like to say about me at year’s end? I’m old but healthy. Happy but cranky. Busy but distracted. Very much looking forward to next years, next adventures but not death.

I’ll be back with politics after the next debate