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Crumpling August 29, 2014

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This just in, from my 88-year-old boyfriend:

 Thursday night was the turning point. The cancer has won out, and I am now on hospice for a month or two.

Chemo failed.

gmw

 

Well, Well, Well August 26, 2014

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$1,300ish. That’s what it cost me.

But it was fixed the day of my last post.

They weren’t supposed to show up until Thursday, but when I got home from work Wednesday afternoon, they were finishing up.

Turns out the well was in that corner, just not under the slate. They put the new tall wellhead right at the edge of the driveway.

The good news is that they didn’t have to dig up my driveway at all.

The bad news is that the wellhead now exists on a corner I regularly drove over to back out of my driveway. There will be a learning curve.

There will need to be some clear marking of the wellhead so the plow doesn’t take it out this winter. The corner is one the plow also regularly cuts.

Tim and I may have to switch places in the garage. We park the longer car in the tighter spot so that our batteries are side by side. If we switch places, we need much longer jumper cables. Or a portable battery booster.

So there will be more money involved.

But we have water. (I love water!) We know where the well is. The problem was fixed about 30 hours after I called.

I think that’s pretty good.

 

Well, Well August 20, 2014

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Stop me if you’ve heard this one.

When I bought this house fifteen years ago, one of the questions I asked the previous owners was “Where’s the well?” There was no visible wellhead anywhere. The answer? “I don’t know.”

This concerned me.

So I called the local well-drilling guys for a consult. One of them was a dowser. He said that the well was under the driveway. The paved driveway.

The driveway hadn’t always been paved. When I first rented the house across the street, most of the driveways in town were dirt. One day someone came and paved a bunch of driveways in the neighborhood, including this one. A package deal, perhaps.

I doubt the previous owners knew the well was there. At least, I hope they wouldn’t knowingly pave over all access to the well.

In the four or five years they lived in this house, they had no trouble. So clearly, the pump in the well is at least nineteen or twenty years old. Obviously, someday it would fail.

That day was yesterday.

Tim ran out of water during his morning shower, but it came back. He did dishes after breakfast just fine. But when I drew a bath, it ran out again. So I called the plumber to (likely) verify my worst fears.

Which he did. But he called the well place for me and was able to explain to them all the electrical tests he had run.

The well guys were out on a job, but the woman in the office said they could come out this morning. Instead, they called late yesterday afternoon and drove over to check out the situation.

I told them that my neighbor, who has been here much longer than I, was convinced that my wellhead was under this huge slate in the corner of my house. The well guys doubted the well would have been dug that close, but they crowbarred the thing and dug down a bit. Nope. No well.

So it’s under the driveway. Somewhere. They will come back with a jackhammer. Tomorrow, not today.

The motor keeps heating up and shutting down. So we’re actually not completely without water—we just can’t do something too big, like shower, and likely we can’t flush too many times. I keep a couple of huge buckets filled with water to deal with flushing if summer storms take out my electricity. I’ll be putting that water to use if I have to.

Last night I showered at my next-door neighbor’s. Tim has access to a shower at his office. Today I’ll hit the gym near work, then shower there. Maybe by tomorrow night we’ll have regular water flow again.

Then I’ll have a driveway to deal with, which will present its own challenges, as we can’t have a wellhead raise above tire level if I want to use my garage. I’ll have to find someone to pave it who can pave around a flat covering in an awkward, tight space.

Frankly, part of me is relieved. I’ve been waiting for this shoe to drop for fifteen years. I have avoided certain projects—repaving the driveway, replacing outdoor stairs—because I didn’t want to just have to rip them up/out when the well died in its unknown location. Tomorrow I should find out for sure where my well is.

I wonder what that will cost me.

 

At Last August 13, 2014

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Yesterday I went to a shop for Certain Underthings, one that I’ve been avoiding because these Certain Underthings almost never fit me properly, but I’d met the proprietor at a wedding reception, and I needed a Certain Other Underthing anyway, and she assured me she could fit me, and I both wanted to be fit for obvious reasons and didn’t want to be because of what I’d no doubt end up spending, but I did go in, and she fit me properly, and as I was trying on Certain Underthings that actually fit, I overheard a conversation with another customer, a woman who had come in looking for a bra to wear under something for a wedding, but she didn’t want to spend more than $20, and this place didn’t have a bra for $20, and she asked about things on sale, not because she couldn’t afford what this place was charging for bras, she said, but because she was from Notsosnootytown about an hour away, and people there just didn’t spend that kind of money for this kind of thing, and then she began to ask about how much was actually being made in this business, and the proprietor noted that well, it was retail, so it could be assumed that said proprietor was paying about half the ticket price for any garment, but the woman said no, she meant that she wondered how much it actually cost to produce the garment, in Sri Lanka or wherever it was happening, because someone was making a lot of money, and the proprietor couldn’t really help her there, and when I walked out of the fitting room and saw the other customers in the store, I recognized one, a woman who used to show up at poetry readings I attended fifteen years ago, a nice woman who nonetheless gives off a bit of a crazy vibe, and I was pretty sure it was she who had had this conversation I’d overheard, but I don’t think she recognized me, and when she left the store I almost said something about her to the proprietor, but thought better of it, and then was glad of it because there were still other women in the store, and maybe it was one of them, and anyway, it didn’t matter, and when I left, now a bit in debt, with my bag of newly purchased Certain Underthings and a Certain Other Underthing, there was the Notsosnootytown woman from poetry readings sitting in a chair at the doorway just outside, and as I walked down the stairs, she called out to me, “I love your haircut! It’s very flattering!” and I thanked her but didn’t tell her I remembered her and was glad I’d kept my big mouth shut.

Chinatown July 23, 2014

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The first time I saw Chinatown, I was a seventeen-year-old kid passing through Camden, Maine, on vacation with my best friend’s family—in a motorhome. We had traveled from Maryland to Boston, to Cape Cod (taking in a play at Falmouth, I believe); taken a ferry (sans motorhome) to Martha’s Vineyard and back; then headed up the coast of Maine, getting as far north as Camden.

Sue and I were ready to be on our own, away from her parents and an accompanying couple. There was a movie theater in town, kind of art-housey, I guess, because they were showing Chinatown, and this was five years after its initial release. Could we go? Sure, Mary Helen said. Get a cab out to the campground after. Off they drove to the outskirts. Somewhere.

So we saw Chinatown. (“She’s my sister and…!”) Then, in the dark Camden evening, we found a phone booth (remember those?) and scanned the phone book for a cab service.

There was none.

Sue and I grew up in a small town. It’s not so small anymore, but it was then. In that small town, there were cabs to be called. A complete lack of cabs hadn’t occurred to any of us.

We didn’t know where the campground was or how to get there or how far a walk out of town it might be. There was no way to contact our peeps and have them disconnect all their hookups, leave their campsite, and come get us.

So we walked to the police station.

It turned out that despite our having always been told how helpful the police could be, these particular police were not very sympathetic to our predicament. They sat us down on a bench with other teenage hoodlums and made us wait. And wait. For what, I’m not sure. It seemed that there were more cops than hoodlums and perhaps we might be helped more quickly. Clearly, no one wanted to lower himself to cab service.

“Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown.”

Perhaps an hour later, figuring we had suffered enough, someone loaded us into the back of a police car and drove us to the campground, several miles out.

That night, that station, that car—that’s what I think about when anyone mentions Chinatown. I remember very little of the movie.

But another Sue—one who has never seen the film and has had a DVD copy forced upon her by a mutual, well-meaning Faye Dunaway–freak friend (“What? You’ve never seen Chinatown?”)—plans to drop over this evening, right after she gets her hair done, and watch it on my big-ass TV screen. I haven’t seen Chinatown in thirty-five years. No doubt the police in this film will prove to be very helpful people. Right?

 

The Fifth of July July 5, 2014

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Derek, 15 March 1972–5 July 2012

Cheryl, 2 May 1961–5 July 2013

 

3BY2: Quarterly Report July 1, 2014

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Eastern phoebe, common merganser, song sparrow, wood duck, common loon, common eider, osprey, black-backed gull, double-crested cormorant, northern flicker, chimney swift, rose-breasted grosbeak, tree swallow, yellow-bellied sapsucker, barn swallow, indigo bunting, Baltimore oriole, warbling vireo, yellow-throated vireo, ovenbird, eastern towhee, gray catbird, yellow warbler, American redstart, field sparrow, chipping sparrow, white-throated sparrow, black-billed magpie, pinyon jay, ash-throated flycatcher, black-throated sparrow, violet-green swallow, lark sparrow, blue-gray gnatcatcher, lazuli bunting, black-headed grosbeak, Eurasian collared dove, white-crowned sparrow, Bullock’s oriole, spotted towhee, juniper titmouse, yellow-rumped warbler, western kingbird, bank swallow, Wilson’s warbler, black-chinned hummingbird, spotted sandpiper, white-throated swift, green towhee, brown-headed cowbird, western meadowlark, common yellowthroat, brown thrasher, bobolink, veery, hermit thrush, killdeer, eastern meadowlark, ruby-throated hummingbird, wood thrush, black and white warbler, eastern wood peewee, house wren, green heron, cedar waxwing, prairie warbler, northern waterthrush, ruffed grouse. (Bringing 2014 total thus far to 108. 2012: 102. 2013: 162.)

I admit to being a lazy birder. It’s like I’m barely trying. Our biggest day since March was adding a dozen species on an early-May walk on the rail trail. We added two dozen on our Utah trip, which is pretty good, I guess, but pales in comparison with Arizona’s 73 (of course, we’d hired a guide).

I can’t believe I haven’t seen a scarlet tanager yet. My neighbor across the street took a photo of one in her yard, for cryin’ out loud!

 

A Letter to My Niece at Camp June 30, 2014

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Dear Teresa:

I hear you’re at camp again and I’m pretty envious of that, and I don’t really have a lot of time to write, maybe just one sentence, so here is the sentence, we’re already in it (the sentence), as you can see, and I’ve been really really busy with spring/summer chores, including the annual window washing, which is a huge job because there are so many windows, plus all the blinds to dust, but yesterday I finally finished that job, and I’m getting ready to have company for four days, my friend Esther from Bloomington, Indiana, the one I worked with more than 20 years ago in DC, she’s finally going to come visit me over the fourth of July, and on the fourth a bunch of neighbors are coming over, and Esther and I have plans to go to a play and just hang out and maybe get to the swimming hole if the weather’s OK, although I have to say I’m not really liking what I’m seeing in the weather forecast right now, but anyway, it will feel a little vacationlike, which is a good thing because I don’t have a real vacation this summer, things are just too busy for Tim at work, but I do get to go to Portland, Maine, for a week with him next month while he works a photo shoot and I’ll work in the hotel room and we’ll visit friends and eat fabulous food at night, so there’s that, which helps, and we did get to go to Utah in May and visit friends and see Arches and Canyonlands and it really was incredibly beautiful, it’s just starting to seem a long time ago now that I am seeing everyone’s beach pictures online and I don’t have another great vacation with Tim planned, although I do have a couple of quick NYC trips coming up, one to Brooklyn for a few days, one to NJ and my friend and I will drive into the city see a musical review that a friend is putting together of his father’s work, which maybe someday will go further and maybe many people will get to see it, so that’s exciting, and a friend is getting married in Nags Head in September, so that could be an interesting trip for me, but none of these are a nice long week away with Tim, which is my favorite thing, of course, and I really miss the days that we went to the same Adirondack camp every summer (before it closed down), because what’s better than being in the woods on the water and canoeing and fishing and hiking and being fed breakfast and dinner and seeing the same friends every year and making some new ones, like you are probably doing right now, not much is better than that, and I miss it, and I miss you, and I hope it won’t be too long before we see each other again, and it’s sad that it’s so hard to get together when some people are in Pennsylvania and some people are in Vermont, but someday it will happen, and who knows, maybe we’ll even play Twister.

Have a great week!

 

Utah June 26, 2014

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It’s been more than a month since we’ve returned from our Utah vacation. I still miss my friends and the landscape.

I could talk about our brief overnight in Salt Lake City before hitting the road to Moab and Castle Valley (especially hanging with that Aussie in the bar). I could tell you about the two vastly different dinner events our friends took us to: the secret café fundraiser dinner at an activist’s unassuming fenced-in backyard and the LDS church neighborhood potluck.

secret cafe

I could tell you about the amazing hikes I took in Arches, Canyonlands, and (I’m not kidding, it’s still called) Negro Bill Canyon. But maybe I’ll tell you about the hours I spent by myself near the end of the week. Well, almost by myself.

Tim and Bill had gotten up predawn to head out to photograph some mountains. Susan was having people over to the house for a meeting. I needed some exercise, and there was gorgeousness all around me. So Susan drew me a map.

It was a great map.

I started out from their house

house

and headed this way:

view from house 2

Susan was sending me on a walk that could take me to the base of Castle Rock, eventually, although there wasn’t really a trail there. Her map took me from the driveway, to a right on Shafer Lane. I crossed Castle Valley Drive (paved), then continued along Shafer.

Before I got to the more potentially complicated parts of the walk, a yellow dog joined me.

By joining me, I mean she walked with me, but much farther ahead. Occasionally she’d look back to see where I was.

I got to the dry creek (drawn on the map!). I think it was there I decided I had to pee. The dog came back to watch me, from a distance.

I squeezed through the pedestrian passage by the gate (drawn on the map!), the end of the public road. Private property, but permission for walkers and bikers. I got to the fire station (map!) and the gate (map!) that I had to open myself. I did, and I let the dog through with me. She’d been waiting for me there. I closed the gate behind us.

Soon we got to the far paved road, where we crossed into the trailless land. Susan told me to find the dry creek bed and walk up that.

Easy enough.

Walking up the creek bed looked like this:

creek bed early

It was a lovely hike, and this is about as close as I got to Castle Rock:

creek bed 3

The dog was around, but she’d gotten pretty far ahead of me. I was ready to turn back. I called to her. Nothing. I whistled. Nothing.

I began to worry that this was not my dog, and I’d let her through a gate.

I began to reassure myself that this dog, whom I watched squeeze through other fences and find wide openings in barbed wire, could go anywhere she wanted and did.

Still. I’d let her through that gate, and now I wanted to go home, and where was she?

I started heading back. I called a little. I figured she’d turn up. I had to pee again. I found a place to do that.

And then there she was. How predictable.

She passed me, turned around, sat a respectful distance away, and watched.

“Almost done,” I said to her. “You can pee over this if you want.”

And when I got up and walked away, she did just that.

Proud of herself. I let her dominate. It is her territory, after all.

She crossed the road with me, back through the gate. She chased and dug for small mammals:

digging

She was usually way ahead of me and looked like this:

way home

She passed wherever it was that she joined me and stayed with me all the way home. The last stretch looked like this:

last stretch

We got to the cool shade of the front porch. Susan’s meeting was still going on. Tim and Bill were back. Tim was napping. I went inside to get a bowl of water for the panting dog.

“There’s a dog that’s been with me all day,” I told Bill. “I gotta give her some water. You don’t mind, do you? I doubt she’ll stay.”

“You mean Ginger?” said Bill.

Everyone knows Ginger. She gets around.

We sat on the porch together for a spell. Shady. I planked, nose to nose with her. When I did, I noticed the staples above her left front paw, the slightly shaved patch. Didn’t seem to be hurting her any.

She rested a bit.

ginger

She stayed long enough to be polite. And then she took off.

 

 

Skyping Sergio June 5, 2014

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Fairly recently, I broke down and bundled my phone service with my Internet and cable TV. In doing so, I learned that there was a problem in at least one—maybe two—of the physical phone lines that come into my house. I could pay to have them fixed, or I could just plug directly into the modem. I decided to go the modem route for awhile. See how that goes.

But by abandoning the physical lines, I abandoned my old answering/fax machine. It cannot function under the new system. Still, I haven’t unplugged it. This has everything to do with my emotional attachments to certain older gentlemen.

There are ten messages on that machine that I have never erased. I am afraid to lose the sound of those voices. (Frankly, I thought it was more than ten messages. Apparently I let a few of them go.)

Two are men I know through my work as an editor. One I’ve known for nearly 20 years. He’s been threatening to die since the day I met him and now, at 88, he’s fighting a real illness. (A message that still resides on my machine includes the phrase I’ll try to get you anon.) The other is a man whose father was a songwriter whose work I admire. I’ve found that over the years, as we discover tastes and opinions we have in common, I’ve become rather fond of this person. I was able to show him off to a BFF in New York some weeks back, and her to him.

But the voice I can’t bear the thought of erasing belongs to Sergio. Seven of those ten messages are his.

Back in the late nineties/early aughts, Tim would go to Verona twice a year to check color separation for the catalog. I got to go with him four times. We would fly into Milan, and Pier, one of the partners of the business, would pick us up. We’d go out for lunch, then he’d deliver us to Verona, where Sergio, the other partner, would host us.

Tim would work with Sergio and his staff all day while I wandered the streets of Verona. Many times we would be dinner guests in his home. Sergio would translate conversation between us and his wife, Anna.

I met two of his three daughters: Nadia, who was married and had twin girls, and Laura. I never met Barbara, the middle daughter, but Tim did.

After technological advances and the resulting economics brought our Italy trips to a halt, both Sergio and Pier made a point to call us every Christmas. When we traveled for the holidays, I would fret about missing those calls—Sergio’s especially.

And that is what those messages are: missed Christmas calls.

Tim and [Indigo]: Sergio speaking. I would like to say you Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I want to keep in touch with you. I wish you all the best. . . . Ciao ciao.

Tim and [Indigo]: I would like to say you hello. I will try again.

Often we would try to call back. Usually we would manage to talk once a year.

But then one year, Sergio didn’t call.

Through Facebook, Tim became friends with Sergio’s daughter Laura. Through Laura, we found out that Barbara had died of breast cancer. She left two young sons.

Sergio’s heart was broken.

No one should have to go through that.

I believe we managed to talk with him once since then.

Recently, though, Laura sent word that Sergio wanted to set up a Skype session. It took awhile for us to get our schedules to coordinate. Plus, we’d never used Skype, and up until a couple of hours before the call, we were still fiddling with it to make sure it would work.

And then, it did.

For the first time in years, there was Sergio’s face, alongside that of Laura, his technical guru and fluent English speaker.

It was wonderful and emotional and there was tearing up. Sergio and Tim really love each other, and Sergio talked about that last day when he dropped us off at the train station, and how emotional he got (we did too) because we might never see each other again. And we haven’t—until the Skype call. (May we somehow see each other in person again!) He says we got on that train in 2002. How can that be?

He and Anna are very involved in taking care of their grandsons after school, etc. It is clear how much he misses Barbara and how much he loves her boys.

Pier has also died. The last we talked to him, several years ago, he was quite ill. Tim said he had heard about Pier, but I’m not sure I did. Did I not hear? Did I choose not to remember?

I tried to tell Sergio about his voice on my answering machine, but I think it got lost in translation.

Where does love come from? Why does a natural joy spring forth between certain people (but not others)?

Why is life so busy? Why is travel so expensive? Why is it hard to spend time with so many of the people we love?

At least this Christmas, we can Skype with Sergio again.

Still, I need to figure out how to save those voice messages on my old answering machine. And maybe get back to Italy.

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