Friday 5: Gripe session

I have a lot to write about, but my brain is porridge these days, so you’re just getting a Friday 5 right now and maybe some journaling over the weekend. We’ll see.

I will say that if you’re a pumpkin spice fan, as I am, check out the new (presumably seasonal) pumpkin spice Special K breakfast cereal. Cereal lovers should love it. I like it rather a lot.

From here.

  1. What complaints do you have about this weekend?
    Two days off and nobody to tell me what to do? Who needs it! I’ll add my vote to a predicted chorus of “it’s not long enough,” of course. Rain probabilities in my neighborhood this weekend are 43% Friday, 54% Saturday, and 44% Sunday. The Raiders are undefeated after two games and host the Dolphins in Vegas Sunday, which I suspect will be a heartbreaker. The big item on my to-do list is housecleaning. The Athletics are having a terrible September and are likely to play themselves out of the post season this weekend. Yeah, I got a problem with you, upcoming weekend!
  2. What are your grievances with yourself?
    I’m in a ridiculous pandemic funk I can’t get out of, and it’s affecting my health, my work, and my interactions with people, such as they exist. I’ve taken steps to deal with some of the things stressing me out, but I need to do more, and I honestly don’t know if it’s helping, beyond the immediate satisfaction of crossing them off the stress list.
  3. What are your objections to rainbows, flowers, and puppies?
    Freaking rainbows. They only show up when it rains. Where are they when the weather’s lovely? Also, they distract me when I’m driving north through Nuuanu because at certain times of day, you’re likely to see a nice one. Nuuanu Valley seems to be built for rainbows — on campus at HBA where I went to school and where I also taught, they usually popped up in the space between the gym and the main classroom building, looking north into the valley. So distracting! And flowers? Fleeting beauty followed by a reminder of death, decay, and the dust to which we all must return. I guess those are all sort of synonyms. Puppies are horrible because I can’t have them where I live. Also, I’ve spent my whole professional life afraid to commit to a puppy since I didn’t know what my family situation was going to be like. Now twenty years have gone by and I still live by myself and probably could have had a dog all this time, and now I’m annoyed. All those wasted puppy-less years.
  4. What are your criticisms about your domicile?
    Well obviously, not being allowed puppies is a major issue. Also: I can’t afford a housecleaner. Forget the rent being far, far lower than the market would suggest and just about the right amount of space for a person like me, and the proximity to the city to do anything within fifteen minutes while being far enough away not to feel threatened by its ills.
  5. What’s your beef with excessively negative people?
    My biggest beef with them is their tendency to focus on themselves and to be unconcerned with the problems of others. It’s the easiest way to be depressed about oneself and the laziest way to live. Excessively negative people are a downer: they diminish my view of people in general, and I try my best to stay far away from them. Thankfully, most of my friends are the opposite — excessively positive. Maybe that makes me hypersensitive to excessive negativity, but that’s fine.

Bring on the lousy weekend!

Friday 5: A line of wolves

I’m in a bit of a furrow these days. Certainly not an abyss, thank God, and not quite a pit. I spent a little bit of time at the end of the work week trying to make myself feel better at least about the things in my control. More later. Meanwhile, the Friday 5s from this week and last.

Ax + By = C. From here.

  1. It’s been said (notably by Divinyls in 1985) there’s a fine line between pleasure and pain. How has this proven true in your life?
    This concept was posited the first time in a Philosophy 100 course at Leeward Community College. I didn’t like the course much, but I liked the professor. I dropped the class because I couldn’t stand my classmates. The prof mentioned the fine line between pleasure and pain, and some classmates laughed and said it was ridiculous. The professor asked if anyone disagreed with the dissenting classmates. I just said the word “hot sauce” to myself, but the prof heard me and used that as an example. Heck yeah hot sauce. So painful sometimes but so pleasurable.
  2. Where in your life have you witnessed the fine line between genius and insanity?
    I know a lot of writers, musicians, and artists, and there’s an element of this with many of them. Most people who know her wouldn’t guess it, but R has some darkness in her. I’ve seen her teetering on the brink a time or two, and didn’t always know what to do about it. She dips into it when she writes or when she plays piano, and she’s the best writer I know.
  3. Where do you draw the fine line between supporting someone and enabling someone?
    I’ve never been able to in my personal life. Tough love cannot get its claws into me. I’ve sent people I love money to fly home from bad Las Vegas trips, against the advice of their friends. I’ll keep doing it if I need to. Thankfully, this particular thing hasn’t happened since the 90s, but it’s a good example. Professionally, drawing that line is part of the job. Clear expectations and consistent follow-through; I know they make me a better teacher, even if there are casualties along the way. This doesn’t mean there’s no room for grace: of course there is. But as one colleague once wrote as a report comment, “Sometimes in this flawed world, the grace runs out.”
  4. Which sides of the fine lines between caution and cowardice, and between courage and foolhardiness do you tend toward?
    I’m on the side of cowardice more often than caution, I’m sad to say. It’s one of the things I beat myself up most about. And definitely foolhardiness. I cannot tell you how many reckless things I’ve done just because I didn’t consider the consequences. Or because the consequences didn’t matter. That’s definitely not courage. I’ve actually done stupid things just because I thought it would be a good story. That’s not courage either.
  5. Tasked with drawing a literal fine line, what is your writing utensil of choice?
    New York magazine ran a list of the 100 best pens, and I’ve been sloooowly working my way through each pen listed higher than mine. This qualifies me to give a good answer, and my answer today is my answer for the past 20 years: the Pilot Precise V5 Rolling Ball pen. Number 16 on this list, ladies and gentlemen, but number one in our hearts.

Wolf! From here.

  1. When are you the tortoise, and when are you the hare?
    “Slow and steady wins the race” is practically tattooed on my soul, except the winning the race part. I take too long to do almost everything. I’m the last to finish eating at almost any table. People think I come in on weekends or stay late at night at work because I work hard. I don’t. I work slowly. I think one instance where I’ve been the hare is with Christmas shopping. I usually set aside one weekend in October or November and (these days) do almost all the shopping online and take care of it at once. This is mostly true for my first- and second-tier friends. I take a little more time with family, and usually shop locally, but yeah: I still get it done quickly most of the time.
  2. When are you the grasshopper, and when are you the ants?
    Besides working slowly, I also procrastinate and take impulsive side-trips for fun, so I’m the grasshopper just about every day. I’m lazy. But I still mostly get the stuff done. It just take me longer once I get moving. I’m ants, a grasshopper, and a tortoise.
  3. When were you the lion, and when were you the mouse?
    I don’t know how to talk about this really, but in recent years I’ve gone out of my way to help people who were kind of scary. Drunk homeless people at bus stops. Drunk non-homeless people waiting for buses (I actually told this story in this space, the one where I helped him find his phone). I think those are good mouse stories, although calling the people I helped lions may be a stretch. There was certainly nothing regal or menacing about them. Just unpredictably dangerous, maybe. I’ve been humbled more than once when students have reached out to help me. I hate asking for help, but there are a few times when I was genuinely helped, me the person not me the teacher, by a concerned student who didn’t see me as an authority figure in the moment but as a human who needed help.
  4. Are you more like the town mouse or the country mouse?
    I hate to push, but the best answer is I’m half of each. My favorite places in this state are Molokai and Hilo, definitely the country. I believe I’ll likely retire to Hilo someday. But man, I do love being in town, close to everything.
  5. Which fable told in your childhood has resonated with you through the years?
    The one I frequently go to is the Boy Who Cried Wolf. I try never to be an alarmist; in fact I’ve been asked to be more alarmed than I was more than once. But there’s an element here that’s really not about being alarmist. The boy wasn’t genuinely alarmed; he was either mischievous or dishonest, or just insecure. I’ve been guilty of them all, and while I’m mostly unrepentant about mischief, I’d like to be less dishonest. I think it’ll make me less insecure.

Lockdown 2: The Wrath of Khan

A musician I follow posted his five favorite live albums, a list I’ve been thinking of making since sometime last year. So this is what I came up with on the fly.

Five favorite live albums
Bruce Cockburn—Live
The Seventy Sevens—88
Metallica—S&M
Yes—Yessongs
Billy Joel—Songs in the Attic

Honorable mention
Fleetwood Mac—The Dance
Eden Burning—Smilingly Home
Styx—Caught in the Act (I know; sorry)
Rush—Exit…Stage Left

It’s a good list, though I’m sure I’m forgetting some killers. If I were to spin U2’s Under a Blood Red Sky right now it might supplant the Billy Joel album.

Meanwhile I’m making a list of ten saddest songs. Still a work in progress. I’m up to six now. Spoiler: there are two Dar Williams songs in the top five.

I’m in a little of a dark space these days. Not oppressively, paralyzingly dark; just kind of grey and overcast all the time. And not in the pleasant way. For now, I’m just blaming it all on second lockdown (Lockdown 2: Die Harder) and the weird displacement I feel in the transition.

It’s a jellyfish week too, with Wednesday the last day of the influx. With the storm we had the weekend before last, I stayed away from the water (because runoff), and I’m sure two weeks without jumping in the ocean isn’t helping my mood.

I was hoping to make a roast beef in the Instant Pot — like the deli meat — but my local supermarket didn’t have a decent roast cut. So I picked up a pork shoulder and prepared it a different way from my usual treatments. This was basically shoyu with brown sugar, garlic, and something else escaping me. It came out pretty great. I’ve used it this week for tacos and quesadillas. Tomorrow I’m hoping to throw together an orzo salad.

The second Brian Regan special I saw wasn’t great. Last night I watched the Craig Ferguson special and it wasn’t great either. They’ve both been a lot better. I also watched The Girl Next Door with Elisha Cuthbert and Emile Hirsch (and a young Paul Dano). It’s charming and cute but there’s some sleaziness I really don’t care for.

I walked 10K steps Monday evening while listening to some news podcasts, rather than while reading. Tuesday evening I didn’t do anything. Guess I’ll have to walk Wednesday since I can’t swim. I’m considering returning to late-night walks through the neighborhood, but taking it a little easier. 13K to 15K will kill my knee, but maybe 10K two nights in a row with one night off?

I’m ending this here even though I didn’t really say anything. Just have to get to bed. Tryyyyyyying to get some decent sleep.

Lockdown: Lockdown 2 Electric Boogaloo

I just watched this clip and it’s not the best example of how funny this special is. Too lazy to find something else. Just watch the thing on Netflix.

Thursday the 26th I was about to text Crush Girl to predict Hawaii was going to hit 1000 new cases in a day by the next Wednesday. I held back because I didn’t want to be a downer.

We hit it Friday the 27th. Our highest one-day total since this stupid thing began.

There is probably no more divisive issue today in this town than whether the governor and mayor should lock things down again. I understand both sides; I really do. But we’re talking about lots of our friends and neighbors getting ill and staying in the hospital, many of them dying. Plus there’s the issue of filling those hospital beds and not having room for unpreventable cases.

I have friends who work in hospitals. You have friends who work in hospitals. There’s no point in retelling the horror stories, but the horror stories are real and if you haven’t spoken to your friends who are going through them, you should.

This is the clincher for me: what’s going on in local hospitals. It’s a grim picture, and our elected leaders have the power to do something about it. I think we’ve got to do it, economy be damned if that’s what it takes.

I can’t make the governor do anything. I can do my part, though, and keep myself out of the way, and hope others will do likewise. Soooooo I’m mostly locking myself down again.

Yeah, it’s a bummer.

It’s especially difficult for a couple of reasons I wouldn’t have predicted.

I’m actually not feeling very vulnerable. I feel pretty confident in my immunity and I think I’m unlikely to pass the virus along if I should inhale it. With appropriate social distancing and other precautions we’ve (almost) all grown used to, I’m pretty dang comfortable in my usual spaces.

And even in a few unusual spaces. With cafes still closed at night, I’ve gone to bars for some alone time with a book. Plus, now that I and my friends are vaccinated, I’ve been Mr. Social Chairperson, planning parties and dinners and pau hanas. I’m on the record as hating bars, and I still don’t like them much, but I’ve enjoyed my time in them lately.

Which is the second reason locking down again is difficult. The freedom I’ve felt since I’ve ventured back into the world has been great. A couple of times I’ve stopped at neighborhood bars on my way home from the office just because I could. I’ve dined in restaurants. I saw a movie in a cinema. I even went to the supermarket in the middle of the day, during my lunch break.

Once. I did that once. It was too freaky, so I shan’t be doing that again any time soon.

So I’ve reveled in my freedom, breathing sighs of relief that I and my family got through this horrible thing.

And now we’re back in it. Argh.

I have permission from my boss to work at home full time for now. All summer I’ve been going in a few times a week, and it’s been good. Nice to see my coworkers. Nice to be productive in my cube. Nice to get lunch at all the spots I’ve missed this past year. Nice just to walk around in broad daylight (with a mask) in a city I rather enjoy.

Yet here I am. Locking down again. Mostly. I’ll still see my folks on weekends and I’ll probably still go to the beach during hours when I can mostly stay away from others, and I may even have the occasional dinner out if there’s outdoor seating and I can be far from others. Like the Mapunapuna Wendy’s, which I have had far too much of these past few weeks.

I’ve been walking at Keehi Lagoon and not at all at Makiki Park lately. Too many people at Makiki, and too small a space. Keehi really lets you spread out and away from others. And the Wendy’s is just right there. With outdoor tables sufficiently distanced.

I think I’ve had four Frostys in the past two weeks. Would have been five but it was kind of crowded Friday night, so I just came home.

Lockdown has me feeling down. I’m down for a few other reasons, too, but I think it’s mostly lockdown. Aaaaaand yeah. I’m finding myself diving into the unhealthy behaviors I used this space to protect myself against for more than a year.

Which means I need to get back to it. I don’t think I’ll be as verbose (today’s verbosity aside), but I need to keep track of a few things for myself, so the lockdown journal is back.

Sigh.

More explication later, I guess. For now:

Breakfast: a couple of hot dogs. Yeah, I’ve embraced them again as a quick, satisfying meal, and if each dog takes 36 minutes off my life, as I heard on a podcast recently, I’ll try to earn them back with more veggies and use the pandemic as my excuse. Extraordinary times (if they can still be called this) call for extraordinary leeway. I’ve added jalapeno slices to the usual hot dog, by the way. The combination of salty hot dog with tangy mustard, sweet ketchup, and acidy sauerkraut goes really well with the spice of the jalapenos. Ketchup, sauerkraut, and jalapenos are veggies, right?

Lunch: Loaded taco fries and a couple of tacos supreme from Taco Bell, grabbed at the drive-through on my way home from Keehi Lagoon.

Dinner: A couple of lazy quesadillas, just now.

Contact: Not much, but a few DMs on IG, and some good interaction on FB with some book-loving friends.

Fresh air: 10,000 steps at Keehi Lagoon just before sunset. I didn’t read as I walked, as I usually do, because I really wanted to hit 10K and I walk too slowly when I’m reading. Listened to music instead.

Music: The new Neal Morse Band album, Innocence & Danger, released Friday. It’s long, like most NMB albums, but it’s good. It’s better than their last release, and more memorable. The second track actually made me feel physically good, it’s so well done. Especially Mike Portnoy’s drumming, which kind of blew me away. Streamed it on Spotify but I’m ordering the double CD.

Two weeks ago, I was going to rent The Suicide Squad, but it was thirty bucks. I almost pulled the trigger anyway, then realized for a third the price I could get a month of Netflix streaming. It was an easy decision.

The first thing I watched was Vivo (review later). Since then, I’ve devoured The Queen’s Gambit (terrific), most of season one of My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman, and stand-up specials by Ronny Chieng, Ricky Gervais, and Brian Regan. The Ricky Gervais thing is wonderful. They were all really good, but that Gervais one is definitely a re-watch. Oh, I rewatched a couple of early episodes of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, which I originally saw on their original platform, Crackle. I’m rather delighted I have a chance to get caught up.

Anyway. If you’re locking down again too, you don’t have to be alone. Reach out and I’ll try to be decent company (texts, emails, FB, IG, Twitter, you know the deal).

Friday 5 times two

From here: Unto others.

  1. When did you last give (or serve) something you cooked to someone not in your residence?
    There’s this traditional Hawaiian dessert called kūlolo. I grew up here and never heard of it until like ten years ago. It’s good. It’s basically grated taro, coconut milk, and brown sugar. When you show up at someone’s house with it, people get very happy. And it’s pricey. Maybe that’s why people get happy when you bring it over. So I saw this pretty easy Instant Pot recipe for it and I’ve made it five times now, and people really like it. This week I made some Monday night and Wednesday night and gave it to coworkers, plus some for Penny, which I dropped off at her place this morning. If I get good enough at making it, so I can make it quickly and confidently enough to bring to potlucks (when we have potlucks again, if ever!), I think I’ll make this my usual contribution. People get excited. I’ll be the potluck winner.
  2. When did someone — not a restaurant or takeout spot or housemate! — last prepare a dish for you?
    She didn’t prepare it for me, but she prepared it and gave some to me. Crush Girl gave me some cookies about a year ago, when we were still mostly locked down. I gave her some mochi I made. It was a good trade!
  3. When did you last reach out to someone who could use some company?
    I don’t know about whether or not he could use company, but I’ve texted Ryan a couple of times since Jennifer died. Just in case.
  4. When did someone last reach out to you for similar reasons?
    Mmmm that’s a good question. Penny texted me last week, when it looked like our state might go back into lockdown, to say if I needed to shelter at home she would be glad to bring me whatever I needed. She probably made the offer to a bunch of people, knowing her, and it was really thoughtful. I texted her back that I wasn’t that worried about myself these days, and was in fact on my way to a new speakeasy in town with some coworkers.
  5. How good a listener are you when someone needs to talk it out?
    I suffer from the guy impulse: listen so I can try to fix the problem. I’m very aware of this as a flawed approach, and I’m not nearly as bad about it as I used to be. I’m learning. I still have the impulse as strongly as ever, but I’m learning just to sit and listen, especially when the other person is a woman. So I’ll say I may not be as good as most women, but I think I’m better than most men. Which is almost good enough for me!

I missed last week’s Five, and it was the annual Scattergories game, so I’m going to do it now. From here: Scattergories part 11.

The random letter generator gave me G.

  1. What’s something that recently exceeded your expectations?
    I really want to say The Queen’s Gambit, which I am three episodes into, but I think that’s not a valid answer, so hm. Oh, I know. A few weeks ago I checked out this spot in my hood called Griddle N Grindz. I’ve seen the photos on social media, so I knew to expect massive portions, but the photos of the chicken katsu didn’t look especially appetizing. Let me say I grew up eating my mom’s amazing tonkatsu and chicken katsu and nobody’s has ever come close to hers. Until that day at GnG. It was very close. Close enough that if my eyes were closed and you put it in my mouth I would guess it was hers. Amazing. I have a photo around here somewhere but I just said the photos don’t really communicate well enough, so I’ll refrain.
  2. What snack from your childhood would you love to have right now?
    I’m sure I’m thinking of this because Kimberly’s answer was similar. When we were growing up in San Francisco, the Navy Commissary sold the Granny Goose version of Otter Pops. I never saw an Otter Pop until we moved to Hawaii. These were called Goos Bars. They were something of a comfort food — a daily snack in my preschool days meaning I was being cared for. I’m sure they’re gross now, but I would looooove for my mom to hack off the end with her chef’s knife and serve me a purple Goos Bar.
  3. What ailment do you suffer from?
    Gimpy knees. Especially my left knee.
  4. Which musical artist would be fun to hang out with?
    Ginger Spice, Gillian Welsh, and Selena Gomez would do it for me, but if Amy Grant‘s free, yes pleeeeeeeease.
  5. What’s something you’re looking forward to this weekend?
    I guess I can’t say The Queen’s Gambit here either. So I’ll say games. I’m going to explore the app store for some games that will play well on the iPad, probably step away from my usual genres, like word games and puzzle games, and try something completely different. There are also some good baseball games coming up this weekend.

Friday 5: Make it simple to last your whole life long

From here. I want to embed videos and WordPress doesn’t handle this well within numbered lists, so I’m going to format this one a little differently. It’s sloppy, but at least not as sloppy as trying to fit this all into one list the normal way.

1. What kiddie song do you still like as a grownup?

I love a lot of kiddie songs. “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” is probably my favorite song ever, but while it certainly sings like a kiddie song, I don’t think it is. So give me (in this order, I think) “Jesus Loves Me,” “How Much is That Doggie in the Window?,” “Ulili E,” “It’s a Beautiful Day,” “In a Cabin,” and “Arky Arky.”

2. When did a new* song most recently* get you excited?

In recent years I’ve really put in some effort to keep up with new music. You should see my spreadsheets. This one’s pretty easy to answer. Taylor Swift’s “No Body, No Crime” is a murder ballad from last year’s Evermore album. First, it’s really well done. Second, it’s a murder ballad. On a Taylor Swift album. Did not see that coming!

3. What song were you introduced to via television ad or as background in a movie or TV show?

Two commercials made me run out and buy the albums the songs are from. More recently, The Heavy’s “How You Like Me Now?” in a 2010 Kia Sorento commercial.

In 2002, the Wiseguys and their Mitsubishi Eclipse commercial. This one took some work. It was pre-YouTube and (of course) pre-Shazam. Had to scour a few message boards to find it and go to Tower hoping it had the CD. It did, and now so do I.

4. Which song’s opening lyric do you especially love?

I know I’ve said this in this space before, but the opening line of “Jumper” by Third Eye Blind may be my favorite opening line ever. “I wish you would step back from that ledge, my friend.” Holy freaking moly.

It may be a cliché of an answer, but we shouldn’t leave out Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind.” “How many roads must a man walk down?”

Oh, and what about “Sundown” by Gordon Lightfoot? “I can see her lying back in her satin dress / In a room where you do what you don’t confess.” Wowowowowowowow.

5. With which five songs would you begin a weekend-themed playlist?

  1. “Friday I’m in Love” by The Cure (1992)
  2. “Groovin'” by the Young Rascals (1967)
  3. “Lifetime Party” by Cecilio and Kapono (1974)
  4. “Good Times Roll” by the Cars (1978)
  5. “Take a Little Rhythm” by Ali Thomson (1980)

Wooo that’s an old man’s list!

Gentle into that good night

Me and Jennifer at the Flickr meetup. Kakaako Waterfront Park. January 6, 2008.

My friend Jennifer is dying. She was diagnosed in stage 4 with breast cancer 10ish (or 5ish? I’m unsure) years ago and put up a good fight. Shortly after she left a job I got her, she had a mastectomy. I texted encouragement to her the morning of her surgery and said in support, I was listening only to the music of the Hooters all day. I thought she would appreciate the humor, but I don’t think she was amused. She just replied: thanks.

We traded texts about a month ago while she was in her latest round of treatments, but things went quickly bad soon after.

Her husband Ryan, also a friend, shared on FB that they had surrendered. She went home for hospice care a week ago, and I went to spend time with her Wednesday afternoon.

She’s deeply asleep and clearly not comfortable. The discomfort kind of comes and goes in waves, ‘though I’d wager she’s at least slightly uncomfortable, even on all the painkillers, all the time.

Ryan calls it “vocalizing,” but it’s moaning. She’s moaning with every exhalation, and after about half an hour with her, I could tell when a moan was an expression of more discomfort. Her forehead knitted a few times, which Ryan responded to with gentle rubs along her brow.

Their daughter Kate, a year out of college and enrolled in a paralegal program, was at Jennifer’s bedside the whole time as well, clearly exhausted and plainly devastated.

Ryan, who always puts his best face forward, did his best. If you didn’t know better, and if you were talking about world events rather than, you know, his wife dying, you wouldn’t guess anything was going on.

I asked a lot of indelicate questions, as Ryan and Jennifer would probably expect, but I didn’t want to gloss over anything, including the unpleasant suckiness of this situation, and Ryan seemed willingly transparent.

Yikes.

I tried to avoid the usual pleasantries, but I did say more than once that if there was anything I could do, I hoped he and Kate would reach out. I also said that if I could, I would take any of this away from them and carry it myself.

Her hands were under a thin blanket (her mother’s, only recently received in a box of stuff her mom wanted her to have when her mom died a few years ago), so I didn’t hold her hand, although I don’t know if I would have. I put my hand on her upper arm and kept it there for most of my stay, squeezing once in a while to remind her I was there.

Ryan and I talked a lot. Kate added her thoughts. I spoke directly to Jennifer a few times, but mostly it was just me and Ryan, two friends from our days in college working on the campus paper together. He was editor-in-chief. I was op-ed editor and copy editor (minus headline writing, which I sucked at). Jennifer was office manager.

We were so young and stupid, I said. Now we’re just stupid, Ryan said.

As our loved ones approach death, we are all stupid.

Before I left, I thanked Jen for being my friend. I recapped a few things: how when we started we were sorta friends-in-law, but somewhere in the years soon after we all left Hilo (I graduated; Ryan and Jennifer transferred to Manoa), Jen and I became real friends. And when they got married, she wasn’t my friend’s wife; she was my friend.

She didn’t need to be reminded, but I reminded her anyway that we had the geekiest of conversations about movies, books, and music — mostly books and music — and I found in her a geekiness to match my own, which is rare. I said I hoped to see her again, but in case I didn’t, I wanted her to know I valued our talks, and I thanked her for being my friend.

Then I said, listen. You don’t owe anyone anything. Do what you have to do.

And then Ryan walked me to the door, and we chatted in the doorway about what the next few days might look like, and then we chatted about work, oddly enough. I have a new coworker this Monday, someone he knows, and he’d heard from her that she met me during her interview.

I didn’t cry. I cried on the drive over, and I cried a little on the drive back. I kept it together for her while we were together.

My friend Jennifer is dying and it sucks, and I feel terrible, but there’s something strangely fact-of-life about it. She’s going to do what she does in her time, and while I want one thing, I pretty much expect the other, and I’m grateful I had this time with her.

Before I turn in, I’m going to pray that I can be whatever Ryan needs me to be. He’s lucky: he’s got a million friends, most of whom are better positioned than me to be of any help, so if he needs me to stop texting him and let him go through this, I pray I’ll have the discernment. If he needs me to send him a link to some stupid article about hugging in the workplace (he knows I’m against it and sends me articles all the time), I pray I’ll know when to do it. And if he needs me for something more intervening, geez. I pray I’ll be wise enough not to make things worse.

Ryan warned me before I came over. “Keep in mind: it’s not a Hallmark card.” I knew what I was getting into and I could have sat with her all night, no exaggeration. My time with her Wednesday was special and I’ll never forget it.

So Ryan was kind of wrong. It was a Hallmark card.

Lockdown: The island of lost time

I don’t know exactly why I’m planning to stay up super late to do some work, but I am. I’m not behind. I am a little swamped. So maybe it’s that. Kill it this evening so I get less swamped?

Not wanting to give my whole night over to the work, now I will write about me to me.

The stupid pandemic is going the wrong way. My boss took an informal survey, asking some of us if we were feeling more anxious with this delta variant exploding, and most people said yes. I said no. It’s pretty much the same amount of anxiety. I do not want this stupid virus, but if I get it I feel confident I won’t suffer from it much, and I’m unlikely to pass it along. I can live with that for now until data indicates I’m mistaken.

I’ve been dining out like a madman lately, apparently in an effort to make up for lost time. Mostly I get lunch on days I’m at the office, and occasionally dinner on the way home, and sometimes breakfast on the way in. On days I work at home, I mostly just eat at home. I’ve tried new places and they’ve been good. So Gong Dong for Korean food. Mian for Sichuan. Jejubing for Korean shave ice. A couple of bars for a cold one and whatever food looks good. I’ve dropped in on some old faves, like La Pizza Rina, IHOP, and Wendy’s. So far so good.

I even showed my vaccination card to get into one place. Bars are allowed to operate at full capacity if they check cards, and we had a work thing for someone’s birthday with an intended party of 13 to 15 that ended up being just 9. So cards were unnecessary but I didn’t know it when I showed up first, so I whipped my card out.

The birthday thing was fun. We reserved a private room mostly for privacy (and to get away from the bar’s VERY loud, constant K-pop), but we ended up singing karaoke the whole time. I’ve crossed the karaoke line with coworkers at this place of employment. Not a big deal. Two years ago I crossed the board-shorts-no-shirt line when we had a company picnic at this most gorgeous of beaches.

Speaking of lost time (yes we were; back up three paragraphs), the depression about wasting the gift of time this past year and a half is still on me, following me around and hovering, like a cloud of gnats. And (I guess) like gnats, it swoops in in waves, just invading my brain and bringing me way down for, you know, not all day or night but some amount of time.

I’m told I’m not alone. This makes me feel a little better.

It’s just a couple of nights before Ted Lasso season two starts. Do yourself an enormous favor and check out season one. I mean it.

Mythic Quest season two ended in a place where it could have been the series finale. I’m satisfied. I definitely want a season three, but it hasn’t been announced yet so who knows? I’m glad we got what we got.

Apple TV+ has this terrible original series called Physical. It stars Rose Byrne, who is terrific and whom I love, so I checked it out and now I can’t stop watching. I can’t say I like it, though, because all the characters are terrible. If you’ve already watched Mythic Quest and Ted Lasso, you might check it out. Trigger warning for bulimia.

I’m four episodes into season one of the Leftovers, which I only put in my Netflix DVD queue because Andy Greenwald kept talking about it when it first came out. I finally got to it (Aha. Who wasted his pandemic year? Not this guy!) and it is the most dismal, dark, depressing show ever. One of my coworkers says she loved this show so I’m going to stick with it for now. It’s compelling; I’ll give it that. But yikes. People who look askance at me for loving heavy metal with its themes of war and pestilence and death and decay but who can watch a show like the Leftovers can suck a lemon, a lime, and the marrow from the shattered bones of the fallen.

I’m about to fire up season three of Halt and Catch Fire too.

Okay I’m sated. Going to take a short nap and pound that work. Maybe.

Friday 5: Touched by your presents, dear

From here.

My sleep is so messed up this week I can’t tell if at 3:42 a.m. Friday I’m up late or up early. I should be in bed either way but I don’t want my whole evening-morning to have been a waste so here’s something useful (ha!) instead.

  1. For what ability do you seem to have a natural gift?
    You should just see how easily I let food in my fridge go to waste. It’s amazing! I stick some broccoli crowns or green beans in, and *pow* despite being home all the time, and despite loving my greens, in just a few days I’m throwing them all out with all my unrealized good intentions! I had a funny, snarky answer here about repelling the sort of women whose company I most enjoy (middle-aged divorced teachers or librarians!) but despite my status as a professional writer I couldn’t make it not also sound pitiful and pathetic, which was not the vibe with which I want to begin my Friday morning. Or end my late Thursday evening.
  2. What’s pretty good about the present moment?
    I didn’t have dinner, and I’m sorta looking forward to either a couple of small sandwiches when I finish typing this (I’ve two rolls left of half a dozen I bought Sunday night) or the leftover Indian food I brought home from lunch with some coworkers. If you live on Oahu and dig Indian food, check out Spice Up on King St. between Piikoi and Keeaumoku. It’s where Choi’s Family Restaurant used to be. Delicious.
  3. What nearby, everyday object would be a good symbolic bequest to someone in your life?
    It would be funny to leave my Kindle Paperwhite to R to represent the love we never rekindled, but she’s married so I doubt she’d receive it in the intended spirit, if she made note of my death at all. So I’m bequeathing this large bottle of naproxen sodium to all the girls I’ve loved before who wandered in and out my door, to remind them of all the pain we caused each other and to accept this gift as a token of our mutual healing. Why I’m thinking about relationships at this late (early) hour is a bit of a mystery, since I’ve been feeling pretty great in my self-sufficience these days. Although now that I’m emerging from this long lockdown, I suppose I’m craving the company of the fairer sex.
  4. What recognitions, large or small, have been bestowed upon you?
    My senior year of high school, the newspaper staff named me Most Likely to be a Televangelist (this in the years of the Jim Baker and Jimmy Swaggert scandals) but I think the newspaper advisor made them think of something else (It was a small, moderately conservative Christian school) so I was renamed Most Likely to be a Used Car Salesman.
  5. What was your most recent charitable donation?
    Spelling names correctly is of severe importance. I was freakishly devoted to it when I taught high-schoolers, and I’m nearly as devoted now that I work in a nonprofit. So I have this rule. Anything I’ve written or edited, if it gets published with a misspelled name, I anonymously donate $20 to the associated fund at the university, if there is one. If the misspelled name is in an article about an engineering scholarship, for example, I donate money to that scholarship. If there’s no immediately related fund, I find something close. Someone else misspelled a coworker’s name in our staff newsletter, and for some reason I didn’t check spelling on the names when I edited (which I always do, even the names I absolutely know the spelling of), and it went out with the mispelling. I made the donation to the staff social/party fund, a little side account not budgeted by the foundation but by bake sales and bottle recycling.

Happy long weekend and happy Independence Day. I don’t have plans beyond Friday night but I hope to do some catching up on personal writing. I have so many unreviewed books, films, and TV series. And I’m doing July’s Camp NaNo, so there’ll be a bit of noveling all month.

Lockdown: Rabbit don’t come easy

If a show doesn’t do it for you, it just doesn’t. I get it. But man, I wish I could make people click with some shows just so they can get to the really, really good episodes.

A couple episodes in Forever with Maya Rudolph and Fred Armisen are great examples. If you were to just watch the episodes as stand-alones, it wouldn’t work. You really wouldn’t be seeing the show, and this is one thing TV (or TV-like stuff) has that movies don’t. The payoff after the long build-up, when you didn’t know there was a build-up. It’s like getting punched in the gut while you’re protecting your face.

An episode in season one of Mythic Quest did it to me too, although this great episode didn’t make me wish I could make everyone watch the series. But then *pow* two episodes in season two hit you even lower than the gut. Amazing.

So yeah I can’t make you watch it, but if you have Apple TV+ you really should at least check it out. Season two ends with the next episode, much to my heartbreak, but at least the new Ted Lasso season is coming up at the end of July. Yeah, I already renewed my subscription for another year. My free year ends July 5.

Sometime this week (I can’t remember when; time is meaningless to me anymore) I watched the first episode of The Leftovers. Have you heard of it? It’s dark as frick. In the twinkle of an eye, two percent of the world’s population disappears. Just vanishes. The series seems to be about what happens in the aftermath. And let me tell you: so far, there’s not a lot of light on this planet. People are broken, lost, hurting, and not their best selves. Yikes. And of course a religious cult pops up, adding weirdness and more darkness.

I have to say the first episode does not make me want to watch the second. If not for its being adored by critics I admire, I wouldn’t stick with it, but I might as well see a few episodes more.

In other news I’m sure you don’t care about, Helloween released a new album, its sixteenth studio album and its first self-titled. Which is kind of cool because all three of the lead vocalists in the band’s history sing on this album, together. Not just a song or two, but like most of the album. So the only album probably better suited for a self-title would be one where everyone who’s ever played in the band plays on the whole album, which would be crazy and amazing.

I’m not recommending it. If you think power metal is silly and laughable, which it is, you’ll find this album doubly so. If you think power metal is majestic, grand, soothing, and fun, which it also is, you probably already know whether or not you want to check it out. I’m spinning it now for like the fifth time and enjoying the heck out of it.

I actually did a bit of decluttering, returning to this enormous task after too many weeks off. It made me feel great, and I tossed a bunch of stuff. I wish I could make myself do it on the weekend instead of Monday evening, when it causes me to push several other things back, leaving me to turn in far too late. I need to keep trying. Failing that (again and again), doing it Monday evening at least gets it done and makes me feel good, if also sleep-deprived and miserable.

Weighing myself after weeks 2 and 3 showed me how these things fluctuate. I’m still down from week 0 but I’m up from week 1, and slightly down from week from 2. So yeah, a more concerted effort is definitely called for. I hit the beach Saturday and Tuesday, and I’m going again Thursday. I’ve done slightly less walking this week because I’ve been a little down, not to mention more sleep-deprived than usual, thanks to a couple of deadlines I recently took all night to meet.

Now that lockdown is nearly done, I’m seeing Crush Girl more often in our familiar context. While I still wish we were spending time together in other contexts, like the favor I did for her a few weeks ago, I’ll take this. We seem to be communicating more easily, with more familiar comfort. It makes just being friends a bit easier on my cold, battered, icy heart, but it also makes it a little more melty. I’ll take it.

I’m seventy percent of the way through Jakob Guanzon’s Abundance. I’ve slowed down because I haven’t been walking as many evenings as I was. Still pretty dang compelling.

It’s 9:30. I’m getting ready for bed. It’s been that kind of week.

* The title of this entry is the title of a Helloween album. It has nothing to do with anything I’ve written except that. What a ridiculous name for an album.