The Arctic Light

Before I attack a couple of Friday 5s, a little update in bullet form because my brain’s a little fluffy this afternoon and I’ll excuse myself much more easily when my prose is terrible if I’m just making a list.

  • I’m going through a wee bit of ickiness these days, which I will explain in the coming weeks. I’m not depressed — I hear the call of the abyss many times each day but I only allow myself the briefest glances in its direction. I’ve learned to redirect in moments like this, as tempting as it is to dive in and plummet. It has worked so far. My therapist (yes, I have one now) and my psychiatrist (I have one of them too) both say this is a good strategy. I’m rather pleased I came up with it on my own, before I met either of them. I’m somewhat annoyed it took me so long to figure it out. I’m baffled that such a thing works.
  • However, I’m pretty sad about one major thing and perhaps a few smaller things. Sadness doesn’t worry me, but it’s been intense this weekend.
  • The major thing is I’m going through a breakup. I was seeing someone most of last year. We shall know her in this space as Gin Blossom. Or at least for now — I should really look that phrase up to see if it meant something before it was the name of a great alt-pop band in the mid-90s. It ended right after the new year and I’ve been mostly okay, but this weekend it got worse for reasons I’ll probably get into, if only to help me sort it out. I mean, that’s what this space is for. You thought it was for the audience?
  • I’m writing this in a physical space very, very familiar to me, yet not really visited in the past five years. Hamilton Library, on the campus at UH Manoa. The nonprofit I work for, who used to be based here on this campus, moved to offices near Ala Moana in February 2019. I’ve still come by, because I love libraries and because I’ve continued to borrow things here (one of the perks of my employemnet), but I haven’t worked here. I have several favored spots. Right now I’m in one of my most productive locations, completely alone while much of the rest of the study spaces are rather busy. It’s finals time, you know.
  • Listening to Marika Takeuchi’s soothing neoclassical and new wave piano excellence while I write. I needed something mellow and intelligent. Not an album in order, as I usually listen, but “Top songs” or whatever Apple Music calls it, just a very long list of songs played a lot by other fans, I guess.
  • I’ll be writing and working in this space a lot more, beginning pretty soon. The foundation moves back on campus. We were supposed to move in the day after tomorrow, but this is not happening, so now most of us are in work-from-home mode until things get straightened out, which I suspect will be in a week. I was on the fence about leaving the old space, which was in a great area. I am no longer on the fence. We’ve been talking about this move for so long and we’ve been actively getting ready for it for so long that I just want the whole thing to be over. I did not forget how great it is to work on a university campus; however, I feel myself clicking into place with a comfort I find affirming and encouraging.
  • I’m stopping at the fish market to pick up stuff for dinner. I make dinner for the parents on Saturdays, and I realize now I probably won’t have time to finish my Friday 5s before I have to go. I’ll do what I can, though, and finish this evening from home.

From April 19: Gemini from here.

  1. What movie do you think everyone should see?
    I think I have several answers to this question. I surprised myself by not having a ready answer, the way I do for the books version of this question. The film I think everyone should see because it’s (a) about as close to perfect as a movie has ever come and (b) perhaps the most canonical film in the canon, is Casablanca, which is also my favorite film.

    Somebody somewhere asked what book every president of the United States should read, and my answer was Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston if an autobiography is preferred or Weedflower by Cynthia Kadohata if a novel is preferred. They are both about the Japanese internment in WWII in America, and I am not saying this one issue is more important than any of the other super super important issues every American should be aware of, but Americans are less likely to have a meaningful understanding of what happened, and we just can’t allow this kind of treatment of our fellow citizens ever to happen again.

    So I feel I need to come up with a film with that kind of approach: something everyone should see because it makes them more (fill in the blank). Something beautiful or important or meaningful we would all benefit from experiencing if everyone else were also to experience it. This leads me to something with cosmic or spiritual meaning, but maybe I haven’t seen the film that does this for me, at least directly. I can think of many, many films that do it a bit more artistically. Many people thinking about this suggest Babette’s Feast, a wonderful example. However, reserving the right to change my mind when I think of something much better on my drive home in a moment, I’m going with Groundhog Day.
  2. What song describes your overall mood or outlook on life right now?
    The song in my headphones right now is called “The Arctic Light” by Marika Takeuchi, and in this moment it really sums it up well. Melancholy but hopeful, while being aware of all the non-melancholy, beautiful things around me.
  3. What’s the most memorable food you’ve eaten while traveling?
    I don’t even remember what we had, but when I stopped at Stanford to visit R in her senior year there, we took the BART into the city and wandered around until we found an Italian restaurant. Our college years were so crazy for us, individually and as two friends who would later be in love (one of us was already in love, but we shall not revisit this today), and as she was about to close this four-year chapter of her life and come (maybe?) home and I was still trying to figure out how to make college work, we had a meal that made me think it was all going to be okay, that we were still the friends we’d been in high school. We went back the next night to eat there again, only this time I ordered what she’d had, and she ordered what I’d had. It felt for years after like the most important meal I’d ever had.

    The other is Molokai hot bread. That’s what they call it there. I didn’t know what it was either when I asked all the teens I was working with for a week one summer what their favorite food was and almost all of them said hot bread. There’s a bakery there, Kanemitsu Bakery. After 10:00 in the evening, you could walk down a back alley, knock on this old wooden door, and wait for one of the bakers to stick his head out and say, “Yeah?” as if he had no idea what you were there for. There was one thing to order: a round loaf of bread, right out of the oven. You could order it with some combination of butter, sugar and cinnamon, jelly, and cream cheese. Years later they added other varieties, but I have always had the strawberry jelly and cream cheese and let me tell you: there has never been a more perfect food on this planet. It’s the Casablanca of food.
  4. When were you most recently disappointed by the closing of a store or restaurant?
    My lovely non-Hawaii friends are not going to understand this, but a crack seed shop opened near the office right at the start of the lockdown, and it’s closing at the end of the month to go strictly online. It was a block from the office, which is no longer my office, and a terrific combination of new, inventive candies appealing to today’s sweet tooths and throwback nostalgic snacks only people in Hawaii of a certain age would appreciate. I was pleased to discover it for all my coworkers who also became regulars, and we went for one last visit last week, and a few of us had stamp cards to redeem for free Icees. I will still order from them when they are only online, but dang will I miss going into that store.
  5. How have you been sleeping lately?
    Mostly terribly. I wake up an hour before my alarm no matter when I set it and I can’t get back to sleep. My weekends, where I usually catch up on sleep when I need to, have been busy with Camp NaNoWriMo stuff. I have been. undisciplined in putting myself to bed. It’s been just ridiculous for a few weeks.

Okay I did have time to finish one 5 but not two. I’ll take it. Will come back and edit typos and dumb phrasing later. Here’s some stock video someone put behind the Marika Takeuchi song, which I was pleased to discover has been covered on YouTube by maybe 20 musicians. I had no idea this song was so popular. I’m pleased to see it is.

Review: Knightriders (1981)

Knightriders (1981)
Ed Harris, Tom Savini, Gary Lahti, Amy Ingersoll, Patricia Tallman. Written and directed by George Romero.

Ed Harris plays Billy, known in his traveling Renaissance fair as King WIlliam. His troupe includes musicians, craftsmen, jesters, jugglers, and motorcycle-riding knights who joust for the favor of Queen Linet and the chance to usurp Billy from the throne.

Some troupers are committed to Billy’s Arthurian ideals. Others just love motorcycles. Still others are along for the counterculture dropping-out, roaming wherever the wind and road take them. Billy is aware of these motivational disparities and tries, by forces of conviction and charisma, to lead his motley crew through financial insecurity to some vision only he seems to grasp.

A weird convergence of personalities sends the group into conflict when a TV producer, her photographer, a talent promoter, and a crooked cop all get involved just when one of Billy’s knights aspires to the throne.

This movie is out there, but writer-director George Romero has captured something I’ve thought about a lot since my days in college in the early Nineties. Underneath the spectacle of jousting men (and one woman) on motorcycles is a cause, but most people — insiders and outsiders — don’t understand the cause or don’t care about it, appreciating the mini-society for their own reasons, which may be commercial, hedonistic, or romantic.

Billy also deals with tension between people’s admiration for him and his wanting them to care about the vision, not the visionary.

I’m reminded of how Flower Power began as one thing, then became many things to many people for their own reasons. I wasn’t really around for that, but I was on college radio when Nirvana exploded, and I was 15 credits from graduating when Kurt Cobain shot himself. I saw a great deal of the 90s grunge scene, with its attendant cultural-fashionable-commercial appropriation, in Billy’s traveling circus.

Strictly on its narrative and flavor, Knightriders is somehow engaging even with a lead character I never really understand and antagonists I don’t much care about or believe in. The action really drags in poorly framed, too-long sequences, and supporting characters’ arcs are resolved too quickly and with little explanation. Yet I find a few characters intriguing, like Steve the motorcycle-riding lawyer, Sheila the TV producer, and Merlin the shamanistic first-aid doctor. Combined with Billy’s conviction and dissatisfaction, the positives outweigh the flaws and make it an unpredictably satisfying watch.


Friday 5 for August 25 and a few musings

It annoys me that I haven’t been doing the Friday 5s, especially because I’ve been (mostly) pleased with the questions. I’m finally taking some time to do the most recent, and they aren’t even ones I’m especially fond of. Story of my life!

I had a few new year’s resolutions I didn’t write about here. One resolution was the big one, the one I really, really thought I needed to follow through on, based on conversations I’ve had, mostly with some NaNoWriMo friends but also just a lot of people through my adult years. Which are many these days. The years, not the friends. ‘Though the friends are also many.

My resolution was to call my primary care physician about what I have long suspected to be undiagnosed depression and ADHD. I’ve spent my adult life aware of them — and a good chunk of my professional life working with others diagnosed with them — but I’ve told myself that while things are not optimal, I’ve gotten by. Intervention seemed unnecessary.

Then there was all that emotional ickiness about Ex Crush Girl, and I knew. I could certainly go through life like this forever, but I really didn’t want to.

The ADHD thing, which is not emotional but behavioral, has always bothered me. The teacher friends who know me best have told me for decades they think I’m undiagnosed ADHD. And of course I taught many students who had serious ADHD, and boy did I see a lot of myself in them. The spark that lit this fire was just a realization one day that I could be a lot better at my work. I do excellent work, but I don’t do it excellently. My time management is terrible, improving in tiny increments over time but only so they don’t cost me my job, not so they make me better at it. Distractibility, focus, some impulsivity, hyperfocusing on non-salient things because everything seems salient to me all the time: they are good in some ways, but they are awful in too many others. Am I capable of being better at my job? Not without some kind of help.

In June, I called my PCP. She gave me encouragement and another number to call, which I promptly misplaced. I did some tidying last weekend specifically to find it, and hello. I found it. And only 242 days into the year, I actually followed through on the resolution. I have appointments, one virtual and one in person. Who knows what comes next? I don’t, but I told myself on December 31 I’m not saying no to anything.

Bring on the dancing horses and all that.

Okay if I spend forever on this I’ll get my fill and then who knows how long it’ll be until I do it again? Should leave myself wanting to write more. It’s an old NaNoWriMo trick. On with the 5.

From here.

  1. Which charitable organizations do you think do especially meaningful work?
    I work for one, so there’s that, but other organizations I’ve given some money to are Doctors without Border, Amnesty International, and the Hawaii Innocence Project.
  2. When has someone recently appreciated your giving them your time?
    There are some profound answers to this I think I’ll skip this time. Instead I’ll say most recently, I run the fantasy football league in our office. So many people signed up this year that we split into two leagues, which means I now run two fantasy football leagues in our office. I’m happy to do it, but it’s a bit more work, and we had separate draft nights Monday and Tuesday. A few coworkers who understand the effort this is going to require this year have apologized and said thank you. Which is nice.
  3. When have you asked someone to give you a little space?
    I’m a writer. I have to do this all the time. From my first week on the job, I’ve had permission to take my work laptop away from my desk in the office and find anywhere else on campus where I could get the writing done. It has sometimes been in the library or one of the food courts or a few secret spots I don’t tell anyone about. We’ve temporarily been off campus since 2019 (with actual real plans to move into an actual, brand-new building on campus in a few months!) in the basement of an office building in Honolulu. I sometimes have to be asked to be left alone so I can work on my stuff. The wireless headphones usually do the trick, but sometimes I just need to be physically away from people.
  4. What do you simply not give a darn about, despite its mattering to your friends or relatives?
    Boy do I not care about the royals.
  5. What are you close to giving up on?
    The Southern Baptist Convention and the local churches — a few of which are pastored by childhood friends, college friends, and even my former students — who are sticking with it. “Close to” may be an unnecessary modifier here. I have to leave my answer at this, or I’ll go off on 22,000 words screamed into the cybersphere and I don’t have it in me today.

That was fun. I should do this more often.

That’s weird. I can’t find the categories menu.

Last of 2022

My silence in this space was only intentional the first several months. I’ve meant to get back to it for nearly half a year now but certain logistics have made it less convenient than it used to be, believe it or not. I didn’t think anything could be less convenient than my old setup, but while the technical aspects of getting this space updated are much much better, some practical aspects need figuring out.

A brief rundown on the rest of the year before I hit the Friday 5.

  • I moved. Got the word from the landlord he needed the space to take care of a sister in hospice care. So after 24 years in that space, I knew this was a sign it was time to come back to the parents’ home in Waimalu, which I finally did at the very end of March. I didn’t write about it then because I was a bit stressed-out and I didn’t want to share details with people before it was done. It’s how I am with the big things in life.
  • I still write for the non-profit and had a good year — good enough to get probably the best evaluation I’ve had in my five years. Yay, five years. It’s the magic number in the foundation because it’s when the free parking kicks in. Free parking in this town is like getting a raise. I still love my work and I think I’m getting better at it.
  • I lost nearly 20 pounds between Thanksgiving last year and July this year, and then I put almost. all of it back. Very annoying, but when I finally stepped on a scale again last week for the first time since July, I was semi-relieved to see I was exactly where I was a year ago. I mean exactly. And if I dropped all that weight last year, I can do it again this year, and hopefully keep going. Stick around for my resolutions, which I’ll write in this space probably tomorrow.
  • I was Municipal co-Liaison again for NaNoWriMo, for the second year. This year we returned to in-person events, which is a big deal. I met some new people and got to see some long-timers for the first time in ages. It wasn’t nearly the fantastic blowout I would like to see, but it was a very good transition, I think. I have big plans for next year. Oh yeah, and I hit 50,000 words for the month on a new project I’m pretty excited about.
  • The writing partner and I haven’t met as often as we planned, but we’re still meeting and still writing. This is an important relationship for me for many reasons, not the last of which. is it keeps me thinking about my writing and my dreams of writing, which I am not quite ready to give up on.
  • I saw two movies in theaters. Dio: Dreamers Never Die, a documentary about Ronnie James Dio, and Clerks III, the Kevin Smith movie. I think I’m ready to make movies in the cinema a regular thing again, as long as I go on like weeknights for the late show or matinees when everyone else is at work.
  • I didn’t do as much reading this year as last because of the move, which took forever! Moving sucks, I tell you. It’s one of the worst things. But I did read parts of several books I’ll get back to in 2023 I swear, and did read a few things in their entirety. The second, third, and fourth book in Madeleine L’Engle’s Time Quartet, the sequels to A Wrinkle in Time, which were of course rereads. I really enjoyed Tae Keller’s Jennifer Chan is Not Alone . Keller is that Punahou grad who won the Newbery a couple of years ago. Ginger Park’s The Hundred Choices Department Store was a nice discovery. And I finally — finally! — finished John Updike’s Rabbit, Run, one of those English major books I’ve tried to read many times since my undergrad days. I’m quite sure there’s more but that’s what I remember right now.
  • Jessica died three weeks ago as I was getting off the freeway at Kinau Street. I don’t have to tell you if you’re from Honolulu that’s a terrible place for a car to break down, but things worked out about as well as they could have, and I laid her to rest after four years of super super super fun driving. The night before last I drove my new car home, a red Kia Soul named Bellatrix. My first new car. You need a ride anywhere or want to borrow some wheels for something? I’m your guy. So far I love this little thing, which is actually not that little. I can’t believe how roomy it is inside.
  • I am strongly considering doing FAWM in February. It will be my first time since 2007 or so.
  • Beginning in early August and lasting through the beginning of November, I went through some really, really rough depression. Somehow I stayed out of the abyss through the worst of the pandemic, but wow. These three months or so were rough as heck. Worse even than what I went through when Crush Girl first friendzoned me three years ago, and that was pretty bad. I will definitely write more about this later, but a couple of things I did on my own made me think I can, with some professional help, confront this thing finally and do something about it. One of my new year’s resolutions, already shared with some close friends and my supervisor at work, is to speak to my doctor about what I believe are undiagnosed depression and ADHD. I’m ready to figure a few things out.
  • I have a secret I’m practically exploding with that’s actually helped me out of most of the depression. I’m not in the clear yet, but I can see the sun again most days and when the chasm has opened up I haven’t let myself dive in. The secret is helping. I promise I’ll share it when the time is right, but if you’re reading this I know you care enough about me that you’ll be pretty happy for me when I do share it!
  • I caught COVID in July and again the week of Thanksgiving. After these years of being super careful I came down with the things twice. And somehow my parents, my new cohabitants, managed to escape it. Whew.
  • I think my favorite thing I watched this year, besides the Harry Potter films which I am rewatching this week (I’m on Order of the Phoenix, which I will watch part of tonight)), was this series called Sprung on Amazon’s free, commercial-supported platform Freevee. Or Freevie. I’m too lazy to look it up. Anyway go see it. Each 30-minute episode is 26 minutes of stupid and 4 minutes of incredible sweetness. I’m fervently wishing for a second season. Other rewatches this year were Silicon Valley in its entirety and The Queen’s Gambit for like the sixth time. I am still slowly working my way through Downton Abbey and a few other things.

So it was a rather good, terrible, remarkable, year, which I have just done. I didn’t take you with me for most of it, but let’s see what 2023 brings. I have a feeling I’m about to have a lot of adventures these next 365 days.

Let’s do the last Friday 5 of the year.

1. Among people with whom you are not personally acquainted, who most made you laugh in 2022?
I ask this almost every year (in some place or another) and the answer is usually Tony Kornheiser, via his Tony Kornheiser Show podcast. The fricking pandemic, combined with his being a senior citizen and therefore very careful, has meant major changes to the program, mostly hosting from a home studio and cohosting with his son, rather than the rotating team of cohost friends, who are D.C. A-listers like a former Pentagon spokeswoman, two award-winning sportswriters, and an on-air CNN personality. The show is still pleasant and amusing but no longer can’t-miss listening for me. I still listen religiously, only not religiously like when I went to church in college. More like religiously like when I go to church now. So the answer is (as it has been these last couple of years) the producers and hosts of the Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz. It’s not just Le Batard and Stu; it’s the whole team, but especially Mike Schur, who you might know from The Office and Parks and Recreation. Man, the guy just cracks me up almost every time I hear him. He’s the best on Le Batard, but he’s alllllmost as good on the Pozcast with Joe Posnanski.

2. Among people with whom you are not personally acquainted, who most inspired you in 2022?
The people of Ukraine and the people of neighboring countries who opened their doors and said come in, my brothers and sisters. Man, I can’t sleep at night sometimes thinking about what’s going on in that part of the world. I actually had to stop consuming broadcast news and commentary for a while; it was all just too much. I still read the news in my usual places, but I didn’t watch any of it on TV or listen to any of it via podcast. I’m slowly bringing some of that back — mostly just the PBS NewsHour — but I’ll seldom listen to a whole broadcast and I do not go back and catch up on days I’ve missed as I used to. I have to say it’s made a big difference for my mental health.

3. What were your food discoveries in 2022?
Most recently, as in just this month, the Malaysian dish called laksa, a curry-brothed noodle dish I just adore. It’s also found in Singapore and Indonesia, and I think the place where I get it, in the Ala Moana food court, is Singaporean. I also had my first Cubano sandwich, which was freaking delicious and now that I have new wheels I am going to be scarfing a lot more during my lunch break on work days. I also documented on IG my discovery and experimentation with gai lan, a staple in Chinese restaurants apparently everywhere but in Hawaii. It’s Chinese broccoli: dark green and leafy with stems slightly woodier than asparagus. I thought it was delicious but I have only seen it on two menus in local restaurants. I had to find a shop in Chinatown for fresh gai lan so I could prepare it at home. I’m a big fan. I tried a few new hot sauces, too. Penny gave me a bottle of Truff red sauce for Christmas last year and I opened it in the early spring, and it is my new favorite. I didn’t think anything would unseat Tabasco from its throne, but this has. It’s unbelievable and delicious in everything I’ve tried it in or on. Melinda’s Original Habanero Xxxtra Hot was a clear runner-up, and you can just ignore all those Xes because it’s not that hot, but it has excellent flavor. So my new top 4 are Truff Red, Tabasco, Huy Fong Foods Sriracha, and Melinda’s Habanero Xxxtra Hot. A good year for hot sauce!

4. What were your music discoveries in 2022?
As usual, I listened to a lot of new (to me) bands. says I have listened to 810 unique artists in 2022 so far (there are still 3 hours left in 2022, and you never know). I’ve been aware of Sepultura since the days when they ruled the metal world in the early 90s, but never actively listened until this year when I finally gave their Roots album an attentive listen. Good stuff. You can see, now that we have 30 years of history to look back upon, how influential they were in the genre that became Nü Metal. Wet Leg, who is a darling of the critics (and all your friends who like cooler music than you), was also a nice discovery. Oh, and Pattern-Seeking Animals! It’s basically some of the guys in Spock’s Beard with some guys who used to contribute to Spock’s Beard or something, and it’s just lovely, wonderful, nerdy, proggy goodness. Most of my prog listening has been metal these days, but it’s very, very nice to get a good dose of creative prog rock to remind you of where your nerdy passions came from. Just excellent. Speaking of prog, I was using the radio function on Spotify one day for a progressive metal band I love, Soen, and this band Jadis came up and it was fantastic. I ordered the band’s live DVD album on Amazon and plan to watch it sometime this week.

5. Where will you be when the clock strikes midnight on January 1?
As I write this, it’s a quarter past 9 in the evening, December 31, and I’m on our lanai with my wireless headphones set to maximum noise cancellation (listening to Amanda Shires for now) as the illegal fireworks explode all around me. I don’t know if I’ll be here all the way through to midnight, but I’ll almost certainly be out here at midnight, which is where we usually situate ourselves when the new year’s fireworks — official and illegal — hit their peak. I hate fireworks but someone has to keep an eye on things in case something terrible happens. This is the first New Year’s Eve in ages and ages where I have not been intentionally alone. I usually, wherever I am, call my parents shortly after midnight to say happy new year, but in 2022 when I did it, they were both in bed asleep. Huh. So I’m expecting them to be asleep this year and I’ll be out here alone. Which as you know is just fine.

Come get me, 2023.

Friday 5: Obligatory

From here.

  1. In 2021, who made you laugh?
    Real laughter of the interpersonal communication sort was extremely difficult to come by in 2021, especially in the first ten months, before we were called back to the office and I had some kind of in-person human interaction on the reg. I have a couple of coworkers who frequently crack me up, including the woman whose cube is right behind mine. She’s from another country and also a lover of old films — she’s the only friend I can think of who also subscribes to the Criterion Channel — and we have similar fatalistic senses of humor. Most of my laughter this year came from podcasts, though, and the best for that was the Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz. Irreverent takes on sports and culture. Stupid and clever at the same time.
  2. What was a pleasant surprise?
    I don’t know how pleasant it was, but shortly after my second shot, I found myself in a lot of neighborhood bars. I kind of hate bars, but one thing I missed most during the lockdown (as I have written in this space multiple times) was hanging out in cafes and boba joints. Just somewhere to be, surrounded by people who didn’t know me and wouldn’t talk to me. The cafes here still aren’t open at night, so bars it was, and I rather enjoyed it, although I think I dropped too much money per visit. Once I can find a way to have a few drinks and maybe a bite without spending the equivalent of five lattes each time I go, I think I can make it a more regular thing. Of course, this is all off the list now until numbers begin to go back down.
  3. How have you grown?
    I’m pleased to find myself getting better at my work. I was rather unhappy with myself at work for most of the lockdown, but I’m finding better ways to handle the flow, and I’m finding myself more pleased with my time management.
  4. What do you forgive yourself for?
    I’m forgiving myself for not stressing about my body during the lockdown. I made good efforts to walk and to get in the ocean, but those were mostly for mental health; physical health benefits were secondary. Or sometimes physical health benefits were an excuse to make unwise decisions about what I put into my body. I’ve been seeing a doctor lately about correcting some of these actions.
  5. If you were to get a tattoo to represent the year, what would it be and where would you put it?
    The most depressing theme of these past two years has been a sense of lost time, like there is this hole in the timeline of my life where there should have been stuff. I started a local silent book club whose inaugural meetup in February 2020 turned out to be our last. The podcast I planned to launch depended on meeting people in public spaces, so that never got off the ground and I haven’t even taken the gear for a test run. I wanted to spend some time with new acquaintances. I hoped to travel a little. I miss concerts, movies in theaters, dining with friends. Meanwhile, my body and mind don’t I’m in stasis as the days rip slowly off the calendar. My life may be on hold, but the aging process certainly isn’t, and since I don’t have too many birthdays left, I’m feeling resentful more than anything else. I would get the tattoo on my shoulder, and it would be a hole to represent everything I’ve missed, to remind me of this gap in the continuum of my life that probably doesn’t have to be as significant as I’ve allowed.

You don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction

I got my best sleep in a couple of weeks, about seven hours, interrupted twice that I can remember. I really wanted that eighth hour but it just wouldn’t come. So I was up at close to eleven. Read the news. Ate breakfast. Drove the car to the shop.

I kind of took a scenic route home, hoping to get half my steps in so my evening walk, if I took one, could be brief. One does not want to be walking around late on New Year’s Eve through this neighborhood. One does not want to be driving around late on New Year’s Eve through this neighborhood.

I meant to grab my enormous umbrella from Jessica’s trunk before leaving the shop, but I totally forgot. It was fine, and I didn’t even think of it until I got to School Street, which is sorta two-thirds of the way home. Driving, it’s a minute to my house. Walking, it’s more like fifteen but it feels like thirty because it’s up a steep hill.

It came down pretty hard, and while I normally would just have walked home in the downpour, Dark Skies said it would let up in ten minutes, giving me enough of a window to get home. So I vegged on my phone, standing beneath the eaves of that building where Rainbow Drive-In is, and in a few minutes, ta-da. These microweather apps are amazing, and Dark Skies is the standard.

La la la la. Vegged at home a while before the shop called and told me some good news and some bad news. Some repairs weren’t going to cost me as much as I expected, while some where going to cost me a lot more. Because of the holiday, they weren’t sure on the second thing because the one place they thought had my parts wasn’t picking up the phone.

So I walked back to pick Jessica up. They’ll call me after the weekend, when businesses open back up, and let me know the deal.

Vegged some more, did some crosswords, took a nap, listened to a ton of podcasts. I thought I’d spend the evening reading Klara and the Sun but it’s 1:32 a.m. now (happy new year!) and I haven’t even picked it up.

I shan’t bore you with the usual this-island-is-crazy-on-New-Year’s-Eve stuff. It was crazy as usual, but not as crazy as last year. I called the parents as I always do, half an hour after the new year, to wish them happy new year, and they were in bed. First time that’s ever happened.

When the cacophony died down (it hasn’t stopped; it’s just mellower) I did a few chores.

Breakfast was overnight oats. I used up the last of the store-brand oats and can’t wait to get back to the name brand. Lunch was a teri cheeseburger from Bob’s, across the street from the auto shop. Delicious.

Dinner was a couple of quesadillas, but then I had a second dinner a few hours later. I stir-fried a whole head of won bok and ate half of it with a drizzle of that chili oil I’m in love with, alongside a whole block of tofu. It was all yummy.

I snacked a little on pistachios and drank a lot of Maker’s Mark. Something like six shots over nine hours, hardly enough to qualify me as a party animal, but more than I’ve had to drink in one night since I was in my thirties, I think. I’m glad to be rid of it — I’m not a fan, so it was nice to finish that bottle off.

Yeah, I’m still on my intermittent mission to get through all the alcohol in my house before I bring anything new through the door.

Grace and Excrush Girl each returned my texts from Thursday, so we had very brief conversations. There was some DM action on IG, too. Plus I commented on something in Sarah Spain’s stories and she replied, so that was cool. It was just a word: “Right?!” but I’ll take it. She was acknowledging my sage comment.

Good riddance to 2021. I don’t know how to feel about 2022 except the way I always feel about a new year. Still, I know how terrible 2021 was and I’m glad to be done with it.

New year’s eve eve

Just a quick one this evening since there wasn’t much to this day and because I’d like to get to bed before 2:00. It’s two minutes to 1:00 now.

The foundation gave us a day off for the holidays. It’s our annual Christmas gift. We could take either the full day before Christmas Eve off or the full day before New Year’s Eve. Alternately, we could take half the day before Christmas Eve and half the day before New Year’s Eve. I took the third option.

So I didn’t set my alarm Thursday morning and still got up at a decent hour — it was like 10:30. I lazed for an hour before getting up and doing normal morning things, just a lot more slowly.

I put myself on task a little early, which was fine, and submitted a first draft of that proposal. Then mostly did organizing stuff because who was I kidding? I was most unlikely to get any real writing done on my other projects.

Shortly before sundown, I cleaned out my car. I actually didn’t have much to do since I’ve been trying to keep the passenger areas tidy these days. The car seems to run better when it’s not full of junk. Also, I had occasion to drive Excrush Girl a couple of places some time ago, and of course I cleaned it up beforehand. Keeping it tidy nowadays usually just takes a few minutes once a week.

Then I bleached out my water jugs, hit the Times Supermarket for a few groceries, and refilled my drinking water at the School Street Foodland.

That was pretty much my day.

Breakfast was overnight oats. Lunch was a couple of lazy quesadillas. Dinner was two stir-fried crowns of broccoli drizzled with Maui Chili Chili Oil. I snacked on pistachios, some fried pork rinds, and a few olives.

I didn’t get out for a walk. It rained like crazy this afternoon and into the late evening. There were flash flood warnings and brownwater alerts.

The writing partner texted me to ask if I’ve yet thought about resolutions. I hadn’t, and neither had she. We both usually give ourselves until the end of January, but this year I don’t think I’ll wait that long. It’s a long weekend and I won’t have my wheels since I’m taking them for repairs Friday. Plenty of good reflection time.

Texted Grace to see if I could drop something off for her on my way to refilling my water (she lives across the street from the Foodland) but she didn’t get back to me. Texted Excrush Girl to say one of her friends knows one of my friends. I didn’t really expect a reply to that one — there’s not much to say, I guess. Just an interesting fact I thought I would share.

Tried to listen to music today but the proposal required a bit more concentration than these usually take, so I didn’t listen to anything until I was done with work, when I put on some of the podcasts I’m behind on.

We had 3400 new COVID cases today. Are you kidding me?

Knee-deep in the hoopla

In that small window between COVID spikes, I saw my doctor a few times for a few issues. I finally spoke to her about my bad knees.

She gave them a quick examination and ordered some x-rays, which didn’t seem to reveal any damage. Strangely, and I can’t remember the details, the x-rays showed that my right knee was in worse shape than my left, but my left is the one that really bothers me.

The last time we spoke, she ordered me some knee braces and suggested I might have arthritis. This actually came as something of a relief to me, although I suppose arthritis is chronic. At least this is a manageable condition, something I can deal with. If she’d told me my ligaments were shredded or I was walking around with no cartilage, I guess we’d be talking about surgery. I think (but am not sure) that the pain is just pain, and it’s not indicative that my knees will give out on me one day while taking stairs. With arthritis, it’s about managing pain, rather than repairing damage. I think.

I got neoprene braces for both knees and a topical painkiller in case the aches get as bad as they were a year ago, waking me up in tears. So far they haven’t, but I haven’t done a lot of walking in the month and a half since my visit.

Since I haven’t been to the beach in a couple of weeks — we’ve had rain almost every night, and this week is the monthly jellyfish influx — and since I’m in sort-of lockdown again, tonight was the night to get back out there.

I went without the knee braces because I wanted to test the knees out. Weirdly, although they were especially achy this morning, they seemed fine this evening. I only went 10K steps in a couple of hours. Ten thousand has sorta been my ceiling lately since I’ve been trying to avoid pain.

It was kind of scary at first, not because of the knees but because Kalihi and Nuuanu at night can be scary. I slowly got past the spooky feeling, but maybe I shouldn’t. Maybe I’ve been a little foolhardy in my late-night roamings.

It was good podcasting catch-up time. I got back to the house at 1:30 in the morning and felt pretty good, and my knees aren’t even twitching, which pleases me enormously.

Work was mellow and kind of engrossing. Working on a proposal for a named chair, without most of the kinds of details I’m used to getting. I like the challenge. Also had my weekly check-in with my supervisor, via phone.

Breakfast was overnight oats. You know, I used to get whatever rolled oats were cheapest, which usually meant the store brand wherever I was. Since I jumped back on the overnight oats train, I’ve had the major name-brand (you know which one) and right after, the store brand, and there is definitely a difference. The store brand is mushier, like the oats are thinner somehow. They’re fine, but they aren’t quite as good. This may change my approach in the supermarket aisle.

Lunch was a couple of quesadillas. Dinner was a teri chicken egg salad sandwich at 7-Eleven at the midpoint of my walk. During the day I snacked on fried pork rinds, pistachios, and a few bites of the cold pot roast. Definitely not my healthiest day, despite the 10K steps.

I got a text from Alison, a former coworker, about Ocean Vuong’s On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, a novel I’ve heard about all over the place this past year. Guess I need to add it to my list. I did some MS Teams chatting with a couple of coworkers about Klara and the Sun — one of the participants has finished the book.

I spun that James McMurtry album a few more times Wednesday, ‘though most of my listening was podcasts again. Still trying to catch up on a few.

If I can get myself to bed in the next nine minutes, I’ll be asleep before four in the morning. This would be progress. Here I go.

Washed down to gravel and stones

The shift back to working from home hasn’t been easy. I can’t decide if this surprises me or if it doesn’t.

Some of it’s predictable, including the unintended shift to vampire hours. I had to drive to the office early Monday morning to get my work laptop. Combined with my weekly difficulty putting myself to bed Sunday night, I got about two hours of sleep before the alarm went off at 5:30. On my way back I picked up a few groceries (okay, it was mostly caffeine-free Diet Pepsi but also fresh veggies and a chuck roast), so I didn’t get to back to bed until around 7:00, leaving me another two hours before I had to get up for work.

It was the first domino in what might be a week’s worth of sleep-deprivation dominoes. We’ll see, I guess, but since it’s quarter to five now Wednesday morning, I think we can see where this goes. I’m off for half the day Thursday and off all day Friday, so I kind of think I’ve already resigned myself to being miserably sleep-deprived for another day. Not a conscious decision; I swear.

Monday I was in such bad shape I asked for a half day’s vacation. I’d have preferred to take the whole day, but I had mailouts for two community colleges to edit and schedule. Tuesday I was just kind of wasted all day. Managed to work on a few tasks, but you can imagine I wasn’t very efficient. Bleah.

Monday night I felt kind of terrible, so after a longish nap I cooked that roast in the Instant Pot and watched the Seth Meyers standup special on Netflix. It did the job better than I predicted. It’s quite funny, and one of the few comedy specials on the service where every joke landed. The pot roast was good, but since I’m mostly off rice and potatoes, it wasn’t as good as it should have been.

Tuesday evening I watched the first half of Don’t Look Up, on the recommendation first of my boss. What a cast, and what sharp writing. I’ve been following Adam McKay since The Big Short, and he’s a consultant for Meadowlark Media now, the production company that cranks out at least half my podcast listening. I think he’s brilliant.

I actually got on the phone and made an appointment to take Jessica in for a few repairs. It felt good to get just that much done. Car stuff stresses me out, so it’ll be nice to take care of this one thing. I have a few more car issues to attend to once these repairs are made, but I feel like I’ve got things in motion, finally.

Breakfast Monday was overnight oats. Lunch was granola and yogurt with raw honey. Dinner was the pot roast. I snacked on potato chips — too many for sure — and olives. I never cared much for olives until recently, when I decided they’d be a decent low-carb snack. I have four varieties in my fridge right now.

I forgot to put overnight oats in the fridge Monday night, so Tuesday breakfast was granola and yogurt with raw honey. Lunch was overnight oats. Dinner was takeout from Panda Express: mushroom chicken and black pepper Angus steak with supergreens. I snacked on pistachios.

Texted a little with Allison, a newish coworker. Also with Excrush Girl (I’m still not feeling the EX part of that but I’m going to keep trying for a while at least).

Monday and Tuesday I mostly listened to podcasts. I fell three or four weeks behind on the Dan Le Batard Show and spent most of the weekend and the early part of this week trying to catch up. Still working on it.

Right now I’m spinning the 2021 James McMurtry album, The Horses and the Hounds. It’s pretty much exactly what you’d expect, but probably a little better.

My fields are empty now
My ground won’t take the plow
It’s washed down to gravel and stones
It’s only good for burying bones

He’s the son of Larry McMurtry, and this album makes me think of the elder. I wrote about this last spring, but Larry McMurtry and Beverly Cleary both died March 25. Two writers who most influenced my writing. Cleary turned me from an avid reader into a real bookworm; she’s the inspiration for my declaring in fourth grade I wanted to be a writer. McMurtry is the writer whose skill I envy more than any other. His clarity and readability are my daily aspiration.

Note to self: Stephen King’s mention of Larry McMurtry in On Writing would be a good topic for this space.

My weight is creeping back up. Need to address this beginning Wednesday. I’m not kidding.

The rubble, or our sins?

but if you close your eyes
does it almost feel like nothing changed at all?
and if you close your eyes
does it almost feel like you’ve been here before?
how am i going to be an optimist about this?

2200 new cases. 1500 the day before. 1800 the day before that. This is getting insane.

I finally got the text message from my boss urging everyone in our department to work at home at least through Wednesday. An hour later, an email from our COO said we’re going to have a reduced in-office presence through the holidays. It only makes sense. I’m mildly surprised it took until Sunday evening to let us know.

I suppose I’ve said this already, but I’m dealing with some depression about this. A lot of anger, too, although I’ve decided mostly to process the antivax stuff later, perhaps when this is all over, if it is ever over. It infuriates me to think about it now, and it keeps me from thinking kind thoughts about people, a major failing of my spiritual gift of mercy.

Yeah, I’m doing an okay job of not getting too messed up about people prolonging this thing far, far beyond its reasonable life because of — oops. Let’s just say “for whatever reason.” And mostly, on a day-to-day level, I can handle this. Yet when I zoom out a little and realize my life is passing chronologically and biologically while I’m in a kind of personal stasis, I feel the spiraling again, as I’m feeling it this moment while I write about it.

Christmas was pretty mellow, and only slightly less mellow than Christmas last year, which of course I spent alone. This year I spent the morning alone, then went to my parents’ for dinner, picking it up on the way from Big City Diner in Pearlridge. It was the same meal as last year, a lovely prime rib with mashed potatoes, a Caesar salad, a green bean salad, some crab cakes, and macarons. I left the macarons for my mom (I don’t care for them) and most of the potatoes for my dad, but did bring leftovers home of half the remaining prime rib and all the remaining salad.

Came home and watched Remember the Night (1940) with Barbara Stanwyck and Fred Macmurray. It was lovely. Fantastic. It had most of the stuff that made me fall in love with old movies when I was a teen, and was just a really nice surprise. It doesn’t measure up to Casablanca (I mean, nothing does, right?), and it’s a different genre — romantic comedy vs. romantic drama — but it’s thoughtful, sweet, and witty. It’s immediately a new favorite.

Then I watched Desk Set (1957) on the recommendation of a coworker, whose cube is right behind mine and who also loves old films. She’s the only person I know who also subscribes to the Criterion Channel. This is the seventh or eighth of nine films Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy starred in together, and I have never gotten into Tracy (except in Boystown and Men of Boystown), but I think in this one I started to see him better as an actor. Might have to look into some of his other stuff. Hepburn, of course, is great. This film’s quite a bit sillier, but it’s also witty if also fluffy and insubstantial.

They are both Christmas movies, and I’m happy to add them to my list of good films for the holiday.

Breakfast Saturday was overnight oats, as it has been every morning for a couple of weeks. Lunch was the Big City Diner meal at my parents’. I should have had a dinner after that, but I had a couple of quesadillas and the leftover Caesar salad very late before bed.

Breakfast Sunday was overnight oats. Lunch was nigiri sushi from Kuru Kuru, picked up on my way to my parents’ again. Dinner, which I just finished, was a dish of yogurt (yes, my homemade yogurt) with some granola and raw honey.

Texting Saturday was the usual Christmas greetings from all over, including from coworkers, from Excrush Girl, and from Reid-Grace-Penny. Sunday it was a little more of the same, but also with the others in my department after my boss told us not to come in. Oh, and the writing partner texted me to thank me for the gift I mailed her — a hardback copy of The Lost Apothecary, which I’m pretty sure she’ll really like.

Sunday NYT xword in 32 minutes, slower than my Sunday average. Monday xword in 4:15. That’s around where I usually finish a Monday lately.

It’s coming up on 2:30 and I still have a couple of quick tasks to hit before bed. Then up early to get my work laptop from the office, before anyone else gets in because I’m trying to avoid everyone. I have kind of a slow week ahead of me, if nothing pops up on short notice, so it’ll be a good few days to catch up on a few things. Kind of looking forward to it.

and the walls kept tumbling down
in the city that we love
great clouds rolled over the hills
bringing darkness from above