August 22, 2014

AN INVALID'S LIFE IN THE MOUNTAINS

We are doing fine here in Recovery.  My first shower was most heavenly.  Our daughter reports from her reading The Diary of Samuel Pepys that in year 1658 old Samuel's wife took herself a bath.  She told Sam he could not sleep with her until he, too, bathed.  And so he did.  And the next bath they got around to taking was in 1660.  We have become more accustomed to many things.

I got a great report from my PT yesterday and my doctor today.  I am now down to one crutch and next week will be allowed to make a full rotation on the bike.  Yikes!  We look forward to watching old Seinfelds each evening, a wonderful recuperation gift from Mike's brother and wife.  I have been referred to as "peg leg," or Long John Silver as I wander around at night getting ice.  Mike is now off night duty.  Karen took me for a nice drive up Taylor Canyon and we sat by the river and then saw nine enormous mountain goats with their great horns wandering by the highway.  It was a special sighting, and I did not have my camera.  But my friend, Kate, did have her camera when she spotted this huge guy on top of a mountain. I read in Huffington Post that a hiker in Telluride this week was stalked for 20 to 30 minutes by a mountain lion.  Whenever she took a step backwards, so did the lion, eight feet away. When she began singing opera at the top of her lungs, the cat left, but then came back, approaching from the side.  The 44 year old woman was alone, but did everything else right - faced the lion constantly, got a big branch and waved it, talked or sang so to distinguish herself as a human and not prey.  Sheriff Masters and other officers were waiting for her at the trailhead.  Whew!



My guru, Mr Iyengar, died this week at age 95.  Here is my pose in honor of his life and his wisdom passed down to fellow yogis.  BSK Iyengar called Shoulder Stand the Mother of All Poses.



I hobbled over to the blocked-off highway to watch the USA Pro Challenge stage 3 which came from Aspen over Kebler Pass in mud, rain and falling rock to Crested Butte and then to Gunnison for their final push up Monarch Pass (11,000 feet), down to Salida and then back up to the TOP of Monarch for the finish on Wednesday. There were 100 racers, and they did three laps through town and then headed on out west. I like to look at huge muscles and was expecting to see some, but most of these guys were skinny dudes.  I learned that they do not bring their sprinters on these endurance rides up and down mountains, and it is the sprinters who have those humongous thighs.  These guys cannot eat enough calories to counteract what they do physically.

Chris, our friend and neighbor, the owner/publisher of The Gunnison Country Times





                           Coming up Kebler towards CB

And so it goes in Gunnison where tiny spots of yellow are being seen on the trees, orange "Welcome Hunters" signs hang on establishments,  and fall is in the air.  Hail to the next season, chug chug chugging along.
Susan

August 18, 2014

We must demand more from our media

Recently, our library held one of its Socrates Cafe sessions, the purpose of which was to discuss the topic "What Is Courage?" The title alone scared me off, but I heard from a more courageous participant that, at one point, someone said, "Was Snowden courageous?" She referred to the CIA analyst Edward Snowden, who is hiding out in Russia after having released information about our government spying on us--also spying and using the information that spying collects to attempt to alter and/or change our lives.

There is too much to inhale. It goes on and on. There are too many shocking pieces to present to avoid puzzling. Yes, our own government will do whatever it wants to do for whatever reason to any of us anytime it wants to do it, then severely punish anyone who tells us what has been done to us. Yes. But today's topic is "Where Is The Media's Courage?" "Nowhere," seems to be the most available answer.

Let's get this straight. Snowden did not release a torrent of classified documents as did Julian Assange and his WikiLeaks--BOOM! There it ALL was and is. No, he is the son of a military man, a Libertarian, a patriot who enlisted in the army in 2004 determined to fight in Iraq, only to break both legs during training, resulting in his discharge. From there he went to work for the CIA...and ultimately came to the belief that We The People simply needed to know--or deserved to know, at least--what we are up against.

In my opinion, it's a shame he has found refuge in Russia. That fact adds to the sheen of traitorial behavior with which he and his actions have been wrongly tainted. He could have found equally inaccessible refuge in far West Texas. But I digress. Here is my point (to make a long story short):

In that Socrates Cafe session, one participant said, "They (who is "they?") should kill him." That same person said, too, "He should have taken the proper steps, reported it to his superiors." That person is someone who has not understood all the terrible fates those who HAVE gone to their superiors have wound up enjoying. (Nor, it should be reported, is that person representative of the entire group at that Socrates Cafe session.)

No, Snowden is way too smart to trust his "superiors." Rather, he trusted journalists. I doubt he was even born--he could not have been born--during the Vietnam War years, when The New York Times went with Daniel Ellsberg--and with its own reason for being--and published The Pentagon Papers. Them were the days. Our newspapers don't do that anymore--not all of them, not enough of them.

Snowden was sincere and adamant, that NO document or piece of information that might endanger any serious operation or operative should be published. Honoring that demand, NO document was so-published, and in fact the government--the NSA, Homeland Security, the Pentagon, the White House--was shown most of those documents before publication.

Snowden and the journalists to whom he gave his information carried it all off in an entirely decent and honorable and honest way. Yet, the government will throw Snowden and those journalists in prison, given the chance. Why?

Snowden has been attacked by Julian Assange, even, not to mention being attacked from the right and the center. But, again, he released these documents to journalists of high standing, and they vetted them with the proper authorities, all the while acquiescing to Snowden's demand that they do so. The journalists took the documents, they vetted them, then did whatever they did--they did what investigative journalists have always done--but as The New York Review of Books is asking, is that what journalism does anymore?

Among others, Snowden gave the information to Glenn Greenwald, a respected reporter and columnist for The Guardian. Greenwald is a journalist who stands tall. He despises today's "corporate media," which, in turn, despises him. But is his hatred deserved? In the NYRB, we read: "At the urging of the White House, the New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller held back for a year a lengthy story by James Risen and Eric Lichtblau on President Bush's secret authorization of domestic eavesdropping, putting it in the paper only when (Keller's) hand was forced by the impending publication of Risen's book "State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration." (Risen, by the way, is awaiting prison for refusing to reveal his source on yet another story and different subject.) At the Los Angeles Times, then editor Dean Baquet, again at the request of the government, refused to publish a story abut the secret rooms installed by the NSA at AT&T (AT&T!!!) and other telecommunications compaines to monitor phone calls. Baquet is now executive editor of The New York Times."

The NYRB goes on to stress the importance of a free press AND privacy. There is, as mentioned at the outset, too much to inhale.

But get this, coming from the liberal NYRB and the liberal JMR (namely, Yours Very Truly), both of whom supported Barack Obama: "Before Barack Obama became president, only three Americans had ever been charged under the Espionage Act of 1917. In his six years in office, Obama has tripled that number."

Begging the question: WHY? Obama, as a senator from Illinois, voted against the Iraq War. What has caused him to exponentially increase the number of drone attacks AND the attacks on his own neighbors? You, like I, see the president getting grayer and grayer with every passing day. That's his hair. What color is his heart?

August 16, 2014

EAT YOUR MEAT, FORGET THE BROCCOLI

Post surgery night, all I wanted to eat was broccoli.  And it went well with Mike's potato pancakes.  Daddy used to always lean over at the dinner table to say to our young vegetarian daughter who didn't want to eat anything that had a face, "Eat your meat, forget the broccoli."  He would also say in amazement, "She looks healthy!"

I have jumped from the kind of person who takes no pills to one who has bottles of them around her bedside table.  The sick bed is downstairs, beside the side yard garden with fresh breezes blowing in the window and the rooster crowing from six feet away.  I have not yet had to text Mike for help during the night, for he is always right there when I need him.  His Sixth Sense is on fire, and he is the best nurse a girl could ever need.  Appreciation and love abound.

Surgery went well, only lasted an hour, surgeon said it was textbook and that I had strong bones.  Her nurses said she really had to use her muscles to get the ACL graft through them.  Maybe I got some of the conversation wrong, but I did wake up alert and non-groggy and did not even go to sleep that night until 11:00.  The anesthesiologist does Kundalini yoga with me, so it was old home week the minutes before I said bye-bye.  She did a block on my nerves around the knee and then a light painpill cocktail.  No problema! Cleaned up Meniscus and new ACL.  I even have a donor card with address to the family of my donor if I want to reach out.

Gloria, my surgeon, who has several times been our chief medical officer for the US Olympic team, started college at age 14 and was in med school at age 20.  I love her!  Her father was in Auschwitz and was one of the 80-pound skeletons who walked out.  Her mother survived because she was hidden by a Dutch family for three years.  Gloria had serious problems with a surgery on her own leg awhile back and she is still on crutches.  She is strong as can be and is cute as a bug.  I was in good hands and I feel lucky to have used her private clinic here in Gunnison rather than going to the hospital.

I got out of surgery at 1:30, ate a few crackers, drank water, practiced on my crutches while putting 10% of my weight on my toes of my bad leg and was home by 2:30. At noon the next day, I was in my first physical therapy session.  They do not waste any time anymore.  My first ACL replacement, 20 years ago, brought me several nights in the hospital, a long time on crutches and months in a brace.  I remember the fear of how loose everything felt, like not even attached.  Not so this time around.

Modern medicine is the way I should have gone months ago, but it is what it is, and I have no regrets.  I learned a lot about my body and strengthened it.   I got to go to Portland, to our reunion and to Corpus.  All is good up here in beautiful Colorado where the air today is crisp and sunny, the car show is going on all day, and tonight Habitat for Humanity is having their benefit "Raise the Roof" to raise a few more thousand dollars we need to finish our sweet little house being built this summer for a single mom and her daughter.

A few snaps for your perusal.


                                        Happiness is left over salad and soup!


And the prettiest flowers from Karen's garden


                                         Gravel Gertie

                            Joe Bob's sculpture going to Burning Man next week.



54 Chevrolet - Mike's first car off to college in 1961, even the same color



  57 Chevrolet Mike's Dad had when Mike was in HS only theirs was 4 door.

                         Hot Rod Class

                       
                   200 Beautiful Cars in the park


Fresh raspberries, fresh cherry cookies, home made preserves, garden flowers and zucchinis, books, cards, DVD's, texts, emails, phone calls, love bugs...what more could a person receive from her terrific friends and family.  My cup runneth over.  Michael is the absolute best.  I could not do this without him.

Susana

August 11, 2014

HUMMING RIGHT ALONG

It is peach season in Colorado.  Buckets of peaches to be had fresh off the trees in Paonia from The Peach Lady, my friend.  Yum.

Mike is home from Portland bringing fresh walnuts and hazelnuts from them parts and reports of five great movies he saw.  We both have our noses buried in Brothers Karamazov.  I saw the James Brown "Get on Up" in Corpus.  It was great. (Note: Mike agrees.)

I am home from Corpus where I spent wonderful time with my childhood friend, Cissy, who has had all those brain tumors and with whom I may some day find the courage to write her memoir. There, I visited many nonagenarians - family friends who are now in their 90's and one who will be 100 in October and still wears high heels -- a walker? Not yet.  It felt great to see them and one special lady/friend's words were soothing, "Susan, if you moved your mother into your home with you, she would still be miserable.  That is just her.  There is nothing you can do!"  It helped.  And Mama has a new pal in her Memory Care.  Gretchen is 96 and very happy and positive.  Mama is very unhappy and anxious.  To both of them, I often just smile and return their greeting with "and a Merry Christmas to you, too."  It is a different planet.  I was with Mother 10 days in a row at different times of the day. I saw it all.

Beware of the antipsychotic drug, Risperdal, if you or yours ever enter Dementialand.  And I add forcefully from my own opinion, beware of Geriatric Psychiatrists, although in some very rare cases, I guess that is the only thing you can do. AARP has an article you may have read: "Prescription for Abuse."  Johnson and Johnson was recently fined $2.2 billion (they won't even feel it) for their aggressive marketing of antipsychotics to nursing homes.  Risperdal is for severe bi-polar and schizophrenia.  They had my mother on it before we knew it and it was all a very bad scenario.  And getting the claws of the Geriatric Psychiatrists out of our mother and away from our family was difficult, took some time and work along with help from the facility where she now lives, which, to be more positive, is a beautiful, wonderful place filled with kind calm people and has saved our lives.

Our friends, Joe Bob and Stephen, are heading out for Burning Man next week.  They will be out there in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada for 2 or 3 weeks. They got a grant and will actually be there to set up the town and take it down again.  Last night was a benefit and a showing of Joe Bob's sculpture he will be assembling there.  It was a truly special event.  Now, think about it: this setting is on our street, about four blocks south, right at the airport. Pretty cool--weatherwise, too, as a matter of fact. Everyone froze their little booties off.

The musicians and artists were different and wonderful, from Buena Vista, Austin, and Pueblo, their words and actions were heartfelt and beautiful and full of the power of love. The first group was a trio of young men from Pueblo, called The Fanning Brothers, because two of the three were brothers--both had huge beards and were very good-looking and nice and talented. We sat outside on the stage until 11:00 in our down parkas with huge bonfires going around us and were moved by the powerful exhibits of the final act's animation and LIVE art being drawn on a screen, back-lit, as she sang. Her name was Laura Goodhammer. She is from Denver, but lives now in Buena Vista, which is on the Arkansas River, over the Continental Divide from Gunnison, and is another cool mountain town. We were very impressed with Laura Goodhammer, and cannot imagine she is not on her way--on her way? Yes. Where? UP!

I went back down there just now, but can't get a good picture of the sculpture - too big and wild.  If you live in Gunnison, drive by, but make it soon for they will be disassembling it, I expect.  If you want to see some of the exhibits that will be at Burning Man this year, click on this link and scroll.  Burning Man Art

I have my Advil ready for surgery on Thursday.  I am positive, healthy and wise.  It will be a 1 1/2 hour procedure, I will go home that day, and lay low for two weeks, resting, icing and elevating.  If all goes well, I will ditch crutches in a week, then bid bye-bye to the brace in a month or two.  The graph will be from a cadaver (the ACL operation in my 40's used my own tendon, but I guess I am too old for that this go-around) and at month three is very fragile for another few months.  It takes a year to be normal.  So, no skiing or hiking this year, but I can do this.  Rehab in earnest? You bet! Here I come. (A cadaver? Maybe Jesse Owens?)

And so it goes...

Oh, and here are more pics from my friends and one stolen from a professional photographer - pictures of hiking in the flowers.  It makes me high just looking at them.



Hasta la vista, baby,
Susana


July 30, 2014

Still Pecking After All These Years

You'll remember (I know that you will) a recent post, part of which, perhaps the point of which, was this, from S. Marche: "Persistence may be the one truly writerly virtue, a salvation indistinguishable from stupidity." There was more, but you get the idea, though Marche, in sum, was basically endorsing that "persistence," that internal--I believe inherent--drive to write.

I should know. I have been on a long--some of you might say "unexpected"--journey, the trip led by that drive to write. While I cannot own up to a really regular, a quotidian sort of "persistence," as in writing every morning day in and day out, I can say I've come fairly close to that, most of it in the line of duty, as in a job, yet because that meant writing, my job rarely seemed like work.

From very early in my life, many of my memories are inspired by scenes very clear in my mind of me, writing, and of others--parents, friends and relatives of parents--aiding me in some way in that pursuit. I mean, as a child, crouched on a linoleum kitchen floor in Abernathy, Texas, trying to put together something resembling the look of a newspaper with those little rubber stamp and ink sets someone had given me. Every now and then, a yellowed example of that nascent journalism crops up in a box somewhere. (Spare me, please, the association of "yellow" with "journalism." I've heard it already.)

And stories--"Johnny Mack Brown stood in the middle of Main Street, both guns blazing..."--stories I could not help but try to write. I once told a friend at a kind of retreat in the mountains outside Taos that I could hardly stand to have a ream of pristine typing paper close at-hand, that, if and when such a ream showed up, I could not avoid putting at least one word--a single mark, even--on the pages, sheet after sheet. I still hunger for reams of paper; around me now, scraps of paper are everywhere.

I was six years-old, living in Lubbock (yes, Lubbock! the "Hub of the Plains"), my father a carpenter on some construction job there--a new hospital, as I recall--my mother, driving the 18 miles north and back south each day, teaching school in Abernathy where, the next year, she and I moved so I could start first grade; my father and younger brother moved, too, to a little dryland cotton farm outside Lorenzo my father rented to try his hand at farming--again (you could look it up; it may still exist on some ancient Kit Carson map in the dusty storage room of an abandoned museum out there). That unwieldy, not to mention unprofitable, arrangement lasted just a year, then we all moved to Abernathy, where we stayed, it becoming my father's place to make the drive south five days a week for the privilege of driving nails. I was six years old, in the thrilling midst of being able to read and write--pre-Abernathy, pre-first grade, still on Third Street in Lubbock--and entering and winning a poetry contest sponsored by Coca Cola (the requirements had to do with length, or lack of length, and, of course, the subject was to be Coca Cola). And here and now (and one must presume always) I can recite that poem without hesitation: "When a ballplayer runs to first, he needs something to quench his thirst. Coca Cola is what he'll need. It gives him that extra burst of speed." You may have seen it in The New Yorker. And the four of us at the dinner table that evening and the knock on the door--a guy in a crisp Coca Cola uniform delivering my--YES!--my first-place prize: one of those red, metal ice chests with "Coca Cola" written in script on the side, and a case of Coke--those small (were they six-ounce?) bottles. Man! I was off to the races, albeit in the tortoise lane.

Here it is, 65 years later--NO! Say it ain't so. Yes, it's so--a quarter to three in the morning, and I'm still pecking away. I can't say I've won any more contests, or, even, that I've entered any. But by God I'm about to. I've still got a peck or two left in me. No, I can't remember the last sip of Coke I had. Fair enough, for neither can I remember running with any speed, though I might still pick up the pace if I had to, in the World Series, say, the game on the line, depending on my beating the shortstop's throw to first.

In a new edition of his letters (17 volumes are planned, and this first one is over 500 pages), Hemingway said: "Writing is the only thing worth a damn, unless you're a painter. Then it's painting." That letter was written in 1925. Papa was 26 years old. He wrote all his life long, until he just couldn't write anymore.

July 28, 2014

PEARLS...OF WISDOM AND OTHERWISE

Feeling the firm click of the safely clasp on the string of pearls I hang around my neck, I pause and  touch them with my wide opened palm.  I rub gently over my collarbone, noticing each pearl, and I journey within.  They were Mother's, a very long strand of fine large pearls that she wore wound around her neck twice or in a cluster or using different clasps for arrangements.  And then she couldn't do it anymore.

Molly and I decided to have them made into two strings, one for each of us.  I had just arrived late the night before in Corpus to find them laying on my bed from my sister.

I came early to Corpus for there was a funeral of a 24 year old son, boy, brother, cousin and friend found dead in his bed on Tuesday.  I was going to my family.  And with the pearls, I was taking Mama and Molly, who is in India.

My Daddy's beautiful smile full of love and happiness had not greeted me the night before as I got off the plane.  I took a cab.  I looked at the bay and the streets of my childhood and let myself into Molly's dark home alone with my thoughts.

The beginning of my drive from Corpus to Houston early the next morning was along the meandering and sweltering Southwest Texas single-lane farm road and waterway that I remembered.  It was unchanged, calm and wonderful, simple, small and quiet.   Soon, I was in full driving alert at 85 MPH through those fast paced freeways and overpasses in a huge sprawling city where I had been forewarned that the people are crazed in their panic and driving.

At the funeral home, my cousin's husband sobbed in my strong arms, and then my cousin, and each cousin, spouse and each child.  The service words were perfect, although there really are no words.  The tears and running noses was a steady hum - a beautiful young man/boy who is not coming back.

It is Family.  It is Love.

My friend, who lost her Billy last December, today sent a link to the NPR  story, "Always Go to the Funeral."  NPR STORY
After the link, she wrote, "I'll never forget.  Your faces."

And so it goes.   I will stay in Corpus for awhile and see Mama every day and maybe bring her over for some dinners.  We will see how we do.

Yesterday, with Mama at her lovely Memory Care where I so hope she can stay until she dies:
Mama, "You look just like Susan!"
Me, "I am Susan."
Mama, "You are Susan???"
Me, "Yes, I am Susan."
Mama, "But you look like My Susan."
Me, "I am Your Susan."
Mama, "You're My Susan?"
Me, :"Yes, I am Your Susan."

She was sweet and funny and we laughed and laughed and talked gibberish for 2 1/2 hours.

My childhood friend since birth is coming from Houston and we are going to Rockport for a few days of walking and talking along the water.  My friend, Caroll, from San Antonio, is coming to see her mother, who lives in the same facility as mine.  I may even reach out to others - friends of mine and also visit friends of Mama's.

Time will speed on by as always.

Susan








July 27, 2014

The Writing -- uh -- life?

"One must be drenched in words, literally soaked in them, to have the right ones form themselves into the proper patterns at the right moment." -- Harte Crane.

Makes sense, a good vocabulary does. Like a magician, practicing the same trick 1,000 times so that he cannot fail on Saturday night in front of an audience, having the right word at the right time, just BAM! naturally, would be a welcome bonus to the usual -- being able to speak with something approaching decent grammar and meaning. And Crane was "drenched," "soaked." He stepped off the back of a boat and drowned himself in the Gulf of Mexico after being beaten for making sexual advances to a male crew member aboard the Ozibal, coming back to New York, following a year on a Guggenheim Fellowship in Mexico. He was heard to shout "Goodbye, everybody!" It was sort of a friendly departure.

But that's neither here nor there, one must imagine, for what else can "one" do, but jump? Did the young poet (he was 33 years old) just have a bad night? Was he drunk--he was an alcoholic, true--stoned, just tired? I don't know. I can imagine a time that just will not pass like Time has always passed--before. What else is there to do? It's, well, it's time. (Crane's body, BTW--there I go again--was never recovered, and a line on his father's tombstone includes the inscription, "Harold Hart Crane 1899-1932 lost at sea.")

Writing is a hard business, though not nearly as hard as picking cotton, digging ditches, standing behind the counter all day in a bank, selling whatever door-to-door. In that list, writing comes out in first place, doesn't it?

I read a piece by Stephen Marche, a contriuting editor at Esquire and the author of "How Shakespeare Changed Everything," in which I saw several accounts of "failed" writers. Herman Mellville had early success with novels considered now to be (Marche writes) "lousy," only to fall completely out of favor when he finally found his speed--as in, "Moby-Dick." "Moby-Dick"? It sold less than 4,000 copies in his lifetime, and Mellville, Marche writes, "worked 19 gloomy years at the New York Customs House, self-publishing occasional poetry in batches of 25 copies. He ended up as a ziner, with `Billy Budd' unpublished in his drawer."

"Full many a flower is born to blush unseen, and waste its sweetness on the desert air."

Another "failed" poet, Thomas Gray, wrote that line, and it seems to hit the mark. That is, how many great deeds, great thoughts, go unnoticed, just because? If a tree falls in the forest...

Ezra Pound, Marche recalls, "whose name was synonymous with literary success for decades," did not wind up on top of the heap. Captured--as in, no kidding, captured--as a fascist sympathizer at the end of WWII, Pound was locked in a mental hospital for 13 years. At the end of his life, he told the poet Allen Ginsberg that he "found out after 70 years I was not a lunatic but a moron." Me? I've been fortunate. I found out in plenty of time to not do anything about it. Moronosophy, my field of expertise.

And writing is an all-around tough gig. For another instance, it's hard to get the speech right, the language, the--again--the words.

"Human speech is like a cracked kettle on which we tap crude rhythms for bears to dance to, while we long to make music that will melt the stars." So wrote Flaubert. How could he complain, worry? Dancing bears? Cracked kettles? Somehow, he came up with "Madam Bovary." Is it my turn yet?

No? Well, all right. I can persist. Can't I?

Maybe, but as I told a good friend of mine today, after he, an organ-builder of the first rank, told me a story about a wonderfully talented small-town Texas organist, who said that he never left a performance feeling anything other than bad, a failure, as though he'd loused up the whole program. Still, he played on--Riverside Church in Manhattan, Radio City Music Hall--and felt every time that he'd flunked the test, made a fool of himself.

That persistence is what I admire most--not talent or fame, but the persistence so many successful people regularly display. They stick to it, brother. They do not quit. They refuse to say "uncle," and keep on trucking.

Marche on that subject: "Persistence may be the one truly writerly virtue, a salvation indistinguishable from stupidity. To keep going, despite everything. To keep bellying up to the cosmic irrelevance. To keep failing."

I'm a slacker, and I'm ashamed to admit it, but at least I'm honest. That must change--slacking, not the other.