muckefuck: (zhongkui)
In my dreams, [ profile] monshu is always dead. Or I should say "has died". A couple weeks ago, I dreamt that I found him sitting up in a corner of the kitchen, frail and wrapped in a blanket, and I wondered how to break it to him that he couldn't keep on using that body since we'd cremated it. Last night was more positive: he had the robust physique of the days before the NET. It occurred to me while coming downstairs to find him lying supine on a cot or window seat on the landing of the grand staircase where he'd slept the previous night, that he could have died again after coming back to life, so I was joyful to find him alive and kicking. I had a question about what had been going through his mind during the last moments before he died that I was anxious to ask, but I discovered the timing was inopportune: he'd just finished wanking. Maybe there was an exception last week, when I dreamt we were making a return visit to a skerry in Scotland. I don't remember being particularly conscious of him being restored to life then, but I woke up with the notion in my head of saving a handful of his ashes to toss into Kilbrannan Sound.
muckefuck: (zhongkui)
With all my idle time, I should be able to get much more reading done than I have. I know I was reading them concurrently, but somehow I feel it shouldn't have taken me five weeks to finish a brief Laxness novel and a month for Chabon's Yiddish Policemen's Union. Both were enjoyable enough, and I think some particularly fun bits might stick with me for a while, but neither bowled me over.

Last thing before I fell asleep last night, I tried reading Sontag's preface to Under the glacier (Kristnihald undir Jökli) to see if I'd missed something. She describes an unclassifiable radical work of fiction which doesn't bear much resemblance to the droll tale stuffed with comic semi-philosophical dialogue I just read, a solid entry in the genre of Naïve Youth Lost Among Crazy Yokels. She also goes too far in trying to normalise Laxness' sexism (three female characters, two in minor roles and one blatantly embodying das ewige Weibliche) with some claptrap about how all SF novels have male protagonists (written thirty years after Butler started publishing FFS). This is why I usual skip or skim forewords. (Also the fact that she spoilers the whole damn novel for good measure.)

The Chabon was a solid read, but I thought on balance it got too many kudos for "litfic writer does genre book!!!". I like his setting a lot and I was glad that it was intrinsic to the whodunnit and not just a colourful backdrop for an otherwise unremarkable noir pastiche. He did some clever things with language, too, using just enough Yinglish (including literal translations of Yiddish idiom) to give the feel that these conversations weren't originally in English without getting distracting. But his detective never overcomes his origins as a mildly Hebraified old school gumshoe (paging Rabbi Small!), and I don't have tonnes of patience for that stock character.

Oh, and the other reason I didn't read more in that time was that I started Anna Karenina on the second day of the new year. Diego had a chat with the Old Man on his last day of life, but I didn't learn the content until Hogmanay. They talked about favourite novels, and that one came as a surprise. I happened to have a copy of the new(ish) Pevear/Volokhonsky translation I'd picked up in the past year or two and shelved for winter reading, so I pulled it out the next day but didn't really make any progress until the following weekend.

My first discovery was that there was much more humour than I'd anticipated. I thought I was cracking a romance, but Tolstoy seems more interested in satirising the aimless elites of his age. I also got two excellent tips from my coworker the Russian lit PhD: one is that Anna is a Bovary. That is, the author intends for our sympathy for her plight to be mitigated by seeing how her own foolishness brought it about. The second is that her story is only about 40% of the novel with another 40% being devoted to Levin and Kitty and the remainder concerned with Dolly and others. Armed with that, I'm able to take the abrupt changes of storyline in stride, only occasionally paging ahead to defang a cliffhanger.
Jan. 23rd, 2017 03:17 pm


muckefuck: (zhongkui)
Although it was a weekend with definite high points, it was a little rough overall. I started out pleasantly surprised with the quality of meals I was putting together for myself--what were you worried about, eating well isn't that hard! But now the initial enthusiasm has waned and I'm back to going days without seeing a real vegetable. I told myself I would do a big shopping this weekend and prepare some good ingredients (like vegetable broth concentrate for soups and such) and none of that happened. Yesterday was all cookies, canned food, and leftovers. Needless to say, I didn't do any work on financials either, apart from a brief look to see if my online draughts had gone through. And no repairs or deep cleaning either. At least laundry got done. And I didn't spend the entire time at home.

Saturday, in fact, I was out most of the day. Not at the Women's March--I couldn't deal with the thought of that kind of crowd scene. But I honoured a previous commitment to meet up with [ profile] mollpeartree and [ profile] princeofcairo on Devon for dosas at Mysore and a game night put together by Hildy, which I felt obligated to be at since I'd previously tried to recruit him for one at my place. It helped that it was gorgeous weather to boot. I walked the twenty minutes to Hildy's and ran into two acquaintances in the neighbourhood just back from the rally and flush with enthusiasm. It was infectious and I was so brimming with happiness I had trouble falling asleep.

All of that disappeared overnight. I woke up to a grey day and struggle to find reasons to get out of bed. Usually I have to play an evocative tune if I want to get my tears flowing for [ profile] monshu. Not Sunday--just musing on his absence was enough. I moped around the house, not bothering to clean up until I was ready to go to bed. (I hate the feeling of being dirty in clean sheets.) I plugged my phone in to recharge and forgot about it, not seeing for hours that my sister had called nor calling her back even when I did notice. I ignored my e-mail, missing a chance to get together with one of my most persistently generous friends.

Is that was depression feels like?

So, yeah, maybe reality is finally starting to bite. I'm not sure how to respond except by continuing what I'm already doing--trying to set things up with friends when I feel high and forcing myself to follow through when I get low again. This week, I have gaming and a dinner out with the Scoutmaster, who I haven't seen in a couple years at this point. And then the opera on Saturday, and maybe dumplings for Chinese New Year. Meanwhile, I have a bad conscience about not starting to arrange the memorial service or cleaning up the financial mess, both of which will bite me in the ass if I don't do something soon. Wish I cared as much about not letting myself down as I did about not letting my man down.
Jan. 19th, 2017 04:27 pm


muckefuck: (zhongkui)
For those of you who don't know, one of my immediate responses to [ profile] monshu's death was to have all my hair cut off[*]. It was something I'd decided I'd do over a year ago and never told anyone about it. I was tempted to do it right after they took his body away, but that seemed melodramatic, so I waited for the morning of our trip to the funeral home in case I needed to hand over my locks then. (They were burned with him.)

People's reactions have been interesting to say the least. My aunt asked me if he loved my long hair and when I told her, "No, he never cared for it," she (drunkenly) called me a "sick bastard". At work, the Dean surmised immediately what my motivation was. Others have been foggier. It's been amusing to see how long it's taken some people it even register the change. Many are quick to add, "It looks good," and it can be hard to gauge their sincerity. Not so with one of my coworkers who can hardly stop talking about how much better she likes my hair short.

One unexpected benefit is that I know immediately from their reaction whether I've seen someone face-to-face since the Old Man died or not, which helps me prepare myself for either breaking the news or receiving their sympathy or both. Yesterday a coworker from the fifth floor said, "I'd heard about the hair, but I hadn't seen you yet." And then, "I don't really have the words." "Whatever words you have are fine," I told him--and meant it. It's become painfully apparent to me how tongue-tied this makes a lot of people. Everyone's afraid of "saying the wrong thing", but they correctly assume that saying nothing would be worse.

I'll admit to being sick of hearing some phrases in particular. (Who came up with "sorry for your loss" anyway? I'm not out some book value on my investments; my fucking husband died on me. He's not ever coming back.) But I try to "listen past" them and hear the underlying intention. And as long as that's sincere (and there's only one person so far whose sincerity I doubt enough not to want any condolences from them), it doesn't matter much how they express themselves.

[*] If you've never met me in person: I hadn't had a proper haircut since 1987, only trims.
muckefuck: (zhongkui)
This weekend was not as successful as the one before. It would've been helpful if I'd had more advanced warning that we'd be off Monday. Then I might've been able to put together plans to leave town for the weekend. (I have invitations to come crash any number of places right now.) There were several people I'd considered getting in touch with, but I put off arrangements and in the end didn't make any. Saturday was basically a wasted day of sitting around playing solitaire and making only desultory attempts at dealing with household. Sunday was more successful in this regard.

It helped that I knew I'd be meeting Fig for dinner. I didn't get any shopping done but I did make it to the hardware store. He left the venue up to me so I chose Dak, thinking we might hit the Anvil after. But he had a notion of checking out the Glenwood. I'd never been on an ordinary Sunday evening so I wasn't sure what to expect. (Answer: Deadsville.) He thought Social looked too straight, so we ended up walking all the way to Touché for the dreary end to their beer bust. Not that it mattered much, as we got into a deep conversation of Life After [ profile] monshu.

I confessed that, on some level, the persistence of this state of affairs hasn't sunk in. I still wake in the morning thinking maybe I'll have found my way back to right timestream, the one where my husband is still alive and Cheeto Hitler isn't about the take over the reins of power. Then I lie there in the dark trying to think of good reasons to get up despite the true horror of my reality. Thank my stars for the cat is all I can say. Annoying as his whining is, it does help ground me.

"You have a harsh inner voice," Fig told me as I related repeating to myself, "[ profile] monshu is dead. You will never be able to say anything to him ever again and he will never speak to you ever again." But I've got to get that message through my thick skull somehow. I still find myself thinking, "Oh, I can't wait to tell him..." or "I need to ask him...". I guess like any other inappropriate thought, it will gradually become less frequent until I stop thinking it altogether.

Fig wanted to get home and I wanted to putz some more and fit in some reading, so we made it an early night. I had made tentative plans with [ profile] clintswan's old roomie for Monday. He was supposed to get in touch when he got back to town, but to no one's surprise he didn't. (After I learned how flaky he was, I gave him about a 1-in-8 chance of actually coming through. Maybe that was optimistic.) Still, the threat provided enough external motivation that a couple more surfaces got cleared--notably the dining room table, which had been wearing the same crumbs since Hogmanay.

[ profile] innerdoggie gave me an excuse to leave the house Sunday and I took it. The whole way down to Montrose to meet her for lunch, I reflected on the irony: If there was a day in the weekend to be a homebody, this--cold, grey, rainy--was it. Instead we squeezed into a corner of the café at the art centre with all our sopping gear and I tried my best to be good company even though my heart wasn't in it. (Sometimes you wonder who is really doing the favour and who is benefitting; maybe in the end the distinction is meaningless.) On the way back, I picked up some eats from Middle Eastern Bakery and had ample opportunity to curse the sluggishness of the Clark bus.

Then that night I slept badly. Not sure why. The coffee in the pie? Taking my allopurinal too late? Looking for songs to make me cry when I should've been reading about foolish Russian aristocrats? My dreams are fantasies; even if the Old Man isn't alive in them, they're always lively. I'm surrounded by people--family, friends--and there's lots going on. Not like the waking world, where every bit of positive stimulation is the result of me making an active effort to seek it out.
Jan. 9th, 2017 12:16 pm


muckefuck: (zhongkui)
I went out over the weekend. It was fine.

After brunch Saturday morning, even before I remembered it would be Bear Night, I thought it might be nice to go out. Then a friend whose offer to take me back to King Spa I'd previously rejected asked if I was free for dinner. We batted back choices before deciding to take a chance on Hopleaf. I had some half-baked idea that the cold might keep people away. We only waited about 40 minutes for a table despite arriving right around 7, so perhaps I was right.

Afterwards we ventured DILF night at SoFo. I've probably complained before about how impossible the crowds become there later in the evening. My buddy also pointed out how the daddy/chaser ratio drops as the old men go home and are replaced by younger pups. By about 10:30, we'd had enough. I'd caught up with a few acquaintances and successfully talked to a few cuties. So we headed up to Touché.

Here there were more people I knew, mostly in the bar buddy class. One was without his husband for the day; by the evening's end, he was coming on pretty aggressively. Another was a friend from the Great Lakes Bears going way back ("Don't do the math," he pleaded) who was seeing me for the first time in a couple months. "This isn't the appropriate place for this," he said before giving me a crushing hug beside the back bar. I've always appreciated running into him, since he's also lost a husband (at the same hospital, even) so there's a depth to his sympathy most others can't approach. He acknowledged upfront how worthless words were even while conceding the importance of saying them.

I also ran into one of the cuties from SoFo. In our brief exchange, he'd given me reason to hope. In the course of chatting, I quickly learned that he'd been roommates with [ profile] clintswan, which told me he was good people. (Well, that plus the information that they were still on speaking terms.) I also learned about his boyfriend in Little Rock, which again indicated that he was a decent sort and not one of the game-playing assholes I'm told the gay dating scene is rife with. We left at the same time, and wished each other a pleasant rest in our respective beds.

The next day, I met up with Diego for the beer bust at Big Chicks. This was something I didn't even do when I lived in the hood. (Sunday afternoon always meant dinner with [ profile] monshu--generally at my place, so I'd be busy with preparations.) I ran into my buddy from the night before plus Coleman and some other regulars. All very pleasant and affirming (everyone likes the new do, apparently) and I'm entertaining making it part of my regular routine.
muckefuck: (zhongkui)
So much in the last couple weeks, where do I start? I wish I'd had the energy to update regularly. I'm sure a day-to-day account of navigating my grief would have been useful to me later. Because, you know, it's not like this will be the only time I do this and the mind forgets unpleasant details so easily.

One thing that's increasingly clear to me is not just how ill-equipped we are to deal with grief but how bad most people are at dealing with someone who's dealing with grief. And there's a copious literature on the first of these but I'm not sure there's much of anything on the latter. I sometimes feel like I'm taking notes for a manual on What Not to Do When Someone You Love Loses Someone They Love and on Monday I gave my sister an overview of the salient points.

Up until just before then, it had been an uncommonly good day. Sure, I still had my cold and there was cleanup to do from Hogmanay, but not so much that I couldn't ignore it and run to the spa to meet up with an old college friend. Getting reacquainted with her after nearly 25 years was fascinating and she was thrilled when I showed interest in "meeting her people". And her people--her tax attorney husband and actress daughter--were fascinating, too. The whole experience was very affirming.

Then I got home and found my refrigerator--still full of leftovers from Sunday--at 66°F and the prospect of having to throw everything out and replace it depressed me so much I just plopped in front of the computer to listen to moody music and play solitaire. I knew I needed to vent, so I called Nuphy, but he wasn't available. So I called my most reliable friend in the world: my sister.

As we talked, I got more and more worked up about things. It's not just the fridge--or the dead rat I found when I got back from St Louis, or the water in the lower level the day before I was supposed to leave. It's not even really the apartment as such. It's the thought of having to face everything an adult has to manage by myself. Yes, Sis can listen. But at the end of the day, I'm the one with the kitchen full of spoiling food. If I called upon one of my better friends to come over and help, they probably would. But fundamentally it's not their problem. For them, it's a charitable act. They are free to peace out at any time--and with quite legitimate reasons. Only [ profile] monshu made me the promise that whatever my problems were they were his problems, too, and he would stick by my side until we solved them.

And from there we got on the raw subject of what I needed from my family when I went down for Christmas and what I didn't get. I needed to Feel the Love like I'd never felt it before. I needed to be taken care of. I needed someone attentive enough that they could sense what I needed without the burden always being on me to ask. I got some of that. There was one point, for instance, where after I'd been weeping quietly in my room for nearly an hour, e. decided to check on me, saw the state I was in, and offered to help me finish wrapping presents. But acts like that stand out against a background of relative indifference.

Like I said, I get that people don't know what to do. This is one of those live-altering experiences that you can't understand without having been through. I'm waking up to the mortifying realisation of how I've failed friends and family in the past when they were forced to endure something like this. That's why I accepted what was offered and immediately began trying to forgive them for doing so little. For not even bringing up [ profile] monshu once in conversation (and eagerly changing the subject the one time I brought him up). For "giving me time" when what I needed was comfort. For, basically, not being spouses to someone they'd never agreed to marry.

Talking to other widows makes this easier--while at the same time making it only more clear how widespread the need is for advice. Before Sunday's get-together, my friend Mozhu described having almost exactly the same experience the Christmas after her husband died. My friend group is cleaving into those who Get It and those who don't--often despite their best intentions--and this isn't a new thing. Terminal illness is its own life-changing experience and even being there for Nuphy didn't prepare me for what it was like when it was my partner and not just my ex. His daughter was the responsible party then. I was the good friend with the luxury of leaving when I "needed" to because, at the end of the day, it was "not my problem".
muckefuck: (zhongkui)
Last week I made a vow to meet everyone's responses to [ profile] monshu's death with a spirit of generosity and I've done a pretty good job of keeping it. Not yesterday, however. Near lunchtime I suspected La Vache was making an attempt to wish me sympathy so I spent the rest of the day dodging her. At Chicago, she basically tried to get the Old Man fired, encouraging a disgruntled employee to bring a complaint against him and just generally being a dick to him (and later me, when we started associating). I'm sure he'd forgiven her for this--he was letting go of all his old grievances as he felt death approaching--but I'm not him and I couldn't imagine hearing her offer condolences without saying something cutting like "One thing I've always admired about you is your chutzpah" or even just a nonplussed "Really?"

So I fled and ended up at another bank informing another indifferent functionary about his death. But where Friday's employee covered up his indifference with good customer service, Monday's was careless and inept, drawing increasingly curt responses and even admonitions from me. I think it's the first time someone has offered me a business card and I made no show of taking it in order to be polite. (For all I know, it's still lying their on his desk where he dropped it.) There was a loud, cranky old man in the neighbouring cubicle and I just wanted to get the hell out of there.

Fortunately, [ profile] bunj is in my corner. Despite a Bavarian Totencold, he and e. stopped by in the evening to pick up a death certificate so he could file the will first thing today. He tried going to a branch of bank #1 to wind things up, but they wanted not only the affidavit and the certificate but also a copy of the will and he didn't have one with him. I don't know why I'm so impatient. There's plenty of money in the joint account to handle known expenses for the coming month it will take to have the assets transferred to me but it's just a messy state of affairs having no control over his funds and I don't like it.

I made the wrong call by deciding I didn't need any lorazepam to fall asleep last night so I stumbled through today and blew off my afternoon meeting. I guess I should be consuming the slack people are extending me at work while it lasts. So far, I've been resisting the urge to respond to the umpteenth expression of sympathy with a novel response like a cheery "All's well that ends well!" I guess it helps that today I heard mostly from people who I have nothing against and who really have been through some shit so there's a weight to their words I don't find in everyone's. Always is interesting, btw, who comes through in these moments and who doesn't. I have a growing stack of condolence cards on my desk now and they're nearly all from colleagues I wouldn't have expected.
muckefuck: (zhongkui)
It's hard to say how I'm feeling these days. I've been telling people that either I'm still deep in denial about [ profile] monshu's death or I've been preparing for this day for so long now that some of the work of grieving and moving on is already done. Over the past eight months, he was home for a scant three weeks, so it's not unusual that he's not there now. I'd built up a routine around living alone and it hasn't much altered except that without the daily trips to whatever stupid place he was staying I have a lot more time. But everyone wants to take me out for meals so I'm still eating out a lot (just not paying as much) and the cat's feeding schedule is still chaotic. And though I'm not actively managing his care day-to-day any more, there's still insurance nonsense to deal with and all the usual household administration to which has been added the bureaucratic machinery of processing a decease. So I'm as busy as always, just not with the same things.

I'm not numb; I still get pleasure from most of life. Yesterday I attended a friend's annual Christmas tea and collected my duty of hugs, then met up with another friend who showed me the delights of King Spa in Niles. I still cry a little every day, but generally only a little and only when I'm forcing myself by listening to a lugubrious post-punk ballad I know will produce a few tears. I curse the cat by day and cuddle him at night and people call me and I usually answer and sometimes I'm a dick to them but I try not to be.

One thing this is making clear is that my fear of rejection makes it difficult for me to ask for help. But my friends are need to feel they're helping me. So there's a lot of mutual benefit to be extracted from the situation if I can only figure out how to go about it. I'm trying. [ profile] bunj is coming by tonight to pick up paperwork so he can file the will tomorrow, [ profile] lhn is coming by Wednesday to sort out our computer files, and half the gay couple across the street is driving me down to St Louis on Thursday. But none of the food people kept offering to cook for us has materialised and I'm not going to ask; my friends aren't GrubHub. Besides, knowing me, I'd just end up tossing most of it anyway.

I was worried about being surrounded by associations but for right now they're comforting rather than distressing. I do get sad when I think about how much effort we put into building our household, i.e. all the decisions about furnishings, glassware, art--the whole trousseau necessary for living the good bourgeois life we'd been conditioned to expect. We worked so hard to make a harmonious whole but it feels like too much for a singleton to drag from apartment to apartment, so I'll have weeks of whittling to do (over the course of months, since it will be emotionally exhausting work). I have fantasies of stowing it all and going abroad for a few years which I'm sure will come to nothing; maybe there are adventures still awaiting me but I don't think that's one of them.
muckefuck: (zhongkui)
[ profile] monshu passed away at home late in the evening of December 9th. Because it took about an hour-and-a-half for the nurse to arrive to certify him, his death date will officially be December 10th. But you know the truth.

Because he is peerless, my friend [ profile] bitterlawngnome has posted a tribute to [ profile] monshu in his own journal using photographs from our one-and-only meeting in Toronto in 2011. The occasion was the Old Man's 65th birthday. At the time we expected him to live well past 70, but fate makes a mockery of all our plans.

When I realised he was not going to begin breathing again, I fell into a state of disbelief. When the nurse came and held a stethoscope to his chest, I told her, "I'm just waiting for you to confirm he's not in a coma or something." (NB: Corpses don't cool off as quickly as you might think.) When she shook her head, I felt an immense relief. At times, the stress of the last eight months has been barely tolerable. Every time I wished it would end, it occurred to me that there was only one way for that to happen, and I concluded that was worse.

I've spent most of the last couple days chattering away with people, mostly [ profile] monshu's sister and niece who are in town until Tuesday. Less than an hour each day has been devoted to ugly crying. I figure that's a ratio I can keep up almost indefinitely, as long as I keep picking the right songs to listen to. Thursday we cremate him, assuming there are no snags in the process. I'll wait for better weather to scatter him. The one-hundredth day after his death will be March 19th (which is coincidentally the feast of St Joseph, his patron saint), and that seems as good a day as any.

This coming week will be for attending to the details, tidying up my mess of an apartment, and reconnecting with the many many friends who I've seen too briefly if at all over the past year. Or maybe I'll just spend half of every day lying in bed listening to Siouxsie Sioux and Magnetic Fields. Who the hell's going to stop me?
Dec. 5th, 2016 02:02 pm


muckefuck: (zhongkui)
Holy fuck. No way I can neatly summarise events since I last posted.

Sunday after Thanksgiving, [ profile] monshu was admitted to the hospital for a blood transfusion. The next day, he broke the news to me that he was done. As in: no more tests, no more poking and prodding, no more procedures, no more institutions. Take-me-home-and-let-me-die done. Except that he had one more thing scheduled for tomorrow and wants to go through with it. Or so he says whenever I ask, but I'm not convinced it what he really wants or needs.

This complicates everything, since we can't initiate hospice until all interventions are over. There are a hundred-and-one details left to take care of and Mom is back in St Louis for the time being taking a well-deserved break. I have an army of friends willing to help out, but I don't know what I can ask of any of them. Friday, I finally got a prescription for an anti-anxiety medication to help me sleep and today I filled it.

But I'm coping. I'm eating, I'm e-mailing, I'm even finding time to distract myself with friends. But I can already foresee collapsing into a heap when this is all over (which by all indications won't be long, since last time we took him home without an IV he was back in hospital after 19 days).
Nov. 22nd, 2016 12:44 pm


muckefuck: (zhongkui)
Have I finally built up enough allopurinol in my system to get the proper benefit from it or did I simply dodge a bullet this weekend? It'd be nice to know which going forward. Alas, I've never been that good about reading signals from my body and they're anything but clear in this case.

For obvious reasons, I suggested tapas before the opera Saturday. A Googling for something convenient to the opera house led me to Pata Negra inside Block 37. The reviews were mixed but generally positive and I was curious to try something equally new to both of us. Nuphy was game, and happily made reservations.

We didn't need them. Despite some winter lights celebration on Boul Mich in its second or third year that I'd never heard of before the bus driver warned me of reroutes, next to nobody was detouring to the heart of a mall in downtown Chicago's most ill-fated block for a bite. It could hardly have been any more convenient: I took the el to avoid traffic snarls, forgetting that the station connects directly to the basement of the shopping centre.

Getting from there to the restaurant, however, proved at least as daunting as the rest of the trip. There were signs but they weren't very clear, often making it seem like you needed to exit the building rather than go up a floor. But I found it, and Nuphs already on his first margarita of the evening. I eventually ordered a glass of cava to keep him company. There were only two other occupied tables in the joint when we arrived, but I think our corner spot would have been quiet anyway. (The relatively tranquility of the place had been mentioned by at least two of the reviewers.)

The menu was, as you might expect, pretty meat-heavy. I was prepared to let the Funny Little Man get all the flesh he wanted and just nibble bits. But the servings were considerably bigger than we'd expected and, as a result, we'd overordered. The "butifarrita", for instance, was nine thick slices of grilled sausage and when I thought we were ordering two chicken croquettes, it was actually two chicken brochettes, each consisting of three fat pieces.

I ended up offering one whole skewer of botifarra to the neighbouring table. (One of the diners heard me describing calçots to Nuphy and cheerfully added his two cents, so I figured they'd be amenable.) They wouldn't take any jamón serrano, though. "Oh, that's too good to share!" they told us. It was the one thing we could take away, so I got the server to stow it in a plastic-wrapped box that I crushed and concealed in my car coat for the duration of the performance.

Even the non-meat dishes we got weren't terrific for my gout. Luckily crab is far from the worst seafood, since the avocado crab toast was piled high with it. The chef's special was a trio of grilled mushrooms which alone was enough for an entree. Oddly, we had to order bread. (I don't know if we were charged, but I suspect so because it came with a little dish of olive oil, mustard, and peperoncini slices.) The only other purely vegetarian dish on the table was--again, oddly--the habas a la catalana[*], which contained no sausage but paper-thin slices of red onion and asparagus tips, among other things.

Nuphy insisted on trying the Wagyu, which was as weak as the reviewers warned us. He thought the bacon-wrapped dates with cabrales and marcona almonds were a revelation, but I've made exactly that for an appetiser before so I wasn't impressed. They were sweet enough to save for dessert, since we definitely didn't have room for anything else. A shame since I'd vetoed the Christkindlmarket to come here and I nurtured hopes of stopping by afterwards for fried dough in some form or other. (Nuphy did stop by and waved a bar of nougat in my face, which I stole a piece of later while checking his coat.)

I did take a moment to survey the other stations--apparently the policy is that you can bring in food from them when sitting in Pata Negra provided you order some dishes there as well--but I didn't find the bacalao fritters I'd had my heart set on. Some of the other offerings--like the cocas and grilled seafood--looked pretty nice though, so I may try to stop in for a small bite whenever I happen to be there again (which, under current circumstances, could be another year from now).

Naturally, after having eaten several times my ordinary daily allowance of high-purine foods, I braced myself for a night of agony which failed to arrive. Usually the reaction is pretty immediately, but it was another 48 hours before I was convinced I was out of the woods. So maybe I can afford the occasional splurge after all? In that case, this could be a marginally better Thanksgiving than expected. Or was it due to contributing factors which aren't necessarily reproducible? I think it'll take me some suffering to find out one way or the other.

[*] Definitely not faves a la catalana, as the waiter corrected me when I said this.
muckefuck: (zhongkui)
Nuphy called Don Quichotte "the season's weakest link" and perhaps that's what it will turn out to be. After all, it was by all accounts an impressive Lucia and I can personally attest that we had a solid Rheingold. I'd take a mediocre version of either of those over a top-rate Massenet most days and I'm so dang excited about finally seeing Les Troyens in a week that I'm giving it a gentleman's B no matter what. But if it is the weakest, then that will be testimony to what a strong season we'll have had.

Lyric's staging is a happy family. The main weakness is the opera itself, primarily the score: barely two hours of music and only one standout melody. I was implicitly warned about how bored Nuphs expected to be at dinner when I warned him against a second margarita with, "You don't want to fall asleep during the first act," to which he responded, "Oh yes I do!" But he didn't after all. At intermission, he confessed that part of the difficulty the previous time was the lack of supertitles, which is a significant issue with an opera which relies as much on its text as this one does.

(Speaking of text, there were title cards before each act featuring English translations of quotes from Cervantes' great work. Which is a lovely idea, except some dildo lazily laid them out in Papyrus. Are you fucking kidding me?)

Where was I? Oh, right--weak score, good libretto. Fittingly, we had solid but not outstanding singers with terrific diction. Clémentine Margaine, our Dulcinée, is actually French so she had better be en pointe, but our Italian male leads sounded kosher, too. They were also perfectly cast, Furlanetto with the stick legs and a slightly shaky past-prime timbre that made for a convincing Quichotte and Alaimo with natural bulk and comic energy. Together they made the final act more touching than I was prepared for from such a trifling treatment of a weighty work. Margaine had the right amount of languor, both physically and vocally, and the supporting case managed to uphold a standard without anyone standing out.

The other thing which kept Nuphy awake was the quality of the production. Very traditional, but it had good flow. (Contrast it to Rheingold, where the stage was too busy to the point of losing the focus at times.) Visually, the most striking sequence was during the windmill-tilting scene, where moving props are overlaid with projections which multiply until you begin to feel the madness gripping Quichotte before he charges. (Unfortunately, on the weakest aspect of the set design: a static wooden horse on rollers.)

As expected given the period and subject, there's a lot of marching the chorus on and off to satisfy the requirements of the score. I'm always looking for ways to inject this with some naturalism, but I confess there's not much the stage director can do in this case with as few measures as Massenet gives him. A bit more in the way of instrumental interludes between arias and you'd have a shot at something more naturalistic, but instead it's all about efficiently exiting a hundred or so choristers. The dance numbers--such as they are--suffer from a lack of real choreography and there's a crowd scene where the clapping is so sloppy that I was gripping Nuphy's knee in agony for it to be over. (Hopefully that's an opening-night problem that it's still possible to iron out.)

So a happy family, but not a jubilant one. An a welcomely compact one: we were out by 10 p.m., in plenty of time to catch the express bus home for a change. Our UofC seat mate was trying to flog a half-baked idea about the opera's relationship to early modernity that none of us was buying, but we all felt good-natured enough to hear him out. If I weren't such a lightweight, it would've been a great opportunity for nightcap; instead I had to make sure I got my mood-enhancer in early.
muckefuck: (zhongkui)
After some reports from friends that lines were long in Chicago, I was pleasantly surprised to find our polling place as quiet as always. There weren't even any canvassers out front, which is a bit unexpected given how close the Senatorial race is. There were only three people in front of me in line, but all the booths were taken, so I had a few minutes' wait. While standing there, I was recognised by Xiao Fei. We first met over a decade in a Chinese class at the Chinese Mutual Aid Association in North Chinatown and managed to keep in touch for a couple years after that ended, but I lost touch before moving out of the neighbourhood.

Obviously, since we have the same polling place, we live only blocks apart. But he's west of Clark and we're just east and in Chicago, even small divides can make a difference. I still have his number in my phone so I texted him from the bus which I caught just after leaving the polls. He suggested we get together for dinner "in the neighborhood" and I replied to ask, essentially, what do you mean by that? The big commercial stretches are on Clark north and south of where we are, on Devon a half-mile or so to the west, and along Sheridan. He meant Clark to the north, where we basically never go since Masouleh closed, so it's a chance to discover something new.
Nov. 4th, 2016 12:12 pm


muckefuck: (zhongkui)
Here it is, the fall I've been waiting for--just one month later than usual. I'm going to arbitrarily say the foliage is peaking now even though quite a few trees are still green. That's been pretty typical over the last decade: We don't get early frosts any more so the colours don't clump; each tree just goes when it's ready. And it's not like they're even grouped by species. There are sugar maples which are bare and those which have barely begun to yellow, sometimes within paces of each other. The last of the locusts seem to be catching up to their vanguardiste kin, however.

Tomorrow I hope to rake some leaves and plant some stuff. I've really lost interest in the garden over the last several weeks. Maybe it'd been different if I'd managed to get some direction from [ profile] monshu on what to plant where during the brief window he was home and maybe not. Now my preoccupation is just to get things out of pots before a hard freeze. Oh, and get the bulbs and corms into the ground. They're actually the reason I've been holding off. If I'd planted them end of September, they'd probably be sprouting by now.


I'm still in something of a state of disbelief about the Cubs' World Series victory. It's not that I ever wished them ill, nor that I didn't think it would ever happen (it was pretty clear that the management had finally decided it was time to use the pots of money they have to buy a victory). It's just, I dunno, anticlimactic? Like there should be something epic to the end of a 108-year championship drought and this wasn't it. On the shuttle this morning, a guy was talking about the Sox' victory in 2005. Now that was epic. I still remember staying for the bitter end of Game 3. (10 innings? That nice. Try 14.)

I'm glad it went to seven games, I'm glad they came from behind, I'm glad they blew a comfortable lead in Game 7 just when I was beginning to lose faith in their ability to keep things interesting. But someone it doesn't all add up to a once-in-a-lifetime thrill (especially since I know they're quite likely to make it to the playoffs on a more regular basis after this). By then again, why should it? They've never been my team and they never will be.
muckefuck: (zhongkui)
The annual Pilgrimage to Pilsen was particularly successful this year and I can thank in part Fig for that. He took the weekend off and contacted me a while ago about doing something. I told him that I'm not much for the parade or parties and that the only observance I try never to miss out on is the Día de los Muetros exhibit at the National Museum of Mexican Art. He was totally game, having never been to Pilsen nor had much exposure to Day of the Dead.

The day started out inauspiciously before it was even day when I was awakened at half past two by assholes kicking over the fenceposts in the parkway. They were particularly brazen about it, too. I yelled out the window, "Can you go fuck up something else?" and they guy just turned to me calmly and said, "Can we go fuck up shit on the next block?" He and his pal set off in no hurry, leading me to suspect they'd be doing just that, so I wrestled a bit with whether to contact the police. No way was I calling 911 and running the risk of someone getting shot over some half-rotted wood, but I figured it would be useful for there to be some record of the incident and I found a way to report it online. Of course I slept terribly afterwards. A thunderstorm blew through about an hour later, which brought it's own trouble but at least lessened my worry that they'd return and pick up where they'd left off.

I found [ profile] monshu in a decent mood. He even made some requests and didn't seem put out when I informed him I wouldn't be there for Dad and Stepmom's visit around midday. The southbound train was just pulling in to Granville and I did something I never do: I flat out ran for it. When I reached the top of the platform, I saw a masked man in a green costume blocking the door on the last car from closing. "Just for you!" he said as I galloped toward him. "You're the best!" I screamed back before jumping aboard.

The trip was uneventful until I got the the Clark/Lake station. Two women d'un certain âge were studying a map of the Pink Line and we discovered we were all heading to the same place. They'd arrive from Washington state on Thursday and had a packed itinerary. They were architecture hounds and most of the conversation was about buildings. (At one point, one asked, "Are you a fan of the Cubs?" and I abashedly murmured, "I'm from St Louis." A man across the aisle smirked as she replied, "Oh, never mind then.") But they did want to know a bit about shopping and dining so I gave them some pointers I hoped would help out.

Despite my best efforts, I was still half-an-hour late for my rendezvous with Fig, who'd given up waiting on the platform and wandered into a Dunkin half a block from the station. This was located inside a shiny modernist building which I later discovered was La Casa, a dormitory for students who can't afford to live on campus. It houses a resource centre geared toward the needs of first-generation college students. This is exactly the kind of innovative initiative that makes me love the Pilsen community so much.

The Museum was surprisingly sparsely-attended given the day and hour. Neither of us likes crowd scenes and I thought we'd be driven out within in hour but we stayed for two. Just as well that one of the galleries was closed since they'd completely redone the permanent exhibition (I only recognised a handful of pieces) and expanded it by a room. The feature exhibition was particularly impressive this year, almost like a best-of edition in celebration of its 30th year. It also felt more thematically unified than in previous years.

Every year there's a mix of traditional ofrendas and what I call "artists' ofrendas". The former fall into two categories, genericised examples of regional variations and personal altars. The latter into two also: individual and group, with the latter tending to be more abstract and pointedly political. This year, instead of being mixed, the three regional exemplars were in the first room, the second was given over to personal altars (both "traditional" and "artistic"), and the last contained the two "political" pieces: one for BLM and one for Orlando.

I warned Fig beforehand that there's always one ofrenda that makes me tear up. I should've anticipated a memorial to Orlando, but it completely blindsided me. It was a powerful reminder that the massacre was as much a loss to the Latinx community as it was to the LGBTQ (something White cismale fags like me tend to forget). The most impressive of the artist's pieces was one for the Sandra Cisnero's mother, which took up a whole wall. (I had to explain to Fig that this was absolutely not typical of home altars.)

The exhibit ended with a fascinating juxtaposition of traditional mercantile activities associated with the holiday (mainly in the form of terracotta dioramas) and contemporary commercialism. The accompanying texts were decidedly mixed, but also balanced. On the one hand, the organisers are proud of the role they've had in bringing Day of the Dead to the attention of mainstream White society, but at the same time they don't want to see it deracinated.

Afterwards, we followed my usual m.o. in such matters and walked all the way to Blue Island (stopping in at Bombón on the way) before doubling back and eating at the first likely spot. Fig wanted something vetted, so we went to Bistro 18, which was packed when we walked in. Maybe I didn't order the right thing, but I wasn't too impressed. My "enchiladas" were really flautas and my salad was manky; the chilaquiles in his "Chilango" had my mouth watering, however. Since he'd never had tres leches before, I all but forced a spoonful of Bombon's (rompope flavour) on him, which he pronounced good. He wanted to get back and accomplish a few things and I wanted to complete my mission of finding tamales for [ profile] monshu, so we parted ways. I asked the owners of the café for a tip and got somewhat confusing directions to El Milagro on Loomis which just happened to have pollo en mole as their special of the day.

Had I had more time coming to meet him, I definitely would have taken the Brown Line from Fullerton in order to enjoy the vistas. I decided to do this going back, even though it would mean possibly fighting Cubs fans for a seat on the train at Fullerton. After all, at worst I'd be standing for only two stops. And if I hadn't done it, I wouldn't have run into my buddy Mito, who was headed to Loyola to finish some grading. As a special bonus, our train went express from Wilson to Granville.

Back at Kindred, I heated the tamale for the GWO, who'd basically skipped lunch. It was a hit--as were the caramel shortbread cookies from Bombón, albeit not to the same degree. My sweet tamale (coconut and raisin) was pretty damn impressive, too, so it might be worth sampling Milagro's whole menu next time. We both snoozed a bit and then I ate most of [ profile] monshu's tuna salad so that instead of hurrying home I was able to stay until after dark and read to him.
muckefuck: (zhongkui)
Since I wasn't under enough stress because of the whole insurance mess (still no word on what they'll pay for, but the caseworker says they can bill Medicare if they have to, so at least we won't be on the hook), this is the weekend Stepmom decided to come up for her granddaughters' swim meet and she insisted (in the nicest way) on seeing [ profile] monshu. All of which is great, but she brought Dad along, too. (At least I convinced Mom to stay at home for another week.) I think it's probably for that reason alone that when I asked the Old Man this morning, "Would you prefer I were here for their visit?" he nodded yes. So much for getting a half day of work in.

Dad is losing it. There have been hints for years, but now we're getting to the point where it must be obvious even to those who don't know him well. Just during the hour together in [ profile] monshu's room, he gave several nonsensical replies, told the same story about falling over twice (having completely forgotten he'd told it already yesterday evening), and answered questions that weren't directed at him. We've always suspected (based on the fate of the previous generation) that if he lived long enough, he'd fall prey to Alzheimer's. We just hoped it wouldn't hit for a while yet.

He's also looking more feeble. More like, well, a man in his 70s who's spent some time in the hospital recently. It's an exaggeration to say--as his wife does--that he has "no gait", but he certainly doesn't have the confident stride that I imitated without realising as a teenager. Our time together was fine--I told my stepmom about a Venezuelan restaurant near work and she drove us up there for lunch. Mostly she and I talked, but Dad made contributions at times. Still, the days when he and I would go on cross-country adventures seem behind us now.


Chatting with my stepmom is always a pleasure--she's still as with it as always. I was looking forward to telling her about my conversation with the director of "the Jewish place", as she began referring to the nursing home I visited yesterday after I told her there was a sukkah on the doorstep. He was a shmoozer straight from central casting. The secretary had shown me into a meeting room to wait while he disentangled himself and no sooner had we made introductions when he turned to her and said, "Did you get this man something to drink?" Then back to me to say, "I need to get someone new in the front office, someone who's not so rude to visitors. It's been, what, 19 years and I still haven't found anyone."

He was called away twice to deal with other matters and kept joking about paying me for our time. "You can take it off the first bill," I told him. He engaged in some mildly sexist banter with the staff and patients as we strode through the narrow corridors. He remarked on my surname and joke that he learned to speak German by copping a Colonel Klink accent on his Yiddish. I told my joke about the Jewish boy who takes German for an easy A and then makes the mistake of saying "Shabbes" when asked to recite the days of the week, which led to a discussion of the etymology of Samstag.

All in all, he seems like a mentsh and it looks like a good place. I do worry that [ profile] monshu needs more medical care than they're used to dispensing. Really, if there physical therapy were more intense, the best thing for the Old Man would probably be just staying where he's at until he's strong enough to head home, but no way the beancounters are going to approve that.
muckefuck: (zhongkui)
Still trying to strike that elusive balance between my responsibilities and my sanity. I declared Saturday my "day off", which practically speaking meant that from about four thirty in the afternoon until ten a.m. the next morning, I did nothing for the household or for my husband. After dinner and the opera with Nuphy, I rode the Blue Line for the first time in at least two years to join up with a pal's pub crawl. Unfortunately, a simple glance at the CTA map was not enough to orient me in a neighbourhood I've been to all of once in full daylight so I ended up going off in entirely the wrong direction and tracing a nice little box bounded by Sacramento and Fullerton before almost literally running into my quarry outside a bougie club on Milwaukee. On the way, I was nearly run down crossing the street and then tackled by an aggressive hound and began to get the feeling the neighbourhood had it in for me.

So I missed the first two stops, but still managed to visit (in sequence) The Whistler, Spilt Milk, Estereo, Las Flores, and Billy Sunday. Somehow, I managed to have only one drink (a Manhattan variant called a "Yellowpoint") at the first location. At Spilt Milk, I still felt a bit woozy, so I waited, but Estereo had nothing I wanted, Las Flores was no longer serving alcohol (yet checked our IDs anyway), and by the time we reached the last stop it was nearly two a.m. and I was done. I cabbed it home and spent the remaining seven hours of mad time asleep. As a result, I was remarkably well-rested Sunday and more-or-less up to the challenges of finished what I hadn't done Saturday.

Right now, the big uncertainty is: Where will he be tomorrow? Our insurer has only approved his stay at the acute facility through today and they think it's super helpful to wait until the last minute to tell you whether they've decided to approve the doctor's request to extend. If we can't stay there, then it's probably back to the mediocre subacute facility where he languished through the month of August. We tried looking at smaller and more highly-rated places, but they can't afford his cancer drugs. I looked at another better-rated facility in the same network, but it only seemed more run-down and less conveniently located.

That, of course, makes planning for the weekend a mess, since it's entirely possible they could renew him just through Saturday. Stepmom is coming up so we've got tentative plans for Sunday. I'd like to fit in a visit to Pilsen, but I'm not sure if it's better to do it with her or with Fig, who's got a slate of days off and wanted to get together. Friday is supposed to be a celebration of JB's retirement as well as a friend's Halloween bash. Mom suggested coming up this weekend and I gave her a flat-out "no" since I could only think of ways it would raise my stress level and none that would reduce it, but she doesn't want to put it off too long and run into her annual condo meeting.

Speaking of which, ours is a little over a month, which is a huge relief because it means the B-team we put in place actually stepped up and organised something. Hopefully they'll agree to be our A-team when the time comes because this is one kettle I can't keep my eye on right now. It's already enough that I'm saddled with all the landscaping (a plea for others to pitch in with leaf cleanup naturally sank without an echo) without having to fret about the administrative chaos and tight financial straits we're in.

Ugh. Where the fuck are my apple cider donuts?
muckefuck: (zhongkui)
Opera season technically opened for us last weekend, but it was only Lucia and Nuphy wasn't going to miss a major playoff game just for that and I wasn't going to go to it without him so we found a good friend (Diego) to pass our tickets on to. I would've been more hesitant about agreeing to this if it weren't for the fact that I knew we'd catch Rheingold last night come hell or high water or even the Cubs clinching the NLCS.

I told Nuphy I simply couldn't face the prospect of yet another Thai meal so he generously treated me to dinner at Rivers beforehand. They seem to have upped their game somewhat, but still made some odd missteps. Like making their brussel sprout salad more enormous than all but the most ardent fans of brussel sprouts could stomach. Or serving all their desserts with "seasonal berries"--including the pumpkin tart. As you'd expect, even with too much panko Nuphy's scallops were better than my whitefish. Service was terrific. This may go down as the first time I've ever told a server not to fill my water glass during a meal. (We had 2½ intermission-free hours ahead and were strictly controlling our fluid intake.)

Nuphy wisely told me in advance about our temporary displacement--our regular seats had been sold to others (probably at a premium) so we were three rows back--so that I was able to avoid the upset of the Awful Russian Lady across the aisle. The usher had to gently coax her to move back, prompting outraged rants about having occupied the same seats for 20 years and яда яда яда. Wagner brings out the serious operagoers, so no leaners or whisperers or phone-users in front of us, making our interim seats were hardly worse than our usual ones.

Now, to the production. It was a completely different direction from the minimalist stagings I'm used to. As usual when you switch it up, some things worked and some things didn't. I think maybe the point of all the visible stage machinery (there were stagehands in view almost constantly) was to reinforce the notion of unseen fate driving the events, but that may be a reach. In any case, this was more effectively conveyed simply by making use of the Norns, who were the first characters on view. I found having them appear with mop and pail to clean up after the bloody mutilation of Alberich odd, but Nuphy argued that their mending the fabric of destiny is a kind of housekeeping. We both loved the symbolism having them on the roof of Erda's box when she rose up out of the ground.

Those boxes though...they were used sometimes to great effect and sometimes for pure spectacle. Like when Loge and Wotan visit Nibelheim, a couple of them pop up two or three times for no real reason. The same goes for the huge pieces of stage machinery representing the Æsir and Jötnar. At one point, Fasolt's mighty face was turned stage left whereas the singer inside faced stage right, making it confusing where the character's attention was really directed. The platforms for him and Fafner were also located very high above the stage which inhibited their ability to project to the balcony. This was painfully noticeable at their entrance, where their voices sound thin contrasted to the swelling orchestra and the booming bass of Eric Owens as Wotan.

And they aren't thin voices--particularly Tobias Kehrer as Fafner, as was demonstrated later when they were allowed to descend or at least come far enough downstage to mitigate the dampening effect. There weren't any weak voices in the whole cast, though the particular standouts were newcomer Samuel Youn as Alberich and the scene-stealing Štefan Margita as Loge. Or weak actors. I thought some of the clowning was a bit much--I can't remember the last time I heard this much laughter at Wagner--but some of the choices Nuphy found weird (like giving Freya a bit of Stockholm syndrome during her captivity in Riesenheim) I found interesting.

Davis conducted so well I forgot it was Davis. He's good at Wagner provided he doesn't go too slowly and, if anything, he went too far the other way. (Nuphy opined that his take on the Creation was roughly double time compared to Solti's.) The orchestra got an enthusiastic round of applause at the end, so my impression that they played very well seems substantiated. The whole atmosphere--despite anxieties about curtain--was very festive. Any misgivings I had about resubscribing have been allayed.
Oct. 18th, 2016 01:11 pm


muckefuck: (zhongkui)
Yesterday evening I had amazing CTA karma, narrowly catching a northbound Howard train before it went express at Bryn Mawr. (I paid for it this morning, narrowly missing the last northbound train before an express. C'est la vie.) As a result, I was sitting at the computer typing away my [ profile] monshu digest when I heard the tremendous crunching sound coming from the back of the apartment. I didn't want to look; I figured if another pot had gotten smashed, finding out the following morning was soon enough.

A couple hours later, I was preparing to got to bed and overheard a conversation on the sidewalk just outside. "Holy shit, you're not getting through there!" said one of the two men. So I sprinted upstairs to check and saw what they were talking about: an enormous tree branch blocking the sidewalk. I was actually relieved to see it there and not on the hellstrip, crushing the plants which have defied the odds (and my neglect) to stick out this blistering summer.

It's still windy again today, but not like it was yesterday when I could almost lean into it on Sheridan road. And warm. And humid. A true summer's day in the second half of October. But because this is Chicago, tonight's low (11°C) will be Friday's high. I doubt I'll see another scene like I did last Saturday: a projector set up in the middle of a side street so the neighbours could gather outside to watch the opening game of the NLCS. Ever. (I mean, think of the confluence of factors: Cubs in the postseason, a block party planned for the middle of October, and unseasonably mild and calm weather.)


muckefuck: (Default)

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