muckefuck: (zhongkui)
Today felt like the right balance between responsibilities (laundry, home maintenance, making dinner) and diversions (hanging with friends). I set myself up for success by making plans with Miss Betty. We batted around ideas and settled on The Gundis for brunch. I'd already been there once for dinner, but the portrait of their Kurdish breakfast hat me salivating to try it.

Good god was it a terrific choice. I love their bread--a house-baked wholegrain pita with a slightly crunchy crust--and all I really wanted was to spread things on it. But it comes with eggs, which I decided to get out of the way while they were hot and eat first. They sent me rhapsodising about the glories of simple food prepared just right. I don't understand how anyone can make something as basic as unadorned scrambled eggs taste an order of magnitude better than I've had them almost anywhere else.

The only thing I missed was spreadable cheese. I was hoping for something like labne, but instead it was a trio of feta (fresh, not too salty--my weird Balkan friends would approve), kashar, and mozzarella. (Guess which of those three got the least love.) The second of these paired particularly well with the fig jam. I wasn't wild about the sesame butter at first, but drizzling just a bit of honey over it made all the difference. The tea was surprisingly bitter, but the "Kurdish coffee" (a hot drink made of roasted ground terebinth seeds steeped in milk) more than made up for it.

"You can take your time," Miss Betty enthused. "Everything is served together so you don't have to rush to be ready for the next course." We spent a leisurely couple of hours catching up and gradually stuffing ourselves. It wasn't as busy as I'd feared, which meant we didn't feel at all bad about taking up the time of our server (one of the two Mehmets who started the place) with all manner of questions. I showed him my copy of I stared at the night of the city and he took a picture of it in order to look it up later. And he taught me "Oẍir be!" as we were leaving, but not "Xatira te", which according to my dictionary is what I should've been saying.

It was a pleasant day--partly sunny with occasionally chilly gusts--so we decided to stroll up Broadway for a while. For me, it was an opportunity to see how much it's changed since the days when I used to visit there regularly. It was already plenty gentrified back then, but now even more classic storefronts have ceded to mixed use mid-rises. Still, Reckless is still there, as is Treasure Island, Bookleggers, and other unlikely survivors. (Finally have a copy of Rayuela to not read.)

I got back home only shortly before my next scheduled rendezvous, with my trick from Bear Night a month ago. Call him "Miss Pretty", since he'd like that. He came back last night and we fooled around a while before he headed back to the burbs, but he managed to leave a med alert bracelet on the bookcase and had to return for it. I knew he didn't really have time to come in so I entertained him in the entryway for about half an hour, which was a bantering act between seduction and discretion that had me feeling young again.

The sex isn't great, but it's fun, and we haven't exhausted all the possibilities yet, so I suspect more visits are in the future. I'm already getting a feel for the parts of his personality that could annoy me senseless if I'm not careful, but they're balanced by his ability to make me helpless with laughter. He's got some depth, so I ain't bored yet.
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 [livejournal.com 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 [livejournal.com 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)
In possibly the least auspicious beginning to one of my birthdays ever, my first phone call wasn't from the pharmacy robot (as I first suspected) or a well-wisher (my second guess), but a collection agency. Seems my doctor's office hasn't the patience to wait for my insurer to reprocess all our bills for the year until they get it right and I'm not sure I blame them. (Naw, I kinda do.) On the other hand it featured this exchange:
"Can you verify your zipcode and date of birth."
"My zipcode is XXXXX, my date of birth is X/XX/XX."
"So today must be your birthday."
"That's correct."
"Happy birthday."
"Thank you!"
If I'd gotten out of the house when I'd planned, I would have missed the call entirely, but I hadn't slept well and (relatedly?) I'm still dealing with some GI issues from last week. Getting down to the facility to see [livejournal.com profile] monshu took a whole hour: half-an-hour to wait for the bus and then another half-an-hour for it to make its way down to Lawrence with all the old and infirm getting on and off at every stop. When I got there, I found him waiting to be cleaned up by the CNA--who, it turns out, hadn't been told he needed assistance. Neither had his nurse. He had no idea who he'd told, in fact, so there was no way of knowing who'd dropped the ball. I left frustrated with both the staff's sloppiness and with him for tolerating it.

My first stop was Cafe Meinl on Southport, which managed to disappoint me in a myriad of small ways. My coffee was badly mixed. (All the syrup was on the bottom.) My eggs were overdone. My waitron was training someone and couldn't be bothered to give me the check or run my card. My guts were still acting up. And Southport itself has changed so much from the street I first fell in love with twenty-two years ago. When I told my father, he asked, "Changes for the better" and I said, "It's not for me to judge, really. I don't live in Lakeview. Maybe they're very happy to have a Gap there."

Stage two was Bookworks on Clark Street. The moment I learned that they were closing and today would be their first 50% off day, I knew where I wanted to spend my birthday. But I was fighting a sense of melancholy the whole time I was scanning the shelves. And even having told myself I was going to be as generous as I could when it came to my choices, I still found it hard to find things to buy. My customary limit of $100 was in place, but in the end I barely spent a quarter of that.

Meanwhile, the sky continued to threaten rain and I'd left my umbrella at home, lulled by radar projections which showed the bulk of the storm remaining comfortably south of us. At least I finally had quick connexions taking the bus back to share my birthday torte with the Old Man (who this time was just after getting cleaned up) and the droplets held off until I was back at home. On the way, I'd cobbled together a dinner at Revival on Granville with the couple across the street and their straight nephew, plus JB (coming straight from work and looking the worse for it) and Diego.

There were a few missteps in this meal, too, bu they're much easier to take when you're distracted by good company and pleasantly lit on a fancy g&t. The server's easy charm only fed our spirits and I had the rare pleasure of seeing one of my friends explain slashfic to a whole table of people unfamiliar with the concept. We left in high spirits and I arrived at home just in time for a comedy of errors with my phone: First Dad called me while I was going through messages and I missed it. Then he called my sister by mistake, who informed me of this via text. Then he called back again while I was replying to her and sent his call to voicemail by mistake. He finally switched phones and called from the landline.

So now the frustrations and discomfort of earlier in the day are all but forgotten and I'm left with the pleasant afterglow of a good meal with friends and well wishes from a host of people. That's all it really takes to make me happy any more. The single best thing about getting older is finally getting your expectations calibrated.
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muckefuck: (zhongkui)
Things have settled into a routine, which is a both good and bad. Good because it means that [livejournal.com profile] monshu's condition is stable and improving steadily, but bad because of the false sense of normality which will be shattered the moment we have either a major setback or a major step forward (i.e. his coming home).

I could be using this time to accomplish things which really need to get done around the house. Instead, I'm still doing the minimum there and squeezing in all the socialising I can. Before he was in the hospital, I felt like I'd seen almost nobody all year. Hospital visits are a tricky thing, since the point of them is not really to spend time with me but with the patient. (An acquaintance I saw over the weekend told me she was staying away for just that reason.) Trying to split the difference and combine them with a meal out with me wasn't too feasible back when things were more iffy, but it's better now.

I imagine I'll hit my limit before too much longer and be back to hiding in the bedroom reading again. (I try to do that, but it's tough to ignore calls and texts when any one of them could be from my husband or a health provider--and now Dad's back in the hospital, too, making it all worse.) So in the meantime I should be doing more to fit in the people I really want to see rather than simply those who are being most persistent, but that requires a change of personality I'm not yet up to effecting.
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muckefuck: (zhongkui)
The meteorologists really whiffed it yesterday. They predicted "snow showers"; when I checked back around eleven, they were still talking about "accumulations of up to an inch" when we already had twice that. Today we're getting "lake effect snow" which in my mind is synonymous with "flurries" but really shouldn't be. It wasn't quite white-out conditions an hour ago, but it was impressive nonetheless.

This week has been odd because, being back at work, I naturally slide back into my old routines. Then I get home and find a rude awakening. [livejournal.com profile] monshu used to have dinner ready for me; Mom only begins thinking about it when she hears the door slam. I'm not bagging on her--it can't be easy sleeping on the couch as she does in order to be ready to help the Old Man if he gets up in the night. But I'll admit to being very put out the first couple evenings.

Yesterday, however, we both got a break when [livejournal.com profile] zompist and his wife showed up bearing dinner. Actually, at my urging, they'd arrived mid-afternoon in order to catch the GWO at his best. Good thing, too, because no sooner had he eaten than he began feeling unwell and slunk back to his bedroom. The conversation naturally went on without him, but it was only after nearly two hours talking about myself that I remembered one of the ostensible aims of the visit was to talk about China for the new book [livejournal.com profile] zompist is writing.

He wanted to see our vacation snaps so I had to break the news to him about the theft of [livejournal.com profile] monshu's camera. I did see that he left with a bag full of books. We got lucky, actually; most all of my non-linguistic materials were buried on the lowest tier of the book stacks in the office. I gamely offered to have quick look, not expecting to turn up much, and found a box containing not only Retreat of the elephants but Sources of Chinese tradition and a complete translation of Romance of the Three Kingdoms. That oughta fix him for a month or so.
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Jan. 31st, 2015 10:15 pm

Proofed

muckefuck: (zhongkui)
Today I once again came to the realisation that someone I thought might be a friend isn't. I posted a general announcement of [livejournal.com profile] monshu's upcoming surgery to Fakebook and over fifty people responded, many of them asking to be added to the e-mail list I'm maintaining for sending out updates. (Yeah, I'm old school that way.) He wasn't one of them. Now, I'm savvy enough to know what a "lossy" channel that is; there's a hundred reasons why someone might have missed one of your posts there and, thus, no reason to read too much into it. But it brought to mind the brief and unsatisfying exchange we had last December when I had tried to breach the subject with him, but once he heard that I wasn't going to be around during the holidays (when he'd be passing through), it seemed he couldn't end the conversation quickly enough.

So I did what I do when this happens and got pouty for about ten minutes. Then I mentally slapped myself and refocused on those aforementioned 50+ who *did* respond and sat down to compile the list. There were some surprises. I really can't imagine, for instance, that the former coworker I haven't seen in something like a year and was never close to is really interested in more details than I'll be making public online anyway, so I'm just going to assume she misunderstood my solicitation and leave her off.

Oh, and since I guess there are some people following me here who haven't heard through some other channel: a debulking procedure has been scheduled for next Tuesday. It will be outpatient, but I'm expecting he'll be admitted overnight for observation all the same. Are we anxious? A little, but mostly we just want the damn thing over with. We're really not going to know where things stand until they slice him open and poke around. Then maybe I'll finally be able to work with a planning horizon of more than a week for a change.
muckefuck: (zhongkui)
Although he was busy, Scruffy contracted for brunch with us at Pauline's. He likes a good value, and we both remembered the portions there as being on the large size, so it seemed a good choice. A chunk of the conversation centred around his need to learn to let go. I did my best to counsel him on my techniques while noting that [livejournal.com profile] monshu, who was mostly content to let me bang on, was the real expert. He opened up more to us about his family than he ever has before. Does everyone who isn't an only child have a ne'er-do-well sibling whose freeloading off the family teat is a source of tension and whose post-parental well being is a cause for concern?

Afterwards, I had some time to devote to the reading I'd meant to spend the day before on. It was easier to make the push to finish Wolf Hall once I realised what it didn't cover; neither the downfall of Anne nor Cromwell himself is covered in this volume, which makes me more eager to read the sequel (though at the same time I wonder if it might not be worth waiting for the third volume, out soon). I do wish I'd had the sense to finish it before watching a movie adaptation, since I did have some trouble with Anderson's characterisations encroaching on Mantel's. As her focus character, Cromwell is more sympathetic overall and Anne Boleyn less.

I also recently finished off that Japanese novel I'd started more than two months ago, figuring it for a quick read, and given up on for several weeks. It finally got good in the last third, but I don't know that I can recommend even a short novel on that basis. The volume contains a whole apparatus that I'm reading to see what it is I failed to see about the work's appeal. Right now, I'm just puzzled at the description "hard-boiled" which seems to apply less to the science fiction (which ultimately takes a turn for the metaphysical) than to the use of noir clichés involving detectives.

Something which genuinely should prove to be an easy read is Ann Patchett's Run. It started snowing yesterday afternoon, so we finally had the weather for it, and despite the distractions of doing laundry and moderating a debate on Charlie Hebdo (for my sins), I quickly read the first quarter of it. I'm a little put off by the somewhat cheesy tale of Auld Irelaund it opens with and the credulity-straining coincidence of the complicating incident, but her invocation of tragedy squeezes me where it counts and her characters seem well-rounded enough. There's still a lot that could go wrong with a White woman from Tennessee trying to write about racial issues in Boston, but for now she's got the benefit of my doubts.
muckefuck: (zhongkui)
You could say I've lost a friend over the fallout from the Charlie Hebdo murders.[*] You could, but it wouldn't be accurate on either count.

You can tell the second part is false by how quickly the discussion became personal. I'm not sure we even differ that substantially, given that he's also opposed to increased dissemination of the offensive cartoons. I'd hardly begun to explain my position before he took me to task for "never EVER agreeing" with anything he's posted on his Wall. So the politics is simply the trigger; the real issue goes deeper.

How deep it goes is hinted at by the fact that his contention is demonstrably false. I know this is a sore point with him so in the past I've made a point of liking and commenting positively on his posts where possible. The fact that he's never noticed (and can't be bothered to check even after repeated urgings[**]) is evidence for the falsity of the first part of the proposition: I'm not "losing a friend", I'm finding out that I either never had one or lost him long ago.

His parting shot to me was that he's "not interested in disagreeing civilly", and I personally don't see how any friendship can survive that. I can see making certain issues off limits--there will always be some things that cut a lot closer to the bone for one person than another. But that's entirely different from holding the other person's ideas in complete contempt. From my own experience, I know that when someone's views inspire violent intolerance in me, then the chance of making or maintaining a personal connexion is nil.

In the end, it all comes down to charity. Like most geeks, I used to have a range of litmus tests for friendship. But over time, what I've come to realise is that ultimately it all comes down to goodwill. Either this is a person you're willing to extend the benefit of the doubt to even when they feel they're deeply in the wrong in a particular situation or they aren't. And if they aren't, then at most they're a friendly acquaintance.

So this guy isn't a friend. He's someone I once felt a connexion with because we both love languages and big furry men. Despite living in the same city, we only see each other rarely and then by chance, so this shouldn't bother me and it's only my tendency toward sentimentality that makes it do that. At least I can take pride in how dispassionately I handled it: no outbursts, no ultimatum, no snappy putdowns. Just a shrug before getting up from the computer to do something rewarding.


[*] Not only am I not talking about anyone here on LJ, I don't think I'm talking about someone anyone here even knows. Calm down people!
[**] Ready for irony overload? His career is "journalist".
Jan. 3rd, 2015 10:20 pm

Rendezvous

muckefuck: (zhongkui)
Our shopping goals were modest enough: a hat for [livejournal.com profile] monshu, a wireless device for me. But I got overwhelmed with the range of choices and the Old Man, seeing my distress, asked, "Do you need a time out?" So we headed to the Macy's next door and, after wandering through the entire mens' section, learned they didn't have the one thing he'd checked in advance to see if they had. We looked at North Face and found only camouflage and grotty tropical prints, so we retreated to the confortevolezza of L'Appetito, where I spent a frustrating five minutes trying to access my e-mail on the GWO's phone.

At that point, I was rescued by a "where are you?" message from [livejournal.com profile] lhn and headed out into the cold rain again in order to meet him, [livejournal.com profile] prilicla, a subdued [livejournal.com profile] hisregard, [livejournal.com profile] ladytiamat, and--as a special surprise--My Remaining Author Friend Who Is Not [livejournal.com profile] princeofcairo at Bar Toma where, to my delight, they had already ordered calamari and a couple of pizzas. After Water Tower Place, it felt like a pool of sanity in a sea of tourists, with a cozy interior and an extremely solicitous staff.

For over an hour the topic of conversations was books--books! I work at a bleeding library and, with the exception of one colleague, no one ever talks about books with me for anything approaching an hour! Too bad I won't remember any of the good YA series they recommended to me for my niblings. Then we began to think dessert. [livejournal.com profile] hisregard originally suggested Ghiradelli, but when it was determined our next stop was the Bipartisan Manse in Hyde Park, he switched to Firecakes for fancy donuts. So yum! MRAF broke off to rendezvous with a houseguest, [livejournal.com profile] prilicla headed back home, and [livejournal.com profile] lhn ferried the rest of us to Hyde Park.

I couldn't even attempt a summary of all the topics we covered in our South Side salon. It was a full-spirited return to the days of bantering around the Skiffy table, but minus our youthful insecurities and the living embodiments of them. I didn't want to, but eventually I had to interject a reminder to order dinner, which was delivered to us from old stalwarts Snail. And I really didn't want to leave, but [livejournal.com profile] clintswan was coming over to my house and I wanted to be there to meet him. By some miracle, I made it from the bus stop on Hyde Park Blvd to the Loyola stop on the el in almost exactly one hour. But it was all for nought, since my buddy was still busy with laundry and I began to pumpkin after 10 p.m. Hope he had a good time at Bear Night while I was in bed!
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muckefuck: (zhongkui)
I try to keep the Old Man on his toes. That's why first thing this morning, I asked him: "Should I make you a list of people to be notified in the event of my demise?"

It's less out-of-the-blue than it seems because I slept lightly last night and dreamt of some people I'm estranged from and may never talk to again. Which, of course, got me thinking of everyone I've regretted losing touch with over the years. Given my middle age and the general harshness of life in this world, some of those people must be dead.

Despina, for instance. I'm 99% sure that he died about four years ago. He was seriously ill and there was a desperate edge to our calls. Then silence. Unfortunately he'd reinvented himself yet again and nobody in his new circle seems to have known about me or Girlfag or any of his longstanding queer friends. So nobody knew to call us and we had no one to reach out to.

Contrast this with what happened when [livejournal.com profile] danbearnyc passed away. We had enough mutual friends on LJ that I heard about it here, but just in case, one of his friends went through his e-mail and sent notifications to me and other people he'd corresponded with. (It was unfortunate that the e-mail this guy ended up replying to had the subject line "Dusky Cumrag" but also, given Dan's sense of humour, rather appropriate.) He even offered a sympathetic ear (although when I eventually did decide I was ready to take him up on this, I heard nothing back).

That all seems like the least I would want to see done for people who have cared for me over the years. Many are like Despina--isolated from the groups we were once embedded in so severed from the grapevine. Facebook casts a wide net, but still not wide enough to capture everyone.
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May. 31st, 2014 11:18 pm

Out

muckefuck: (zhongkui)
Miss Cleveland and Big Bones had us over this afternoon and dropped a bombshell in the middle of the visit: they're considering a move to Paris. (Well, the western faubourgs.) My immediate reaction was, naturally, "What about me?" Why does everyone I like in this town either wash their hands of me or move away? Ah well; it isn't a done deal yet, and it should spur me on to spend more time with them while I can.

It was a fabulous afternoon to be on their deck, at least until the sun dropped below the level of the umbrella and began to toast us all. I thought Miss Cleveland wasn't up to entertaining in his usual style, but you'd never suspect what he'd been through with the way he piled on the fresh fruit and homemade cookies. He says he cut back on the plantings this year, but they still include two tree-like oleanders and a jasmine.

Afterwards it was a cocktail party at our old realtor's, which served to remind me that whatever else I learned from my mom's relatives I goddamn sure learned to mingle. One of the guests is friends with a professor at work I've been inadvertently stalking (he tends to take the same shuttle a lot) who is brothers with Dan Savage. I'm tempted to walk up to him next time we're waiting at the stop and say, "Erin and Ray told me to say 'hi'!"
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