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I was visited by Monshu in my dream last night. As [profile] mollpeartree predicted months ago, it was at last free of most of the melancholy in my previous dreams. I got to tell him all about how the cat got out on Friday and gave me a scare. (It's rare that he can slip out without me noticing so I imagined him choked to death in a corner and tore apart the place trying to find him.) Because now that my husband is gone, losing the cat has become my grim obsession.

He listened patiently, as he always did (and as I fear no one else will ever do for me again). Then we addressed the elephant in the room: "What are you doing here?" He told me he didn't know how he was able to come back but that he would be able to from time to time. And that was good enough; that segment of the dream ended quietly and I moved on to some other craziness, like getting trapped in a crumbling housing project or watching Miss Cleveland demonstrate a dildo in the courtyard of his apartment building.
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Lyric's Rigoletto was a happy family. The only weak voice was Monterone, but, hey, Silvastrelli can't be in every production of theirs. We knew Kelsey could sing from past seasons but he still impressed us; I actually got shivers at one point. Polenzani was excellent but the real revelation was Rose Feola as Gilda. I know encores aren't a thing any more, but I seriously considered shouting for one after she sang "Caro Nome".

Nuphy pronounced it the best production of the opera he's seen, so it probably is for me, too, since I haven't seen any he hasn't. I want to say this is my fourth at the Lyric so I might have to review my reviews to be sure. For sure it's better than the incoherent staging of a few years back where they set it in a gentleman's club for no good reason.

Given how many times I've seen it, I was surprised I'd forgotten how much of a dick Rigoletto is. At intermission, our professor friend asked if this was a tragedy in the classic sense. Obviously there are no gods, so I took this as meaning is what happens an inevitable result of the shitty hand Rigoletto has been dealt by life? And I can't agree.

For starters, his possessiveness of his daughter is creepy and self-defeating. If he really wants to keep her safe in that kind of predatory environment, he should be marrying her off to someone substantial with the position and resources to defend her as staunchly as he wishes he could. But that would mean sharing the affections which he calls the only joy in his life. He also doesn't have to be as cruel to the courtiers as he is. Yeah, they're awful to him, but they're awful to everybody. Without them around, he'd be begging in the streets.

He also asked us, "Is the curse even necessary?" I thought it a fair question since--unlike in Tristan und Isolde or Siegfried--it doesn't set anything in motion. The chain of events can be completely explained by the personalities involved with no need for external forces. Moreover, the Duke dodges its effects entirely, since his charms are enough to get a poor innocent to take the bullet (or, rather, knife blade) for him.

And it really is amazingly tightly plotted for a grand opera. When Nuphy reminded me that it was only about two-and-a-half hours including intermission I was like, "But so much happens!" There's just not time to get bored--though of course that's hard to do anyway with so many great tunes.

They also gave us a lot to look at. The use of colours was so bold that during Act Two I kept shutting my eyes just so I could enjoy the afterimages. At first having the colonnade descend seemed gratuitous (I often feel like Lyric productions get show-offy with the stage machinery) but it later made sense. We were struck with what an effective job they did of simulating water in the last act when the river takes up centre stage. The designers cited de Chirico as a primary influence but the odd angles give the production a very expressionist feel which terrifically compliments the dramatic themes.

We had only tiny quibbles on the set direction. Nuphy pointed out that they left out the crucial flash of lightening which allows Rigoletto to recognise his dead daughter and, in the previous scene, he's standing downstage centre and looking directly into the audience with her well upstage of him as she sings about seeing "gioia feroce" flashing in his eyes. Most everything else they got right. There's dynamism to the crowd scenes and the action is all very legible.

For such a strong production there were a surprising number of empty seats. We asked Nuphs if the reviews had been bad and he said he didn't recall any. We eventually figured out this was opening night which explained why everyone was so dressy. It caught us by surprise because our last performance was opening night and we usually only have two at most in our subscription so it's odd to have them back-to-back.

That opera, btw, was Gluck's Eurydice et Orphée, which was beautiful to listen to but I felt like the drama got smothered under all the ballet. The prof characterised the dancing as "decorative" which is to say it wasn't working much to reinforce let alone further the narrative themes and sometimes even seemed to be at odds with them. (There's a lot of scenery moving around the stage which does more to confuse the action than clarify it.) It felt like something of a chore to get through.

There was also the awkwardness that Nuphy apparently failed to foresee the effect that a dramatisation of following your recently-departed spouse down to Hades in an attempt to bring them back would have on me. I kept the sobbing quiet enough not to disturb anyone yet he still noticed and offered me some comfort. It's funny: 28 years of watching operas and only now am I beginning to understand why people cry at them.
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So I think I'm ready to call it quits with Lakshmi.

Our relationship has always been characterised by me listening to her complain. She's basically a sweet person with a difficult row to hoe, so this hasn't been too onerous. She's been very thoughtful and generous over the years and I have good memories of laughing and sharing food with her. But lately it feels like the balance has shifted permanently. If you'd asked me before this year, I'd have put the ratio at like 70/30 bitching/niceness. Today it felt like 99/1.

What happened was this: I had a bad night and overslept, and then struggled to make it into work. My hope had been to slip in quietly. But that was dashed when I arrived at the door of the workspace and saw Lakshmi there with one of my direct reports. She's dropped by completely unannounced and then tried to see me, thus drawing attention to my absence. She was just leaving; another minute and I'd've dodged her completely.

I had to approve timesheets before the deadline so I begged her indulgence for a moment. She stood over me while I sent the approvals. I asked if she'd like to sit, but she begged off, saying she was "in a hurry". Not so much of a hurry, however, that she couldn't bend my ear for fifteen minutes out in the hallway while I hardly got a word in edgewise.

The last time I heard from her was two months ago when she lost her job. She called me at work to complain and ask for my help finding a new position. The time before that was when she declined the invitation to Monshu's memorial back in March. And before that...I couldn't tell you. The most recent e-mail I have is from three years ago when she was moving back to town and wanted my help finding an apartment in Rogers Park.

Generally, if I run into someone who knew Monshu and who I haven't seen since his death, the very first thing they do is offer condolences. It doesn't matter if they've conveyed them already via phone, letter, or e-mail. She didn't even mention him. She just started in recounting her woes. After a few minutes, I fell completely silent. Several minutes more, and I stopped even trying to look sympathetic; I just stared at her stony-faced. She was not deterred. Finally I couldn't wait for her to stop talking and leave.

Yes, looking for work sucks. Yes, it's particularly difficult when you're middle-aged and female. But this was a degree of self-centredness I just wasn't prepared for. Plus I was in a shitty mood to start with from the lack of sleep and something else that happened as I was struggling to get ready this morning.

Yesterday was the first anniversary of Monshu's aborted homecoming. I say "aborted" because while it started well, things got progressively worse until he was readmitted with an infection. My mother told me later that he'd started to go septic and could easily have died then rather than three months later. Serendipitously, friends invited me to join them at King Spa and I spent most of the day there. But I needed a little bag to carry some necessities and the only halfway-decent one left the cat hasn't pissed on is one Monshu used to use. I dumped out the contents on the coffee table and told myself I'd deal with them later.

This morning, alongside the gloves, sunglasses, and over-the-counter pharmaceuticals, I noticed a couple of printed sheets of paper. One was a list of bp readings. The other was a detailed fourteen-day summary of the Old Man's diet and ailments. I looked at the dates and they were for the two weeks before his doctor's appointment in March of the last year. Yes, that appointment: the one that resulted in him being admitted and scheduled for an operation two weeks later.

Maybe if I weren't feeling so fragile, I'd be more inclined toward forgiveness. But this is still my Year of Being Selfish and if there are people who can't or won't understand that, then I simply don't need them in my life. As she was leaving, Lakshmi vowed to keep me posted on her job search. She needn't have bothered.
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So a funny thing happened after Turtle and Turtlewife went on vacation last March: They dropped out of my life. It was so completely unexpected that it took me months to realise what had happened. Planning the memorial sent me into a funk from which I'm still recovering. I started to find myself reaching out less to others, and while that concerned me, I also realised that if there were ever a time in my life for those who love me to step up, this was it, and as bad as isolating myself was pushing myself too hard was worse.

The first real moment of reckoning came when Monshu's birthday rolled around. Despite the fact that they'd been integral to celebrating it last year and must've had some idea how difficult it would be for me, I heard nothing. A few days later when Turtle wished me Happy IML. That at least opened a few days' negotiations for a dinner date, but those came to naught and we pushed off making plans until later.

I still thought they'd get in touch again, so when they didn't, my abandonment anxiety began to kick in. I began to wonder if I'd done something to push them away. Or I'd exhausted them with demands and they still weren't recovered from that. Or if maybe, all this time, they'd really just been Monshu's friends and put up with me because we were a package deal.

Now instead of longing for a meeting I began to dread one. Either they'd have to bring up how I'd offended or disappointed them and I'd be forced to deal with that or I'd have to bring up how they'd upset and disappointed me by not being there when I really could have used their support and neither prospect was the least bit attractive. So I kicked the can again, figuring that if my birthday went by unacknowledged, then we really were done.

My birthday came up. I got a "Happy Birthday" from Turtle on FB, nothing more.

So I was really not expecting to or prepared for getting a message from her a couple nights ago. The occasion was the death of a former colleague of both her and Monshu. The memorial service is this weekend. Since it's way out in the burbs, she offered me a ride. I'd already manage to cadge one from someone else, the friend who'd delivered a eulogy at Monshu's service and first informed me of their colleague's death. That gave me an excuse to decline and I took it.

I wrestled with the decision, though. On the one hand, it's finally an opportunity for reconciliation. On the other, it means that in addition to dealing with the loss of another friend of Monshu's--someone who came through for him when even his family let him down--now I've got this on my plate at the same time. Because she'll be there and we'll talk, so I've got to deal with this anyway.

It's so hard to work out when to allow yourself to be vulnerable and when to walk away. Do I want them in my life? Yes--but not if they're just going to vanish from it for six months at a time when just going through the motions of living my life requires a constant act of will. Clearly, I need to communicate that, but how to do it in a way that doesn't sound accusatory?

I wanted to say something similar to Eyefield when he flaked out on me and I wimped out, even with the stakes so much lower than they are here. I really can't afford to lose more friends and few friends have come through for me more in the last few years than these two. But one of my biggest mistakes over the years has been building up expectations of people based on their past behaviour. Sometimes people move on, regardless of whether you try to move with them or not.
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The eclipse was fun. I was a bit disappointed that no one had planned a party for it at work like the one we had during 1994's partial eclipse, but apparently they did and I just didn't hear about it because when I showed up around noun, there was a clutch of people with deviled eggs, donut holes, and cookie-box eclipse viewers. By the time of the big moment, there were nearly a hundred people present, a mix of staff and students with perhaps a few randos. As you might expect, there was a bigger gathering a little farther north near the Observatory.

It was cloudy, but that actually had the advantage that at times you could glance up at the sun without the aid of glasses. (Those were the times when the viewers themselves were useless.) We only had 88% coverage. Judging from the reactions of my friends who were in the path of totality, maybe I should've gone ahead with my plan to go down to St Louis for the occasion. My sister and her kids were someplace with 99% coverage and even they didn't get to see the corona, so it would have involved planning an excursion southward and I just wasn't up to it.
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Aug. 7th, 2017 11:10 am

Boy trouble

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So now that the initial excitement has worn off on all my new flings, the flaws of each are coming into view. None are insuperable, but they're enough to dampen my enthusiasm to the point where it can't overcome my general level of sloth and irritation with humanity.

I should just give up on Eyefield. There were hints before that his situation was a little too fucked-up at the moment to make him a compatible choice, but he stored up some good will by being genuinely considerate on a number of occasions. I also may have some lingering guilt feelings for blowing him off during Bearfest. Unfortunately I'm learning what a really terrible communicator he is in general and I'm not sure I'm willing to keep taking up the slack.

I've already been forced to accept that he'll show up anywhere from 30 minutes late to an hour-an-a-half and he won't do much to keep me apprised of his progress. The final straw came the weekend before last. We'd arranged to go shopping, but he'd set up an appointment for the morning which he missed because he'd misplaced his passport. Long story short, he left me hanging for four hours and was then like, "Oh, I forgot we were doing something. Make other plans." Sounds like a generally-applicable admonishment.

I'll put up with an unreasonable amount of nonsense from someone I want to bone badly enough, but it's not even clear he's still interested in having sex with me. I came close to telling him off but I decided just to let things die a drama-free death instead. And now here he is again today texting me about going out to a bear night somewhere. Well, that might work as a way to get myself out on a evening when I'd just as soon stay in as long as I'm resigned to the fact that he'll show up late if he shows up at all.

El Reconquistador could give him a run for his money in the poor communication and not coming through competition. Months ago he'd proposed taking a trip together for his birthday in June, but June came and went without me hearing from him. Then the Sunday after Eyefield's fiasco (nearly two months later), he texts me about getting dinner that evening and then gets annoyed when I don't reply immediately. We did meet up and it was fine but, again, he doesn't seem that interested in sex and I'm not sure how much bullshit I want to deal with just to socialise.

And what of Uncle Betty? His problem seems to be he just doesn't propose plans. Like, at all. I realised a couple weeks ago that he hadn't invited me to do anything with him all year, something I'd normally take as indicating a lack of interest. But he's always into me when we get together and receptive to seeing me (as long as he doesn't have other plans), so I finally texted his ex Diego and was like, "Is this just him?" and the answer I got was "Yes". And that just doesn't work for me--not in general, and certainly not when so much of my energy is tied up just battling depression.

So I'm taking this as a sign that I need to focus less on fuck buddies and more on genuine friends--like Fig, who sent me a lovely text Saturday night encouraging me to go out and get groped instead of moping around the house or my college pals, who have arranged two successful get-togethers in the time that none of these dumb boys has managed more than one. Then there's the gaming group and the German-speaking bears and other little promising knots of acquaintances who may be good for more, not to mention my fellow widow(er)s who know how to be there for me on a level everyone else can only approximate.

Still, much as I'd rather have sex with friends than sex with strangers, I'd rather have sex than not. Maybe it's finally time to get on Growlr?
Jul. 24th, 2017 12:08 pm

Mean girls

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So the gaming group is reconfiguring itself for a new GM. JB has been pretty obviously bored with running the game for months now so last Tuesday's final sessions was a somewhat understated affair. I admit to being just a bit scandalised during the final fight against the big boss when he just handed off the talking stick to one of the players and said, "Why don't you describe what happens?" I mean, I accept that he's got a much more cooperative style than what I was raised on, but that was unexpected.

Jigglypuff is taking over to run a campaign set in a high school and, I swear, everyone's getting into character already by booting one of the other players in a kind of shitty way. For all that he can be a dick, it's thanks to [profile] vianegativa that the group even exists. He was also the first to bring in Jigglypuff who ended up being the most vocal about turfing him out. Yeah, he didn't do himself any favours by concealing from everyone what was really going on with him, but I can understand not trusting everyone with those details.
Jul. 19th, 2017 09:58 am

Dreamlike

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I don't know what's happening to my sleep. It's no longer that I can't drop off or that I wake up and can't fall back to sleep again. I used to wake up for the first time around 4 a.m.; now I'm just as likely to sleep through until 5, 5:30, or even later. But it isn't good sleep. I force myself to get up at 7 to start my routine when all I can think about is going back to bed. I take micronaps in the afternoon now, sometimes in a meeting, sometimes on my commute home, and sometimes I slip off to Periodicals for a bit.

One direct consequence of this is more dreaming. Mostly it's the typical jumble of work and travel anxiety or strange vacation and living arrangements, but last night's was a bit different. I don't even remember exactly what Monshu and were doing together, but I 'woke up' from that and I was in a conversation pit with longtime friends like [personal profile] keyne and [profile] kcatalyst who were hatching a mad plan to head out and drive down or catch a redeye to a place called "Kindred City" for some demo or other. But I was thinking of the dream and fighting back tears, so I begged off much to everyone's disappointment.

And then I woke up for real. And for the umpteenth time it hit me that he's gone, that he's never coming back, and that these snatches of dream are the only real taste I'll have any more of what it felt like to have his constant active presence in my life. And before long, I was really fighting back tears and asking myself why the hell do I have to go into work oh right there's an event today that I helped planned and share responsibility for making succeed.

I've gotten used to the constantly drowsiness--I was already used to it this time last year--and it only really bothers me when I notice myself doing something I never remember doing before, like colliding with a doorframe or smacking my hand on something I always would have noticed and avoided. I also struggle to remember names and facts and references in a way I didn't used to before, but that could just be part of the natural process of growing old and forgetful.
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A very nice chat with [personal profile] mlr yesterday evening reminded me that, despite my slothfulness, I still have readers (and that there still are things in my life worth reading about). I'm glad I decided to call, since I'd been in a crappy and depressing mood up to that point.

As usual, it's a mix of causes. One is the weather, which is so sticky and nasty that it inclines me towards torpor. I'm still avoiding turning on the AC which means that most of time I'm home I'm hiding in the lower level. Given that the balance of my time there is spent sleeping, it generally works out, but I'm not making good meals or keeping up with chores or going out for walks or cultivating any of the other healthy habits that help keep my emotional keel upright.

I'm also still not sleeping well, for reasons that are probably as complex as they are intractable. Last night I had a zinger of a medical anxiety dream which began with me locating a large swelling on my inner thigh and squeezing it until a syringe popped out. [N.B.: The first visible sign of Monshu's cancer was a tumour on his groin.] I was at work, so I was just going to wrap it in an old rag, toss it, and return to my desk, but I felt woozy and realised it had been long enough since I'd lost it inside of me to cause an infection and I needed to get to the hospital in case I was going septic.

Pondering this the next morning, I figured out something else that's been bringing me down: I'm terrified of having a hospital experience like Monshu's without anyone to take care of me like I took care of him. Yes, I have friends, but friends have lives. Is there any one of them who would put theirs on hold to manage mine? Sure, if this happened tomorrow, my mother would drop everything and come, but she's pushing three-quarters of a century.

I think this helps explain why I'm so disappointed in Turtle and Turtle's Wife. The latter joked a couple times earlier in the year about being a "friendly stalker", but the only time I've heard from her in the last four months is two weeks ago when I took the initiative and texted her for help with a friend whose husband was entring hospice under conditions all too reminiscent of last December. (There's yet another reason to be bummed out now.) This is the woman that I trusted so much that I suggested giving her POMA, who insisted that I call her "family" and not a "friend". I guess maybe she meant "family" in the sense of "someone you see mainly at holidays and mostly forget about the rest of the year"?

At this point, I've pretty much convinced myself I'm going to get anal cancer and die a horrible lingering death. I try to imagine how the GWO had the strength to hold out as long as he did and I can't.
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Yesterday featured an upsetting e-mail from one of my oldest pals among the GLB. He goes back even further with Monshu (who taught him high school English) and I should have known something was up when he and his husband missed the memorial, but we've seen so little of them since they located out in the burbs. Even they were ambushed by how quickly the cancer has progressed so even if we'd been in better touch I might not have had much time to prepare myself.

The idea of someone my age going into hospice care is upsetting. The idea of someone losing their spouse to cancer is upsetting. The two together--devastating. You older queers who lived through the AIDS epidemic: How did you do it?

They wanted advice on hospice, which caused me to sift through my recollections to come up with things they might not know to ask or consider, and that left me pretty wrecked by the end of the night despite finding time for some cinematic escapism. (Really irritated to hear Eric Tsang dubbed over with someone who sounds nothing at all like him.) In particular, one time two years ago when Monshu apologised for being too much of a bother made me regret again for the nth occasion every time I made him feel like he was imposing on me.

So it was a bad night's sleep and when I awoke I had a text from another old pal asking, essentially, "Can I drop a bombshell on you, too?" Is "no" really an option in that situation? On the one hand, I'm glad to hear he's finally in NA and dealing with his shit, but the fact that I was one of the half-dozen or so people he chose to confide in creates a feeling of obligation I'm not at all comfortable with. He keeps asking if I have questions and my only real question at the moment is, "What's the least I can do for you without ending up disappointed in myself?"
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I was supposed to host cocktails a week ago Saturday, but I bailed. Only two people checked in with me about them, Eyefield and an ex-bartender friend, so I told both of them they were still welcome to come over if they wanted. The latter chose instead to schedule brunch with me for yesterday while Eyefield opted to meet me at the bar instead.

Later in the week, bantering with him via text took a weird turn. We ended up having a rather serious conversation, I got another glimpse of how maybe we were more attached that we make out, and we made plans for dinner on Thursday that got scuppered by his ex, who's moved back into the house he still owns half of. He sounded mollified when I rescheduled for Saturday, but Saturday came and went without him getting back in touch to finalise plans.

Maybe I should've insisted more, since I'd hoped to use the opportunity to get to know him better and clarify things. I told my therapist earlier in the week that I was dallying with two guys (let's not scare the horses too much) but that they understood nothing serious would come of it because it's Too Early. "Are you sure they know that?" she asked and I took the hint.

You might ask why my usual tendency toward obsessiveness didn't kick in and the answer is basically that I was too darn busy. Fearful of another weekend of staring at the ceiling, I overbooked: Counter-protest Saturday morning, Printers Row Book Fest Saturday afternoon, dinner out Saturday evening. The aforementioned brunch Sunday morning, the Chicago Alternative Comics Expo (CAKE) Sunday afternoon, and dinner out again Sunday evening.

So rather than pester Eyefields, I figured if he really wanted to see me, he'd do something about it, and after killing time at Printers Row helping my colleagues at the Press re-place books knocked over by sudden gusts, I accepted an invitation from Bunj to come and hang out. He'd been hunkered inside with a possible cold, but felt better when I arrived and took me on a stroll around his neighbourhood, a fast-changing corner of River North.

By the time I got home, I was tired and hungry, but I saw how the unseasonable heat had wilted the grounds and threw myself into watering them. Dinner ended up being some reheated rice and beans on tortillas and before I went to bed, I told myself, "I'll sleep soundly tonight," which I mostly did.

Despite lollygagging the next morning, I would have been spot on time for brunch if not for the behemoth of Midsommerfest acting like a planetary body, curving the paths of CTA busses with its huge centre of gravity. One block away from Vincent, my namesake texted me, "We've made a terrible mistake"; Vincent, as it turns out, only opens at 11 a.m. "Why not Big Jones?" I asked, since it was just around the corner and I knew it was open.

We ended up spending most of our time chatting about alcohols and mixology, so I proposed a visit to the local liquor store afterwards. They disappointed me by not having my preferred apricot liqueur in stock, but we had plenty of time to ogle and chat. He wanted to do a lap of the fair, which was just filling up, before heading home and I accompanied him on the first leg before sprinting off to CAKE.

JB had gotten there nearly an hour earlier and systematically worked his way around the perimeter of the main vendor space. We started on the fleshy heart of the room and were joined by GOP. One of our fellow gamers from Necessarily Evil was wrangling volunteers that day and introduced us to some fresh meat recently transplanted from Boston. But JB and I needed a bite to eat and I pointed out that martinis were half off at the lounge across the street.

Small plate service didn't start until 4 p.m., so we contented ourselves with fries and two "candy manhattans" while GOP opted for a big blue drink. An hour of girl talk, and who should come by but Mr New Meat. He was in the company of a member of the Rogers Park Bear Crowd that I knew well enough to call by name and not draw a look of confusion. He even noticed the absence of my hair so I had to explain why I'd been so scarce the year before.

I convinced them to stay for drinks and, in return, New Meat convinced me to have a third martini (and fourth drink of the day from the julep I'd had at brunch). Everyone else drifted away and it was just the two of us talking about his pending divorce and recent move to Chicago. He's another Missouri boy who's lived most of his life somewhere else; he's also another Far North Side bear working around the corner from my brother.

I ended up so drunk I thought I'd forgotten my phone when I hadn't. Of course, it took walking all the way back from the Addison platform, where I'd seen NM onto a southbound train, to discover this. Again, I'd expected to hear from someone regarding afternoon/evening plans and again I'd heard nothing. This time, though, I still treated myself to dinner out, though there was more watering to be done when I got home.
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Jun. 2nd, 2017 03:27 pm

MDW I

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So while it was a very good Mem Day weekend, it wasn't quite the end of my recent depressive streak as much as an interesting interlude in it. So much happened and I'm not sure what I want to talk about or how.

I did get a lot of sex. Miss Cleveland saw to that. It was his impetus for making the trip. "I could fuck a brick," he told me--and that was afterwards. I don't think I want to be that much of a horndog when I'm his age (I think he's about a decade older?). The really interesting thing is the role reversal between him and BigBones. I used to get the feeling he was the driving force behind their sexcapades and MC was long for the ride, now it's BB telling boys at the baths, "I'm not really here to do anything" while his hubby is sticking his thing wherever it will go.

But I was more focused on bonding. Playing around with Miss Cleveland was fun, but more fun was playing music for him. He's given up cooking as a hobby so I guess he's prowling for new distractions and you can't be getting the D all the time. I couldn't believe it when he asked me if I'd heard of a band called "Oh, I can't remember the name, it's a bunch of letters starting with a 'k'."

"KMFDM?"

"That's it!"

So even though I was coming off three nights of bad sleep, I stayed up to expose him to Einstürzende Neubauten, X, The Beat, Vance Joy, and more. He wants me to make him some playlists. It's like having a friend to exchange mixtapes with again only I'm not limited to the paltry selection of albums I could afford to buy used but I've got the whole banquet of YouTube at my disposal.

The next day I was a real party pooper, staying at home while they went to shop for plants and crawling back into bed the moment they were out the door. In the end, I had to renege on my promise to take Eyefield to the leather mart. I'm not sure if he's forgiven me for that yet. I'm also not sure I care, because if I had, I would have missed out on my most interesting experience of the weekend.

But more on that later.
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May. 25th, 2017 12:00 pm

One down

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The verdict is in on the first of Monshu's birthdays without Monshu this century and it's, "Not as bad as feared". Things looked grim at the start: My plans with Mozhu had fallen through and I couldn't really think of anyone else I wanted to be with. Willing volunteers would have been plentiful, but it's difficult bearing these occasions with someone who doesn't really understand what you're going through--which is nearly everyone. There are all sorts of loss in this world, but losing a spouse isn't quite like any of them. Take the intersection of that with number of people I know who knew Monshu and the pool is tiny indeed.

I'd already decided to comment-whore by posting a picture to FB of an orchid in bloom that Monshu had given me. I've kept it alive ten of the last eighteen years without his help but I'd never gotten it to bloom before. It eventually racked up enough Likes to get Mom to backhandedly say, "I didn't realize you had so many friends."

But in terms of mood, things only began to look up a bit at lunch, when I hitched my wagon to a group of guys at work who have a weekly stammtisch at the Irish pub in town. Two of them have been working here as long as me, and though we're not close, there's a rapport there. One of them joined us late and the second thing (after ordering, natch) he did was turn to me and say, "Happy birthday, by the way." Then we all toasted Monshu and after that began the usual inventory of everything the Library is doing wrong.

But work had to end sometime, and even though I stayed an extra hour to make up for the longer lunch, I eventually had to face the dilemma of having nowhere to go but home. Part of me was still hoping to hear from Turtle or Turtlewife, who have both been mysteriously absent from my life for the past couple months. Instead, I heard from a recent trick who I had a snarky response all planned for for blowing me off but didn't feel up to using.

Fortunately, that was the point at which I decided to stop brooding on my own troubles and think of someone else for a change. Namely, my father, who's in a bad place right now. I'm feeling some guilt for not doing much of anything to help (despite the fact that it's the last thing anyone expects from me right now), especially now that my brother is down there with him. So I texted Bunj and we made plans to chat on the phone later.

With that in mind, I no longer dreaded going home. I figured I'd have just enough time to throw together dinner and putter a bit before he called. I had leftover udon in the fridge so I decided to heat that up (eventually taking the noodles out of the broth to fry them because they were too waterlogged otherwise) and stuff some izarizushi--one of Monshu's favourite dishes, something he asked for whenever I got sushi--for an appetiser.

When we talked, we talked for over an hour. I commiserated with him about Dad--it's sad seeing your own father become one of those irascible old guys who alienates everyone, not to mention a little frightening--and reminded him that he was there as much to reassure Dad's wife (who's in acute rehab) and our sister (on vacation in Florida) as to do anything directly beneficial for Dad himself. But then we got on to other things--his job, my job, my mild depression, travelling. There was a time when I thought we might never have these kinds of chats again, and I really missed them.

Mom called while we were on the phone (almost the precise moment when Bunj called, in fact) and I managed to keep our call brief. She told me she's "trying as hard as I can to be good" so that she won't cause us additional trouble right now, which made me laugh. It was all a good reminder that, when the grief starts to get overwhelming, withdrawing is not the answer.
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muckefuck: (Default)
Even before [profile] monshu's fateful office visit a year, a month, and a week ago my interest in work was flagging. It peaked modestly during our 2015 reorg, which I saw as an opportunity to move into new areas, but the response from my new boss was that she basically wanted me to continue doing the the same job I've always done. I wasn't thrilled but I also knew that, given all the uncertainty about my husband's future, this wasn't the time to make any sudden moves--a conclusion which is short order was 100% validated.

Last year my focus was anywhere but at my desk--a situation that my boss and überboss were completely sympathetic to--so this can got kicked to the end of the year. I quickly stooped to pick it up, thankful for a complete change of pace and a chance to get involved in some group work again. But at the last minute, I drew back and gave it another toe-nudge. At the time, I blamed grief. My domestic worries--the flood, the rats, the fridge, the finances--were becoming overwhelming and it was tough to find brainspace for anything else.

In time, those tides have receded as well, exposing some nice firm beach...that I still have no interest in racing over. Things turned up a bit last month when I was draughted for translation project and started getting excited about development opportunities for me and other staff again. I still didn't feel particularly engaged, but I could see a future where I would be.

And now this. Yesterday, after a stimulating workshop, I dallied with a couple colleagues and learned in short order that:
  1. a recent hire I was reasonably fond of had been let go two weeks ago without so much as an acknowledgment
  2. the only remaining representative body for professional staff had been killed
  3. a complete reorganisation of one of our major public service programmes had been carried out in secret by the upper administration.
In conversations with other colleagues today, I learned that however bad something looks at first glance here, upon closer examination, it's worse. Not even those collaborating with the firee on specific projects had been told; one spent a week working on a presentation before getting the news from a back channel. And admin had actually convened a task force on the public service programme which spent a year-and-a-half assembling a report, all of whose major findings were ignored in the reorg.

In other word, SSDD. The whole two-year initiative to "change the way we do business" was the giant farce we all feared it was and the new hires (including my überboss) who we considered on board are just as head-in-ass as the old guard. Communication has gotten worse and some of our most reliable workhorses and best advocates for outreach and collaboration are eying the exits.

Which I guess I should be doing, too, but that toxic inertia which has seeped into the rest of my life is still very much in my veins whenever I walk in these doors. I have stability and security here and a lot on my plate for the coming year. (Tomorrow's condo meeting is reminder enough of that.) So yeah, there has to be a reckoning, but does it have to be now? Not if I put my head down and my hands over my ears, no, no there doesn't.
muckefuck: (Default)
So here's a little test post to see if my DW entries are appearing on LJ. If you see it, why not wave?

I'm finding the old journaling habit hard to kick. All last week I was mulling over an entry on the current state of spring (which is excellent). Then last weekend I took Nuphy out for his birthday and ended up having a sexual adventure, so I thought about blogging about one or both of those. Perhaps I will.
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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)
My favourite story from Saturday's memorial stems from a chance encounter. I can't remember what I'd left the party room to check on, but it was early and the adjoining dining room was mostly empty. One chunky bear type was loitering there, leaning against a wall. I must have looked puzzled when he greeted me because he immediately identified himself as a friend's boyfriend.

"It's great to finally meet you," I replied.

"Actually you've met me before a couple times."

I scrutinised him further.

"At Touché."

My eyes widened. "Wait, are you Helicopter Balls?"

To say he looked chagrinned at that would be an understatement. But let's back up a couple of years.

Bear Night at Touché. There's a cute guy lingering in the hallway. I've tried catching his eye a couple times already, without much luck. But he's wearing a FREE HUGS t-shirt so finally I screw up my courage and ask him, "Is that a genuine offer?"

"Yes it is."

We hug, but it's a little awkward. I can tell from chatting that he's not really interested--he keeps glancing at the men passing by. So I find an excuse to slink away again. I don't remember running into him again that evening.

Another Bear Night at Touché, maybe late in 2015. I run into him in the same hallway. He's not wearing the t-shirt and I make no references to our previous encountre. He's warmer this time and we actually chat. Eventually Big Tim joins us. Free Hugs asks him if they've tricked before. BT considers it a possibility but he isn't sure. FH, however, gets more and more convinced they have. When BT goes, he professes disappointment that their one-night stand wasn't more memorable.

It's during this conversation that I learn about his special talent. He claims to have a scrotum so dangly that it can be twisted around several times and then let spin "like a helicopter". Naturally, I demanded proof and the conversation turned a little flirty. But nothing came of it. At one point, I got the notion that he wanted me to follow him to the backroom, but when I arrived, he was chatting up two other guys and barely took notice of me. You know, the usual. So I went back to the front room to see if anyone I knew was still around.

He left shortly after, but stopped on the way to say goodnight. He said he only got out about once a year and after telling him I'd remember him as "Helicopter Balls", I asked him his real name and made a point of committing it to memory. I figured the next time I saw him, I'd embarrass him with the nickname before revealing that I remembered more about him than just what he could do with his genitals.

But I never saw him again after that. True, I wasn't as faithful an attendee at Bear Night, but I made it more often than not. In all likelihood he wasn't there since he and my friend began dating almost a year ago to the day. So instead of playing out in the corridor at a leather bar, the scene I'd rehearsed was staged in the early afternoon at an Italian restaurant.

I was so amused, I covered my mouth to stifle laughter and spun around. He said, "I guess you did call me that." And then I added insult to injury by adding, "You look different in the light."

Shortly after the buffet was opened, he and his other half took their leave. (They told me they had to work, but I later saw photos of them having lunch with Scruffy at a restaurant in Wrigleyville.) They extended invitations to come visit them in Indiana detailed enough to sound sincere. And just before he left, FH/HB asked him how long I'd been together with [livejournal.com profile] monshu.

"Nineteen years," I said.

"Any advice for keeping a relationship going?"

My response amounted to, "Don't sweat the small stuff." I gave the example of loading the dishwasher and of hiring cleaning women to stave off arguments about chores. "That was $200 a month well spent," I told them. Will they make it that long? I can only wish them the best.
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Mar. 20th, 2017 10:01 pm

Memorable

muckefuck: (zhongkui)
"You seem like a whole different person," one of my dearest coworkers told me today. The anxiety of preparing for the memorial was getting to be so much that even the barber noticed it. "Don't worry," he kept telling me. Of course, it was my first professional haircut in just shy of thirty years so I probably would've radiated some nervousness in any case.

But everything went well--despite the screwups in timing. One was my fault: I didn't prepare enough the night before so when [livejournal.com profile] bunj arrived to take me over we had to first pack everything up. The consequences of this were, one, that I didn't get to leisurely greet the guests (which was disappointing because several of them had to leave early) and, two, that I had a few too many cooks helping me setup. The other screwup was on the part of the event coordinator, who told the kitchen to have the food ready at 2 p.m. when I'd asked for it at 1:30. Again, no real harm done: they humped and had almost everything out by about quarter to.

My speech went over even better than expected. It still felt rambly to me, but no one else seemed to notice. I thought the two mutual friends who followed up were terrific, each in his own way. The real measure of our success was the chatter afterwards. Several times I took a moment from working the tables to gaze out on the room and enjoy the sight of friends connecting and reconnecting. It feels presumptuous to say--as some did--that [livejournal.com profile] monshu would've been proud, but he would have enjoyed being there.

I felt most in tune with him when I woke up about four a.m. and couldn't fall back to sleep. I'd been so low-energy I hardly made it through OGI's birthday party afterwards and I got to bed at a reasonable hour, but I lay there savouring the pleasure of a successful event so thoroughly that I even began planning the next one (I'm 50 in three years, after all) and it reminded me of the Old Man getting his second wind after an evening entertaining friends. He did so take pleasure in that.
Mar. 16th, 2017 04:53 pm

97 days

muckefuck: (zhongkui)
Two days until the memorial service and things are falling into place, I guess. I picked up a serviceable guest book at the local bookstore before checking on the souvenirs, which are looking terrific. One of my coworkers has been super generous with his time and his design skills. (He may also be a little sweet on me, but I'm doing my best not to take advantage of that.) This evening I pick up the dry cleaning, eat some leftovers, and then sit down to wrestle with the scanner. Instead of a projector and screen, I'm going to have a couple electronic frames. [livejournal.com profile] lhn made a special trip up last weekend just to help me figure them out.

I've practiced my speech once and it came together well enough that I don't want to risk overdoing it. I think I just need to practice reading the texts I'm quoting aloud and then tighten up my remarks in accordance with GT's advice. He'll be speaking as well, which is great because his good vibe is always infectious. I'm over being bummed that no one from [livejournal.com profile] monshu's early days will be there, nor have they sent any contributions. I'd considered having a separate ceremony out in the Bay Area anyway and maybe I still will. Or fuckit, they're on their own when it comes to memorialising him.
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