Last Veteran’s Day, which was 11-11-11 by the way, Theo’s Cub Scout pack went up to Sunset View Cemetery in El Cerrito to place flags on the graves of veterans. It was not long before I came across this interesting tombstone. I never expect to come across any Greeks out this far west this early in the 20th century. I don’t know why, I just don’t. I figure that, like my father, they get stuck on the east coast. I wonder how old this fellow was when he died.
My poor old ’99 Impreza hadn’t had any TLC for thousands and thousands of miles. It was starting to complain to me. It whined when I cranked the wheel to pull away from the curb. It slammed its wipers into the hood with every wipe. It stubbornly plodded when I tried to spur it on.
So, on a drizzly bay morning before work last week, I dropped it off for servicing in west Berkeley. Unfortunately, my bike doesn’t quite fit in the little guy, so after running down the list of complaints to the service manager, I left on foot. I missed the Ashby Ave bus by seconds. Off I went on my damp, 2.5-mile walking commute through Berklandville. While I was hurrying to get to work, I decided to make the most of it and stop to shoot when necessary. Like when I came across these guys, slowly disintegrating in the urban wilderness of the East Bay. At least I got my Subaru feeling better before it came to a similar fate.
Theo has a video project to interview somebody doing something, and to shoot each step of the process. He decided to interview me about taking photographs. This is a picture we took across the street to illustrate the process. It sort of reminds of a cow for some reason. Maybe I’ll post the video later, when he’s all done with it.
My mother turned 93 or so, Monday, or so. We’re not really sure about any of it, but that’s what her US passport says. Of course, I had to work yesterday, so I brought her to my house on Sunday. We didn’t really do anything special to celebrate per se. We just hung out for a while in the late morning, had some vasilopita (Greek new year’s bread) and Greek coffee. We talked about the same things over and over; I told her it was her birthday and how old she is, how old I am. I tried to clarify again how long I’ve been married, how old her grandson is, and so on. Then, after a while, the familiar cadence of alertness and fatigue progressed and she was ready to go home to the facility.
There was never much emphasis on anyone’s birthday in my family. I suppose this is because Greeks celebrate name days more so than birthdays, but in America that seemed only to happen as a brief mention during or after church. Consequently, I never had a real sense of either of my parents as celebrated or as celebratory. They just plugged away, day after day. (I, of course, had birthday parties, but they were typically muted affairs. Three or four friends would come over for cake and we’d run around in the back yard for a couple of hours.) Once I was older, I tried to celebrate both of my parents birthdays. I wanted to show my love for them, but in my American grown-up way. Neither ever seemed very comfortable with it. Maybe it was because they were already quite old and didn’t really want to be reminded, I don’t know.
Anyway, she seemed pretty sturdy and in good shape, all things considered–especially in the flannel shirt. I’d never seen it before, so I suspect it was a holiday gift to one of the other residents. They don’t seem to worry much about whose article of clothing is whose at her place. The glasses aren’t hers either. That’s probably just as well; hers have the thickest lenses I’ve ever seen and resulted from, I think, communication problems and confusion at her last eye exam a couple of years ago. She can’t tell how far away anything, like the next step or the handrail, is when she wears them.
But she did pretty good on this day.
So, happy birthday, ma. Here’s to another year.
(click to view large)
I was half-way to work on my bike the other morning when my cell phone rang. It is unusual for me to get calls at that time. Occasionally, Sarah might call to say that Theo was too sick to go to school. But I had dropped Theo off at camp myself, so it was not likely to be her. In fact, it was the director at Shady Lane, my mother’s board and care facility. Usually, when they call me, I know it is not going to be good news.It wasn’t this time either. Effie woke up with a new mysterious pain and swelling in her left shoulder. She needs go to the emergency room and get some x-rays.
I turned the bike around and headed home. First, I called my boss and had some files uploaded to an ftp server so I could slave a little during the interminable emergency wait. Then I called Kaiser to see if it was possible to get an urgent care appointment. After some two-fisted phoning with the advice nurse on the land-line, and the facility director on the cell, we got an urgent care appointment with her regular doctor. I downloaded the files onto the laptop, got myself together and headed to Shady Lane to get mom.
At the appointment, her doctor sent us straight to radiology for x-rays. It seemed to be a slow morning and so we didn’t have to wait long at radiology. The tech was in his 50′s and sort of animated in a, for want of a better term, New Yorker kind of way. He took a picture. He commented, “yeah, fractured humerus. Nah, they won’t do surgery for that. Don’t quote me.” He seemed knowledgable and competent. Then the fun began.
He wanted to get some more shots from other angles, of course. He went over to her and sort of barked, “She just needs to relax and let me move her. People make it a bigger move than it needs to be.” She was perched on a stool in front of the imaging screen. He grabbed the stool and sort of twisted it a couple inches. She, taken by surprise, yelled out. She’s short, feet barely touch the ground, and on her third set of hips. And she’s sitting there with a broken upper arm. She doesn’t like to have her stability taken away like that. I tried to calm her.
The tech repeated the stuff about staying calm and not making a bigger thing out of it, sort of getting louder in the process. I was sort irked but keeping my deferential attitude. I tried to help move her, but he waived me off. After some wrangling, he got her repositioned where he wanted and took another shot.
Then he moved her again in the same sudden way, and again she yelled out, “Ohh!” I tried to calm her down. Meanwhile the tech started his spiel again about how “people make this a big thing and it isn’t. Just get her to relax and hold still where I put her.” I tried to suggest I could help move her. I also had a sense that we should stand her up, let her shuffle once and sit back down. The tech practically shouted, “No, I don’t need that much. I just need an inch. Tell her to relax!” I reassured her, although I myself was feeling confused and disoriented. This guy’s manner was like nothing I’d ever experienced in a hospital. The more he told us to relax, the more worked up he got himself. It was bizarre and a bit frightening. I think he managed to get another shot.
He wanted to reposition her again, and again he sort of yelled about staying calm and twisted the stool. She yelled and moved the other way. I said, “Maybe I can move her. ” He said, “Well, if you were a radiologist, maybe you could. But you’re not. This is incredibly complex bone structure.” Then he said, “Fine, you stay in here with her,” and he grabbed a big lead apron and actually put it on me. I stood there, I’m sure, with my mouth agape. Then he said something else, but I don’t know what. Once he said it, I nearly blacked out with rage. The next thing I heard was someone shouting, “NOW YOU ARE FUCKING PISSING ME OFF, MOTHER FUCKER!” and realized the voice was mine as I took the lead apron and threw it on the ground in front of him.
He took a step back, “ok, ok, let’s just hold on a minute, let’s have the supervisor help.” He turned and pivoted out of the lab and down the hall. Unfortunately, the supervisor was not around at the moment. It gave me time to calm down. So, he came back and we agreed to start over. Not saying much, we got my mom positioned and he took a final shot.
As we left the lab he came up and in the same slightly manic way, sort of apologized and shook my hand and almost tried to hug me. I felt bad about losing my temper, but I wasn’t in a kiss-and-make-up mood. We wheeled our way way back down to the doctor’s office to find out what the prognosis would be.
I had a meeting to attend tonight, which led to two other things.
The first thing is that I parked in front of a bizarre storefront. Years from now, people won’t believe that it was once chic to glue rocks to your walls and spray paint them bright colors, so I wanted to make sure I documented it.
The second thing that happened is that after the meeting I walked by Phil’s fabrication shop down on San Pablo at the old transmission shop. I saw him through the window and knocked to simply say “hi”. Instead, he invited me in and we had a great conversation for a big long time. Again.
It’s genuinely inspiring to get to talk to such creative people and see their wonderful work. Again, we threw some ideas around and talked about cool stuff to try and do! Clearly, I must find a way to be more productive. Staying up late at night to work on personal projects after working at a job all day, parenting, and meeting other obligations, is resulting mostly in sleep deprivation and not a lot of quality work on any front. But I’m determined to figure out a way…
As I passed, a jangling of neurons: something strangely familiar. I stopped. A minaret against the sky. Ironic perhaps, in these xenophobic times. Awaiting the crescent moon and the north star, just the same.
The upside is that when I left work this evening the light was reasonably nice and I decided to shoot a couple cars that are often parked nearby, such as this stylish hearse. Once I get settled a bit more and start making some progress at work, I’ll be ready to start exploring the neighborhood with camera.
And just for the heck of it, I’m going to create this post from within flickr’s share tool. I used to use it and didn’t like it that much, but it looks like maybe it has changed over the last couple years–which is like 14 in web years. So, maybe it will display properly.
And then, i’m going to review some regex concepts. And then I’m going to install Tiki Wiki on my laptop to see if it will work well at work as an in-house wiki, and then… I’m going to… get… my few hours… sleep… … before …. zzzzzzz
For me, doing taxes is like one of those little puzzles where you have to slide the numbered tiles around. It’s pretty much a 15-hour task every time. I start at one little corner and something sets me off looking for a statement or receipt. And then I discover some other items that need doing, filing, entering, shredding or ignoring into a special pile for later. And so on. Until the room looks like a puzzle of piles of paper. That’s when I start staring off into space, dreaming about having a goat farm in northern Sonoma, making cheese, maybe some olive trees, and some quince…
So it’s no wonder I haven’t been posting much, or getting much of anything else done. As previously reported, the highly sophisticated procrastination involved in all this takes huge amounts of mental energy. The good news is that I actually managed to complete and file the goddamn taxes tonight. Not only that, we’re getting money back. The bad news is that I still have my mom’s taxes to do. And that won’t be easy without the the SSA 1099. I wonder if I’ll be able to get anyone on the phone at the Social Security office tomorrow… or what the price of land around Guerneville is these days…