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Unbalanced [Feb. 20., 2017|03:05 pm]

Two things lately have disturbed my nascent equilibrium. The first is the death of the husband of an acquaintance in the bear/leather community. We were mostly Fakebook friends, though we did run into each other at Touché occasionally. It was on FB that he posted about rushing his husband to the same hospital where monshu had known client cachet and I even briefly considered meeting him there. Instead, I took a nap and awoke to a tearful video of him explaining that they were unable to revive him. Two days later, they held his memorial at the Leather Archives and Museum, which I attended. I can safely say that it was unlike any other I've been to.

The same day he died, aadroma inducted his widower and me into the online support group he's been a part of for a while now. (It's almost three years since nytemarewulf went and died on him.) At first, I was feeling I didn't have much in common with the other members, most of whom lost their partners suddenly and are having trouble letting go. monshu's illness gave me plenty of time to get used to the idea of being without him, though--as I told my newly-widowed pal--nothing like death to point up the difference between notional and experiential knowledge. But if so, I found myself getting sniffly almost daily.

I'm willing to blame that mostly on having to plan monshu's memorial service. I guess that's why you do these things, because it makes the tragedy concrete in a way other chats and conversations don't. Given how much I hate event planning, I've been less anxious about the whole thing then I feared. But I'm still losing sleep, even with no fewer than three professional event planners volunteering their time and advice. Diego even came to the restaurant with me to chat with the staff and scope it out, and his approval did a lot to calm me.

The one consolation is that I don't have to do this on a tight budget. monshu left more than enough to cover all his funeral expenses. I could even do something much more grandiose if I wanted (I briefly considered hiring a boat big enough to host the whole affair), but that wasn't his style. Better to keep it modest and have more left to donate to good causes (like the organisation we adopted our cat from). What it does mean, though, that if snags appear, I can throw money to cover them, and that's a huge load off my mind.
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Singled out [Feb. 15., 2017|05:03 pm]

At lunchtime today, I was musing on what it means for me to identify as "single" again. For me, it's not tightly linked with living alone, since I haven't been single since 1993 but I've spent less than half that time cohabiting (depending how you reckon last year). It also doesn't correlate for me with being "unmarried" since I was only ever married for a little over two years. (In fact, Nuphy spent more of our time in a relationship together married to someone else than monshu did married to me.) I also don't associate it with non-monogamy, since none of my relationships have been sexually exclusive. (Technically, my relationship with monshu was closed for about half its duration, but de facto we still played around together and apart.)

In my mind, when I think "single", I think "actively looking for a relationship", which is interesting because most of my single friends aren't. By that definition, I'm still not "single". I'm "widowed", i.e. "not ready yet". This is someplace I've never been before, not since first acknowledging I was gay at 17, and I've yet to determine what it means. For the foreseeable, I'm still living alone in the place I bought and furnished together with my husband. I haven't rearranged anything; his stuff is still everywhere. So it may well take getting my own place again for me to really feel "single". His name is still on the accounts, which are all my responsibility. I still get calls for him, some of which are really calls for me. (I have an appointment now with "his" TIAA advisor, since his assets are now my assets.)

I sometimes find myself talking about "his" things before stopping and reminding myself that, legally, nothing is his any more, since non-persons can't own anything. Regardless how we acquired anything, it's mine. My art, my website, my clothes, etc. What I hear when I say that "his" stuff is now "mine" is that it is now my responsibility. Wherever it ends up--discarded, sold on eBay, given to friends, etc.--that will be because of some decision I made (even if that decision is telling someone else to sort through it for me). Nothing will take care of itself.

That's really what "being single" means: having to take care of everything yourself.
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Single Person Awareness Day [Feb. 14., 2017|02:59 pm]

This is my first Valentine's Day in a long long while without monshu and I'm trying to figure out if I give a shit.

I mean, of course I miss not having him here. But we were sort of deliberately unromantic about Valentine's Day. Early on, we probably got each other chocolates and what-not, but those were the days when we'd do that kind of thing spontaneously anyhow. After a while, we figured out all we really wanted was to go out to a nice restaurant that wasn't too crowded. Last year it was La Reina del Sur. Two years before that[*], it was Massouleh.

So I'm kinda on the fence about what to do today. Staying home alone I might become maudlin, but going out alone would be worse and going out with a friend would feel odd. A friend from the gaming group said he'd host something, but he's busy until 8 and I don't know that anyone else is planning on coming, making it odd again. So right now I'm leaning toward staying home, eating leftovers, and watching a movie.

If I end up miserable, then I guess I've learned what not to do next year.

[*] The less said about Valentine's the intervening year, the better.
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Carmamacita [Feb. 13., 2017|02:48 pm]
I don't know much about Lawrence A. Johnson except thay he saved me a tonne of time in writing my review of Lyric's Carmen:http://chicagoclassicalreview.com/2017/02/inept-direction-miscast-mezzo-plunge-a-knife-into-lyric-operas-lightweight-carmen/. Our only significant point of disagreement seems to be Calleja, who sounded a lot less like goat this time around, but ever since Nuphy made that comparison I can't unhear it. Plus I think it's mostly by default that he ends up being the best actor onstage, but maybe I just haven't seen him in enough stuff yet. (I skipped Roméo et Juliette last year because (a) shit was happening and (b) I'm already at great enough risk for diabetes as it is.)

Nuphy called it the worst Carmen he's ever seen, which makes it my worst, too, since I haven't seen one he hasn't. And we weren't alone. Walking to the el, I ended up alongside a woman who exploded, "Excuse me, but where was the sex?" Nuphy called Gubanova's Carmen "motherly", and I can hardly think of a more damning adjective to use. The contrast between her and Micaëla, which should be night and day, barely registers. And I don't know why Ashford included that slap at the end of Act 2 unless he somehow thought that an early 19th-century work just didn't include enough violence against women? Maybe it was an attempt to build sympathy for her, but it just further neuters an already weak characterisation.

The one good thing about it was the dancing, particularly the number at the start of Act 3. But the director loves his choreography so much he kept sticking it where it didn't belong. I think Johnson's right: he doesn't understand the dramatic arc at all so he can't tell when he's distracting from it (which was basically always). The one place I felt his minotaur ballerino would've worked (when Escamillo recaps his victory) is the one place he didn't use him. Any niggling suspicion I might've had that Ashford isn't a complete hack was banished by the interview with him in the back of the programme. He explains that he decided to set the opera during the Spanish Civil War (because apparently that is his only cultural reference point for anything having to do with Spain) and took his inspiration from Guernica because there was a bull in it. I didn't get that in the staging at all; if he hadn't told us outright, I'd have no idea.

I'm glad we have one more opera in the season because it would have been a real bummer to end it on this one. Over dinner at Pata Negra (which was excellent and not nearly so expensive because we'd learned our lesson and didn't overorder), Nuphy broke the news that he wants to upgrade to premium seats. I was so unimpressed with next season that I was questioning whether I wanted to renew at all and that cinched it. I'll get the occasional single ticket so I can join him (definitely Walküre, maybe Puritani) but after more than 20 years of subscribing I've reached a real point of diminishing returns.

I'm sad about losing a fixed rendezvous, since I'm terrible at planning and won't see as much of Nuphy if each time requires an effort. On the other hand, I've been mumbling for years about diversifying my cultural consumption. I basically never see films any more and I can't remember the last time I caught a live theatre performance, which is a real crime when you live in Chicago. So if there's something you think is worth seeing, hit me up.
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Semper mortuus [Feb. 3., 2017|12:14 pm]
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In my dreams, monshu is always dead. Or I should say "has died". A couple weeks ago, I dreamt that I found him sitting up in a corner of the kitchen, frail and wrapped in a blanket, and I wondered how to break it to him that he couldn't keep on using that body since we'd cremated it. Last night was more positive: he had the robust physique of the days before the NET. It occurred to me while coming downstairs to find him lying supine on a cot or window seat on the landing of the grand staircase where he'd slept the previous night, that he could have died again after coming back to life, so I was joyful to find him alive and kicking. I had a question about what had been going through his mind during the last moments before he died that I was anxious to ask, but I discovered the timing was inopportune: he'd just finished wanking. Maybe there was an exception last week, when I dreamt we were making a return visit to a skerry in Scotland. I don't remember being particularly conscious of him being restored to life then, but I woke up with the notion in my head of saving a handful of his ashes to toss into Kilbrannan Sound.
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Needs of the day [Jan. 24., 2017|05:06 pm]

With all my idle time, I should be able to get much more reading done than I have. I know I was reading them concurrently, but somehow I feel it shouldn't have taken me five weeks to finish a brief Laxness novel and a month for Chabon's Yiddish Policemen's Union. Both were enjoyable enough, and I think some particularly fun bits might stick with me for a while, but neither bowled me over.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is that was depression feels like?

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

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

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

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

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

[*] If you've never met me in person: I hadn't had a proper haircut since 1987, only trims.
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The long haul [Jan. 17., 2017|05:15 pm]

This weekend was not as successful as the one before. It would've been helpful if I'd had more advanced warning that we'd be off Monday. Then I might've been able to put together plans to leave town for the weekend. (I have invitations to come crash any number of places right now.) There were several people I'd considered getting in touch with, but I put off arrangements and in the end didn't make any. Saturday was basically a wasted day of sitting around playing solitaire and making only desultory attempts at dealing with household. Sunday was more successful in this regard.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I went out over the weekend. It was fine.

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

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

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

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

The next day, I met up with Diego for the beer bust at Big Chicks. This was something I didn't even do when I lived in the hood. (Sunday afternoon always meant dinner with monshu--generally at my place, so I'd be busy with preparations.) I ran into my buddy from the night before plus Coleman and some other regulars. All very pleasant and affirming (everyone likes the new do, apparently) and I'm entertaining making it part of my regular routine.
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