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Hazy [Nov. 25., 2014|10:27 pm]

As I told my sister per e-mail, I may be living in Cloudcuckooland right now, but it's better than living under the dark cloud that descended on me days ago. I walked into the hospital today steeled for some very bad news. They ran tests, they still don't know exactly what it is. This is bad, because they can't treat what they don't understand. But it gives me hope that maybe things aren't as bleak as they seemed before.

The good news is that the Old Man is in great spirits and no pain. He's tired out from the procedures and in some discomfort as a result of one of them, but otherwise you'd never suspect anything was wrong. Emotionally, he's been taking care of me this past week and not the other way around. Which, of course, paradoxically makes the prospect of losing him that much worse. But I've already had a couple moments where I asked myself, WWMD? and did it and it worked, so there may be hope for my future yet.

Today I was flooded with positive attention in a way I haven't been in ages. I can't remember the last time I spoke to all three of my siblings on the same day without being in the physical presence of at least two of them. Crucially, we spent as much time on their good news or matters which concerned us both (such as how we're going to pull off Christmas this year) as on my woes. I'm a little afraid to go to sleep, actually, because I'm worried the dark clouds will reemerge to wash away this delightful haze.
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Festina lente [Nov. 24., 2014|09:25 pm]

Today was another ponderous day of waiting. monshu called the hospital early to see if they could fit him in today. They said they'd get back to us. After an hour of waiting, we called the doctor's office. They told us they'd get back to us in an hour, hour-and-a-half. After two hours of sitting in the front room, incapable of reading, only able to dose lightly, we called back and were told they'd found a slot for us at 11 a.m. on Tuesday. Hopefully they'll take us then, not two hours later as happened the last time. The doctor has already told us he's leaving town that evening. But regardless what he tells us, I don't see how we can start any treatment before next week at the earliest, and we've lost so much time already.

After confirming the appointment, I decided to eat something immediately and try to sleep more in the afternoon, which proved disastrous. I slept soundly, but I awoke with terrible reflux. The one mercy of being up most of the night before was that at least my upper GI tract was behaving for once. But even that was barely noticeable next to the dread which was pressing down on me. He suggested some things to distract me, like listening to Max Raabe, which helped. I tried to buy some gifts online for family members but got easily overwhelmed. As I told him, my mind flits between dealing with things minute-by-minute and thinking in spans of years. I just can't cope with planning even a week ahead when I don't know what the next day will bring.
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Scenes from a marriage (1) [Nov. 23., 2014|10:29 pm]
I don't know if I'm so fastidious about preparing my garments for the wash because that's just how I was as a child and I never outgrew it or if it was pounded into my head by my beleaguered mother, stuck with the lion's share of the housekeeping despite being the chief breadwinner. I zip zippers. I turned printed t-shirts inside-out. I turn out pockets (and when I forget to, I often regret it). monshu, as far as I can tell, learned to do none of these things. I suppose for the first half of his life no one demanded it, and after that, he was always doing his own laundry, so what did he care at what stage any of this happened? His clothes hit the hamper exactly as they left his body.

With the division of labour we have now, he does the finances and I wash the clothes. It's a pretty fair deal, but at 9 p.m. on a Sunday when I've already had to do the washing up after dinner and I'm waiting on the last of the clothes to dry so I can pull them out and put them away, it doesn't feel that way. At those moments, when confronted with a shirt turned half inside out with the sleeve bunched up, I have three basic options:
  1. Aggressive: Confront him; tell him how I want him to fix his clothes before they come to me.
  2. Passive: Ignore it; just do the job and put everything to rights myself.
  3. Passive-aggressive: Do neither; fold everything exactly at it comes to me.
Naturally, I've been practicing option #3 for some time now. I don't know how long exactly. I made the decision in a fit of pique and I've recommited myself every week thereafter.

Naturally, the Old Man said nothing. Until Saturday, as I was helping him get dressed to leave the hospital. Forgetting for a moment my mute vow, I pulled a turtleneck from his bag and remarked,"This is inside out."

"That's the way you do them all nowadays," he replied phlegmatically.
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Day 2: Paging Dr Godot [Nov. 22., 2014|09:38 pm]
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We're home. I've known since roughly 7:30 this morning we would be: When I returned to the room, monshu was eating breakfast. But, as is the way of hospitals, it was another two-and-a-half hours before this was semi-officially confirmed and another four after that before we were actually in the lobby with our bags. Serendipitously, Turtle Wife texted just as I was giving up on getting an answer from Flash Cab, asking if there was anything at all she could do for us. She readily agreed to come pick us up. Odd as it sounds, it was a way of paying her back after sending what must've been an upsetting e-mail the day before detailing how we arrived at this point.

All monshu wanted to do once we were home was smoke a cigarette and crawl into bed, which he did. I nearly fell asleep myself but pushed through in hopes of resetting my sleep schedule. The cat joined us as well and I thrilled to the normality of it all. But I felt a responsibility to put at ease all the minds I'd disquieted with my phonecalls and texts over Thursday and Friday and crept away to update friends and family. Later, I put together the dinner which the GWO had planned for Friday night and managed not to ruin it (burning my hand once and asking for further instructions less than half a dozen times).

Monday we go back. There's no intention to keep us overnight, but once we finally get a diagnosis, all bets are off. We're still depending on Thanksgiving coming off as planned even if it means I have to do all the actual cooking and are scaling down accordingly. After that, who knows? As I told him, depending on the timing of things, this could end up being the first Christmas we spend together in seventeen years.
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Day 1: Staying out of trouble [Nov. 21., 2014|10:05 pm]
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So apparently the one fashion accessory I'm in most pressing need of at the moment is a t-shirt with portraits of me and monshu and the legend "HE'S MY SPOUSE". Two or three different nurses asked me, "Are you his son?" and one doctor introduced me as the patient's "significant other". Oh, and pretty much the first order of business was to get my information moved up from the "Other Relation" category to the "Spouse" category. (The nurse I asked to take care of this went on to ask him if he had granted anyone medical power of attorney WHEN I WAS STANDING RIGHT THERE.)

Heteronormative gaffes aside, the staff has really been super. The same doctor who was fuzzy on our relationship took his time explaining everything and thoroughly answering all my questions. The nurses and techs have been great and the receptionist was a fucking hero. There's a phone on the front desk for calling cabs with a sign that shouts "THREE MINUTE MAXIMUM -- NO PERSONAL CALLS." And all during the time she was checking us in, this pushy woman kept demanding to use it, finally reaching over and lifting the receiver. The receptionist instructed her clearly and calmly to desist immediately and then followed up by calling security. When they arrived, Nasty Woman accused me of trying to take a swing at her or something but they would have none of it. After finally being allowed to make her (obviously personal and overlong) call, she stood glaring at me across the room and I half expected some summoned goon to burst through the door and have a go at me.

We'd barely settled into the room when some heavily-accented man called and demanded to know why woman who is in hospital is not given food! He didn't seem to understand the concept of "wrong number" (or have the cultural expectation that if someone at a hospital answers the phone without immediately identifying themselves and their department, then they probably aren't going to be able to help you with your issue). After that, the assaults from the outside world ceased and it was only the numbing routine of waiting uncomfortably for the staff to get their act together. First a procedure was scheduled for noon. Then 12:30. Then it was 1:30 and they were talking of switching the order. Then a doctor came and told us, no, the new new plan was the same as the old plan. Then another doctor came, obviously still thinking the new plan was the plan--or, rather, that it was the old plan already half-executed.

Having been through this time and again with Nuphy, my father, and various others, I expected it and told the Old Man to expect it, too. He was still very put out, as you'd expect someone who hadn't had solid food in over 24 hours to be. I harvested suggestions on Facebook ahead of time so at least I was able to offer the succour of lipbalm and extra blankets. But I still left him in a miserable state. Rationally, I know that I wouldn't sleep for shit on a hospital cot and it makes much more sense for me to come home, rest up, take care of the cat, and get back early in the a.m. clear-headed and presentable. Emotionally, I felt like I was abandoning him. Funny how a hospital gown and an IV can make even a big mature man look small and vulnerable.
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Un peu de trop [Nov. 19., 2014|10:20 pm]

This morning I malingered, which paid off unexpectedly when our furnace guy (looking more groomed but dressing worse) became unexpectedly chatty after tuning up the old beast and shared his recommendations for restaurants in his neighbourhood. Mythos and Spacca Napoli are now on our list of places to try, and in return perhaps he'll pay Masouleh a visit. In any case, I didn't feel too bad since I not only stayed a full day on Monday despite feeling progressively crappier through the afternoon, I put in an extra hour in order to help out at the annual GeoPuzzle Challenge. (Nothing quite like seeing excitable undergraduates struggle to piece all them big square states together while the clock ticks away.)

Taking the day off yesterday gave me a chance to finish Edmund White's The married man, which I have unexpectedly complex feelings about. On the one hand it's what a think of as a typical Gay Novel. (It could hardly be otherwise having been written by the man who pretty much invented the subgenre.) The protagonist is a privileged neurotic twat with obscenely wealthy friends who's prone to bilingual asides designed to show how au courant he is with la bonne vie. His lovers are petulant man-children too beautiful for this world and too spoiled to live without sponging.

And yet. There's great tenderness in the relationships between these men, all deranged to various degrees by rejection and fear. There's also tragedy in the arc of the protagonist's great love, who only discovers the satisfaction of hard work when he death becomes imminent. (The novel takes place during the height of AIDS epidemic, and all three main characters are seropositive.) But White also hints at an underlying calculation to his actions, to the point where I wouldn't be surprised to find he knew he'd found someone he could guilt into becoming his final caregiver. So there's some complexity underneath all the gilt and mother-of-pearl. White's a terrific stylist and I can't fault his plotting given that I read the whole thing in less than five days, which is unusual for me. Even so, one of these a year is probably more than enough, so I don't expect to be cracking Hotel de Dream in the near future.

For my next English-language read (I'm still mired in the Labro on one hand and the Stifter on the other), I was torn between Vikram Seth's An equal music and Julien Green's Midnight, so I'm reading both. monshu suggested I read something I've had for a long time, and the Green fits the bill. But I bought it before I was reading novels in French and I hate the thought of reading something in translation when I can avoid it. Still, not like I can't reread it in French if it seems worth it; so far, it doesn't. The GWO says his trick was to import Southern Gothic to the Continent, but so far the grotesquerie reminds me more of the Russians.

Seth, on the other hand, is refreshingly contemporary and easy progress. It is, however, forcing me to confront my deep-seated lifelong ignorance of music. I don't mean that I don't have some idea who the important composers are or what some of the challenges are of being a classically-trained musician, but it's a notional knowledge and a shallow one at that. All the years of going to the opera with Nuphy and I still can't hear a fraction of what he hears when he listens to a piece

This was brought home to me in a different way Sunday evening when we attended the piano recital of recent acquaintance. I liked his music, but I couldn't really tell you why and I certainly couldn't place him within the Western musical tradition. (I mentioned that it sounded neo-Romantic to me--perhaps because there were tunes--and Diego joked that he calls it "the Orange County school of Romanticism".) I've never had the discipline to train my ear, let alone delve into the formal theory of it all. But neither have White's gay sophisticates, so I guess I'm in good company after all, n'est pas?
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Amo quia absurdum est [Nov. 18., 2014|08:58 pm]
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Ages ago now, Nuphy and I went to see la Gran Scena at the Athenaeum in Lakeview. Vera Galupe-Borszkh, alter ego of the group's founder Ira Siff, was the first person ever to attempt to explain the plot of Il Trovatore to me. "Even eef you understant Trovatore," she warned, "you don't understand Trovatore. Nobody understants Trovatore!" That line got a big laugh, and I love to repeat it, but I acknowledge that it's not actually true. As our seatmate pointed out Saturday evening, the plot does make sense--provided you accept the ludicrous central conceit of a woman so maddened by grief she would cosign the wrong infant to the flames.

More importantly, however ridiculous the plot, the emotions are true and Verdi supports them 100% with his incredibly tuneful score. (I remember at one point in Act 2 thinking that, in many a lesser opera, Azucena's second aria would be a standout. Here it hardly leaves an impression, coming soon after the famous Anvil Chorus and right before Il balen del suo sorriso.) The action also moves along at a good clip, rendering my worries about being able to stay awake after my restless nights a bit silly.

Part of the reason for that is the production, which makes use of a revolving stage in order to expedite the many scene changes. Since this was my second time seeing Edwards' stage scenery, I was less bowled over by it and could focus on the parts I found wanting. For starters, why is it so ugly? The buildings are all Brutalist concrete slabs with minimal ornamentation, the ground is blasted rock and dust, and upstage right is dominated by a forest of charred poles. I kind of liked that, actually, since it recalls the death of Azucena's mother and the pall it casts over the entire proceedings, but even Nuphy was at a loss to explain the huge crucifix in the middle--nor why all the costumes are Regency. (Leftovers from another production? Lyric has to cut corners somewhere, I guess.)

The barrenness of it all also complicates McVicar's job as director. Leonora's first scene with her maid has the two of them running inexplicably around their featureless box--it's hard to add stage business with no props but neither can you let the performers remain static. But the next scene is even odder, with di Luna standing outside a wall which suddenly turns out not to be a wall at all before arranging himself into puzzling configurations with Leonora and Manrico. The men don't do a convincing job of trying to get into a fight, and she does an even less convincing job of trying to separate them.

But all this faded under the brilliance of Verdi's composition as conducted by Asher Fisch and sung by a cast adequate to the challenge. Caruso is supposed to have said that all you need for a successful Trovatore is the four greatest singers in the world. Obviously we didn't have those, but there wasn't a bad voice in the bunch. Sure, the mezzo and the soprano didn't have the sweetest voices I'd ever heard, but when it comes to Azucena, that can be passed off as characterisation, and for our Leonora, I'm just glad she could hit all the notes without getting screechy. Our old standby Silvestrelli sang Ferrando and Ryan Centre alumnus Kelsey was the Count, so there was no risk of being overwhelmed by the orchestra even when it was blasting away. Most impressive, however, was our Manrico, Yonghoon Lee. His acting may be stiff (something which worked better when he played Don Jose four seasons back than it does now), but cuts a striking figure and his voice is impeccable.

It was fortunate that Nuphy had his opera glasses because the chorus was even more toothsome than usual. He'd heard about the beef working the anvils on stage and was not disappointed. I was most impressed by the convent scene (even if it was somewhat incompetently blocked--how is it that only gypsies have flintlocks?). Forming the backdrop to the interior is a chainlink fence several stories high and the supernumeraries hanging off of it hold their poses for the duration of the scene. That's more impressive to me than wielding a big hammer, no matter how shiny you are.
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立冬 [Nov. 17., 2014|12:48 pm]
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It's flurrying again, but I doubt it'll amount to much. We had our first real accumulation of the year on Saturday evening while I was at the opera. It ignored downtown completely. I didn't start seeing signs of accumulation until I was on the North Side (I lucked into catching a 147). Up in our part of Rogers Park, we seem to have gotten about an inch. I was in a contemplative mood, so I got out at Loyola and walked the street down to the Lake and back. Footing was treacherous: it was still warm enough when the snow began falling (monshu told me it started around seven) that it had partially melted and was refreezing. Plus I was wearing my dress shoes, which have some tread, but not much. A shame: there was no wind to speak of and I was warm enough in my cashmere and topcoat to have stayed out much longer.

Perhaps I would've, too, if I'd known how quickly the landscape would change back. The snow lingered on most of the morning and we even though we might see more come as we went to meet Diego and Uncle Betty for lunch. But the early flurries petered out and it warmed up just enough for the dead leaves and dying grass to emerge again. Later, it got nasty. The humidity rose and the wind picked up, so our stroll around the South Loop before the piano recital ended up being something of a bust.

It was late last week that the weather turned, the freezing lows becoming the daytime highs. We actually had a little snow in the night before Friday, but it only collected on areas of bare earth. Coming in this morning, the only remnants I saw of Saturday's fall were on the baseball diamonds in the park at Touhy and the Lake and the rocks between the water and road. Surprisingly, the Bradford pears at the development just before Calvary were just starting to turn, but a hard freeze shrivels even leaves which haven't fallen yet, so they won't be much to look at. Pretty much everything else is stripped to bare branches now. It may get a bit milder later in the week, but winter has arrived and it's not leaving.
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Quiet desperation [Nov. 14., 2014|09:10 pm]
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How many years ago did I buy Stoner--two, three? It was at some point when the Powell's on Lincoln was still in operation. All I knew about the novel then was that it was set in Missouri--at the University of Missouri, as a matter of fact. So I kept meaning to read while on a trip to Missouri. But that never worked out. Nonetheless, it stayed near the top of my to-read pile and was never very far from my consciousness.

So when mentions of it popped up earlier this year, I took notice. The last straw was this map of the "Best Book for Every State". It's absolutely perverse in its amnesiac contrarianness (as I told the friend who posted it, "How can I take seriously a list of American literary greats which doesn't include either Twain or Faulkner?")--plus the inclusion of an entry for New York City separate from New York State is simply trolling--but there had to be some there there. And I wasn't the only person in my circle to notice all the hype. When I needed help interpreting a puzzling line, I turned to my best-read colleague, who admitted to giving in as well and reading it earlier this year. "Why is this fifty year-old book getting so much attention now?" she asked, and I had no answer for her.

One of the blurbs on the back of the Modern Library edition calls it "a perfect novel". I'm not sure what prompted this judgment apart from the way in which it very neatly comprises the arc of one man's life. Other characters appear (and I can't agree with McGahern's forward in which he praises how fully developed each of them is) but the focus remains firmly on the protagonist and everyone else is clearly depicted from his point-of-view. It starts with an unpromisingly modest assessment of this life, but I quickly knew that this wasn't a book I was going to find hard to finish.

In retrospect, I felt the novel was at its best when depicted the disastrous marriage between Stoner, a real son of the soil, and his neurotic bourgeois bride. The tragic collision of two horribly shy people who seize each other with desperation, clueless to how fundamentally unsuited they are to each other, was riveting. So was, for different reasons, the implacable feud which develops between Stoner and the incoming department head. I had to steel myself against reading the book in bed, and I know that at least one night it contributed to my insomnia. Not since Shalimar the Clown, I think, or The true history of the Kelly Gang have I felt such fury while reading nonfiction.

But I'm absolutely mystified how McGahern can term Lomax, Stoner's colleague, "the most complex" of Williams' "brilliant portraits". He's considerably less developed than Stoner's daughter, let alone his wife, and at times seems (like Stoner's oldest friend Finch) creakingly close to being a plot device. I feel like there must've been some mid-century stereotype of the physically disabled that's simply inaccessible to us now. McGahern doesn't even attempt to make such a case for Stoner's "little coed", who reads way too much like the author's attempt to rationalise his own mid-life infidelities. (The breakup conversation where she agrees completely with Stoner's summation of their relationship and absolves him entirely for choosing his work over her is particularly embarrassing.)

In the end, it feels like a story with limited ambitions that fulfills them abundantly; a great small novel. I'm not surprised it held so much resonance for me given the parallels to my own biography (I shudder to think what might've become of my mother if she'd been born a generation or two earlier and hadn't had her career) and its academic setting (what my colleague suspects is the real reason for its current fame). Now we'll see if I can find the same in the work of a gay man of monshu's generation.
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WotD: sty(e) [Nov. 13., 2014|04:10 pm]
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  1. das Gerstenkorn
  2. het strontje, de stijg
  3. el orzuelo, la perrilla (Mex.)
  4. l'urçol
  5. l'orgelet
  6. an sleamhnán
  7. y llefelyn
  8. jęczmień
  9. 다래끼, 맥립종 (麥粒腫)
  10. ()針眼 (tōu)zhēnyan
  11. 麦粒腫 (ばくりゅうしゅ)
Notes: The Latin word for this type of minor eye infection was hordeolus, a diminutive of hordeum "barley", and that underlies the Romance and East Asian terms given here with the exception of perrilla (poss. an alternation of perlilla "small pearl") and native Korean 다래끼. In addition, the German and Polish terms are calques, these being the usual words for "barleycorn". Naturally, other forms are found in the dialects, such as Alemannic Wegschisser and Urschili (the latter of which looks like an alteration of the Latin with the characteristic South Alemannic diminutive suffix).

Also representing a diminutive is Strontje, from stront "crap". By contrast, stijg is cognate with the English. The English word actually has an interesting history, being a backformation from styany which was interpreted as "sty-on-eye". The -y does stand for "eye", but styan actually means "that which rises". (Cf. Ger. steigend "rising".) The (Southern) Welsh form shows reanalysis as well, at least according to the GPC, which etymologises it as lle "place" + melyn "yellow". In current usage, however, the -yn is interpreted as a masculine diminutive suffix, thus yielding the plural llefelod.

I noticed on Thursday that the lower lid of my left eye was red and inflamed. Neither the Old Man or I could see the sty which caused it, but my doctor spotted it right away when I went to see her yesterday (part of the reason why I decided to stay with her for another year despite the fact that we reckon it's going to cost me more overall than switching to an HMO and starting over again with someone entirely new).
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