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Greening [Mär. 18., 2019|04:37 pm]
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It was another quiet St Patrick's for me. I'd promised a friend and colleague I'd help out with his therapy-dogs-for-students event on Sunday and he was kind enough to give me a ride there and back. (Vague notions of having brunch in E-town first came to naught.) It was the easier gig imaginable: I stood at the door and chatted with the fellow volunteer holding the clicker and occasionally did head counts to make sure we weren't over capacity. And at the end, I went around and took pics of dogs wearing kitchy green headgear.

Back at home, I fixed me some colcannon and oven-fried fish. I managed to forget my wallet, but Devon is still the kind of market where I can leave my bag at the checkout, run home, and come back to fetch it without anyone raising an eyebrow. I got a surprising amount of reading in (finishing a short story i nGaeilge about ducks from Ó Flaithearta) given that at points I was so sleepy I nearly conked out on my feet.

Oddly, I didn't do any drinking at all the night before, even though I did lead a little posse from the neighbours' to sample my alcohols. But I was up later than recommended because one of the posse was just so fucking cute and sweet that I didn't want to let him out of my sight if I had another option, which I did until nearly one a.m. so there it is.

No, all my drinking was Friday night when I was out seeing the aforementioned friend and colleague play a show with an old classmate at a local pub. I talked one of my neighbours into coming along and it was quite gratifying seeing her and another colleague's wife get on like a house on fire. She brought along a gay friend, as did I, and it was gratifying seeing the two of them form a burning building of their own.

Rounding out the weekend was lunch with [profile] zompist and his wife at a location he selected in Albany Park. Unfortunately it was something of a bust, a grimy hole-in-the-wall with oldschool American Chinese food. I suggested we get dessert at a big pink neveria I'd ridden past on the bus and that made the whole trip worthwhile. Plus I cadged a ride home with them and offloaded some old books on them.

But maybe the most worthwhile bit of the past three days was waiting for them to arrive (they are chronic lateniks) and retreating to a park where I could lie back in a sheltered spot and soak up the sun. It was hardly above freezing and not a thing is in leaf yet, but after the winter we had it felt like full spring.
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Manchmal ist ein Vogel wirklich nur ein Vogel [Mär. 15., 2019|03:15 pm]

"I hope I'm not offending you, Maureen, but to me religion creates fear where there's nothing to fear...and it gives you hope when, actually, there's nothing to hope for.'"

When I read this line in Finbar's Hotel, I figured the speaker must be paraphrasing someone. So far, though, I haven't been able to find a close match. It's not a particularly original thought but I don't know that I've ever seen it formulated so neatly before. My first thought on reading this was, Not just "religion", but spirituality in general. It immediately recalled to me the widows in my online groups and their desperation for "signs".

I had a "sign" just the other day: several times I woke up or came home to find the thermostat had been reset to 76°F. The first time it happened, I just assumed I'd mistakenly turned it down instead of up (since 66° is a plausible temperature for me to set it to). By the third time I knew something was up. When he was sick, Monshu was always cold and we had the heat jacked up for him. Could he be tampering with the thermostat from beyond the grave?

I tried cycling through the settings, but that didn't fix it. Eventually I figured out that what must have happened is that I'd inadvertently switched it from "MAN" (for "manual") to "PROG" (for "program") and that 76° was a setting presumably created by the previous owners (obviously some species of lizard people). Monshu and I had never bothered to pre-programme it ourselves, which is why it took so long for the meaning of "MAN" and "PROG" to finally dawn on me.

Yesterday someone posted about a cardinal flying into his window. Stunned, it let him pick it up, and then flew away again. He asked for thoughts and the response was predictable, people falling over themselves to proclaim it a sign from a dead spouse. I contented myself with responding "I think cardinals are very pretty but they aren't very bright". That is, dumb enough to fly into a window and colourful enough to capture our attention (and our imagination) when they do.

That's all--a dumb bird flying into a pane of glass he never evolved to avoid. Nothing left to hope for and yet, like a dumb bird flying into a pane of glass, you persist.
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150,000 men and women every day [Mär. 15., 2019|02:58 pm]

I had a weird evening. As I was unwinding in bed, I noticed a post from a fellow widow about having contracted an STI. It was his first time playing around since his husband's death and I was concerned he'd give in to moralistic guilt feelings so I messaged him reassuring him that it was just bad luck and he shouldn't read anything else into it.

We ended up chatting for over an hour. As 11:30 p.m. inched closer, I thought I really should beg off (especially since I plan to go out tonight) but then it occurred to me, so what if I'm a mess tomorrow, nothing I'm likely to do at work is more important than comforting a soul in distress. So I kept chatting until he thought he could sleep.

At the same time, I saw a post from [profile] nitouche, who's in Christchurch with her family. Her husband was caught in the lockdown (they weren't letting anyone leave the university grounds); it was the first I heard of the tragedy. So I was toggling between comforting a grieving stranger and looking for updates on the latest mass shooting to gain international attention.

I went to bed hoping the attack wasn't as bad as it sounded; I woke up to a massacre worse than I'd imagined. I already had to hide the feed of one person on my flist who thoughtlessly shared a link to a tabloid article studded with stills from the livestream. Then on one of my discussion groups our token MRA and Jordan Peterson stan went full-blown apologist for terrorism.

Just as well that I have a busy weekend coming up which will keep me off social media. I'll still be popping in often to check on my fellow widow (amongst others) but hopefully I can fight the temptation to check out the worst of what the Internet has to offer for a while.
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Scéal fadálach [Mär. 13., 2019|01:53 pm]

Is fuath liom an méid aimsire atá de dhíth ort chun leabhair áirithe a léagh. Thóg sé scór blian orm La plaça del Diamant i gCatalóinis a léagh. Tá os cionn cheithre bliana ann ó thosnaíos air Dialann deoraí agus dhá leathanach le léagh agam fós! Níos measa fós is dóigh liom go mbím ag léagh i nGaelainn chomh mall anois agus dheineas riamh. Cá bhfuil an tsaoithiúlacht go ndeirtear go dtagann sí le haois?
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In touch [Mär. 12., 2019|10:13 am]

So I have a lover. It finally occurred to me (while reading yet another short story about middle-class infidelity) that that was a word coined to describe the kind of relationship I have with Pasillero. We're all liberated and shit, so we don't have to sneak around and do this on the sly, but otherwise it's not greatly different than the arrangement loads of married couples have had throughout the years.

Part of me keeps expecting things to end at any time, so though I've always made jokes about regularity (calling him "my Hump Day man" almost from the beginning), I've also been trying to take things one week at a time. But it's been six months already and we've settled into a nice rhythm, so maybe I can relax a bit? We'll see if I'm capable of that.

Meanwhile, I don't know how to describe my relationship to Ginger Cowboy any longer. I thought there was none, I thought things had finally faded to the point where we were each just Someone I Used to Know to each other, but he just sent me another invitation to come out and see him. I begged off, citing Liver Laddoo's health, but that's a convenient excuse.

The real reason is that I can't imagine getting together with him again without a good heart-to-heart about expectations and boundaries and he's no good at that kind of thing. We haven't spoken in months and, although we text intermittently, it's almost entirely in the form of links to songs.

For a while, I treated that as a kind of dialogue, trying to interpret the lyrics each time and respond in kind, but I eventually decided I ain't got time for that. If you have something to say to me, say it clearly. I'm no longer wasting my time trying to divine your feelings from a trashheap of mediocre poetry. So now I just send a song I like that his choice brought to mind.

Like this morning, for some reason, he sent me a link to Bronski Beat's "Smalltown Boy". I guess because he relates strongly to it? But it made me think of a Kitchen of Distinction's song which is, arguably, the same situation seen from a different, more positive angle ("We took the train to London / On the Bed-Pan freedom line / Going to a nightclub, oh, to a nightclub in Soho") so I spent some time hunting that down. (I couldn't remember the damn title, which is "Japan to Jupiter".)

Will the choice be intelligible to him? Probably not? Will he ask for an explanation? Definitely not. It's a strange form of intercourse to have with someone, but one that the communications technology and protocols of our age make strangely easy to continue.
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Pain makes you beautiful [Mär. 11., 2019|12:03 pm]
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Liver Laddoo and I talked shortly before bedtime. At least he finally has a tentative diagnosis for his health issues but it'll be a week before the neurologist can see him and who knows how long after that to schedule the spinal tap, which may or may not be enough to resolve everything. He's, understandably, bummed and bored with being home from work and having no real social life.

One of the last things we talked about was dreams. We both agreed there's not much significance too be wrung from them. He shared that his recurring fleeing dream is from rising floodwaters because of a childhood trauma. (It made me realise how untraumatised I was by Hurricane Eloise when I was five, perhaps because of how easy it was for our family to find a place of refuge.) I joked that the conversation would be enough to give me flood dreams. It didn't, of course, but sharing the kind of dreams I have of Monshu did guarantee that I had one.

I "woke up" and was lying in the bed looking across the room. Monshu was sitting there facing me. At first it looked like he was on another bed, then like he was in a big box of some sort, like a refrigerator box. He was folding clothes.

"What are you doing?" I asked.

"I'm doing the laundry," he responded, as if it couldn't be more self-evident.

And then that moment came that always does in dreams like these: I realised he didn't know he was dead and I was faced with the dilemma of whether to inform him or not. I'm not sure why I feel like I need to. I'd had a dream a couple of days earlier in which I remembered Monshu "dying twice"--first for real, and then coming back and having to die all over again. Maybe I was trying to prevent that? Or maybe I didn't want what I'd been through three years ago ignored.

In any case, what I said was, "First of all, even when you were around, I did the laundry. And second, you don’t need to do it because you’re dead." He gave me a sceptical look. I must've been out of the bed now, since I was only about arm's length away. He told me he didn't believe me.

"Why would I make that up?"

"To make yourself sound more important."

I remember sighing and looking away for a moment. "I don't think I talk about you that much. But when I do, it's because you're the most important thing to ever happen to me. So that makes losing you really significant."

I didn't wake up satisfied from the dream, but at least it was without the same sense of sadness that I've had other times. Although I miss him terribly, I no longer really wish he would come back. I don't want to have the face the agony of losing him all over again. When I wish I still had him, I wish that he had simply never developed cancer, that everything in our lives from sometime in 2014 onward had taken a different turn.

But that's five years ago now. I'd be wishing away more than a tenth of my life--an extremely difficult decile, but one that I've sunk a tremendous amount of effort into. I'd be exchanging five years of powerful experiences for five mystery years in a burlap sack. The more time goes by, the less willing I am to make that swap.
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Meascán mearaí [Mär. 8., 2019|12:34 pm]

There's always a chance that if I hadn't gone to the concert I would have gotten some reading done. It's just not the way to bet since there's nothing too compelling on my plate at the moment.

I did finish off Embassytown a couple days ago, but I had to force myself to. I knew that a non-linguist like Miéville wouldn't be able to craft a linguistic twist that I'd find fully satisfying but I gave him a lot of goodwill for trying. He squandered some of that by trying to shoehorn his solution into a typical thriller ending so awkwardly that even he felt the need to lampshade it.

The whole nature of the crisis he invents naturally lends itself to a more drawn-out resolution. The breakdown of society--particularly when you're part of a vulnerable minority population--is terrifying enough in itself without needing to be amped up with a grand confrontation. Worse, I felt that it had the ultimate effect of making his alien much less intriguingly alien. It's nice to have an unambiguously happy ending in a scifi thriller, I guess, but a less clearcut resolution would've given the work as a whole more depth and resonance.

Now I'm back to more of a palate-cleanser, Finbar's Hotel. It's a collaborative work between Dermot Bolger, an Irish writer I'd never heard of before, and a grab bag of contemporary authors. Of the six, there's one I haven't read (Jennifer Johnston), two I have read and don't really care for (Joseph O'Connor and Colm Tóibín), and three I rather like (Roddy Doyle, Anne Enright, Hugo Hamilton).

There are seven chapters to the book, so presumably each took one or at least did the heavy lifting. So far, though, the integration is pretty seamless and I don't know their respective styles well enough to clearly say who wrote what. But sleuthing isn't what attracted me to it and it's not what's keeping me interested. It's an easy read with lots of humour (I've LOLed on the shuttle more than once already), which passes the time on my commute but isn't necessary enough to be pull me away from my phone of an evening.

My other throwaway read is Motherfoclóir, a bestselling work from a Gaeilgeoir known primarily for his tweets. I thought it would annoy me somewhat and it does--the number of errors would be shocking if it were any other official EU language, he tries too hard to be amusing, and I don't really care about his adolescent angst--but I also thought I'd learn some fun vocabulary and gain a bit more insight into Irish culture and I have, so it's all good.
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White-boy blues [Mär. 8., 2019|10:51 am]
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So I did the thing last night. What tipped the balance was seeing a couple of pals, including Scruffy, say they'd be there, too. When I arrived (unfashionably early despite missing the bus), he and his friend DM were already there and scooted over to make room for me in a booth we soon ended up abandoning because the performance space was in a different part of the restaurant.

DM, it turned out, was there under somewhat false pretenses, as Scruffy had mentioned only dinner and not a show, but he's very phlegmatic by nature. Scruffy, by contrast, was uncommonly irritable. I'd placed my things on the empty chair next to him so I could sit on the banquette and have a view of the entire room, and for some reason this annoyed him so much he demanded I move them and turned the chair around. They left after the first set.

Well before then, a crowd of bears I know through various connexions had arrived. The singer had also come up to chat with us before the show and responded good-naturedly to my gentle attempts to tease him. By the end of the night, he'd thanked me at least four times for coming to see him play and even apologised for not texting. We again made vague noises about hanging out at some future date; unfortunately, most of his shows are deep in the burbs.

He's got some talent though that was mostly evident during the second set, once he'd loosened up somewhat. He and his band play mostly roots rock and blues, which aren't really my jam, particularly when performed by middle-class white guys. (One of their original songs was literally about the importance of smiling.) But they sounded decent, especially when singing together (and masking the weaknesses in their individual voices) and I most likely would have just wasted the evening fiddling around my phone anyhow.

My only regret is that I wish the food had been better. The trout à la meunière was fine and the green beans were good but the black-eyed peas and rice were overcooked to the point of mushiness. Bread pudding is hard to mess up, but they almost did with a "bourbon" sauce with hardly a whiff of bourbon but a ridiculous amount of cinnamon. So if I go back there, it will only be for the music.
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Groundhogs are lying bastards [Mär. 7., 2019|04:14 pm]

This week is making me landsick. Monday was unremarkable. Tuesday was great fun. We had pączki at work to celebrate Mardi Gras and at the game that evening I greeted everyone at the door with a string of purple beads and served them all Sazeracs. The next day I was completely out of sorts, I didn't want to deal with humanity at all but I had a supplementary condo meeting to attend about a huge surge in assessments.

Then today came and I had a busy productive morning at work but the tuna melt I had lunch which is usually fine is giving me grief and ruining my afternoon. Perhaps my evening as well. I'd planned to head down to Lakeview, where a guy I kind of like is performing at a restaurant I don't hate, but that prospect is a whole lot less enticing if I'm fighting off reflux. Oh well, do the thing and hope for the best.

At the very least it would be break from routine, which the unrelenting cold is making even more deadening. I'm keenly aware when I get home how little has changed since the early days of Monshu's demise. I still haven't rationalised my expenses or made in improvements in preparation for selling or even cleaned out much crap. If you discount Pasillero, there's no new man in the picture and I've tried to think as little as possible about what I want to do for the rest of my life.
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Cetera de more [Feb. 27., 2019|04:10 pm]
Yesterday, standing in an icy wind waiting for the shuttle, I decided I was Done with Winter. Sadly, that's not how it works; you don't decide when you're done with winter, winter decides when it's done with you. And with a week of highs at freezing or below coming up, winter isn't done with us yet.

It was at least snowing--big fluffy flakes--but they evaporated (or rather sublimated) overnight so now we're back to the lawns of stiff brown grass we had before. Still, the sun came out today and I pushed myself to make a circuit of the lagoon for the first time in months. I got a couple of good snaps for Insta, including some of a flock of geese chilling on an ice shelf.

It was a good game session last night, which was a bit of a relief since two of the players have just split up. We were worried this would cause tension but they seem to be handling it well. I chatted with the dumper in preparation and I'll be taking the dumpee for sushi tomorrow (which could be a bit awkward given how much he wants to get into my pants).

At least the cat seems back to normal. Tuesday morning he was hassling me for treats. I inspected his bowl and found that he'd eaten all his dry food for the first time since last Wednesday. So maybe he just had a cold? Several times he seemed to be sniffing at his food without recognising it for what it was. That makes more sense to me than the idea of sudden onset tooth pain.
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