Mourner's corner

So it only took about 36 hours between my father's death and my first anxiety dream about it.

I was in a hospital waiting area with Nuphy, trying to help my sister revise the obituary before the noon deadline. But none of my devices (I had a phone and some kind of tablet) was letting me log in to view it. Meanwhile, my mother was trying to schedule some kind of procedure. This is presumably why at some point I was being paged, which I didn't notice until Nuphy pointed it out. But I couldn't figure out who I needed to speak to at which counter and no one was coming forward to assist me.

The only part of that which mirrored reality was that my sister did have a noon deadline to submit the obituary. I got to work hoping she'd have a draught ready for me to review (they'd composed it longhand the day before and she said something about having our stepsister type it up) but she didn't e-mail it to me until 11:23 a.m. Mom was included (for some reason, our stepmom had omitted her from an earlier version) but Monshu wasn't and I advised her that the names of the places where he studied and taught would really be useful if, say, any former classmates or students wanted to attend the service.

This is both harder and easier than my brother's death. At least it didn't come out of the blue; he'd been declining for a couple years. But it wasn't until Thursday that I learned he'd taken a turn for the worse. He'd been in rehab so I'd assumed he was getting a higher standard of care than usual, but there's some suggestion that the staff screwed up his medications, kickstarting his kidney failure. (I don't know if his wife plans to litigate, but she did demand a copy of all his charts and medical records at the facility before taking him to the ER.)

Coming on the heels of M's death and shortly before the third anniversary of Monshu's is also a mixed bag. Part of me is like, "Let's just get this all over with in one go". And we're all prepared. When Mom showed up to help out my sister on Saturday, she brought the checklist they'd put together for my brother. We're even using the same venue. (My neighbour and I even joked about just pasting dad's picture over my brother's on the programmes and even using the same songs.)

It's a little more complex this time because my stepmother has her own children who--to be frank--have been kind of shitty to Dad at times. I'm hoping they don't show up with any scores to settle, but you never know in advance how someone's going to react in a time like this.


Yesterday was gross; today was better.

Even though I had misgivings, I arranged to meet Pasillero. I'm generally able to rise to the occasion with him, so I thought it might snap me out of my depressive slide. I wasn't sure, though, and part of me just wanted to go home and curl up.

Instead, I camped out at a table in the back of the Middle Eastern Grill in Andersonville and waited for him to finish with a zoning meeting. He'd barely arrived when he had to take a call from his mother. "She'll be the death of me," he complained.

Climbing the stairs to his apartment, we heard two of his neighbours on the upper landing. One almost immediately excused herself, but the other had been at the meeting, too, and had all sorts of thoughts to share with him. I listened for a bit, bemused, but finally excused myself to "use the restroom".

He found me sitting on the bed in the dark. "Did you really have to use the bathroom or were you just trying to escape?" he asked. "I was hoping she might take the hint," I explained. Since we started so much later than usual, you might have expected we'd cut things short, but we ended up chatting politics afterwards and it was nearly 10:30 by the time I left.

It all had the desired effect. I was practically humming to myself on the way home, slept well (or so I thought), and woke up ready to roll out of bed. Of course, some of that can be ascribed to stocking up on masala chai and biscotti at the market. But not all.

Current mood: not good

I'm in some kind of mood today. Part of me just wants to give up on everything and part wants to overcome that but isn't exactly sure how. So very basic things are becoming a struggle.

Seeing Pasillero, for instance. He offered me some time this evening after a planning meeting. I really want to see him and, at the same time, I'm dreading it so that the simple act of making plans to meet took a couple hours. I didn't want to look at my phone and see another message, but I also didn't want to to ignore him.

It wasn't this bad yesterday. What's different about today? All I can think of is FB showing me a picture of Monshu, happy and healthy (albeit secretly already cancerous) from five years ago. That's usually not enough to trigger me, though.

Maybe it's that on top of the book I'm reading, Rebecca Makkai's The great believers. It's excellent, but boy is it ever rough. It follows the protagonist through the breakup of his relationship during the Chicago AIDS crisis in the mid-80s and there are landmines galore. (And not always obvious ones; one of the most wrenching sequences involved an abandoned cat.)

It's hard not to read something like that and not rethink decades of life choices. Unproductively, of course; this is not the kind of mindset which leads to sudden clarity. Maybe if I had someone handy to confide in, it would be different, but LL is back home and the thought of reaching out to someone is just too intimidating right now.

Yes to another excess

Too, too much going on. I had mixed feelings about Liver Laddoo going back early yesterday. (His flight today was cancelled and he rescheduled for Sunday evening.) I felt like we had emotionally unresolved issues (particularly from a bit of a run-in that morning) which I would've liked to have worked through. But I was also plain exhausted from illness and lack of sleep, and it was nice to be able to stay and relax for a change.

For the most part, I thought the visit went well. Thursday he stayed at a hotel, which gave me a little more time to pull the place together. Friday morning I had my first session with my grief counselor and that went pretty well. When I was finished, he came up and we went out for lunch together at a Nepalese place on Devon. The food was just okay, but the waiter's odd notion of service left us both laughing.

He wanted to go out that night but I wasn't interested. Fortunately, he ran into people he knew at SoFo and they dragged him around town with them. I was surprised that I didn't even hear him stumble back in at 4 a.m. We both slept in and then he made us aloo poha/bataka puva with supplies we'd bought the day before. I was a little annoyed at how long he took getting ready to go out--particularly his putting off to the last possible moment some work he needed to finish before the end of the calendar week--but we got past that.

The birthday party went better than expected. One of the hosts still isn't speaking to me (so I presume it was his partner who sent the invite) but we managed to stay out of each other's way. Almost immediately, I fell into conversation with someone I recognised only from FB and he turned out to be a linguistics major whose masters thesis was a dictionary of an extinct North American Indian language.

The theme of the part was "Bacchanalia" and most of the guests complied by wearing togas. (Ever the contrarian, I wore all black with a skull design on my t-shirt.) At one point, I strode into the living room and there were dicks out--not a lot, but enough. One of them belonged to one of our hosts, the same who'd had a threeway with us this time last year and the party ended with his bigger half going to bed and me and the cats watching on while they went at it a bit.

Of course, I felt massively strung out the next morning and couldn't sleep in. First the airline hostess upstairs woke me up with her heels and then, just as I was nodding off, LL decided the best place to sit on the pot while he listened to Rachel Maddow was two meters from my head (instead of, say, the whole other bathroom upstairs). Since it was his last full day, I pressed him to schedule something, but in the end it only worked out with one other person (a jovial Jordanian).

After lunch at Ghareeb Nawaz, we walked to a couple of sweet shops in search of something he could take back to his desi friends in Portland. It was cold and getting colder, and Liver Laddoo was underdressed and complaining. After they left, I began feeling dyspeptic and managed to eat only a little porridge for dinner, which bit me in the ass at four a.m. when I woke up feeling ravenous.

At that point, the snow had just begun to fall. A few hours later, I hurried shoveled some off the front walk before heading to the bus stop. I got confused as to where I was going and stood watching a 151 go past before realising that was exactly the bus I wanted. The driver of the 36 that I eventually caught was in no hurry, so I arrived a full 15 minutes late for the installation of my crown with my stomach still in turmoil.

I joked with the dentist that all his messing around in my mouth was at least keeping my mind off my gut and we laughed at that together. That's probably the moment at which my day took a turn for the better. Pasillero got in touch as I was making my way to campus through a winter wonderland and was amenable to rescheduling for tomorrow evening. I really hope I feel up to it.


This wouldn't be an usual date for our first snowfall of the year, but it was our second. Only a dusting. Temperatures, however, have plummeted. It was -4°C when I got up this morning and predicted to be -7°C overnight.

I don't want to start preparing for the holiday season but I'm being dragged into it nevertheless. Sunday I idly asked [personal profile] bunj if he and e. would be hosting the family Thanksgiving (as they have the largest, most conveniently-located place) and he slightly-defensively pointed out that they wouldn't be cooking for all of us.

The next day I clarified that I hadn't been expecting that and suggested having it catered. By that, I basically meant "buy some shit from a grocery story" but he immediately began looking at more gourmet options (and panicking a bit about getting our order in). It'll probably end up being a mix of boughten dishes and some we make ourselves.

Mom will be staying with me, which should prove interesting--especially since the rest of the gang is heading back almost immediately. Fortunately, the only shopping expedition she's mentioned is an outing to a yarn store, and on Small Business Saturday rather than Black Friday. I'm going to try to get the knitters in the family to take her.

I called her and we had a really good talk about how I'm not coming down for Christmas and why. Hopefully she'll mention it to Sis, who I imagine will be less understanding. Mom and I talked quite a bit about self-care and the problems we have as a fantasy being clear about what we want and need. Hopefully that means we're all getting better at it.

Tan breve este momento

I am still recovering from the weekend.

Mostly from Saturday. Sometimes the conversation at cocktail night is so good we lose track of time, but I don't think we've ever lost track of it the way we did this last time. Falling back didn't help; a couple folks were surprised to look at their phones and see it was only 1:30 a.m. when it was the second time that night it was 1:30 a.m.

Upon reflection, I can see a number of distinct phases. One starts with the arrival of my college friend Guge and two of her high school classmantes, all of whom were coming from a memorial service for a fourth classmate. One of these is a gay man who's on the spectrum and--apparently--hot for me. The other helped me coordinate Monshu's cremation and memorial service.

It was she who had the idea to tell real-life ghost stories and the gay guy had a doozy. I lowered the lights, lit a skull candle, and he told about seeing a ghost in the restroom of a local restaurant when he was seven. "It was a just a void," he told us. At the time he'd been panicked, and of course none of the adults he told believed him.

The next day, he discovered that it had followed him home.

For nearly ten years, he saw the mysterious floating shape intermittently, never talking about it to anyone. When the cats where in the room, they would watch it, too, confirming to him that this was more than a figment. Then finally, one Christmas morning, his father said something to his mother which revealed that they'd been seeing it all along, too. The whole family had and had never spoken of it. He wept with relief.

None of them ever saw it again.

After the women left, things quieted down for a bit, but predictably veered more toward the sexual. This only intensified when a new acquaintance from Wichita arrived with a drunk friend in tow, and they were all thirsty. It got raunchy; this is one of the only times ever I could imagine this gathering mutating into a sex party. And talk got real. We went from sexual positions to discussing the evolution of the notion of the gay community.

To complicate things, the Scouser who I'd nailed back in July was there and I really wanted to nail him again. Ultimately, it looked like the only way to swing that would be to escort everyone to the bar (Ghost Boy kept insisting) and double back--which we gladly did, but it added at least another half hour onto an already long evening. By the time he left, it was nearly 4 a.m. CST.

Maybe I could have slept in more, but after about five hours, I was itching to start on the day, since it was a pretty one and I had plans. I left about 12:30 and made terrific time to Pilsen. At ten to two, Nuphy and I met at the new crepería attached to Panadaería Nuevo León, where the portions are enormous.

It's a bit sad to see him navigating with a cane these days, but at least his mind still seems plenty sharp. We had plenty of time to talk as we made slow progress down 18th to the museum. The crowds were huge but thinned out massively by 4 p.m. By that time, we'd managed to find and lose everyone in our group at least once.

[personal profile] bunj was there with e., who sadly couldn't stick around. [profile] innerdoggie and [profile] tyrannio made it, too, along with [personal profile] lhn and [profile] prilicla. It was an outing like we haven't had in years and, despite my tiredness, I enjoyed every moment of it. Pilsen is a feast for the eyes and spirit and we made our merry way to the restaurant (Nuphy took the bus and beat us there) stopping frequently to comment and investigate.

The restaurant--a new place Nuphy wanted to try--wasn't all that. It advertised itself as a cocktail bar, with a huge list of margaritas and mojitos, but after [personal profile] bunj tried to order one of the latter, they announced that they were out of mint. The interesting array of tacos was tasty, but the sauces were tainted with unnecessary jalapeno and my duck was cold and overcooked.

But it all hardly mattered. We chatted away about food, death, and everything in between. It's amazing to me the comfort level you can have with people that you've known for nearly three decades; as I gazed around the room, I felt a twinge at the thought of each of these beautiful people departing the world forever.

But for now, they're all here, and Day of the Dead was a timely reminder to keep doing things with them while they are. Normally a Sunday after a big night out is an emotional nadir for me, but the lift I got for those hours together carried me over it and even lasted into the next day.


Sunday may well turn out to have been our last nice day of the year. It's been cold and grey this week, but I was hoping it was only a spell and the weather would turn. Today, however, it's snowing and it feels like winter is really here.

Winds were coming from the north so I went down to the shore after this morning's All-Staff to photograph the surf. I've never seen the lake so high. (Indeed, a friend checked the DNR records and found it hasn't been since 1986.) It's now higher than the level of the lagoon on campus, and parts of the bank are swamped. When I went out to landfill to take photos, I found chunks of concrete washed up on the grass at least four meters from the waterline. This storm is not kidding around.

The snow was just beginning to stick at midmorning, when the temperature was still officially above freezing. It's expected to drop slowly over the course of the day so we'll see real accumulation before nightfall. Some suburbs have rescheduled trick-or-treating for Saturday. I can see the logic, yet I see this as the slim end of the wedge that will be the end of celebrating Halloween on Halloween.

Getting helped

So Monday night was great but the depression is back. Last night I had my first dreams specifically about M.'s death. My sister and I were throwing things out and I was having second thoughts. In particular, there was a song on one of his tapes that I'd only copied the first ten seconds of, thinking that would be enough to identify the track from, but it wasn't and we'd already discarded the original tape.

I woke up thinking about some of the random stuff that got tossed just this past week, mostly old D&D modules and gaming notes. I'm really conflicted about it: I don't need it, I don't want it in my house, but I was comforted by the idea that someone was holding onto it somewhere. We faulted M. for "living in the past" but seeing how much he'd saved was somehow affirming to me. Now it's like we're declaring them worthless all over again.

Relatedly, I'm obsessing over that daddy from Saturday's party and I can't decide whether it's contributing to my depression or if my depression is what's making me obsess and maybe that's a false dichotomy anyway. It's always frustrating when you meet someone you feel an instant bond with and then they end up basically ghosting you. (I mean, we're friends on FB now, but I sent him a couple messages and he ignored them.)

I think it might be activating my underlying "no one will ever love you again" anxiety. I tell myself that there are many reasons for not corresponding with someone in this situation (including "I don't want to feed my own infatuation") and that in an absence of evidence I shouldn't assume the worst. That works sometimes, but given that I still think of that leather daddy from Houston from 30 months ago and sigh, I know that--barring a new crush--I won't be over this one quickly.

In the meanwhile, I posted to FB about my tribulations and got a flood of support and advice. My cousin's daughter even wrote up a short paragraph and asked her to post it on her behalf. Folks are offering to come do things with me, which is honestly making me feel a little panicky--one of the things I'm discovering about how my depression works is that it ups my normally negligible social anxiety. I'll accept some of the lower-pressure offers and take it from there.


It's been a minute since I took in an opera. But thanks to e.'s ridiculous travel schedule, I got the opportunity to see Verdi's Luisa Miller for the first time courtesy of [personal profile] bunj. As we were parting, he seemed genuinely touched that I'd joined him, as if anything short of infirmity would have kept me away in the absence of prior plans.

It's an odd little gem. The plot is apparently adapted very loosely from Schiller, which makes me curious about the source material, since it's pure melodrama, with more twists than the Timmelsjoch Hochalpenstrasse. Despite that, it does mostly focus on ordinary people who make some extraordinarily bad choices.

The number one bad choice is Rodolfo, son of the local count and complete meathead. Luisa's father sizes him up accurately as a playboy who hasn't thought through the consequences of a romance with a commoner but she is undeterred. This leads to a ludicrous scene where, when cornered by his father, the young heir first demands to be led off in chains along with his beloved, then threatens to stab her through the heart, and finally remembers the plan he voiced only minutes earlier to use his knowledge of his father's Dark Secret to blackmail him.

That is one of the oddest facets to the opera: It's a love story, but between father and daughter. As [personal profile] bunj pithily observed, "Rodolfo isn't the protagonist, he's the antagonist." It never seems to occur to him how the power differential between him and the object of his affection can only lead to her destruction. There are shades of Rigoletto here, but whereas the Duke doesn't care for Gilda beyond a one-nighter, Rodolfo is fatally infatuated with Luisa. And her father, rather than being a brash loudmouth, only wants to grow old peacefully with her married off to a good man.

Another odd feature is the sex imbalance in the cast. Besides Luisa, there are only two other female singing roles: the Countess who Rudolfo's father has promised him to and a gal pal of Luisa's. The latter has a bit part, and the former not much more than that. It takes some finessing to get Luisa and Countess together for a duet, but the men never leave the stage and it soon morphs into a weird a cappella ensemble. By contrast, there are four strong roles for men and only one of them is a tenor. When's the last time you heard a duet for two basses?

One of these basses was Newcomer Solomon Howard, who sang Wurm, the ostensible villain of the piece. He couldn't quite hold his own next to Quinn Kelsey, but his voice shows promise and I liked his physicality. Kelsey is probably the best actor in the bunch--a vital choice, since as Miller he runs the widest gamut of emotions. Van Horn was solid as the Count. As for Calleja, he's got beautiful tone and flawless diction (being the only native speaker of Italian in the cast), but he's more from the stand-and-sing school. Fortunately, that works when playing a hapless pretty boy like Rodolfo.

I remembered liking Krassimira Stoyanova when I last saw her, but I don't recall her tone being so warbly. She also looks old for the part, which was particularly noticeable from where we were seated, but fortunately can still sound young enough to sell Luisa's youthful poor decisions. Alisa Kolosova sang the Countess and made the most of the only role allowed to really have any fun on stage; rather than feeling sorry for he for being jilted, you're happy she escapes marrying into a family of deplorables.

Apart from the oddities previously mentioned, it's a good early Verdi score, though light on the choral bits. I was seated closer than I've ever been before, but also farther to the side. (Eighth row right on the outermost aisle.) It's nice for a change to feel the music as much as hear it and relax in the knowledge that it can easily drown out most incidental noises. (The Upper Balcony is an exercise ignoring distractions.)

I've heard the production team are still way into playing around with their new set machinery, but the production decisions didn't seem much stranger than before. Chief among these was a huge free-hanging canvas which dominated the right half of the stage, moving along a track and changing to express different settings. There's some quirky use of silhouetted supernumeries in the court scenes, notably in the hunt scene where they walk by with an increasingly less-identifiable series of animal corpses. But the lighting was good overall and I liked the use of a simple rounded set which, with minimal alterations, suggested a village, a wood, a courtyard, and a church. I was actually surprised they had to lower the curtain for a set change in the second act.

I had concerns I'd be too tired to really enjoy the show but it's a short opera--we were out by 10 p.m.--and I'd managed to get a rare full night's sleep. It also avoided some of the usual pitfalls of Italian opera. The first act love duet that always puts me to sleep? It was short and bouncy and for a change the lovers actually knew each other and weren't just meeting for the first time. It also helps immeasurably having someone at your side with the sensibility to laugh and cry at the same parts.

Autumn naughtiness

Today's depression caught me even more off guard by coming on the heels of a delightful weekend. Sure, Sunday I was moody and draggy, but that's typical when I've been out late. It usually doesn't carry over into the week.

It was also a beautiful day, so I wasn't the least surprised to find that I'd managed to schedule a four-hour RPG session for the heart of it. This was JB's idea, and I was looking forward to it. He told us to scare up some players, so I asked Sad Cub, who initially agreed, but never asked me the time and then informed me that he had to run errands.

I find it ironic that JB initially objected to him because he'd thought he'd be "dull" given that the player he did invite didn't seem to contribute much. To be fair, I don't think any of us was at our best. I even dozed off at one point. (In my defence, it was after the homemade apple pie with homemade ice cream.) The game itself was another PbtA, Zombie World, with the twist that it used cards as a mechanic rather than dice.

We ended with about an hour of fading sunlight left so I got to fit in a bit of a stroll. I suspected the leaves would be particularly striking after having been washed clean but the previous day's storms and I was right. Any doubts I had about how pretty this fall would be have been laid to rest.

It was a marked contrast to my stroll along many of the same streets the day before. Then it was pouring rain and so, despite being the same time of day, quite dark out. I was too stubborn to call a ride, a decision I came to regret almost immediately. Thankfully, I wasn't completely soaked when I got home and my friends came to pick me up for the next event.

The afternoon get-together was another wine-tasting at [profile] mikiedoggie's. It was one of the best yet: everyone agreed that there wasn't a stinker in the pack and the final tally was very closed. Yet again, I placed near the bottom, so I think my faith in Independent Spirits may be wavering. After the prize was awarded, I inadvertently started a run on Mikie's 12 year-old Yamazaki (which I would feel worse about if he hadn't been going around himself giving generous pours).

However, the most interesting feature of the tasting from my point of view was a beefy daddy from Boston. He and his husband were friends of the organisers and in fact spearheaded a similar club in Boston. At first, I tried to be subtle in my appreciation, balancing my time between chatting him up and chatting up his husband. But after tasting a dozen wines, that caution went by the wayside.

Just before our outrageous flirting got too out of hand, I discovered that he was going to be at the same Halloween party that evening. I didn't know quite what to expect from it; I knew the crowd was mixed, so there would have to be some breaks on lewd behaviour. But I also knew how to get away with quite a lot even in an environment like that.

So I showed up ready, but even I wasn't ready for the Bostonians to arrive in TERRYCLOTH BATHROBES. It was only a wig party, but apparently their friends thought they needed to put in a little more effort. Although I appreciated the easy access this afforded, it did make it rather difficult to pretend to care about making conversation with everyone else.

Finally, after a couple hours, I invited Beefy to "tour the upstairs", which I'd seen once before. After a bit of Feydeau-esque comedy, we finally slipped out onto the upper deck for some hanky-panky in the cold rain which had thankfully slowed to a mere drizzle. He urged us back in before we got too carried away, but he connived with me to engineer a couple more opportunities over the course of evening. It probably ended up being more fun than a straightforward hookup would have been.

I ended up mooning over him a bit the next day. Besides being sexy and very into me, he was also smart and interesting, a prison psychologist who was happy to talk wine and gay media and probably a bunch more topics if only there'd been the opportunity. I was left with that familiar melancholy of being reminded how many supremely attractive men there are out there and, at the same time, how I don't have one to come home to.

At least I found a temporary respite from that in a three-way with my hosts. I'd had it in my head as a possibility ever since meeting them, so when it unfolded it did so very naturally. Given how drunk and exhausted we were, it was surprised we had as much fun as we did and we agreed to pick up again at more convenient time.