Medford, Oregon June 27, 2015 — Since she lost her vision, Susan has remained stand-offish, edgy, sometimes crying alone in her room. Coming to terms, but it’s hard. She doesn’t want comforting from me. Doesn’t want to be touched or held. Sometimes friendly; sometimes not exactly.
A few weeks ago near the beginning of the month, at the table she said we need to talk. You never really want to hear those words.
The story, made simple, is this: She said she didn’t want to be in a relationship any more. She says she feels like a different person. She says she finds it uncomfortable living in this house with me, as she doesn’t feel she has enough space of her own. I am “too big a personality.” I think that means too noisy, when I’m talking on the phone with clients, always present in the house for I work here. She says it’s too much for her current state of mind.
She’s going to move out just before July first. She’s paid her share of rent for June. Her daughter Saradevi has offered that Susan can live with her, and she’s going. Oddly, Saradevi has recently moved to the teeny-tiny town of Caspar, near Fort Bragg on the Mendocino coast, in a tiny house out in the middle of nowhere.
Since Susan’s catastrophe, which wiped out her artist work and her bookselling business, I have been focusing on my work, to get more clients and income, thinking how to increase our income, for she cannot work and her social-security check is small. But now it seems that’s not to matter much. I love her as intensely as ever. But she doesn’t want me to take care of her.
My belief up to this point was that we would spend the rest of our lives together.
And now, the plan has changed. [Read more…]
Medford, Oregon, May 2, 2015 — Now that I live on Siskiyou Boulevard, next door is a sometime fiesta. That is to say, the Latino family next door has the house on the corner, and apparently a never-ending extended family and circle of friends. So often on a Friday evening there is a gathering with Spanish music and beer. And when one of the children has a birthday … oh, my.
So when I returned from an errand this afternoon, and saw an inflatable tent thing in which children can bounce and fly around, I recognized birthday in progress. Sure enough, around dark, headlights and cars arrived, families spilled out into the pools of light, and now as I go to bed there’s a wonderful party going on next door.
It’s summer, and I have the window open beside my bed, so I can enjoy the party almost as well as if I was there. Past my window, in their back yard, children run, and scream, and yell stories, accusations, laughter, curse words, and insults. In other words, they’re having a good time.
You might think this would disturb my sleep, but it doesn’t. Somehow I like it, and despite the startling loudness and excitement, it’s pleasant and soothing.
I drifted off, smiling, and then … [Read more…]
The big vacant lot, Weed, California, July 4, 2008: I was walking with my dogs, and I got to talking to my dog Charlie, who is young and impulsive. He’s a great listener. I can say any kind of nonsense and he’s still interested.
But I was talking to Charlie and I asked him if he liked poetry. He didn’t answer, being a dog, and I asked him if he like Samuel Taylor Coleridge. He didn’t answer that either.
But it got me to musing about that story. Do you remember how Coleridge was an opium smoker?
Well, he was.
And there he was, high as a kite, and in his mind’s eye he saw this really swell poem, and he went to write it down. It’s really quite wonderful. Has several paragraphs, and the first one goes like this …
“In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.”
But at that moment, a guy to whom Coleridge owed money came banging on the door! Interrupted our Samuel, and that was the end of the swell poem.
And while I was walking along with Charlie, who ran to chase some birds, I was thinking how we’re all searching for the … Golden Words.
The Golden Words that will bring us the love of our life. The Golden Words that will banish all our fears forever. The Golden Words that will magically unlock the riches of the internet.
Kind of like ‘Open, Sesame,’ for Ali Baba.
But when the currents of life toss you about, you know how often the quest for these Golden Words can toss us right in among the Forty Theives!
Oh, gosh, it can be confusing.
I’ve felt completely flabbergasted sometimes. Not because there’s any shortage of information. In fact, there’s too much!
There’s gems and glimmering gold all around us, as we go through life, but it’s like glimpsing a treasure while everyone around you is yelling.
Don’t you sometimes wish for something just simple and clear?
Something just simple?
Unlike Mr. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, seems like it’s just swell to be clear-headed, and sometimes I think that maintaining a good sense of balance, a feeling of calm, and a clear vision may be the entire trick to living a wonderful life.
And if, sometimes, we’re all searching for the Golden Words … well, there’s a little artist in all of us.
San Francisco, 1976: I got my first computer! It was a high-class Cromemco, in a kit, and had a lightning fast Z80 processor that ran at (gasp) 3 megahertz, and a full 64K of memory.
I had a buddy who knew computers in and out — he wrote code for our satellites to determine whether a field in russia had wheat or alfalfa — and he put the kit together for me, cause I didn’t know how to solder back then. (He’s rich and retired long since, because he went to work for a new startup called Cisco, and they gave stock options; but that’s another story.)
He also gave me a book about beginning to program in Basic.
It showed a simple technique called ‘successive refinement.’ If you are a programmer then you know this technique but for non-programmers here, it’s really simple. And mongo useful.
Here’s how it works …
You first state what the program is to do, in one sentence:
“Manage a mailing list”
Then you refine that, as precisely as possible, still in ordinary words —
“manage a mailing list
input of an address
finding an address
editing an address
sorting the addresses
printout of the addresses
printing addresses on envelopes
printing addresses on labels
And then in similar manner you break these down. Pretty soon you discover that stating what it’s to do starts to look like code, eg:
“bubblesort( addresslistname, ascending )”
After a while it’s all code, and it will have these virtues —
(a) It’s structure will seem logical to a human
(b) therefore it’s easier to debug and later modify
(c) you tend to avoid can-of-worms code that goes everywhere
Now, and here’s my point, what’s really lovely is that this approach will work fairly well for most any project of any kind.
With this, you can become … refined. Cool.
Go Thee Forth and Prosper!
Newport Beach, California, December 1985: Taking the Startel job was a colossal blunder. It’s very clear now, but not then. All women wish to be loved, cherished, and protected. I was married to Lori, but I failed miserably to show that I cherished her, and I failed to protect her.
And that brought me the most painful days in my life.
Do you believe that all events are foretold? I do. Lori and I had written our marriage ceremony, and when I gave it to Father Bob Cromey, he read it and said, “There’s nothing in here about commitment. That’s a mistake.”
He was referring to the lines where it said, “I will remain with you as long as it shall please you.” Father Cromey was correct, and so were my written words. I was with her as long as it pleased her.
This was back in the time of books like Open Marriage and such tripe, but I was turned on by these ideas. And although I never became involved with other women, when I began to ignore her, concentrating on work, building the Line Seizer device, working on computers … when I ceased being fun, when I ceased paying enough attention, when I ceased demonstrating cherishing … she started going out, I’m sure of it.
It started innocently enough, with Oz Koosed’s jitterbug class at the Avenue Ballroom. Lori, as tall as I, kept trying to lead. Either I wasn’t strong enough or focused enough. And when it came to a move called ‘The Drop’, I didn’t have the physical strength. This is a movie-move, where the woman, with body rigid, tips over and almost hits the floor. By strength of arms you hold her just inches above the floor. I couldn’t hold her. Big mistake.
She started going out to dance with the brother of a friend. I’m pretty sure it became the horizontal mambo. And idiot that I was, because I’d thought this openness was good, I put no stop to it. That was the beginning of the end.
One thing led to another. When Lori asked me to move out, I yielded to anger rather than handling the danger. Soon after, around my 40th birthday, I was offered and took a job working with Startel in southern California, and moved far away.
Oh, the business reasons made sense. We needed some equipment to advance the answering service we ran together. She already ran operations, and my marketing department already had a manager. I would bring in a lot of money. Blah blah blah.
I loaded our Volkswagen, which blew up in the desert heat along the way, continued in a rented car, and stayed with her folks in Covina while I began selling answering service equipment for Startel Corporation. Then I bought a Pugeot, rented the house in Newport Beach, and really shouldn’t have been so surprised, that first Christmas here in Southern California.
Because late at night on Christmas Eve, lying in the dark together in a bedroom at her parents home, she had something to tell me. I can still hear her voice in the darkness. She said that she’d fallen in love with another man.
I saw my errors crashing around me, shattering like glass, like mirrors, timeless and cruel as stone.
Henrietta, Texas, 1951. My mother played her nice radio in the evenings, and we listened to Green Lantern, the Phantom, the Great Gildersleeve, the Lone Ranger, and the Inner Sanctum. Not long after, television would arrive, stealing drama from the radio, but in those days radio was one story after another.Hobby time went well with radio. For example, my mother was a great and wonderful crafts person, and made marvelous things.
As we sat in the evening with one lamp turned on, she was making colored flower stencils on pillow cases.I had a project too. She’d bought me a drawing toy called a Magic Slate. This cardboard rectangle has a gray plastic sheet attached, and a pencil-shaped wooden stylus. With this stylus, you write or draw upon the gray sheet. Whenever it’s filled up, or you get tired of it, just lift the sheet and all the writing vanishes, and you can start over. Oh, the sheer magic of it!
That night we were listening to Inner Sanctum, which was a scary show about some sort of bird or a bat. But I wasn’t scared. My mom was making stencils and I was a Wizard in a Cave.
I saw an image clearly — to be a Wizard in a Cave — staying up late, by candle-light, and writing mystical things upon the Magic Slate.
The only problem was, I didn’t know any mystical things to write.
I was staying up late. I had the Magic Slate. I was all set. I scribbled some words and alphabet things. … But they were only the things I knew. It wasn’t really magical. It made me kind of sad, having no mystical things to write.
This isn’t much of a story. I don’t even remember what happened to the bird or bat thing.
But there is this: I think that the Wizard in a Cave has been the guiding image of my life.
I was no good in sports, so I learned to be a wizard. I was fearful of girls, way too shy, so I tried to appear wizardly, intellectual, knowing magical things, wise. Haw! Seems silly, now. Seemed to make sense, then.
I’m writing this now, late at night. One lamp is on. I’m in my workshop, surrounded by magical contrivances. The musical instruments I design and build, and on which I can compose, play, and improvise. A library of books, on arcane subjects such as mysql and investment charting. Computers are here. On them I have written books, made pictures, calculated mystical things such as additive sine wave patterns.
It’s late, I am no longer young, there’s one lamp, and it’s cave-like. Welcome, Arthur. You are now a Wizard in a Cave, writing mystical things.
It’s been a long road, but to arrive at being a Wizard in a Cave is just the way I thought it would be. I know mystical things, and I can write them down here, on this erasable page. Now they are both hidden, and visible to wizards all over the Universe.
The funny thing is, the most mystical of these magical things are the plain truths of human experience, the stories we all share, the open secrets of mankind, the pain and joy of living, the gaining and the terrible, terrible losses. This is the truest magic.
Even a child knows some of this. I knew magic on that night, not recognizing it there before me. The magic was that night, the color of the light, the human dreams, and my mother making stencils of colorful paint, on pillow cases, making some beauty, for her home.
A blog that I enjoy is called “Evolving Times,” and recently the writer described the situation of being “spare-changed,” on the street.
People in my parents generation used the word “beggers” to describe people who beg on the street. Or sometimes “moochers,” “panhandlers,” or “bums.” Of course, in tiny Henrietta, Texas, where I grew up, the town was too small to have an official panhandler, so the town drunk filled in part time.
Friends of mine as I grew up didn’t seem to like the word “Begger,” though it would seem to be accurate. And I guess the phrase, “Buddy, can you spare a dime?” from that older time had mutated into “Spare change?” by the hippie period in the 1960’s.
The writer in “Evolving Times” was describing what we’ve all felt in that situation. You’re walking along and you are suddenly asked, “Spare change?” Which as we all know, means “Do you have any spare change, that you could give to me?” (I guess those beggers are either very lazy, or they are astonishingly efficient.)
And then what happened?