I just learned that Extended Family Plans have changed and Random Granddaughter (and her mommies) will visit us on Saturday. The apples are just getting ripe. She can pick an apple from a low branch. She can visit the chickens and the ducks at the Friendly Neighbors and gather some very fresh eggs.

I was looking at a big tool catalog we get and looking at the many fancy construction toys they have. Unless the stock market goes up about 100% in the next two days, RG will have to settle for apples, eggs, a ferry ride, and lots of love from sappy grandparents.

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October 29, 2008

Today is the prep day for my colonoscopy. I clean out my system today. I took the first four pills at 9 am. At 3 pm I start drinking the liquids. Tomorrow I go through the actual procedure so they can see how likely it is that I have colon cancer.

I am dedicating these two days to the Help David Stay Alive Pledge Drive. If you mail a contribution today or tomorrow I will think of you each time I take a trip to the toilet. On Friday, I would like David to provide us with an update how contributions have been coming in.

I am providing first class premium quality premiums this week.

This is another Canterbury Tale from my classes. I’ll warn you right from the start; there’s nothing funny about it. In fact, it’s downright depressing. If you’re not in the mood for depressing, move on to a post on someone else’s blog.
The class was one of a series I teach for computer beginners. Three of the students had taken the previous class from me; one was new to my classes.

I am using initials now because my employer is terrified I will bring some poor student to public notice; I am terrified I will get fired before I retire in three months.

C and D are a married couple in their fifties. D had worked for the post office, been laid off, and is looking for another job. He was hoping that I would help him with his Internet skills so he can find and apply for jobs online.

 F is an Iranian woman in her fifties. Although she has lived in the United States for a number of years, her English is not very good. She asked me to find her a tutor to help with her English. She is sure she can get a better job if she can read, write, and speak English better. I am working on finding a tutor for her, though it’s not really part of my job.

R is retired after working on a ground job for an airline. Although he told me he owned two computers, a desktop and a laptop, within a few minutes of the class, I could see that his computer skills were close to nil. His demeanor was rather dour and serious, which I attributed to his anxiety about computers (a common characteristic of students in my classes). I am usually pretty good at getting anxious students to relax. One of my tools for doing so is using a bit of comedy to get students to relax about their fear and embarrassment of computers and to convey points about how computers work and don’t work very well (which is one of my points).There are days when this technique works well. On this day, things headed in a different direction.

To break the ice and get the class warmed up, I had been talking a little bit about children and grandchildren, telling a joke or two about my granddaughter (the famous Random Granddaughter-RG as I call her on my blog). C and D told me that they had several adult children and several grandchildren. R said he had one adult son.

Suddenly R said with some force, “It’s been 105 days. It has not gotten any easier at all.”

I looked at him inquiringly.

“It’s been 105 days since my grandson drowned. He was five years old. He was on a boat with his father on a fishing trip. They weren’t watching him closely enough. I don’t know how I will ever get over it.”

Awkwardly, I expressed my condolences.

R continued, “My no-good son caused his my grandson’s death” A heavy pall hung over the room where I was teaching. I felt as if I had just read a tragic memoir, conveyed in a few minutes of conversation.

D (the husband of the married couple) said, “Our son was 15 days old when he died. He was born with a birth defect. I have not gotten over it, either.”

I mentioned that the death of my cousin Joanna from breast cancer, who had become a millionaire from learning Chinese, had affected me rather strongly. I was on a grim wave-length with R. He told us that his wife had been Chinese. “She died of lung cancer. She had never smoked a day in her life. Actually, she had breast cancer. At first they thought the treatment was successful, but the cancer went to her lungs, so that was what she died of. ”

As Iran had come up during the class because F is from Iran, C and D mentioned that a close friend of theirs (no longer alive) had been a tutor to the children of the Shah of Iran. F, the student from Iran, indicated that that the Shah of Iran was not a favorite topic of hers. As she is very polite, and her English is not very good, she did not elaborate.

Despite the general atmosphere of being at a United Nations sponsored wake, I did actually get on with doing some computer instruction, which went quite well. However, I taught in a very sober and subdued manner, my usual comedic approach completely put to rest for the remainder of the class.

As we reached the end of the class, R had a last few words for me. He told me that he was not very well, either. His lungs are failing (though his ailment is different than the lung cancer that killed his wife). He provided a technical explanation of his illness, which I forget. I think my capacity for taking in depressing information had reached its limit.

 For more cheerful posts, contribute to David’s pledge drive.

 

My Wife and I Finally Meet

October 26, 2008

 

When I was young I was so afraid of young women I could hardly bring myself to even speak to one. I’m not quite sure exactly why that was, but probably I thought of myself as so worthless a person no woman would want to have anything to do with me. This must be one of the reasons I feel a bond with David and his tales of being harassed and bullied by other children and feeling worthless as a child.

I wasn’t bullied as a child in the same way he was, but in a sense I bullied myself.

When I was a teenager, the thought of asking a girl for a “date” seemed more terrifying than climbing Mt. Everest without a scarf. I had no idea how other boys had the courage to approach a girl. I never went on a date with a girl while I was in high school. Aside from my timidity and terror, not knowing how to drive a car, not knowing how to dance, and always being an introvert in a new school (my father worked for a defense contractor and was always being transferred to help install computers at a new Air Force base for the Strategic Air Command, so I attended six different high schools in three states) also did not help.

In college, I did go out on two very timid and chaste “dates” with young ladies I considered so unattractive that I figured they would even go out with me. I am kind of disgusted with myself when I consider my thinking at the time. I hope the ladies involved eventually encountered someone in their lives who was a little more respectful than I was, even if I was perfectly polite to them and never laid an improper hand on them.

My brother was still in high school and already had gone through several girl friends. He was far less timid and inhibited than I was, not to mention so immature he would do any fool thing that came into his head.

One day after I retreated home in disgrace after flunking out of college, my brother and I were home alone. We were bored. As an introvert, I would have just buried myself in a book. As an extroverted immature person, my brother started flipping through the phone book and decided to call people with peculiar last names and make jokes about their names. I went along for the ride, listening on an extension phone.

After the first two victims quickly hung up in disgust, he hit gold, reaching a teenage girl sitting bored at home with her hair up in curlers. Even though she was bored, and even though she was only about 15 years of age, my WTB (wife to be) was already a cautious, strait-laced person, not the type of person to stay on the phone flirting with a couple of boyish pranksters.

Nevertheless, she even laughed when we made fun of her eccentric last name. (She was quite happy to change it to my last name when we got married. On the other hand, my daughter was quite happy to change her last name to her out-of-law partner’s last name after they had been not-married for a few years and Random Granddaughter joined the conversation.)

Actually my brother quickly grew bored with the conversation, but I started to improvise a comedy routine and she started to laugh. I don’t remember exactly what I talked about, though I do remember extemporizing some sort of pathetic routine about elves living under toadstools. I am sure it was exactly as bad then as it sounds now.

The funniest thing about this exploit is that my wife is generally not much amused by my sense of humor; much less so than the typical reader of my blog. But somehow or other I got her laughing that night and she not only laughed, she agreed to talk to me if I called her again. Well, I did have her number.

Well, you already realize I was a youthful loser-dork. What was my wife’s problem? It was her bra size.

My wife’s mother was quite buxom, as is her older sister. As my wife became a teenager, her bosom never developed much bux. She apparently figured this physical handicap meant that no men would ever be attracted to her, forcing to her succumb to a fate of being a lonely old maid. Intellectually, even then, she knew this was nonsense, and in fact, another teenage boy, named Bruce had actually asked her out on a date, but emotionally she considered herself as an unlovable flat-chested reject in a breast-obsessed society.

As two people who each felt ourselves utterly unlikely to ever find love, I guess our love was meant to be.

At the time we met by telephone I was attending a junior college in the San Fernando Valley section of Los Angeles (after flunking out of the University of California at Berkeley) and volunteering in the news department of KPFA, the Pacifica listener-supported radio station in Los Angeles. My wife-to-be was still attending high school, where she took a drama class with Sally Field. However, my WTB is quite unlike Sally Field. Her real soul sister in the world of entertainment stars is Carol Burnett. My wife can do a brilliant Carol Burnett imitation.

I had gone on two tepid dates in college. My wife-to-be had gone out with a boy named Bruce. Bruce, the daring rake, planted a timid kiss on her lips at the end of a date. According to my wife, no sparks ensued, and her hormones yawned. I hope Bruce found his own true love somewhere whose fire he lit.

At that childish time in my life, I did not even know how to drive. After my WTB and I had talked on the phone a few times, I asked her to go out with me. Our “date” (which my father drove us to as I couldn’t drive) was a real dork-fest. On weekends, as a volunteer, I wrote and read a 15-minute newscast at the listener-supported radio station KPFA (part of the Pacifica network).

Probably seven people listened throughout the Los Angeles Metropolitan area, six of whom were probably confined to their beds, and one of whom had already called the radio station and asked why the news sounded so amateurish on weekends. Evidently fancying myself a fascinating and alluring media star, I asked my wife-to-be if she wanted to watch me do a radio broadcast and see the inside of a radio station.

My wife told her mother that she had met me at a party at one of her friends’ houses.

We went out on a couple of other equally exciting dates. I think we took the bus to go bowling with my brother and his girl friend of the time.

My WTB (the youngest of five children as I am the oldest of five children) adored one of her brothers, L, who lived in San Francisco and pursued a life as an artist. The rebel in her family, L stirred my WTB’s inner non-conformist, though at the time he caused me to lose her.

One day I called to ask her out. Her mother told me that she had gone to stay with her brother in San Francisco. The implication-or so I interpreted it-was that my WTB did not want to see me again. I figured love had been glimpsed and then lost forever from my life.

Working on it.

October 23, 2008

I can’t talk about it here, but David paid one of his premiums early, which is excellent.

I am working on the story of how I met my wife, but other events compete for my attention at the moment, so I don’t have an estimated time of arrival. Also, I will be taking care of Random Granddaughter next week and having a colonoscopy next week, though not at the same time, though I am sure that RG would find it an educational field trip of great interest to attend.

Suppressed Childhood Memory

October 22, 2008

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I am having too much fun. I need to get a grip. This is all about David, not about me.

David has suppressed memories of his childhood, for good reasons, I’m afraid; to protect himself against remembering terrible things that happened to him.

I remember my childhood as being terrible. I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of feeling sorry for myself about how badly my father treated my mother, my brother, and myself.

Last night I got in touch with a suppressed memory. I remember my brother, my sister, and myself jumping up and down on a couch and getting hysterical. I remember our parents saying to us, “You’re getting too excited. Pretty soon someone is going to get hurt and you are all going to start crying.”

I remember my sister crying hysterically. We were indeed having too much fun.

It is incompatible with my “stance” of my oppressed childhood to recall that we sometimes had fun in my family. So I have suppressed those memories. Unfortunately, or fortunately, one of those memories broke through.

I was having too much fun with surrealist dwillings, plotting trips for David to meet truce in France, and other jumping up and down on the couch. I am suffering a hangover today. Also we have a staff meeting at work and I am very likely to mention the elephant in the room. This will not go over well at all.

However, I have to tell you about how my wife and I met. This embarrasses me hugely. Next post.

Surrealist Open Houses

October 22, 2008

David and Truce are such a cool couple, even though they are not a couple yet and are divided by a great deal of ocean. However, they are engaged in repartee about starting a surrealist estate business, an idea that seized my mind with ferocious fervor and made me all the more determined to make my Keep David Alive Fund Drive a stunning success.

I immediately became entranced with David holding surrealist open houses, and found some pictures of them. Just imagining David showing these dwelling–there has to be a better word–dwallings…dwillings…dwollings…dwullings? Anyway, just imagining David showing them fills me with such delight I can hardly contain myself.

Putting a lot of links into a comment sends the WordPress spam checker into fits like a rabid German Shepherd snarling and barking and growling and howling hysterically, so I figured I should put it into my own blog. So here it goes.

If you look at all these pictures of surrealistic houses and are half as delighted as I am, you will send David a $5 pledge before this week ends. This is serious stuff.

Surrealist Dwelling #1

Surrealist dwilling #2

Surrealist dwilling #3

Surrealist dwilling #4

Surrealist dwilling #5

Surrealist dwilling #6

Surrealist dwilling #7

Surrealist dwilling #8

 

Surrealist dwilling #9

 

For reasons I don’t understand, this turned into a really nasty post to get to work. If you look at all the pictures, I think you should pledge $10.

Well, you get a nice house out of it, anyway.

Match-Making

October 21, 2008

This is my second “Seinfeld” story,  that is a story about nothing, though something or other happens even in a story about nothing, so this story describes a bit of happy matchmaking.

I don’t know if I have ever matched two people romantically. By accident I once put two people in touch with each other and they fell in love and got married (which had not been my intention) but they later divorced bitterly, so I am relieved that it had not been my intention for them to marry.

Anyway, matchmaking can involve just introducing two people to each other because they will like each other or have an interest in common or can be useful to each other. I have successfully done that sort of matchmaking, and I had a good experience in this regard a couple of weeks ago.

I have talked about our friends S and B before. S grew up in Sri Lanka at a time when the terrible civil war was just getting started. As a child she saw people burned alive in mob violence. Her father had been a “rascal” (involved in petty crime such as changing currency illegally) and a Catholic, so S had attended a Catholic school where she had been taught by nuns. An older sister was already a college student in the United States. When the Catholics closed the school and sent the nuns back to Europe, because Sri Lanka had become too dangerous, S’ father decided Sri Lanka was too dangerous for his daughter as well, so he sent S to live with her sister in the United States.

S and my wife used to work together in Portland and they became good friends.

I don’t know how she met her American husband B, who works for a power company in Oregon. I will have to ask them one of these days.

They plan to retire to Washington. We hoped they would move to lot #4 (we are on lot #3) on our island. Each lot is about five acres in size because my wife and I love lots of separation from our neighbors. We love our neighbors more when we are not cheek by jowl with them.

S  and B decided not to move next door to us. S has a bad knee and can’t walk very far. They don’t mind living next door  to their neighbors as my wife and I do. S hopes to get an artificial knee to replace her failing natural knee before she retires. My wife’s other best friend has had two artificial hips installed. All of us are getting older and turning into cyborgs. My wife and I still have our original parts, though they definitely creak.

So S and B have been having a house built on the mainland. It is almost done. They will retire and move into the house in about a year.

Our neighbors on lot #1, whom I call the Friendly Neighbors for blog purposes, have been extremely helpful to us. We all garden, which bonds us together. Mr. Friendly Neighbor is a very handy person. He especially loves wood working, and makes many beautiful objects out of wood, both furniture and works of art. He is, in fact, a woodworking nerd (a term I use out of admiration, not disparagement).

He loves to talk about woodworking. He will show me a beautiful piece of furniture he is working on and talk about a joint is going to fashion and ask my opinion. He will point at a couple of other joints and ask my opinion about which to use.

I will say something such as, “That one looks very nice. But that one also looks very nice as well.”

He is a very kind and gentle person, so he says nothing unkind to me, or even cast a look of disgust at me, but it is clear I am of no use to him whatsoever in this regard. I feel like I have let him down terribly. Although he and his wife built their house together-and it indeed a splendid and beautiful dwelling-she is not a woodworking nerd either.

B, is also a woodworking nerd. When S and B visited us a couple of weekends ago, they noticed a sign in front of the Friendly Neighbors’ house advertising eggs for sale. (Their chickens are now producing eggs lustily, though probably that is not the appropriate word, as the Friendly Neighbors do not have a rooster.) They are now selling eggs to neighbors and friends such as us to help pay for feed for the “girls,” as they refer to the hens.

S said to us, “I would love to buy some fresh eggs.” She and my wife had a happy conversation about the difference between fresh organic eggs from the farm and fresh organic eggs in the natural food store. The difference is night and day they agreed.

I said, “I will walk down to the Friendly Neighbors and buy a dozen eggs for you.”

B said, “I will come with you.” S stayed at our place with my wife because the quarter mile walk would be too hard on her bum knee.

When we got to the Friendly Neighbors’ house, I introduced B to Mr. FN. “He is another woodworker,” I said to Mr. FN.

B looked at a table that Mr. FN had built. “What kind of wood is that?” he asked. I don’t even remember the answer (clueless  as I am), but within a few minutes they were deep in conversation about different kinds of wood and a few minute later Mr. FN was taking B on a tour of the house, showing him all his woodworking projects, and they were deep in  happy woodworking nerdish conversation. It was clearly love at first sight, as I had expected it would be.

Mrs. FN and I talked about chickens and gardening. After about half an hour, Mr. FN and B came up for air, and I told B, “We have to get back to our wives.” He obediently followed me, though it was obvious he could easily have spent many more hours in happy conversation with Mr. FN.

As we walked back, carrying the eggs, B described some beautiful piece of furniture Mr. FN had made. “I wanted to make something like that, but I didn’t.”

“Why not?” I asked.

“As I talked about it, S said she saw no need for us to have it. It didn’t go with our other furniture, she said. ‘Why do you want to make that?’ she asked me. ‘We don’t need it.’ She didn’t understand that I just wanted to make it,” he concluded mournfully.

As far as I can tell, B & S have a very happy and successful marriage. Yet as David has said, even in a successful relationship, one partner cannot meet all the needs of the other partner. There has to be space for other relationships even in the happiest marriage.

These other relationships do not always need to be alternative romantic relationships in every case. Probably in very few cases, though I have known some relationships where such relationships did occur.

However, David certainly needs to have at least one romantic relationship no matter how eccentric it may be. Even perhaps with someone as far away as Australia. Maybe that’s how much space he needs for a relationship to flourish. In my next post I will talk about the very high level premiums for those who contribute to the pledge drive.

We Have Ignition

October 21, 2008

 

Yesterday, David wrote: I did indeed receive two pledges in my mail box today, one from you, and one from LFC, I think … from Texas, enclosed in a most apropos greeting card.

This proved to me that:

1) Mail from Texas is much faster than I would ever have guessed

2) It is actually somewhat safe to send cash in the mail

3) Now that I’m an adult, people seem as willing to be nice to me for no reason as they were to be mean for no reason when I was a kid. I think that hammering this home to me once and for all is actually your goal, and it’s possible that you might really get there.

Fluffy wrote that she found a flight to Australia for under $400. Perhaps not only does mail from Texas get to Portland faster than one would expect, but people get to Australia faster as well. This might be dangerous, but that might also make it more exciting for David.

Also, I haven’t seen Jenny posting or commenting much lately, but when she does she often writes, “FTL,” which stands for “Feel the Love.” Perhaps when you mail your shareware payment to David, enclose a note that says, FTL! Excuse me, I hate mushiness. And my next post will be a little mushy, to boot.

 

As a child, I was bullied by my father, as was my mother. I don’t think he was aware of bullying his family, and after he got done with my brother and me, he stopped with the three younger siblings who are puzzled why the two of us resented him so much.

As a school child, I was not especially bullied, but I was aware of bullying and aware of being the kid next in line to be bullied. Children who are bullied send out signals of being good targets. This is not fair, and not really their fault, but the phenomenon clearly exists. When I was a public school teacher I could often tell within a day or two which students were likely to be bullied.

I did get beat up a couple of times as a child. I never learned boxing or karate or similar martial arts skills, so I’ve avoided physical combat situations all of my life. However, anyone can be thrown into such a situation unexpectedly. My first instinct would be to call the  police, but if I had to I would strive to hurt a threatening person, no matter how feebly.

I have been in a couple of scary situations in my life. This is sort of a “Seinfeld story” in that it is about nothing and nothing happened. I tell it in honor of the pledge drive, so if the story fascinates you for a second or two, send a buck to David.

About 15 years ago, I was working in downtown Portland. I rode the bus to and from work. One day after work I was standing on the sidewalk among many other people waiting for busses. I noticed a man and woman engaged in quiet but intense conversation.

He was white and fairly large. She was small and Asian—for no particular reason I imagined she was Vietnamese. I could not tell if they were in a relationship—husband and wife or boyfriend and girlfriend. They looked as if they were in their thirties or forties.

Although I could not hear the conversation-they were about half a block away and speaking quietly—it was clear to me that he was berating or threatening her and that she was frightened. Angry and threatening was how I would describe his demeanor. Cowering and terrified would be how I would describe hers. There was no physical contact between them, but there was a feeling of threat in the air.

There was no visible reason to intervene or to call the police, but my sense of the tone of their conversation and their body language told me that there might be a need to do so. This was before the time when cell phones were so popular and I had none. There was a phone booth about a block away. There were quite a few people standing around waiting for busses, but I seemed to be the only one noticing the situation.

I decided to stay and quietly observe the tense couple from a distance until the situation resolved peacefully on its own or called for action. I made up my mind to miss my bus and catch a later one if need be.

A few minutes later a bus arrived, apparently the one the woman was waiting for. She scurried over and boarded it with a look of relief on her face. He looked angry but made no attempt to follow. I inferred there was no relationship between them.

Men threaten women all the time, both women they know and women they don’t know, for various reasons, mostly unsavory. Why a man would threaten a woman he evidently didn’t know in the midst of a crowd of people in a very public place remains perplexing to me.

As the bus left I turned my attention away. My bus arrived a few minutes later, and relieved that I had not had to engage in senseless heroics, I boarded and headed home. As I say, it’s a story about nothing. If it held your attention for a moment or two, set aside a dollar for David’s pledge drive.