The Season of Winding Up (And Down)

Kage Baker called this last week before Christmas the home stretch – as, indeed, most people probably do. Except those of us who have been reduced to drooling babbling by this point …

However, despite the very real and huge looming terrors of this Christmas season, I am proceeding at some peace. My family is gathered in its tiny fortress, ably defended and decorated by Kimberly and Michael. The tree is up, there are lights everywhere, and sitting here in the living room is a lot like sitting in a geode. One lined with Swarovski crystals. There’s not a damn thing I can do to help, but I certainly do appreciate the effect.

My latest doctor’s appointments have been largely teleconferenced, but the ENT specialist had to see me in person – he’s responsible now for the trach tube in my throat, and the person who will help get rid of the thing. As a first step, he downsized the tube by 3 sizes – from a 7 to a 4. I am not entirely sure what that means in terms of physical reality, but it does include my suddenly having a much shorter tube down my throat. So much shorter, in fact, that I have already coughed it out once. That was both ickily messy and quite frightening, but one good thing came of it – we discovered that I can, yes, actually breathe without the tube. When the time comes, and the tube is removed when I am not having a panic attack, the results should be grand.

Other that that, I totter around the house with my oxygen caddy, and frequently cough like a Victorian consumptive. The problem is not an infectious process, but rather an inhuman excess of mucus: mostly caused by the fact that there is a plastic tube in my throat. My throat considers this an extremely unnatural and irritating situation, and continues to try and flood the thing out. All it manages to do is half drown me in my own secretions.

Secretions is such an ugly word, don’t you think, Dear Readers?

In other domestic news, our elder cat, the beloved mini-panther Alexandria, is fast approaching her passage over the the Rainbow Bridge. Our main concern for her now is quality of life – as long as she is happy and interested in her food and petting, we won’t hurry her along. But she’s fabulously old, has a tricky heart, arthritic joints, and what we fear is a return of cancer in her velvety little skull. It might turn out to be a bad eye infection, and we are treating that for her comfort: but in any case, it seems that if she gets to share Christmas with us, it will be a small miracle. Which we shall embrace with joy.

No packages have been high-jacked by porch pirates, which is amazing. What little shopping we can do is almost exclusively by mail, and we have been both careful and lucky. When one of our purchases was accidentally delivered to the wrong address – by an apparent idiot – the freight company got its replacement to us right away.

You have to be grateful for these things, this time of year. So much of life is currently lived perforce in solitude and darkness, we need to cling to every light and piece of luck we can. In deference to the machines that keep me breathing while I sleep, and in order to keep a close eye on the gently fading Alexandria, Kimberly is now sleeping in the living room with me – I am either in the recliner, or stretched out at an angle, supported by all the pillows in the world, on the couch. Kimberly is wherever I am not, and Alexandria wedges herself in by whomever’s feet are available. It’s actually been rather pleasant; when we can’t sleep, we watch television and chat. Haven’t done that since we were children.

So, the cat is winding down, Christmas is winding up, and I am winding both up and down – resulting in a sort of whole-body sideways twitch. It’s slightly confused and disheveled around here, but I am so happy to be here in the house with my family that I don’t mind. God He knows, I’ve had crazier Christmas seasons – nearly any of the many I have spent doing Extreme Christmas at the same time as decorating my own house for the festivities – just because I drove 700 miles a weekend for two days of costumed insanity, didn’t mean I failed to put up lights and garlands and candles and bows … the very craziest years were the ones where Dickens Fair ended on, like, the 23rd or 24th of December. Then it would be a truly demented rush to pack and clear the set, get home, drive 200 miles in the opposite direction, and celebrate with my family.

I must admit, despite the problems we’re having, this year is easier in so many ways than some past ones. It’s certainly better than the last 3, as we now have a growing hope that we will all actually survive this year’s ending.

In Greek tradition, Dear Readers, there are determined underground goblins called kallikantzaroi, who occupy the 12 days of Christmas (December 25th to January 6th) in frantically trying to chop through the trunk of the World-Tree. Should they succeed, we will all fall into the shapeless ylem from which creation emerged at the beginning – too bad, so sad, welcome to the primordial void. However, they get distracted during the Christmas celebrations and run around indulging in other festive deviltry until the bells of the Epiphany ring – that chases them back underground, where they discover that the World-Tree has healed and their task is all to do over again.

Our own Presidential kallikantzaro is presently running around in a confused state, trying to chop down anything he can get his tiny hands on. Luckily, Epiphany bells galore will ring on January 6th and he will be banished. Then he can fall into the ylem on his own, and choke on it. I am really looking forward to that particular wind-up.

So, all things considered, this season is proceeding in a generally fortunate direction. There will be pain and loss, but this is the black heart of the winter, when such things are inevitable. In the meantime, the little black cat is curled up on the couch on her special blanket, purring. As long as she is, all is well.

Stay warm and safe in the growing dark, Dear Readers. We have a little way to go yet before the sun dependably rises once more.

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Tomorrow – The Tree

Kage Baker had a method for getting through the holidays without losing her mind. She did everything on a strict schedule; many portions of the holidays were things she always did, always the same way – they settled obediently into their calendar areas, and almost accomplished themselves.

The outside lights went up on the first of December; the tree went up on the 15th. Indoor deco went up all through the first 2 weeks of December, and on most weekends we went flying up I-5 to Dickens Fair. And that was so carefully choreographed a travel experience, that all that was left to surprise us were the unnatural vagaries of the highway.

Hopefully, anyway. There was always the occasional disaster du jour that we hadn’t anticipated, just to spice up some weekend with ambient insanity. Sometimes half our Inn cast forgot items of clothing, and we had to beg, borrow and swap pieces in order to get everyone dressed by Opening. One of our constant solutions for undecorated hair was crocheted doilies: we somehow had accumulated dozens of them, in lovely patterns and stitches, and many of the ladies of my household spent their days with a charming little lace beanie cunningly folded and pinned atop their curls.

Despite its atmosphere of swirling chaos – and sometimes you did feel like you might be Dorothy Gale, whisked off to Piccadilly Square instead of Oz – the Fair actually rolls along to a deep, constant, implacable rhythm. All you had to do was surrender to it, and you inevitably found yourself in the right places, at the right times. Mind you, later that night you might suddenly wake up and wonder WHY you had to be doing a line-dance with the Chimney Sweeps down the Grand Concourse – but it made for a good show.

Anyway, the only way we ever got through the mad totality of December was by clinging to the schedules we made.

Sometimes you just have to let the gods of the theatre bend you to their will.

We’re following as much as of this system as we can at Chez Bartholomew: the outside lights are proudly glowing along the porch and the iron railings of the front yard, and the living room has been gradually begun glowing with colours of ice and gems. Tomorrow the tree will be fetched in, and we’ll go thought the holiday feng shui: re-arranging the room so everyone can see the tree and the telly, and has a place to sit besides.

I’ve got to admit, not doing Dickens this year is sort of an awkward gift from God. So many of us simply wouldn’t survive it this year! But our producers, the Pattersons, have moved Heaven and Earth and produced a virtual Dickens for the delight of us all. You can go the site, wander around through many of the displays and shops that usually make up our street, and purchase (from the safety of your living room) goodies you have come to love from Dickens Fair. Try going to and sampling whoever is on station this weekend.

Me, though, I am content to spend this winter pushing my convalescence to totality. I have defeated pneumonia, and dodged Covid-19; I can walk, I can talk, and I can even lie down for a few hours at a time. I have all manner of cunning techno toys to provide oxygen for me, from old fashioned tanks to the smallest and newest of the modern oxygen accumulators. In fact, the shoulder-bag O2 will make it possible for me to breeze in and out of a lab appointment tomorrow, almost like a normal person!

And I have twice so far had quite successful video appointments with my doctors – one by phone and one via my computer, but both clear and loud and easy to follow. I find I LOVE virtual doctors’ appointments. The doctors can even get a good look at my trach assembly, since a trach tube in one’s throat is not exactly a subtle thing … a good camera is as good as my being there sitting on a hard cold table under a spotlight. So far, anyway.

Kage would have liked a lot of this, I am sure. Having to live through the pandemic would appall her as well as fascinate her; she would absolutely love being able to see her doctor via her computer, though, rather than venturing out into the winter cold and winds.

And in the meantime, we proceed through the careful steps of Making Christmas. A small, cozy close to home Christmas for us, in our fiercely defended single household; but still a blessed time to be together, And maybe – maybe! – even safer this year than last.

Soon, soon, I will be able to work on a story for you, too, Dear Readers. We’ve carved us out a nice, safe place to spend the winter.

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Saturday Night, Alas

Kage Baker loved Saturday nights. Not because she was mad party girl, revving up to bar-hop half the night; not because she liked to go out and dance. For her, they were a big King’s X in time.

What she liked about Saturdays was that they were a guaranteed, insulated safe spot in the week – the work week was done, and Sunday was another guaranteed blank spot coming up at her back. Even during Extreme Christmas, Saturday nights were a time out. Kage could relax and have a cocktail or three, stay up late and retire knowing the next day would begin on such smooth, practiced rails – mostly managed by other people – that all she really had to do was be awake by the time we hit the Cow Palace.

I used to lure her out bed with a Starbucks’ latte – make sure she was dressed and had her shoes on, brush and braid her hair, and shove her into the car. Kage was tremendously organized: she never lay down to sleep on a Fair Saturday without laying out her costume pieces for Sunday, and doing 90% of her packing for the ride home. So it was pretty easy to include – along with the other passengers, the duffels, the baskets with earrings and stockings and spare cans of Coke and extra mustard – the limp, bundled up figure of Kage, clutching her coffee with stiff blue hands in the frosted morning air.

She usually woke up completely about the time we got to the Bay Bridge. Then she could eagle-eye my approach to the City, so I didn’t screw up at the lane changes and take us off to San Jose or Half Moon Bay; which I occasionally did. Fair Sunday mornings only lightly touched reality …

When we weren’t doing Dickens, Kage just attached herself to her desk symbiotically. All day, she wrote; into the night, through meals, with brief breaks to cook or request a ride out to watch waves, or the necessity of an ice cream cone from a a particular ice cream shop. Other than that, she wrote right over the boundary between Saturday and Sunday, consenting to awaken only when the second carafe of coffee began perfuming her bedroom.

And then she wrote all Sunday as well, unless she was taken with an irresistible urge to go look over the cliffs on the edge of Highway 1 in Big Sur.

Tonight is a Saturday night, but it’s not like any others in my 67 years. It’s palpably winter time – brief grey day and a sudden night like the fall of a black velvet bag. But there’s no frisson of energy running below the surface, no mad pulse like spring water running silent under a cap of ice: there’s no Fair. There will be no Fair tomorrow. I haven’t even gotten out of my night clothes today, let alone dared pantaloons and hoops and corsets – which I daresay would kill me now anyway. But I do so miss the impatient, demanding, raving energy …

Kage never did, or never said so. She always expressed relief at a genuinely free Saturday – More time to write! Get me a fresh Coke, will you? And put some Gilbert and Sullivan on permanent repeat, she would demand. And then fall through the screen of her monitor into the world inside her head. She just stayed in there longer when she didn’t have to do Fair the next day.

At the moment, I am trying to introduce artistic tension into my blood by watching Riverdance. God He knows it’s a fascinating challenge, trying to simultaneously type coherently and still keep time to the dancers’ feet with my poor ten fingers. But it’s exciting!

Still … I wish I could put any of those Saturdays with Kage on permanent repeat. I could do that, like, forever …

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Coming Back To Life; Or, An Abrupt Change of Subject

Kage Baker had a peculiar conviction that the Bible – Testaments Old and New – was full of zombie stories.

This is no way interfered with her religious faith. Kage considered herself a Christian, probably a Catholic; but also a proponent of one of the oldest strains of Christianity: a protestant. By preference, an Anabaptist, for which you can blame all the research that gave birth to Nicholas Harpole. Kage worked so hard on his philosophies, she ended up agreeing with them. With him. Whatever.

Anyway, to Kage’s infant understanding (when she first began to be read Bible stories), the Bible was full of stories of decided weirdness. As a corroborative point, people are still debating whether or not the prophet Ezekial saw a flying saucer. There are kings and queens popping up all over the place; people talking to animals (and still expecting to today. Consider the snake handlers.); disguising themselves as missing heroes and heroines, and coming into their power by a sort of spiritual sleight of hand. These tales were not appreciably different from the faerie stories we were told, as well.

Lots of them seemed to involve people coming back from the dead, too. There are numerous ghosts, few of them friendly; demons and angels wander around, possessing pigs and beggars and pools of water. And the dead do not lie quiet – even if they wanted to (and they are not usually consulted), there is always some importunate relative mopping and mowing and begging someone to re-animate them.

Kage said she was not sure if the Centurion’s servant minded too much being saved long-distance, although the fellow was probably tired. But Lazarus might have had a few cross words for his sisters – after all, the guy had been dead for three days when Jesus gave in to Mary and Martha’s tears, and summoned their brother from his tomb. There is no clear account of just how Lazarus fit back into village life, either.

Of course, the star back-from-the-dead turn is Jesus’ own, rising from his own tomb three days after dying on the cross. The nuns taught us in grade school that Jesus did not actually die, though: only the mortal part of Him did, leaving the Son of God as immortal as He had always been. Kage was dubious. Not of the miracle, which is after all part of the foundation of Christianity – she was unconvinced that the trick was manageable at all. Either you were dead or you weren’t. Did anyone really get to mix and match those states? And if they did – weren’t they a zombie?

As an adult, she was considerably less doubtful of the capabilities of God. She stopped worrying about the possibility of Biblical zombies, and just decided to rest on the even rise and fall of the energies of Time. She herself claimed to be unsure if the change was the growth of faith, or of fatigue: but I do remember that she was making zombie jokes even in our teens. And long before old age began to leer at us from the shadows, Kage was praying firmly to rest safe and easy at her death, and be gathered to the bosom of Whomever was in charge.

I certainly have no reason to believe she was not. She hasn’t haunted me, so I have assumed she was contentedly slow-dancing with God. She lived. She died. She was fairly satisfied with all of it, and has gone on to whatever comes next.

I, on the other hand, am still trying to claw my way out of the grave. Some days it all seems a lark, a travail easily borne in the sweet airs and daylight of the world. During those days, my feet don’t hurt. I am never short of breath; I don’t need to eat or sleep; I can dance all day and drive all night on a 2-hour nap under an oak tree. And I’m not looking back with futile longing to my 20’s and 30’s; I was footing it with real energy and vigour as recently as 2 years ago. Then, like the Famous One-Hoss Shay, I fell apart.

Now it’s a case of finding out just what I can still do, and buckling down and doing it. I’ve had to keep ratcheting my expectations down, until last year I ended up in a coma with a tube in my throat. Spending 7 months flat in a hospital bed leads (ultimately) to some serious thought. Sure, for quite a while I complained and moaned about my misfortunes, and was a decidedly antagonistic patient – but, had I not been, no one would ever have taken seriously my oft-stated determination to stand up, walk, and go home.

I’d still be on a ventilator, warehoused in a skilled care facility after the tracheotomy had taken my ability to breathe; while months and months in bed had turned my muscles to goo and my mind to oatmeal. However, by Spring covid-19 patients were flooding even my little hospital on the Hollywood Presbyterian campus; and anyone who looked like they had half a chance to graduate from assisted breathing was being pushed into rehabilitation to make room for some poor sod with the virus.

Consequently, even some quite daft suggestions on my part as to what I could actually do were taken seriously by my over-worked nurses. It got me out of the bed, it got me off the ventilator (which was whisked away within the hour for some unfortunate who had lost control of their lungs), it got me access to solid food after 6 months on fluids, and ultimately it got me released on my own recognizance.

I cannot regret any of my tantrums or demands now, when I am home at last. I had to beg, plead, and finally threaten a power-mad hospitalist with a lawsuit if he didn’t let me go. I only got out on the middle of the night, arriving home of 2:30 in the morning to find my family waiting for me with open eyes and arms. Life has been much better since then.

Breathing is still an adventure, and one which sometimes leaves me gasping. I think I could actually take a walk outside, but no one – not even me! – thinks it’s a good idea to chance an encounter with an infected neighbor. So, still a bit of that old zombie vibe hanging around to make things interesting; and anyway, if I’m wrong, I’d run out of oxygen half a block way and have to crawl ignominiously home. Like a second-string lungfish …

There may yet be a zombie apocalypse on the horizon when all 100 million of those vaccine doses are administered – but probably not. I am confident there will be some other, amusing weirdness coming along any moment now. Something to make it even more worthwhile to have fought off the shambling fellow with the sexton’s spade who haunted my sparse sleep all spring and summer, my own private Igor coming to intern me under the checked linoleum floor of my hospital room.

He hasn’t bothered me since I came home. I am beginning to believe he’s gone for good.

Life is much too interesting, and weird as hell right now anyway, to worry about it.

leafless tree under gray sky

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December 10, 2020

Kage Baker liked this time of the Christmas season; it was peaceful, she said, between the first burst of decorating and the mad whirl of Christmas Eve and The Day Itself.

Right now, she could sit at her desk in the light of our living room candles, and the outdoor lights around the window; coruscating rainbows sliding over every polished surface in the room. She got an enormous kick out of typing literally through the reflections of the coloured lights in her monitor screen. She was energized by the lights on our trees, and the growing pile of presents that accumulated through December. We had a mess of relatives between us, and the pile of goodies under our tree was impressive until we ran out on Christmas Morning to deliver them.

Kage was not much into snowmen, elves, Rudolph or Olive or penguins. She did like the Coca Cola polar bears, but that was because she was a devotee of Coke. She only put up with the reindeer because she venerated stags as a winter symbol – she was rather horrified when I explained to her (in my pedantic way) that only female reindeer kept their antlers through the winter, and therefore all of Santa Claus’ team were girls.

She absolutely loathed Santa Claus – the American one, anyway, regardless of Thomas Nast. Kage liked the British Father Christmas, the Russian Grandfather Frost, the Hogfather … authoritative father figures in red leather and white fur, who understood that in the end it all comes down to blood on the snow …

But for all these middle nights between the hysterical onset of the season, and the sheer frenzy of Christmas Day itself, Kage floated comfortably on momentum. She was terribly organized when it came to getting presents; and we had Dickens Fair down to a science, so the weekly journey up and down I-5 was automatic and almost easy. She wrote a lot during the Christmas season, though it was never about Christmas – she tended to write Christmas stories in October, for some reason. But it was no off season for her; she wrote every day and night.

I myself was always pretty busy during this time: I was the one who could drive, and run the Inn, and wrap presents (Kage was an awful present-wrapper, and so I wrapped all her gifts to everyone but myself). I actually lost weight at Christmas, from all the running around we had to do.

This year, though, the weight of the holiday is just too much for me. There is no Dickens Fair, alas, due to the pandemic – but that does prevent me from killing myself trying to work the event in my diminished state. I too am coasting along on momentum this year, and I pray every day that the energy will get me alive through the darkest heart of winter … and part of that, Dear Readers, is forcing myself to write again. I really have been slacking.

I am breathing better; not well, but better. I now have a floor model oxygen accumulator for the house, a portable one for doctor visits, and tanks of oxygen for staggering around the house; I may be on oxygen for the rest of my life, but I am managing it with relative ease and comfort. My dear friend Cynthia sent me a gorgeous little bicycle horn this week (Thank you so much, Cynthia!) and I hung it on my oxygen caddy. I can summon help from anywhere in the house with a discreet Aaooga. It makes Harry squeak, but I think he likes it.

I can talk, though I am hoarse and gravelly. I cannot sing, but I do it anyway: my pulmonologist says it’s good therapy. I can barely laugh, but I do anyway because – well, you just HAVE to, don’t you? It makes me cough until I tear up, but I cannot cry – the mechanism of sobbing is beyond the current working abilities of my throat, as it’s less than half its normal width due to the tracheotomy tube still in my throat. But the news of the world has been better every day, so who needs to cry? I’ll happily put up with coughing for the chance to laugh.

I am confined to the house, unless I absolutely must see one of my doctors. But they very much do NOT want me running around in the Los Angeles pandemic, so all my recent visits have been virtual. Which is sort of entertaining. In fact, my cardiologist called me today to specifically forbid me to leave the house for at least the next fortnight: despite all my ill health, I have not tested positive for COVID-19, and no one wants me to chance it. Kimberly and Michael go out only on vital missions, masked and gloved. Mostly we all three are snugged down in our little house with all our beasties, who really seem to prefer it that we not go anywhere anyway.

Hopefully, I will be able to keep up the writing for a bit now. I am better, and it might be easier to enter back into life from this quiet space and place. You’ve all been so patient, Dear Readers.

I really am glad to be coming (slowly) back ….

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Taking Inspiration From the Caddis Fly

KAGE BAKER admired the constructions of caddis fly pupae. Not the bugs themselves, mind you, though they are fairly inoffensive insects with long gauzy wings. Not the actual larvae, either, which are fairly offensive little wormies that live their entire juvenile life underwater.

What makes the caddis pupae interesting is that they are architects. Like the more famous bees and wasps, they create little homes for themselves: not for the entire caddis community, but highly individual tubes of tiny, mortised stones. Inside these unpleasantly crunchy shells resides the gooey, helpless goodness of the pupae, which hope to survive until winged adulthood in their tiny little sarcophagi.

And here is where caddis flies get really interesting, you see. Because left to its own arthropodic devices, it will spin about itself a gummed-up envelope of sand grains, tough pollen, bits of shale and granite and crystal. Whatever aesthetic informs the pupa’s choices is alien to humans, other than the presumed disinclination to be nibbled upon by trout. But we can see what they do, even if we don’t understand it.

However, any one caddis pupa can be presented with carefully curated building supplies by scientists with slightly more time on their hands than common sense – supplies that include gold and silver beads and wire, tiny glass beads and cabochons, slivers of mirror, polished fragments of jade, sapphire, topaz, ruby, amethyst and lapis lazuli. Fish scales like burnished silver, seed pearls, slices of millefiori glass. and the occasionally nicely polished fragment of amber beer bottle or blue hand cream jar.

The results are magical elfin jewels, tidily flensed of their wormy masters – who have flown away on dragonfly wings – and left to adorn the fingers and ears of such pale ladies as do not fall into the river and float down drowned from Shallot.

Kage was enchanted with this insect-level craftsmanship. She always searched creek beds for caddis shells (though she never found any, alas) and often compared the process of her own writing to the blind energy of the caddis. Collect anything! Collect everything! Beauty will come to dwell in the interstices of shiny rocks and glass chips, and what you leave behind when you fly will be beautiful beyond the dreams of love …

This is a method which, I think, works for all writers. It certainly works for me, after years of watching Kage accumulate shiny bits for her story shells. I do the same thing, try to remember every unique and peculiar happening that chances by me, measuring each shiny bit to see if will fit into the growing mosaic in my head.

My recent 7-month long stay in hospital has provided me with all sorts of material. Most of the sparklies I encountered were fairly scary – part of their charm was the shadow-limning of terror and despair that outlined them against the sterile boredom of my days in bed. I became a connoisseuse of ceilings: I saw a lot of them, from various beds and gurneys. I now detest acoustic tile with the heat of a thousand suns.

There were always weird cries and howls – especially when the Lakers and the Dodgers were winning their respective tournaments; the staff was darting in and out of any room with a television all day, trying to catch glimpses of the games. But I remember best one gentleman protesting at length that he simply had to be released so he could go vote: I admired his tenacity, but he was about 6 months early when he started in on it. There was also a lady who kept wailing that a monster was eating her cat … I felt very sorry for her, since if one must endure a lasting hallucination it would be nicer if it were not of a cherished friend’s being endlessly devoured.

There were nicer ephemera, though. Every early morning, the first sunlight would paint shadows of tree limbs across the wall at the foot of my bed. Sometimes, the silhouette of some little bird would appear as well, hopping from branch to branch. I watched for it anxiously every day.

Some of the staff had voices I enjoyed, and listened to as if they were a distant radio broadcast. One gentleman had shoes with such aggressively rubber soles that his footstep literally tweeted as he walked. The sound of small birds accompanied him everywhere; he was an especially dour fellow, so it always made me giggle.

I did resolve, though, that I would never, ever becomes what I heard so late at night: a thin voice weeping unremarked in the distance, remembering what no one else was left to understand. I’ve made sure my family knows I most emphatically do not want heroic measures should my health take that last, fatal curve into nothingness: let me go, don’t leave me to cry out endlessly for succor from people who don’t care … when I’ve used up the gold beads and silver wires, for gods’ sakes don’t leave me to make my caddis shell out of dull grey pebbles.

I’ve made such a good start with glass and pearls and tinfoil already. Let me finish my caddis shell in glory.

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Day 4 of November 2nd

Kage Baker was a serious and dedicated voter. She read up on issues, always voted; and the day after the November elections, she resumed her life with a reading of all the new laws over a breakfast of left-over Halloween candy.

This year is different. For one thing, there was very little Halloween – we did lights and deco, but also a sad little sign advising kids there were no treats to be had. And most parents did keep their little ones at home, or just drove them around to look at all the lights. Not a year for greeting strangers at the door in droves …

Also, Election Day just won’t quit. Here we are on day 4 of Tuesday, fairly sure we know who our next President will be – but unable to celebrate until one or more still-counting states get their acts in gear and declares for the winner. Kage would be yelling at me to turn MSNBC the hell off and she would be resolutely watching The Wrong Box or some other glorification of lost empire …

Me and my family, though, we are pretty much glued to the telly; and yes, it’s on MSNBC. I keep waiting with undisguised schadenfreude for President Trump to have a temper tantrum, but his staff is enforcing dignity on him. Too little and much too late, but really – haven’t we already had enough curtain calls on this banana republic farce? Let him be carted away quietly. Most of us are ready to have this end.

But I shall sleep a little better tonight, even without the Grand Announcement made yet. The fever heat is breaking, and a cool northern wind is making the stars sparkle. And for the first time in 4 years, I won’t go to sleep wondering if I will still have Social Security and Medicare in 2 months.

We may live through this after all, Dear Readers. No matter who you supported, no matter for whom you cast your vote: the delirium is beginning to clear, and maybe we can go back to being one people again.

Thanksgiving will be especially sweet this year.

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Once More Out of the Breach, My Friends

Kage Baker firmly believed that if something happened once, odds were high it would happen again. And the weirder the occurrence, the more likely it would be to repeat. Never mind waiting for “third time is enemy action” for Kage: any out-of-the way happening was sure as hell somebody’s fault. And she wanted them to be punished.

If I could figure out who was responsible for the spectacular collapse of my own health, I would commit several mortal crimes, I fear. Probably involving the steel pins the miscreant keeps jabbing into portions of my victim doll’s anatomy.

I once more ended up in the hospital last Monday, the 26th. Taking an ordinary walk to the bathroom, I realized I could not catch my breath: my throat was closing. Michael called 911, Kimberly quickly hooked up my nebulizer right there on the sink, and I was balefully puffing Albuteral through a throat the width of a cocktail straw when the lovely EMTs arrived. Despite my insistence that I was fine, thank you, fine, they overpowered me and bore me off to Glendale Memorial.

It turned out to be a good thing they did so. I had 2 more fits of not-breathing-for-shit’s-sake that evening, and ended up in the ICU on antibiotics, steroids, oxygen and stronger vasodilators. I had X-rays, CAT scans, and far too many ice-cold stethoscopes applied to my chest. And behold! I had a UTI (with no symptoms, but annoying) and PNEUMONIA!

That classic bed rest disease, that so much worse than flu, that notorious killer of harmless old women … luckily, I am NOT a harmless old woman. It took me a week and I am still on antibiotics, but I have cast off the pneumonia and am on the mend. And I am home. Again. Believe me, Dear Readers, the intense joy of homecoming never palls.

The ambulance was 4 hours late – lots of voting related DUI’s, apparently. So I came home at night again, watching the stars through the leafless trees on my street. I was able to actually walk up the 3 steps from the lawn to the front porch – I’m so proud of myself!

And then I collapsed in my wonderful recliner chair, and watched the totally insane election returns with Michael until the two of us couldn’t keep our eyes open any more.

They were still going on this morning, just as crazy. Trump was waxing ever more ridiculous and insane, while Biden was creeping closer and closer to a victory with many tiny successes in Democrat urban strongholds. I can’t tell if I am watching the death of the republic, or the prelude to Civil War redux.

My home health nurse showed up on time for my next dose of antibiotic. I am currently sporting a semi-permanent IV port in my right wrist for the pump-operated antibiotic, and I am wearing a white lace finger less mitt to protect it. Very Victorian. Rather elegant.

And so, here I am. Again. I have no intention of repeating this particular adventure – breaking out of hospital in the dark is just too stressful. I shall just have to heal here at home, which is where I want to be anyway.

A brief bit of election watching tonight, and then a peaceful night’s rest in my own home. Some insane politicians, some confused Congress critters, the question of how we get the old madman out of the White House if he doesn’t want to go. Late night amusements, indeed.

Life still has its joys to offer, Dear Readers. You just have to be ready to grab them.

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The Golden Apples of the Sun

Kage Baker loved apples, and apple trees, and the sight of a field of blossom-thick  boughs in a spring orchard. But it was  the autumn season she loved best, when the aisles and aisles of apples came ripe, and could be found easily in perfumed stacks and piles in the local farmers’ markets,

She was in bliss then, wandering among the several stands in the Pismo hills, sipping fresh-pressed cider from a paper cup and selecting rare apples by twos and threes. I followed along with the grocery bags, packing the apples in carefully to be weighed and purchased. The best of the stands published weekly lists of the apples that had c0me ripe, so we could head out anticipating Arkansas Blacks or Rhode Island Greenings or Limbertwigs. Kage always said the Limbertwig was the name of some famous yendri erotica … and who knows? Maybe it is.

It’s a darned fine apple, I know that.

The hilariously named Gopher Glen fruit stand had the most varieties, and made the best cider in the area. Maybe in the world – although I am not entirely certain they were actually in the world. You could reach it by only one narrow  road, which spent its winters being a stream …

They had a delightfully antique and  eccentric apple press, in which the least cosmetically perfect apples of any and all varieties were dumped – then the press would squeak and thunder, and a golden surf of fresh cider would splash and rise in the receiving hopper, ready to be bottled. It was never the same twice, varying wildly from bottle to bottle. Kage would dance with it across the parking lot to our car, white-sneakered feet scuffing through the shed apple leaves and pebbles of jadeite and jasper weathering out from the seaward hills.

That weird, perfumed canyon of apple stands was one of the places Kimberly and Michael and I intended to go this past summer. And the fall, too, when lovely treats like Baldwin and Nittany were available along with more commonplace apples like Honey Crisp and Pink Lady. However, cruel and downright insane Fate intervened, and all the harvest I’ve been able to reap from the advancing dark has been my own threadbare old person.

Not that I am unsatisfied with that! I’m not only safe at home now, I am patently benefiting from being in my own place. I’m walking just over 1,000 feet a day, traversing the house between my recliner and the bathroom. My voice is getting stronger and clearer, I’m eating and sleeping well; although I’m still burdened with a trachea tube, I see the doctor this coming week in order to begin the process of losing it. (God speed the hour!)

All day my sensorium is enriched by the familiar and well-loved: not only my multi-species family, but Kimberly’s dedication to holiday decor: when I walked in last Saturday morning (at 1:30 AM. The ambulance was 8 hours late …) all the autumn lights were lit in the front yard, golden and warm white like honey. The living room was entirely lit with golden lights in garlands of autumn leaves, and it was like walking into a room carved from amber.

Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night, now, and even with all the lights out, the shape of the room is as familiar to me as any room in which I have  ever lived. I just gaze at the shadowed lines of the walls and windows, and feel peace bubbling up in me like a spring that has been stopped and is now cleared. Old Billy Yeats must have been longing for this kind of tranquility in the poem I referenced in the title of this blog.* I dare say, my memories of apples surpass his in glory, and I’m not chasing any glimmering girl through the woods …

In the meantime, Dear Readers, consider this fascinating article on recently re-discovered heirloom apples:

Do check it out, there are wonders described therein. And if you are fond  of day trips, you might consider checking out Gopher Glen yourself. You can come home with a basket full of jewels – rubies and topazes, beryls and amber, russet and rose and chrysophase. And then – you can eat ’em.

Even Aladdin didn’t get to eat the jewels in his cave of wonders.

*The Song of the Wandering Aengus.  Read it, my children, and be enlightened.

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A Night In the Hot September

Kage Baker

Dear Reders, I have been trying for 45 minutes to make this program work, and have almost totally failed, Mind you, I have been assisted by a power brownout (not long; this IS a hospital; but long enough for the Kindle to drop the site. Also, my jury-rigged keyboard support failed to function tonight, forcing me to rely upon an even more jury-rigged support consisting of a plastic cup – which insists on skating about on the table top at unannounced intervals. And then my RT (respiratiin therapist) knocked my Hot Spot on the floor. The back came off, the battery popped out, and it took me 15 minutes to get it put back together and for it to draw enough power to function again, The Internet connection keeps groping in the aether …

I’ve had it. But tomorrow, I will regale you with horror stories – the season approaches for them! And mine have the nice moral strength of being true.

Except for the ones I hallucinated. But Kimberly will alert me to any of those that creep in.

Fortune keep you all from brownouts.

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