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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Where Am I?

Kage Baker considered one of the key phrases from the movie Buckaroo Bonzai one of the truest philosophies ever elucidated:

No matter where you go, there you are.

She said either it was either deeply existential, bedrock self-awareness or it was totally looney nonsense, and God was laughing at us all. She also said she didn’t care which it was; it was just so deep, you know?

If God wasn’t laughing, Kage certainly was.

During the March/April cusp, I found myself waking at intervals to wonder just where the hell I was, anyway? I went from Glendale Memorial, where they thought I was brain dead and discharged me with a lung infection when I turned out not to be; to Barlow Respiratory Rehab, where they had me off the ventilator so quickly I had a sudden collapse and relapse; to my present abode, the Chateau or Chalet (I’m not sure which) where they are carefully and successfully restoring me to a working condition.

I’ve been pretty sure of my whereabouts for a couple of months now. I’m doing all kinds of big girl things, But I a really, really exhausted right now, Dear Readers, I must beg your indulgence, and call it a night. Or day. Or wherever I am.

Kage would know, I am sure.

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Steps Toward Renewing Life

Kage Baker was leery of miracles. She appreciated them as much as anyone else, but her view of them was influenced by an old physics cartoon. A scholarly fellow is standing in front of an enormous blackboard covered in complicated formulae. He is gesturing at the final answer, saying “There’s the answer.” And at the very bottom right of the blackboard are the words: AND HERE A MIRACLE HAPPENS.

Too easy, was Kage’s view. Miracles take work, and often some sort of repayment. Kage was well aware of that, having been lighting candles beside her mother in church from an early age. Saying thank you to the Virgin Mary, she was taught. Her own thank yous and presents veered a little off the true Catholic norm as the years passed, but there were always candles in there somewhere. Her faith never veered at all.

Personally, I was never really a Christian, but I too knew how the system worked. At the present time, I owe a young oak tree to the Lord for the gift of my second chance at life. I’m not sure where Kimberly will want me to plant it, but I owe the debt. I will plant an oak.

Every day, as my recovery advances, I am reminded of it. Tonight, I am exhausted – because I am now walking! I arrived at my present abode on the Hollywood Memorial Medical Center campus – a rehab facility called the Chateau, la dee da – speechless, hallucinating, unable to breathe, walk or eat. Today, I walked 260 feet, wearing actual shoes, and chatting with my Physical Therapist as we went along. And I was breathing on my own.

At the moment, I have been off the ventilator for 14 hours. Dear Readers, I hope you never have cause to find out, but the joy of being able to breathe without the assistance of a machine is … miraculous. A few more expansions of my hours off, and we will be able to start capping the trach tube to see how I tolerate that. And then – I get to go home.

I’ll still have work to do. There will be doctor visits and continued therapy, and I shall be using a walker for a while. I’m already thinking of mounting squirt guns and a klaxon on it, so I can get people out of my way. Hey, I’m a crippled old lady, they can’t yell at me!

In the meantime, I rest between treatments and therapies, walk my legs off when I can, and fill my falling asleep time with prayers of gratitude. Alleluia, alleluia, thank You for this second chance.

I’ll buy you a tree, Old Man.

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Kage Baker always said that it didn’t matter where you started, as long as you did, actually start. But today being the first of September, it just seemed like a nice, tidy place to pick up this utterly unravelled skein of a blog.

First, Dear Readers, I apologize for the quality of this entry, and for any moth holes in its fabric. It’s been literally months since I tried to type two-handed; my right hand is still pretty numb (explanation later); the equipment is brand new – my brilliant nephew Michael found a way to instruct me how to add a real keyboard to my Kindle; and I am constantly interrupted by medical staff requiring my blood or attention.

Second, it’s gonna take days to explain the many weird twists and turns of the last 6 months. but I can start with a brief recap of my adventures in the maw of the medical system.

On March 16th I went into Glendale Memorial Hospital for repair of my mitral valve: as close to a minor open heart surgery as there is. And the procedure went flawlessly – I should have been home within a week, and pretty much back to normal by May. However …

I have a condition called delayed response to anesthesia. It means I wake up late, slowly, and usually fairly insane. Kimberly knows this, and has for years accompanied me to my surgeries, to ease me back into consciousness and protect everyone else from my amiable hallucinations. But, with the city in the throes of Covid 19, Kimberly was not permitted to be with me. (Later on, she and Michael would not even be allowed in the hospital. This has been a tragedy for many families, and damn near was for us.)

I didn’t wake up when expected. In fact, I didn’t wake up for the next 3 weeks. Somewhere during this, my panicked anesthesiologist determined that my breathing tube was actually beginning to damage my mouth. I now have a new scar at one corner. I rather fancy it enhances my sneer. But in order to prevent further damage – my throat was beginning to swell – they gave me a tracheostomy, stuffed my esophagus full of plastic tubing, and stuck me on a ventilator.

For 3 weeks, the hospital staff kept telling Kimberly – who was still not allowed to see for herself – that I was “gone”. As in, no longer at home, nor ever would be. They told her I had had a massive stroke, though my EEG was clear. But my darling little cardiac surgeon insisted that I was responsive, at least to her: my eyes opened, I squeezed her hand. I apparently had a grudge against the Glendale Memorial staff.

But thanks to my doctor’s careful monitoring, and Kimberly’s intractable refusal to pull the plug on me, I finally returned to the world.

I don’t remember anything about this, except for many violent nightmares. In fact, I’ve also lost most of early March and all of February. Retrograde amnesia is not uncommon in cases of coma, I am told.

Some things of which I am sure though, Dear Readers. Always try to engage the sympathies of your surgeon; they may end up fighting for your life long after your incision heals. And, if at all possible, make sure you have a loving, stubborn sister (or relative of your choice). She will have your back. And your medical Power of Attorney.

Well, that wasn’t very brief. And there is lots more to tell. I am only just now to the point where I CAN tell it, and stay awake long enough to do so.

But I’m alive. And I’m back.

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The Day The Buzzards Return To Hinkley, Ohio

Kage Baker, like all writers, was often asked where she got her ideas. Had she been sure of their provenance, I suspect she’d have lied – they were her ideas, after all. Instead, like several other science fiction writers, she told inquirers that she got them from a PO box in New Jersey, to which she regularly sent self-addressed stamped return envelopes.

I think she got that idea from Roger Zelazny.

The moving finger writes; and, having writ, Moves on: nor all thy piety nor wit Shall lure it back to cancel half a line, Nor all thy tears wash out a word of it. — Omar Khayyam.

The above stanza from the Rubaiyat is a pertinent example – while nothing ever comes back around precisely the same way, everything is remembered. All and any days can be be recalled and celebrated (or rued, as the fit takes you). Nothing is lost, anything can be memorialized; but in the long run, none of that is up to you or me. Time keeps everything, and nothing we do can change that.

Approaching, as I am, the Large Life Marker of open heart surgery, I am paying attention to what the recent days mean or will mean to me. St. Patrick’s is coming, of course – I shall spend that day sleeping determinedly, I suspect, only roused to sit up and try to remind my body that it has functions to resume … I never actually enjoy the strain of coaxing my aging flesh to remember to cycle waste and process nutrients after surgery – but it is much preferable to the alternative. The most I have to look forward to is seeing Kimberly, and pressing the button on my morphine pump. Those are both pretty cool, though.

Kimberly will only be allowed to see me for 10 minutes a day, at least until I am moved out of Cardiac ICU and into a more ordinary room. I mean to cherish those 10 minutes. The rest of the time I shall spend happily blurred out, until I can get my eyes to focus on my Kindle tablet.

And in the meantime: tomorrow is the Day the Buzzards Return to Hinkley, Ohio! Every March 15th, they return to mate, nest and lovingly feed bits of dead dog to their fuzzy little offspring. Baby buzzards are cute; like many baby birds, they have white bunny suits of fluff before they fledge.Kimberly and I have celebrated this for years. I need a stuffed baby buzzard …

Also on the topic of really specific memorialization, today is PI Day! March 14th; or, 3.14. Having no especial fondness for mathematics, in my household we celebrate this date with actual, tangible PIE. In this specific case, we have blueberry, lemon meringue and classic custard on hand for our family delectation. The blueberry is calling my name tonight … especially with several weeks of TOTALLY BORING FOOD waiting for me in hospital. No sugar, no caffeine, no salt, no fat, no carbohydrates. I think I get beige protein spun out of liver.

Yestreday, I spent several hours at Glendale Memorial doing pre-registration things. This will spare me doing it on Monday at 5:30 in the morning. It took 3 hours of repeating my DOB and the spelling of my name – which is a tough one for most people, I must admit – but it seemed to stymie everyone even while reading it off my ID bracelet. I have become exotic in my old age. I think its the multi-syllabic nature of my name, and the plethora of digraphs and diphthongs it possesses. Especially since in both my first and last names, the digraphs are followed by alveolar lateral approximates, and then by the inevitable diphthongs …

But I babble. Or I will. This should be interesting, as waking from anesthesia usually leaves me with perfectly astonishing hallucinations. Kimberly always tells the recovery room staff to just assume that no matter how lucid I sound or how readily I agree with their instructions, I don’t mean it. Nor will I remember anything they tell me. They need to just save all their instructions for her, because I will be amiably convinced I am on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise with an aquarium bolted onto my head …

And this leads us back, in a cheerily circular fashion, to where do a writer’s ideas come from? Because every insane factoid, injudicious memorial and cock-eyed holiday yields them, actually. The trick is not to find out the secret P.O. Box in New Jersey (although the  efficacy of it cannot be denied), but to pay attention to all the bizarre and charming things that happen to you along the way. Like the buzzards. And pie. And parts of speech.

Or, as my dear friend Tom Westlake said, when asked where he got his ideas, replied: “What doesn’t give you ideas?”

Right on, Tom. Right the hell on. And not a single line of it all will be unwritten.





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