Obsession

Kage Baker would have shaken her head at me sadly. “Screwed that up, didn’t you? Where’d your mind go?”

Last night, Dear Readers, I completely forgot to write a blog post. The thought never entered my mind, until Kimberly asked me this morning if I had been too tired to blog. Whereupon I realized in horror that – while I had stayed up until 3 AM – it had never even occurred to me to write. My apologies, Dear Readers!

What was I doing until half past midnight? I was reading. I was reading my own past blogs, starting way back in 2010, when I first began this. I was re-reading all my initial grief over Kage’s death, my resolution to continue her writing and the first, fairly successful attempts to do that. And the beginning of my gradual decline into the wild and active life of a coral polyp …

My gosh, some weird things were happening 9 years ago!

Of course, when you examine any past time in detail, it’s pretty weird. Especially when you get down to what the media is now terming “granularity”. I take that to mean examining something in such detail that you are getting right down into the basic texture of it – cells, maybe. Pixels. Quantum foam. What we used to call, in the naive and golden days of the ’60s, the nitty gritty.

It was certainly strange to read over those days back in 2010, 2011 and so on. It was peculiarly fascinating, so engrossing that it was gone 3 AM before I could even try to sleep. I think … I think I kept at it for the glimpses of Kage, that I had drawn so clearly in the first year she was gone. I didn’t remember that I had remembered so much.

However, it’s an obsession that kept me merely chasing my own tail. There was no sudden revelation, no new truth to simultaneously blind me and laser the scales off my eyes. It was a comfortable path but it was circular; good scenery, but it didn’t lead me anywhere. When Kimberly inquired as to my not blogging, it was like cold water thrown in my face to wake me up.

Today, I would have preferred to be in another world, though, Dear Readers. I don’t often touch on politics here, but it’s impossible to avoid encountering them in these days. Unless one is in a coma, or a gilded Lotus Eater’s delirium, the coarse texture of reality is inescapable. I am as concerned as any other rational adult over the closure of our government, and the grim antics of our execrable Chief Executive. I am just as repulsed by the prostitution of our immigration system. I am just as frightened by the growing possibility that Trump will try to hand a castrated government over to Putin.

So, I watched Trump’s address. I think he must have been heavily drugged – although nephew Michael postulated that Secret Service guys with machine guns were standing just out of sight to keep him on track. I don’t think so, though – he was, I think, willing to rein in his usual fulmination in order to pontificate on his current obsession, the Wall. I’m not ruling out drugs, mind … he didn’t make a single threat.

But it was a cruel reminder. Times are hard, hatred is trying once again to ascend to control of the world. You gotta pay attention, because the villains nowadays are sneaky, quiet and blatant liars. It’s no time to slide into the warm bath of the past. Not for long, anyway.

I enjoyed it. But I won’t sit down and disappear up my own memories again any time soon, Dear Readers. It’s much too easy to never, ever come back out again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Somnolence

Kage Baker would have been wrapped up in lap robes tonight. She’d have had her slippers on over 2 pairs of socks, and been cuddling Harry and a cup of hot chocolate, with her feet up in front of the fire and something English on the telly.

At least, if she was fighting off this wretched cold or whatever it is, she would have.  It’s more or less what I’m doing, while I wait to see what else my enraged sinuses decide to do. I suspect an alien spore disease, brought down to earth by the recent Geminids. Sometimes it feels like something is running laps in my nose.

The fine electric fire from Plow and Hearth is pulsing warmly. I am wrapped in blankets. What I have been chugging, though, is Sprite Cranberry. The bubbles ease the sneezing, and it tastes wonderful. You can only find it in the winter, but I have 2 12-packs in the pantry, thanks to Michael’s excellent foraging abilities. If I perish of this cold, I’ll be ever so happy while I go.

And I have my own wonderful elf-boot slippers. They’re amazing. They are black, you see, and lined with fur. They keep my feet warm and let me creep about silently at night. Mind you, it’s only because I like to wander about between my desk and the bathroom at night, when everyone else is asleep; but Kimberly indulges me.

She got me the sneaky black boot-slippers as a concession to my disregard for the niceties of self-care: like warm slippers. She knew I’d be likelier to wear those than nice sensible thick socks with reindeer on … for a similar reason, Kage got me black daytime elf-boots. The soles leave leaf shapes where I walk. They prevent me from running about barefoot in the winter.

I wear them both for the sake of the givers. They cared whether or not I died of exposure, so the least I can do is cooperate. They are the niftiest boots I have ever had, and it was pretty sneaky of both Kage and Kimberly to outflank me like that … but it lets me sit here wrapped in warmth and concern, while I fight off the Crud from Outer Space.

Harry’s gone to bed, full of pizza and lettuce from tacos. Now I can sit and quietly read over old posts from this blog. I’m re-reading from the beginning, and I am wondering if I’ve changed any over the years … not so far.

But I don’t seem to have gotten worse. So I guess I am breaking even. I can sit here and feel justified in lack of movement and utter laziness; I can cuddle cats, and wear slippers, and listen to my memories of Kage.

Pretty nice, for a winter Sunday. Sleep well, Dear Readers. Excitement and wild things and letters to publishers will resume tomorrow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Saturday Night. ‘Sall right, I guess.

Kage Baker liked quiet weekends, post New Year. She preferred to spend those winter weekends, after the mad whirl of holidays, in a state approximating coma.

If she felt well, it was in a happy coma with sweets and lap robes and new computer games. The last of the Yuletide chocolates and various holiday meats: prime rib and ham and turkey, all three having strutted it on the culinary stage through the 12 days of Christmas.

Yorkshire pudding with cranberry sauce. Fruitcake fried with gravy. If you think I’m kidding, you have no idea of Kage’s determination to taste test recipes out of nursery rhymes – if King Arthur was reputed to have fried it up next morning, Kage was willing to try it. Me, I have simpler tastes; salami, chocolate coins and such like finger foods were enough for me.

If we were feeling ill, things were … different. And usually, there was a general health collapse in our household sometime during January. Accumulated holiday crowds, multiple weekends of Extreme Christmas in the concrete byre  of the Cow Palace: if it wasn’t The Crud (a formal name for our localized grippe and consumption pastiche), it was whatever extraterrestrial influenza had been circulating through our local mall.

Kage believed in treating respiratory illnesses with alcohol. Her long-time anodyne was wine coolers, until we figured out that the tannins in the wine made her congestion worse. After that, she stuck to rum punch and hot toddies, wheezing around the paper umbrellas stuck in the lemon slices … I cannot really claim it made her feel better, but Kage always said it made her feel like someone else. Which was an improvement over being her with the flu.

I’ve spent the last month or so being seriously ill. Cardiac stuff and similar crap … but I have stayed home and conserved my strength, taking all my meds like a sensible person. A couple of weeks ago, though, I started to sneeze. Incessantly. Continuously. I generally explode in the middle of the night, and sneeze for about an hour: then my brains turn to snot and I drown. I’ve been going through a box of tissues per night. Geese fly overhead and bugle to me as their queen …

There have been hilarious near-misses with my CPAP mask. There have been even more last minute clawing off the mask and flinging it across the room, with a fusillade of enormous sneezes. It’s lucky I need to sleep sitting up in the recliner, as otherwise the CPAP machine would have consumed me like a plastic kraken.

Kimberly has been keeping me alive with ginger snaps, hot coffee and soup. Especially hot chicken broth with an assortment of noodles – pho, ramen, plain old Campbell’s. Tonight was wonton, which are really just ginormous noodles with stuff  in. In chicken broth, with soy sauce. The primeval soup, in my opinion, wherein our ancestors discovered all the appetites that enabled us to evolve in the first place.

Another couple days, and I’ll have re-evolved into something human again. Or into something that has sneezed its nose off and achieved some sort of nasal Nirvana.

And that’s all right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Parazoology Ba to Mn

Kage Baker was madly prolific. The main reason was, her brain was continuously on the boil.

She had ideas the way most people have itches – constantly, often inconveniently, frequently in embarrassing places. I remember her getting totally carried away one afternoon, over sundaes in an ice cream parlour in Pismo Beach; acting out plots and characters with all the voices and compass points, scattering chocolate sauce with a wind-milling arm. And though we were fairly loud and giggly, the waitress was oddly attentive and amiable – even solicitous. It was only as I paid and we left that Kage suddenly looked stricken and said to me, “Oh my God, she must have thought I was mentally disturbed!”

It’s perfectly possible. Poor Kage was dreadfully embarrassed, though, and we never went back to that ice cream parlour. It went out of business in a couple of months; which is rather a stunt in a beach town. Coincidence? Who knows? I wouldn’t be surprised if Kage had cajoled some elder god into dragging it through a crack in the walls of the world …

Anyway. My point here is that she had so many ideas, all the time, that it was all she could do to handle them. She made notes, when she could find the time: but like a woman with several toddlers at once (like her own mother, ha ha for cosmic justice …), it was hard to find a half hour to write just one set of ideas down. They mostly stayed filed in her head, where they ran and shouted and flung things all about.

(No wonder that waitress thought Kage was a bit doololly. Just like a lady with a kindergartener on a leash, twin babies in a giant stroller, and an 8-year old raiding the gumball machine.)

Kage did leave me a lot of notes. And she poured all she could into my ears, to settle into my poor brain until I  was the one who had to think of something to do with them. I’m nowhere near as fast or prolific as Kage was. But I do manage to muddle along.

Now that the new year is well and truly begun, it’s time to start bugging people. My agent has had some stories for months; a publisher has an entire novel I cajoled them into looking at in August. I need to contact them all and make small piteous noises of inquiry.

In the meantime, though, I have had an idea for a collection of stories, about the less glamorous departments in Dr. Zeus’ business. You know, bugs. Unattractive mollusks. Stories about ordinary books: not deathless literature, but cookbooks and gossip broadsheets. Weird humans who essentially accomplished nothing but to evolve in isolation. Really small animals.

I have one story completed, about blue squirrels. Other things, too, but it stars blue squirrels. The operatives who deal with them call themselves the Teddy Bear Squad. And recently I got down just the notes below – which aren’t a story yet, but are on the way. I include them here to test some waters, to see what you, my Dear Readers, might think of the various ideas. Don’t worry, you can tell me if it sounds ghastly. I am grateful just to have a chance to talk it over with people.

So, tell me. What do y’all think?

**********

Notes for a story about the Division of Technically Mythological Creatures, aka Parazoology.

Not all cryptids are magical. Some are as real as pugs, and often more useful. (Not a long stretch …) Also, not all of them are huge. Animals that are not outsized tend to fall, alphabetically, between Ba and Mn, filing-wise. They are usually 3 to 6 feet in their primary dimension.

This is a coincidence of interest only to Company statisticians – a discipline only known to Operatives, since the Board neither understands nor gives a shit – and the Operatives who hunt, catch and breed them. Oh, and the techs who have to build cages.

This leads us to the Leopard Eel, presumed to be a myth in Alabama and Florida, until live ones were caught in December of 2018. By a mortal hunting for turtles. They turned out to be very aquatic unknown salamanders, with extravagant frilled gills, spots, only front legs, and blue eyes.

They are slightly-too-soon escapees from the Parazoology Division (Louisiana Office), which had been keeping the things in their bathtub because local floods have compromised their breeding tanks. The Company is keeping them safe and trying to breed them, because of their unparalleled ability to filter out poisons from wetlands. They don’t breed well in captivity. The Company Operative had been working on that, and had finally hit on transforming them from from ovoviviporous to straight up external fertilization. Then they escape, and in the wild, they suddenly breed too well … what do you do with thousands of giant salamanders that filter toxins through their livers, breed like rabbits, are not cute, but are 3 feet long?

Probably Alabama gets a new, cottage industry revenue source. Pesticide cleaning? Renewal of wetlands? Poor man’s fugu?

Maybe all three …

 

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Let’s Break In The New Slowly

Kage Baker didn’t like change.

As a child, she simply wouldn’t acknowledge it. It happened, of course, in denominations as small as her outgrowing favourite shoes to having a new class in school every year. As far as possible, Kage ignored the changes. Adamant and determined,  she simply duplicated favoured shoes and garments: which is why, after she died, I found multiple identical, worn-out white tennis shoes, and ditto blue jeans, in her closet … Mrs. Baker just bore Kage off to the appropriate new classroom every year, and hoped for the best. Going to Catholic school, where uniforms were required, made it a little easier.

After 12 years of happily mindless dress choices, Kage entered adulthood and promptly took up historical re-creation. She spent the next 3 decades wearing madly colorful costumes … but between the picardills and corsets and multiple layers of skirts, Kage stuck firmly to her personal armour of Chuck Taylor tennies and Levi jeans. Sometimes under the multiple skirts. It can get damned cold in the Cow Palace.

Anyway, Kage was not a fan of change. It was undoubtedly why she wrote about time travel; it satisfied a deep need in her, to write what she treasured into immortality. She made sure that nothing she loved was ever actually lost. And in between saving things that would otherwise fall prey to thieves and the moth, Kage hunted diligently for books and candies and movies from her personal past; Glasswax stencils, and Biestle cardboard decorations, and wax oranges filled with sugar syrup.

She found them, too. And she took a genuine satisfaction from writing the otherwise lost into her stories. On one conscious and unconcerned level of her mind, Kage believed that she had tucked Brown’s Ice Cream Parlour and Spinx’s macaw and all her beloved dead into alternate dimensions, where they were safe.

 

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The Dead Zone

Kage Baker felt that the first few days of any new year were a huge let down. All the wonderful madness of Christmas built up over weeks and weeks; the tide carried one right up to New Year’s Day and over the calendrical hump in a wash of tinsel and leftover cookies.

Where one was abandoned. Worse, one had to go back to school or to work, and somehow believe that the new toy or blouse or whatever made up for floating belly-up in the backwater of Winter. About the only thing that got Kage through the first week was games. Especially pirate games, where she could shoot things, and cheer madly in the sword battles she convinced me to fight for her …

Oh, and writing. Eventually,  Kage got into the habit of starting a new story right after New Year. That kept her alert and involved enough to – well, do just about anything but  writing. Shooting cannons, especially.

Luckily, we always celebrated Christmas right through 12th Night. As you have heard me pontificate before, Dear Readers, the famed 12 Days of Christmas do not end on December 25th: that’s when they begin. They then run until the Epiphany on January 6th, which is a last, grand blowout until Imbolc, Valentine’s Day, and Presidents’ weekend.

That lets you down a little easier. It gives you a reminder to take down the Christmas lights before the neighbors get up a petition. And, in Kage’s firm belief, it provided an opportunity to give people the presents that had slipped down under the desk while you were frantically wrapping on Christmas Eve.

The Aztecs, you know, reserved an entire block of days at the end of each year, to provide a bumper between one year and the next. Those 5 days or so just didn’t exist – and since they were also extremely bad luck, most people did as little as possible. What they did do wasn’t counted. Unless you committed some blasphemy, in which case the gods were always thirsty … but even then, you probably had to wait until the government opened again and could get around to peeling your skin off for the greater glory of the goddess of Spring.

Not much has really changed since the ancients, you know?

Anyway, we are now in that quiet place where the New Year hasn’t really begun. It’s a few nights yet until 12th Night, and by then the stuff I ordered but which has not yet arrived may actually be delivered. I’m down to the chocolate coins and apple butter from my stocking, and with luck the batteries will last a few more days in the insanely-blinking varicoloured epilepsy lights strung on my desk. The nephew is still playing his new computer game, and Kimberly is working her way through her half-dozen new hedgehog socks. Everyone is marking imaginary time.

And I am back on the old soap box, filling this annual Dead Zone with my own version of hope. It’s mainly just stumbling on until the grey blur ahead resolves into an actual light at the end of the tunnel: but hey, that works. As long as we all get there, all will be well.

It’s much nicer to stumble on in good company, anyway: until we reach that fresh new point where everything we do counts again.

 

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And Fill the Wall Up

Kage Baker did not countenance giving up. She could be defeated, of course, like anyone (which was always the fault of her opponent, and none of hers); she could be thwarted for years, but never forget her goals. She would plan for quite inhuman lengths of time to get what she wanted, and rarely failed. The main thing was, she never gave up.

When Kage died, she was still dictating stories and plans to me. Literally. She had a calculated plan for what I was to do with her literary legacy, and she made sure I got every detail straight. We made a lot of Mozart and Salieri jokes, and giggled like teenagers. But I knew that, despite the snickering and even the attempts at singing the Requiem (we were pretty fair, actually), that Kage was deadly serious and meant even her amiable threats of retaliation if I failed.

Then my health began its slow collapse. It’s been as cruel and inexorable as a tsunami – a slow, mounting, hideously motile wall sweeping forward, carrying drowned bodies and burning houses on the crest of the wave. Even the survivors are left damaged. The world ends up covered in mud.

Just as I began to realize I was sinking in the muck, I got a cruel email on this blog. Some self-righteous critic read me a long list of the things I said of which he disapproved. He gave me to understand I was weak, uninteresting, contemptible; he suggested I shut up, one way or another. He caught me at a vulnerable moment.

I struggled on for a ways – and you, my Dear Readers, if any of you are still out there, you were a major factor in my staying even marginally afloat. But I got sicker, and more tired, and more discouraged. I’ve spent the latter half of 2018 asleep and/or cocooned in my recliner, concentrating all my strength on breathing.

To tell the utmost truth, I am sure some part of me was nurturing a black hope that I could irritate Kage into haunting me. But as I am fairly sure she’s busy slow-dancing with God and drinking divine nectar with cocktail umbrellas in, there’s been no luck on that score. Besides, I’m pretty sure she could out-stubborn me anyway.

So here I am. I am starting, not over but definitely again. There’s more to say, more to write, and if my explaining life through the streaky lens of my cataclysmic health offends anyone – too bad for you. Go read someone else’s blog. Which is about as much obscenity I am willing to spend on you, if you already dislike me that much.

I know, though, that I still have good, good friends out there in the aether. A Happy New Year to you, then, dear hearts. Here we are again! Once more into the breach! The show must go on!

As Kage once said, giving up is for people with no resources. And I have so, so many of those!

 

 

 

 

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