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Y'know what's satisfying? Stocking up.

So. I'm earning more now. In fact, my next paycheck will include money from four days of work where I was paid at the wrong (lower) rate, on top of my regular hours plus the few hours of overtime I got in that pay period, so: IT'LL BE A DECENT CHECK. More than decent.

And I went to the Hollywood Fred Meyer yesterday with a very targeted shopping list, partly based on a coupon I had available ($10 off $35 or more of apparel) but also needing some personal care stuff I was low on. First I indulged by browsing toys, giving myself the option of buying something if it struck me though nothing did, then I took care of the apparel purchases: more socks for work, and since that wouldn't reach the $35 threshold I thought Well, I do need a pair of pants so: new pants! And the process of slowly upgrading my wardrobe continues.

As did stocking up: I could buy not one but two tubes of toothpaste! And I needed deodorant, and the type I get had a special deal: five deodorant sticks for $5. One stick would have been $2, two would've been $4, three would've been $6, four would've been $8, five would be $5? YES, GOOD DEAL.

My shopping was so targeted I only bought two food items, lettuce and bananas.

Once I was home (after stopping at Music Millennium, which I don't get to often enough and which yielded CDs by Sleater-Kinney, Pink Floyd, and film composers Michael Kamen and Bernard Herrmann), I found room for the stocked-up stuff. That's one impediment to stocking up, but the other impediment of not enough money? Less of a problem for now...

My stuff, it feels so used

I had hard shoes that I wore to work, at my last office job (where I worked 2014-2016). I have hard shoes. They are the same shoes.

By now, they look like this:





Yes, that's a hole. This is not the first time I've worn shoes until they had holes (well, I mean, more holes). I wore sneakers in high school that practically disintegrated and about five years ago, the previous hard shoes I'd owned opened up at the front, like they'd grown mouths. I made an emergency shoe shopping trip soon after that, to get a new pair. Unless I'm missing something, they were these shoes.

They're still useful. Until I got around earlier this year to buying new slippers that I needed, I used these as slippers. And they still work as "shoes I put on if I need to take out recycling or go to the corner to get a newspaper" shoes. I'd considered throwing them out, like a more recent pair of hard shoes I wore to work at the valet service for my first few months there until I thought that maybe they were wrong for such an on-the-go job so I bought new sneakers and yep, the sneakers were much better for my feet; I haven't thrown these out, as hobbled as they look.

I want stuff to get used. As fully used as possible.

Effects!

Saving this for later reading: James Cameron, who's been filming the Avatar sequels, and Jon Favreau, another director who's often working on digitally-rendered films like the remakes of The Jungle Book and The Lion King, talk about using digital tools to create the environments for films, as more and more filmmakers are doing.

Awkward

Awkward
by Christopher Walsh, 3/22/2019-8/10/2019





I speak from decades of experience:
You're at an oblique angle to The World.
All seems refracted, bent.
You misjudge space, views, distance,
Run into what you can't possibly imagine could be hit,
And where even imagining and thinking kind of hurt,
As gravity pulls on thoughts until distorted,
Seemingly cracked,
Scratched like now-bloody kneecaps.
(You don't remember how they got scratched.)
It's difficult,
A parade of of the Harder Than It Has To Be,
Than It Seems It Should Be,
Blocking your way to Simpler and Easier.


© Christopher Walsh, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Christopher Walsh (chris_walsh) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Some days, you nap.

I wanted to take it easy today. Two days ago I wrapped up a hectic work week — there's a difference between things being busy and things being hectic — and yesterday I was out and about, but this morning I woke up wondering what I wanted to do today, and the thought was "...eh, not much." And I didn't have to go out, so I got presentable at least but mainly stayed in my room. SOMETIMES NAPPING.

And it's been nice that some of my recent naps have been actual naps: falling asleep, not just resting my eyes, even sleeping enough to briefly dream.

(Yesterday's out-and-about stuff: I wanted to drive, and drive for awhile, so why not drive around Portland? So I went down to the Sellwood Bridge, up to John's Landing — driving in the neighborhood until the odometer hit 181,181 miles, yay a palindrome — then up to Burlingame and the Terwilliger Curves, getting onto I-5 and crossing the Marquam Bridge, getting off the freeway in the Rose Quarter area, and going up Williams to the N. Mississippi neighborhood. I stopped at Bridge City Comics, and briefly walked around that neighborhood, then got back to the car and regrouped. I didn't leave right away, because I wanted to decide on a route I hadn't been on for a bit. I wound up going farther up N. Williams and Vancouver, past the soon-to-be-gone Portland Meadows and the thank-goodness-still-there Jubitz truck stop, and up to Marine Drive. Neat views along Marine Drive, since the Columbia River's just to the north of you and planes are launching and landing just to the south of you, but it's a drive you have to do CAREFULLY because there's usually no barrier between the road and the river — the road is mostly at the very top of a levee — and anyway, I drove carefully. After that, I worked my way over to 82nd Ave. — I'd almost taken I-205 back, but it was busy — and got back to my neighborhood, pulling over to buy a few groceries at the produce stand and to get late lunch at my neighborhood McDonald's.)

...yeah. I have my reasons to nap.

Commute Thoughts

For the past week, I've been using my new parking pass and driving to work. This way I avoid dealing with the disrupted MAX, which is currently split in two for upgrades with shuttle buses bridging the gaps, and can be more flexible in my commute. Thursday morning, I left the house earlier than usual in the morning and stopped at Tik Tok on SE 82nd for breakfast.

But meanwhile, I'll be back to regular bus/train commuting via TriMet once this MAX work is done, in about a week. That way I can rest when needed, whether heading to the airport or heading home. And read, too, when I want.

And also — you may be surprised — in certain circumstances, I can ride TriMet home from work slightly quicker than driving home. I checked that Thursday afternoon; I got home about 4:20 p.m. Using the train and buses, I once got home at 4:13.

But I said "regular." If I work odd (to me) shifts in the future, say more swing shifts, it might make more sense to drive to work those days so I can then drive home; that late, driving would definitely be quicker than TriMet, though (again) not by that much.

Random from-work thoughts

A grab-bag of things I've noticed while valeting lots of cars these past eight-and-a-half months:

• For some reason, this Oregon airport's valet operation gets more cars with Texas license plates than cars with California plates.

• I'm getting more used to Teslas. My standard comment about that make is "the car might be smarter than me."

• A surprisingly large (to me) number of people don't use the Trip Mileage on their vehicles. I was noticing how many cars had gone, say, 21,647 miles and Trip Mileage would say 1,647, and it took me a bit to realize that Trip Mileage rolls over at, say, 10,000 so the drivers simply had never touched it. (I use mine to mark how far I've driven between stops for gas. Now I wonder how else it gets used. At least for measuring how long certain trips are...)

• Recently I helped clean up the roadway near the booth. You'd be surprised how many chewed pieces of gum I found. Or maybe you wouldn't.

• Plates. Bowls. Kitchen-style open-topped glasses. Utensils. Some of this gets filthy. (I try not to look too closely at all that.)

• You know how often I see "Passenger side airbag off"? Do y'all not like your passengers?

(Edited To Add!: That last bit was me being a smartass, but I just learned that there's a reason for it. My friend Royal explained that many cars now have sensors that can tell if a passenger is in the front seat or not, so if the car is in an airbag-deploying accident, it won't deploy that airbag. As a) valet only has people in the passenger seat when someone in training is shadowing and b) WE TRY NOT TO HAVE AIRBAG-DEPLOYING ACCIDENTS, we probably will see those warnings.)

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It's good to have goals

Will I ever write a line as good as Bob Dylan's "The pump don't work/ 'Cause the vandals took the handles"?

Maybe not, but: I should try.

Pacing Myself

The TV show I'm currently watching is BBC's Life on Mars. In it, a Manchester cop has an accident and wakes up to find himself no longer in 2006 but in 1973, still in Manchester, still a cop but out of his time. He has to do his job with 1973 technology, and deal with 1973 attitudes. Meanwhile, he doesn't know if he really has time-traveled 33 years into the past, if he's having a delusion in a hospital bed, or if something still else is happening. And he sees and hear signs that people from 2006 are, somehow, trying to reach him, maybe, or perhaps this is also all part of a delusion.

He has trouble with all this. So would you.

Time travel, as much as I know it's impossible, is a storytelling sweet spot to me. It's appealed to me since I watched Land of the Lost as a really little kid. Star Trek, which I dearly love, has done deeply affecting time-travel stories. And my friend Mary-Suzanne strongly, strongly recommended Life on Mars to me, plus years ago, I'd seen some of the brief-lived American remake of the show, relocating the story from Manchester to New York City.

Something I wasn't quite prepared for: it's an intense show, and a frequently sad one. We see the cop at vulnerable moments where he hears something he shouldn't be able to hear, and he can't reach whomever is speaking to him (if, again, of course, they are), and little impossible moments keep happening to him... It's a mind-fuck, on so many levels, for him.

As the first series (of two) of Life on Mars is eight episodes long, I can watch these episodes staggered out. I had to learn to do that. Years ago I watched the first season of The Walking Desd then the second season almost immediately, and about halfway through Season 2 as I powered through I realized: it was negatively affecting my mood. I was spun-up and sad. I finished the season, but even though I want to see the third season, such as for Danai Gurira as Michonne, I have yet to. Take it slower, Chris. Sometimes it's a good idea.

I'll do so in the near future, too: I have the DVD set of Twin Peaks: The Return, which I still have yet to see two years after it first aired. I've gotten advice from those who have seen it: watch the first four episodes quickly, yes as a binge-watch, but then watch the other 14 episodes singly, and pace myself. Maybe every other day; maybe every week, same as it first aired. Watching the first four episodes in a row is similar to how they originally were presented: the first Sunday Showtime aired Episodes 1 and 2, then the second Sunday it aired 3 and 4, and I've heard watching all four fairly quickly puts you in a better headspace for watching the continuation of the famously weird, offbeat, and emotional original. Which, you won't be surprised to learn, I loved as it first aired.

Sometimes speed is needed: last year I powered through Season 1 of Star Trek: Discovery, as I was watching on a one-week free trial of CBS All Access. Fifteen episodes in six days, though I still didn't get reimbursed even though I canceled the trial within the week. But when I watch more of Discovery, it won't be at speed like that.

Because sometimes you can use time.

The week, almost done

The past two weeks might be catching up with me. I was more tired at work today than I was expecting to the point a co-worker noted it. (That co-worker also added "You could use a beer." The second of two co-workers to bring up beer to me today...)

So, an early night. Good idea. And after my workday tomorrow/Thursday, I can and should take it easy. I hope so.

Saturday, July 27th: Dana's memorial

Tiredness and time are part of why I'm writing this only now. But I'm better and more rested now, so:

Dana Thompson's memorial was Saturday. For maybe the first time since September 2011, I took the buses up to Woodlawn Park, where Atomic Arts — including Dana — performed Trek in the Park for its first two seasons, where her memorial, suitably, correctly, was held. (Any bar Dana liked wouldn't have been big enough for the crowd.) Dozens of people, maybe a hundred-plus, arrived in the park's theater bowl, on the park's north end. The skies initially were overcast and the air was cool; as the event went on, the clouds burned off and the sun said hi. And we ate donated food, looked at a display of photos of Dana and her many friends, and spoke about what Dana meant to so many of us.

We swore a lot. We found moments where, even after everything, we laughed. We shared anecdotes and poems and the songs she'd loved. We cried.

Several people, including Dana's mom (here from Kansas City, Missouri, Dana's hometown) spoke. I considered taking the mic, but decided not to. What could I add? Would I say anything worthwhile? I could have spoken toward what grief is like: it'll hit you at unexpected times in unexpected ways, it'll sometimes drain you and tire you out, and it's simply something you have to work with and work through because you cared and care about someone lost. But I wanted to hear from those who knew her better, who would have more to say directly about her. And I didn't speak because I feared making Dana's death about me.

And people did so. I heard about her day job with Multnomah County Health, about her music work, about her performance work, about her love of Getting Out And Busting Moves (she danced so much), about her Bullshit Detector (and the look she could give you if she was calling you on yours), about how she was there for so many of us when we needed help or a push in the right direction. And now her memory has to be a substitute. But we'll remember her.

The memorial happened, and it was needed. It was tiring, as I was expecting; I took it easy getting home and continued to take it easy when I was back at the house.

So, so paid.

Last pay period, my raise kicked in. My first union-negotiated wage increase, as this is my first job in a union. That paycheck deposited today.

Very simply, this feels good.

It got me thinking: most of my adult life I've been underpaid for what I do. I've mostly gotten by financially, but the quality of my work and the quality of most of my paychecks didn't match. Ten years ago, I was doing one of my most difficult jobs, the admin assistant work for a company VP, and I was barely making minimum wage. And I was good at the work. I'm not going to be falsely modest about that. But I was good at a job where my boss had, um, er, shifting standards as to whether they thought I was good. After two years, that boss fired me. Two months later, that boss offered me my job back, at a notable pay raise. But I saw that the circumstances that led to that boss firing me in the first place were likely to stay; I wanted to say, but didn't, You didn't appreciate my work before; what if you don't appreciate my work now? You gave me a big reason not to trust you. So I walked away from more pay because it would not have been enough to compensate for the weirdnesses and difficulties of that job.

I've done my best to do my jobs well. Even the print shop job I did next (early 2012 to early 2013) that paid me even less. 2012 was a hard-working year; hard in a physical way, but manageable. Hell, sometimes it was even kind of Zen. Sometimes it was amusing, like when I could motivate myself by pretending I was doing a Survivor-style challenge. Again, I DID A JOB WELL. For almost nothing. Okay, I exaggerate: for not much.

I like to think I'm doing this job well. And now I can earn more while doing it. Which helps the motivation, I'll tell you.

Yes, this will mean more taxes for me to pay later, but here's the thing: I'm glad to pay taxes. Sometimes it seems almost radical to say that; so many of us piss and moan about them. I don't particularly like filling out my tax forms, so I'm with a lot of you there, but again, I can manage. I'll manage next year when I work out my taxes for this year.

Meanwhile, this will give me more breathing room. I'll be able to pay down my (self-inflicted, I'll be honest) credit card balance more aggressively. Maybe I can save up for nice and special things. Maybe I can save up just in general.

*breathes in some relief*

Heh, again

If you can read this, you're fine.

If you can read this, you probably still need glasses. (Statistically, I mean.)

If ewes can read this, they're smarter than we think.

I feel better.

Not really much to report from the rest of this week, when I wasn't blogging. I think — think — I've gotten some clarity in how to Deal With a certain situation at work. Gonna be vague there, sorry.

And vague here, too: you've likely guessed I like to avoid causing drama. I saw the potential to cause drama because the potential drama involved an article by somebody about whom I had this exchange (paraphrased):

ME TO A FRIEND: I think [that person] doesn't like me.
A FRIEND TO ME: I think most people think [that person] doesn't like them. I think [that person] doesn't remember most people.

More for Dana

It wasn't suicide.

When losing someone as suddenly as we lost Dana, I worry that will be the reason we lost that someone. Other times, it has been. At the end of February, my friend Tracy killed herself. I've lost people to suicide before. That type of death has its own baggage, its own difficulties, as you process it.

Last night I learned, from friends of mine who were friends with Dana, what happened. Aneurysm. She had one while at work. Part of her body malfunctioned, went wrong, and then someone who'd been with us was no longer there.

There's a tiny, tiny mercy in all this: for Dana, it was quick. For my friend Tracy, it wasn't: she'd struggled for years with suicidal ideation, the over-and-over thought This world is too difficult for me to be in until she thought Okay; I'm out.

It is weird — one of the many weirdnesses of grief — that I'm trying to find comfort in knowing that Dana didn't want and didn't plan to die. She wanted to live as well as she could. I'd seen her have (very understandable) issues with her living situation; she worked to improve it. But what happened, happened, and processing that doesn't change that. It's the living with what happened that I and Dana's other friends are trying, having, to do. As I'm working to live with the loss of Tracy. I'm still processing her not being here any more, either.

I'll digress for a bit. The very funny novel The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which Douglas Adams wrote based on the radio series he'd conceived and written, has the subtext of dealing with grief. The novel has a scene not in the radio show, where Arthur tries to wrap his mind around the whole damn planet Earth being destroyed. Thinking that New York City is gone doesn't hit him; realizing that McDonald's burgers are gone does. Why is it that detail that gets him? I don't know; it just is. What detail's going to remind me of Dana or Tracy tomorrow, or next month, or two years from now, and hit me again with knowing we lost these two unique people? I don't know.

It's worth repeating: It is part of the unfairness of so much bad news that it so often blindsides us. Much of it forces us to deal with it RIGHT NOW, damn whatever your plans had been or others' plans had been or Dana's plans had been or Tracy's maybe-I-shouldn't-die plans had been. The good news, meanwhile, is often something you have to work at. You need to nourish it, maybe build it, definitely protect it. Good news can be background noise, not really calling attention to itself as it just Does What It Does. Sometimes it takes a genuine effort to see what's good.

That'll be part of my effort. I need to live as well as I can. I need to function as well as I can. So do my friends, my family, my acquaintances, any people I help, and the others of the world.

Later today — after I've done laundry and eaten — I'll be at two events, both of which will have people who knew Dana. One is an already-planned-before-this comic shop event; one's a memorial for Dana. We will see how we are.

We'll see.

New Grief: another loss among my friends

Dana Thompson is gone.

She and I met through Trek in the Park, which she starred in as Uhura from the beginning in 2009. I and mutual friends of hers have been learning the news throughout today. I don't yet know anything beyond that she has died, apparently yesterday.

Dana performed not just as an actor but as a backup singer, a member of the local rock band Dartgun and the Vignettes. Her deep loves included her hometown of Kansas City, Missouri and David Bowie; I've been thinking of "Life on Mars?" because of her.

We grieve because we care; but, grief does not care about us.

Damnit. I miss you, Dana, and I'll be thinking about you.

A still life

The window in my bedroom in the house where I rent some space faces north. Before and during some of summer, the sun is far enough north in the morning and before sunset to stream into my room.

Here is that view, tonight, looking at my night stand. One of the items on the stand: my copy of the lovely, Neil Gaiman-scripted Batman comic "Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?"

A Coens-flavored world

I saw Raising Arizona first-run at Northern Virginia's Fair Oaks Mall in April 1987. I laughed one of the hardest, most sustained laughs I'd ever laughed up to that point, during the robbery/chase scene; I laughed hard enough to unsettle my stomach and start feeling a little sick. Luckily, I didn't get sick. Good first exposure to writer-directors Joel and Ethan Coen, I'll tell you.*

(Another time I laughed almost as hard at their work? When I first saw what happened to the ashes in The Big Lebowski.)

They're on my mind again. Two Saturdays ago I finally watched their 2010 adaptation of the Charles Portis novel True Grit, a year after I'd seen the 1960s adaptation starring John Wayne. (Friends had advised me "both are good; see the John Wayne version, then the Coens version.") There's quiet urgency to that film, existing side-by-side with eccentric touches and filtered through that dialogue — and then it gets loudly, grippingly urgent. And it should go without saying that the film's beautiful; I wonder if Roger Deakins, their Director of Photography since their fourth film in 1991, is capable of lighting and shooting a movie badly. I wish I'd gotten around to seeing it in theaters.

As they tend to do for lots of people, surprising bits of their films stay with me. Slow-flowing blood and later fire in Barton Fink; throwing away a man's hat at a key moment in Miller's Crossing; how the theme that composer Carter Burwell wrote for Miller's Crossing stayed in my head until I forgot its origin, it was just a pretty tune I'd think of sometimes; the scene in The Hudsucker Proxy where undercover reporter Jennifer Jason Leigh can't tell her boss Tim Robbins she wrote the article about him headlined "MORON RUNS HUDSUCKER / Not A Brain In His Head"; the surprise, um, device in Burn After Reading; the elegance of the final shot of O Brother, Where Art Thou?; Sam Elliot first showing up on camera in Lebowski; how in Hail, Caesar!, two characters are flirting outrageously but are so deadpan that no one else realizes it at first. In the Coens-scripted Bridge of Spies, which Steven Spielberg directed, the Russians send people to the West who pretend to be the Russian family of the spy played by Mark Rylance; Tom Hanks, as the spy's attorney, has to go along with the charade, and no one involved ever drops the act; that felt especially Coens-esque to me. (Did that in fact happen? If it did, it seems like the sort of detail that the Coens would be drawn to.)

They plugged away doing Their Thing, usually doing just well enough to keep going and to survive the occasional outright flop, like Hudsucker; they never had anything even approaching a blockbuster until O, Brother, 16 years into their career. (Fargo, as great as the reviews were, did okay, not great.) And they're still doing Their Thing.

I like their approach. They seem like good people. I heard a story that the Coens once apologized to Burwell for how Lebowski was an unsatisfying job for him, as he got to write maybe five minutes of disjointed music instead of the big, bold score he'd gotten to do for their previous film Fargo. (They'd decided Lebowski should sound like it was scored with a mix tape; Burwell wrote a couple of brief song-like pieces for a couple of moments. That was it.) People have stayed intensely loyal to them over decades. William Goldman loved their work, and was also perplexed by it: he realized they'd make story choices he not only wouldn't make, but couldn't make. (Lebowski made such a big deal of Walter, Jesus and the upcoming blowing tournament that Goldman on first viewing was sure the climax would be a Walter-vs.-Jesus bowling battle, but the Coens told him they'd never planned to show the tournament.)

I also like that they have the ever-evolving in-joke of their "editor" Roderick Jaynes, really the pseudonym they use when they edit their own films; they pretend Jaynes is this old British guy who doesn't particularly like them or their work. Twice Jaynes, meaning the Coens, has been nominated for an Oscar for Best Editing (for Fargo and No Country for Old Men), and the filmmakers planned how to make it seem like Jaynes was a real person who couldn't (or wouldn't) accept that possible Oscar. (This short video touches on Roderick Jaynes.) It's slightly off and slightly odd; they keep finding new ways to be slightly off and slightly odd.

And they're prolific, so that as I work through their filmography I have plenty of movies I still get to dive into for a first viewing, like A Serious Man, which was inspired by their growing up Jewish in the Twin Cities area. Among other reasons, I want to see it to understand a detail Bobby Roberts said years ago, that A Serious Man seems to end about 10 minutes earlier than you expect it to. How did they do that in a way that was satisfying? I'll see.



* I had other, surprising (to me) thoughts on Raising Arizona years later, where I saw the film in a nicely different light.

Train, In Vain

Imma vent.

Getting to work on Sunday mornings is relatively easy to screw up. There are fewer buses and trains, and the time between when my bus gets to the MAX station and when the MAX Red Line train arrives to go to the airport is tightest. Other days, I wait 5-8 minutes at the station; Sundays, it's 5 or less, and sometimes the train pulls in as I head down the stairs from the street to the platform. I've cut it close a couple of times. If I miss it, again due to fewer Sunday trains, I take a train that gets me to the airport late; at least if I somehow miss my usual train Monday-through-Thursday, the next train still gets me to work on time.

I missed my usual train today. The bus was late getting to my first stop; it seemed to be making more stops than normal for soon after 6 a.m.; at least one person apparently needed to quiz the driver for half a minute before deciding that yes, they would get on; and IT WAS ALL SLOW, SLOWER THAN NORMAL, COME ON COME ON I HAVE A PLACE TO BE.

Ah, the frustration of being on time myself and so many others being slow, so that I can't do things on my usual schedule.

I may go back to my Sunday backup plan of leaving half an hour earlier (earlier than the already-early time I otherwise leave) so I can take the previous bus and then the previous train, taking my usual train if I (also, somehow) miss the earlier train. I'd rather not, but I'm less inclined to be potentially regularly late. And for two weeks in August (Sunday the 4th to Saturday the 17th), MAX will be disrupted for line work that will make what trains can run, run less frequently. I'm going to ask at work if for those two weeks, I can use a parking tag and park in PDX Employee Parking, which I haven't done yet but which might make sense to do for then.

And no, I don't feel ready yet to trust my car to the parking garage where some jackasses stole it in June. They stole it only the second time I'd ever parked at that garage, by the way.

There. I've vented.