6/14/06-Wed.-Fran and I were eating at a favorite Indian restaurant the other day, and I overheard a few businessmen having lunch. One told the others this anecdote:
A patrolman pulled a man over in the city. "What's wrong, officer?" the driver asked as the cop approached. "Well, I'm sorry to have to tell you this," the gendarme said, "but your wife fell out of the car a couple blocks back." "THANK GOD!" the driver exclaimed. "I thought I was going deaf."
It's been a busy time for us, despite the lack of recent entries. Besides the usual round of volunteer activities for each of us, and daily walks, following of favorite programs, such as "All Things Considered" (NPR), "The Nightly Business Report" (PBS), or "Film Score Focus" (KMFA), keeping up with relatives or friends, eating out four or five times weekly, meditating, yard care, etc., we are preparing (with unusual housecleaning) for Frances' mom's visit in about six days, getting the next issue of our newsletter ready (due out before her mother arrives), individually doing things for our upcoming anniversary, dealing with the heat (101-104°F recently), and taking field trips for more fantastic nature photography (Fran) or trying a variety of "network" activities for further, livelier, or more meaningful interactions (me).
Frances is now also in the midst of rehearsals or performances for the new Gilbert and Sullivan Society production, "HMS Pinafore." Both Fran's mom and mine will probably be going with us to see this quite fun musical.
I have joined a pleasant social club, attending an initial meeting of several of its core membership at Threadgills. I expect to be joining with them again this coming Saturday evening.
For several days I have been attempting to teach myself Excel applications I could use in my investment record keeping or analyses. However, I have gotten completely bogged down, burned out, and frustrated with the endeavor. Fran, who has the computer mastery I lack (which deficiency results in an inability to make the leaps needed to follow the tutorial's instructions independently) could likely master it and then tutor me, but, naturally enough, she lacks the interest. So, for now I am stymied and have indefinitely put off additional efforts.
Last night, I went to an interesting lecture on dreams and creativity, "Unzipping Your Pillow," during the monthly Institute of Noetic Sciences meeting. There may be an opportunity before long to join a dream group sponsored by this organization.
With that in mind, I have begun collecting dreams again, keeping a diary of those I remember. Here are a couple sequences from today's slumberous record:
6/21/06-Wed.-Tomorrow is Fran's and my 21-year wedding anniversary. I'm taking her out for a favorite restaurant dinner, a movie, likely "A Prairie Home Companion," and getting her a card, some flowers, and a special image viewer to show off her already stunning photos even better than her laptop, chosen a few years ago to be a far clearer displayer of her pictures than the PC monitor. I'd asked her for a wish list and this was the only item on it. Even with my early senile dementia, there really was no problem figuring out what would be her gift!
We may not really celebrate the occasion for several more days, though, as my mother-in-law, Linda, is visiting from FL. From here, she's driving up to WI for a week or so at her other daughter, Trudy's (and her family's), farm up in WI, before heading back home.
Linda is doing quite well for someone about 75 years old and within less than a year having required both major wrist and knee surgeries.
Both going and coming, she is tent-camping in parks along the way.
She and Frances are in San Antonio to see the zoo and public gardens today. With precautions needed over too much sun exposure lest I get more cancer lesions, I was able to gracefully beg off and so am getting caught up on a few things at the home front. But we expect to go to Waco next week, and then I'll be joining them, with lots of suntan lotion, an umbrella, and a wide-brimmed hat, at the zoological park there.
In recent dreaming, I recall the following: It is the 17th or 18th century, in colonial or even pre-colonial America, and I along with just a few others are at the mercy of the Indians or perhaps of them and the British, though the impression is it is before the American colonists took on the latter. Nonetheless, we may be leery too of the British. Our situation is almost utterly precarious. There are no palisades, very few provisions, and almost no weapons, yet there is a sense that at any time we could be attacked. Our enemies are also the means by whom we survive, yet they could at any moment decide to withdraw their sustaining support and attack instead. They have very temporarily withdrawn from the immediate vicinity, perhaps on a trading venture or a hunting party. We have, before their return, seemingly just instants in which to find slightly defensible positions and tools with which to defend ourselves, maybe in an improvised ambush. There is also a sense of destiny, as though we know we are to succeed, as though we were cast back here from the present, 21st Century, and so know somehow we are bound to survive this episode, upon which so much of a then momentous future for us, a burgeoning new set of colonies, a fresh independent state, ultimately even the present circumstances in the world, and much more yet to come, depend. One of our small number, a man or woman in quite old-fashioned clothing, grabs up an empty metal flask, hoping, by using the edge of it from hiding, to inflict harm on the returning enemy. I find something longer with which to strike a blow or cut and pierce. My associates, just two or three in number, and I do our best to find momentary concealment behind a ledge or case or some other bit of furniture, but divine the imminent return of those whom we fear. It is a black and white scene, unclear as to the time of day, except that there is at least dim light in here where we are, a place open to the outdoors and yet partially inside, as if in some open-ended shed, small barn, livery, or a make-shift camp area, with only a fragile or flimsy roof, but still with several large and small artifacts assembled. There is not even so much as a small town nearby, merely these few things, more or less our own, between us and the native population which outnumbers ours and is far better equipped and supported. We have not a single firearm between us. They may not either, but with bows and arrows, knives, spears, and tomahawks they would be able to dispatch us easily if of a mind to do so. The phrase and book title, Waiting for the Barbarians, comes to mind, except that it is apparent our enemies are vastly better adapted to the "primitive" surroundings than we, who are in a real sense the true intruders or invaders. It is thus we who do not properly belong here, in a way, other than that it is vaguely felt to be our future in a fashion to establish a tiny foothold here and prevail. There is worry but also determination, that we shall be tough and do the best we can in difficult circumstances.
Our drought in Austin officially continues, I believe, but has not been much in evidence lately. We have received about 3 inches of further rain in the last few days.
On recent walks, I've seen a gecko and a pair of small snakes. An adult raccoon has been making himself at home in our backyard, chewing on and otherwise damaging some of the plants in the larger pond. I think he ate a gecko too, for a poop pile appeared (not formed like Puff's) out there, with a half-digested one in it.
I'm still on my diet, but progress is somewhat slow. After at least a year of watching what I eat, I weigh 155 pounds, roughly my average weight for the last 10-20 years, but about 5 pounds more than I would like to weigh. Am not sure what is wrong. I've been dutifully eating things with the skin left on, the way we are advised, to preserve the vitamins. This is particularly tasty when I consume fried chicken.
6/23/06-Fri.-Frances and her mom have continued to do activities together while I do needed chores or otherwise keep occupied at home. But yesterday afternoon I drove us over to the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum where we took touristy pictures and saw the 3-D IMAX movie, "Deep Sea," well worth the slightly expensive price of admission.
The last couple evenings, I've been watching the extraordinary documentary on PBS, "A Lion in the House," about children with cancer, their courageous families, doctors, etc.
I realize it is but one school of thought and that, for some, entirely different philosophies are equally valid, but for me there is an impression that as men, particularly if we have no children of our own, we really have nothing else, no other way, for our lives to really matter or make a difference than through our work, loosely defined. All of existence is about relationship. Even the most isolated and introverted geek ultimately finds her or his activities relevant in as much as they can be in some fashion recognized or affirmed by others.
In my case, it seems that personal worth is validated through the service (in art, words, scholarship, example, friendship, direct assistance, scientific endeavor, health care, whatever is needed) that we may provide.
Linda was in Alaska late last month and took many great pictures there, especially of mountains and glaciers, which she has shown to Fran and me. Certainly inspires me to get there too, hopefully before most of the remaining ice and snow melt.
I think our civilization is near collapse. Government can no longer cope. And the threats are manifold. These may be our last, best years (or, if we are especially fortunate, decades). Of course, this assessment is closely tied to and perhaps colored as well by a keen awareness of my own increasing age and mortality.
6/25/06-Sun.-This morning, we got underway reasonably early, and I drove us over to McKinney Falls where we hiked about and took lots of pictures. Among other interesting fauna, I saw a coyote, a snake, an egret, and numerous diving beetles (in the some of the multiple drying ponds arrayed across one portion of the old lava flow that characterizes part of the park). Fran and Linda also caught several pond specimens and brought them back to be photographed.
By mid-morning, we were already quite hot and so headed home. Frances had another "HMS Pinafore" performance for which to play this afternoon. There was time for a short nap before she needed to leave.
Late this afternoon, I mowed our backyard.
In further dreaming lately, I recall the following, very brief situation: I am concerned over the spread of the deadliest bird flu virus (H5N1), now (in the dream) quite contagious and deadly among humans in the US. We, Fran and I, are taking what precautions we can, but people by the thousands or millions are coming down with the disease, and it feels as though all our measures, as well as those of governments, may well not be enough to save us or a large percentage of other citizens. Our fates seem out of our hands. We can but wait anxiously and hope for the best.
On the airways today, I heard the American Radio Works audio-documentary "Vietnam and the Presidency," which explored the inside information, policies, and thinking of four American presidents over the long course of our military involvement in Vietnam. The program has much of relevance to the current optional war, in Iraq. Among other things, it was clear to LBJ as early as about 1965 or 1966 that the Vietnam War was a mistake, but for political reasons we did not extricate ourselves for another eight years and, the whole time, he or subsequently Nixon kept churning out the false rationales for continued engagement there. 95% of our casualties occurred after Johnson had already realized we should not have been there. The losses to American prestige and diplomacy during those extra eight years were incalculable, as, indeed, were the ultimate domestic costs.
An excellent book on the war in Vietnam: Fire in the Lake.
6/26/06-Mon.-We left this AM about 9:30, Fran, Linda, and I, for Waco and a three-day, two-night visit with my mom. Today is our Baylor Museum outing. Tomorrow, I'll be keeping Mom company while Linda and Frances drive up to Fort Worth and spend the better part of a day at its zoo. Again, I am avoiding the extra solar exposure.
6/29/06-Thurs.-We returned yesterday afternoon from our Waco trip. I believe all had a good time, though we were very tired.
Besides going to the Baylor Museum and Cameron Park Zoo (plus Linda and Frances spending much of Tuesday at the Fort Worth Zoo), we all went out to eat at a Thai restaurant. I'm afraid Linda did not care for this type ethnic food, though she was too polite to say so. Still, it meant more leftovers for others, and with all Mom made or bought during our time as her guests, Linda certainly did not lack for good vittles. We even brought extra food home to Austin.
Puff and I took three long walks while we were in mother's area. We went to Lake Waco, Woodway Park, and some pleasant nature trails. On each walk, Puff enjoyed swimming in the lake.
Between the time at Mom's (which for now has a vacant greenbelt behind) and hikes at the park, but not even counting visits to zoos, we saw deer, rabbits or hares, an egret, ducks, and several great blue herons. I also witnessed the most beautiful, violet sunset I've ever seen over Lake Waco.
Construction work has begun in the wild area near and roughly in back of Mom's place, huge, heavy equipment earth movers scooping up tons of topsoil and, for unknown reasons, heaping it up into a great mound. In the process, two days in a row, they cut the TV cable serving Mom and her neighbors.
In dreaming night before last, I recall thinking, apparently in my dream, "Oh good! This is a fine dream to take to the dream group." Then the fan caught on something and so began an alarming, repetitive sound reminiscent of a soldier's M-14 rifle being cocked over and over, and once I had corrected that situation, lest it wake my wife up as well, the fine dream had been utterly forgotten, except for this.
Of course, in considering the dream and fan situation, the word "cocked" kind of stands out, so to speak. I remember a student health center psychiatrist I had seen a few times at about age 19, during a period of depression and obsessive-compulsive difficulties, when I was angry at my father, sad and anxious over the loss of a girlfriend, and also overwhelmed by my studies, in which, due to my being upset otherwise, I had fallen behind. Noting that I tended to be shy and that the romantic involvement had been my first intimate relationship, the good doctor's line of questioning at one point was direct concerning if I had had any homosexual experiences. I truthfully and emphatically told him no and that I was aware of no desire for any, but I thought, since he was the expert, maybe he was asking because I seemed like a "homo" to him, so I just asked him if he thought I were gay. He hesitated and then said I might be about 10% homosexual. It was a great relief to me, as I certainly had no wish to see myself or be seen by others that way, and I had just heard a lecture in which a psychologist said that, on average, everyone is about 10% homosexual and 90% heterosexual, though of course there is much variation along the spectrum. He had said those who have virtually no homoerotic ideation are ironically also often the least likely to be able to empathize with and satisfy a mate.
But later, shades of anthropologists' findings about "primitive" cultures, I recalled that, though I could not remember the incident myself, my mother had told me that, when I was about 5 and we had a room-and-boarder boy, Dave (about 6), staying with us while his parents were overseas for several months, Mom overheard him telling me as we were taking a bath together to put his penis in my mouth. She said she had entered the room just in time to see me do this. She tended to dwell on anxiety-provoking things, and had worried afterward, she said, that I would be gay as a result. She had terminated the arrangement of looking after Dave soon afterward and, in the meantime, had allowed no further unsupervised bathing of the two of us together.
There were no subsequent even remotely gay incidents of which I'm aware, either in childhood or as an adult, but dreams or associations to them do occasionally bring up the possible issue, in this sort of punning way. I never sought homosexual experiences or wished to. Just once, a much older man had tried to "pick me up," when I was walking alone on "the Drag," but I turned him down. (I was also never interested in cross-dressing. That ["the Drag"] is just what Guadalupe Street, which borders one side of the University of Texas in Austin, was called. Honest.)
My nephew, Charley, was dropped off by his mom, Leila, late Tuesday morning, and my mom closely supervised his working in one of her gardens for a couple hours. He accomplished a lot, and she was generous, giving him about $40 for his efforts. He has bought a couple fixer-upper classic Mustang cars and needs money from his yard and garden work for repair expenses, eventually intending to get at least one of the vehicles running well and in time for him to be driving on his own at age 16, a little over a year away.
While waiting for Leila to pick Charley up after his chore for Mom was finished, he and I played pool (poorly in both cases) and chatted. Later that day, he and his brother, Keith, would have a full evening (3 hours) of tennis. When Leila came for Charley, I talked with her a little too. She mentioned that she is enjoying taking belly dancing lessons and learning this hobby lately. She also said her daughter, Virginia, about age 17 now, is working in food service at the Y this summer.
Linda finished packing and reloading her car this morning, then headed away around 8:15 on a three-night camping and driving trip between Austin and our WI relatives' farm, expecting to arrive sometime Sunday. Overall, I believe this has been our best visit in Austin (or Waco) with Linda ever, enjoyable for all concerned.
My mom and Diane, one of my nieces, are to arrive at our house in the early afternoon on Saturday and to join me in going to see "HMS Pinafore" that night, for which production Fran plays in the orchestra. As usual, Mom plans about as brief a time with us as is feasible, for seeing the show in our company and staying overnight. She expects to arrive not long before the performance and leave early the next morning.
Fran recently accepted a performing gig for August at one of the area's Jewish community centers.