Monday, August 26, 2013

Busy bee


In my long time of funemployment, I had a lot of time to write, but I also made the most of my time by being a dedicated housefrau: I didn't do *all* the laundry, dishes, vacuuming, yard maintenance, etc and so forth, but I did a lot of it. It was only fair. It was my contribution to the effort.

I've slacked off a bit on some of that, although this morning I've done a lot of domestic stuff, like start some laundry, tend to the dogs/dog yard items (ahem), wash the dishes, and generally straightening out the house. I've got to do some of the other things to but I'm probably going to push those into the next days.

And of course, the job is taking up time. I've been using the T to get to and from work more and more. I kind of like it, but it does require a time commitment in itself. I don't like being late so I make myself get there early.

The job itself is beyond great. I like my co-workers a lot. My time spent at work is productive, stimulating, and not incidentally, revenue-positive.

Anyway. Time to write has been harder to come by.

Other than the glorious California summer of 2000, this has been my most pleasant summer. It's typically humid here, but the temperatures have generally stayed below 90. I'll take it.

I think you'll hear more from me as things settle down and transitions into fall. By then the routine should be set. It's hard to believe that 10 months ago we were about to embark upon this adventure... it's been a damned eventful stretch.

Sometimes it still doesn't seem real to me. Something happens and it's driven home: A seagull caws, reminding me that we live on the ocean. The skyline still amazes me. The hardest part is to still not feel fully a part of it. How long does assimilation take?

Saturday, August 17, 2013

17 August 2013

"Buy the ticket, take the ride." — Hunter S. Thompson

Some days are up, some are down.

Lately, they've been up. It won't stay that way, but for now, I'm going to take HST's words to heart and just go with it.

The new job is going well beyond my wildest dreams. I really like the people I work with, but I think more than anything my attitude is paying dividends. Some of you have worked with me before and know I can be... difficult. I still believe it comes from the right place: I always want to do a good job and expect everyone else to have that as Job 1. I have little tolerance for passengers, slackers, phonies, suck-ups and politicians. Half of the last six places I worked were chock-full of those types, and another was an ongoing struggle between people who wanted to shine and a powerful handful riding a quasi-governmental institutional bloat down like Major Kong's final trip.

The heat broke a few weeks ago, and it's been livable, except when it's been amazing. A handful of cool nights into the 50s; the windows open, the dreams vivid.

We bought a couch; it arrived yesterday. It's so nice I don't want to use it. It's a "grown up" thing to do and I'm embracing a larger sense of responsibility right now. I want to do better. I want to live better. 

To that end I've been trying to put things in order. In a world of chaos, it's helpful to administer as much control as you can over your environment.

If you're open to it, you can take a ride and it can be better than you hoped. In the past many years I've had catastrophic events — failed relationships, unanticipated job losses, financial crises among them — and fantastic adventures. 

In those down times I never thought I would be where I am today. I have a partner who believes in me and who has fought for me, who has refused to give up on me even when I had given up on me. I live in a fascinating city and it is as contradictory as life itself: Sometimes beautiful, occasionally maddening, always interesting. I have three dogs, when I really didn't even want one.

I didn't expect this, but I went with it. I bought the ticket. I'm taking the ride.

Go with it.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


So the inevitable guilty verdicts came in yesterday against Southie mobster James "Whitey" Bulger.

I now trod every day the same streets where Whitey was born and ruled with an iron hand. From the sixth floor, I see the neighborhood where he intimidated everyone who had ever even heard of him. I am mere blocks from a home where he murdered and buried three of his victims.

Last night after the verdict I spent some time reading up on his crimes, looking at murder-scene photos, learning about the 11 people he killed and the eight others he is suspected of killing.

Whitey Bulger is a monster. A real monster. He was a ruthless murderer and criminal, constricted by nothing. If he wanted you dead, you were dead. He was a rapist, a pedophile, a thief ... and he was brutal, cold and calculating.

Unlike shiny dons we imagine (like Corleone or Gotti or even Soprano), Whitey was basically just common street trash who leveraged his way to a shaky empire. He was no master criminal, he was just a weasel with big balls who wasn't afraid to get his hands dirty. Hell, it appears that he loved that part of his job: the killing, the instilling of fear, the "just-crazy-enough" persona that made people avert their eyes and cross the street when they saw him coming.

Whitey's lieutenant Stevie Flemmi was vice-monster. One story is particularly repulsive. Flemmi got involved with his 15-year-old stepdaughter, eventually killing her. The two scumbags also killed another young woman who thought her close position would protect her.

On the day that they decided to murder the stepdaughter, Flemmi first took her shopping. Then they headed home, where Flemmi later testified they were to kill her. Bulger strangled her. Then Flemmi began to pull out her teeth with a pair of pliers to make identification of her body more difficult.

I began to wonder: what happens next?

At the end of that day, these animals went to bed. Did they reflect? What must that have been like?

"Wow, I'm tired. Strangling someone is a lot harder than just shooting them. I really should maybe tone my arms a bit. And damn, those teeth! Gotta remember to throw those into the ocean tomorrow. Huh, tomorrow... crap, really need to bury that body. I guess I could set fire to it. Wonder if anyone knows a good crematorium somewhere."

How can one disconnect their humanity enough to commit crimes like that? This isn't a crime of passion; this is a crime of choice. This is "just business."

I've always enjoyed the "mobster fiction" of The Godfather, The Sopranos, etc. But today I feel a little differently about it because today it's a lot more real. It happened near where I live, and it was gruesome and scary.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Natural Observations

Every day here has been a first. It's interesting to have a completely new experience.

In the early part of summer the sun rose at about 5 a.m. It was very strange to see so much light in the sky at such an early hour. Back in December it seemed to get dark by 3:30 p.m. It was actually a little later, officially, but the often overcast skies and the place of the sun made it pretty dim by then, and totally night within a short time after.

It's not something I've ever seen. I'm now living far more northerly and easterly than I ever have. The natural environment is unlike anything I've ever lived in, and the change is significant.

A few days ago I was on the bus. I have always been a skywatcher, and the beauty of public transportation is that you get to spend more time in observation. I still feel like you could blindfold me, put me on a plane for hours, whatever, and wherever we landed, if we were in Texas I would know it by the sky alone.

Maybe, maybe not. But I believe it.

The sky here is very different. It's... wetter. I see traces of the rare times I've been in this part of the world. It resembles Ontario and Quebec. The cloud shapes are not like those I have seen in other places. As I sat on the bus and looked north, I could tell I wasn't in Kansas any more.

Sometimes I look east and see big cloud formations that are over the Atlantic. The view of them is mesmerizing. I bet the view from them is even better.

Rarely have I seen the menacing clouds that frequent "Tornado Alley." There are sharp weather conversions here, but they seem a bit less dangerous. I think here they are bigger and overwhelming, but there also just isn't enough real, sustained heat to generate that power I've seen so many times in Texas. If something really large moves in here, it is usually something cold, and the power of the Atlantic typically seems to mean it will quickly dominate. So the cold blasts just shoo away the heat before things can get too rowdy.


It's much greener here than I thought it would be. And this by all accounts has been a drier, hotter summer than is typical in these parts.

The yardlet is struggling; there hasn't been enough rain. A massive tree provides so much shade that a good portion of the yard never gets direct sunlight. And of course the dogs do their damage.

So there are portions of dusty, dried-up yard with no grass. Even the weeds struggle and mostly fail to take root.

But I have seen something interesting. The greenery here is resilient. Just a little rain perks things up quickly. I don't water the yardlet, but I want to. I think it'd be pretty lush under normal circumstances. Every where else, the green rebounds quickly. I see some greenspaces that are so rich and verdant that I want to roll around in them.

It's rainy today. A nice, consistent soak. When it burns away, by tomorrow, the lawn will look like it's spruced up and proud.

Some people up here have natural gardens as yards. They're wild and tall, but beautiful. It's a look I'd love to implement some day, if we wind up here a long time.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Who I Am

Kendrick gave me the nickname Phoebe many years ago. He has been an inspirational figure ever since I met him.

I have met many admirable people. They may not know this, but they remain alive with me every day and each has contributed to my rich life.

While I frequently do not succeed, I consider every day an opportunity for improvement. I am always surprised when some categorize me as (I'll use diplomatic license to paraphrase) "May Be Too Intense For Younger Viewers." I am not bitter, I am not angry. I am, as Dan says, passionate. I don't like mealy-mouthed attitudes. Go big or go home.

Piker called me a "pessimistic hippie." I love that. That designation is damned accurate. A pessimist is an optimist with experience. A hippie, as John Lennon said, thinks that "love will save us all."

Love will save us all. Distribute it freely. I'm still living the dream we had. For me, it's not over. Neil Young said that.

But, now quoting Ronnie, "Trust, but verify." I want to lead by example and M taught me that honesty was always the best policy. Although Carlin said that made dishonesty the second-best policy.

I am now as honest as a recovering serial liar can be. I have grown substantially as a 21st-Century Schizoid Man. I try and live honestly and forthrightly. I don't mean to step on toes, but I have big feet. I am struggling to have a life of meaning and happiness. I think I will achieve that. 

You can also. Commit to it. Believe in yourself even if it feels like no one else does. You have value; it's just that the clouds may obscure it from you at times.

It shall pass.

Other Things

I'm five weeks into the new job, and I really love it. A great group of co-workers. Everyone seems to be rowing in the same direction.

An anecdote:

About two weeks ago I made a recommendation that was valid, but rejected. It wasn't anything huge; a superior made a call and that was that.

A few days ago he came by and sat next to me for a minute. He said he "owed me an apology" and proceeded to say that in retrospect he perhaps should have used my recommendation, and that he felt badly about how quickly he dismissed it. He then told me that he hoped I would continue to bring ideas to him.

I was floored.

First off, it was initially his call and I respected it. I didn't take it personally that he didn't OK my idea. I felt it would be a good thing, but in the heat of the moment we went another way. It's his job to make those choices -- and my job to offer suggestions that may further the mission.

But the list of work environments where someone will come back later and do what he did is very, very, very short. Especially in my experience.

Now that I think of it, a few nights earlier I had another superior send me a chat note more or less about the same type of thing. She also offered a mea culpa.

This isn't just professional -- it's courteous, considerate and the mark of good people. It's kind of like when you send out a job application and await a response. I understand that places get deluged with applicants, but the professional and human thing to do is to at least acknowledge receipt. While a personal response/rejection would be ideal, it's 2013, and it's pretty easy to send an automated form/response that tells people their submission has been received, and if they pass muster, further communication will be issued. Additionally, once a decision has been made, those who weren't selected should receive notification. People are counting on getting those jobs; leaving them hanging is cruel and unprofessional.

Having looked for a good job for many months, I am perhaps still in a honeymoon phase, and maybe that's making this good situation seem even rosier.

But I don't think that's it. I genuinely like these people and this company. It feels like a great fit. And every day I get to go to work, I am excited and enthused about it. It's stimulating, fun and ... well, after those first two, do you need anything else?

All this to say that, thanks for your patience, dear visitors, if you've been checking in for fresh updates. I've been doing other things and haven't had quite as much time to write. My days off are now Wednesdays and Thursdays, and I spend them doing "normal" things that the gainfully employed do: running errands, attending to housekeeping duties, and so on.

I've been mindful that I haven't written much, and I don't want to let that lapse. Writing has been a tremendously important and useful outlet for my energies in this last two years of substantial transition. It's been perhaps my most reliably positive productive activity.

And those of you who have stopped by have no idea how much your mostly silent support has strengthened and encouraged me. Just to know that my thoughts are interesting enough for you to spend the occasional few minutes often fed my soul and spirit immeasurably.

Thank you.

I've got a lot of things that I've got to do to keep building and rebuilding my life. Expressing myself here is one that needs to be maintained. Count on it.