Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Blood & Ink

Okay, this morning ... two experiences ... blood & ink ...

Blood

Because of my various medical issues, I am continually "donating" blood for various lab tests. I generally go to the same lab (I'll not mention it by name), where I almost always have the same technician (I will not name him/her).

Over the years we have gotten to know each other a little, the tech and I. She/He is greatly skilled. In all the years I've gone there, he/she has had to stick me a second time only once. She/He always finds an accommodating vein; she/he rarely leaves a mark.

I've told him/her off and on about my mother, who died last month at 98. Today was the first time I've seen her/him since that death, and when I told the story, tears came into his/her eyes, and she/he told me the story of his/her late father, to whom she/he had felt especially close.

I joked as I left the room, tears in my eyes now, too: Well, I'm glad I cheered up your morning! And we laughed, though I dripped tears all the way home.


Ink

I got an email notice this morning from the New York Times (I'm a subscriber--print and digital): My credit card is out of date (yes, I got a new one the other day), so I needed to update my information.

I got online. Got into my account. Changed the info. Got a message that "for security reasons" my account was now "locked."

I took that well.

I called the suggested number and talked to a series of robots, each of which kept reminding me to hit the # sign after I'd entered account number, balance, new card info, etc.

By the time it was all over, I was frustrated and angry enough to, well, let blood.

And I don't even know if, next month, I'll have to do it all over again or if the automatic deduction will go through with the new card info I entered this morning. Can't wait to find out, you know?

So ... a pair of interactions today. One human--very human; the other, cyber--very cyber. Guess which I preferred?

The one that brought me to tears, to very human tears.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Midnight Ruminations

John Myers O'Hara

I woke in the middle of the night with some lines of poetry clanging in my head. Here they are:

Old longing nomadic leap,
Chafing at custom's chain;
Again from its brumal* sleep
Wakens the ferine** strain.

*wintry
**like a wild animal

Some of you (especially those of you former students of mine who read The Call of the Wild with me in 8th grade) will recognize this as the epigraph to London's most famous book, his 1903 novella about a dog stolen from a comfortable California lifestyle and taken to the Yukon where things are ... different.

When I was working on all my Jack London research back in the 1980s and 90s, I discovered that these lines were written by a poet-stockbroker named John Myers O'Hara (1877-1944 [the year I was born!]) and come from a much longer poem called "Atavism," which appeared in a periodical called The Bookman in November 1902. (See image of entire poem below--a photocopy of the original Bookman publication.)

As I discuss in my annotated edition of Wild (U of Okla P, 1995), when O'Hara realized these lines were adorning Chapter 1 in Wild (which was selling very well), he wrote to London, saying, basically, "That's my poem!"

No answer.

He wrote again: "That's my poem!!"

This time London answered, a bit disingenuously, saying he'd come across the lines as a "detached fragment" and hadn't known who the poet was. (Yeah.)

Anyway, London and O'Hara corresponded a bit--and met for dinner in NYC (Feb. 1, 1912). London's wife, Charmian, later called him "a character" in her diary.

BTW: In all the editions of Wild in London's lifetime, none identified O'Hara as the poet.

Okay--so these lines coursed and clanged through my head last night ... but why? Well, the entire poem, "Atavism," is about the arrival of spring; it urges people to get outside, to be "Conscious again of the green / Verdure beneath the feet." (Yeah, the diction is a bit ... much, eh?) It reminds me--thematically only--of Emily Dickinson's "A Little Madness in the Spring." (Link to her poem.)

And yesterday--Monday, April 22--here in northeastern Ohio it was a gorgeous day: 70s, sunny, hopeful. The kind of day that ought to make you want to spring outside and release your Ferine Self, you know? Who wouldn't want to do that?

Me.

Yesterday, Depression settled over me, and I spent virtually the entire day in bed, an entire day thinking dark thoughts on the brightest day in local memory.

Why?

I can always blame Lupron, one of the heavy-duty anti-cancer meds I'm on (quarterly injections; another is coming up soon). One of Lupron's side-effects?  There are many (none good), but down the list a ways is depression.

Recent events also don't help. The deaths of friends, the death of my mother on March 10.  My declining physical/medical state is also not an "upper." I'm on four big-time cancer meds, and it was only weeks ago that I completed a troublesome course of immunotherapy.

I try to fight it, this continuous threat of depression. And I've been doing pretty well.  Getting up early. Coffee-shopping, reading, writing. And--best of all--being with Joyce.

But sometimes I lose the struggle. And I shut the door, crawl back into bed, surrender to the darkness.

As the day wore on yesterday, I gradually emerged, and after supper even drove with Joyce over to Aurora to mail some birthday cards to a niece and nephew--and to snap up a Diet Coke at Mickey D's. Home, I read from several books on Kindle (the new Michael Connelly, thrillers about Longmire and Jack Taylor), streamed portions of some of "our" shows with Joyce.

And this morning I made myself get out of the bed at my wonted time (about 6), forced myself to commence my routines. And so far--it's about 10:15 a.m.--I'm doing okay.

And that's good enough for me right now--although my "ferine strain" still lies asleep.



Sunday, April 22, 2018

Sunday Sundries, Number 184


1. AOTW: The writers and producers of Blockers, a film I went to see (why?) last night. Juvenile, stupid--lots of butt-and-balls humor, teens as drunks and druggies and sex-o-philes, no one with the slightest hint of any intellectual life--although getting admitted to a prestigious college is a (minor) subplot of this hedonistic tale of three girls on prom night aching for their first sexual experiences--and their three daffy parents who decide they want to "block" the boys from, well, satisfying the girls. I hated myself for sitting there (excuse: the popcorn was good), so maybe I'm the real AOTW?

2. I finished two books this week ...

     - The first was Since We Fell, a fairly complex 2017 thriller by Dennis Lehane (Mystic River, etc.). I've read a lot of Lehane (not all) and have especially enjoyed his Boston PI series (there are six of them now, including Gone, Baby, Gone--a good film) featuring Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro.


Since We Fell has several stories going on: a TV reporter (our principal character) who loses it in Haiti in the post-hurricane era--loses her job, her self-confidence, her sanity. She's also been obsessed with finding out who her biological father was (Mom wouldn't tell her); she marries, finds out some dark secrets about her husband, gets involved in "rescuing" millions of dollars her husband and others have acquired through some con jobs. A psychological thriller--with some gunfire and roaring revelations, as well. Not my favorite Lehane--but fun to read in bed at night!

     - The second I finished was the latest from the Hogarth Press in their series of Shakespeare plays re-told in contemporary novels by celebrated and/or popular contemporary novelists. (Link to Hogarth site about their series.) This one, by Norwegian thriller-writer Jo Nesbø (author of the wonderful crime series about police detective Harry Hole), is based on--and titled--Macbeth, Shakespeare's dark (short!) play about ... you know ... witches, ghosts, murders (children die, too), the swift rise and fall of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth.

Nesbø imagines the novel in 1970 in an unnamed port city that's been corroding with crime and corruption. Macbeth--at the beginning--is a cop, a SWAT leader (skilled with a knife!), and his GF (not wife) is named only Lady (she runs a local casino). The witches are the makers of illegal street drugs. Macbeth, at Lady's urging, soon becomes intent on becoming in charge of the whole city. It doesn't work out well for him. (See Macbeth, by William Shakespeare!)

Nesbø does not really do much with the Shakespearean dialogue--though there is a version of "Tomorrow, tomorrow, and tomorrow" here--and he plays with the characters' names: Macduff becomes Duff here, etc.

A major review (by Shakespearean authority James Shapiro) was the cover story in this week's New York Times Book Review (link to the review) The review is generally positive--but a little cool in tone, I thought--i.e., not crazy about the book.

Which is how I felt. For one thing, this Macbeth is about 3-4 times longer than the other Hogarth adaptations (it could have been trimmed, believe me), and it just never really "caught" me: I didn't get really lost in the book (as I do in good ones--including most of Nesbø 's other novels), and I'll confess that I finished it only because I want to have read all the Hogarths--not because I was really fond of it.

3. We're in that happy/frustrating place of having more than a few of our favorite TV series available for streaming, so we end up watching like 10 minutes of each one each night, then moving to the next. Here's a list of what we're streaming now ...
  • Vera
  • Death in Paradise
  • Line of Duty
  • Bosch
  • Barry (a new HBO series with Bill Hader)
  • and--always in the on-deck circle--Midsomer Murders, a mediocre series that I just cannot stop streaming--I think they're up to about 933 episodes by now?
  • oh, and we're about to get back into Brokenwood now that I've signed up for Britbox.
4. Last word--a word I liked this week from one of my various online word-of-the-day providers:

     - from the Oxford English Dictionary--and I see some metaphorical uses for this word--esp in today's political climate!

evertebrate, adj. and n.

Origin: Formed within English, by derivation; perhaps modelled on a German lexical item. Etymons: e- prefix2, vertebrate adj.
Etymology: < e- prefix2 + vertebrate adj., perhaps after German Evertebraten
A. adj.
  Of an animal: not having a backbone or spinal column. Also: relating to or comprising such animals. Cf. invertebrate adj. a.
1840   Ann. Nat. Hist. 5 378   The Evertebrate animals appear, with respect to the strength of the vital principle, to stand on a far higher scale.
1881   A. Leslie tr. A. E. Nordenskiöld Voy. Vega I. iv. 198   Certain evertebrate types can endure a much greater variation in the temperature and salinity of the water than the algæ.
1929   J. A. Bierens de Haan Animal Psychol. for Biologists iii. 75   An Evertebrate animal that generally stands in an odour of intelligence, viz. the octopus.
1974   Ambio 3 94/1   The evertebrate fauna of all six lakes is made up of very few species.
2000   Palynology 24 151/2   The evertebrate collections of Museo Nacional in Rio de Janeiro.
(Hide quotations)

 B. n.
an animal not having a backbone or spinal column; = invertebrate n. a.
1876   Nation (N.Y.) 25 May 340/1   The greater part of the treatise relates to the lower forms of life, more than two hundred pages being devoted to the various classes of evertebrates.
1881   A. Leslie tr. A. E. Nordenskiöld Voy. Vega I. vii. 324   The dredging yielded..a large number of marine evertebrates.
1903   Med. News 83 212/1 (title)    On the presence of specific coagulins in the tissues of vertebrates and evertebrates.
1941   I. Filipjev & J. H. S. Stekhoven Man. Agric. Helminthology i. 66   We will limit ourselves chiefly to the parasites of evertebrates.
2003   Oikos 103 577/1   Evertebrates confined to living trees, dead trees, or fungal sporocarps.



Saturday, April 21, 2018

I'm Ashamed of Myself

not mine--mine is JAMMED
That's right--ashamed.

Here's why: My computer desktop is so cluttered with icons and shortcuts that I can't even see them all. There are photos, folders, shortcuts (as I said), Word files, .pdf's ... So many that, as I said, some of them are on the "next" screen--wherever that is.

So ... here's my task, right now (10:27 a.m.): I will sort, clean, delete, ... and get back to you with the result!

[PAUSE]

10:53: Okay, I just quit. I got a lot of it done, but Boredom (my enemy, my friend from school days) swooped into my study, grabbed me by the neck, and dragged me elsewhere: his job, of course. And so the rest is left for another day, a day not so far in the future when I will once again have a computer desktop clogged with clutter, and I will once again revile myself, and I will once again write a post about how I'm going to reform, knowing full well, the entire time, that Reform (yes, I capitalized it) is far beyond me and that the best I can hope for is an occasional lapse into fastidiousness, a lapse that (like all other lapses) will not linger long so that I can return--with some relief and comfort, actually--to Messiness.




Thursday, April 19, 2018

Gotta Do It ... Can't Help It ...

March 8--the last time I baked them.

It was about 8:30 this morning when I got the urge, the urge I just can't resist.

Now, for all you foul-minded out there, recall: I am 73 years old and on meds that eliminate the urges that you have! So ... have pure thoughts! They will dignify you ...

No, the urge I got this morning was not to do something foul or fell but to bake. I realized, sitting in the coffee shop, reading a book that I will be reviewing soon, that I have not made baguettes in a while. Don't have any left in the freezer. So ... what could I possibly do about that?

Bake!

I'll have to say that, for me, baking days are happier than non-baking days. Sundays, as you FB friends know, are for sourdough bread-baking, a process that takes, oh, about seven hours or so, depending on the weather. (Heat and humidity affect all.) Now, these are not seven hours of unrelieved labor. The initial mixing and kneading take about a half-hour; then ... mostly ... waiting for the first rise ... shaping the loaves ... waiting for the second rise ... baking. Virtually all of the labor resides in that first half-hour. Plus the cleaning up ...

I also bake scones every week (I eat one every morning for breakfast). But these are not sourdough--just baking-powder quick. The whole thing--from I think I'll make scones today! to Gee, those turned out well!--consumes about 40 minutes or so, and half of that time is baking time. I just work in my study and wait for the timer's buzzer to beckon me back to the oven. Then all I have to do is fight off Joyce, whose nose--like some cartoon character's--leads her down to the kitchen.*

Baguettes are also pretty quick, relative to sourdough baking. Simple ingredients: water, salt, yeast, flour. The rising is a bit slow, but that works out for me because I can do other things (like going to the health club to torture myself) while the baguettes take their own not-sweet time to rise.

So ... about 11:15 this morning, I will rise from this desk-chair, head to the kitchen, mix the dough, set it aside to rise. A bit before 2 I will punch it down, shape it, set it aside to rise a second time, head out to the health club to commence the self-abuse, call Joyce afterward (she will fire up the oven--450), so that when I get home, I have only to slice the tops and pop them in the inferno.

About a half-hour later ... baguettes!

Which we will consume with salmon this evening. And I like to imagine that the fish will envy us, eating fresh baguettes.

Well, they will also hate us because, you know ...


*I exaggerate.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

That Time at the White House with Barbara Bush ...



Below is a scan of an op-ed I wrote for the Cleveland Plain Dealer back on March 31, 1990, about the circucmstances that explain the photo above. Sorry for the fidelity of the image--just click and enlarge, I guess. I can't find a typed copy of it ...


Tuesday, April 17, 2018

"I smelled you ...."



Joyce just told me that she smelled me ... in the kitchen. Now, such a statement can, of course, be Good News or Bad News. I choose to consider it the former. I was baking some scones this morning (see pic above)--cherry-walnut scones--and they (and I, by association?!?) smell pretty good. Wonderful, really. I smell wonderful.

She had just come down to make herself some tea before heading back up to her study to work on her current writing project. And this is when she told me she smelled me.

There have been times in my life when such an announcement--especially from a female--would not necessarily have meant something flattering. In fact, back in elementary school, smell (noun) could often mean something, well, gross--as in this question Who made that smell? Lies would inevitably ensue.

But, as Joyce explained  this morning, she has come to associate me with the smells of baking. That cannot possibly be anything but good, right? I mean, there are all sorts of other smells we could associate with people--most of them not all that appealing, you know?

Throughout my life, I have been known for other ... aromas. In infancy ... never mind. Later, a very active boy living in the hot Southwest--a very active boy who (thanks to his father's genes) sweat, as we used to say, like a pig--I'm sure I had a smell that had a particularly porcine cast.

In adolescence--hormones bubbling away--I learned from concerned friends that it was time for Stopette (deodorant) and Mennen (after-shave). I subsequently applied deodorant and after-shave (though I shaved only once every couple of weeks, at first) with an abundant generosity.

Here is a link to a 1954 Stopette TV commercial. And, oh, for me? Stopette didn't do squat.

Later, a smoker, a drinker of beer (both of which occupations I abandoned decades ago), I acquired other odors--as did my clothes, our car, etc.

As Old Age has advanced, I've been alert to what, as lads, we used to laugh and sneer and gag at: Old Guy Smell. I don't think it's mere age that causes it. I mean, you don't turn 70 and some gland wakes up from its nap of three-score-and-ten, says It's time to make this old guy reek! No, I think it's more the failure of joints and muscles to obey sufficiently to allow thorough cleaning. That's my story & I'm stickin' to it.

So, anyway, it's nice to be associated with the aroma of baking. And I'm sure, as I approach the Old Guy Smell era, that Joyce is very glad I have a hobby with an appealing ... bouquet. Could be worse. Much, much, much worse.