An Cat Dubh



I am doing pretty okay, considering and am now trying to decide if my mouth has mutinied.  I had a discussion about my sister about jaw clenching and how I’d been feeling like I’d been doing it lately but was relaxing and it was going away.  Now the whole thing feels sore and there’s a big discomfort and pressure when I move my mouth a certain way and I feel panicked and stressed DEFCON 11.   It was demonstrably fine all day and now, oh my gosh, broken.

I have also freaked out once today that my tongue was broken so…I am kind of taking everything with a grain of salt.  Kind of.

This is, if we’re paying attention, and I am so trying to now, one of the hard places where I in the past have just thrown up my hands when facing its challenges. In this case, it’s a health thing and a money thing.  I’m freaked out because something doesn’t feel right, I’m thinking the insurance is all questionable, and I feel insecure about dealing with what I need to do to get that squared so that I can get in if it becomes essential (I’m due for my appointment in a month or so) (I think).

But I am going to see what I can do about that.   I am at least going to give them a proper going-over with the toothbrush and letting myself relax where I can.

Tonight, I’ve actually gotten some cleaning done.  Got my desk cleared off and cleaned up.  This has been a task I needed to do, but also, it’s me wanting to not think about our dear sweet Madi (I think of it as spelled Maddie, but I have long since been overruled on this point and she was not, in the final analysis, my cat.)   We had to put her to sleep today.  My sister nursed that poor thing in the last few months of her life when a throat tumor at 16 overwhelmed the little thing.  She was small, even on kitty cat terms, having been feral and trapped in a trailer in Oklahoma before turning up in a cat rescue where our friend worked.  We were visiting her and, if I recall, going to A-Kon in Dallas for my sister and her friend to appreciate anime and for me to go any new place I hadn’t been before.  On the way back, we or…perhaps, I, was not planning on having any unexpected travelling companions.  My sister decided to bring home this black cat who had been at the cat rescue for two years.  I thought there had to be something wrong with her if nobody wanted her and wasn’t clear on why we should be the people to change that.  I remember being faintly testy about the whole arrangement, while my sister was totally clear.

But still, there she was, in the back in a cat carrier, crying in a desperate, mechanical music box voice as we drove under a billowing storm somewhere around Limon.  I was studying Gaelic at the time.  Half-studying, a dilettante, really.  As a means of distraction against the idea that we might all be blown to bits in some unforeseen tornado, we were tossing around names for this displeased creature.  I said madra was Irish for cat so we could call her that and shorten it to Maddie.  Turns out, with the sort of check that Google would have taken care of were we getting her today, that madra means dog.  And cat’s just cat, pronounced with a lovely Irish inflection.

But things stuck.  The cat stuck.  And she became a loyal, pleasant, jealous, good little house cat.  She didn’t want anything, but to be loved and so she was.  Until we had to say goodbye.

So today had that rough bit in it.  But we knew it had to happen, and so, here we are.  I feel the energy gone in the house, the change.  There’s just the one cat, my Lilybean, remaining.  I feel there was a gift in the compassion and love she engendered in us, and now in the psychic space that has been stretched wider as she’s gone.

More to say, but we’ll find a way to say it later.




I thought somehow at some point when I was driving home, ignoring my racing heart, that I was totally going to be able to write a storm tonight.

It was going to be easy because there was so much to say.   So much, whoosh, gone.  So much freaking my head out.  So many little moments of us sitting around and trying to answer the question of how do you do anything after a change, even one foreshadowed and expected?

I don’t know.  I don’t know.  It is easy.  It is hard.  It is messing with my head.  My feet also bothered me something fierce today after many weeks of being fine.  I have decided that I…am freaked out enough about that to talk to someone.  My therapist.  On the 12th.  And deal with it from there because right now, there isn’t anyone else in the world who could talk to me about it and it wouldn’t just send me into some sort of state I can’t easily get out of. Doctors…not until it falls off.  I know it can’t come to that.  But I just can’t take it right now.  There’s so many other…but nevertheless, I felt every anxiety symptom today and spazzed out hard after 4 days of perfectly sane driving.  Not enough to stop, or skip writing group.  Just enough that JFC, it felt like I was back at square one.

It’s all part of it, maybe.  Maybe it’s a wasteful excuse.

My father did not cry.  Not that I have seen.  He is dutiful.  Perhaps this is old hat now, three losses in three years.  I don’t think that’s true, still.  He is smiling.  He is laughing and making jokes.  I think he’s laughing because that’s what my grandpa would have wanted.  It’s what he would have done. He told me that he dreamed a few weeks ago when my grandfather was ill, but we didn’t know for sure that this would be the final turn, that my grandfather told him to stop worrying about money.  He laughed about the way he’d say whenever anyone wanted anything “Well, give it to ’em.”  My grandpa just didn’t believe in hanging on to anything if someone else could use it.

My dad definitely worries about money, he worries about everything, even more than me which is saying something.  So this is advice that until it came from the right person didn’t mean anything.

I told you I’d been watching One.  This short film essentially about the death of an old man, about forgiving himself, about the inside work and then the outside work of bringing a person to pass on.  The memories, the medicines, the life that touched so many, it all spinning and dancing and showing itself until there is no more.  I didn’t expect that the story was now.  It was happening while I wasn’t paying attention.

There are other things, other frustrations and fears, but here we are.  Doing this thing called life.


Negative Space


I know, because I’ve been given a Clue, that it’s around that time of these 30 or so days that I start to feel emotional about reality.  Mine, of course, and our shared reality.  Neither of which is always kind or sufficiently explained to us.   It’s one of those nights where you start crying and stop, you shiver and you strain, and you keep thinking about things that hurt as though they were a flame you’re inextricably drawn to burn yourself on.

David Bowie was not necessarily someone who was important to me.  He wasn’t important to me in the way Johnny Rzeznik was.  Or Matthew Good was.  Or Liz Phair.  I didn’t buy his albums.  My parents were never into Ziggy Stardust.  I saw Labyrinth mostly to be indoctrinated into the allure of the codpiece,  but preferred what I grew up watching: the Tangerine Dream seriousness of Legend.  I loved the Flight of the Conchords’ 1-step removed imitation of the icon. Like everyone, I was caught off-guard by the news last night and was convinced for at least an hour that it was a horrible hoax.   And like everyone, now I’m left to absorb the fact that we’ve lost a real icon, a real human being.  I’m startled to find that perhaps he was more important to me than I ever realized.

I wasn’t sure I thought I’d check my Itunes, just to see. But I needn’t have wondered, because of course, there’s some Bowie in there.  That was one part of his power.  Omnipresence.  Not looming, not lurking, just living on the periphery of your experience, waiting for half an invitation to come and thrill you before escaping again for further adventure.   I don’t think I’ve ever listened to this song ever…Cat People, but it’s there waiting for me, like a audiomantic revelation.  And I’ve been putting out fire / With gasoline! 

Friends are sharing videos.  I’ve been reading reminiscences from celebrities and reactions from everyone.  Why does it feel like someone made a mistake?  Like we still need David Bowie?  Like none of us had ever added it all up and told the powers that keep the books out there that we needed more time to find the mustardseed?  That we’d have genuflected at the font if we knew what it meant to do without him.

Maybe I never felt like I had to give my heart to David Bowie because he was bigger than any of my petty concerns.  He was in the atmosphere.  He was elemental in my mind, factual, permanent.  His coolness equally so.  I know now how much I took his presence, his talent, his history that built the pop culture I am so passionate about today, his out and out weirdness for granted.  I feel like I could have been an excellent fan of his – I still could be – but I could have felt that connection with his music when I felt like I was nothing and no one and adrift on the rainiest South Atlantic oceans.  I could have learned more about who he was before this instead of relying on collective memory, collective belief.  I could have taken his umbrella from the storm and stood under it with other oddballs and off-brands and self-made creatures.  I suppose I found other umbrellas, but it was the same storm and we were all weathering it together.

He shared my aunt’s birthday.  He passed on my grandmother’s.  A Capricorn with a sliver of the Devil in his eye.

That is the lesson in all of this.  You have your window.  Whatever it is.  However long that you’ve been allotted.  For all of it.   For your passions, your hates, your learning, your feasting, your rock star idolatry.  And as situated and stone-bound as you may feel, fate can swirl you up and away you go, onto your new, juicy adventure and all of this, grand and horrific and sublime and stupid as it is, goes away.  So, yeah, I made the chocolate mug cake, and yeah, I’m writing this other dude back even though he has a kid and says Lol, and yeah, I feel loss for time spent blinking at popcorn ceilings and cringing in doorways.   I feel regret.  I want to know about the David Bowies of the world.  I want to share my umbrella.





Deep breath.  Deep, deep, deep breath.  When you can’t breathe deep, that’s when it starts.   Air and water keep you feeling okay.  It’s funny how reticent I am to let myself feel okay.

I don’t like listening to the self-hypnosis mp3 – I think – because it involves detaching myself from this flow of information, that I shadow broker about, send to my friends, process and pass on.  It’s a shitty little purpose, but you don’t feel so alone when you’re letting people know about something.  Even if it is just a cat video.  You can’t take pride in it, but you can find some kind of purpose.  And the alternative is you languishing in ignorance, the chance that you are just as viral as the links you share and once you’ve been seen and made purple with a click, you’re as good as gone.   It’s an addiction, the hunter/gatherer instinct, the always-on, always searching, always indexing and approving or disapproving functions of our personalities.  Honed until we dismiss or approve people with our fingertips.

I don’t lack for purpose, I suppose, and I crave not needing to be present, so it’s strange that this calming voice that could help me change the thoughts that limit and provoke me has to be fought for.  I could have it on right now, but I’m telling myself that I need to be able to focus.  Not a lot of time, yet again, having spent the evening listening to WTFPod with Conan O’Brien and Amy Schumer and then an hour of her standup.  Maybe it’s a ginger thing I’ve picked up since turning into Annie.  Or grown-up Annie and Ms. Hannigan’s drunk-ass ginger baby.  My hair is sort of, possibly, kind of an abomination.  Or maybe we can blame it all on the humidity.  Tomorrow, surely, I will have it beaten back into submission and it will be merely sexy Mrs. Frizzle hair once again.

I wanted tonight’s post to be just a writing post, because I have been working on the book fairly intensely (at least in terms of my hummingbird attention deficit), but mostly I’ve just been transferring the outline into ywriter which is helping me quite a bit with the flow of these intertwining subplots.  I can see better where I’ve let things dangle and drop.  Where I can infuse some poetic interjections.  What, as in most of it, just sucks.  It can be made better though, because it exists.  It has a shape that can be refined rather than just floating around in the cauldron of my brain.  That’s progress, definitive progress.

We called my grandfather tonight.  He sounds completely with it, on the edge of something I know I will never see him process.  His wife and son having died within a year.  His son having died holding his hand at the hospital.  He was almost making a joke.  Just like my father.  Tomorrow’s the visitation, Friday the funeral.  I feel both tethered to it and floating very far away from it.

Tomorrow, anxiety group! Oy.

The Echo Chamber

Shhh.  There’s no facebook or tumblr or anything else until I provide you with your daily dose of my particular brand of bullshit.  Because the night has shaved off only the smallest bit of time for me to relax properly here in my bed and also take a necessary bath and do the necessary excessive tooth brushings and face washings and toiletties as my grandmother would say and write my words and watch QI so we must be disciplined in order to get it all done.

I am already so distracted.

I have done half a day of good low carb, half not so good, but I feel really good about having started.  And I know tomorrow will be even better despite having to force myself upright at six AM which seems so early as to be as physically detrimental as a punch to the carotids.   I have no choice in the matter so I don’t know why I’d complain, but I think it’s in my nature to let the suffering get hot and boil off and I can carry on anyway.

Today, I am delighted to report that I thought of you again.  You, sir, who will never return to these pages as a full-bodied human being.  You, who have become shadow upon shadow and so I think I can feel you, but what I feel is nothing but a palimpsest of onion skins and my need for you to have once been a prince or a god or a friend binding it all together, running through it like blood.  I have called you dust and memory.  I have called you all but forgotten.  A phantom touch running down my arm and warming and chilling my hand all at the same time.

But you were here in this noncorporeal form today as I sallied forth through paperwork and misconceptions and distractions.  You, who would laugh at me as I am.  You, chiefly among all those I have met as a result of my work, who would be able to commiserate.  You who had tequila and stories left on your lips, your wicked tongue.  I would tell you the stories, even the ones where I don’t come out so well, I would tell you anything just for the sake of hearing it brought back to me through your filter.

Today I was floating on a thin sip of wine along the middle distances of a year finally gone cold and gray.    The days have grown short and my care has grown long and cumbersome, like a sodden duster clinging to my shoulders and reaching for the dirty ground.  I was thinking of your kindnesses, drinking them up as conversation passed around me.  I was thinking of how loathe you’d be to carve a pumpkin, how awkward you’d claim to be and how you’d let it give you license to divorce yourself from the chatter.  How I was doing that now.   I wondered if you sleep alone out there on the moors.  If some woman is so flattered as to kneel at your feet.  If what I hear is some promise, some directive, some desperate call.  But if I hear it, it is not my name, and it is not for me to come home to you for no such Thornfield exists now, I have seen it burn and be rebuilt as a yuppie fantasy, a hell, surely for those who believed in what it was.

If I hear you, you ask for me to keep you close, in my bag, buried with the pens and loose change.   I let myself forget so many things and now, I’d have at least the sound of your voice strong in my ear.  You are dribbling out of my heart and out of my breath and soon the onion skins will flake and powder.  I grasp that dust and say it loved me once, and perhaps the wind that carries that dust away will love us both.