Thursday, June 18, 2009

Purely Mortal

Last night we learned a friend of The Husband was in hospice. Friend was best man at our wedding, The Husband's college room mate and his best friend for some years. Of course, as it often happens, distance and choices meant less and less contact, until there really was none. The Husband found out via Facebook, of course.

This morning, we learned the friend died.

The part that goes against the norm is that this friend, in essence, committed suicide, very, very slowly. He was diabetic. It developed when he was in college. He never would treat it properly. Someone else told us she saw him last October, sick and in decline -- and eating Pixie Sticks one after the other. He might as well have been eating strychnine. He'd already undergone amputations, but still couldn't be persuaded to eat a vegetable. I remember 16 years ago, out to dinner, watching him pick the lettuce and tomato off his hamburger.

He made a long series of choices that resulted in this -- dead at 40 from preventable causes.

I'm slightly angry, slightly disgusted, and mostly resigned. The Husband gave up trying to change this friend years ago. He'd intervened before to help this person, but you cannot help someone who does not want to take responsibility for himself.

It makes me think about my own choices, though. I have no place to stand holy above anyone else. I'm not doing the things I should do (well, I do eat vegetables, but I also eat too much cheese, too much sugar, and I don't exercise nearly enough). I'm in line for heart disease and diabetes if I don't make changes. I wonder if he was too caught up in the pains of each day to take a longer view, to even attempt change. Maybe he was resigned to what he thought was his fate. Death is inevitable, after all. No matter how well we live, we will die.

It still feels like he killed himself.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Old Movies

I’ve had the treat recently of introducing much younger friends to the glories of old movies. When I talk about “old movies”, I use Leonard Maltin’s definition – movies made before 1960, movies made under the old studio system, movies in black and white or Technicolor, Todd AO or Cinamascope, movies made when people watched for dialog and acting, not technical tricks and over-the-top adrenal stimulation. Those old, boring, staid, slow, wonderful, intricate, marvelous movies are my cinematic passions. Happiness is a rainy afternoon and a DVD lineup including Cary Grant or Bette Davis, Katharine Hepburn or Humphrey Bogart. I love the classics.

Don’t get me wrong. I sometimes enjoy multimillion dollar, explosion and CGI laden, mega-, ultra-blockbusters. They are fun in a flashy, ephemeral way, just a good time. Those old movies, though, are special. They don’t end up on the discount rack six months after release. They own a place in our culture. They last.

My young friends find a challenge reaching back to a way of seeing things their grandparents knew. I look up movie trivia and watch documentaries so I can explain subtext and innuendo. I tell them about the strict rules under which movies once were made and how movie directors worked to communicate “risqué” themes without invoking censors. I enjoy when these twenty-somethings catch on to a joke that doesn’t involve farting or masturbation or get teary over small, careful, subtle moments. They get involved. They are surprised.

I watched To Have and Have Not last night and wondered what a director would do to it now. In the sexy Bogey and Bacall drama, most of the big action takes place off-screen. Two scenes separate scenes show one man shot and killed and another man shot and injured. Neither scene is particularly bloody. They would not appeal to audiences inured to violence, who need bigger, more extreme displays to engage them. In fact, the movie ends before a much-discussed dramatic rescue. All we see are the three main characters packing up and leaving a hotel together. The movie isn’t about the dramatic rescue, or the guns and blood. It is about cynical people finding value in each other and believing they can make the world better. When they leave the hotel, that’s what they go to do. Today a director would need to add more bodies and film that daring rescue to Devil’s Island.

I like movies that leave a little to ponder. They include me. When a moviemaker can build complex visual illusions, there’s less pressure to build careful dialog, layered stories, and complex characters. Maybe modern movies are a backlash against earlier extremes of Bergman, Truffaut and Fellini that left perhaps too much for the average movie goer to figure out. Now we demand that movies provide us with an experience, not a story. The less we must think, the better we like the film.

So I go back to these old movies time and again, big ones and little ones. All About Eve, The Big Sleep, The Women, A Letter to Three Wives, Apartment for Peggy – even the original Japanese Godzilla – create something I don’t find often in more contemporary fare and nearly never see in modern remakes. Those classics make room for me, and I love them for it.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Counting the Years in My Archives

Good gravy, am I really in the middle of my 6th year of this weblog? (I've very slowly become reconciled to the word "blog", but I still don't like it.) What in hell have I been talking about all these years? And why would anyone be reading it?

Mysteries. I like 'em.

So, today is my second day of the miseries -- too tired to move, too achy to want to move. I dunno what's up with all that. Too much rain? Too much sugar? Too much lead in my ass? Don't know. Must do something about it, once I figure out what.

I've been playing around with the Artist's Way since April, doing morning pages and somesuch in an attempt to get back my magic writing skills. Yeah, they evaporated on me from about last August. Once upon a time, I wrote because stories just spooled out of my head. It was like taking dictation from a ghost, I coudn't write it down fast enough. Practically unconscious. Now, no such luck. If I get anything written at all, it's painful and difficult and requires much too much thinking, and once I start thinking about it I start wondering why I want to say anything at all and how badly I'm saying it and why don't I go find a cookie and watch a movie or something? Hey, what's going on in Goodreads? Anyone post to their blog or LJ today? Is that a split end? Did I hear a cat? I could go wash the dishes or match socks...

See what I mean? Just running from writing. And running from this, too -- not a lot of posts here for several months, certainly not the chatty garbage I spewed so easily for so long. Pure puzzlement.

Yeah yeah, I know -- moving is traumatic, being unemployeed is traumatic, no friends or family is traumatic, feeling out of place is traumatic, physical problems like tendinitis and bad knees are traumatic, sick cats are traumatic...blah blah blah de blah. Change, in esscense. Well, when does the trauma end? I'm tired of that. It bothers me that it bothers me. I would like to be done with it, if you please.

No answers, just questions.

Anyway (my all time favorite subject changer) the fishies are fine and there will not be any additions until we go up a tank size, which will not be until we are in a larger and more permenent establishment. Ophelia continues to give mixed signals -- she has some peeling skin and very heavy shedding, which are usually an indication of super high blood sugar, but we aren't sure what the time from cause to effect is on that, and while the shedding is all over, the skin peeling is (so far) localized, and she's still growing fur -- in fact, some bald patches she had have filled in, and the places thevet shaved to take blood are fuzzy with new fur. What's more, she's alert, she's eating and eliminating quite normally, and she even plays a bit. She's still having some problems climbing around, but it comes and goes. So, we continue on.

Right now, I'm thinking she will show signs of failure by August. I'm mentally penciling in August as her possible last month, if all the bad stuff is true. Right now, she's showing no signs of giving up, giving in, or waiting for anything to be over. She's acting like "Kitty who had a cold and a bloodsugar fluctuation".

I need to go upstairs, scrub myself and wash my hair, then get dressed and start dealing with this day. Not really enthused, but resigned.

Friday, June 05, 2009

More Fish Tales

Because, really, how can I resist that for a post title?

The new tank is set up and running -- two small filter pumps instead of a single larger one, so we can maintain environment between filter changes. Two aerators (bubbles! Fishies like bubbles!) We bought a base, too, because that's a lot of water (8lbs per gal x 20 gal = whoa that would be bad if the old baker's rack broke one day) Already the water is clearer than it was all of last week. The fish seem really excited, too -- they can swim without bumping the walls. Chemical balance improves at each check.

So, once we get the tank balanced, it's just feeding fishies twice a day (very little food, but goldfish are eternally hungry and eventually learn to spot you and start begging), change the filters every 2-3 weeks (takes almost 3 minutes!!) and clean the tank every month or so. Wee!

Still debating a forth fish, maybe another fantail. *sigh*

Ethel really likes the new tank, though.

Ophelia is back to about as normal as she ever was. She's stopped sneezing, is very interested in food, climbs onto what she wants to climb onto (or pulls the poor poor pitiful kitty act when she wants a free ride) and snores when she sleeps.

She's having problem with her right back leg but that's ongoing, and I'm really wondering if it COULD be that she damaged a muscle or six during one of her more graceless "Hey gravity, here I come!" episodes. In any case. she's fine and she really needs a bath, and she's gonna go on vacation with us instead of to the vet. If she's gonna live in a cage for 8 days, I'd rather it be a cage where I am. We have Calico's old crate, which is large for a cat, and we are planning to build a platform for it, so once we get to Jammies house, we will find a corner (Hey Jams, what about that little area by your front door? is that clear?) and set up a kitty house.

Aside from happy animal stories, I'm having an old lady day. I feel like someone kicked me all night. I need Aleve.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Fishy Story

Several weeks ago, we set up a little pond in our patio garden -- a large fiberglass pot, a $40 fountain pump hidden in a plastic "bamboo" spout, a water plant, and four gold fish -- two fantails, Fred and Ethel, a koi named George, and a Black Moor named Willy. They did pretty well for about 6 weeks, until the pond filled with Algae and I freaked out we were killing the fish. Also, we got worried about the water temp. What reading I'd done indicated that warm water would hurt the fish.

So we ran out, like idiots, and got a 10 gallon tank and filter, and moved the fish. Within a day, the fish were Not Happy. We were confused -- everything we'd seen so far said goldfish were easy and we had the right size tank and filter.

Oh, but goldfish are different. We lost Fred, and we put George back in the pond. He died the next day. We mourned. And we worked hard to keep Willy and Ethel. The tank stabilized and we decided we had room for one more fish -- another tiny Black Moor we named Milly. We also got a Betta to keep mosquitos out of the pond, but it died within 3 days. No more fish in the pond. The guilt is overwhelming. I really liked George, too.

Now we've done a lot more research and figured out that Goldfish are really pretty hard to keep (whodathunk?). We are stepping up to either a 16 or a 20 gallon tank tonight. Depending on the size, we are thinking about eventually adding another fantail and maybe a redcap.

The weird parts? We are not only enjoying having a fish tank, the cats are NOT all over it. Oh, they will watch for a bit. Caliban will climb into a chair and stare for about 5 minutes, the others will give less attention, but it's not a big deal. The Husband and I, though, we can stare for a good half hour at a time. I sort of knew I wanted a tank for several years, but never did it. The Husband had fish years ago, but hadn't thought about it in a long while. Once the tank is set up, they are pretty low maintenance (compared to the cats! even compared to the bird.) Bea is barely interested at all.

So, back to Petsmart tonight, to compare and contrast tanks and set ups. The old 10 gal will be donated, unless someone wants it for guppies or turtles...

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Postponing the Inevitable

Ophelia is eating. She's drinking. She's sleeping a lot. She's climbing up on what she wants to climb up on. In other words, she's acting pretty much the way she has for the last 8-10 months.

We feel better.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009


My big baby, Ophelia, is not doing well. She will be 16 this month. She was running a fever on Saturday, but bloodtests came back good - except for one marker. The marker could mean she has cancer. It could mean she's had a muscle trauma or accident. The vet leans toward cancer. Further testing is expensive and we can't afford it. Even if we find out she has cancer, she's too old and it's too expensive to treat it.

Or she might just be old and diabetic and strained a muscle. She's not the most coordinated cat anymore and has slid down the stairs and fallen off of cat perches. We just don't know.

So, for now, we keep her comfortable and watch her. She's been eating very little, but she's always eager to try some food. She had potty problems but has recovered if she's helped into the box. She drinks lots of water, sleeps sprawled out, cleans herself (more or less) and snores when she sleeps. She purrs when we are near her, and makes the most horrible cry when she wants us. When she wants to be somewhere, she will tromp her way to the spot, be it up or downstairs, or she will meow until I take her somewhere (It's very odd, but I nearly always know what her meows mean and have since she was a kitten. I'm a very, very crazy cat lady, but damn it, I understand my cat.)

We have to make some decisions, somehow, some time. Have her put down now? Wait to see if she gets better or worse? She might have weeks, she might have months, she might have a good year or so left. I just don't know. I want to do right by her, and I don't want to lose my baby cat, my little hard luck case who has slept on my pillow nearly every night for 16 years. I bottle fed her and hauled her with me on vacation and tended her and fussed over her. She's much loved.

Still, she's growing old. And she's diabetic. How much do I put her through because I don't want to live without her? It's not like she -- or any of us -- will live forever. It's going to happen, and all I can control is the when and the how.

Yeah, I can go from zero to bawling mess in 10 seconds or less.