“. . . to prove we were still among the living. . .” (Simon Armitage)

Morrissey. You can't go on forever

Morrissey. You can’t go on forever

.

.

I managed to delete ten of my postings here. I thought they were “drafts”  —in the “drafts” folder. But, alas, they were the final “draft,” kept for some reason I can’t figure. I was able to reconstruct the last post , but the others will take some doing. Now I know why I save the Word documents on my desktop.

“Are we dead yet?” someone would ask.
Then with a plastic toothpick
I’d draw blood from my little finger
to prove we were still among the living.

A week ago I had blood drawn from my little finger (I assume there was blood although I was in la-la-land—they said I wasn’t asleep from a general anesthesia but didn’t know what was going on because they gave me that other stuff that doesn’t really knock you out). Not my finger, but the palm of my right hand where the finger tendons attach to the hand bones. If I’ve already written about it, that’s a post I deleted. The pinky “trigger finger” surgery was almost negligible.

I wore the dressing for three days, Band-Aids for several days, and today nothing to protect the healing incision.

But—there’s always a “but,” isn’t there—the surgeon said I should not get into a swimming pool until after my follow-up appointment (tomorrow). And I mustn’t go to yoga class (no hands on floor).

I know why old people get stiff and begin to hobble. One thing leads to another to another to another. I can’t do my accustomed exercise—walking in the therapy pool at the Landry Fitness Center. So, rather than take a walk around the neighborhood, I do nothing. And my lower back has a knot from sitting and writing at my computer too many hours, and I’m beginning to hobble. Damn!

It’s been too hot to walk outside. And my tutoring schedule is inconvenient. And I’m depressed. And. . . How many excuses can I think up?

The real reason is I don’t want to do it alone.

At the Landry Center, I have made friends. We barely know each other’s names, but we talk and make jokes and know all of the ailments that bring us there, and gossip like a bunch of little old ladies, which we mostly are.

We get acquainted. One of the women and I discovered she’s the next-door neighbor of and best friends with an organist for whom I substitute regularly. Are we going to socialize outside the pool? I’d bet Linda and I and her neighbors will eventually. The organist and his partner must know some other old fart looking for an old fart to be with (that is interpreted, date).

So I’m not going to run into Linda for a few more days, and I certainly wouldn’t run into anyone I know walking out on Maple or Hudnall streets.

My parents walked every day until they moved to assisted living (they were both about 90). Together. If genetics has anything to do with it, I could be walking another 20 years. Of course, neither of my parents ever drank, smoked, or was 35 pounds overweight, so I’m not sure my prognostication should be for 20 years (I haven’t drunk or smoked for 28 years).

Me--before three surgeries, lethargy, weight gain, and hobbling

Me–before three surgeries, lethargy, weight gain, and hobbling

However, the outlook for hooking up with someone (I mean that in all popular senses of the phrase) grows, I think, dimmer by the day.

Armitage writes, “Are we dead yet?” someone would ask. He was born the year I graduated from high school. Does he even have standing to ask that question?

If you want to know the worst case scenario about how old gay men (and women) live out their years, you can watch the movie Gen Silent. Another instance–a gay couple in Arizona who had been together 45 years went to California to marry. Recently, one of them died, and Arizona refused to put on his death certificate that the other was his spouse. It took a Federal judge to force Arizona to accept their marriage.

In case you think I’m whining, I’m not. I’m simply trying to be realistic. Even if I were not gay, my late-life prospects are not rosy. I’ve chosen to be a low-ranking college professor for most of my sober life, so my Social Security is only about $1300 a month. (The SSA has decided that, if you were poor in your working life, you will be poor in “retirement.” I wonder if the mega-wealthy 1% return their SS checks. One of them could help me out quite a bit.) My “pension” from SMU is about half that. Can you live on $2000 per month?—especially if you are in any way infirm?

I’m not whining.

I’ll be a helluva lot better off than most people, I’d guess. Armitage’s poem is a projection of what one does in old age WITH ONE’S FRIENDS AND ASSOCIATES.

As almost an aside, I have to quote The Guardian from Friday 3 September 2010:

For 30 years, poet Simon Armitage’s admiration for Morrissey has bordered on the obsessive. But could his love survive an encounter with the famously sharp-tongued singer-songwriter?

That’s part of the introduction to an interview between Armitage and Morissey in which Morissey says,

Simon Armitage: we're not dead yet

Simon Armitage: we’re not dead yet

The ageing process isn’t terribly pretty… and you don’t want yourself splattered all over the place if you look pitiful. You can’t go on forever, and those that do really shouldn’t.

(I don’t think Armitage is gay, and I don’t know any of Morrissey’s music. When he was in his heyday, I was a drunk, and since then I’ve not kept up with popular music except for Lady Gaga and a few others.)

I’m not sure where I meant to go with this writing. I’ve been interrupted too many times. But I think this is where I was headed when I began.

All of my favorite sayings about getting old are true. “Getting old is a full-time job.”

Job. And I’d really like to have someone to come home to after work.

“Dämmerung,” Simon Armitage, (b. 1963)

In later life I retired from poetry,
ploughed the profits
into a family restaurant
in the town of Holzminden, in lower Saxony.

It was small and traditional:
dark wood panelling, deer antlers,
linen tablecloths and red candles,
one beer tap on the bar

and a dish of the day, usually
Bauernschnitzel. Weekends were busy,
pensioners wanting the set meal, though
year on year takings were falling.

Some nights the old gang came in –
Jackie, Max, Lavinia,
Mike not looking at all himself,
and I’d close the kitchen,

hang up my striped apron,
take a bottle of peach schnapps
from the top shelf and say,
“Mind if I join you?”

“Are we dead yet?” someone would ask.
Then with a plastic toothpick
I’d draw blood from my little finger
to prove we were still among the living.

From the veranda we’d breathe new scents
from the perfume distillery over the river,
or watch the skyline
for the nuclear twilight.

‘ . . . you float free into a cloud of sudden azaleas. . . ‘ -or amaryllis-

archy and friend

archy and friend

when i was in high school, I read with great relish about the adventures of archy and mehitabel.

archy was a fictional cockroach, a free verse poet in a previous life, who took to writing stories and poems on an old typewriter at a newspaper office when everyone in the building had left. archy would climb up onto the typewriter and hurl himself at the keys, laboriously typing out stories of the daily travails of a cockroach. archy’s best friend was mehitabel, an alley cat. The two of them shared a series of day-to-day adventures that made satiric commentary on daily life in the city during the 1910s and 1920s. (1)

I loved archy because I’d never seen anyone in literature named ‘archy’ before I met him –even though he spelled his name wrong. The main reason I liked him was that he broke rules with impunity, not because he wanted to, but because he had to. Writing rules, that is, he never capitalized anything because he typed by hurling himself at the keys of the old royal typewriter and could not hold down the ‘shift key’ at the same time.

Mehitabel had paws instead of fingers and was of no use in typing.

I am reduced to typing like archy –archy, meet archie – one hand at a time. The only upper case letters you will see here for the next five weeks will be the ones Microsoft automatically inserts – and most of the time they are a pain in the guzica.

Here’s the story as I posted it on facebook:

The simple clean-out-the-mess in the shoulder arthroscopy and get back to normal in two days turned into let’s-repair-the-tendon-that’s-holding-on-by-5% and keep your arm immobilized in a sling for five weeks. The last five weeks of the semester. Sheesh! What a pain in the ass!

I said in my next post that I’d put on a shirt if I knew how.
???????????????????????????????

But I’m trying to be positive and at least be grateful that I was referred to Dr. Steven Thornton of Texas Orthopaedic Associates. He’s the best and kindest in the field. Cute, too, but I shouldn’t say that in  public. Someone might think I’m a lecherous old queen—I wouldn’t mind if alec baldwin called me that.

Someone give that guy a break. I suppose if I called a straight guy a ‘mother-f—-r’ because he was chasing my family down the street, that would make me heterophobic. some of my best friends are straight. I even let a couple of them give me a knock-out potion yesterday and go to work on my body.

So here I am typing with one hand and trying not to exacerbate the pain in my shoulder and to be grateful about all of this. I will be soon. ‘no pain, no gain,’ and all of that. So the gain will be that, soon enough I’ll be back to yoga and stronger than ever, thanks to dr. miracle worker –sorry I can’t do upper case. He deserves it.

And in the meantime I’ll try to remember to keep my kvetching to myself and remember that friends will go out of their way to help me. do things such as give an amaryllis to break into full bloom yesterday.

Ok, no more whining. –perhaps –I’ll try at any rate.

Oh, yes. The poem that’s the source of the title. by the way, i found this poem three days ago. naomi shihab nye’s interview on the pbs newshour was repeated last night. things do fall together, don’t they. . .

The Rider
by Naomi Shihab Nye

A boy told me
if he roller-skated fast enough
his loneliness couldn’t catch up to him,
the best reason I ever heard
for trying to be a champion.
What I wonder tonight
pedaling hard down King William Street
is if it translates to bicycles.
A victory! To leave your loneliness
panting behind you on some street corner
while you float free into a cloud of sudden azaleas,
pink petals that have never felt loneliness,
no matter how slowly they fell.
???????????????????????????????

(1) “Archy and Mehitabel.” WIKIPEDIA (GOT THAT, RON PAUL?). 26 August 2013. Web. 11 Nov. 2013.

Eat Fast, Live shorter

Wardie Willis, Plantation Scene

Wardie Willis, Plantation Scene

Last night PBS aired a program “Eat, Fast, Live Longer” about a new radical regime of some sort. I started watching it, but it made me so nervous I turned it off.

I don’t need to hear about a 101-year-old man running his first marathon.

Not when I have gained ten of the 50-ish pounds I lost a year ago, have not been able to attend yoga class since February, have had only one session with a trainer three weeks ago and have not been able to return, and am now in physical therapy twice a week to alleviate the pain in my hip from a fall onto (not in) my bathtub on February 1.

On March 8, I blogged the story of my discovery of “skinny”:

A couple of years ago I was sitting with Dad (he was 96) in the assisted living dining room of Piedmont Gardens in Oakland. I realized all those old folks had one thing in common—they were skinny. Either you get skinny with age or you don’t age unless you’re skinny.

Allen Sapp (born January 2, 1928) is 85 years old. I have three of his paintings hanging in my apartment.  Allen Sapp is not particularly skinny. He is, however, a prolific painter and (according to my late ex-wife) a fascinatingly intense man. I more or less inherited the paintings from her (a long story that I’ll tell you in private if you ask).

Allen Sapp, "Esquoio with Kids Comes Visiting"

Allen Sapp, “Esquoio with Kids Comes Visiting”

Wardie Willis (October 11, 1924 – February 23, 2011) was 87 when she died. She was a “folk art” painter (I guess that’s what you’d call her) in Louisiana. She has not reached any level of fame as an artist. I can’t get the Louisiana Art and Artists’ Guild to answer my email about her although I know she was a member and had her work shown in a New Orleans gallery at least once. I own five of her paintings.

Victor Gugliuzza (December 22, 1921 – June 29, 2011) was 89 when he died. He was a painter of enormous talent that was never realized because he became a “commercial” artist (design and advertising work for Western Auto for decades) before computers made it possible for every Tom, Dick, and Harry to get famous for his desk-top publishing. He was my Uncle Victor’s partner of 69 years. (My uncle is still with us at age 82.) Vic was not “skinny,” but he was healthy. The two Victors folk-danced several times a week for many, many years until he was about 80.

Here’s my question about being 85 years old.

Vic Gugliuzza, "Ancestral Church, Sicily"

Vic Gugliuzza, “Ancestral Church, Sicily”

(But first, my eternal questions about art. Do I love these paintings because I know—at least know first-hand about—the artists? Do I love them because they are beautiful? or because they have some innate quality that makes them loveable? Do I love them because they were gifts, and I’m glad to have any art at all hanging in my apartment? Do I love them because they are here, and I have grown fond of them over the years even though none of them is a work I would have bought myself? Do I love them because they are “great” art—which they may or may not be depending on whose theories you’re reading, Emmanuel Kant, Susanne Langer, or Jackson Pollack. Is there a difference between “art” and “great art?” or is there something about art that makes it “great,” and if a work does not have that je ne sais quoi, it is not even to be considered “art?” Why do many people consider Jackson Pollack’s work “great” but will not give the paintings of, for example, Maxfield Parrish the time of day when clearly Parrish’s work “speaks” to more people than Pollack’s does? The eternal questions.)

But back to my question about being 85 years old. Were those folks in my dad’s retirement community old because they were skinny or, perhaps—and here I’m grasping at straws and coming up with only one of the many possibilities I have thought of over the years—because they kept their minds active? That day I was with my dad at dinner, he had been writing a book until my mother died three years earlier. The 95-year-old woman sitting at the table with him had played a Chopin piano etude for the prelude music at her church the week before.  Wardie and Victor painted until they were in their 80’s, and Allen is going strong.

Skinny body, lively mind, genetics?

No more PBS programs telling me how to live longer. What’s the point of living longer if you’re not writing books, painting Italian churches, or playing Chopin? Living longer is not its own reward.


Siciliano, “Guide our feet into the way of peace, Luke 1:79.” From Five Biblical Prayers for Organ, by Gerhard Krapf. These pieces were published when Krapf was about 52 years old. He was chairman of the organ department in the School of Music of the University of Iowa, and I was a graduate student. He told me when he gave me a copy of the music that he was tired of writing music people found difficult to listen to. Shortly after that he moved to Canada to found the organ department at the University of Alberta.

Do not fall in love with a poet (not me, silly)

When I started writing this blog a few weeks ago, I intended for it to be an outlet for my light-hearted observations about being 68 and (I might hope) getting older.

That plan has two inherent problems. First is that I am not by nature a particularly light-hearted person. Second is that growing older is not necessarily a process that brings out anyone’s light-heartedness.

Not too long ago I stumbled upon the poem “Poetry Anonymous,” by Prageeta Sharma. I was searching for poetry about Alcoholics Anonymous. Sharma, by the way, is a young American poet of Indian descent who teaches at the University of Montana at Missoula. Montana?!

At any rate, I love the opening gambit of her poem.

Do not fall in love with a poet
they are no more honest than a stockbroker.

Having for most of my life wanted to be a poet and realizing that I am not dishonest enough to be such—I have so little imagination that I can’t make up any of the metaphors and similes and such that make poetry. But I think it would be dangerous to fall in love with me simply for my desire to be a poet.

That’s beside my point here. One line of her poem caught my attention. I’m quoting it completely out of context, but

How does narcissism assist you (?)

became the inspiration for this post. I had been wanting to do this since I began but was afraid that this would be absolutely too narcissistic to be of interest to anyone but me. So be it.

Here’s the deal about this posting. As I reflect on growing older—I have said many times that I expected some day to be 68 years old, I just didn’t expect it to happen this soon—part of the reflection is to wonder if I am the same person now as I was, say, 50 years ago. It’s a really interesting question. So one of the ways I’ve been thinking about it is simply to look at myself.

My look at my-selfs-past is somewhat guided by another poem, this by Emily Dickinson.

THE BODY grows outside,—
The more convenient way,—
That if the spirit like to hide,
Its temple stands alway                 

Ajar, secure, inviting;
It never did betray
The soul that asked its shelter
In timid honesty
.

So here are a bunch of my favorite pictures of me over the years. The ULTIMATE NARCISSISM.

About a year old—Worland, Wyoming.
`1`me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Five years old (1950) with my older brother announcing the birth of our sister—Kearney, Nebraska. Our parents sent this picture out to all of their friends. The ’47 Ford was our family car until the Plymouth ’52 coupe.
`2`me and Richard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About 15, the three of us decked out for Easter—Scottsbluff, Nebraska. In 1958 we moved into a brand new house (parsonage). I don’t remember ever looking as dapper as this picture might lead one to believe I was.
`3easter2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About 40, the wannabe concert organist—Salem, Massachusetts. This picture was in the Salem Evening News as I was preparing to give a concert for the 300th anniversary of the birth of J.S. Bach. Someday I will write about the importance of that concert in my life.
`4Ghost of Christmas PastR

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My 65th birthday (I threw myself a party)—Dallas, Texas. At this time I was living alone because my partner had died six years before. I was on the verge of becoming a hermit and dealing with chronic depression.
`5entertaining Harold3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Over 65, practicing yoga—Dallas, Texas. I was still living alone, but I had finally determined not to let my isolation get the best of me and had begun to do many things to bring myself ’round.
`6bridge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Over 65, substituting as organist in a Dallas, Texas, church. When the church where I was organist closed, I began substituting as organist at various churches, which I very much enjoy because I get to play the organ with no continuing requirement of planning and rehearsing.
`7organ_nR

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sixty-eight, writing this blog this morning, Dallas, Texas. I’m sitting the window-surrounded breakfast nook of my inamorato’s apartment in downtown Dallas early (6 AM) and doing my writing before he is awake. I am in many ways happier than I thought possible at this age.
`8me today-5aR

So there you have it. My most narcissistic blog ever. But I want to know, am I the same person who rode around on a tricycle in Worland, Wyoming? I don’t know. I just don’t know.
Perhaps once again, Emily Dickinson knows (I seem to have Dickinson on the brain lately).

THE PAST is such a curious creature,
To look her in the face
A transport may reward us,
Or a disgrace.
Unarmed if any meet her,
I charge him, fly!
Her rusty ammunition
Might yet reply!

What’s this “CTRL+/CTRL— ” command?

A dissertation's home

A dissertation’s home

.

.

Yesterday I was reading one of my favorite blogs (click this link only if your shock level is at least moderately high). As you can clearly see—which I could not, even with my glasses—the post is for those of you with much younger eyes than mine. The blogger suggested that I enlarge my screen, and I asked how on earth I could do that.

He said, “Press ‘control +’” (English teachers: should I put a period on this sentence, or is + punctuation? I’m sure I don’t know.)

Control+. (Looks funny with a period.) You know—the screen enlarged!!!

I bought my first computer in 1987 to write my PhD dissertation (The Life and Musical Influence of Henry Kemble Oliver, 1800-1885—aren’t you glad you asked?). Somewhere in this apartment is the box of 5¼-inch minifloppy disks on which my dissertation resides.  Somewhere in two moves in Massachusetts, the move to Dallas, and two moves in Dallas my one print copy disappeared. I gave my sister one—because it’s dedicated to her—and I hope she still has it somewhere (send it to me, Bonnie?).

Or I have to find those 5¼-inch minifloppy disk fossils and locate someone who has a reader for them. But that’s another story.

Please, Genesis, use my CTRL- command

Please, Genesis, use my CTRL- command

I want a CTRL+/CTRL— command for my life.

For starters, piled in my entrance-way is a bunch of stuff I’ve been meaning to (even trying to) get the Salvation Army, or the Genesis Benefit Thrift Store to take away for months. (If any of you Dallas readers knows how to light a fire under Genesis, please do so. There’s some stuff here they could make some money on. Remember the French provincial coffee table? The Futon has never been used—it’s in its original factory wrapping—but that, too, is another story. I seem to have lots of “other stories” today.)

I want a CTRL— command to make that pile smaller. No, to make it disappear altogether.

Much more stuff in my life could use a CTRL— command. My waistline for starters. My library. My depression. Car insurance payments. Junk mail. My seizures. Drone warfare. Student conferences next week. Obstructionist Tea Party congress members. Poop in the cat litter boxes. Barbara Cargill’s power to wreak havoc. You know, the normal detritus of life, in no particular order.

Some things I’d definitely like a CTRL+ command for. Time with my inamorato. My retirement account. Core muscle strength for Virabhadrasana III. Time with my inamorato. My salary. My memory. Colleagues for Tammy Baldwin and Jared Polis. Gun control. Time with my inamorato. Chocolate. Opera.  A trip to Easter Island. You know, the normal joys of life, in no particular order.

CTRL+ for a 68-year-old brain

CTRL+ for a 68-year-old brain

All of this began, you see, with my learning something new at age 68—something as basic as the CTRL+/CTRL— command. How have I managed to use computers for 26 years and never known that command? How have I used my mind for 68 years and still do not know if I believe in God?

Where have all the bloggers gone?

Joanie. Unhappy.

Joanie. Unhappy.

Joanie is nine years old. Definitely pushing beyond catdom middle age. She was born feral and saved as a tiny kitten by an employee of City Vet in Dallas (her name, of course, was Joanie). Kitten Joanie was a mess, and by the time they spent money and time fixing her up (including setting a broken leg), they wanted a good home for her.

Enter the old fart (well, I was only 59 at the time) cat lover. I, of course, took her. She has lived uncomfortably in my apartment for nine years. She was mightily offended after a year here when the Cat Brothers, Groucho and, of course, Chachi moved in. Joanie does not love Chachi, but she has tolerated him for eight years. She tolerates his brother Groucho even less.

Now Joanie, for reasons I cannot imagine, has decided they both must go. Or she must hide. Her favorite place is under the bed. If I’m lucky, I can get her to come out long enough to have her picture taken. She has become a growler and hisser.

Joanie is about 60 in human terms, and she’s had it with these younger folks. I’m 68, and I still teach 60 nineteen-year-old university students every semester.  I haven’t had it with the younger folks. But I am getting tired. They are so strange (and they tolerate me about the way Joanie tolerates Groucho; I’m their means to an end—college degrees which will make them rich).

I have a problem in my right hip. How much pain did those old folks have to be in before they got new hips? Poor old things. I suppose there’s something creepy about a fat old man posting a picture of himself in tight yoga clothes on the internet for all the world (the thirty of you, at any rate) to see. But I want to demonstrate what I continue to do with my aching hip. Not bad, huh?

The old bridge.

The old bridge.

This writing was going to have a point, but I think I’ve forgotten what it was. It had something to do with Joanie looking totally disgusted with everything (doesn’t she, though?), and my being able to manage Setu Bandha Savangasana even with a pained hip (it’s probably what’s keeping me from a steel one). From grouchy Joanie (wouldn’t you know—now that I’m saying awful things about her, she has come out from under the bed and is lying in her favorite position on my right foot and purring) to my painful hip I was going somehow logically to get to blogs. I Google blogs and follow tags about old age, trying to connect with other old fart bloggers and increase my “traffic.”

Joanie. Happy?

Joanie. Happy?

A really weird thing happens to blogs about about getting older. They stop. The last month in their archives tends to be January 2010, or March 2011, or February 2007, or. . . you get the picture. All I ask is that, when I remember too little or my logic is even more bizarre than it already is—Chachi just came in and Joanie growled and left, by the way—someone please get WordPress to remove this blog. Sheeeeesh! I want to be immortal, but not by what I leave behind in cyber space!

When I remember the connection between Joanie’s growling, the pain in my left hip, and blogs without bloggers, I’ll let you know.