Friday, December 31, 2010

old year, new year

in a couple of hours the old year will close and without getting too maudlin about it i'm just going to say that i hope the new one will be a far sight better. it's been rough sledding and hard times and some insomniac nights and without telling you where this comes from and with only a little editing i'm going to take a break from telling you the epic inpatient tale and give you a part benediction, part poem, part dream and i'm not going to explain it any but just let it float over you like it was meant for you as a blessing for the coming year.


good morning my good friend
may blessings and more blessings fall on you and yours
i have stopped having the dreams and visions
which i think means that i have gotten the message right
which i think means that now it's up to you
to follow the instructions.
remember that in all of the dreams and all of the visions
Jesus had all of his friends,
his mother, the saints, the apostles
your parents, your grandparents
and probably other of your relatives and neighbors and friends
such as he might be able to call on
and there were feasts that Jesus would have been familiar with
and backyard picnics that your people would have been comfortable with
and Jesus did not seem to mind jello cold dishes
and it did not seem weird at all that you were sitting in a lawnchair when he washed your feet
but the thing is that there were a LOT of them, these visions, these dreams
and they came to me at night and during the day
and you were tiny baby and young girl and grown woman and dowager
and you kept asking who you were
and none of us would tell you
and you kept trying to work it out
kept trying to serve
kept trying to fuss
or trying to find out what you should or should not do or say
and the more you struggled the more Jesus and all the assembled company
made you sit and made you be taken care of
and Jesus himself washed your feet  telling you why paul hadn't been invited to the party
telling you just to rest and let yourself be loved.
just listen to the conversations around you and be lulled by the sounds of our voices.
eat what is delicious and sweet.
be wrapped up in blankets, be wrapped in Jesus' cloak.
just let yourself be carried in our arms; let Mary rock you,
let you own mother rock you; you have the time here.
look at the daylight, the starlight, the firelight, the candlelight; fall asleep by its glow.
look at clouds and listen to crickets and watch snowflakes fall and flames jump up
and know you are held tight
let yourself be held tight
i will hold you, you mother will hold you, your Jesus will hold you, his mother will hold you
we will love you, all of us will, no matter what. just let go and let us do it.
let us love you wholly, fiercely, and with full knowledge of all your parts
wrap yourself up against the cold and know that inside, where it's warm
you are wholly, fully loved.
you are passed from hand to hand like a new baby
admired and loved
fresh and and laughing
and that in my visions, at least,
your feet are clean.

so maybe you don't know exactly who you are or what to do or say
but you know the answer to the important question:
you are loved, wholly and fiercely, and Jesus threw a party
to tell you so.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

med trial

one of the reasons i need to be in a hospital is for a med trial. i mean, obviously my mood swings have degenerated to the point that i need to be in a hospital for some decompressing which happens periodically every half dozen years or so even under good management (a lesson we have leaned kind of painfully over many years) but we can't try out meds on me unless i'm an inpatient.

it's just too dangerous.

the reason i'm in the fix i'm in is that there are some very good and effective meds that i just can't take anymore because after a couple of years of taking them, my body rejects them. this actually is not uncommon. psychiatric meds (and other meds used to manage chronic conditions) often run their course and outlive their usefulness. then you stop taking them and look for something else.

my case is slightly unusual in that the meds don't just stop working for me; my body rejects them in grand style. we do not part on friendly terms. it involves anaphylaxis, or stevens-johnson syndrome, or some other such thing. sometimes just starting a new med is a white knuckle ride, and no doctor in her right mind puts me on a new med on an outpatient basis.

so it turns out that n the time since i was last inside, three new drugs were developed that were available for me to try. one was a close relative of a drug to which i was already allergic, so that was already off the list. one was a promising new anti-psychotic with mood stabilizing properties and low incidence of side effects, so we started that one.

now, we purposely do not educate me on the possible but rare side effects of new drugs precisely because of both my history and my suggestibility so that IF those side effects show up, i won't have been looking for them.

so somewhere in the Indeterminate Time we start the new med. i don't feel very different. it must be at least saturday the fourth because it's not my first day in the caf and i'm used to eating there but it's still special feeling to me and i'm having trouble really enjoying the food and trouble swallowing it really, as if it gets down my throat just fine but then gets hung up just above my stomach as if those muscles just don't go right and i'm kind of uncomfortable and i'm not breathing well but my lungs are clear so it's not at all like asthma, ust like my muscles there won't really work, like that strider reaction felt sort of all those years ago before it realy got going only my tongue isn't swelling and my jaw isn't pulling and i'm trying to read and i can't make my eyes scan the page and i'm trying to do a crossword but i can't make my eyes focus on the page and they keep getting across mixed up with down even though my mind understands it and maybe this is too much for your dainty eyes but when i first came in i was constipated four days which isn't unusual when i get to one of these places but my bowels had just started moving again and now they had just come to a halt. it was like muscles in my body were just going on scattered strikes and there was nothing i could do about it.

and when i came in my blood pressure was pretty much an even 120 over 80, give or take a few points. that's the way i am. it was now 160 over 90, give or take.

afternoon and i was still uncomfortable, but the group that was allowed to go to the pool room went to play pool (more about this elsewhere). it was a happy, golden psychiatric hour (forty minutes). and i was still uncomfortable, but the wost of it was over. by four o' clock i was nearly better.

at five thirty i took another dose of the med.  all night i lay awake, feeling like i couldn't breathe. there was no comfortable position in which to sit or lie. i tried to drink water, but it didn't make my throat calm down. somewhere in the night i felt better and fell asleep.

in the morning i took the med again. we went to by lunchtime i was already having trouble controlling the muscles of my face. i was hungry, but eating was a nightmare. i had a hard time swallowing; it was hard to choke the food down. i felt heavy; food was not moving through my bowels. my chest was constricted even though my lungs were clear. did you ever have anything too tight around your neck? put your hands around your throat and grip hard and then try to eat. it was like that.

i kept tryign to explain it to the nurses like the beginning of that allergic reaction i'd had when i had the strider reaction, because the beginning of that had felt just like this, only that had progressed to a swollen tongue and this wasn't doing that. i tried changing position. i tried doing yoga. i tried deep breathing. i tried just distracting myself. it was hard. i couldn't keep control of my muscle movements enough to do anything comfortably or reliably. there was only sitting or pacing sort of agitated.

oh. and my blood pressure over those days was a consistent 160 over 90.

no sleeping. no reading. no doing anything. i talked to david the sunshine med nurse (more about him later, maybe) and it turns out that failure to control those muscles and spasms of those very muscles are rare but well-known side effects of this drug. there is another drug that they might be able to give me that might counter that side effect but that's only a "might" and you have to understand that it's sunday afternoon in a large hospital and that order would have to come from the DOC or Doctor On Call and not my regular doctor and that might take a while AND that given my history of allergies in the first place it is a crapshoot whether or not i will have a reaction to that second drug that may or may not work at all to counter the effects of a drug to which i am already having a very unpleasant reaction and my body is already sensitized and it's SUNDAY AFTERNOON AT FOUR O'CLOCK and i'd better decide soon because they're going to want to feed me my next dose of hell in a paper cup at five thirty.

now, torturers know that torture is not effective because of the pain it brings. torture is effective because of the promise that the pain is coming back. my pain has come on and crested and waned and come on and crested and waned and i have just figured out what has in fact caused it and i'm just out from the worst of it and they're about to give me the next dose and i'm willing to take more of this stuff if i have to but IT'S SUNDAY AFTERNOON and i think that really what i'd like to do before i ride that hideous wave again is talk to my doctor about it and if she still thinks it's a good idea i'll do it again but if it's all the same to you guys i'll just take a little break until i've talked to her, ok?

and of course if they get the DOC to order up that other med to give to me i'm all set but if i just wait until tomorrow to talk with my regular doc instead of a night in hell they have to write REFUSED in the book and i'm de facto noncompliant in the book because them's the rules, a thing i only mention now because it'll come up later in the story about the sneak attack secondary diagnosis.

so a few hours later i have control of breathing and swallowing and can focus my eyes and am having bowel movements and for most of the rest of the duration of the trip my blood pressure returns to 120 over 80 (except for one entertaining interval i will  tell you about later) and on monday my doctor comes in to talk to me and she wryly looks over the charts from the weekend and says "i guess we add that one to the list of meds you can't take" and she starts to figure out what to do next, which is kind of what i expected she would do, since she's a competent professional, but it was a hell of a weekend.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

foggy timetable

there are a lot of things that happened between my admission and when i started taking notes that i can only place generally, say, that i know happened before i got to go to the caf, so before december 3,  but before my mom came to see me on the seventh so i can only place it approximately, or  know it had to be a saturday and therefore on the 4th, but otherwise no idea of date except i had more than one pair of pants to wear, so it had to be later than sooner.

you count days like that: before the rash started. after vinny bounced. before i got my visit. before i got to go outside. the day i nearly shit myself because someone taped an out of order sign on the restroom. yeah. that was funny. remember that one for later, because omniscient narrator from the future is gonna have a whopper for you on that one. or not.

anyway, i was kind of trying to figure out (omniscient narrator from the future) how i was going to tell you about a few things that fell in the Indeterminate Time, since unlike the Admitting Days, the sequence isn't so clear. stuff happened, but the events aren't so discrete. or rather they have to be, but my perception of them wasn't. and so the storytelling isn't very linear. and then even when my thinking clears up a little, your appreciation for people and events will perhaps be improved if i do not speak strictly chronologically, so i'm thinking about that, and maybe about how i'm going to tie together a few things for the omniscient narrator from the future who will be making some pointy little commentaries later on.

for now, it's movie night back at ripley, and the boys have picked out some promising movies that contain some explosions but not too much gratuitous violence  for plot movement.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

at some point

somewhere around the third of december things start to move. i have for the most part stopped crying uniformly. i am still crying, but not uniformly. i have figured out the puzzle of the assignment sheets and have managed to get my little self to all the groups to which i am assigned. i am using my newly-granted tool, the black ballpoint pen, to ease my anxiety about being in public spaces and i am sitting in public spaces doing crossword puzzles. i use crossword puzzles defensively, to stake out acceptable territory and get comfortable seating prior to groups.

i learn to ask before i introduce myself each time nt to have everyone shout out "hi, (my real name)!" in mechanical AA meeting style that just makes my blood boil. it's so hollow that it isn't even a greeting and it's like you're not even there to the extent that when you ask them not to do it they can't help themselves, which only goes to show you how much they're really paying attention, which is why i hate it in the first place.
uh, anyway.

yeah. so. this guy comes in. vinny. and we meet him for the firs time in afternoon community meeting. now, community meeting goes like this: we all sit in a big circle and everybody says their first name and then they say a goal for the day or if it's the evening meeting they might reflect on the morning goal if they remember it or set a new goal for the evening if they're not an advanced player and they name a coping skill they might use and then they say a thing they're grateful for and then maybe  if the person making the agenda had a sense of humor or mercy there might be an oddball item on it like name your favorite piece of furniture and in case you can't remember all the items on the list, they're all written out for you on the whiteboard on the wall:

first name
coping skill
thing you're grateful for
favorite piece of furniture

i'm kind of fuzzy on sequence here,  but i know "piece of furniture" was on the board on december 4.  i know this because it wa a saturday night and my favorite piece of furniture at the moment was "communion table".

i do not know what day vinny came in, but i know what day vinny left. the day vinny came in we got our first look at hi at evening meeting and what he had to say was that he was very happy to be here because he'd been on the waitng list to get in for three weeks and he was really serious about his rehab and that in the time he was waiting to get in he'd had to do all kinds of crazy drinking and drugging and he was tired.

i was thinking that perhaps this was not the soundest reasoning in the world, but once you get to rehab, maybe you get clearer thinking and at least he'd made the trip.

later that evening vinny regaled us with (he thought) very funny stories of how he and his wife had come to admissions together and lied about being married hoping to get put on the same unit. of course they fooled no one.

couples are split up in rehab, for good reason. go look it up if you want to. i don't feel like explaining it. anyway, one thing that they really like from people going into rehab is honesty. no matter what you've done, they consider honesty a really good sign that you're ready to turn yourself  around. so lying at admissions and then laughing about it later wasn't a really good start, you know?

and then there's this thing: you're not supposed to communicate with the other units. when you go to the caf, you're not supposed to talk to the other inmates. it's sort of like prison that way, only friendlier, and it's for therapeutic purposes. but see, according to rules, the staff can't monitor the patient phones. so patients can call the patient phones on other floors so while you're not really supposed to be talking to the other inmates on other floors, you can do it. and no mater what everyone pretends, there's no such thing as a private conversation up there (acoustics being what they are) and it's no secret that vinny and his wife are talking to each other every twenty minutes.

so when mrs. vinny bounced from downstairs, ("bounced" is the term for "left rehab without finishing the program"), vinny swore up and down that she got kicked out for acting out and demanded to be released. of course we all knew that you don't get kicked out for acting out; they simply board you and put you in the quiet area or in a pinch medicate you, but they don't kick you out, but we all knew vinny to be a liar already and we all knew he wasn't really on board with rehab to start with so when he demanded to be released even though it caused a fuss and tied up resources for a number of hours and there was all the usual nonsense of posturing and screener calling and scene making and loud yelling in the end we weren't sorry to see him go.

it was december 6.

Monday, December 27, 2010

split story

it was three days, more or less, that i laid on my bed, holding the blue sweater and howling. if a tray was brought to me i ate. if i noticed that a meal had come up i politely went to get my try myself.  there was no clock in my room, so i had no idea of the passage of time. if meds were to be administered, i took them cooperatively if a med nurse appeared at my door.

i remember going to the center of the unit to look at the white board; it is well known to nearly every veteran of psychiatric units tat the schedule of groups is posted on the white board in a common area, and that the key to the raising of privilege is in group attendance even if one does not wish to socialize in common areas.

this white board was baffling to me. it listed the time of breakfast, but the group schedule read something like this:

9:30 community meeting
10:20 groups
11:45 lunch in caf -or-
12:00 lunch on unit
1:00 groups resume

so while i'm amenable to going to groups, i can't figure this stuff out and just going to look at the board has used up all of my available energy and i just go back to my room to cry. a lovely mental health worker named yvonne comes to my room at some point and invites me to a group she's doing and i happily (for the circumstances) go. then, since there's another group happening right after that, i go to that. then it's back to my room because i can't figure out what else is going on. i am able to communicate that  i would like to go to groups i am invited to, but i'm  largely uninvited. i keep asking for a black pen, but i keep being told i'm not allowed to have one.

one of the reasons i don't want to hang out in the common areas is that it's a very dense area and, well, i'm still crying. i don't suffer from the common delusion that i'm too good for the psych unit, or that i don't fit in (actually, i don't fit in, but not because i'm not crazy enough or too good for it, but we'll talk about that later) but i'm socially awkward on a good day and i'm also very sensitive to other people's emotional stuff; i pick up what other people are feeling and when i feel really crappy and i'm having my own mood swings what i really don't need is other people's mood problems coming on in here and messing me up.

but the staff is all up in my face for isolation and not going to groups and it's like four days before anyone bothers to tell me that the schedule that tells you what groups you're supposed to go to is posted each day ON PAPER you go get at the nurse's station each day at 9:20 and it gives you your assignments and times and if anyone had mentioned that to me it would have been a big help and later on i found out that yvonne had written on my chart that i was willing to go to any group i was invited to but they were preferring to let me take initiative but man, i was too disoriented and crying plus my strategy for dealing with unfamiliar mental hospitals is usually to take a black pen and my book of crossword puzzles and just sit in whatever room it looks like they're going to have group in and use that as my anxiety reduction strategy and entry to the room but they wouldn't let me have a pen and in my state i could only go so far and finally after four days when twitching i managed to get to one of those goddamn groups and declared that my goal for the day was going to be to get a black ball point pen and i KNOW my mom had been talking to the doctors about why i couldn't have one after four days and some bastard handed me one after four days of me asking as if it was no big deal and he says "we let people have pens here" and i had the sense not to make a fuss over why i hadn't been given one before and all of a sudden i have have the tools i need to get to work now.

meet me halfway, you know?

anyway, in real time it's a long time farther down the road and i am back from christmas break and it's almost dinnertime. a guy got bounced from the house last night for coming home with booze, and it was a hell of a day in therapy. i feel kind of beat up and i've been working hard. it's time for some dinner and then maybe some stupid tv and then in the morning my last full day in the program before i step down to half days because that's what my insurance pays for.

soon i guess, i'll be coming home.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

i wuz gonna...

...get back to telling the gargantuan story but it's kind of enough for me that my furlough's up this afternoon and i have to try to beat the storm back there today and i want to tell you that my christmas gifts included items like the "don't die out there" playing card deck and the "worst case survival" daily calendar, so while i DO have an interest in outdoor survival in good years, i think there's kind of a little undercurrent going in my family's hopes for me.


i'll try real hard not to disappoint them.

on other fronts, it was a lovely time and there was a lovely meal and i got to go to not one but two lovely church services with my own congregation whom i have missed mightily and i got to hear loud and clear from them in person how mightily i have been missed and if you're going to be away the best way to do it is to be missed and yet there's still this mood disorder: yesterday i was driving along to my mom's house and i was somewhere i wanted to be with a sackful of gifts i was happy about giving and basically i was really genuinely happy about everything, but yet i was still crying, which is a little unsettling.

it's less confusing when your affect matches your life circumstances; say, for instance, when there are things you're really sad about and you're crying. when that happens it's kind of a relief for me because things match up nicely, which people with mood disorders don't  have to think about so much.

so that's my story.

i gotta go finish packing.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

let's get some things clear.

up until this point i'm been telling things pretty straightforward and chronological, but it's only involved generic admissions workers and police officers and ER nurses and such and things were pretty straightforward. NOW the story is going to get more complex and involve people that are real and interesting (not that the police officer isn't a real interesting person, but for the purposes of my story, he's one-dimensional) and the timelines are going to get blurred if i try to illustrate a concept or stick to one idea that spans a couple of days since i am writing a blog entry and not a novel.

in a novel one may spin out ideas concurrently; in a blog entry one may not. so strict chronology may go out the window.

also since i have already identified the august institution at which i am still a patient, it will be of little use for me to disguise its identity, or to disguise the identity of certain of the staff working with me, or parts of the building or grounds, so i'm just going to say that i'm not going to say anything stupid and that if i have any unkind opinions i will either disguise those identities or i will keep those opinions to myself.

when speaking of patients, i am either changing their names and identifying characteristics or i am referring to them by the nicknames we gave them on the ward (with a little removal of identifiers). "tornado girl" is a good example; we never learned her real name. why should i ever call her anything else? and there was a guy named bob, too. three of them. we gave them nicknames to sort them out. i intend to refer to them by their names, since we only had three and we had to nickname them to keep them distinct. you probably know guys named bob, too. but no, mostly every other patient gets a brand-spanking-new name, which is sometimes funny, because once i was telling stories about a time on a mental ward using cleaned up names and a woman i met on a ward years AFTER i wrote about that story was all proud because she thought i'd told the story about her, using her real name, and no amount of argument, including the copyright date on the publication compared to the date of admission when we had met could convince her she hadn't been part of the story.

oh, well.

talk to you tomorrow.

Friday, December 24, 2010

still on break

i'm still taking a break from the big, big story, but for your listening enjoyment (i hope), i'm re- opening the vault so you can hear the flask christmas album again or even download it. yay! as usual, it's only here for a limited time and then it goes away again until next christmas, so if you don't download your own copy or you weren't lucky enough to get a hard copy, you have to wait until next year to listen again.

yes, those are my own arrangements, and yes, that is my original artwork, and while you're in the waiting room, why not take a trip over to the zazzle store and pick up a bazillion mugs or something and make me rich? or earn me enough money to buy a box of cookies?

that's my hard sell marketing. do you like it? order at your leisure. supplies aren't the least bit limited and while it's a pretty nice design that will look handsome on a table unless you're looking to buy a mug or a greeting card or something like that, you probably already have enough crap in your house.

but if you ARE looking for a nice mug or greeting card with a design like mine it's not too bad of a deal and i make a few pennies off of it which is nice for me.

awesome marketing. the flask christmas tracks are free for you to listen to, free for you to download, and later on i'll get back to telling the gargantuan story.

merry christmas.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

short break

i'm taking a short break from my painstaking chronological narrative of my recent adventures to tell you that i am for the moment at home. this is temporary; i left brattleboro this afternoon at four and i am expected back sunday afternoon.

i am currently enrolled in what is called a partial hospitalization program, which means that while i am in intensive therapy by day and dormed by night, i am under my own recognizance between the hours of three to ten each afternoon and evening, responsible for feeding myself, and permitted to sign myself out on weekends. the program is closed tfor a long weekend on account of christmas, so i am signed out until sunday afternoon.

happily i have a home to go to and a family to visit and a church community to be in and friends to be with. my bills are paid and my house is clean. tomorrow i will take my car to my mechanic and do laundry and go to church.

i will brew ginger ale and maybe i will do some light grocery shopping and maybe if i have time i'll play golf before i  go to church. whatever i do, it will be lovely.

and at some point i will return you to the narrative in its chronological offset order. i took notes so i could tell you about it. isn't that swell?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

so far

it may help you if i tell you that so far i've only been telling the story as far as it goes from monday evening, 29 november to sometime on the aftenoon on tuesday afternoon on 30 november. in all that while i have not stopped crying. if we fast forward two days later, i am still crying very loudly. someone on staff offers me a quieter area in which to be.

in some hospitals you have to be very careful of this "offer" because it's really a kind of code for "five point restraint" or "locked room" and "offer" really means "threat" but it turns out that at this hospital (i learn much later) "offer" really means "offer" and "quieter area" means a quieter area with three rooms (one of which can be locked) but the central portion has a couch and there's a phone and in general if it isn't being used by someone in great need it wouldn't be a bad spot to go read a book and get away from the noisier areas or the rest of the unit.

there isn't a dining area where meals are brought and i'm not up to eating in the weird multi-use place where real estate is scarce, so i take my meals in my room if someone brings my tray. otherwise, i don't eat. mostly they bring my tray.

i have to go ask for towels to shower at night, and that's a trauma to figure out how to do it and bear in mind i'm still crying, but i do it. and i have to figure out how to ask to get someone to let me into the laundry room to put my towels into the hamper when i'm done, too, which seems insurmountable.

i change for bed.

i am still crying.

the mattress. is very thin. i am too heavy for it. it's like lying on a hard surface. i'm still crying. we're allowed blankets, but no sheets. evey fifteen minutes the night nurse comes in and checks on us. i don't sleep.

i just cry. loudly.

i'm exhausted just thinking about it.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


once we get to my room we begin the tedious and horrific process of going through every last thing i have with me. no matter how pleasant and professional and kind these people are being (and this particular staff is very professional and polite and kind) it is still a very difficult thing and there is no way for it not to feel dehumanizing and humiliating.

i was not packed for a stay in the hospital, so i had with me a lot of things that i knew they were going to take away: camera, razor, assorted stuff not really appropriate for hospital use. of course i expected to have them check all my bags and books and pockets for hidden drugs and weapons and for them to take away my meds from home and catalog them and give me hospital issue later.

what i did not expect was for them to take my pens and pencils, nor to take any clothing deemed too stretchy. these tights? no. they have a string.

ok, cut out the string,

those? i can have those.

nope, too stretchy.

what? i do not point out that they're  no stretchier than the ones i'm being allowed to keep, the ones that have just had the string cut out. i know better. i cut my losses. one pair of pajamas is better than none.

ok. i have one pair of pants to wear when i get my street clothes back.

they take my bookbag. no straps. no pen, no pencil. i can have a golf pencil if i want it.

fuck you, i think.

what i say is thank you.

all right.

next project. the thirteen hour project. if you have been following this blog or if you have spent any time with me at all, you know that i take a picture every thirteen hours. it's an art project. some days it's what keeps me going. one day i was crying so hard i couldn't get up from the floor and still i managed to take a picture. it's hard to tel from the picture where i am but if you look real hard you can tell i'm under my desk.

so i try to negotiate with the nursing staff maybe a supervised picture of a blank wall at the approaching designated time. it would mean a lot to me and it would help maintain continuity of my life which supposedly is one of their stated goals, you know?

but know, they can't work that out, and omniscient narrator from the future knows that my failed negotiations with them over this only earns for me an added diagnosis of personality disorder with histrionic and narcissistic strains which kind of makes me feel sad and ashamed but doesn't make a lot of real sense if you know me.

anyway, i'm so upset to lose my photo project that i think for a while that i'll roll the dice, which is kind of mental patient slang for demanding to be discharged when you're only technically voluntary and then they have to call in  the screeners to evaluate your case and if you pass, you go, but if you don't pass, you get held as an involuntary for at least eight days and then you can try again.

i make some phone calls and end up not rolling the dice. omniscient narrator from the future has some ideas about how to salvage the photo project since for the lost days i didn't leave that one place and i'm still living there and it was beyond my control and i can at least represent it photographically if not present the accurate view.


more tomorrow, eh?

it's time for dinner and then back to the house.

Monday, December 20, 2010

team uniforms

so i'm at the retreat and i'm going through the admissions process, which involves an interview with a doctor and a lot of notetaking. i'm still crying loudly. i only feel it's important to mention because when i started crying it was several posts ago when i got back from the art museum and pretty much i haven't stopped crying and the volume is still turned up pretty loud and there are a lot of other bits of the narrative and while it's not exactly background noise, it's worth keeping track of.

i am most definitively still crying. everyone i meet appears to be considering investing in facial tissues or earplugs. maybe both.

anyway, the one thing everyone is in full agreement over is that i am not to be separated from the blue sweter that i am holding and patting. if i forget for a moment and set it down i only wail louder, and people are very anxious to keep it near m as we go through all the little chores of organizing things.

one of these chores is to strip me down and check my clothes for hidden weapons and drugs, and to check my body for same, along with a medical exam and an examination for scars and tattoos. them i am issued crazy team clothing: a grey sweatsuit, tops and bottoms, which, for what they are, are surprisingly soft and plush. because the shoes i am wearing have no laces, i am allowed to wear those. keep that in mind. it becomes important later.

then a nice lady comes and along with another person we pile all my stuff onto a cart and with me still howling we move thorough a byzantine series of tunnels and ramps and elevators that would have confused me if i had been paying attention and we pass through set after set of doors and onto  a very heavily locked ward and begin the exhausting process of checking my belongings in.

at this point i don't know where i am or even what day it is, so if it's all right with you, i'll save telling you about the check-in until tomorrow and o do a little grocery shooping and then go back to the house where maybe we'll watch a movie before curfew.

omniscient narrator from the future has a better idea of how this comes out, but i'm still a little tired and i need a nap.

i hope you're well.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

you can't touch this

this whole time since i've left the motel room in the custody of the nice police officers i have been clutching my favorite pillow from my bed at home. the reason for this is not that i love this pillow; it is because inside the pillowcase is my pajamas and my very important sleeping hat and the real point of my unwillingness to be separaetd from the pillow: cr's sweater is in there and i am holding onto that these days as if i am linus van pelt.

they take me from the bennington hospital in the ambulance which i notice is not as nice a truck as the one they had up in the NEK and even though i'm in the back of the truck i've been up and over route nine i can keep track of where we are just by the feel of it but only up until we get as far as the west b congregational church, which is where i go blank as far as geography, which if you're going to follow this story, you should remember, because omniscient narrator from the future knows tat two weeks from now that kind of props up the punchline as well as sort of feeds a sad little running joke four days from now. stay tuned.

View Larger Map

anyway, they bring me into the admissions entrance of the brattleboro retreat, and in addition to starting to explain to me the admissions process, which is difficult because you need to remember that i am still howling, they very gently try to explain to me that they need to take my pillow away from me because i can't have that here. "the sweater!" i wail. "you can't take the sweater from me! there will be a lot less screaming if i can keep the sweater!"

they look at each other, that look that hospital people and emergency responders and hospital people and even school teachers give each other when they're communicating volumes of information when they have to make an important and critical decision in a big fat hurry.

so when i say that there will be less screaming with the sweater than without, one of the people handing me over nods both kindly and with some amusement and says "we've seen some evidence of that" and for the remainder of the afternoon they take some care to keep it near me no matter what task we are engaged in.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

mr. toad's mild ride

it had to have been weird to watch, a little middle aged lady, a little twitchy but otherwise quiet and docile and howling loudly. hey bring me into the ER at the bennington hospital and make me strip down. this is the only time i've ever been in an ER that i wasn't permitted street clothes, which did not improve my mood any. i'm polite, but i am still crying very loudly. and i am a classically trained singer, so i have some LUNGS.

and wen you come in with the police, the police stay with you until you leave, apparently. or until you move to another unit. and they ask me if i can stop the screaming because i'm disturbing their emergency room.

which is of course a serene place.

i ask for a chaplain. i have been asking for a chaplain since i came in. they offer me medications. i'm not opposed to medicine, but what i really want is a chaplain.

they come in and they shoot me full of lorazepam. it really hurts going in. "hey," i tell them. that just honkin' hurts." and that's just the language i use, too. "i would'a' swallowed TABLETS!"

so i sleep a couple of hours. while i am sleeping what i do not know is that my family is frantically trying to find an open psychiatric bed anywhere in the state of vermont so i don't get shipped to albany, which is not a sparkling gem in the constellation of mental health care. there is not a bed anywhere.

there is not a bed anywhere.

there is not a bed anywhere.

after a wile i wake up screaming again.

the nurses rush in and jab another hypodermic in me. "hey!" i tell them. "that STILL hurts! i STILL would'a' taken a tablet given the choice."

and i sleep a while later not so much because it knocks me out, but because there's just not that much to do but sleep or cry and once the edge comes off i have more of a choice and i'm not wild about crying anyway.

after a long time (it probably seems like a lot longer to my family, who are on the outside working desperately than it does to me, because while i'm very sad by this time i'm mostly bored) ONE bed opens up at the brattleboro retreat, which is not just the nearest psychiatric facility; it is one of the nation's finest. it is one of the hospitals i've been trying to get into all along.

apparently when your admission involves nine officers and four squad cars you move closer to the top of the list.

so they put me in the truck and i'm on my way.

Friday, December 17, 2010

falling apart

so i'm far from home and i'm crying and i don't know what to do besides call my mom, who doesn't know what to do besides ask gently if she should call 911. i tell her that i think probably she should.

"but tell them no lights or sirens", i say. these are nice people who run this motel. i like it and i want to be able to stay here again. i tell her to tell the police that i will leave the room curtain open and that when they get there i will keep my hands where they can see them and that i will be docile and come peaceably, although chances are that i will be howling loudly. i can't help it; i'm a loud crier and once i am no longer having to exert self control for the comfort of the other hotel guests, all bets are off.

my mom stays on the phone with me while i wait for the police. i pack my bags. i tidy up my things. i cry. when they come, the curtain is open and i am in full view. the officer knocks politely on the door. i don't remember a lot of it. one officer takes the phone from me and talks to my mom and one talks to me. i cry a lot. i twitch some, but in the very-sad-don't know-what-to-do way, and not in the dangerous-pschotic-about-to-go-off way. we get ready to leave the room.

the officer says "ma'am, i don't want to alarm you, but i have eight other officers with me."
"that's ok.", i say, drooping a little. i notice that although there are no lights or sirens, there are four cruisers. the officer puts me in the back of the nearest one, which for the size of that big honkin' SUV of a thing is pretty cramped. no leg or arm room. i suppose that goes a long way toward subduing the unruly in a pinch, but not so far toward comforting the distressed.

"i am very sorry about this", i tell the driver, " but i am going to cry. and it is going to be loud. i am trying for it not to be so loud, but a lot about my life is out of control right now and i'm doing my best."

"that's ok." he says, and i think somewhere he is thinking that if loud crying is all he has to contend with, he counts himself lucky.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

it seemed like a good idea at the time

so after the Very Bad Thing happened and i got myself home and blah blah blah (it's not that it's not interesting, but i'm just not talking about it, so there's no point except to say that i lack the self control to have stayed home without having done some stupid ass thing) so i thought maybe i'd just take a few days and if i couldn't be among my own church congregation at home i could at least be among friends to see the candle lit for the first sunday of advent so after some hemming and hawing i came down to bennington to the east arlington federated church  where they're always nice to me and after church had a short stack at the blue benn and returned to my room at the knotty pine. i've stayed there before.  it's not terribly expensive; it's not luxurious either, but they're nice and friendly and it's convenient and the rooms are clean and they have reliable wifi. i like it there. and i decided to go to the MassMoCA mostly because a piece in the courtyard was written up in a science blog i read and i wanted o see it but also because i'm always driving through north adams and i always mean to go but never do so i read up on the exhibits and downloaded the podcast tours for the sol lewit exhibit and everything and it was AWESOME and i was all happy and everything and then i went to get a pizza that i very much liked and -life's like this for the wildly manic-depressive- suddenly i was crying, and not the  nice controllable kind, either. only i'm three and a half hors from home and i have no friends or family to help me and i supposedly have a doctor appointment in the morning to discuss hospitalization options. my world has just crashed in and i do not know what to do and i need help and there is no one to help me.

and now i am out of time to tell you about what happened next.

the good news is that i have no shortage of material for a long, long while. the bad news is that i have no shortage of material for a long, long while.

talk to you tomorrow, kids!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

inside out

this one is going to have to be quick, partly because i'm short on time, and partly because i don't have my notes.

i think i mentioned that things were going bad for me.

then things went worse.

so we were talking about a hospital admission.

but there weren't any beds anywhere. so i decided i needed to get away from home and maybe do a little light geocaching, maybe go to a museum...

then all hell broke loose.

it turns out that when the police are involved, it's easier to get a bed. go figure. i didn't write to tell you about it because they don't let you have your laptop on the locked ward.

or your phone. or shoelaces. 

i'm currently living in what can only be described as a quarter-of-the-way house.  today is day two.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

i'm sorry

so things aren't going so well for me these days. it takes me three days to write a blog post, but then again i keep writing blog posts with pictures and long narratives and timelines and stuff.

i spend a lot of my hours just staring out the window, and some days the crazy comes and sits on me like an unfed cat an hour past dinnertime. and for a lot of complicated reasons it's best if i don't try to go to church tomorrow. and for some reasons that are complicated and related to the crazy, it only gets worse if i try not to do a thing and the only thing for it is to be away so i CAN'T go to church at home even if i stop trying NOT to do it, but it's going to be the first sunday of advent and that means something to me.

and it's going to hurt me not to be in my own choir, not to be in my own congregation, not to be with my own church family to see them light those candles, so the best i can do is to be among friends in another choir where they know me and where they're kind to me and it's three hours from home so i can't get into any trouble.

but i've had a hell of a day, you know?

so when i get to the mcdonald's i can be pretty sure i LOOK like i'm not having a good day.

it's kind of busy. not super busy, but the service is going kind of slow. i can sort of see why. there's a guy in front of me who's very talkative but doesn't seem to have quite enough  sandwiches for a picnic and hotshot drivethru guy looks like he think he could run the place by himself and counter guy looks kind of like he's been having a bad day all day and there's an irritated-looking couple, and some guys who went through he drive through and ordered sweet tea but got unsweet tea and he brings it back in and the manager doesn't just give him more of the sweet tea; the first thing she does is check the tea coming from the dispenser and then she checks what's coming out of the unsweet dispenser and she discovers with a minimum of steps that none of the dispensers anywhere in the store have sweetened tea in them and she rectifies the problem kinda speedy. everbody is polite about it.

and the woman is apologizing to everybody, and i get the impression they apologize a lot around there. i get this idea because of the suggestion/comment box on the front counter. in the corners of the computer printed sign are handwritten notes asking people to PLEASE be appropriately polite in their comments; that the staff is trying really hard to improve their service, and they would very much appreciate appropriate language in the notes left for them.

so by the time the manager gives me my burger, she has apologized to everyone else there and when it's my turn she apologizes to me for...

...that's where she breaks off and says she doesn't know what i need an apology for, but she hopes i have a nice night. i kind of laugh a litle.

and you know? it wasn't her that owed me the apology, but the apology owed me isn't forthcoming and it was just nice to hear.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

seventeen men, give or take

i'm still processing the pictures and information from my trip to virginia last month. you know, because i can't just show you some pictures and call it done. oh, no. i have to organize it.

before i left home i picked a handful of small stones to take along with me. they were nothing very fancy; small and typical of vermont hillside geology. the thing is that i planned to visit the fredericksburg national cemetery and i had printed up a list of the vermont men who are known to be buried there.

i say "known to be buried there", because of the over 15,000 dead in the cemetery, only 2,473 have been identified. of the identified dead, there are 94 men that i know of who came from vermont. i don't even want to think about how many of the unidentified dead came from here. at wilderness alone 1,234 vermont men died, most of them in the same afternoon in the same small patch of woods. later on i'll tell you more about that, but not now.

so it just wouldn't be possible to go and pay my respects to all of them, but i decided to find as many of them as i had stones for. it's probably been a while since anyone called any of them by name, and for each one i found i looked up his full name and his unit, his hometown, and the place where he died.

i knelt down to place one of the stones on each of the graves, and had a few words with each of the men:

i know where you came from; i've been to your hometown. i know that when you left there you thought maybe you'd get to go back or at least they might send your body home and i know it's a poor substitute for home, but i've brought just a little piece of vermont to leave with you here.

it was hard to find them, all mixed in as they were with men who came from pennsylvania or new york or michigan, some of them buried here after dying on the sunken road, some after dying here in the hospital, some after lying out in the open out in the fields where they fell and brought here later.

so there wasn't much system to which men got my stones; i did not play favorites other than to bring my vermont stones to vermont men. i just walked around until i had given them all out. the randomness was pleasing to me, as if the method of sampling made my offering more properly for all of them, known and not.

oh, my boys, my boys;
each of you, every one
no matter where you came from
all a mother's precious son.

view original

my timeline details events in the war as relate to my seventeen men: their enlistments, promotions, and for all but one, when in the war they died.   the only battles listed are the battle fought by these men, and the only units listed are the units they belonged to. it is a very narrow view.

some of my pictures from that day can be seen here as a slideshow. the seventeen vermont men (and one wife) are posted there in order of their dates of death. the statue of richard kirkland isn't from the cemetery proper, but his story is worth knowing. it's also worth reading william jones's medal of honor citation:

Rank and organization: First Sergeant, Company A, 73d New York Infantry. Place and date: At Spotsylvania, Va., 12 May 1864. Entered service at: New York, N.Y. Birth: Ireland. Date of issue: 1 December 1864. Citation: Capture of flag of 65th Virginia Infantry (C.S.A.). 

Saturday, November 20, 2010

peace be with you

sometime earlier on and closer to the time at which it actually happened, i told you about finding a little buddhist shrine in the woods and thinking that i should get myself down to leverett for evening prayers.

i had called the temple to ask what i should do; when i am on unfamiliar ground i often call ahead to ask what will be appropriate dress and what i can expect. sister claire was very kind to me in the phone message i left so on that day i felt i had to go, i just quit my activities of the day and headed down into massachusetts.

(i hate spelling that blasted thing; i always have to look it up. is it two sets of double s's, or is it two s's and two t's?)

anyway, i got down there in the late afternoon; evening prayers are typically at five-thirty. i leave my car in the parking lot and walk up the hill and all along the way there are increasing amounts of little piles of stones. first they appear here and there, on the ground, and then in groups, in trees, or on any object that will hold them. nearer the top of the hill there is a wooden platform for the piles of rocks which are not, i guess, stupa in the strictest sense, and not mani in the strictest sense.

still, i have heard it said that when you come across stones piled just so and without any other apparent reason, you have come across somebody's prayer and should deal with it accordingly.

it doesn't matter how many times i come to the top of this hill or how many pictures i have seen; when the pagoda comes into view it is breathtaking.

when i get there, there's a man in blue jeans and a hoodie working in the cold afternoon to lay tile in the steps of the yet-unfinished new temple. i ask his pardon to interrupt him to ask when i can expect evening prayers and to whom should i speak about them. he tells me that they will begin to gather around five-thirty and that i should go down and knock on the door of the house.

things are still kind of unclear to me, so i'm still kind of apprehensive, but i go up into the garden to walk and take pictures and just breathe. you can find that slideshow here.

i have never been to any buddhist service, so i don't know what to expect. sometimes i don't know exactly what to expect when i go to christian services that depart from what is familiar to me. and doctrinal concerns? well, what i know about this order is that the whole of their work is to pray for peace. typically buddhists will pray for the enlightenment of mankind, but the work of this order is to pray for the disarmament of mankind; peace between people and among all peoples. regardless of the supervising deity or inspiring scripture, the one thing i know for sure is that there's not enough peace in the world.

so it's a prayer i can get wholeheartedly behind.

at five-thirty i leave the garden and walk kind of nervously to the house; there is no sign of anyone gathering,  and no sign that anyone is there. i'm on the porch, skulking timidly when a car pulls up and i go down to meet it, but not knowing what to do exactly i stand a little at a distance.

at last a woman in what looks like a tan karate uniform gets out, carrying a bag or two of stuff, some maybe groceries. i introduce myself, and say that i had called last week about coming to join evening prayers.

"oh, yes.", she says, recognizing my name. "i'm sister claire."

she brings me to the house and i know without being asked to remove my shoes. i am tempted to tell her that i love her haircut; she's bald and i'm only nearly bald. i kind of feel like a piker.

the room is very much like any well-used communal living room such as your college buddies might have shared junior year, except at one end of the room is a giant stature of some man probably not the Buddha, but he has candles and incense and some other items in front of him anyway, and there are an assortment of banners on the wall around him.

sister claire goes into another room, and i perch on the sofa. she comes back and while talking to me she puts on her saffron robes and she takes me upstairs to the prayer room.

the whole house is kind of half-finished; i know that there was a fire that burned the order out of their original temple some years back and it appears that what's being stored is being stored here.

at the top of the stairs we run into the man from the garden; there is some bowing and shuffling to make room.

coming around the corner i am nearly overwhelmed with the density of the place. we are moving at a normal pace and there's too much to take in: a back wall mostly covered with a giant american flag made of origami cranes. there are banners and decorations, most of which are in shades of saffron or yellow. there are storage boxes around the walls, piles of cushions. chairs completely escape my notice, but i know there are some, since sister claire offers me a choice of a cushion or a chair.

i tell her that i will prefer to do as they do. she hands me a cushion, and places one on the floor for herself. "i'll teach you how we pray", she says, and she hands me a drum and a stick. the drum is a shallow frame drum with a handle, maybe fourteen inches in diameter. it has what i will later recognize as the daimoko written around the edge in japanese.

she begins by teaching me the drum pattern. it's a simple six beat pattern, but for one reason or another i have trouble grasping it entirely. i keep forgetting where i am in the sequence. there's a lot in that room for my mind to attach to and distract me from the pattern.

the front wall is dominated by a very large statue similar to the one in the livingroom. i guess (correctly) that since it does not appear to the the Buddha, it must be the likeness of the founder of this order. there are candles and incense burners and all manner of decorations and offerings all around him: flowers, banners, strings of beads or shells, stones, bags of beans and peas and rice. to one side of the room is a large taiko-style drum with a pile of cushions behind it, and at the center of the room a little desk like a priedieu, only shorter. it has some cushions behind it, and a book of scripture on it.

i am trying to place my attention on the moment, on the drum pattern, but i am in foreign territory with everything here except the drum pattern. i am nervous in unfamiliar surroundings. i am nervous when i do not know what to expect. i wish to be polite and reverent, but i do not know what the customs and courtesies are.

sister claire begins to teach me the chant. she provides me with it written out: na mu myo ho ren ge kyo. it seems simple enough, but i can't recognize the sound of it when i hear it. to complicate things, sister claire tell me not to worry about the pitch or the rhythm of the chant; they make it up as they go along.

after a while she tells me that she will begin the prayer. she goes to the front wall with its statue of the founder and lights the candles and some incense and bows deeply, saying a few words in japanese. then she sits on the cushions behind the taiko drum and begins to play the pattern. she chants, and i try to follow along.

i'm having trouble quieting my mind, but i expect it's all part of the process.  what happens will happen. after a while, other people come in, but not all at once. each of them sets down a cushion on the floor, selects a drum and stick, and goes to light incense or a candle, bowing deeply and saying a few words. each person joins the drum pattern in unison, but chants on his or her own. it is sort of a call-and response, but sort of not. some of the chants sound to me like the printed text, and it's easier to follow. some chant on just one note; some to a tune of sorts. chords form and unform; my mind stills and startles.

if i concentrate on praying for peace or the idea of peace, it is difficult to take everything in. when i let everything fall out of my mind, i fall into the prayer naturally, as if i am an organic part of it.

...and then my mind comes up behind and says: pretty good. and i'm flailing again.

i lose track of time and do not know how long we chant, or how long an interval there is between the entrances of the various people; i only know that when the whole thing is over two and a half hours have elapsed.

each person who comes in takes a seat on a cushion around the outside of the room. each of them, except one, is bald and dressed in a saffron robe. the one woman in street clothes and with hair sits next to me and helps me find my way through parts of the service.

the brothers and sisters take turns at the taiko drum, keeping its pattern seamless and flowing, sliding in and out of that seat with precision. after a while a small man comes in, makes his greeting at the front of the room and takes his seat at the little desk.

there is a lot more uninterrupted chanting. my knees hurt, even when i shift weight. and then, suddenly and by some signal i can't perceive, the chanting stops. everyone reaches for a prayer book. they are written in what seems to me to be japanese, transliterated into english characters. we read from left to right, but turn the pages from right to left.

then there's more chanting. and then, again on some signal i cannot perceive or by a habit i do not know, suddenly we are standing, bowing, kneeling, bowing, standing, bowing, kneeling, bowing. i remember thinking: wow. these people are very limber. in between positional changes there is a recitation of something else. i don't understand it, but i think i recognize the words for "thank you".

then there's more seated chanting.

and then, suddenly, we stop chanting. the little man at the center desk turns to face me. sister claire makes the introduction: "sensei, this is (my proper name). this is her first time joining us. she came because she heard this is where we pray for peace."

he bows to me, palms touching. i return the bow. he makes a little chitchat with me about where i have come from and how far away it is, and then as suddenly as he turned toward me, he turns away.

we chant some more, and after a while, we stop. people get up to put away their drums and cushions. sister claire steps beside me to say that before we leave the prayer room, we greet the buddha. at the front of the room on the left wall there is a small shrine to the buddha, and we stop there to bow and the others recite a few words i do not understand. we chant the daimoko again a small number of times.

and then sister claire tells me that they do one last thing before they finish evening prayers: they go downstairs to greet the founder. so we all go down to the livingroom. one of the sisters is talking about the cat, or at least cat litter. there's some small talk and then all of a sudden a little more chanting and bowing and recitations.

and then suddenly we're done.

they make some chitchat with me and then sister claire asks if she can give me a lift down to the parking lot so i don't have to make my way in the dark. "come anytime", she says. "come often".

it's a long way for me to go to drop in on evening prayers, but when i keep reading even the small amount of news stories that i read these days, it makes me happy to think that somewhere there is a group of people praying for nothing more or less than peace.

Monday, November 15, 2010

perception of time

douglas adams suggested in at least one of his novels that not all beings experience time as unidirectional and linear. i do, and so do you.

i was going to try to tell you part of my story going in reverse starting with the confederate cemetery and ending with the national cemetery at fredericksburg, but aside from an interesting literary conceit and maybe some poetic turns and maybe a feeling of confusion that might serve to evoke the chaos of that virginia campaign, i realize that i can't quite tell the story that way and still leave in the details or the ideas that make me want to tell you the story in the first place.

and i for sure couldn't place everything in sequence going back to the beginning of ocotber or even last may, so i have decided to just tell you the story in a series of vignettes. can i use that word? vignette? is it too pretentious?

anyway, they're all linked in my mind and it's probably no good to tell you that i'm not really a linear thinker, but more of an associative thinker, so you get what you get. i save linear storytelling, more or less, for my geocaching logs and even then not so much.

i have now frittered away the time i intended to use making a real bog entry telling you why i have nothing to say yet about some stuff i was going to tell you about.

maybe tomorrow, maybe some other day. tomorrow i might fritter away this time by making ice cream, or i might decide to pack up my things and go camping for a couple of weeks.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

threadbare excuses

you'd think that with all the time i'm spending sitting here at my desk that i might take a few minutes to update my blog. i keep thinking that i'll have something cool to show you, but not so much.

i've been workign on learning google sketchup (easy enough for you to find so do your own search) and while it is super cool, i don't have anything i can post to show you.

on other fronts, Christmas is coming.

yes, i KNOW it isn't even thanksgiving yet, but if you're designing items for purchase or even use at Christmas, you have to get a jump on it. in the music publishing business, that means you start getting ready for Christmas in may.

i'm not working on such a large scale, but i know it's that season when people are buying cards and ornaments and such and i didn't figure to be moving a lot of merchandise through my zazzle store, but they're my designs and i'm fond of them and people keep telling me that they'd buy cards or mugs or other stuff with my designs, and it don't cost me nothin' but time to put them out there for sale. so why not?

yesterday some unknown person bought twenty copies of this card, so go figure. the mystery is this, though: i have exactly ONE friend who knows of the existence of my zazzle store. with very few exceptions, people who read my blog are people who do not know me personally. it's not that my friends aren't interested in what i'm up to; it's just that they for the most part figure that they'll hear what i have to say anyway, and in great detail, and if they want to see the pictures, they go here.

so who's the purchaser? if you're reading this, you've already seen all of the advertising i'm doing, so "random stranger" is a good guess, but weird, you know?


in other news, i'm editing several months' worth of photos (none to show you yet) and some video (none to show you yet) and posting new items to my zazzle store every day (sidebar link, if you're interested), and learning to make models in sketchup (nothing to show you yet). i have not even touched my huge backlog of geocache logs (caught up to noon on may 6), but i have made an awesome rice pudding layered with chocolate panna cotta (nothing to show you yet) and i have in my spare time been following the cooks source conflagration. and reading the blogs i read. a lot of them.

in short, a lot of doing, but not much show and tell.

later on maybe get around to it.

Monday, November 08, 2010

three graves

i go a lot of places. not fancy places, like nepal, or cozumel, which i suppose aren't fancy if you live there, but regular places. i go to look and see what's there and maybe take some pictures and maybe tell you what i saw.

i was a lot of places in october, but right now i want to tell you about three graves in three cemeteries in southern vermont.

guilford, VT
i will let his headstone speak for him:

Sacred to the Memory of the Late
Born in Rehoboth, Mass A.D. 1726
A Magistrate in Rhode Island inA.D. 1764
A public teacher of righteousness,
An able advocate to his last for Democracy,
And the equal rights of man.
Removed to this town A. D. 1770
Was a field officer in the Revolutionary War,
A founder of the first constitution and government of Vermont,
A counsellor of Censors in A.D. 1783
A member of the Counsil and Lieut Gov.r of the state in A.D. 1779
A firm professor of Christianity in the Baptist church 50 years. Left this world
and 146 persons of lineal posterity March 29, 1804, aged 78 y 10m 12d;
with a strong mind and full faith of a more glorious state hereafter. Stature
about 6 feet, weight 200. 

Death had no terror!

Lewis H. Lamb

wilmington, VT
the front of his headstone reads:

Sergt. Co. D 8t Vt. In.
wounded at the battle of 
Cedar Creek Oct. 19, 1864
died at Newtown, Va.
Oct 23, 1864
(here the crack across the stone obscures what appears to be his age at death.)

the back of his stone is inscribed:

In memory of a dutiful son;
an affectionate brother;
a defender of the Union.

his service record, according to Vermont in the Civil War, reads:

Lamb, Lewis H., 18, Wilmington, VT; enl 12/16/61, m/i 2/18/62, CPL, Co. I, 8th VVI, reen 1/5/64, pr SGT, mwia, Cedar Creek, 10/19/64, d/wds 10/23/64

he was a volunteer, enlisted early.  the 8th VT Volunteers were posted in Louisiana for much of the war. in january after re-enlisting, he and the other re-enlisted veterans returned to vermont on thirty day furlough. Lewis Lamb was wounded in the battle of cedar creek and died of those wounds four days later.

Nathan Mann

searsburg, VT
his headstone is the simple unadorned civil war veteran's stone; it tells nothing except his name and unit. knowing his unit alone tells a horrific tale: first manassas, antietam, fredericksburg, marye's heights, gettysburg, wilderness, spotsylvania, cold harbor.

his service record reads (again, vermont in the civil war): Mann, Nathan, cred. Searsburg, VT, age 43, enl 12/19/63, m/i 1/7/64, Pvt, Co. A, 4th VVI, wdd, 6/9/64, pow, Weldon Railroad, 6/23/64, Andersonville, prld 12/11/64, d/svc 12/31/64

oh, God of mercy.  wounded at cold harbor, he's taken prisoner at petersburgh and kept at andersonville nearly six months.

his obituary (Hoosac Valley News and Transcript, Feb. 2, 1865 via Vermont in the Civil War) reads:

Nathan Mann of Searsburg, Co. A, 4th Vt. Vol., has just deceased. He was taken prisoner at Petersburg and was for a long time in the Andersonville Hell. He was finally paroled and died in three days after his arrival home.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

all saints/susan youens

today is all saints sunday (first sunday after all saints' day) in our church and by happy coincidence it is also international susan youens day. while many people celebrate all saints' say and all saints sunday, international susan youens day is largely only celebrated by me, to the bemusement of susan youens.

so. next year you'll be forewarned, and will have put up your decorations in time to raise a mug of very good coffee, light and sweet, in her honor.

happy international susan youens day, everybody!

Friday, November 05, 2010

commuter fares to hell

i was going to call it "hell and back", because i have been to hell recently but i can't quite find my way back.

it's like i have a commuter pass, only there's a transit strike while i'm still out there and nobody i know has a car that isn't in the shop.

there's no undoing the Very Bad Thing; you cannot un-know what you know, at least not selectively and for most of the things in my life i don't wish i had never done them even if they hurt, because they make me who i am, and i know what brain damage does to your memory and what memory loss does in your life and i wish something big would come and rub this whole last week right out of my head.

that moment in which i got run over by a truck on route two, that hurt. nearly freezing to death on the mountain, that hurt a lot. the subsuming pain when they turn the med lock and the chemical flows into your veins and you know it's coming and you promised yourself that THIS time you were just going to take it silently and bravely is bad enough, but what hurts about it is knowing that you're only going to do it again in a day or two. that mind-bogglingly bad moment in which i got the news my pastor was leaving our church AND my supervisor came to get my keys when my twenty-year career came to an end, THAT was pain.

THIS, this Very Bad Thing goes so far beyond my scope of what i know how to deal with that i don't even know how to lift my head.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

frijoles and hushpuppies

so. after the Very Bad Thing happened, i was kind of stuck here on the ground. no, you will not find a link to it. no, i will not talk to you about it.


but i'm kind of stuck here, right? because every time i start to think i start to cry and maybe the best thing for it is a little vacation in virginia, which is where i am.

aside from the Very Bad Thing, though, i have a lot to say about these blank days for which there are no blog entries yet, but it's all kind of dense and involves the processing of some photos.

so expect me to go on about it later.

meantime, when it gets to be suppertime now, i'm actually going to restaurants in my bid to pamper myself enough to be fit to drive home and once there, function somewhat.

i do not count horrid mass produced meals at shiny national chains pretending to be hometown hangouts to be real food, and one of the things i do in a burg when i get to it is ask some of the locals where locals eat.

last night the very nice young lady at the rite aid recommended cracker barrel, which alerted me instantly that while she was very kind in her dealings with me (VERY kind), she was not he right person to ask about eating out.

so i drove around some until i found a place out behind some fancier places and there were a buncha cars parked there and it didn't seem to be trying to be cute or trendy in any way, so i went in.

it was el charro in fredericksburg.

they seat me right away and they are friendly and kind (which i need) and it takes me a while to order but the waiter doesn't seem to mind and then what comes is very good. and pretty cheap, too. dinner is served with salsa and chips, but they're fresh chips. and i'm full when i finish eating, but i ask the waiter if the flan is any good and he says that if i like flan i should not miss this one.

and he's right; it is heavenly.

fastforward to today.

i get done today's touring and i'm going crazy, looking for real food to eat, because from where i am to the interstate there is a vast wasteland of national chains and mall food and box stores on every twisty street and i am just about to give up when i see this kinda beat-up lookin' place that looks like it's been sitting on that corner since sometime just after world war II finished up, and i've been thinking i might be toasty for some BBQ anyway, so i hang a u turn and negotiate some really bizarre street configurations to get to the dumpy looking brick building, but once i make up my mind to go there, it seems the whole block smells like BBQ.


and i take a seat in the corner and everyone there can tell i'm from away, and i start gettign advice on what to have, and i ask the waiter "if i'm only ever going to eat here once, what should i order?" and he tells me to get the BBQ (which, for all my friends back home, is a sandwich and not a genre) and maybe two sides, so that's what i order. onion rings (because the lady at the next table says they're really good) and hushpuppies (because i cain't get hushpuppies at home).

and it is AWESOME.

awesome, do you hear me?


just go there.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

in the air, on the ground

so. cr's plane got off the ground and it was pretty exciting, sitting near my campsite a hundred miles away listening in to the tower finally clear her flight a mere ten hours and 21 minutes after it was scheduled to take off.

united may break guitarvs, but if cr's fight (which by the time it went out only had five people on it) united arlines will me be breaking ther piggy bank soon, and i say good riddance to them. united breaks guitars. united breaks whatever plans you have for your day.

anyway, i'm down here on the ground with mr. cr and we're going to tour the manassas battlefields and stuff today. then we'll drive down to fredericksburg tonight. then i don't know what will happen.

yesterday on the road i was in an amazing would-have-been, and if not for some very fancy driving on account of a trucker and some moderately fancy driving on my part, that trucker would have plowed into the recently disabled vehicle facing wrong way to and parked halfway across the left lane. the trucker was in th left lane and i was in the left lane, and of course there were tractor trailers to our right and jersey barriers to our left, and let's just say nobody was hurt but there was a lot of noice and smoke and a pumping of adrenaline and then a just getting on with it.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

united airlines

what hatwipes.

cr has been sitting for the last ten hours at burlington international airport for a united airlines flight that keeps getting incrementally delayed and they keep rebooking her connecting flight and now she's only waiting to see if they're going to get out of btv at all but if the idiots at united had a pair among them, they'd just tell everyone to go home and they'd book them on real flights that are going to get off the gound.

that plane is just sitting on the tarmac and the hatwipes at united airlines are blaming it on the MANUFACTURER OF A PART!

here's a clue, united airlines: maintain your freakin' planes and staff your freakin' shops, you money-sucking soul-stealing fart-collecting incompetents!

you and the rest of the airline industry will complain that it's HARD for you to make a penny but here's how it is, pinheads at united airlines at birlington international airport: it's hard for everybody, and that includes the people actually PAYING for the services you're providing at such alarmingly low competency levels.

i bet the STOCKHOLDERS still get THEIR money.

none of you hatwipes should be getting money if you're not providing competent service and that goes for you needleheads at the TSA, too.

united airlines. pfft.

going/not going

it's complicated.

i was going then i wasn't, then i was, then i wasn't, then i was, but i was going later, and now i'm going NOW. as in as soon as i finish writing this.

here's a nice picture of my awesome book of battlefield maps.

what i have learned is that a lot of the boys who left my town to fight in the civil war never came home. many of them were dumped in mass graves at chancellorsville and wilderness. those lost solldiers have been reinterred at the fredericksburg national cemetery, so i'm bringing a small bag of stones from here to bring to them there.

little bit of home.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

more shoes!

if you've been following my story for a while, you know that i like shoes.

so imagine my delight when an unexpected visit from the fedex guy yielded a big brown box with...


they are not just any shoe; they are this year's  salomon xt wings2, and it's kind of like a surprise package, because while i knew i had a coupon for a FREE pair of slaomon running shoes, i had no idea what would actually get shipped.

mmmm. shoe happiness.

Monday, October 25, 2010

some things take care of themselves.

i'm sick. i feel too crummy to write a decent blog post, so i'm just going to post in its entirety and completely unedited an email i sent at about 4:45 this morning.

want to know the awesome news? since the advent of email in my life, i no longer call people on the phone and ramble incoherently in the early morning hours.


pching sliced cheese into a rolled paper bag. eat this bra for $100000 dollars. i wasnt you to have this life.the choir is always like that and the army just wandered around for days because stonewall jackson was deadthree emails i won't download nowi see you are sleeping goodninght

you KNOW you wish i sent emails like this to you.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


i blew off church this morning to pack data for my trip.  i know, it sounds weak, but all this data packing has taken me about 18 hours over two days and i still have some more to do. because i can't just take a roadtrip and do civil war battlefields, i have to look up all the battles ahead of time and bookmark what's pertinent and map all the relevant points and also download the geocaches on the way and print up paper maps i'll want while there and make sure eeything is moved over to my traveling machine and BACKED UP and... get the idea.

anyway, i'm taking a little break to tell you that i was feeling kind of sad and dispirited last tuesday and i went to look for a couple of geocaches including one i couldn't find last time i looked for it.

if you're just coming in i told a lot of this story last wednesday and instead of retelling it, i'll just link you to the pictures that i couldn't show you then.


Saturday, October 23, 2010


i'm too busy today making maps for my upcoming tour of civil war battlefields and reading up on the battles that i don't have time to organize my photos for you and make a proper entry about things that are actually going on, so in an ironic twist, i'm giving you a link to a fun little timewaster that you can play with.

it has ten levels and if you're smart you can complete them in much less time than i did.

it's still fun.

ok, i have work to do, so i won't be joining you.

flabby physics!

Friday, October 22, 2010

...and here to accept the award...

argh. blog awards. beautiful blogger. happy thoughts. love it this week. someone gives you one of these things, and makes it sound like you're getting a prize.

what you're really getting is an attention-mooching chain-letter link-to-me pyramid scheme.

back in the old days when your homepage (yes, i'm talking angelfire and geocities) had no chance of being found if you didn't have links from other pages, there were webrings. you had to do what you had to do, because there weren't yet any search engines and if you didn't get connected to other sites you languished in the darkness.

and then some people got this brilliant idea: i will create an award and give it to sites that meet my criteria and maybe they will link to me!

i know this happened, because i had that idea, along with a bazillion other people. i had a few awards i gave out, including the "jelly jar", which i awarded to sites that i liked that had bizarre content. there was a site where you could click a button and remotely control a servo motor that waved a hand at a guy's cats, and he had one of the first webcams trained on the place where the cats napped. the site was called "wave at paul's cats", and that's all it did. there was another that listed the content's of tarin's fridge. that was it; no commentary, just the inventory, and some pictures.

it was a long time ago.

i just wrote to them and told them i'd awarded them the jelly jar and sent them the graphic that they could use or not. i told them why i had awarded them this prestigious prize and left it at that.

these days someone gives you one of these horrid little awards and they come with rules.  rules!  you must post this graphic on your site. you must thank me for giving it to you. you must link to my site. you must write back to me with seven chumps people you think should be nominated for this award. now you should list seven interesting things about yourself. and don't forget to link to me!


there are only two kinds of blogs if you ask me (and of course you did): blogs that are about content, and blogs that are about collecting readership. the first kind might collect readership or it might not, but it will at least stay true to its purpose and will be pleasing to its author.

the second kind will only continue to collect readership as long as the owner frantically connects to other bloggers who need to trade links as much as she does. the problem here is that eventually she'll run out of energy and resources; linked sites will drop off, or there will be a glut of sites selling cute napkin rings in etsy shops, and the whole system will collapse under the sheer weight of too many blogs that are nearly all cute replicas of each other competing for the same few tired eyeballs.

i don't even think when they give out these awards these days they even read the site they're giving the "award" to. or maybe they don't care. sometimes you see "happy thoughts" awards given to blogs that are definitely NOT happy, or "beautiful design" awards given to blogs that can only be described as failed design. the important thing, the really important thing, is the link to meeeeeeee!

here's a little award you can give yourself. go ahead, copy and paste this graphic wherever you want.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

not in kansas anymore

i'm home. i spent a lot of the afternoon loading the pictures onto my machine and weeding out the really bad ones.

here are some pictures from sunday. one is of my map on the way to church, and the other is taken at the location ON the map.

i am not in kansas anymore.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

not the day i expected to have

there STILL aren't picture uploads, so i can't show you where i was at time of noon prayer, and  can't show you the old schoolhouse and i can't show you the cemetery on the hill.

and i don't think i want to tell you about them without a picture, and with each passing minute the temperature is dropping and i don't smell anywhere near clean enough to skimp on the washing-up tonight, even though i might go home tomorrow.


you want to know how i'll decide? if it's rainy tomorrow  i'm going home. i almost went home today but then i wanted to do a few things and ended up doing none of them but instead did some other things that were maybe better, so it wasn't the day i expected to have, but it was the day i had and now even though it's not yet eight o'clock the sun has been down over an hour and i'm getting kind of sleepy.

the weather guy cannot say for sure if there will be rain tomorrow, or if there is rain, when it will arrive or where it will fall. usually my weather guy has a pretty good degree of accuracy, but for tomorrow's forecast he's just thrown up his hands and the best he can do is explain all the variables that may or may not come into play.

it's like that sometimes.


i was going to post some pretty pictures for you, but apparently there aren't any image upoads today and i'm balancing a laptop on my stickshift (no, that's not a sexual reference) and don't really have the right environment for posting to a secondary site and then linking them, so you can just wait until i get home.

but yesterday i was feeling kind of miserable but i was looking for some caches ayway, kind of mulling over in my head what to do next, and feeling very unsatisfied.

and then all of a sudden i was sitting at a buddhist shrine out in the woods (no joke)  and there was this rock there on which the word "patience" had been carved and painted and maybe you would have just said to yourself  "wow, that's cool", but what i thought was i'd better get myself down to the peace pagoda in leverett for evening prayers.

meantime while i was still in the woods, i came across a labyrith made of stones laid out on the forest floor (i'm not kidding about this, and later i'll have pictures to show you) so i dropped all my gear and walked the labyrinth in prayer.

so a few hours later i'm back in massachusetts, walking up the hill to the peace pagoda and i see a man working on the new temple and ask him about evening prayers and he tells me where i can go and at about what time they will gather and then i hang out for a while in the gardens and eventually make my way down to the house where i meet sister claire and she takes me inside and teaches me a few of the basics.

it is a very different sort of evening prayer than anything i am accustomed to, but i'm expecting that. later on i'll tell you more about the prayers and about the pagoda and about this particular order and the work they do, but for now i will tell you that their prayers are not at all incompatible with those of my christian faith; when i have pictures to show you or more time to sit i'll tell you more.

but i will tell you that this morning i woke to a bright blue morning at twenty-seven degrees feeling fine and well and happy and now i'm going out to play.

be well, be blessed.

and go in peace.


Related Posts with Thumbnails