Who are you? - Jewish, American, veteran, Portlander by choice, age 53. Social liberal / libertarian, fiscal conservative / libertarian, pro-Zionist, anti-jihad, queer-friendly. Registered Republican. Co-parent to two wonderful kids, TNG and Bunny.
For those of you who have not run screaming from the room shrieking "Eeeeeek! A Republican!" - thank you for not doing that.
Portland, Oregon is near the Pacific coast and it's generally a mild climate. Two inches of snow is a lot for us. Last week we got eight. The city had to borrow snowplows and sand trucks from Seattle.
And the temperature has stayed below freezing since then. Now the snow is supposed to start melting today and tomorrow ... just in time for a monster storm that's supposed to dump tons of rain on us Tuesday and Wednesday.
The chaos from the move and the holidays is finally over and done with, and I'm settling back into a regular work schedule again. I will probably need to get a second job nights or weekends for a little while but overall the financial outlook is good.
(I'm thinking about delivery driving of some sort - anything from pizza to merchandise. I have a clean driving record and a working car with GPS. Scheduling around Shabbat may be an issue but it would depend on the gig. Other possible hurdle is that a lot of these kinds of jobs require a mobile app, and currently I'm on BBOS. But I don't think these things are insurmountable.)
I'll have been at my current daytime gig for six months as of mid-February. At the current rate there's probably another 3 or 4 months' worth of work left. At the 6-month mark, though, I'll have met my original obligation and it'll be an appropriate time to talk to the agency and find out if they can get me something a little better paying, else start looking around for something myself.
'Searoad', one of LeGuin's few published works of realistic fiction, is a collection of twelve tales written circa 1990 and set in the fictional town of Klatsand on the Oregon coast. All are in short-story format except for the first (the single-page proem 'Foam Women, Rain Women') and the last (the novella 'Hernes'). All of the stories are set in the present-day era, except for 'Hernes', which chronicles the lives four generations of Oregon women and is set partly in historical time.
There are occasional nods to science fiction and fantasy: there is Rosemarie Tucket, who has a passion for SF books and a fantasy friendship with an alien 'energy man'; Frances, the narrator of 'True Love' who offers insights into Star Trek and the identity of Captain Kirk's true love; there's the apparition of Ailie's mother, and there's Johanna, who begins to see mysterious messages in the foam; and there's the visionary Lily Frances Herne, who sees angels.
But mostly they are slices of daily life in a small town. Some of the moments that stayed with me: Rosemarie's fantasy life; the 'True Love' narrator's passion for books (in her blessedly pre-internet world); Bill Weisler's existential horror upon learning that flawed works can be sold for more than perfect ones; Deb Shoto's struggle with the demon inside of her; Warren's unsuccessful attempts to avoid, and his final reconciliation with, the party of pensioners in the small town (and, implicitly, his acceptance of his own mortality); the bereaved lesbian Shirley in 'Quoits', the de facto stepmother of Barbara's children; the gradual fleshing out of Ava's character through the eyes of other characters; Jane's anguish at having "failed" to "protect" her daughter Lily (concretized in the dream-image of a watch, punning on the "watch" that she believes she failed to keep, and echoed in Fanny's earlier grieving over the loss of Johnny, p. 192); the recurring images of the Oregon coast and of the foam on the seashore; paradoxes about language and existence (how can a person "be dead" if they no longer exist? and the multiple meanings and connotations of the word "body"); and the image of the 'rain women' at the beginning. I wonder who the rain women are.
Death haunts many of the stories. There are recurring references to the body, living and dead:
- 'You couldn't *be* dead. You couldn't be anything but alive. If you weren't alive, you weren't ... you had been.' (p. 33)
- '"My father hated for the male nurses to touch her," Sue said.' (p. 39)
- 'But when the word for what you made love to was the same as for a corpse it sounded like it didn't matter whether the body was alive or dead.' (p. 58)
- 'She did not like her saying "I hated for men to touch Mother's body - it sounded glib, theatrical.' (p. 121)
There are also recurring references to the sound of the sea, and its effect on the various characters.
LeGuin has lived in Portland since 1959 and knows the region well. 'Searoad' made me want to visit the coast. It also made me think about the public and private lives of the people around me, and about how we relate to our ultimate journey out of this world.
1. There's a tallish, professional-looking man in his 50s who lives on the 4th floor and sometimes we pass in the alley (he goes out for a smoke) or in the elevator. I ran into him twice this morning, once on the way back from the laundry room and again a short while later as I went to pick up a few snacks from the grocery store downstairs. I believe I overheard the grocer address him as Jim as he walked in while I was leaving.
Yesterday evening my intercom phone beeped from the lobby - first time I've had a ring since I moved in - and I picked it up, curious to see who would be petitioning me for admittance to the building. A misdirected pizza maybe? (Or, considering the season, Chinese food?) The voice on the other end was a cheerful female voice who said she wanted to visit someone on the third floor - I think she gave the apartment number as 312 - and wanted someone to let her in; apparently 312 wasn't answering. This all sounded fine, but I thought it best to go down and get a visual on the person, rather than letting them in by the buzzer, sight unseen.
She was an attractive young blonde woman, probably no more than 30. By the time I greeted her at the door she had discovered her mistake: the unit she wanted was on the fourth floor, not the third. So I rode up with her and made chit-chat with her as far as my stop and wished her a good evening, and maybe a pleasant holiday, I don't recall.
I saw her again this morning as we passed each other in front of the building; I was coming out of the grocery that Jim had just entered. Her face was contorted and wet with tears. "Hey," I said with cautious sympathy, "how you doing?"
"I've had better days," she said between muffled sobs.
What can you do? There wasn't much I felt I could do (I didn't want to pry), so I just said, "I'm sorry. I hope the new year is better for you."
"Thank you," she said, and went on her way.
So, what happened? Had she had an overnight encounter with Jim that ended in tears? Or was her story something else, and nothing to do with Jim? If I were the kind of writer who does these things, I suppose I would try to imagine a whole story behind her and Jim. But I'm not, so I won't try.
2. The bar at the Admiral is not straight but a double convex arc, like a very shallow, rounded W from the patrons' side. This means that you can see your barmates a little bit, without staring them in the face awkwardly.
I sat at the end closer to the door. Adjacent to me there was a man around my age with wavy, shoulder-length hair and a slight Irish accent. He made reference to his Irish heritage at one point, although at another moment he said something about his English side being the reason he's not typically very demonstrative. The woman with him - long brown hair, average looks, a little heavy but not fat, from what I could see - was his companion but not a date from what I could gather. He was very grateful to her for some reason - he told the bartender that she had helped him with "weeks of old mail, bills, and old CDs". I wondered why he would need help - was it an estate matter? But he mentioned just having spoken to his Mum on the phone. He turned to face his lady friend when speaking to her, and the bartender Angela when addressing her. Once he playfully put up his dukes and offered to fight his lady friend - "Hey, I've seen Charlie Bronson movies!" She protested that she was wearing glasses. "Oh you are? Well I never hit a person with glasses."
It wasn't until later - when he left the bar for some reason, and returned after a few minutes - that I understood. He came in tapping his way with a red-tipped white cane, and his friend called his name (I've forgotten it) to help him find her.
So, the friendly, easygoing Irishman had just lost his sight. From overhearing bits of his conversation, I heard him mention a couple of women he knew who had been blinded in shotgun accidents; presumably they had met through some rehabilitation group. One of the women, he said, had been so badly disfigured that she had to wear a mask when going out in public - "I don't know what she looks like, of course - I met her after."
Feeling obligated to post something on the latest spasm at LJ. (Which inter alia clogged my email inbox with over 200 birthday notifications for a single user.)
I share most people's ambivalence about DreamWidth vs. LiveJournal. I prefer LJ overall and retain some degree of brand loyalty to it, I suppose, but I'm not going to be dogmatic about it. For the time being I'll continue posting at DW with an automatic cross-post to LJ - unless it's a photo, in which case I'll probably be lazy and just post straight to LJ and hope for the best.
I'm not persnickety about comments. Feel free to comment at LJ, DW, both, or neither as you like.
My first plan for the new civil year is to get some written correspondence going. I've got a whole stack of postacards with stamps and return address stickers already on 'em, sitting on my writing desk ready to go.
Inbox me if you'd like to exchange postal addresses.
Tikvah Fund introduces Israeli Haredim to the Enlightenment. http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2016/12/29/teaching_the_tradition_of_freedom_to_israels_ultra-orthodox_132669.html 'The students at last week’s Tikvah seminar—the youngest in their mid-twenties, the oldest in their mid-fifties—are part of this revolution. While all self-identified as ultra-Orthodox, their appearance and dress ranged from Hasidic-style long curling side locks, full beards, and knee-length black coats in the style of 18th century Polish nobility to neatly cropped hair and casual contemporary fashions. Each wore a black kippah (head covering) although one student, in the course of group introductions, announced mischievously that underneath his was a (metaphorical) colorful knitted kippah, which denotes in Israel a welcoming attitude toward modernity. ... We explored the foundations of political freedom in John Locke’s “Second Treatise”; the constitutionalization of freedom in “The Federalist Papers”; the tensions that arise between democracy and freedom in Alexis de Tocqueville’s “Democracy in America”; and liberty of thought and discussion in Mill’s “On Liberty.”
The students were particularly intrigued by the limits on the exercise of individual rights that Locke grounded in God’s sovereignty, the priority that the U.S. Constitution gives to the protection of religious freedom, and Tocqueville’s insistence that religion makes a surpassing contribution to political stability in America by remaining separate from politics.'
You say "autistic"? IDF says "detail-oriented". Welcome to Unit 9900. http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2016/01/israeli-army-autism/422850/ 'For eight hours a day, E., 21, sits in front of multiple computer screens, scanning high-resolution satellite images for suspicious objects or movements. As a decoder of Israel’s complex and often heavily civilian battlegrounds, he’s been critical in preventing the loss of life of soldiers on the ground in several different situations, his officers say.
For many people, combing through each millimeter of the same location from various angles would be tedious work—but E., who is on the autism spectrum, describes the job as relaxing, “like a hobby.”
E. (he requested his full name be withheld to comply with army protocol) is a corporal in the Israel Defense Force’s “Visual Intelligence Division,” otherwise known as Unit 9900, which counts dozens of Israelis on the autism spectrum among its members. ...'
How do you say "Get away from her, you b****!" in Korean?
'Naftali Bennett responded Wednesday to Secretary of State Kerry's call for a "viable two state solution." Bennett said that "Kerry quoted me three times anonymously in his speech in order to demonstrate that we oppose a Palestinian state."
"So let me state it explicitly:"
"Yes. If it depends on me, we will not establish another terror state in the heart of our country. The citizens of Israel have paid with thousands of victims, tens of thousands of rockets and innumerable condemnations for the utopian idea of a Palestinian state. It's time for a new policy and we will lead the way."'
I promised myself I'd spend last weekend doing exactly nothing except reading a book, and I did exactly that. And I read the book I'd been promising myself I'd read for about 25 years.
The book was 'Searoad' by Ursula K. Leguin. It's published as a novel but is a collection of short stories - vignettes, really - plus one novella. The material was originally written circa 1990 - '91 and the book is copyrighted 1991.
I was, of course, otherwise occupied during that time period. I must have run across the book when I returned from the Gulf. There was a small bookstore in San Clemente that I used to frequent before and after the war, but the yellowed bookmark inside the paperback bears the name of Foley Books in San Francisco. So the circumstantial evidence suggests that I bought it there, perhaps on one of my occasional visits to 'The City', or after my marriage (in 1992) to Ms. X.
The book is one of UKL's few published volumes of realistic fiction. There are occasional nods to science fiction and fantasy: there is Rosemarie Tucket, who has a passion for SF books and a fantasy friendship with an alien 'energy man'; Frances, the narrator of 'True Love' who offers insights into Star Trek and the identity of Captain Kirk's true love; there's the apparition of Ailie's mother, and there's Johanna, who begins to see mysterious messages in the foam; and there's the visionary Lily Frances Herne, who sees angels.
But mostly it is a collection of tales set in a small town on the Oregon Coast in the late 20th century (with the excpetion of the novella, 'Hernes', a family saga of four generations of women). It is not a page-turner but it is beautifully written.
There seems to be a nod to Virginia Woolf implied in the voice of Virginia Herne; on p. 190 she says, cryptically, "That's what Virginia said!" in reference to her need for a workspace (i.e., a "room of her own"); on p. 220, there's an equally cryptic aside, "We have the same name." You have to go to p. 223 in the appendix of character biographies to learn that the fictional VH published, in 1969, a work titled 'Woolf's Voices'. (The casual bookstore browser picking up the paperback could easily mistake the final entries on p. 224 for a list of the real-life author's own published works.)
I read the book cover to coverover the weekend. Some of the moments that stayed with me: Rosemarie's fantasy life; the 'True Love' narrator's passion for books (in her blessedly pre-internet world); Bill Weisler's existential horror upon learning that flawed works can be sold for more than perfect ones; Deb Shoto's struggle with the demon inside of her; Warren's unsuccessful attempts to avoid, and his final reconciliation with, the party of pensioners in the small town (and, implicitly, his acceptance of his own mortality); the gradual fleshing out of Ava's character through the eyes of other characters; Jane's anguish at having "failed" to "protect" her daughter Lily (concretized in the dream-image of a watch, punning on the "watch" that she believes she failed to keep, and echoed in Fanny's earlier grieving over the loss of Johnny, p. 192); the recurring images of the Oregon coast and of the foam on the seashore; paradoxes about language and existence (how can a person "be dead" if they no longer exist? and the multiple meanings and connotations of the word "body"); and the image of the 'rain women' at the beginning. I wonder who the rain women are.
I think I met Ursula Leguin once. It would have been late 2000 or early 2001, probably, at a Reclaiming event - some equinox or solstice or Samhain thing or whatever. Maybe it was Samhain (I think it's properly pronounced "sah-win" but I always mentally say it "Sam Hayne"), the cross-quarter corresponding to Halloween. Maybe people were in costume, I can't remember. I just remember this cheerful, short lady with grey hair, a dead ringer for the cover photographs of UKL, and I introduced myself to her and she gave her name as Ursula. Well, I don't know for a fact that it was her, but Ursula isn't all that common a name, and I knew UKL lived in Portland and I had surmised (from clues in books like 'Always Coming Home') that she had ties to the pagan community; so I suspected it might actually be her. But it just didn't seem the time or place to say "Geeeee whiz, are you Ursula K. LeGuin, the Famous Author?!?" So I guess I'll never know for sure.
LeGuin was born in late October, 1929, making her the same age, to within a couple of weeks, as my mother. And so help me, in the photo at the back of 'Searoad' she looks for all the world like Stella. I think of what they might have had in common - creative intellectual women, growing up in a sexist era - and I try to imagine the conversations they would have had if they'd met in person. I remember Mom being a LeGuin fan and introducing me to the Earthsea books and, I think, 'Rocannon's World' and 'The Left Hand of Darkness'. So I guess in a sense I have always subconsciously thought of Ursula as Stella's doppelganger.
I'm reading through 'Searoad' a second time now. I'm realizing how much of the book has to do with death. Perhaps this is what the back-cover blurb means when it says "our world ends here, and another begins".