Wednesday, January 31, 2007

719 days, 10 hours, 15 minutes, 52 seconds

She writes in the cab, headed downtown, the cabbie complaining about patches of ice, and how he can't brake. She writes mostly when they're stopped for lights, so as not to get nauseous. Two things she's always (and often vociferously) hated – political poetry and the day-to-day chatter called Art by the New York School poets. This blog is both.

719 days, 10 hours, 36 minutes, 38 seconds

Bush is in town. His advisors wanted a Wall St. setting for him to talk about the economy and blast the huge bonuses paid on Wall St., the discrepancies between rich and poor. Then, since he's right in the area, he'll drop by Ground Zero. Meanwhile, she has to take a cab down to 12th St., all the way east, and with traffic tied up because of the presidential motorcade, God knows how long it will take, the meter running.

719 days, 22 hours, 49 minutes, 19.2 seconds

This is getting ridiculous, but it's getting later and later, she's sitting reading news stories, absently fingering the anemic ball in her hands, fascinated by its pliability, its overall softness. And she thinks about silicon breast implants: if maybe some men like those better than the real thing, if they might burst and give out a dye like this. Food coloring. Baby's milk. What the hell would a baby do with silicon? In other news today, a farmer's cows suddenly started producing pink milk – traced to the fact that he'd been feeding them a lot of carrots. Those cows went wild for carrots.

719 days, 23 hours, 22 minutes, 17.8 seconds

The gel ball's losing weight. She hadn't quite expected this, thought with that tiny capsule gone it might still retain its thickness if not its color. She's losing weight as well, with nearly ten thousand steps today. She squeezes the ball again, hard, watching the red squirt up almost snake-like, curling around itself. Nothing but food coloring, and way too bright for blood. Years ago, her husband's finger sliced open in a deli, they went to the St. Vincent's emergency room, had to wait and wait (like last night with the computer). Finally a resident came in to stitch it up, and he saw her jump back. Hours later, and still the blood could squirt out and hit her right near the eye. She'd gone to the lobby to get a soda, so she missed the scene. But today she ordered ten more. Balls, not husbands. Don't get her started. It's nearly one a.m. Her defenses are down. Bad puns at this hour are falling as fast as snowflakes. The tv news says it won't amount to much.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

720 days, 10 hours, 23 minutes, 26 seconds

Baby Einstein, indeed! It doesn't take a genius to realize that if you've got a small hand exercise ball, and it has dye inside, and you squeeze it hard enough, twist it every which way, eventually that capsule's going to burst, getting red ink all over your fingers. There's a news story she saved years ago, about a robber who realized the bills were marked with a red dye, and that they'd stained his pants. He didn't want to be branded as a robber, so he took his pants off. This was in 1995, when the whole world was more innocent. She finds the article instantly. So parts of this computer still work. She shouldn't trash it. And that ball, once all its dye's run out, might still be pliable. She holds it under warm water, recalling how that eases the blood flow.

720 days, 10 hours, 52 minutes, 29 seconds

Thieves race car through store, the headline reads. Swear to God, and this is CBS News, not some tabloid. A car with two masked men crashed the main entrance, tried to ram through the sliding security grill at the jewelry counter, failed twice, then drove out through an exit on the other side of the building. All she can think is that it must have been an armored car. Probably government surplus. Probably Florida. But no, this happened in Denmark.

720 days, 11 hours, 56 minutes, 21 seconds

And 144 days, 16 hours before the one-year warranty on her computer expires. On the phone yesterday with a Microsoft technician for an hour, him getting her to try installing Explorer again and again and again and again. Then, later, two hours on hold waiting for another tech, she on one phone line, her husband on the other, racing to see which one picked up first. Their two speaker phones blared music in sync. Sometimes even jazz. And her timing's a little better this morning, though she doesn't think minutes and seconds count.

Monday, January 29, 2007

721 days, 10 hours, 49 minutes, 35 seconds

Also on yesterday's AP wire: Military Trash Becomes Florida Agencies' Treasures. Everything the U.S. Military deems no longer useful is shipped off there: helicopter parts, Vietnam-era helicopters, boats, dive platforms. An armored personnel carrier purchased for $1500 will provide extreme cover for police if they have to ram a building or whatever. Also prisoner-transport airplanes, don't leave them out of the picture. Florida has immigration problems too, you know.

721 days, 11 hours, 13 minutes, 18 seconds

One-third of the students in Texas don't graduate high school. In Houston or Dallas more than half of the kids drop out. This from education experts. This from yesterday's Houston Chronicle. More than two-and-a-half million Texans have dropped out of high school over the past twenty years. Experts warn, if this trend continues, there will be huge economic and social problems. Duh... Maybe she wouldn't have even noticed this were it not for the fact that it's Texas. She's been thinking about it all night.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

723 days, 23 hours, 24 minutes, 42 seconds

It's takes awhile, sometimes, for the news to hit home. But on January 23rd, the same day as Bush's State of the Union address, beggar children in Nairobi invade a five-star hotel's food tent and grab what they can. Food is selling for $7 a plate. Most people there, the ones who work, are lucky to earn $2 a day. This is at the World Social Forum where leaders from around the world are gathered. Bush is busy writing his speech. Half a world away, in Switzerland, other leaders attend the World Economic Forum, discussing the problem of poverty. Bush is cooped up in his oval office, reading over his speech again, practicing reading out loud, hoping not to flub too many words this time. And, lest he be called a man who only cares about the rich, he decides to introduce basketball player Dikembe Mutombo, from somewhere in Africa he thinks, who recently had a hospital built, again somewhere in Africa. Underlining this, so he can double-check the town, he breaks the tip of yet another pencil.

Friday, January 26, 2007

724 days, 11 hours, 39 minutes, 55 seconds

At least the Globe hasn't warmed completely yet. Those zoo bears, coaxed into hibernation a few weeks ago, could have managed on their own now.

724 days, 23 hours, 18 minutes, 11.2 seconds

She's not the only one who's crazy here – even her husband suggested it might be fun to bundle up and stay out watching the temperature drop. It's down to fourteen degrees. And don't think she's not tempted. They could sit in the courtyard, maybe blocked from the gusting wind. But The Five Pennies pops into her head again. What she remembers most is the little girl sitting out in the rain waiting for her parents to visit. And ending up with polio, the camera zooming in on the iron lung. She would have been ten or eleven, in Atlantic City, which had two of the major polio hospitals of the time. She has no idea what her parents might have been thinking when they took her to that movie, and she's right in the middle of trying to put everything in place when her husband undresses and crawls into the bed behind her.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

725 days, 7 hours, 10 minutes, 18 seconds

4:50 p.m., and twenty-nine degrees out. When she woke this morning it was thirty-four. For the rest of the night, it's supposed to go down a degree or two an hour, bottoming out at sixteen from 5:00-8:00 a.m., then slowly starting up again. She doesn't understand what all the fuss is about, can remember nights here when it got down to two degrees. Except it's been so warm this year, the world's spoiled. She thinks about staying up to watch the degrees drop. Given her sleeping patterns of late, that would be child's play.

725 days, 16 hours, 9 minutes, 37 seconds

1 day, 13 hours, 9 minutes, 37 seconds since Bush's State of the Union speech. Nothing much worth remembering, though. Her husband comments it's the first time in their twenty-two years together that he's seen her sit through the whole speech. And she supposes it is. They sprawled on opposite ends of a gold sofa bought last year, she watching tv, he with a radio and headset on. Their tv has been problematic for months now, cutting out briefly every five or ten minutes. And he didn't want to miss a word. She, on the other hand, really enjoyed those frozen, distorted faces. State of the Union.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

729 days, 5 hours, 53 minutes, 1 seconds

Snowing hard in Chicago during the second half. She can see it on the screen. And she thinks of the tv snow she saw as a child. Interference, it used to be called. Another sports term. Another political concept.

729 days, 8 hours, 26 minutes, 4 seconds

Chicago and New Orleans. Blue and Gold. She's trying to be adult here. Having hated football as a child, she's trying to watch with him. She roots for New Orleans, the city after Katrina, trying to pull itself up in spite of our government. They've spent some wonderful time there, listening to music, just walking Bourbon St. She watches two tackles and one interception. But all she sees is blue and gold, gold and blue, those dreaded summer camp color-war divisions. Turnover, punt, turnover, punt. It was never fair.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

730 days, 11 hours, 4 minutes, 19 seconds

She did dream last night, one of the few lately she remembers, and it was of her computer being hijacked. Something called Road Warrior, an animated white screen in the center of the desktop, indexing all her files. Then, trying to record it this morning, Dragon crashed. On reboot her desktop icons were raised almost off the screen, and Dragon wanted to come up with a C+ runtime screen but never got that far. He tells her Hillary's now officially running for President. He says this election promises to be a battle. She reboots again, everything back in position, re-records her dream. It's shorter now.

730 days, 11 hours, 6 minutes, 34 seconds

He says she's dreaming.

730 days, 11 hours, 18 minutes, 13 seconds

She was awake at 3:15 a.m., unsure whether she'd been asleep for awhile or not. She got up. It looked as if there was fog outside the window. She went to the bathroom, then downstairs to take a muscle relaxant, which she supposes she should have taken before she went to bed. That fog is really snow. She sees it coming down fast outside the kitchen window, maybe a quarter inch accumulation on the ground, even on the sidewalk. There would have been reasons to get dressed, go out and enjoy it, but he was sleeping beside her. She assumed it would still be there in the morning. She assumed a lot of things.

Friday, January 19, 2007

731 days, 10 hours, 30 minutes, 7 seconds

Alone in the exam room waiting for results. With no one here to look at, she picks up Family Circle. "Can This Marriage Be Saved;" a three-page ad with mothers telling how proud they are of their enlisted daughters; a Topomax ad which shows a woman with her fists clenched, wedding band clearly visible on her finger: "Do you worry about migraines even when you're not having one?" No. No, no, no, no, no.

731 days, 11 hours, 0 minutes, 29 seconds

Of all the folders here, hers is one of the thickest. Mammograms once a year, sonograms twice a year since that last cancer, biopsies, wires inserted to mark the spot. The surgeon wouldn't have even been suspicious yet, that's how good this lab is. The technician takes four pictures, picks up all the records, leaves her alone with the machine. She'll be back.

731 days, 11 hours, 20 minutes, 34 seconds

If she wasn't here today she'd be teaching at a senior center. When she started these workshops, over thirty years ago, it was almost but not quite her grandmother's generation, then her mother's. Now they're more or less her contemporaries. Mostly women. Mostly in good health. One man with diabetes. Another man left when he was hit by a car crossing Queens Blvd., came back for awhile, then left again when his son died.

731 days, 11 hours, 32 minutes, 41 seconds

A woman across from her puts her PDA back in her pocketbook and pulls out a compact, pushes her hair back in place, pulls out her PDA again. And she thinks of last night in the theater. A woman beside her pulled out lipstick five minutes into the first act. The smell as bad as perfume. In a dark scene change she crawled over her husband and the friend next to him to get to an empty seat at the end of the aisle. And, actually, she could see better there.

731 days, 11 hours, 37 minutes, 38 seconds

A hot pink cashmere turtleneck with a thick gold necklace. A tailored grey pants suit with a low-cut white lace top. Thick black beads. Three coats with fur collars (one of them purple). She wears jeans and a black top. No jewelry. And she refuses to hide behind the New York Times.

731 days, 11 hours, 46 minutes, 53 seconds

She enters and takes a seat in a room full of women. And one man. This was one of the first places in the country to focus solely on breast diagnosis, her doctor told her, years ago. It took six months to get this appointment. Ten or twelve years ago she recalls sitting here, bored, staring at the women around her, trying to guess for whom this was just routine, who would be called back for further tests. Then she was called back. Today she sits close to the one man.

731 days, 12 hours, 12 minutes, 26 seconds

If she's headed for the doctor's, and she takes a taxi, and the taxi drives across 79th St. through the park, she can see patches of snow on the top of rocks, or icicles hanging down the walls of the transverse.

731 days, 22 hours, 32 minutes, 34 seconds

So okay. It's been a warm winter. But remember, there was snow today. You had to be quick to spot it, but it was snow. And probably just north of the city much of it stayed on the ground. But then she comes home at close to midnight and finds a fly in the apartment. She's not kidding – only one window cracked, and it has a tight screen, but somehow this fly got in. Large, half dead, flying back and forth between her and the computer screen. Finally she traps him against a wicker cabinet in the bathroom. He doesn't even try to get away.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

732 days, 8 hours, 33 minutes, 37 seconds

January 18. At three o'clock, when she went out for lunch, the streets were damp. A little drizzle, she assumed. Then she saw rather than felt a drop. Clear. White. Barely visible. By the time she got home it had definitely turned to snow. They've been keeping records for over 150 years, and this is the latest they've ever seen snow in New York City. It won't stick, though. Much too warm out there: 37 degrees at the moment. How can this be snow? It's not rational. Last night it got down to the mid twenties, and on the tv news they were talking about concern for the homeless and volunteers from shelters going out to try and draw them in. It doesn't make sense. This would be normal temperature for any other winter here. So much else to think about: the crime rate's up even in Newark, Bush wants more troops for Iraq, her ring finger's still numb.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

733 days, 8 hours, 54 minutes, 1.3 seconds

She sits in the dentist's chair. She bites down. A piece of her molar gone, a larger hole now that he's drilled it. She bites down, making an impression. If you want me to stop, raise your left hand, he'd said. Just like her childhood dentist, long ago. She refused novocaine. Raises her hand. It's not the drill it's the water building up. Water and blood, she sees now. She can see a piece of his reflection if she stares directly at the bottom of his lamp. His eyes looking intently. And how, she wonders, did he even see her hand?

733 days, 9 hours, 40 minutes, 3.6 seconds

666, her father's bank account reads. She got the first statement today. 666. The devil that you know. The Devil that you don't know.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

737 days, 11 hours, 42 minutes, 51 seconds

Jan. 1, 2007: An Indonesian Boeing 737-400 operated by budget carrier Adam Air disappeared from radar screens during a flight from Java to Sulawesi islands. Wreckage was located at sea 10 days later and it now appears that all 102 aboard were killed.
Sept. 29, 2006: One hundred and fifty-four people are killed when a Boeing 737-800 operated by the low-cost Gol airline crashes in the Amazon rain forest in Brazil's worst plane disaster.
Oct. 22, 2005: A Nigerian Bellview Airlines Boeing 737-200 airliner with 111 passengers and six crew crashes 20 miles (30 km) north of Lagos, shortly after takeoff. All aboard are killed.
Sept. 5, 2005: A Mandala Airlines Boeing 737-200 crashes just after takeoff near Medan in Indonesia's northern Sumatra. Altogether 102 people on board and 47 on the ground are killed, but 15 passengers in the tail section survive.
Aug. 14, 2005 - A Cypriot Boeing 737 operated by Helios Airways crashes about 20 miles (30 km) north of the Greek capital Athens, killing all 121 passengers and crew.

737 more days of Bush's second term in office. Not exactly what she hoped to wake up to, sleeping until almost noon again this morning. She's back in New York City. Safe.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

740 days, 8 hours, 26 minutes, 50 seconds

Everything's going wrong today. First her alarm clock set wrong. And now the fire. Smoke, rather. Where there's smoke there's fire. She waits. True, she started this with a fake log, and the instructions say not to mix it with wood, but she did this the other day, and it was fine. There's smoke all over now. And the smoke alarm doesn't go off. She tries opening the damper, sits in the kitchen and watches smoke go up the chimney. She closes the damper a bit, lets more air in from the front. Still nothing but smoke. The whole house filling now. And the smoke alarm leaning back on its haunches, dozing. She adds yet another log, a small one with lots of bark on it. She kneels in front of the fire, using the bellows. Faster and faster and faster. Her husband gave her these bellows as a Christmas gift years ago. Then, all of a sudden, everything catches at once, the flames bursting forth like the fires she's seen only in movies. Right at face level. She closes the door, quick. Stands up. Turns down the damper. There's smoke all over the room now, drifting into her study, probably gunking up this computer. She ought to open a window. Two days ago she ignored the smoke alarm.

740 days, 8 hours, 48 minutes, 24 seconds

"It's putting itself on display," a friend said the first time she looked through the little glass door of the microwave, watching the food turn. Today she watches a frozen block of onion soup melting into the bowl, at first nothing, then slowly sinking in, crookedly, leaning to one edge, the cheese holding its own at the top. Hungry, she munches a cookie while she's watching. Backwards, she knows. And there are croutons she didn't expect in there.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

741 days, 1 hour, 50 minutes, 12.8 seconds

and 3753 steps, not counting half a dozen times last night when she got up for a drink, or to go to the bathroom. She might be pouring sugar again. Trying to take it slow, one step at a time, and not panic. One of her teaching commitments canceled for this spring at least. She breathes easier. Lunch with Paul, then up to the Lake George Arts Council to let them see some photos. A possible show. A probable disappointment. No time to build a fire today. She gets up, walks over to turn up the furnace. 3794 steps. If only passing the next two years of Bush could be this methodical.

741 days, 21 hours, 42 minutes, 50 seconds

One more thing she did today – she set up her first pedometer. Walk 7000 steps a day and you will lose weight, Weight Watchers claims. She walks from room to room, trying to up the count. She thinks of all those nights pacing her parents' living room. But she was anorexic then anyway.

741 days, 22 hours, 12 minutes, 10 seconds

In thinking over the little she accomplished today, does it help to say she caught another mouse (the fourth since yesterday)? That she used the treadmill? That she built a fire and kept it going all day? This last is not inconsequential – when she rented, nearly 25 years ago, she spent a full night trying to get a twig to burn. Right around dinnertime, the woodstove and the smoke alarm almost came to blows. And of course her blood's through the roof again. She wants to compare that to smoke going up the chimney. The newly rebuilt chimney. The old blood. And a useless comparison.

Monday, January 8, 2007

742 days, 1 hour, 29 minutes, 1.2 seconds

She's asked students to write about New Year's resolutions, and expects a lot of poems on dieting at tomorrow's class. Meanwhile, in the headlines, she reads about two pigs so fat they can't fit in the slaughterhouse truck, have to be killed and butchered in their pens. An obese woman in South Africa was stuck in a cave for nearly twelve hours, trapping twenty-three others in front of her, including asthmatic children and a diabetic. And the FDA has just granted Pfizer approval on a drug for obese dogs. She used to own stock in Pfizer.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

744 days, 1 hour, 39 minutes, 49 seconds

Even along the Thruway, green grass alternates with brown. She thinks about plants and animals forced from their natural habitats. This weather's played hell with her head the past few days. Up above Woodstock she stops for lunch, and still leaves her jacket in the car. She gets off on 787 and heads toward Troy, then takes Route 40 home, through small towns and farm roads. She looks up and sees the start of a rainbow. Then she notices puddles and what must have been a wet road. A few sprinkles on her windshield. This cloud- and sun-filled dusk is the best light for rainbows, she remembers. Miles later, still a half hour from home, she sees the start of a second rainbow. The start of a promise, most likely.

744 days, 12 hours, 56 minutes, 2 seconds

She wakes at 10:30 to have her husband tell her it's 65 degrees out. Already they've broken the record for today. By the time she checks her email and dresses it's 68. Another blizzard in Colorado. A woman there is selling snow on Ebay. She recalls once, when she was sick, her mother filling an old roasting pan with snow and bringing it inside for her. She remembers once building a fort with some neighbor kids she can't remember the names of, and lobbing snowballs at other kids. Her husband, the second month she knew him, went to her house upstate right before Thanksgiving. There was not a lot of snow, but enough for a snowball, which he threw at her. She didn't know what hit her. And this year there hasn't even been snow up there, just trash dumped in her yard. Still 68 degrees. And she's out of here.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

746 days, 8 hours, 49 minutes, 43 seconds

Ring out the old, ring in the new. Fraternal twins in Boston born three minutes yet a year apart. The girl born first, but most likely the boy will be stronger (memories of her six-weeks-younger cousin here – how they played in the abandoned schoolyard, how he smiled). Thoughts of the Bush twins. The competition between all twins. Between all siblings. Between son and father. Some of the most powerful men she's known have sons that are losers.

746 days, 8 hours, 51 minutes, 9 seconds

The clock's still counting down. She thought if she didn't pay attention for a few days, it might go away, just like back in her headache days – if she was focused enough on other things the pain would vanish. The Americans dead in Iraq is up to 3000, a 96 year-old uncle dead in Rhode Island. Dead before the year changed hands, buried after it. Ring out the old … Only her ears ring.