Sunday, September 28, 2008

Fun on the run

The date: 20 September 2008

The scene: Courtyard at the Hyde Park Shopping Center

The event: Annual mum and bulb sale

Cast of characters: Couple with two boys in the 2 to 4 age range, two large dogs, and a pile of gifts: a couple in the 30something age range holding hands over a café table and nursing Nantucket Nectars; an elderly woman manning one of the flower tables; an observer (me)

I noticed the couple and their boys when one of the latter took off toward 55th Street. The mother, fussing over something next to me, yelled at him to come back. The father, who remained mysteriously useless during this entire episode, wandered in and out of the scene but didn't contribute much. The mother did most of the talking, reprimanding, and worrying.

The boys, especially the would-be runaway, seemed to be out of control, taking advantage of the mother's distractions. She kept up a loud, running series of orders like, "No, come back here!" "No, don't do that!" etc., none of which had any teeth behind them. Finally, the problem ran up to the elderly woman's table and ripped a display poster of flowers from top to bottom. Mom, still fussing with various things, told him she had asked him not to do that, then had him apologize to the woman, who by then, with the mother's help, had re-taped the two pieces of the torn poster to the table. The boy didn't seem to be particularly sorry or to find the admission all that punishing. In fact, a minute or two later he tried to rip it again, laughing with glee as his frustrated mother remonstrated with him.

In the meantime, someone with with a fluffy little white dog had appeared, which set off one or both of Mom's big dogs. She tried to explain to little Mr. Trouble how difficult it was for her to manage so much—him, the other little boy, the two dogs, and the pile of presents. He remained nonplussed.

Because all this was happening next to me, I couldn't resist noticing it. I would look over, look back, and find the 30something woman in front of me either looking at the mom or at me sadly as she clutched her lover's hand. "That could be us . . . that could be me . . ." seemed to be passing through both their minds. From holding hands sweetly to yelling in a public display of harried parenting in just a few short years. Both she and her lover looked ahead and at each other soberly. Finally, after Dad had made himself useful by strapping Mr. Trouble into the stroller the 30something couple got up and walked away wordlessly. Oh, to have true psychic powers . . .

Dream: Elevated to wisdom

I was about to check out of a resort when I realized I needed to go to the second floor to write a testimonial on the outside wall. I got into the elevator, which seemed unusually full. I was in a hurry and all I was thinking was that, although this meant a certain amount of climbing around outside, it shouldn’t take long.

The elevator didn’t stop at the second floor, however. It didn’t stop at any floor. I thought of elevator banks and decided it was unlikely an elevator would go straight up so many floors, not to mention that the resort was not a high rise. Now I was frightened, but I kept my fears to myself.

At long last the elevator stopped and opened on both sides. The front opened onto an enormous wood-paneled bar/lounge, while the back opened onto a wood-paneled, empty, wedge-shaped room barely large enough to accommodate me. It was more of a hollow wall than a room.

Everyone headed to the bar/lounge as though they’d discovered the resort’s hidden gem, but a compelling force, neither physical nor mental, was influencing me toward the wedge. At first I thought I was being entombed and was even more terrified. Some sense, perhaps from the same force pushing me toward it, reassured me that, despite appearances, this was the safer, more desirable place to be. The others had made their choice, and I could only look longingly after them and remember that I had been in a hurry. I felt like I was experiencing a taste of the afterlife, where choices and dangers are not obvious. Maybe all of us were dead.

And perhaps my previous perceptions of reality were petty and false.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

That kind of a day

Maybe I was looking for something mindless to concentrate on, so that's why I decided to go through my jewelry boxes. I've gone back to wearing earrings and wanted to see if I could find some that had gone missing, plus I thought I might be surprised by finding some that I hadn't seen in a while. (I was.)

As I dug through the drawers, I found a tangled mess of necklaces originally discovered when I moved to The Flamingo in 2003. I tried to separate them then, but it required more time and patience than I had. I was to find out how much last night and this morning.

The necklaces, obviously not worn for more than five years (and who knows how long before that) reminded me of Fanny in Mansfield Park. She is suddenly gifted with two necklaces, one from her rival Mary and one from her brother William, both given on the occasion of a ball in her honor. A necklace is a luxury to which she is not accustomed, and, baggage aside (her fear that Mary's is really from Henry), she is excited to have them. Here am I , with two jewelry drawers (granted, mostly costume, but some sterling), neglecting what to a poor girl of Austen's era was a treasure to be cherished. When I was a child, I shared Fanny's situation and feelings perfectly.

It also reminded me of the boon of literacy, which most Americans take for granted, but which gave Prue Sarn nearly magical power in Precious Bane—the ability to communicate across the miles with the man she loved, at least obliquely.

Between last night and this morning, it took me five to six hours to untangle the seven necklaces and one bracelet. Yes—it really did take that long, working virtually nonstop once I started. Two of the chains were especially knotty and reluctant to give up the orgy. One had knotted on itself, which took another half hour to undo, while a second tangled on itself after I had put it in the drawer (away from the others so it couldn't seduce any other chains). After trying to undo it for a while, I put it aside. Enough already. Even my OCD about finishing a job has limits.

To top all this effort off, I lost one of the necklaces. I stashed them in various boxes, I thought, but now I can't find it anywhere.

Yes. It's been that kind of a day.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Picnic at Tampier Lake


Ever since we drove across it last summer on the way to White Fence Farm, I've wanted to return to Tampier Lake. 131st Street runs on a bank that divides the lake, which gave me the feeling of floating across the water's sparkling surface. It was a gorgeous day, and it looked like the perfect place for a picnic. Finally, on Saturday, we found time to return. I brought the blankets, candle, and utensils, we picked up mostly vegan food at Heritage Health Foods, and away we went.

J. thought I would like Wolf Road, and he was right. While there were signs of development—old farmhouses and tiny fields planted with crops hanging in next to newly built condos, for example, on the road we took over to Wolf—it looked more like rural Pennsylvania than anything I have ever seen here. We even passed a farm stand (no time to stop, alas), horse crossing signs, old barns, fields, trees, and even a ranch (it was hard to tell whether it was open or closed). I would love to take a more leisurely trip down it and to stop at that stand—the first I’ve seen here.

I had dreamed of an idyllic summer day—sunny, light breeze, a few clouds, warm enough but not hot. This was it. The weather could not have been better, and the only drawback was that, with sunset at around 6:50 p.m., we had less than two hours to eat, relax, and take a walk. More time would have been wonderful, but as I should know by now things usually work out.

J. wanted to watch the boats (rowboats) to the northwest, while I preferred the weeping willows and glimpses of water to the southeast, so we compromised. I picked a spot, not close to the water's edge where the grass was longer, so he could face one section and the street and I could face the other.

I love dining alfresco, on a blanket in the grass, sandwiched between green below and blue above. If I could, I would eat every meal outside, where the ambiance is more tranquil and conducive to good digestion than crisp linens, clanking glassware, clattering silverware, clamoring voices, and jarring music played too loudly. Simple food, natural setting, the only music the twittering of small birds and the occasional honking of passing geese—that's all I need. And it's affordable.

We weren't the only ones taking advantage of summer's last hurrah; there were several groups picnicking and many people fishing. One young man must have mistaken my citronella candle for a cooking flame; he called out to ask if we were eating our catch fresh.

I loved it all. I think J. missed the more crowded and less bucolic picnic area at 63d Street. Not me.

Afterward we cleaned up and walked around. The large white birds I had seen earlier were gone, and most of the boats had come in for the night. A movement in the grass caught my eye; it proved to be a grasshopper willing to pose for J.

We started in the southeast, heading northwest. Already the sun was close to the tree line (visually), and we were a little surprised by how rapidly it disappeared, signaling the end of my perfect picnic. Later, we discovered an ant in J.'s shopping bag—it wouldn't have been a picnic without one. Poor thing, torn from its home.

On the way back, we both spotted a restaurant that looked like it was growing out of the forest—Devono’s Ristorante—noted for a possible visit.

Sunday I got up early and picked up goodies at Bonjour. The occasion was "brunch for the ladies" at a co-worker's house in Riverwoods. Another co-worker picked me up at the train station and exclaimed as we passed a house, "Oh, my—it's real!" Stupidly, I looked back for the architectural or landscaping feature that had provoked this, and she added, "It's a deer." I caught a glimpse of one in the middle of a front lawn. It did resemble a lawn ornament as it stood with head up, perfectly still.

Another lovely day, perhaps a bit warmer—the last day of summer. We sat on the deck until called to partake, talking about grown children, weddings, and embarrassingly comprehensive Star Wars memorabilia collections. The hostess's little white dog, Gizmo, was so happy that he frolicked off into the distance of the next yard and had to be called back. Inside, I ate with one hand and scratched his ears with the other, hoping the sanitation police (the three nurses) wouldn't notice.
 
Most of us without previous obligations went for a walk in the Chicago Botanic Garden, which was more crowded than I had ever seen before. There were the usual weddings and a party or two, but mostly the hordes were there to pay tribute to an exceptionally fine last day of summer. The gardens were spectacular, on the cusp between the seasons.
 
Through prior arrangement, at 3:00 p.m. I parted ways with the ladies and returned to the bridge by the visitors center. A pair of snow-white trumpeter swans drifted in, periodically looking up curiously at the people on the bridge and obligingly posing for photos. It's fascinating how their dark eye is camouflaged by a dark band that breaks up that flawless soft white.
 
After we picked up my friend's husband, we ended up in the Buehler Enabling Garden, built with raised beds and other features designed for volunteers with disabilities. I don't think I'd been in it before, but it's a jewel, alive with plants and animals. We were greeted by a big grasshopper, which my friend carried over to a bench with us, and every now and then we would see movement and chipmunk tails disappearing under the foliage. The bird feeders were dominated by goldfinches, mostly female. One goldfinch couple staged a showdown around the cylindrical feeder, finally coming beak to beak with no clear winner.
 
I thought the hummingbirds had departed around Labor Day, but two female rubythroats came along to feed from some of the flowers undoubtedly planted for that very purpose. Seldom do I get to see these little jewels, so it was a pleasure to watch them buzzing about only a few feet away.

J. had made the mistake of offering me a ride home due to the inconvenience of the train schedule, but I couldn’t see him traveling more than 100 miles round trip just for that. Instead, I bribed him with the offer of dinner at La Casa de Isaac, a Mexican restaurant owned by Mexican Orthodox Jews.

After much calling back and forth, we met him at Village Square and headed to the restaurant. Although they didn’t have the King David’s quesadillas (lox, cream cheese, onions) advertised on the Web site as a new special, he did enjoy something fishy, while I opted for something cheesy. I’ll take his word that the fishy something was good, as I can’t eat seafood.

After parting with my friends, it took only about an hour to get to Hyde Park, where we aided our digestion with cranberry-blood orange tea.

I spent a lot of time on trains, and J. did a lot of driving, but the destinations were worth it. If you can’t escape Chicago, you may as well find something to like about it—Ravinia, the Forest Preserve District, the Chicago Botanic Garden, and, of course, food.

Dream: Abandoned

An incredibly loud noise, like that of a prop plane, filled the air and woke me up. I was afraid to get up and look out the window because it sounded so close.

I found I was in a dorm room shared with a male roommate. Although it was the middle of the night and I was very tired, there was something we had to see. My brother came along, too.

We found a mobile theater that at first I thought was PuppetBike, but it was an Italian imitation. We stayed a while watching this bright spot on a dark street, where everyone else was slumbering during these wee hours of the morning. Suddenly, they left so abruptly that I could not keep up with them, and to my shock the car departed without me. There I was, alone in a residential neighborhood, with no money or mobile phone and wearing only pajamas.

I was nearly petrified. I knew the police, could I find them, would scoff at me. Finally, after tired, panicked rambling, still stunned with disbelief, I came upon a diner, told the owner my story, and asked to use the phone. She seemed jaded, nonplussed, and reluctant to let me. I don't remember making the call.

By the time my roommate and brother arrived, I was nearly hysterical with anger and fear. I berated them the whole back, going on about how could they have not noticed I was missing. Not seeing the problem, they ignored me and chatted with each other.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Berghoff Oktoberfest

On Friday J. called to see if I wanted to go to The Berghoff Oktoberfest. The stage used to be set up on Adams Street, but perhaps because of construction and other issues this year the event was confined to Federal Plaza. I had gone only once or twice, ages ago, so I said, "Yes."

J. met me at the post office, where I had gone in search of stamps. All the self-service machines were empty and bore stickers with copy about being slated for removal from service. I didn't look closely, but I didn't notice that they would be replaced. I hope they are, because removal of self service seems like a step backward to me. I observed a young woman who was even more interested in them; she was taking photographs of their hulking carcasses.

Outside the plaza was crowded, smoky, and loud—three circumstances that I rarely find conducive to fun. The entertainment was disappointing. The last time (ages ago) I had seen a band at Oktoberfest, it consisted of middle-aged and older Germans in lederhosen, playing the accordion and tuba, and singing German folk and drinking songs—just the thing for Oktoberfest. This time, the band (too loud) consisted of young men in brightly colored, strange hats performing 1970s covers badly. Oktoberfest had become a generic American festival with beer, food, and rock. I hope the German version of Oktoberfest is still German.

After fighting the crowd to get to the food, I suggested skipping the festivities and having dinner at The Berghoff. J. agreed, although I think he felt a bit cheated of the party atmosphere.

We hadn't been to The Berghoff since the old restaurant closed a year and a half ago. The servers were dressed in Oktoberfest T shirts, but still wore formal black aprons. J. thought the woodwork looked lighter and that curtains had been removed so that more light was streaming in the windows. The tables didn't seem as close together, and it looks like some were removed. I don't even recall whether tablecloths were used in the old restaurant, but although my memory for detail is poor, something in the setting and atmosphere felt different. It seemed less crowded, more subdued.

The menu has been reduced considerably, with the various steaks that used to tempt me all gone. There seem to be fewer German selections, too. J. ordered the wiener schnitzel or sauerbraten, while I asked for a bunless burger. The side dishes are no longer included, so J. requested red cabbage. The service was pretty fast (not something the old Berghoff was noted for), but I was presented with J.'s plate, and J. got the burger.

I'd heard that, long before The Berghoff closed, the experience was no longer the one that long-term Chicago residents remembered so fondly. It's hard for me to say; my first few visits were made long ago when I was young and easily impressed. Whether it's because I'm older and jaded, or The Berghoff's standard is indeed different, there's nothing special about it anymore. The food is indifferent, the atmosphere bland, and the energy and buzz gone.

The things that made The Berghoff memorable have been forgotten.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Dream: The bridge to nowhere

I was crossing a street when I heard sirens. An enormous fire truck barreled around the corner; its grill towered over me. It may have stopped, or time may have slowed, because I was not killed instantly. Instead, the extreme darkness around me confused me, and I couldn’t budge. I wondered if I could lay down and hope the truck’s undercarriage wouldn’t drag over me and kill me, but that still required me to do something. I was aware that I should have been killed already.

As I was deciding what to do, or being killed (I could not tell which), and feeling guilty for not being able to get out of the way, I understood the nature of the emergency. Large numbers of people were stranded in Ohio on an island surrounded by thousands of miles of water, connected to land only by a bridge of unimaginable length.
* * * * *

I was entering a dormitory and came upon someone who had rescued two tiny puppies. They were so small they didn’t look real.

Later I found a banana-shaped puppy, missing its legs and its face. I thought I could see traces of eyes, nose, and mouth, but I couldn’t be sure. I must have thought it was still alive but I didn’t know what to do with it—whether to keep it and try to figure out how to feed it, to leave it to die on its own, or to kill it mercifully (how?). All of the choices horrified me.

As I came closer to waking, I couldn’t help wondering if it was just half of a banana and not a puppy at all. I wanted an easier and less painful decision.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Dream: The quest to be real

I was at what may have been a movie party with people from high school when I spotted TB. I seemed to be dressed in a showy print—leopard spots?—and thought he surely had to see me at such a gathering.

I started to wonder if he did see me and would never admit it, but I know my own lack of power to compel attention. For the first time, though, I felt optimistic that he wasn’t entirely unaware of me and that someday he would have to grant me my right to be a real person, worthy of at least his notice if not his affection. I woke up disappointed as usual, but strangely optimistic.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Dream: No walk in the woods

Like Bill Bryson, I sought a walk in the woods. To my amazement, though, wherever I went I was surrounded by countless acres of cultivated land—row after row of crops. There were no woods, nothing wild as far as I could see and, I thought, even beyond. I felt an epiphany—that the world has been settled by humans for so long that nothing of nature is left. I woke up thinking about The New Penguin History of the World and wondering how cultivated much of the Mediterranean world might have seemed from very early historical times. Subconsciously I knew I would never have Eden.

It was evening, and I went for a drive in my dad's car. It was a nerve-wracking experience because I had the idea that I didn't know how to drive (true), nor did I have permission to. The accelerator and brake weren't pedals as I expected, and they operated in a way I had never seen before and couldn't master.

When I returned, I took a piece off the brake, perhaps a string, and meant to show it to my dad because it made no sense to me, and I thought he should know about it. I also suspected something important was happening that was beyond my understanding.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Dream: Urban barn and chute of doom

I was at my former job, but it was at the Sears Tower. All of it—the building, the office, the people—was unfamiliar, and I didn't know what to do with myself. I went outside.
 
It was perhaps late fall or early winter, and it seemed like evening although it must have been afternoon. I looked into the windows of an English-style pub and saw an odd assortment of people. Two working-class men were fighting, with one trying to kill the other. I sensed there was something deeper, more far-ranging, and more terrifying behind this.
 
Shaken, I walked around the block. Behind the Sears Tower, I discovered a rural road with a freshly painted, new red barn at the end of it. To me, it should have been a beautiful sight, but its unreality frightened me, and I hurried back.
 
The elevator I took wouldn't stop. It had been hijacked because I and the others on it were a threat to someone. It went up forever, beyond the limits of possibility. When it stopped, somehow it compressed and so did we, so that we were only feet from the top of the shaft. The maneuver was meant to terrify us. It worked.
 
Someone spoke to us, but I think we saw only toys. One of them may have been a headless doll the size of a toddler. It, or something, pulled the fingers of my right hand and made them longer. I knew this could be reversed by whoever had done it and wished them back to normal. But whenever I looked, they remained abnormally long.
 
I found a means of escape—a way to slide downward through what looked like tilted fun house tunnels. Only after we had started down did I realize that they were not only painted bizarrely—green, black, and white, in a 1960s hounds-tooth or checked pattern—but they were curving and twisting in impossible ways, like in an Escher painting. They, and the idea of escape, were an illusion. For all we knew, we were in a colorless, straight chute to our deaths. My fingers may not have been stretched, either.
 
I remembered the peaceful country road with the barn, implausibly appearing on a dark afternoon in the city behind one of the world's tallest buildings.
 
I called for the one person in the group who could shatter the illusion confounding us, and I called to her. I felt doomed.
 
I resolved to visit the country road again. It was convenient and so peaceful.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Dream: Pool in the grass

I returned home to where I grew up and found a swimming pool in the grass next to it. It was set directly into the ground, with no concrete deck. As I walked around it, I came to a spot where I was especially careful—somehow I knew there was a deep vertical hole to accommodate a wide horizontal pipe that came out from the pool.

EP saw me and asked what I was doing. I pointed out the hidden danger, and we discussed it could have been laid closer to the surface even if it would not have looked very good. I wondered why he was speaking to me at all as he never had because I was not popular. I also got it into my head that he attended the same college, which surprised me because I didn't recall that at all. I began to name boys I knew, but he didn't recognize any of them. And all I could do was wonder why he was talking to me.

Farewell, fleecy green caterpillar

Hodge finally pulled apart his best friend, the fleecy green caterpillar, so that it’s no longer safe for him to play with. Rest in peace, fleecy green guy.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Farewell to Bristol Renaissance Faire

Monday, Labor Day, September 1, J. and I made our last trip to 2008 Bristol Renaissance Faire. This time we arrived earlier than usual—early enough to pay parking and admission.

Thanks to the luxury of extra time, the first thing I did was to drag him to the jousting/exhibition arena. The timing was perfect because master falconer Ray Pena was beginning his talk. Although I know a fair amount about falconry (even beyond T. H. White's failed effort recounted in The Goshawk), I'd never seen a demonstration of raptors flown to the lure.

Pena explained how the birds are caught, handled, and trained. He emphasized that the falconer doesn't force the bird to do anything (other than to be captive, of course). Birds are hooded to keep them calm; then, as they become accustomed to their surroundings, the presence of people, and the falconer's voice, the falconer will touch them. As training progresses, the lure is baited. Later, it is not.

He removed the hood from the first bird, a female African saker (I think—I am not sure I heard correctly) falcon. The falconer uses the bird's name, which should rouse it. At that point, the bird is ready to fly. He mentioned the challenge of the area—trees and cables, not to mention unfamiliarity—and the possibility of a bird getting lost or tangled. Pena said he places a radio transmitter on their tails prior to flight just in case.

Both the female and male saker (I think) falcons flew out of my sight and back and forth several times before attacking the lure. The male's smaller size makes him faster and more maneuverable, so it's not necessarily a hunting disadvantage. By the way, Pena has a sense of humor—the male's name is Hunter.

As part of his introduction, Pena had talked about the origins of falconry, its hierarchy, and the role of birds and dogs in the hunt, but we missed much of that part. I think of falconry as a sport, but he made it sound like, at least for some at one time, practicing falconry properly was an essential part of food acquisition.

The third and final bird was a peregrine—female, I think. I've seen only one peregrine in the "wild"—when a co-worker asked me about a bird that had landed on a ledge across a narrow courtyard. Not only was it close enough to be easy for me to identify as a peregrine, but after a few minutes it tucked its head under its wing and fell asleep. I wondered if it was an after-breakfast nap.

After contributing to the upkeep of Hunter and friends, we watched the strength game (where you try to ring the bell at the top of a column) for a while. The young man running it issued several challenges to specific men, but we didn't see anyone make it to "king" (we heard the bell after we had moved on, so someone mighty must have taken him up on his insults). J. and I remained inconspicuous intentionally; neither of us wished to be a mere "pustule." A little girl tried the child's version, swinging the hammer like a, well, girl and delivering a weak, glancing blow. Is this really a feminine trait?

After that we looked into the shops. I bought silver and onyx earrings at the Black Pearl as my sole indulgence. I didn't hurry J. (much), so by the gate we caught a rousing farewell to the faire song. I wonder if the participants are relieved that their work is done after eight or so weekends or if they find it sad that their opportunity to be bigger than bland modern life is over. Most likely, it's a mixture of both.

After a little side road wandering and tension, we were in time for dinner at Apple Holler and to see the goats on the bridge outlined against the twilight. A white chicken was wandering in the parking lot, so I approached it to ask if it was okay. It rewarded me with that wonderful low clucking growl that chickens use as a warning.

I ordered turkey for dinner.

Dream: The trackless train

I was on a stationary train in a car with a large tub with wide ledges, all tiled with 1950s linoleum. The train was an attraction, with vendors in every car. I'm not sure what I did in mine, although it seemed vast and bare. I wanted a whale for the tub—a right whale if nothing else would fit. Yet in my heart I knew that keeping anything other than a few appropriate fishes in the tub would be inhumane.

It was late when the fair ended and I left my car. I found a co-worker and sat behind him, but was afraid to say anything. My head kept falling forward and touching him, which I thought he would perceive as sexual harassment. I left even as he ignored me.

I found my friend, DW, in the first car, which was big, brightly lit, and buzzing. When I saw the three covers of some books she was selling, I wanted them. I could afford only one at $10 apiece, so I chose the colorful birds over fish and one other. It proved to be an elaborate book of cutouts, stickers, and pictures to be colored. Embarrassed, I told her that I planned to use colored pencils.

The plan was for the train to take people to a Carpenters concert. After midnight? I thought. No concert starts after midnight, but this one did. I found myself in what appeared to be a regular car, but it was the front with no engine ahead. I realized it was moving through the grass and weeds at the side of a road, not on tracks. I wondered if it had conventional wheels.

Periodically, people in my car asked me how to exit. They expected the exit to be at the front of the car and didn't notice it in the middle behind them. Why were they asking about getting off before the train arrived?

We came to a street and tried to merge with traffic, but aggressive drivers kept cutting or trying to cut us off. I noticed that the cars were so close to each other on either side and were covering such a narrow swath when cutting across that the width of a train could not fit between them. Could any of this be real?

How could a concert start after midnight? But I never questioned how it could feature the Carpenters.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Dream: The writing on the wall

A friend, KK, was visiting me, which mysteriously made me feel trapped. I wanted to get out or to be alone, but I didn't know why. As I looked around my apartment, which was nothing like any I've ever seen, I noticed rust marks and missing paint high up on the kitchen and living room walls. Some of it made sense to me because of leaking and some work that had been done, but much of it mystified me.

I discovered writing on the wall. I thought I should call the manager to have the walls repainted, but that the writing must be my responsibility. I ran a finger over the little that I could reach, and it rubbed off. I wondered how they could repaint all these walls with all my possessions in place.

Finally, I got KK outside, where we may have boarded a bus. When we got off, a boy told me about a blind bunny he'd found nearby. Confused at first, I spotted it in the grass by the side of the street. It was ginger and white, like Hodge, so therefore not an eastern cottontail. Its blindness wasn't obvious.

As I was considering my approach, it hopped over and got under a parked truck. As long as it stayed out of traffic, this didn't seem too bad—but then the truck started to lower itself. It was going to crush the blind rabbit! I grabbed it, but not in time—its head was caught in the mechanism. I was horrified; I couldn't free it, and I couldn't tell if it were already dead. I imagined all kinds of horrors, but I couldn't let go.

The truck operator must have realized something was wrong, because the truck stopped its descent. I still felt trapped—unable to free the rabbit, afraid of the mutilation or death I would find if I could free its head.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Promontory Point drama

During the summer, it's not unusual for me to see and hear helicopters. Some belong to individuals, others to hospitals. A few times I've seen three black helicopters pass by eerily. Mostly I see them during the day, and they pass by, or they hover over Promontory Point, the pilots determined to impress someone.

When I realize that the sound isn't retreating, or I hear one at night, I know there's trouble. Once, around 6:30 a.m., the noise proved to come from a series of news helicopters hovering ghoulishly around the scene of a fatal crash on Lake Shore Drive (it took firefighters more than an hour to cut one of the bodies out of the flattened car).

When I looked this time, Saturday night at 10:30 p.m., I saw a somewhat surreal sight. The police cars with lights flashing at Promontory Point weren't out of the ordinary, but what appeared to be three or four police boats, with various lights, were. More than that, a helicopter hovered as close to the water's surface as possible, shining a powerful searchlight onto it at about the buoy line. With no illuminating moon, the background was unusually dark. All I could see of the helicopter were its lights, searchlight, and the part of the belly lit by it. I could even discern the characteristic cigar shape against the darkness.

The sight was both unreal and unsettling—someone was missing or drowned. As it turned out, it was a man who had either gone missing while swimming off a boat or who had fallen off a boat during a turn (his friends changed their story from the former to the latter).

The helicopter disappeared after midnight, easing itself out of my consciousness, and the search was later abandoned until morning, when it was dispersed over a wider area. In the meantime, I found it even more difficult than usual to fall asleep, suspecting that, while I was comfortably sipping tea and reading, death had paid a dramatic visit just shouting distance away.

The grammar police, they live inside of my head

I have no idea how I came across this on BBC News, but here it is:

In June it emerged that Winehouse had developed the chronic lung disease emphysema after she collapsed.

To develop a chronic disease after collapsing is amazing and alarming. I suspect the writer meant:

After Winehouse collapsed in June, it emerged that she had developed the chronic lung disease emphysema.

That’s why I’m paid the big bucks (depending on what is meant by “bucks").