Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on December 2, 2013
I have the most bizarre dreams sometimes, but I forget them quickly. This one stuck with me. I’ve a friend I see occasionally. We used to travel a bit with a group that visited state monuments, went rafting, saw the sights, etc. She is the daughter of an old lover, from many, many years ago. She is 30 years old. Lately she has returned to school to work on a graduate degree, so she doesn’t get out much. However, she does like to catch movies from time to time, and set up a regular trip to the dollar theater for anyone who wanted to share. I was part of that group, but, eventually, it dwindled down to me and her. She is a lovely woman, bright and funny, and good-looking. I enjoy her company. We don’t date, as she considers me a family friend. Even after her mom had dumped me for another guy, I was still invited to family gatherings, especially after that guy dumped her mom, and she has since remarried and divorced two more times.
Anyhoo. This dream was about Mona (name altered to protect the innocent). Mona is attractive to me, but off-limits. And, after all, she is quite a bit younger. In this weird dream, Mona decided one day that we could be lovers after all. I was really excited about that, and, oddly, in this dream, we were going to move in together, before we even had sex. We went to a house that belonged to neither of us, perhaps the new one we’d be living in and ended up in bed quickly. Now, that was a scenario I was really happy about. I would love to see her naked. I would love to fuck her, perverted old man that I am. In bed, Mona was next to me, naked. I swung her over on top of me, and in the process spread her legs wide. Instantly, this tremendous fart escaped from her, and I could feel it on my toes! I could even smell it, but it was not so terrible. Mona was really embarrassed, but I told her it was no big deal, and it didn’t matter to me; in fact, I laughed. She laughed with me, but then, of course, I woke up. Damn. I would have enjoyed the sex part. Well, fantasies are fantasies, and sometime they must remain so. Sigh.
I treasure Mona’s friendship. I do not want to alienate her. However, the last time we saw a movie, the weather was still warm. Mona wore a short-sleeved shirt, and as we got up to leave out seats, our arms brushed together. The sensation was electric! (No, it wasn’t static electricity). The sensation was one of extreme pleasure. I know from that what the effect of climbing into bed with her would be. Be all that as it may be, however, Mona is a masseuse. We had arranged a massage session for after the movie. Mona has a massage table, and oils, and incense at her house. The massage took an hour. Mona took the pain out of my neck, and rubbed all of my body from my neck to my toes, except for my penis, of course. She’s not that kind of masseuse! It was a wonderful massage. There was no sexual element to it at all. I was extremely relaxed, and did not experience an erection, which I was afraid I would, given how sexy Mona is. It was the best massage I’d ever had, without any element of sex involved, although I was indeed naked. Mona rubbed my arms and legs and kneaded my back. She worked my neck good. It was heaven.
I’m not sure I should relate this dream to Mona, but I’d sure like to share it with her. She has a good sense of humor, but I’d hate to have her think I’m dreaming about sex with her. That might make future movies or massages difficult. I always seem to find ways to alienate women.
Posted in Dreams, humor, Life, love, madness, My Life, photography, relationships, sex | Tagged: Life, love, sex, women | Leave a Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on June 11, 2013
There have been many times over the last five or six years when I thought I was ready for death. My life didn’t have much meaning, but it didn’t have to, I thought, since I had lived a good, and a long life already. I mean, what’s the point of just living? Life needs to be lived, and I mean lived, enjoyed, relished, savored. It doesn’t matter what the mix of good and bad is. A really good week makes up for a bad day anytime. An exceptional day makes up for a bad week. However, since my days were one long string of bad, mediocre, or really crappy times, I couldn’t figure out why I was still alive.
Sometimes, I felt like I was dying. It seemed to me, day by day, that my life was winding down. Sometimes I had trouble hiking, and I could feel my lungs struggling to bring air in. Sometimes I felt pain in my chest. In my mind, I suspected I might have a heart attack anytime, or simply stop breathing. I was old enough. The idea didn’t bother me. We all have our time, and it seemed mine had passed. A few times, after I’d fallen asleep in my recliner, I’d awakened to find myself half dead, my brain fuzzy, my thoughts chaotic. It was as if I hadn’t been breathing for a few minutes. I would get up and walk around, but even though my lungs were moving, there was no oxygen in my brain. My brain felt dim, and dark, as though I was trapped underground. I mean, what is more symbolic of death than that? I asked my doctor about it, and she said those were panic attacks. Well, you’d panic too if there was no oxygen going to your brain. I believe I actually did stop breathing each time, probably not for long, but long enough to trigger my body’s desperate attempt to reboot. I envisioned a time when I would be found dead at home, probably days or weeks after the fact. Who would check?
When my step-daughter had experienced her brain tumor, surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and more radiation and chemo, that had been really troubling. I didn’t want her to die. She survived, and the joy I’d felt then had been true joy, unbelievable happiness. However, my marriage ended shortly after that. There was no further contact, no hope of reconciliation. I had a friend I’d known for years, and asked her out. She was horrified at the idea, and gradually pulled away too. I retired from my job of twenty-five years. I lived alone. It all seemed pointless right then. Was I depressed? Sure. But, eventually that passed, but I could see that I wasn’t really living, I was just marking time. It was as though I was in a waiting room, killing time, only I was just waiting for death to tap me on the shoulder, even though I was occasionally having good moments.
So, a week ago, I did have a heart attack. I suspected it might be a heart attack before it had hardly begun. I had felt something odd in my chest, a tightening, or pressure, on and off for months. It never lasted long, and I could simply sit down and rest a bit and I was fine. I don’t exercise enough, so I attributed it to my less-than-perfect stamina. Hiking in the mountains here, once a week, even for 5 to 9 miles, is not really enough to stay in good shape when you’re old. When the day came and the pressure wouldn’t ease off, and I felt anxious, was sweating like a pig, and foggy in my head, I thought, yeah, maybe this is it. For years, I’d believed that I would welcome it. I debated going to see my doctor, the newer one who had diagnosed exercised-induced asthma. I was breathing OK. I had no pain. However, something was wrong. At first I thought I would get over it. I took two aspirin. I tried to relax. Increasingly, I felt worse. Suddenly, I had to make a decision: do or don’t. I decided to act. Got help. Heart attack verified. Angioplasty performed. Clot destroyed. Stent placed in right coronary artery.
For someone prone to hypochondria, this was actually vindication. I knew I was sick, and I was. More importantly, I made the decision to live. If I had just sat down, or gone to bed, I would have reached the point by myself, as I did in the cardiac lab, where my heart went into arrhythmia. I would have died, painfully, all by myself.
So, I had decided to live on. I took steps to get help. I survived. I am on drugs for a while to help get my body through this experience. I signed up to train for a half-marathon. It feels good.
Posted in health, Life, medical, My Life, rambling | Tagged: death, emo, Life | Leave a Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on June 8, 2013
I hike in the mountains, nearly every week. Sometimes its a three to four-hour jaunt, sometimes six hours, with a lunch break. The elevation gain can be 1000 feet or 2000. I’ve done much harder hikes in the past, but found that I was having too much trouble keeping up with the other hikers. Instead of getting stronger with more stamina over time, I was having a hard time finishing 12 mile hikes up and down a mountain trail at all. So, I began hiking with a Meetup group, hiking just the three or four hours at a leisurely pace. I tried hiking to the peak of one mountain, Mt. Taylor, at 11,301 feet, as I had done on three prior occasions, but couldn’t make it. I fell so far behind that the hike leader, tired of coming to look for me, and unwilling to wait for me in temperatures near zero degrees F, relayed a message to me that I was to turn around. I had never failed to complete a hike before, so that was upsetting. I knew I could get to the top, but just needed more time. I missed the wonderful sluicing through the deep powder on the back side of that climb. Well, so it goes. However, on the way home by car, I had trouble breathing. My lungs actually hurt upon taking a deep breath. That was very troubling. Back home, I saw my doctor and he said I had exercise asthma, and prescribed an inhaler. I used it a few times before hikes, and had no trouble. However, on a hike with a fair amount of elevation gain, I wished I’d brought it with me, because I felt strange and weak on the crest of the mountain.
This happened again, and then, last Sunday, while puttering around a winery I help out at, I felt the same strangeness, more like a tightening of my chest, or pressure on my chest. I had only been cleaning up, putting equipment away, and climbing up and down a short ramp when I felt it overtake me. I sat down in a chair with a glass of cranberry wine and relaxed. I felt better after a short while, so I finished my duties and went home. At home I was comfortable and relaxed and slept well. The next day, however, was far different.
In the morning I awoke early, had coffee, and picked my step-daughter up from her home, dropping her off at her job. She doesn’t drive, due to a problem with her peripheral vision, so I take her to and from work most days. This day I also had a blood donation appointment, so I went there after dropping her off. The blood donation went well – no unusual blood pressure. I stopped for breakfast at a breakfast buffet, and had bacon, eggs smothered in red chile, a bit of carne adovada, small slices of french toast, and fruit – hey, the blood place said to eat a big breakfast, so I did. I dropped off a package at Fed-X for my step-daughter and went home. It was a slow day after that. I messed around at the computer, reading news, checking blogs, Facebook, eBay, an art site (Deviant Art), and then sat down to quietly read a book. In mid-afternoon, however, I felt that strange pressure in my chest. I used my asthma inhaler, but to no effect. I stretched out on my bed for a bit, but without improvement. I felt odd, perhaps a little anxious. I was sweating, so I turned on the evaporative cooler. I went back to reading. I still felt that something was wrong. I increased blower speed on the cooler. I took two aspirin. I began to worry. It was getting late, after 4pm, so I wasn’t sure if I could get to the clinic my doctor worked at before it closed. Suddenly I decided I was going to go anyway. Enough uncertainty! I had to find out what was wrong; I might even be having heart problems. I decided not to take the motorcycle, opting instead for four wheels, should I become weak or unsteady. However, I changed my mind as I was backing the car up, and went back in. Something was wrong and I was getting worse fast. I called 911.
It didn’t take the EMT guys long to get to my house, as the firehouse was than two miles away, but they had to search a bit so I got up and flagged ‘em down. They came in, asked questions, took vitals, and decided I should go to the hospital. An ambulance had arrived after they came in their firetruck. By this time I was sweating profusely, felt weaker, and didn’t mind lying on their gurney. I’m not sure it was a good idea to attempt an IV while the ambulance was bouncing over speed humps, but I got to the hospital OK. They sent me to the cardiac lab, and five or six guys went to work, taking pictures, repeating vitals and finally deciding that I was, indeed, having a heart attack. There were options, like drug therapy, but the best idea presented was to do an angioplasty, where they run an inflatable device up an artery into my heart to open the artery there. X-rays had shown that the artery was indeed almost completely blocked by a clot. I agreed, so they went ahead. I began to feel pain just as they began. I said ouch as they stuck a needle in me, but it was the sudden sharp pain in my heart that had gotten my attention. The pain increased, but, miraculously, as they worked, the pain subsided, the pressure that had been building stopped, and I felt great! They had used the balloon-like device to ream out my artery, and then released a stainless-steel tube that expanded to fit to the walls of the artery, called a stent. It’s an odd, meshed device. To me, it resembles those old Chinese finger puzzles, but on a much reduced scale. The stent will remain with me now. I must take a drug for one year to prevent my body from rejecting the stent. Ha! I wish I only had to take one drug. I must also take aspirin, a small 81 mg dose, every day. I am taking a drug to lower my blood pressure, even though my pressure is normal. I am taking a statin drug to lower my cholesterol even though my cholesterol is not high. I am taking a drug to block blood platelets from sticking together and forming clots. I am taking a drug to lower the acid in my stomach. And I am taking a drug that lowers my heart rate, reducing strain on my heart, which was only minimally damaged in all this.
In short, I survived, and in good shape. I’m certain I do not need all of these drugs. My blood pressure is now lower than ever, at about 118 over 70, as I just measured. I already eat fairly well, so my cholesterol is not dangerous, but I welcome the assistance of the drug, for now. I think some of the others are a bit too much, as I would like to be as drug-free as possible. One drug can be interfered with by fish-oil supplements, which are in my daily multivitamins already. If the fish oil has the same effect, I don’t know why I can’t just take that instead of a drug.
Ah, well. I’m lucky to be alive, and damn lucky to have had that cardiac team work on me. They worked very quickly, efficiently and smoothly, each one performing certain vital tasks, and being watchful of changes in my status. Without them, I wouldn’t have survived. I need to take them some wine.
I received lots of messages from friends and family, and my step-daughter visited me while I was confined to the hospital for two days. My friend, who is “not a girlfriend”, declined to visit me in the hospital because, as she put it, “…hospitals freak me all the fuck out…”, but she said she wanted to see me to verify that I was alive. We went to a movie and had dinner Friday afternoon. Life goes on.
Posted in health, hiking, medical, My Life, wine | Tagged: hiking, pain | 2 Comments »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on October 29, 2012
Orbiter, this is Lander.
Go ahead, Lander.
We have determined that the atmosphere is Earth compatible. We are preparing for egress.
Affirmative, Lander, we concur. Recommend full suits.
Roger that Orbiter. Full suits, with open helmets.
Roger that Roger, Lander. (chuckle). Any visible signs of life?
No, Orbiter, not yet. There seems to be a ground fog, obscuring most of the surface. We are on solid ground, and we will be exploring cautiously.
Roger that, Lander; step by step.
Egress now Orbiter. Surface is firm, under a thin layer of coppery dust.
Can you see anything yet, Lander?
No. Wait, yes, Orbiter, there appears to be something moving towards us in the fog.
Lander, what do you see?
Lander, come in. Lander?
Lander, what do you see? Is everything OK? Lander?
Lander, Lander, come in Lander. What’s your status?
Orbiter, AOK. We are OK.
Posted in current events, Dreams, fiction, humor, Mars, photography, space | Tagged: Mars, Space, space exploration | Leave a Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on July 5, 2012
So, on the fourth of July I was making my way home from a hike, and I ended up detoured by a parade in the village of Corrales, NM. I tried to get around it, following directions from a sheriff’s deputy, but I simply ended up farther along the parade route. Not sure how to escape, I took out my camera and started shooting. In a few minutes I noticed that a Model A car club had put all of their vehicles in the parade, so I shot them all. There are a few other pictures of other vehicles here as well, since they were all so interesting. In this type of gallery posting, click on whatever shot you’d like to see full size. Then, after viewing it, you can scroll through all of the photos one at a time.
If you like the shots, let me know.
Posted in Holidays, photography | Tagged: 4th of July, Model A cars, photography, photos | Leave a Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on June 8, 2012
Albuquerque’s Comic Con, second year. Just wandering around on opening day, Friday June 8, 2012. Click on each image to view full size.
Posted in comics, motorcycles, photography | Tagged: Albuquerque, New Mexico, photography | Leave a Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on May 31, 2012
Some call El Morro a bluff, or a headland, but it translates directly as The Promontory. It certainly is a prominent feature. At this place are many features: colorful rock formations, cliffs, centuries-old graffiti, excavated ruins of the Atsinna people, and the only source of water in the area for hundreds of years since modern peoples found it. Although there are some petroglyphs left behind on the walls, there are fantastic inscriptions left in the sandstone by thousands of others as well. Modern-day graffiti is removed immediately, as all of the old inscriptions were documented in 1934. In the 1920s the first superintendent erased any inscriptions he found that were added after 1906, so the ones left range from approximately 1275 to 1906. The first modern-day inscription was left on March 11, 1583, 15 years before New Mexico became officially part of Spain.
I spent some time there photographing the beauty of the place, and taking a few pictures of the inscriptions to see if I could. Contrast in the light-colored sandstone is poor. One ranger tried darkening the most famous inscription, by Don Juan de Oñate, with a No. 2 pencil, but preservationists no longer take such steps. Oñate, first colonial governor of New Mexico, established Santa Fe, but is infamous for cutting off the left foot of every Acoma Pueblo man over the age of twenty-five. Eighty men had one of their feet amputated (although other commentators put the figure of those mutilated at twenty-four). He also had 800 Zuni people killed, and enslaved 500 others. A statue of Oñate, erected in Albuquerque in recent years, had Oñate’s bronze left foot cut off in the night, although it was restored and the statue moved. General Don Diego de Vargas also recorded his visit here in 1692, after retaking New Mexico after the successful united Pueblo revolt of 1680. Click on each image to view full size.
Posted in photography | Tagged: El Morro, Inscription Rock, landscapes, New Mexico, photography, photos | Leave a Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on April 23, 2012
page 24A ☼☼☼Wednesday, April 23, 2042 ☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼ ☺The Morning News☻
EDITORIALS / OPINION
It is a measure of visual acuity. It was a popular TV news program. It is also the year Mars was first touched by a human. It is the year the United States lost its technological edge, its pride in leadership and exploration.
By 2020, the United States’ economy had spent too many years fluctuating between extreme lows and mediocre progress. Attempts by every President and Congress to address the problem had done little. Military spending had increased, and the short-term effects had kept the economy going, but military spending does not have any positive long-term effects. It is not an investment in the future; it does not improve infrastructure, education, health care, technology or knowledge of our solar system.
There was a significant improvement during the Clinton administration, when both president and legislators cut government spending and waste, and concentrated on reducing the national debt. Of course, all of this effort was for nought, considering the money spent during the next administration on the invasion and occupation of two countries simultaneously. The cost in human lives was great, but the devastation wrought on the U.S. economy was greater.
Subsequent administrations tried once again, to tackle the ailing economy. Greater money than ever was authorized by Congress to jump start a recovery. The hemorrhaging loss of jobs stopped, but new jobs were slow to materialize. Taxes were cut again and again, but still the effects on the economy were slight. The national debt continued to grow. Politicians clamored for more war, for greater military spending, as if shaking our military might at the world was enough to save us. It wasn’t. Taxes were cut again. Few in the U.S. realized that we had already lost our way. A country that had grown great through exploration and innovation no longer had such goals. There was no vision to inspire us to grow, to innovate, to change. Fear of terrorism still dominated our lives, as we gave into the very purposes of terrorist attacks: to inspire fear, to focus almost exclusively on defensive and offensive capabilities, at great expense to ourselves.
Meanwhile, although the rest of the world was having similar problems with economic disasters, they had learned, from the United States, not to give in to despair and ennui. In the 1960s, in the United States, despite an economy-busting war in Vietnam, we had a space program dedicated to landing on and exploring the moon. Despite the costs of running that war, and investments made in social programs, we still found the time and money to land on the moon, to explore it, to participate in building Earth’s fist space station. Spin-offs from our space program gave us new technologies, and inspired ever greater innovation. We had pride in our country, in our goals, in our technology, and in our education system. All wanted our country as a whole to succeed, to grow, and to become the best.
In Australia, in Asia, and in Europe, people still believe in setting inspirational goals. One of them was the continued human exploration of space, the idea all but abandoned by the U.S. They worked tirelessly to send human beings into space, to move beyond our small lunar satellite to the planets. They mined near-Earth asteroids, and then they put mankind on Mars. To be accurate, the first footprints made on Mars were female, but humankind had reached another planet, and far sooner than near-sighted politicians and educators in the U.S. had envisioned. Cuts to the operating budgets of NASA crippled plans to land on Mars; the goal was pushed farther and farther back, until 2037 was the earliest possible date for a U.S. Mars attempt. Innovation was taken away from government, and left to private citizens. This was admirable in it’s reliance on capitalism and entrepreneurism, but investors were loath to invest the money necessary to reach near-Earth asteroids, Mars or the other planets in our solar system. Robots landed on Mars, the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, and several asteroids, but the start-up money necessary to successfully mine, transfer, and process elements from the asteroids just wasn’t available to the few wealthy individuals who believed in the work.
Ferrying people into low Earth orbit did little to inspire the kind of creativity and wonder of the 1960′s space program. In fact, the role of the U.S. became little more than support for the efforts of other countries to grow their space programs. We needed their assistance just to maintain our own system of communication, defense, and navigation satellites. The information gleaned by our robotic exploration programs did much to advance Earth’s reach into space, but the U.S. reluctance to finance human exploration and establish base camps crippled our efforts to reap any benefits from our investments. The second space station went into operation without the participation of the United States. When China established their first moon base in 2020, we scoffed at the idea, claiming it was unimportant and insignificant. We knew that we would soon reach Mars. We just needed a little more time. Our economy wasn’t up for the task of massive spending on the establishment of bases in space. Unfortunately, despite their own economic woes, Australia, the European Union, and Japan followed suit by establishing bases on the moon, and set up processing facilities for the material coming from Chinese asteroids Ni and Hao.
Still, the U.S. goals were robotic exploration, and perhaps a 2037 Mars landing. But we no longer had the guts to compete in any space race. Our politicians, right and left, wanted to focus on growing our economy through artificial means, believing that all would fall into place as soon as we cut taxes far enough, as soon as our government no longer had the burden of investing in social programs, education, health care, or the worry of caring for the aged. And still, we invested heavily, not in innovation, infrastructure, or space, but in war. It has been argued that we had no choice but to support Israel in their devastating attack on Iran, but, after, all, we were the ones who had advocated, and indeed, proven (to ourselves) that preëmptive strikes were perfectly justified in the name of security. The staggering costs of supporting Israel in their jihad crippled us far worse than anything we’d ever done. Significantly, NASA’s budget was cut further, and private enterprise could not pick up the slack as our economy spiraled ever closer to ruin.
The joint Soviet/Asian/Australian/EU Mars venture electrified the world in 2030. Not only had they landed on Mars before the United States thought possible, but their joint base was now the center of technological innovation. The newest methods of sub-surface mining, extrapolated from their earlier work with asteroids, provided not only the water necessary to make life on Mars possible, but also those rare elements on Earth that were nearly depleted and too costly. Cheap rare-earths and precious metals flow outward from several asteroids as well as Mars now, providing the means for each of those countries to grow exponentially.
The United States will reach Mars one day. We’ve passed our 2037 goal now, and there is the promise that we will reach Mars by 2050, and begin the reap the benefits thereof. In the meantime, food riots continue. We lack the national will to spend money on space exploration when so many are hungry and homeless. Even if martial law is lifted soon, as promised, we may never see the grandeur of our country restored. We have fallen too far behind. We are safe and secure behind our borders for now, although few people around the world any longer seek to cross our borders legally or illegally. We lost our edge, our will, our purpose.
Posted in 2000s, current events, fiction, Life, madness, Mars, opinion, politics, rambling, rants, space, war, World | Tagged: asteroids, Mars, Space | Leave a Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on March 17, 2012
Previously, I uploaded some pics from my hike across the lava flows in El Malpais Conservation Area, founded in 1987 near Grants, New Mexico. See: Hiking the pāhoehoe and ‘a’a in New Mexico. I went back. This time I saw, not only the lava and spectacular landscape, but also an incredible arch, located in a very accessible public part of the area. It is called La Ventana (The Window), and it is also in the El Malpais Conservation Area, founded in 1987 near Grants, New Mexico.
and here’s more of the pictures from my 3/11/12 hike (click on a pic to view it full size):
Posted in hiking, photography | Tagged: El Malpais, hiking, landscapes, New Mexico, photography, photos | Leave a Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on March 2, 2012
MARCH 2, 2012
As much as I’d like to go to Mars, and work in a habitat, it’s not likely; the earliest populated mission to Mars is in 2037. However, I have applied to the Cornell/University of Hawaii Mars Analogue Mission and Food Study. Applications are now closed, and about 700 people applied; only eight will participate. It’s a 120-day Mars exploration analogue mission that will take place in early 2013 on the big island of Hawaii. I’m psyched! Actually, studies of the effects of living in an enclosed environment for long periods of time have already been done. Between 2007 and 2011, a crew of volunteers lived and worked in a mock-up spacecraft. The final stage of the Mars-500 experiment, which was intended to simulate a 520-day manned mission, was conducted by a crew consisting of three Russians, a Frenchman, an Italian and a Chinese citizen. The experiment helped plan the mission, identifying possible problems and solutions. The mock-up facility simulated the Earth-Mars shuttle spacecraft, the ascent-decent craft, and the martian surface. Volunteer crew used in the three stages included professionals with experience in fields such as engineering, medicine, biology, and spaceflight. There have been many other similar studies and more underway, in Antarctica, Europe, Russia, China and Australia.
520 days! Holy crap! That includes a round-trip flight time of between 400 to 450 days. What will we do in space that long? I’m trying to imagine what 120 days in isolation will be like, and that’s only in a contained environment on Hawaii. However, the habitat part of this mission doesn’t involve psychological effects or exploration. It’s all about the food! People on long missions typically eat only prepackaged meals, or concentrates. No matter how tasty the food, a type of fatigue sets in, a food monotony, and astronauts not only lose interest in the food, but also eating meals altogether. Additionally, prepackaged meals contribute more weight to a mission already starved for mass. Every bit of mass taken on a spaceflight must be boosted into orbit, at tremendous cost with limited storage space. There are other problems: prepackaged meals have a shorter storage life than the individual ingredients. Moreover, all of the crew members have scientific and exploratory goals, and time spent in food preparation and cleanup is time lost to research.
I think this type is thinking is short-sighted. I know exploring Mars will be exciting. I know the prospect of living on another planet will be exciting. I also know that there is such a thing as job fatigue. One cannot spend all of one’s time on the mission. I don’t mean just that all work and no play makes the Mars explorer dull. I mean that everyone needs a break from their own work. I propose that each member of the crew take turns preparing meals and cleaning up, say one day a week for each person. Perhaps one day a week, assuming there is a six-member crew, be a non-cooking day. The crew could simply eat prepackaged meals on that day, and everyone gets a break.
I’m sure that the experience of preparing meals will benefit every member of the crew. There will be the benefit of eating freshly prepared foods. There had better be a small array of spices! Salt, pepper, red chile powder, garlic powder, onion flakes, maybe some packaged shallots, and other spices as crew members might suggest. Nothing helps break the monotony like different spices; and dried powders are very light. Will there be cooking oil, I wonder? How about some sesame oil and chile oil too? Certainly some oil is a necessary part of our diet. Instant butter! Mmm.
One thing I’d recommend: high fat, great tasting food. One does not get fat or malnourished by eating good foods. One gets fat or malnourished by eating too little or too much food. Period. These programs might be making the mistake of assuming all the food must be low-fat, low-salt and low-sugar. No, my friends, I don’t think so. If portion size is strictly controlled, one can have snacks and deserts and still maintain a healthy diet and weight. I’m sure the calorie-intake needs of each person can be measured, and such a group of dedicated explorers, knowing how limited their food supplies are, will adhere to strict guidelines for food consumption. There should be enough leeway to allow for the occasional party, with some special food and drink.
What will these intrepid explores drink by the way? Water is extremely heavy to ship into space. In an ideal situation, the Mars explorers will find ice or other trapped water on, or close to the surface. But we do not live by water alone. I’m sure there are some powdered drinks to break up the monotony. Coffee, PLEASE! But you know what makes digestion go better, and livens up the entire eating experience? Wine! How’s that for an idea? I know a lot about wine, particularly food-pairing. I am a partner in the Anasazi Fields Winery in Placitas, New Mexico. We pair our fruit wines with a wide variety of foods. Apricot wine goes extremely well with fatty fish and aged cheese, for example. Cranberry wine goes quite well with roast chicken, turkey and mild cheeses. I’m not just talking about a connoisseur’s point of view. I find that certain foods, like venison, soft and/or aged cheeses, for example, bring out intense fruit flavors in wine. The wine itself alters the palate so that the food itself is more flavorful. How about that, mission control? Can we have wine with our meals? We need it. Can wine be freeze-dried and retain its alcohol and flavor? I don’t know. Alcohol is usually the first thing to go when dehydrating liquids. The alcohol would sublimate from even frozen wine. I don’t know how to solve this problem, but I’m telling you all right now: if you want those souls trapped in a hostile environment to always enjoy their meals, they will need wine. Put it in individual lightweight boxes, like those ubiquitous boxed fruit drinks. Put it in small bags. Put it in anything lightweight, but bring it!
MARCH 3, 2012 – Walking to Mars (Mars reached the closest point to the Sun in its orbit)
On Wednesday, February 29, after I had sent my application off the night before, I went hiking into the Sandia Mountains. Short hike; just fours miles up and back the Domingo Baca trail. The entire time I kept thinking that I need to get in better shape. I still have to pass a Class 2 flight physical. Of the 700+ people who applied for this mission, 30 will be selected and notified to get the physical. I expect the physical will help prune that number down to the remaining eight. We still don’t know when we will hear anything. In the meantime, I need to keep walking. Today, March 3, I went on another 4-mile hike, but climbed 1200 feet in elevation in one hour! My hiking group hiked to the Eye of the Sandias. It was painted in the 1960s, refreshed in the 1990s and it looked as if it had been touched up within the last two years as well. The Eye looks out at Albuquerque, monitoring its growth, according to legend. It was a good hike. We started at about 7200 feet and climbed to 8400 feet to take a break at the Eye. I took some photos and we went on back down. I suspect I’m going to have to increase the number of hikes I go on, and get back to those 9 to 12 mile hikes I was going on two years ago. Time to get this old body back into shape, and I’d better hurry. I’d hate to be selected and fail the flight physical. Anyway, here are some pics from today. Some are looking out across Albuquerque to Mount Taylor, some 90 miles away. Other shots show my hiking companions, the Eye itself, and parts of the trail. One shot shows I-40 snaking eastward though Tijeras canyon, even as we were able to view Albuquerque and Mt. Taylor. It really is a good place for an eye.
MARCH 5, 2012 – News & Information
Finally, some information: “The selection panel is currently going through the applications to determine a short-list of candidates, who will then be asked to get an aviation medical exam (at our cost), and to provide references. We expect to be able to inform you whether or not you are on the short-list by the end of March.” Good to know.
In case some of you are wondering why the hell the Mars mission itself is important, there is this:
Exploring space, especially the planets around us, IS important to our future, not only for our nation, but for the survival of our planet.
MARCH 7, 2012 – It’s a not-in-Kansas-anymore twister!
Half a mile high! Image from the high-resolution camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. More info: http://bitly.com/zNeD5P
MARCH 9, 2012 – posted on HI-SEAS:
“As we go through the applications, we are blown away by the caliber and the passion of the applicants. You all are amazing.”
MARCH 12, 2012 – The Case For Space
Please read this article: The Case For Space
In it, the author makes a logical, but also very compelling pitch for the United States to go to Mars sooner, not later, and to revamp its space program now. A hazy “commitment” to Mars sometime in the late 2030s is not going to keep us on track. President Obama said that the Apollo program “produced technologies that have improved kidney dialysis and water purification systems; sensors to test for hazardous gases; energy-saving building materials; and fire-resistant fabrics used by firefighters and soldiers. And more broadly, the enormous investment of that era — in science and technology, in education and research funding — produced a great outpouring of curiosity and creativity, the benefits of which have been incalculable.” Of course, according to author Neil deGrasse Tyson, there is much more to that list of revolutionary spinoff technologies, including digital imaging, implantable pacemakers, collision-avoidance systems on aircraft, precision LASIK eye surgery, and global positioning satellites. Even in troubled economic times, the author states, the United States is a sufficiently wealthy nation to embrace an investment in its own future in a way that would drive the economy, the country’s collective ambitions, and, above all, the dreams of coming generations; in 1969 the United States went to the moon while fighting two wars — one cold, one hot — during the most turbulent decade in American history since the Civil War.
Imagine the excitement when NASA, bolstered by a fully funded long-term plan, starts to select the first astronauts to walk on Mars. Right now, those science-savvy future explorers are in middle school. As they become celebrities whom others seek to emulate, the United States will once again witness how space ambitions can shape the destiny of nations.
MARCH 28, 2012
No news yet; just this post from HI-SEAS:
“We expect to have an update for applicants next week. Thank you for your patience as we give your applications the attention they deserve.”
I’m patient, but next week seems so far away now.
APRIL 7, 2012 NEWS!
Received this today:
“Thank you for your interest in the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and
Simulation. As you may know, we received almost 700 applications for
this mission, for only six crew positions. Because of this huge
response, we have had to add one more stage to the process (as
originally described in the call for participation). At this point, you
are one of the candidates for a potential
education/journalism/outreach/art/social-media position on the crew.
However, we will have to narrow the total pool down further before
moving on to interviews, references and medicals. We expect to be able
to notify the ~30 crew semi-finalists by mid-April.“
This must be what waiting for a launch window is like: “end of March”, “next week”, and now “mid-April”. I’m pretty damn excited! I feel like a kid waiting for a holiday.
APRIL 20, 2012 Final News
My last message from HI-SEAS:
“Dear HI-SEAS Applicant,
Thank you again for your interest in the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog
and Simulation. I am sorry to inform you that you have not been selected
for the interview stage of the application process. We had a very large
number of highly qualified applicants, and it was extremely difficult to
narrow the pool down.
We expect to be able to run further HI-SEAS missions, so even if you
will not participate as a crewmember this time, we will keep you on file
for future opportunities. If you would like us to delete your
application from our files, let us know.
Thanks again for your application, and for your commitment to human
Oh, well, and my hopes were so high. This was the first thing I’ve been excited about in years.
Posted in coffee, current events, health, Mars, opinion, space, spices, Travel, wine | Tagged: HI-SEAS, Mars, space exploration, wine | Leave a Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on February 2, 2012
I went hiking in the Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness recently. I thought people might be interested in seeing some photos. After you click on one, you can use the arrows to view all of the photos. They are high resolution photos, so give each one time to fully load before moving on to the next one. It was fantastic hiking there.
Posted in hiking, photography, Travel | Tagged: badlands, hiking, hoodoos, petrified wood | Leave a Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on January 25, 2012
Always a Puzzle to Me
Posted in Dreams, Life, love, madness, marriage, My Life, photography, Random Thoughts, relationships | Tagged: Life, love, love lost, sex, women | Leave a Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on November 9, 2011
For many years, I’ve traveled by the lava flows around Grants, New Mexico. I’ve stopped to smell the lava occasionally, and even picked the tunas, the fruits of the prickly pear, as they are known around here, which grow near the lava by the highway. I’d never hiked through the lava fields before, so when a hike came up to do so, I jumped at it. Now, hiking through cold lava is not as easy as it sounds. The smooth flow, pāhoehoe, is not bad to walk on: mostly flat, good traction. The ‘a’a is not so easy. Much of the later half of the hike was on ‘a’a, the sharp, strewn rocks blown out of the volcanoes, including sharp rocks and loose gravel-like stones.
El Malpais is a national park.
There is a trail, (a very loose term), through the badlands. It is 7.5 miles long. Seems easy, right? Well, people do get lost and die in there. In fact, human bones found scattered on a lava flow in El Malpais National Monument have been identified, just last year, as those of James Chatman and Crystal Tuggle, father and daughter, who never came back from an afternoon walk there nine years ago. See? It is so easy to get lost in there. The trail, such as it is, is marked with cairns throughout. Sometimes the cairns are no more than ten feet apart, sometimes, 20 to 30 feet apart, when the trail is obvious. Usually, it is not, so the cairns are placed liberally along the trail, showing the way through every twist and turn.
There’s one there, in the upper right corner, next to one of my hiking companions. Now, this one is fairly easy to spot, but do you see a problem? The cairns are simply piles of lava rocks. On a rise like this, fairly easy to spot, silhouetted against the sky. Imagine that you are walking through a field of lava and all of the cairns are about two to three feet tall (max), composed of rocks the exact same color of the background. Here are two cairns in a row; can you spot them?
The advice the park service gives is to always have the next cairn in sight before you leave the one you’re at, and I wholeheartedly endorse that. Occasionally, this takes a bit of reconnoitering, but there is always a cairn alongside the trail in the direction one needs to travel. Looking at the photo above, you might be tempted to say that one needs only follow the other hikers, right? Wrong. Suppose you’re a slower hiker, or you stop to pee or take a photo. The other hikers are gone, around a bend, down a hill, or behind a pile of lava somewhere. You then have to navigate on your own until you see them again. Sometimes you walk right past a cairn, if you glance up at the wrong moment, so you have to backtrack a bit and try again. Imagine doing this right after a snowstorm. It had snowed the night before, but fortunately, it was light, and tended to melt as the day wore on.
Helpfully, the park service has provided wooden posts for some cairns, sticking straight up through the center of the cairn, but even these have a tendency to fall down, due to the really intense winds blowing through there. This one was near one end of the trail.
There were piles of these poles here and there, so I assume it’s an ongoing project for the few rangers that have kept their jobs. It’s unfortunate that the National Park Service has felt the brunt of the many cuts in government over the years. I guess we need to keep raising our Congress people’s salaries, and keep paying them for life, and make sure they have top-of-the-line free medical care. Well, at least they think it’s more important, for them, even if they don’t think it’s important for the rest of us.
Anyway, you came here for pictures, yes?
Here ya go:
As I told the hike leader, it was one hell of a hike. Although I was tired and aching by the time we finished, (just under five hours including two 15-minute breaks), I really enjoyed this hike. The views were always outstanding, and the experience, on the whole, was fantastic! It’s one of the best hikes I’ve ever done. On the way home, we stopped at the ‘WOW’ diner in Milan, near Grants. Their menu is just as unique and varied as the lava fields are. With three pages of choices, I may never experience everything on their menu, but I intend to try. (There are still lots of hikes in the area.) It is the perfect end to a perfect hike.
Posted in hiking, Life, My Life, photography, rambling | Tagged: hiking, Life, road trip | Leave a Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on September 28, 2011
The last time I was preparing to fly, I felt a feeling of impending doom, although I did not associate that with the flight itself. Now, I wonder. Here I am about to board another plane within a month’s time, and I again feel apprehensive. Could it be that I have developed a fear of flying? It seems odd, although not so much considering the use to which some planes have been put in this country. However, I’ve always loved flying, even though I don’t get to do it much. I have been excited the last few days about going to my brother’s wedding on the east coast. Celebratory gatherings are so much more fun than wakes.
Why, then, does my mind dwell on scenarios of fighting with terrorists, surviving a plane crash, losing my luggage, and even ending up homeless, wandering the world? Too much violence in the world, I suppose. Hard to feel safe anymore. Of course, that was the intention of the terrorists, and the huge expenditure of money from a government in deficit has helped their cause by wasting our tax money on overblown security precautions, and a new bloated government agency. No amount of expenditure is going to make us safe ever again, but we keep on spending money, throwing money away, building new screening machines, hiring more clueless, uneducated screening personnel, making every U.S. citizen a terror suspect. We keep looking over our shoulders, backwards, instead of looking ahead.
Can we really keep spending money like this, just to create a false sense of security? It doesn’t even work, if I am any indication. I don’t believe all this removing my shoes, emptying my pockets, being x-rayed and hassled, and having to suspect all my fellow passengers is making me any safer. Paranoia inevitably leads to fear, and to an inability to function. Look, people: flying has always been dangerous. Planes crash on a regular basis. More people die in car crashes, to be sure, but there is no way to guarantee passenger safety just by hoping that our laughingly inadequate security measures are really going to keep some nutjob from finding a way to sabotage a plane. It’s unlikely that the whole flying a plane into a major U.S. landmark thing is really what every terrorist in the world is planning next. Our security measures are predicated on stopping that from happening. Someone can still plant a bomb in luggage, or fire a rocket grenade at a plane landing or taking off. Hell, to really inspire more terror, someone is not going to do the same thing that was done before.
The next time, there’s going to be a nuke, or at least a dirty bomb. Forget the planes, for crying out loud. We need to ensure that those nuclear plants are secure, that transportation of fissionable materials, and even nuclear waste is secure. We know this, and yet we permit our government to spend the bulk of our security money on securing our air travel? Jeez, enough already. Let’s monitor terrorists, investigate possible security lapses in protecting our power grids and oil and gas facilities. Let’s go back to working with every nation in the world to seek out and destroy terror cells, and cut off their funding. No funding, no travel. If the nutjobs want to blow each other up, let ‘em. But if they can’t afford large bombs, intercontinental missiles, and even plane fare, then we’d be a lot safer.
Every day, people die in this country. Sometimes it’s from car crashes, bus crashes, plane crashes, gas line explosions, earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, or accidents and homicides. Do we really think a few terrorists can do worse? I don’t. This is one huge MF-ing country. It can’t be taken down with a few explosions here and there. But we can fail, if we let fear dominate our everyday lives. We can fail if we use fear to win elections. We can fail if we keep seeing each other as the enemy. Some day, we need to stop fighting each other and work together to make this, again, a country that other nations envy, that everyone would like to imitate, not attack. People don’t hate us because of our freedom. They hate us because we threaten their way of life. Sure, some of them are just nuts, they strike out at power, because they are powerless. But, when we violate the sovereignty of other countries, when we exploit their resources, and attempt to impose, often simply economically, our way of life on other cultures, we create resentment. I think, maybe, we need to stop doing that.
Even the most powerful country on the face of the planet can fall under its own weight. Look at the Roman empire; look at the British empire. Look at the Third Reich. And those were just the most recent empires to fail. Throughout history nations and empires have risen and then fallen. If we want to remain a great nation, we have to represent more than a nation of powerful weapons and large armies. Spending all of our money and effort on weapons and security will not save us.
Are we with the rest of the world, or against it?
Posted in current events, Human rights, Life, madness, opinion, rambling, rants | Tagged: Life, peace, troops, violence, war | Leave a Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on September 10, 2011
Haven’t had many dreams that I remember in some time. Maybe it’s because I sleep poorly. At any rate, my ex-wife was in my dream this morning. I hadn’t seen her in four years until just recently, when I spotted her dancing at a Salsa event one night. That was something we always did, mostly every week for fourteen years, so it upset me to see her dancing, knowing we could never dance again. She was on my mind for weeks after that, almost all the time. Spending time recently with my siblings and cousins, and laughing with them, broke the spell, and I hadn’t thought about her as much.
Suddenly, I’m dreaming about her this morning. In my dream, I run into her at a party at a friend’s house in the mountains. She asks me to go home with her, so we are driving up this steep mountain road to her place, somewhere deeper up in the mountains. She was always a drinker, so she has concocted a way to drink while driving. She is wearing one of those camelback water bags that hikers use, except that it is filled with wine. She attempts to take a drink from the tube but is having a hard time getting it to stay in her mouth. She is driving, and I realize she is drunk when she swerves across the road into the opposite lane of traffic. It is very late at night, so there is no other traffic, but there is some light snow on the highway, left over from an earlier storm. I am not concerned, as she has slowed way down, aware she is in the other lane. When she gets the wine tube in her mouth and takes a long swallow, she attempts to move back into the right lane when we see headlights behind us. So, she stops the car, on the left side of the road on the shoulder. When the car passes, I look at her, realizing that she never used to drive when drunk. It was always my job to drive her home. I am wondering why I am not driving. I am wondering why I am with her at all, except I know I am still sexually attracted to her. Jokingly, I tell her that drinking WHILE driving will make them throw the book at her. She tells me to get out. It is cold, the wind is blowing powdery snow around the highway. I can’t believe she is serious. I tell her I was only joking. I want, after all, to go home with her.
All this thinking wakes me up: wrong part of the brain for dreaming, I guess.
I am left wondering why I would have a dream like that! Of course, the car ride could have been a metaphor for our marriage, but I don’t know why I would invent such an elaborate story. Perhaps I am correct, and it was a metaphor.
In a car = in the marriage
Worried about car ride = worried about marriage
Not in control of the car = not in control of marriage
Unwilling to get out of car = unwilling to get out of marriage
Warning her in car = telling her I was unhappy, wanted counseling
Cold, snow, mountain = there be monsters outside marriage
Pissed her off; she says get out = pissed her off; she said I had to go
I guess I never resolved that whole thing. I need to let go; thought I had.
Posted in Dreams, Life, love, madness, marriage, My Life, relationships, sex | Tagged: divorce, driving, Life, love, love lost, marriage, pain, road trip, women | 1 Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on August 30, 2011
I have such an odd feeling, as though I have no future. I have cleaned up my house, put things away, and find myself thinking that it is ready for the estate sale after I die. It keeps running through my head that I haven’t much time left. Last night I even thought that my due date is coming up sooner than later. All bills are paid for the month. Rent check, book I sold, and Netflix movie are all in the mail.
I watched The Man Who Wasn’t There last night. Perhaps it influenced me too much. In identifying with the protagonist, I ended up being depressed. Of course, I never have to dig too deep to find such feelings. Been that way for some time now. I don’t feel sad as such. I just have this gut feeling that I will die soon. I kept getting the idea running through my head last night that once I leave my house today I will never return. That could mean different things, but it’s hard to imagine not returning to my house if I’m still alive.
I hope someone takes care of my cats.
Posted in depression, Life, madness, My Life, rambling, Random Thoughts | Tagged: cats, death, emo | 5 Comments »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on August 7, 2011
˙ǝɯ punoɹɐ sɯɹɐ ǝsoɥʇ ɟo ssǝuʇɟos ƃuoɹʇs ǝɥʇ sı sɹǝʇʇɐɯ ʇɐɥʇ llɐ ˙uǝʇʇoƃɹoɟ sı ǝɔuǝıɹǝdxǝ ɥʇɐǝp-ɹɐǝu ɹno ˙ɯlɐɔ ɯɐ ı ˙sǝɥɔuı ʎq ǝʇoʎoɔ ǝɥʇ ssıɯ ǝʍ ˙ǝɯ sǝʌɐs ʇɐɥʇ ǝɔuǝsǝɹd ɹǝɥ sı ʇı ˙ǝɯ sɹoɥɔuɐ ǝɥs ˙ʎʇıɹnɔǝs ˙ʇlǝq ʇɐǝs ɐ ǝʞıl ʇsǝɥɔ ʎɯ punoɹɐ sɯɹɐ ‘ǝɯ puıɥǝq ɐʎɐɯ ˙ɹǝʇsɐsıp ɹɐǝu ˙ɥdɯ ǝʌıɟ-ʎʇɟıɟ ʇɐ ǝlɔʎɔɹoʇoɯ ˙puɐs ɟo ɹoloɔ ǝɥʇ ‘ǝʇoʎoɔ ɐ ˙pɐǝɥɐ pɐoɹ ǝɥʇ ƃuıssoɹɔ ʇsoɥƃ ǝlɐd
Posted in motorcycles, My Life, poem, poetry | Tagged: death, love, road trip | Leave a Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on July 5, 2011
Because of the fires throughout the state, the drought and extreme dryness, all fireworks were banned, including sales, possession and use, but the city of Albuquerque put on a good pyrotechnic display for all, for free.
Balloon Fiesta Park, 07/04/2011
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Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on June 24, 2011
June 24 First Day
Well, we have lots of other conventions here, like Bubonicon, or the Albuquerque Comic Con, but this is our first Comic Expo. I’m not sure why we need two Comic conventions, but we’ve got ‘em now. The “Expo” says it is more professional. Stan (The Man) Lee will be here Saturday and Sunday, but I was only able to attend on Friday. I saw a few friends, mostly photographers, and had my picture taken with LeVar Burton and Marina Sirtis. ( photo by Esi)
Attended a great and funny Q&A with Jeremy Bulloch, who played Boba Fett in Star Wars’ movies. He also has appeared in Dr. Who and James Bond.
Bought some books and had ‘em signed, by Science Fiction author Robert E. Vardeman, and by comic strip artist Stephan McCranie.
I didn’t get to meet Doug Jones (Buffy, Hellboy,etc.) or Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca) or ten other notable actors, animators directors and producers, but maybe next time. Perhaps I’ll have time after a photo shoot on Sunday to stop in again. In the meantime, here are some of the photos I took on 6/24/11:
Posted in celebrity, current events, Life, photography | Leave a Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on June 8, 2011
Warning: I brake for rhinoceros. That’s what the bumper sticker on the pickup in front of me said. What I found odd was not that this was on I-25 between Albuquerque and Santa Fe, but that I thought rhinoceros should be plural, like rhinoceroses or maybe rhinoceri. I didn’t know that the plural of rhinoceros is rhinoceros, because I was surrounded on all sides by cactus plants known in the aggregate as cacti. So that seemed a good bet. Braking for rhinoceros didn’t seem as odd as the highway signs that say things like Caution: Watch For Water or Gusty Winds May Exist. There is even a large official-looking road sign near my house that says: Lizard Crossing. True enough everywhere around here, but try seeing one on the street ahead of you in the explosively bright afternoon sun with waves of heat shimmering over the road.
The idea that one brakes for rhinoceri tickled me, as tumbleweeds often seemed just as formidable charging across the highway. Some of them grow to enormous size, and, just as often, dozens of them blow by right in front of you. Tumbleweeds may seem innocuous blowing along, but not when you’re traveling between 70 and 80 miles per hour on a highway with traffic flowing anywhere between 60 mph and 110 mph, and several of them appear directly in your path. You can’t swerve into the other lane, because a long line of vehicles are backed up behind the Winnebagos there, and you can’t suddenly brake, because then the idiot behind you, traveling at 110 mph expecting you to get out of their way, will just plow into your ass.
So, sometimes you continue right along, hoping that the tumbleweeds will be knocked up over your hood and into the idiot behind you. For inexplicable reasons, at least part of the tumbleweed will end up under your car, wedged under the muffler or the heat shield. Unfortunately, tumbleweeds, at this stage of their lives, are ridiculously dry, and the underside of your car is pretty damn hot, so it is not unheard of to have one catch fire under there. Tumbleweeds are a good reason to carry a fire extinguisher in your vehicle. What I really need is a bumper sticker that says: I Brake For Tumbleweeds.
Posted in humor | Tagged: road trip | Leave a Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on May 15, 2011
She came into the room wearing only frilly pink panties. Her nipples were covered with black crosses of electrical tape. My heart jerked. My eyes felt like they popped out of my head. My hands were shaking; my legs were weak. I could barely speak.
I wanted to wrap my arms around her, pull that tape off with my teeth, taste her, lick her, feel her, fuck her. I wanted to give into my wild impulse and have sex on the spot, sex like no other: wild, uninhibited, hard.
Instead, I clicked the shutter shakily, again and again, over two hundred times. I am a photographer.
Posted in Dreams, Life, love, madness, My Life, photography | Tagged: Life, sex, women | Leave a Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on March 14, 2011
I didn’t know I could find joy in
a brain tumor
I never really felt love before
the brain tumor
I never felt such fear
a brain tumor!?
We joke about it
It’s not like you have a brain tumor
We compare headaches to
It’s my step-daughter that had
the brain tumor
I never knew such fear
- the all-day brain surgery
- the chemotherapy
- the radiation.
I never knew I felt such love
this young woman I’d known
thirteen years from girl to woman
I never knew such joy
- after the operation she survived
- still needed chemo she survived
- still needed radiation
- a high-tech magic bullet.
Damn brain tumor
fuckin’ damn brain tumor
dead brain tumor.
My chest loosened
I can breathe
I never knew such joy before
the brain tumor.
Posted in family, health, Life, love, medical, poem, poetry, relationships | Tagged: cancer, family, Life, love, poem, poetry | 4 Comments »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on March 2, 2011
She said to me that I was lazy, that was why I was with her, that I was too lazy to look for love. She implied that was why I loved her. I think she felt she wasn’t good enough for anyone to fall in love with. She also said that I didn’t love her, I loved everyone. She was a hard person to love. She would not tell me she loved me, and, it’s likely she didn’t. She was never affectionate; she never touched me on her own. She was rarely passionate. I could touch her, but not too much, usually only after sex, and then we could cuddle together for a short while. If it was sex on the rare night, she would turn away quickly to her own spot on the far side of the bed. If it was a weekend morning, then she would get up shortly after sex, so the cuddling was short. She slept late on weekends, and told me never, ever, to wake her. I woke early on weekend mornings, and I waited for her to wake for hours sometimes. Over the years, she began to sleep late, wake up suddenly and jump out of bed before I could touch her.
Sometimes she would let me put my arms around her while she worked in the kitchen, but she wouldn’t stop what she was doing. Usually she’d move away or brush me off. She seemed to like it sometimes, but never for long. If I persisted, she said all I wanted was sex.
She never came to me for sex. Sometimes she allowed it; that was my impression. I liked sex, sure; never seemed to get enough. I liked sex with her, even though it was so one-sided. During the four years we dated before marriage and for a few years after that, we’d often had sex multiple times in an evening. One morning, I remarked to her in surprise that we’d had sex five times since the night before, and she was shocked; she didn’t remember the middle-of-the-night sex at all. That puzzled me for years. It was rare for her to orgasm, and she said she didn’t mind. She once told me that she had orgasms in her sleep. She thought that was the only time she had them. I knew better. She would orgasm during sex, sure enough, but only after a night of drinking. She had to be really drunk, and her body arched, and shuddered, and sounds came from deep within her chest. Afterward, she passed out. It was years before I found out that she just didn’t remember such things. I always thought it odd that she said she never had orgasms, no matter what I did, when I’d heard her moan softly and felt her breath quicken. And she breathed hard and fast and I kept going as long as I could, and her excitement excited me and I’d go crazy with lust for her. I never wanted to stop when she seemed to actually be enjoying it. I never knew if I pleased her, or if I disappointed, because she never said anything. After years of marriage, she would often just signal that that was enough, and I should stop.
I finally put it all together. It happened one time that we were out of town, staying at a motel in Santa Fe. We ate dinner and drank a lot. We drank way too much, and the increase in altitude made the drinks work faster, and we headed off to bed. It was not often, away from home, that she’d agree to sex, but this night was different, and we both got our clothes off quickly. She said that she had to use the bathroom. I don’t know when she came back. I woke up shortly afterward to find her nude, and asleep. It was a hard night for me in both meanings. I was aroused by her nude body always. She was out cold. I once heard a neighbor tell how he often had sex with his wife when she was passed out drunk. He loved for her to get drunk. That wasn’t me, however. I couldn’t see having sex without mutual desire, or at least acquiescence. I snuggled up to her, but I couldn’t fall asleep. I was aroused, probably because it had been awhile, and also she was nude in bed, which didn’t happen anymore. She always slept in a heavy nightshirt and socks. In the summer she’d wear something lighter, but always there were the socks. When I could snuggle with her, I’d get my hands inside her night clothes to feel her warm body, but often not until she was asleep. She always said she was too hot. She insisted on sleeping under a thick comforter all year long. She said it made her feel good, but she would throw it off several times a night.
Once, on a cold night, I awoke shivering and found neither of us covered. I pulled the comforter up over both of us, which woke her up. She asked me why I’d covered her. I told her it was cold; I thought she’d want to be covered. She yelled at me, angrily, to never cover her or uncover her. She thought I had been uncovering her at night.
On this particular night in Santa Fe I couldn’t sleep. It was a combination of the excessive alcohol and my desire for her. I tried falling asleep, but I couldn’t. I felt her soft belly and cupped my hands around her breasts. My rock-hard penis was nestled against her ass, and it wouldn’t settle down. I felt the curve of her hips and her soft thighs. I caressed her arms. I dared to rest my hand on her mound. She never woke. I was restless and excited. I wanted her so bad. Towards morning I was exhausted. It had been a long night. I dozed off only after light came in the crack between the heavy curtains, but not for long. I woke and dozed, woke and dozed, always with a hard on. Finally she was awake. I snuggled up against her, touched her, kissed her, and she pushed me off, gently this time. I persisted, however, and she said, “We already had sex.” I was incredulous. “What! We didn’t.” I told her she was wrong, that I would know. She insisted. She said that since she was naked, she knew we’d had sex. I struggled for words. It was impossible. There was no stickiness, no wet spot on the bed, no smells, and besides, sex is not something I have ever forgotten. She insisted we must have, but, after a quick trip to the bathroom, she came back to bed and agreed. It was too late for me. I was dead tired, and hung over. My penis was not very stiff, and I couldn’t keep it erect for more than a minute. I had to just give up. She said nothing. We got up and went to breakfast.
But, after that, I knew why she thought she never had orgasms, why she thought we didn’t have sex when we had, and why she thought we’d had sex when we hadn’t. She blacked out. She is one of those drunks who doesn’t remember what she did the night before. All those times we had sex after Thursday night dancing and drinking – she didn’t remember it. I think she remembered mostly the morning sex, the quick rushed sex because we both had to go to work. Years of long Thursday nights, and lots of sex that she would never remember. Orgasms she would never remember. My efforts to please her for nothing. I enjoyed the sex, but it was only a chore for her, something one does for someone else’s benefit. Did it mean she loved me? I guess I’ll never know. She never said. It’s been four years since I’ve seen her. I wrote her, without a reply. I sent her a book with a note in it, asking if we could get together to talk, see if we had misunderstood each other, if there was anything to say; she said no. I called her when her daughter had to travel to Texas for surgery, offered my help, offered to drive, share a motel room, or buy her a plane ticket. She said she’d think about it, that her sister might fly in from LA and go with her, but she never called me back. I called her and she said her son was taking her, and she didn’t want me there. My step-daughter said not to come, that it would just upset her mom more than she was already.
She lives alone now, as do I. She told her daughter once that she had never been alone before. She’d gone from home to marriage, and even after her first divorce, she’d had the kids with her. Now she is alone. She has her alcohol, and her phone and her sisters and friends to call long distance. Her son calls her nearly every day or she calls him. But, she doesn’t need anyone. She thinks she has always been this way, because she doesn’t remember when I held her hand, when I cuddled her, when I touched her and fucked her, and loved her, and only her, for all I was worth. She just doesn’t remember when someone really loved her, and when she thinks of me at all, she knows I didn’t love her, because I just love everyone.
Posted in Life, love, madness, marriage, My Life, Random Thoughts, relationships, sex | Tagged: sex love marriage madness self-loathing | Leave a Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on October 26, 2010
Just what the fuck is depression anyway? I tried researching it, after experiencing it for a few years. Got medication simultaneously with counseling. I was definitely depressed.
Depression, which doctors call major depressive disorder, isn’t something you can just “snap out of.”
- Agitation, restlessness, and irritability
- Dramatic change in appetite, often with weight gain or loss
- Extreme difficulty concentrating
- Fatigue and lack of energy
- Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness
- Feelings of worthlessness, self-hate, and inappropriate guilt
- Inactivity and withdrawal from usual activities, a loss of interest or pleasure in activities that were once enjoyed (such as sex)
- Thoughts of death or suicide
- Trouble sleeping or excessive sleeping
Major depression disorder, according to the Mayo Clinic, is when a person has five or more symptoms of depression for at least 2 weeks. In addition, people with major depression often have behavior changes, such as new eating and sleeping patterns.
Depression can appear as anger and discouragement, rather than as feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. If depression is very severe, there may also be psychotic symptoms, such as hallucinations and delusions. These symptoms may focus on themes of guilt, inadequacy, or disease. It is thought to be caused by an imbalance of brain chemicals and other factors.
However. Hmmph. However, none of this says what depression is, or where it comes from. Obviously, trauma can bring it on: the loss of a loved one, a pet, a friend, or the end of a marriage, love affair, or even a job. Many things can trigger depression. If it is caused solely by a chemical imbalance, then it would be entirely random, in my opinion. People in all walks of life would be depressed for absolutely no discernible reason, whereas most of us can attribute those feelings to something that happened. Everyone deals with these things in different ways, and, in fact, it is common for everyone to be depressed at some time. So, to follow the medical opinions, I should talk about major depressive disorder, that thing that just doesn’t go away for some people sometimes.
I think I know what it is, and where it comes from. I’m not a doctor, neither an M.D., a psychologist nor a psychiatrist.
Now, Wikipedia says: “The biopsychosocial model proposes that biological, psychological, and social factors all play a role in causing depression. The diathesis–stress model specifies that depression results when a preexisting vulnerability, or diathesis, is activated by stressful life events. The preexisting vulnerability can be either genetic, implying an interaction between nature and nurture, or schematic, resulting from views of the world learned in childhood.”
Blah, blah, blah.
I think it is nothing more than our reaction to pain. Pain, as many of us know, decreases in intensity after we suffer it for a time. Runners, torture victims, accident victims, and victims of disease know what I’m talking about. There may be a variety of things involved, but we all commonly think about endorphins kicking in, numbing us to pain after awhile.
Endorphins (“endogenous morphine”) are endogenous opioid peptides that function as neurotransmitters. They are produced by the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus in vertebrates during exercise, excitement, pain, consumption of spicy food, love and orgasm, and they resemble the opiates in their abilities to produce analgesia and a feeling of well-being.
Well-being after sex, yeah, I know that one pretty well. I also like chile, red or green, and sure enough, a blast of really hot spicy food brings about a lessening of the hotness after a short time. I can then eat hotter chile, but I pay for it later. So, one thing to notice is that this morphine-like substance we produce in our bodies doesn’t last very long. But, we can produce it over and over again, in response to various stimuli, including stress. Some of us experience stress daily, so we must also be producing endorphins daily.
Here’s what I think: depression is our bodies’ response to psychological pain. Depression is our psychological morphine, producing analgesia. We go numb in response to psychological pain. We cry, or grieve deeply, sometimes feeling an overwhelming crushing weight. We can’t function that way. We have to go to work, or continue our normal routines, so we have to push those feelings aside just enough to function. Depression is the result. If it was a relatively minor pain, we may work it out through continuing our normal routines. Sometimes, however, the pain was severe, or was perceived as severe, and continues to recur. We may keep brushing it aside. I think this is a normal mental defense, allowing us to continue our life until we can deal with the cause of the pain, similar to the production of adrenalin or endorphins, which give us temporary options for survival.
But, it has to be dealt with sooner or later. Just as an injury can be ignored while adrenalin or endorphin pumps through our bodies, eventually the injury must be treated. Depression is our temporary defense against psychological pain, but at some point, we have to deal with the “injury” that produced the depression in the first place. How we deal with the injury is what our mental health industry is all about. Alcohol and other central nervous system depressants slow normal brain function. In higher doses, some CNS depressants can become general anesthetics. Temporary. These measures are temporary, and can actually worsen depression.
An interesting tidbit I gleaned from the research literature is that endorphins attach themselves to areas of the brain associated with emotions (limbic and prefrontal areas). Perhaps endorphins are involved in the onset of depression? I do not know, nor care.
Do I know how to “cure” depression? No. Various treatments, combinations of certain drugs with counseling, are said to allow our minds and bodies to slip out of depression long enough to allow us to reprogram ourselves out of it. The length of treatment, types of drugs and types of counseling vary widely. The results vary widely.
Having just come out of a three-year long depression (at minimum), I have some observations:
1.) Depression is temporary.
2.) It does not occur 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
3.) In all likelihood, we prolong our depressive state ourselves.
4.) Whatever caused the initial depressive response must be overcome.
Yeah, I hear you: Overcome? How? Beats me. Drugs and counseling will help in some cases.
My best guess?
1.) Recognise that one is depressed.
2.) Trace the cause. This may take medical and psychological help.
3.) Eliminate the cause. This one is tricky.
I know that there are techniques often applied, common sense approaches, that may or not be accepted by all. For example, I have read that grief cannot be overcome unless one goes through various stages, like denial, and anger, leading to acceptance. I’ve found this to be true for depression. One cannot wish depression away – that is simply denial. Accept that one is depressed. And then get angry. Avoid violent solutions, because the depression will worsen, and be prolonged, but anger? Anger is good. Get really fucking angry. Maybe one thinks it was all their own fault. Let me tell you, getting angry with oneself doesn’t do a whole lot. What hurt you badly? What was the thing that drove you over the edge? Was it your boss, your spouse, your ex, your lover, your sibling, your parent? Hate them. Your injury? Hate it. Give it all you’ve got. Hate your boss, your spouse, your ex, the negligent driver, the government regulation, the politician? Hate them. Hate, hate, hate, hate, hate. Give into it. Feel the vindication, the release, the shifting of the pain from yourself somewhere else. When you’ve gotten the focus off of you and onto the cause, let it go. Forget? No. We can never forget. But we can let the anger go, and the pain goes with it. Then focus on change. Get away from the source of the pain if you can, or confront it. Attempt to change the situation that caused the pain in the first place. We all know what we have to do. If we don’t, the pain will hit us again, and we will be depressed again.
In my opinion.
Posted in depression, health, Life, madness, medical, My Life, opinion, rambling, Random Thoughts, rants | Tagged: emo, Life, pain | Leave a Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on September 29, 2010
When I was a very young man
I asked my father to please tell me
Will I get lucky Will I get laid
Here’s what he said to me
Que sera, sera
Whatever will be, will be
The future’s not ours to see
Que sera, sera
What will be, will be
When I grew up and fell in love
I asked each lover what lies ahead
Will there be love and sex every day
Here’s what my lovers said
Que sera, sera
What will be will be
The future’s not ours to see
Que sera, sera
What will be, will be
When I was just an old man
I asked my shrink what should I try
Could I fall in love again or fucking give up
This was his wise reply
Que sera, sera
Whatever will be, will be
The future’s not ours to see
Que sera, sera
What will be, will be
What will be, will be
Que sera, sera.
Posted in humor, Life, love, madness, marriage, misanthropy, My Life, poem, poetry, relationships, sex | Tagged: comedy, emo, Life, love, love lost, poem, sex | Leave a Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on September 16, 2010
The boy’s nickname was Terry. He didn’t particularly like his name, because a lot of girls had the same one, and it sounded like a child’s name anyway. He’d started out with Terrance, but in 1st grade the other boys called him Clarence instead. It always got a laugh, but not from Terry. It sounded like the name of a clown, or some snooty rich kid in a story.
After grade school, he changed his name to Bob, although Bob didn’t have much of a ring to it. Still, it seemed a nice unambiguously masculine name, and much more adult sounding than Terry, or Terrance.
Bob, as a name, worked fairly well for Terry. People didn’t stumble all over it, like they did with Terry, confusing his name with Gerry, Perry, Harry, but most often, oddly enough, with Larry. He wondered if it had to do with Larry, Moe and Curly, since the most common misunderstanding of his name was always Larry. He tried emphasizing the T whenever he said Terry, but it didn’t help. People just don’t get Terry usually until the third try. It made introductions tedious, even though people always smiled, and often apologized.
Terry went by Bob all through high school. He liked it. People seemed to respond better. He was older than he’d been of course, but high school boys are not generally known for their maturity, and Terry, or even Terrance could still have been disastrous. If there was one thing Terry hated more than anything else, it was being teased. Still, boys will use just about anything to tease another boy. The school insisted that everyone wear ties.
Terry had a hard time waking up in the mornings, and taking the time to tie a perfect Windsor knot every day had gotten old fast. Terry discovered the clip-on tie: perfect knot, perfect length, and impossible to discern. Somehow, one day, a classmate noticed, and snatched it from him. He chased after the perp, grabbing the tie and pushing the perp onto the ground. Generally, Terry had always been very easy-going. His father often said Terry would let someone take the shirt off his back, but that was what “turning the other cheek” meant in the real world. In the religious world, “turning the other cheek” meant martyrdom, and martyrdom was preferred to violence. However, just ignoring all the jibes and taunts was not easy, and that one time, Terry ran his attacker down and won his self-respect. Or so he thought.
Instead of congratulating him on standing up for himself, his other classmates made light of it, pointing out that the other boy, although the same age, was shorter. This made Terry into little more than a cowardly bully. “But, what was I to do?” he asked, “let him take it?” No one answered that. Whining was not allowed. However, this incident provided the catalyst for another far more embarrassing one, since the real bullies felt Terry was an easy mark, and could only defend himself against smaller adversaries.
Terry’s family didn’t have a lot of money, and clothes were patched, sewn and worn until they fell apart. It so happened one day, as Terry bent over to pick up a fork he dropped in the school cafeteria, that his pants split. He was mortified, but no one had seemed to notice. The pants were brown corduroys, with lots of vertical lines, and baggy enough that Terry thought it would pass unnoticed if he walked slowly and kept his butt cheeks pinched together. He sat down opposite his peers, and relaxed. He made it through lunch without a single comment. In fact, he relaxed too much, because as he stood, the gap widened enough for someone to see. Ellis, agent provocateur, class clown, and always an outlaw, took it upon himself to take full advantage of the situation. He grabbed a slice of pickle off his lunch tray and ran up to Terry, dropping the pickle in the rip as Terry stood up. The indignity of this was just too much.
That someone would see the tear no longer mattered. Ellis was going down. Terry lunged for him, and Ellis, cowardly as most bullies are, took off running. Ellis laughed at Terry, sidestepping and ducking through the cafeteria. Terry chased him into the hallway. Lunch break was not yet over, so there was no one in the hallway. Terry chased him, gaining on him, running full tilt down the hallway. Of course, yelling and running past the principal’s office, in a school that prided itself on self-discipline, was not a particularly bright thing to do. They were caught.
Now, Terry was in the equally uncomfortable position of trying to explain that someone had put a pickle in his pants. Fortunately, it had been the principal who’d caught them. The vice-principal was in charge of discipline, and he would have come down hard on them. As it was, the principal referred Terry to Student Court, a disciplinary board wholly run by the students.
Terry explained the pickle incident, (picklement?) and the court, laughing behind their hands, let it go. To add to Terry’s shame, all decisions by the Student Court were published in the school paper, although the rip in someone’s pants became a rip in someone’s shirt. In 1965, no newspaper would dare even allude to something sexual , much less the innuendo of a pickle in someone’s pants. It wasn’t journalistic integrity, but everyone knew the real story anyway.
Terry could see, by now, that the name didn’t make any difference. He was kind of an oddball, it seemed, and names were nowhere near as important as he’d always believed. After high school, he kept using Bob, although his employer and coworkers were not the types to care about a name one way or the other. By now, however, Terry noticed that Bob was an extremely common name. In every room, it seemed, there was a Bob. In a restaurant, in a garage, on the street, or at work, Bob was as ubiquitous as Tom, Dick and Harry. Terry, realizing that, as an adult, he could have his name changed legally, thought about changing his name to Bilbo Baggins. It was not a bad name, far out of the ordinary. That would have been alright, but he knew his family wouldn’t like his dropping the surname. But, what would Bilbo be without a Baggins to go with it? He thought about just using Frodo, but few people had read the half a million word sequel to The Hobbit, so he would have had to spend a lot of time explaining the Lord of the Rings character to every person he met.
Of course, changing one’s name is a very superfluous thing to do anyway, as Terry had found out. And now there were far more important things to worry about in the world, like sex and war, and getting to work on time. He took night classes at the University where he worked, but he really wanted to go to school full time. He applied for, and was accepted at another University a few years later, still calling himself Bob. He kept his job on a part-time basis, as a sort of contract employee. However, those aforementioned things, sex and war, took over most of his thoughts, as he sought one but wanted to avoid the other. That took him to rallies and demonstrations, as well as into drug and sexual experimentation, and his studies suffered. His thoughts were always elsewhere. Dismissed from school on probation for a year, he decided to travel.
After a few years of odd jobs and traveling, he took a job one day in a small foundry in Arizona. The foreman must also have thought Terry an oddball when he asked him his name, because Terry paused. It was a normal question, but suddenly, and without having given it any thought in years, he told the foreman his name: Terry. It was, after all, how his family had known and still knew him. No one he had ever met was as important as family, and he never changed his name again, even though he rarely got through another introduction without having to say his name at least three times.
Posted in 1960s, family, humor, Life, My Life | Tagged: Baltimore, comedy, emo, family, sex, war | Leave a Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on September 12, 2010
Dust bunnies blow across my floors
like tumbleweeds through my yard
Some blow away, keep tumbling
some get stuck.
Tumbleweeds in the ditch
tumbleweeds in the fence
dust bunnies in the corner
dust bunnies underneath
Memories are like that.
Posted in Life, love, madness, My Life, poem, poetry, Random Thoughts | Tagged: Life, poem, poetry | 1 Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on September 11, 2010
Some people eat beans every day
some people have bread every meal
some eat anything any old way
We had potatoes, hey, what’s the deal?
Ate a lot of them growing up
with potatoes in the garden
and meat vegetable potatoes
every night for dinner
Mashed potatoes Scalloped potatoes
Boiled potatoes Baked potatoes
Potatoes au gratin
Potatoes and ham
Bacon potato salad
Sweet potato pie
Potatoes in the stews
potatoes in the soups
potatoes as main course
potatoes on the side
But, ah! potato pancakes
smothered in applesauce
Couldn’t get enough
More pancakes please.
Posted in family, My Life, poem, poetry, rambling, Random Thoughts | Tagged: comedy, family, food, potatoes | Leave a Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on August 3, 2010
Fishing is religion to many people. Fishing in New Mexico is like that – it’s a spiritual experience. Rick loved fishing. He also liked to drink, and he liked to party – “Ajua!” – and he liked to grow and eat the hottest chiles you’ve ever tasted – “Yesss!” – but he loved just a few things: his wife, his sons, and fishing. There probably isn’t a river or lake in the whole state that he hadn’t fished.
“Rick’s dead.” That’s how I got the news. Linda repeated it, because I just stumbled out a “What?” “Rick’s dead.” “Yeah, but, but, you mean, Rick, Hilda’s Rick?” “Yes.” “But, how? when? Was he in another accident?”
Well, anyway, Rick was dead. The deal was this: he was at home, “evaluating,” a friend’s gun to give his wife, Hilda, for her protection. The reason she needed protection is a family secret. Rick didn’t know if he would buy it yet. The story we were told was this: while Rick was loading the gun, Hilda left him to call Damien, one of her sons, and ask him about the value of the gun. Rick didn’t know if he would buy it yet. Rick, who had just the month before wrecked their truck, and who had broken an arm here and a leg there, having a habit of being not quite careful, dropped the gun. The problem with an automatic, however, is that, as it’s loaded, that action cocks the gun. The gun went off when it hit the floor, and the bullet, well, the bullet found Rick’s heart. It had to pass through the sofa cushion, then it severed Rick’s scrotum, and traveled up through his stomach, where it managed to hit a valve in his heart, and no one could save him.
Hilda was devastated. I don’t recall ever seeing a woman’s face so utterly deflated with sadness. All of the skin in her face seemed to droop. She cried, sobbing between spasms of crying. Of course, her family was soon with her, as were Rick’s and Hilda’s friends: those that fished, and those without that particular religion. Everyone came, and we all brought food and beer. You come together to try to accept what has happened, you sit together, you talk, you eat, you drink.
Just days before the accident, Rick had one shot from a new bottle of tequila. He had said he wanted to save it, to make it last. Now, since he was gone, everyone crowded into the living room, the room with that bullet-holed sofa cushion, and shared the rest of his bottle. It was our last chance to share a drink with him. Martín, Hilda’s brother, sang a corrido in a great full voice laced with sadness.
Curious, I looked at the cushion. Someone had turned it over so the hole was not so visible, but it was there. I put my finger in it. I couldn’t imagine how it had happened. I didn’t know at the time that Rick’s huevos had been blasted off, or I wouldn’t have touched the sofa at all. There was, curiously, no blood, as if the cushion had not been under Rick for long after the bullet passed through it. Perhaps he fell over onto the floor. If there had been blood on the floor, it was gone now.
Eventually people hugged, and cried some more, and went back to their own homes. There had been a church service earlier, but Rick had long ago insisted that there be no funeral, and no coffin for him. He was cremated. His ashes had been brought from the church, and rested in a jar in the hallway. In the morning his family and friends took the ashes to Rick’s favorite fishing spot in all of Nuevo México.
It was a long drive from Albuquerque, past Bernalillo, traveling highway 550, through Cuba, through Aztec, and on and on near the Aztec ruins, almost to Colorado. Five trucks convoyed behind Hilda, in the lead, because only she knew the place. We pulled off the road, and plunged down an embankment to a sudden stop near the water. There was a short hike along a thin, almost overgrown path. Damien poured Rick into his fishing hole, a slowly revolving eddy alongside the swift flowing San Juan. The ashes whirled round and round and round, some of them heading briefly upriver, where they slowly sank. We all tossed flowers in the water, and watched, and waited for Rick to join the mainstream.
As the ashes and flowers slowly spiraled towards the deep rushing water, Rick’s family stood on the yellow sandstone rock that balanced over the eddy. I thought the whole thing might just topple into the water, and the entire family drown, what with the aunt, the cousins, the sisters, the sons, the dog, and the friends standing or sitting on that cantilevered rock. The sun is mercilessly bright when there are no clouds, and creates silver highlights on the surface of water. The swift splashing water has shadows between the ripples. Perhaps that helps explain what we saw.
Damien saw it first – a fish, probably dead, swirling with the ashes and the flowers. It listed in the water, but wasn’t clearly dead, so Damien poked it with a stick. It swam away! but only for a few feet. It remained there, lazily pulled this way and that by the competing currents in that watery grave. Someone said, “It’s drunk,” and it was almost certainly true. The ashes and flowers had been followed by brandy, and beer, and tequila. Rick was known to take a sip from time to time, well, probably more times than not. The fish was drunk.
It wasn’t long before someone decided that the fish was Rick. It made sense. Rick had been coming to this spot for a long time, and he had just returned for the last time in what was left of his human form. The fish wouldn’t go away. It kept reappearing at intervals, and drifting, drifting, drifting, like it was waiting for something. It seemed to be watching us watching it.
The fish told us that Rick wasn’t dead, that he would travel the San Juan now. That he would hang around the fishing holes, drinking the beer and tequila that slipped from the hands and lips of fisherman down the length of that river.
Gradually, the tears dried, and the sobs quieted. People laughed about the fish. The dog barked at it. The shadows were creeping down the bank, moving over the edges of the water. It was time to go. The fish became more animated, swimming faster, reappearing less, and moving closer to the central current. Finally, he disappeared into the shadowy, reckless middle.
Rick had joined his compadres in the water’s mainstream, and we felt relief. Rick was free. Rick was home. I swear I heard something in the splashing, gurgling water, as we watched the river flow. I swear I heard, “Ajua!”
Posted in family, fishing, friends, Life | Tagged: death, fishing | Leave a Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on July 17, 2010
Dark blue evening sky
Wispy white clouds floating high
Feet in the water.
Posted in Life, My Life, poem, poetry | Tagged: poem, poetry | Leave a Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on May 31, 2010
With nothing left to live for, no joy in my life, no pleasure in waking, breathing, eating, or even being, I knew I had to just get it over with and die. I went through all the options: gun placed in my mouth to fire upwards, blowing the top of my head off – way too messy.
Razor along my vein, for maximum loss of blood – too slow, and painful. What of pain? I shouldn’t care, but, it’s because I tired of pain that I no longer feel anything at all. No sense having pain be my last memory.
Jumping? What if I survive? What if I’m paralyzed? unable to die? kept alive for nothing?
Pills? so I can wake up choking on my own vomit?
Jumping in front of a bus? Same problem as jumping.
I really couldn’t come up with anything that didn’t involve some kind of pain, slow death, or public display. I didn’t want anyone to know I died, or how I died. I had no one to impress, no one to feel sorry for me, no one to send a message to. I just wanted it all to be over.
I found a solution: drowning. I knew it would be unpleasant. I had a plan for that. Nitrous oxide. I would feel myself drowning, trying to pull air into my lungs, trying to breathe, but I wouldn’t care. I’d laugh my way into death, gulping in whole lungfuls of water. Then peace, with a smile on my face.
The water was deepest near the dam, about 75 feet, so I’d plunge deep into the numbing cold water. I wanted to sink, and sink fast. I found four twenty-pound ankle weights. It was hard walking with them, but I practiced until I managed to just look like I was just drunk or high or old. And jeez, was I ever old. Too old for life to hold any interest anymore.
With a small canister of nitrous oxide, I crossed Deep Creek’s concrete bridge leading to the dam. It was 3:00 am. I walked, slowly and silently. There was no traffic that time of morning. I’d been there often enough to know. I climbed the fence to the dam, clumsily, but without making a sound. There was a maintenance ladder on the dam itself. As I grabbed each rung, my legs felt dead. It took a lot of effort to pull them up with me. I was sweating in that nearly freezing air. Those weights got heavier with every breath.
The water was calm, and inviting. I opened up the canister and let it fill me with gas. I had a small mask to cover my mouth and nose. It took longer than I thought. I hung there on the ladder, a few feet from the top. My legs were tired. My feet were hooked uncomfortably in the rungs. My hands, wrists, and ankles ached from the climb. After awhile, I didn’t care much about the slight pain anymore. I didn’t care much about the cold night air. I was really happy, for the first time in many years. I didn’t feel like laughing, but I was smiling. I dropped the canister into the water. The splash was reassuring, calming, a funny preview of my own fall.
I threw myself out as far as I could. I was taking no chances, but there was little danger of hitting the dam wall, as it curved inward at this point, near the long tunnel that takes water to the powerhouse. The water flows past the turbines, back into Deep Creek lake, back into the Youghiogheny river, continuing on its way to the Gulf of Mexico. I hit feet first, as I expected. There was pain, pain to my feet, despite the thick hiking boots I’d worn, pain to my knees, pain to my hips. But the water was so cold, and I was so excited, it didn’t matter. I sunk quickly. I opened my eyes, surprised that I’d had them shut so long, surprised that I was holding my breath. There was not much to see. It was dark, but some light from the power plant was reflected down into the depths. I had expected to touch bottom, but I seemed to be drifting down incredibly slowly.
It was time. I pushed my stomach in with my fists, expelling a lot of air. It blooped out of my mouth and nose. When it seemed I had no more air left, I held myself still, trying not to breathe until the last possible second, when my reflexes would kick in and force me to. It was peaceful. As I faced death, I realized I was ready. She was gone forever. There was no one left to care for, no one to mourn my passing, no reason for my existence. I was now useless. I’d had a good life. I’d loved, and lost, and loved again, and again. I’d worked many jobs, some I’d enjoyed, some I hadn’t. I had done all that I had set out to do, and I was content with my lot in life. Contrary to popular belief, I didn’t want to die out of regret. Hell, if I’d still had any regrets, I’d have wanted to keep on living, kept on trying to overcome those regrets for the rest of my life. No, I had no regrets. It was just time to go.
My lungs burned with the beginnings of pain, so I opened my mouth and swallowed, deeply. I sucked greedily at the water, blowing some residual water out my nose. Then, then there was only water, and I was afraid. Fear stabbed at me like an ice pick through my heart. I wanted to breath! I wanted air. My brain felt funny. It was hard to think, but I kept trying to breathe. There was a heaviness in my head, a feeling of darkness. My lungs struggled, again and again, for air. The water was too heavy, too thick. I kept choking. I started retching, water into water, and water back in again. It hurt. It hurt bad. Worst of all was the feeling of panic, of absolute fear. I thought I’d wanted to die, but now I wanted to breathe, to live, to think again.
Posted in Dreams, Life, love, madness, misanthropy, My Life, rambling | Tagged: death, emo, love lost, pain, peace | Leave a Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on May 4, 2010
What? where? who? slipped vaguely through my barely conscious mind as I came to. There were no answers available. As I started to lift my head, I couldn’t imagine where I was. I was lying down; I might be dreaming. I saw sky above. I was outside. I wasn’t in my bed. I wanted to get up, find out. In a sudden panic, I realized I didn’t know who I was. I felt like I was still dreaming. A name, I must have a name. Now that was scary. I was awake and thinking, but I didn’t know anything. I remember telling myself: Just lay here. Relax. Let it come. It was like trying to remember something on the tip of my tongue: think of something else, don’t think about what it was I’d forgotten. I closed my eyes.
I remembered the construction site, being pushed into the hole above an unfinished cellar, waking up to pain, being carried across a field, blood on my face, getting stitches above my eye. I remembered standing outside the tree house, trying to cover a hole in the roof on a rainy day, slipping, falling, coming to with a terrible sharp pain in my arm, the visiting relatives in our house, the ride to the hospital, the plaster cast.
It came back to me. Pumping my bicycle down that hill, hell-bent for speed. Traffic. Lots of traffic, rush hour traffic. A whole lane to myself. I had been keeping up, moving fast. An unseen car on my left was trying to cut across traffic into a driveway I don’t know was there, just to my right. It was practically touching me as I looked into a woman’s face: wide open eyes, slack mouth.
So, I was – in the street, still. Somehow I’d survived. I opened my eyes to a grey-blue sky. I knew who I was, forgot that I’d forgotten. I saw firemen sitting in lawn chairs outside the firehouse across the street. They appeared to be laughing at something, but I couldn’t hear them.
But, there were vague noises and voices, somewhere else, behind me, yes, and yards away. I was alone in an empty circle of asphalt.
“I saw the whole thing,” I heard a man say – I could hear an eager concern in his voice – “It wasn’t your fault. I’ll testify in court for you.” Now, why would someone say that? I wondered. I’d had the right of way.
Someone else – I remember a deep gravelly voice – asked, “What about him?”
“Him? He’s dead,” another voice answered, flatly and certainly.
Posted in Bicycling, Life, My Life | Tagged: Baltimore, Bicycling, death | Leave a Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on May 3, 2010
I’d like to be
a scented candle
in your room
burning for you
I’d like to please you
make you feel good
fill your senses
I see my scent
clinging to you
I see my scent
to your hair
to your skin
you blow me out
you set me aflame
you made me glow
you put me out
quenched my flame
a smoky ember
make you happy
light your face
make you smile
Your lips are a torch
when they smile
Should you smile
if only you would
I think it could
fan my ember
into a wildfire
light me up
I may swirl around you
O to burn so brightly
even for a moment
though I be totally
Posted in love, madness, poem, poetry, relationships | Tagged: emo, karen, love, love lost, poem, poetry | 2 Comments »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on April 18, 2010
Birthdays were never an egocentric event for me. My brother and I, although a year apart, shared the same birthday month, so my parents always combined the two into one party, one song. You know how people sing it, Happy Birthday to so-and-so? Ours were always together, Happy Birthday John and Terry. As a result, I think, I never thought of a birthday as a focus on me alone. This is a little odd, since some psychologists believe children under the age of 7 reason egocentrically, believing that their view of the world is the same as anyone else’s view. However, I at least saw that the world didn’t center around just me, but included my brother.
I remember much of my childhood, but not all. However, I can interpolate some things. I have no idea what my first birthday was like, although my mother was about to give birth to my brother, so I’m certain that weighed heavily on my parent’s minds. Knowing them, I assume they used the occasion to have family over for cake. What was my second birthday like? Well, I don’t know, but with John one year old, they might not have wanted people over so things stayed a little quieter. At that age, I wouldn’t have cared. I know we were a handful. By my third birthday, I’m sure the tradition got started to have both our birthdays on the same day. There were no other children as yet, and mom would have wanted to light candles and teach us to blow them out. The difficulty would have been in trying to teach us our numbers, because John needed two, and I needed three. She baked two cakes! By the age of four, John and I knew the drill. When October came around, and my mom started baking, we knew what to expect. We knew there would be a cake with four candles for me, and a cake with three candles for him. At the time, I remembered that previous birthday, my third, but that memory is long gone now.
You may well ask how I remember my fourth birthday at all, but I think it was the trauma of moving. I can’t remember the place we moved from anymore, but it had a long stairway outside the building. I remember being forced into a car, and driving a long way to the new place. The car was green, the rear sloped in a continuous curve from roof to fender. The inside had a cloth-covered ceiling. I remember that cloth, because in later years, it was loose, ripped, and always falling down. At the time, I didn’t pay it much attention, because I was more excited about where we had arrived. It was a small house, but it had a grass-covered front lawn. We had not had one of those before. My parents seemed happy about that, but, compared to the other lawns in the neighborhood, ours looked different. It hadn’t been mowed in a long time. It was wild and tall. I liked it, but, of course, no lawn is ever allowed to be like that for long. I suspect that is when my dad bought his first lawn mower, because by the time I was ten, we had moved twice again, my bother and I had the job of mowing, and that thing seemed ancient.
Those old push mowers were something else. I delighted in the spinning blades, each one of which curved in a broad sweep, much like present-day wind turbines. To my ten-year-old brain, the blades should have been straight, but somewhere along the line, people had figured out how to cut grass more efficiently. Often the blades would be near-dull, and pushing that thing through the grass was not my idea of fun. It was however, not something I had to do, but something John and I had to do.
We were sidekicks. From birthdays to work, we did everything together. Hell, we even got punished together. My father, discovering something broken or missing, would confront us. If neither one of us owned up to it, he said we would both be punished. Punishments ran a wide gamut then, from standing in a corner, to no dinner, to slaps on our butts, or the dreaded leather strap, which hurt like hell. One time, John owned up to something neither of us had done, just to get the interrogation and slapping over, and so we wouldn’t both be punished. Odd to think that our parents thought we’d ever do anything deliberately bad, knowing the consequences, but I guess they thought we wouldn’t ever do anything bad again if they punished us hard enough. Boy, were they wrong.
Running through the yard, we accidentally trampled mom’s azalea bush. You’d have thought we went outside just to destroy that bush from the way my dad carried on. We took our clothes off one time, and went out on the porch roof, climbing out the second story window. A neighbor saw us, so that didn’t go over very well. We also thought it was fun to throw small stones out that same window at passing cars, since the porch roof kept us from being seen from the street. We thought we were pretty clever about it, trying to determine the exact time to throw a stone, so that it would hit a car while we ducked down. We could hear the thunk on a car roof or door, and one time a car squealed to a sudden stop, and backed up to our house. That we had to see. Of course, that meant we were seen. Well, it was not fun anymore, as the driver got out and walked up to our house.
Then there was the time John and I built a small fire in an empty lot behind our house. We tried to build it up with stones all around it, but we were too young then to know to clear the entire area of combustibles. It spread, and we couldn’t put it out. We got on our bicycles and rode for our lives, afraid we’d get caught, and we were. A neighbor had seen us, called the fire department, and called our mother. She made us march out to the firemen and apologize. They were incredibly nice to us. They smiled at us. I didn’t know what to make of that, because we had been scared to death to go out there and tell them it was our fault. Our parents made sure we knew the danger of fire, and read us the riot act over that one. I doubt we could sit down without wincing for days after that.
John and I were a class act though. One time, investigating a construction site nearby, my brother and I and Eddie, a friend, were dropping rocks into a pool of muddy water in the incomplete basement of a new house. There was a hole in the first floor where the stairs would eventually be. We didn’t question why the basement walls and the floor of the first floor were built, yet the concrete for the basement floor hadn’t been poured yet. It was just fun to have a huge puddle far enough below us to makes big splashes. Three boys, a hole, a long way to fall; what could go wrong? I fell in, but Eddie went for his parents, and John found his way down to me. I was laying face down, out cold, in the water. He turned me over, saving my life.
Years later, we had ridden our bikes miles away from our house, and were investigating a sewer drain outlet. All the storm water from the street above flowed out into a small creek, and beavers had built a dam on it. It was just too damn fascinating to leave alone. However, the concrete around the storm drain outlet was green and slimy. John fell in. The slime was everywhere. He couldn’t grab hold of the edge to pull himself back up; he kept slipping back into the water. It was deep there, over our heads. We didn’t know how to swim yet, and the water was dark and filthy. In retrospect, I think he was panicking, because he thrashed around like crazy. I got on my stomach. I reached out my hands and yelled at him to grab them. He did. I was able to pull him far enough so he could climb out. We rode over to a nearby house and knocked, explaining what had happened. John was socking wet, and reeked. My dad drove home from work and took us home. He was, shall we say, upset, but also happy that we were OK.
So it continued over the years, through accident after accident. We even shoplifted together; that was a mess of trouble. Always we survived, and both of us have all our parts. We even fought each other. Sometimes only one of us got into trouble at a time. We balanced everything out by being Altar boys and Boy Scouts. We served mass and camped together. We were a team.
High school changed everything. I went first, leaving John behind. John developed new friends. Rather than follow me to the same high school, he went to a religious school in another state for a year. It was the sort of pre-seminary school you go to if you plan to be a priest, but before you go to an actual seminary. It was strange not having him around. Stranger still, he changed his mind and came back after that first year. Instead of hanging out with me however, he had other friends. He told me about discovering masturbation. I had discovered that on my own. He also knew girls. He did end up going to the same high school as me, but we never saw each other. He was one of the popular kids. He found a part-time job after school working on an assembly line for printed circuit boards. I rarely saw him, and he never told me how to get a job like that or what he did. He had money, bought himself a leather jacket, and combed his hair out and down and over his face, unlike my greasy pompadour. He was as different as he could be. I stayed after school myself, joining various clubs: Science, Computer, Drama. When I was home, I had to study, usually two to three hours, just to keep up.
John and I didn’t have free time anymore; no time to waste riding our bicycles randomly, exploring, getting into trouble. I stayed to myself. He thought I was weird. I didn’t have friends, I didn’t date. Well, I took my cousin out a couple times, but that didn’t go anywhere. By the time I graduated high school, John and I were like strangers. There were no more joint birthdays. I got a job and left home. He graduated the next year and got married. I went to his wedding, dressed in a funky double-breasted suit I’d picked up for myself. It reminded me of my grandfather’s suit. I looked and felt out-of-place around the family. I tried to look and act mature. I had even bought a packet of Tiparillos, small plastic-tipped cigars. I thought they’d make me look sophisticated, but when I tried inhaling one at the wedding reception, I thought I’d choke my lungs out. Clueless.
John invited me over one time after his daughter was born , a year later. He’d always been the skinny one, but he’d put on a lot of weight. His wife cooked a lot. They had certain meals on certain nights, same thing every week. I asked him about sex, and he whispered to me, “Tonight’s the night.” I thought, “What, once a week? Are you kidding?” Clueless.
I however, was very involved with anti-war activities. I’d been arrested. John thought it was a joke, that I’d gotten arrested for the hell of it. Neither of us had been drafted, but I was caught up in a counter-culture, one that distrusted the family unit, authority, the draft, wars, and law itself. I liked marijuana and tried LSD a few times. Dropped out of school, lost my job. I moved away. I had many lovers. Sex was my favorite drug. I was a drifter and a carny. I settled on the other side of the country, poured bronze, worked as a hod carrier, then found work in a cancer research laboratory at a University. I took free classes there, got a degree. I got married and divorced twice. I retired.
I still miss my brother. His 40th wedding anniversary is coming up soon. I think I’ll go see him. We’re so much alike.
Posted in family, Life, My Life, Writing | Tagged: brothers, family, Life | 1 Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on April 3, 2010
Hey Charlie boy, strange furry little child of mine. You want to go out, do you? Here you go, I said. Charlie, a tiger-striped short-haired domestic tabby, lept out the now open cat door. Why they waited like that puzzled me. Charlie and his other half, a black and white short-haired domestic tabby, come and go as they please. Sometime they stay out all day, sometimes they pop in for a bite and pop right out again. Sometimes one or both sleeps on my bed all day. In summer they sometimes don’t show for a day or two. I never can figure them out. They don’t need me to open the cat door, but if I’m in the room, they sit or lay patiently until I notice them, and wait for me to hold the flap up so they can leap through the hole.
There’s cat litter in the house, but they rarely use it. I hardly ever change it anymore. I can pull out the occasional piece of dried shit. I can often hear them running around over my head. They love the flat-roofed houses around here. There are six houses connected together, so they often run full tilt across the roofs, sounding like herds of miniature horses. Cats and horses, of course, have exactly the same gait, moving both legs on either side in unison, alternating from one side to the other as they run.
Often they wait outside the clear plastic door, waiting patiently for me to notice them. I let them in. Sometimes they eat, sometimes they want to be petted, sometimes they are just looking for each other. Sometimes they want to go right back out.
If I’m too slow to notice them, they start scratching the small throw rug by the door. There’s a small rug by my bed that they do the same thing to, if I’m too long in bed in the morning. Charlie sometimes meows at me, but the other one, Kilala, just scratches like mad. Sometimes they want food. Charlie has a high-pitched meow he uses when he’s hungry, so I always know just what he wants. If he wants attention, he simply jumps up on my lap, or on the desk if I’m at the computer.
Kilala doesn’t ever jump up on me. She likes to rub her neck on all the corners of the walls, and likes me to pet her, mostly just around her neck and head. She was the feral one, showing up out of the blue one day. Charlie was barely a year old when she showed up; I had raised him from a kitten. His mother had camped out in the yard, and dropped her litter. I fed them every day. Since this was the second time a cat had dropped a litter there, my wife insisted I get rid of them quickly. Before I did, I heard one of them mewing and crying away from inside the fence I had recently put up. There were pickets on both sides, and he must have fallen in from on top. Fortunately, I had used deck screws to put the fence up, and I undid the screws on the plank closest to the crying. It was the little striped orange cat I’d later call Charlie. I took him over to his mother, petting him all the while.
After a few more weeks I went to Animal Control for a trap. I set it up early, and put their bowl of cat food inside. Later on, I found the mother and most kittens inside. That made my wife happy. She was glad to see them go. It was the second litter I’d had to get rid of. I’d kept the mother of the first litter, after leaving all her wiry, well-trained mousers at Animal Control. They were such lively, healthy animals. I’d watched the mother train them in mousing, bringing them a field mouse to learn how to catch. I hated to see them go, but my wife insisted, and she wasn’t interested in waiting for people to come by and take them.
I had the mother fixed; no more kittens for her. She was a gentle cat, obviously a runaway, as she was well used to people, cat food and houses. But, one day a few weeks after she been spayed, she died in the garden. My wife noticed while she was watering. I was sad. I never knew what killed her: complications from her spaying operation? insect poison on the garden?
But, next spring there was another female, another litter. That was the litter Charlie came from.
When I trapped them, Charlie was the only one who hadn’t gone into the trap. So I kept him. My wife wasn’t enthusiastic about the idea, but as long as the menagerie was gone, she was OK with keeping one. Charlie was almost feral himself, still very young. He stayed away from the house, but showed up every day looking for food. While he ate, I petted him, and it must have imprinted, because, to this day, he often waits by his food until I pet him. He’s the only animal I’ve ever seen who will allow himself to be petted while eating. He even purrs as he chomps away.
I think Kilala was no more than six months old then she showed up. I never knew if she’d stay, so she was just “Girl” for the longest time. She was incredibly thin, but then I noticed her belly hanging down. Damn, another pregnant cat. She took to Charlie right away. They hung out a bit until she had her kittens, then she was often missing. One day I found her with her kittens in a small pit under an old, low-slung bench in the garden area. She grabbed one of the kittens and ran to the fence, vaulting it like a champion despite the bundle in her teeth. Later on, I noticed she had taken all the kittens, probably in the same manner. As they got older, they needed more food than Kilala could provide, so she brought them all over to the bowl I had Charlie’s food in. She had eaten there before, so now she was teaching her progeny where the food was. I had to put a lot more out. I was happy again to see the kittens playing, fighting, running around the yard, but my wife insisted they could not stay. Again, I had to round ‘em up and take them away. I kept Kilala of course. She was a great companion for Charlie. I can’t stand to see animals kept by themselves. Most animals, especially cats and dogs, are very social creatures. An animal locked up by itself, in a house or yard, is the cruelest kind of life, I think.
Charlie had already been neutered, and I had Kilala spayed. I kept my fingers crossed, and was very happy to see that she survived. Eventually I coaxed the two of them into the house to eat. They had a ball investigating all the rooms in the house, and chasing each other through them. They didn’t, however, like it when the outside door was closed. They loved running out and in, and out and in again. Whenever I could I left the sliding glass door and screen open. In winter, when I couldn’t, I had to open the door every time they wanted in or out. They never ran away. Even if they were out all day or night, they waited by the door for me to let them in again.
My wife hated the way I catered to them. I couldn’t see just leaving them outside, or confining them inside, so I became their doorman. I didn’t mind. They are affectionate to me and each other, although, just as people do, sometimes they fight with each other. Often they mate, even though both are fixed. It is always funny to watch them, curling together like a Yin and Yang painting, then suddenly fighting, or chasing each other around and biting and hissing. But always, they return and sleep curled around each other. They remind me so much of married couples, with one exception: they stay together. Either one could leave, but they never do. No matter how much they fight, they end up licking each other’s face, and cleaning each other’s fur. And always they like to sleep together.
Not like humans. My wife is no longer with me. We grew apart, without much affection passing between us anymore. I loved her, but she seemed, to me, to be cold and hard. Perhaps it was all in my mind. I told her once, after she’d been away, and she kept insisting, drunkenly, that I tell her, that I hadn’t called her because I hadn’t missed her. I had actually enjoyed a little time away from her. I meant nothing radical. It just was nice to have the house to myself, with peace and quiet, without the constant noise of the TV and her nagging, once in a while. I hadn’t meant more than that, but she wouldn’t talk to me anymore, wouldn’t listen to me. She made me leave, and, of course, I took the cats. The cats went with me kicking and screaming, but they adjusted to the new place, and they stay with me. I never heard from my human companion of fourteen years again.
Posted in friends, Life, love, relationships | Tagged: affection, cats, divorce, marriage | Leave a Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on April 3, 2010
my indigestion, my yellow teeth
pain in my feet, pain in my back
or is it my sacroiliac?
all the times I’ve come to grief
they add up over time
these aches and pains
the body slows, stiffens
joints pop and squeak
The mind wanders though time
dull painful memories
sharp happy ones
the future is looking back
Posted in humor, Life, love, My Life, rambling, Random Thoughts, rants, relationships | Tagged: aging, getting old, love lost, memories, poem, poetry | 3 Comments »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on April 2, 2010
The synthesis order from Dr. Jella’s lab was taped to my lab door when I arrived, even though I was early. Science marches on, without regard for working hours. After flicking on the lights, I dropped my lunch bag on my desk in the rear of the lab, under the sealed windows that let in light, but no air. I turned my PC on. I wanted a cup of coffee. I wanted to sit quietly for a few minutes, playing Solitaire. But, I had unfinished orders from the day before, as well as these new orders. I’d be lucky to synthesize all of ‘em by days end. A long day ahead of me, probably ’till 7:00 pm.
I typed the first sequence into the machine: ACGCCCTATTACGACGAAGTTAC. I could synthesize four pieces of DNA, or RNA simultaneously. It would take almost four hours for the DNA Synthesizer to complete four oligonucleotides, then I could start the next four. Hopefully, they would finish in time to let me start another four before I went home. Those would run overnight.
I finished entering all the code letters for all of the syntheses, checked the level of the liquid reagents at every bottle position, and started the Pre Run. Solenoids clicked on and off as current was applied to each one, moving a magnetic rod back and forth to allow the flow of gas or liquid for each step of the syntheses. Click, click-click, click, click-click, click, click, click, and occasionally the whoosh of gas as regulators adjusted the pressure of ultra high purity nitrogen that pushed all the liquids around. After all the lines were purged of air and old liquids, and fresh liquid flowed from each reagent through all the lines, I started my first batch of the day. I was happy that I’d had the machine upgraded from the original two-position one. I’d never have been able to get this much done so quickly.
I went for coffee, brought it back and sat idly in front of my PC. I took a few sips while I stared out the window at a clear blue New Mexico sky, then got to work. I entered the sequences I was making into my database, so I could keep track of them for billing purposes. My lab was not directly funded by any grants or stipends. I had to bill each researcher for the work I did, and then they paid me out of their grants. It wasn’t a hard job. The machines did most of my work, synthesizing DNA, or occasionally some RNA. The RNA was tricky, as it required careful handling and sterile conditions. There are enzymes that destroy DNA and RNA, but of the two, the RNA enzyme, RNAase, was the worst. If contaminated with RNAase, the RNA I made would be useless, experiments ruined. Time and money would be wasted. I would lose credibility. I was very careful in my work.
Besides the work synthesizing, I had other jobs: two of which were either synthesizing proteins or sequencing them. In sequencing, the machine took each protein apart, one amino acid at a time and pumped it past a detector to identify it by its characteristic wavelength. I didn’t have any orders for protein synthesis today, fortunately, because the process consumed a lot of time, and required constant monitoring. The final step in protein synthesis involved the use of a dangerous, highly corrosive acid in gaseous form: HF, or hydrogen fluoride. HF is used to etch glass. Due to its insidious nature, it can splash undetected on your skin, and slowly eat its way to the bone. I hated working with HF. People using it had lost arms, eyes, lungs and some had died. I had to prepare a super cold bath of dry ice and methanol to cool the gas into liquid form for use. When I opened the valve on the HF bottle, everything had to be ready: I wore a special apron made of acid resistant material over my lab coat, and wore similar gloves. I had a special clear shield over my entire face, and the apparatus for using the HF gas was shielded behind a glass-sashed fume hood. In theory, the gas flowed into my collection vial, liquefied, and cleaved my synthesized protein off of the glass beads it was attached to as part of the synthesis protocol. Then it flowed through a trap of strong base to neutralize the acid.
The first time I had tried the procedure, my boss at the time had worked with me. Dr. Latif was from an Arabic family, but had grown up in Trinidad, been educated in England, and had worked for the Mayo Clinic. He was an interesting guy, full of stories about his parents and Trinidad. Oddly enough, we were the same age, and liked the same kind of music, rock ‘n’ roll and Motown. I needed music playing to get me through the day. In today’s world, an iPod would have sufficed, but in those times, the music came from my radio/tape player and coworkers needed to like the same music for that to work. Dr. Latif and I were suited up in our protective gear, and we switched on the gas. All looked well at first. The gas was cooling into liquid form, and flowing through the simple apparatus. Suddenly the plastic container of strong base began to implode. It made no sense. We had followed all the instructions perfectly, and the pathway of gas was clear. For some reason, it was back flushing, collapsing the trap. We couldn’t just shut the gas off, because we feared the trap would either backflush into our protein mixture, or worse, rupture, spreading gas and caustic base all over the place. Without losing our cool, we increased the pressure of a secondary gas, simple nitrogen that also flowed through to help keep the HF moving. We opened the exhaust stopcock all the way. Success. The plastic trap re-inflated.
After the experiment was over, we both let out of sighs of relief. The danger had been very real. We laughed too. We were the only ones who knew the danger. If the HF gas was released, and even if we’d gotten away safely, that floor of the building would have been in danger. Likely the entire building would have to be evacuated and sealed off. We’d have needed a HazMat team, police and firemen. It would have been a mess and created havoc. We worked out our own procedure after that, and never had any further episodes.
Today, my first four oligonucleotides were finished synthesizing, and I took them off the machine; they would require a minimum of five to eight hours heating to be ready for purification next morning. I was readying the machine for the next set of orders when Dr. Jella rushed in. He looked anxious. He wanted to know if his DNA was ready. I almost laughed. Even if I had synthesized his orders first, it would still require heating and purification. I told him that I could put his order ahead of the others I was about to start, and explained the time constraints. He was so anxious looking that I told him that if it was for a critical experiment, and he needed it right away, I could stay late, even work all night to have it ready for him by morning. He thought about that for a bit, but shrugged his shoulders, saying, “No, that’s alright. I can wait until tomorrow. It’s not, uh, not for anything real important.” Turns out it was, but he didn’t want anyone to know what he was working on.
Later, I found out that reporters had been cold-calling various researchers, pumping them for information for a story. Dr. Jella was working on the newly hot disease: hantavirus. The disease had flu-like symptoms, and people in New Mexico had died within days of showing symptoms of what everyone thought was a cold or flu. A test for hantavirus was needed as soon as possible. Researchers were working across the country to develop such a test. Dr. Jella had the idea of creating a kit, using synthetic fragments of single-stranded hantavirus DNA. If he had told me what it was for, I’d have gladly worked overnight. As it was, research is a highly competitive business. Researchers across the country, especially at the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, GA, where also racing to develop a test. Whoever developed an effective test first would not only get recognition, but would be able to grab new research money to continue their work. Dr. Jella didn’t want word to get out of the specifics of what he doing. Someone else could take that information and receive the credit, not to mention future grant money to research other diseases. Basically, his job and life’s work was on the line.
I arrived for work an hour early next day, and purified Dr. Jella’s oligos first. Needless to say, he was at my door soon after. ”Are they ready yet?” he asked, somewhat breathlessly, like he had run up the stairs. I told him they were synthesized, and purified, but I would need another two hours, at least, to dry them down. A lot of water is used in the purification protocol, and I used a freeze-drying apparatus to evaporate all of the liquid. That made it easy to reconstitute the DNA to the desired concentration for experiments. He looked very disappointed, but I promised him I’d bring the DNA to his lab as soon as it was ready.
Later, I found out that he was using the DNA I had synthesized for the hantavirus kit. It worked, and his kit is now used to detect hantavirus. I got a mention in the paper he wrote describing the experiment.* That was unusual. Most of the work I did went unacknowledged. Sometimes the lab itself was mentioned. Most of the time, I went about my days synthesizing, sequencing, analyzing, purifying, and running the lab itself, buying materials, and billing the researchers. They paid me. It was a good living.
*(Rapid and specific detection of Sin Nombre virus antibodies in patients with hantavirus pulmonary syndrome by a strip immunoblot assay suitable for field diagnosis).
Posted in medical, My Life, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged: DNA, double-stranded, hantavirus, hantavirus kit, oligonucleotides, research, RNA, science, single-stranded | 1 Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on March 26, 2010
Stopped breathing. Just like that. The ocean had been cold. Much colder than I’d expected from a warm Spring day. It was early in the beach season. The winter had been harsh. Cold currents still flowed past the Jersey shore where my parents had dragged all seven kids. Normally, in Summer, they dragged us out of our comfortable beds early on a gray Baltimore morning, drove us across the Bay Bridge and down to the Ocean City on Maryland’s coast. I had no idea there was another Ocean City in New Jersey, and I have no memory of why we went there.
Me and my brother John had run into the waves, let them knock us over, felt the water churning and rolling over our heads. We never tried to swim in the crashing surf, just dived under the waves and tried to touch bottom. Felt the undertow trying to drag us out to sea. Tried to body surf our way back to the beach. That was our relationship with the ocean. The younger kids were still too young to play in the surf like that. They were walking along the sand, sticking their feet in the frigid water and running away from the incoming waves.
Me and John were the oldest. We did what we wanted sometimes. We were always together: walking to school, serving mass as altar boys in the early mornings, riding our bikes miles away from home, sledding down the steep city streets in winter, building a tree house, or carrying groceries home from the store down the road.
Sometimes, when fighting the wild bucking waves and swift undercurrent, I’d do my best to stay under water as long as possible. John and I were pretty good at holding our breath. I always hoped to see fish, crabs or starfish on the ocean bottom. I was always digging in it, hoping to find something.
I came up after a long dive and didn’t see John anywhere. No big deal. He’d probably gone in. I was freezing anyway. Even my frenetic play hadn’t warmed me up all that much. I headed into the warm dry sand towards my father. I still didn’t see John anywhere. I knew Dad would know where he was. As I got closer to him, I felt funny. My body had instantly started to warm under the 75 degree sun, but I felt hotter than that. My breath became ragged, uncertain. I sped up, saw my dad turn his head towards me, and that was all I saw.
I awoke on my back, but my hair was full of sand. A crowd encircled me. “What happened?” I heard a voice ask. I wanted to know that myself. Another disembodied voice in the crowd answered, “I think some old man drowned.” Old man? At 15, I could hardly look old. My dad was there too, looking down at me. He picked me up. A beach jeep pulled up, and hands grabbed me, loaded me into the jeep. It flew along the sand, bouncing and twisting. Suddenly we were off the beach, on the street. An ambulance waited. I was hustled into it. A mask was pushed onto my face. Oxygen poured into my nose and mouth. It felt good. I didn’t notice anything else, but I wondered where John was.
Next thing I knew, I was lifted onto a gurney, rolled into a curtained-off room. “I’m cold,” I remember saying. It was warm in the room; everyone was in swimsuits around me. The air was humid, but I shivered in all that heat. A thick wool blanket was dropped over me. I shook, uncontrollably. I just couldn’t warm up. “I’m still cold,” I said. Another heavy, dark green blanket was draped over me. I still shivered, amazed that I could be so cold, warm as the day was, and covered in heavy blankets. I felt like a freak. Well, I was, I guess. Turns out my rare allergy to cold had been my nemesis. In recent years, after playing for hours in the snow, and coming in the house to warm up, I had developed swollen hands, fingers that wouldn’t bend, red blotches on my face. But this was summer! Somehow, the cold ocean currents had swollen the muscles in my throat, tightening around my windpipe, cutting off my air. As I warmed up, my breathing slowed, and I relaxed. My parents had my clothes. I got dressed. I remember being back in the station wagon, surrounded by all the other kids, including John, next to me as always. Freaks need their families.
Posted in family, Life, medical, My Life, Writing | Tagged: Baltimore, parents | Leave a Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on March 17, 2010
I carry an Irish name
just part of my lineage
but important I think.
I got the name from my father
he died – too much tobacco in his lungs
he got the name from his father
he died – bad lungs
too much mustard gas
he got his name from his father
who got his name from his father
a refugee from occupied Ireland.
I don’t know how he died
but I’ll bet he choked on the memory
of leaving his home to the British
the Anglos killed Celtic men women children
took their land
sold some as slaves
no Irish could own land or money
no Irish could speak their native tongue
no Irish could have any other religion but that
of the bloody church of England
No school allowed, no life no culture
Not people slaves
without hope without justice
without reason to live.
They fought and died for freedom
from the bloody English imperialists
who tried to own
the whole world and failed.
They screwed the Irish even harder
took their forests their elk
their land their money
their language their culture.
The English fought the spirit of an entire nation
a people that had fought its way across Europe
survived invasions by Norsemen
by Vikings by Romans
and invasions by the bloody British
’till any sane people would have gone mad with despair
again and again and again.
But the Irish fought back
the British killed them jailed them
took more land more crops more slaves
left the Irish people potatoes.
Their crocodile tears did nothing
for the starving people of Ireland
when the potatoes lost heart.
So the Irish escaped their hell
joined relatives in Australia,
the United States, Mexico, Canada, and other places
Those that survived the trip.
I have their blood in me
the blood of the dispossessed, the beaten, the despised
the hated people who lived in Briton
before the British
who lived as one great people
artisans bronze workers
young and old, male and female
many tribes and clans.
The Romans started the slaughter
started the theft of Celtic lands.
The Brits came and took more and more and
more and more and more and more.
But Ireland still exists
Independence for the southern part!
hope to many
But the British still own most of the land
and the factories
and cling to the stolen land in the North
as if it was somehow theirs to defend.
To defend from what?
from joint rule? from democratic elections?
guilty over their own bloody past
they are afraid of retribution.
The Irish clans and tribes lived their own
life happily if not always peacefully
but it was their land their own fights
they had a system of justice praised
by the Roman invaders themselves.
They remind me of the Native peoples
of the Americas
forced from their land
forced to give up their cultures
forced to speak Spanish, or English
killed and beaten and raped as
were my ancestors too.
I don’t wonder at the Irish names
the Irish names that some
Native Americans carry and the
marriages between Irish immigrants and
Native American peoples.
We are family, after all
we believed in the same things
people land even gods
gods who brought rain and sun
and game and water and fire.
in a simpler time
before the English brought their civilization
to the Celtic tribes
British and Spanish brought their civilization
to the American tribes.
Many of us drink a bit too much
after hundreds of years of
civilized rape murder theft.
and we distrust each other
see skin color as a barrier
as if the invaders ever cared
if we were white or brown or red.
To them we were all inferior
scum vermin heathens savages
We know we are not.
We carry on.
Wouldn’t it be something
wouldn’t it be absolutely fucking amazing
it we saw each other as brothers and sisters
under the skin
on the skin
of our Earth?
Posted in madness | Tagged: green, history, lineage, party, St. Patrick's Day | Leave a Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on February 16, 2010
Do you know that odd feeling in your throat when you get emotional? It tightens up, you find it hard to breathe, and maybe your eyes water. Happens from time to time. Sometimes I watch a sentimental movie and feel that. There was a time when I felt deep regret over a lost love and I’d get that way. Doesn’t seem to happen much anymore. It’s an odd feeling, and only seems to occur with a sense of great loss, or empathy with someone’s loss or near loss. I remember when my step-daughter survived cancer. If it had been something I was watching in a movie, I’d have choked up like that, with my throat tensed and a feeling of being overcome by emotion, regardless of outcome. However, when Maya survived the surgery, and then again, when I found out the tumor was gone, after a whole lot of radiation and chemo treatments, I felt joy. It was the purest joy I’d ever felt. I was happy. My throat did not tighten, I did not cry, I did not feel overcome with emotion. I was, instead, blissfully happy. I stayed that way for a while. I am, of course glad that she is fine today, and in complete remission, and it is not the type of tumor, being so rare, that she is likely to experience ever again. The joy I felt back then was for her. I love her so much. I don’t need anything from her, don’t need to have love from her, or anything at all. I wish her a long and happy life.
Mine is not so happy. I experienced depression for a time in my life; got counseling, and medication. It may have made a difference. There was a change from that deep hopeless depression. I was sad a lot. It was sometimes overwhelming. There was an almost physical pain, tightness in my chest, sighing. That part is over now.
As always, I stay busy, even though I’ve retired from work. I hike, I snowshoe, I read, I watch movies. I buy things online and in junk/antique stores. I don’t feel sad. I eat a lot, which is not good, but it hardly seems to matter anymore. Nothing does really. It’s not the way I ever thought I’d be: just drifting along. No sadness, but no joy either. It is hard to enjoy a movie, a good book, a good sleep.
Sometimes I nap and I wake up nearly suffocating. It is dark and terrifying. My throat feels like it has been closed up. My brain feels oxygen starved. I feel like I’m dying. It happens more and more often. I don’t know what it means for sure. I’ve no known breathing problems. I had pneumonia as a child a couple times, so perhaps my lungs are not all that strong, and I had asthma until I was twelve years old. I don’t feel like there is anything wrong with my lungs now. My hikes take me up over 10,000 feet above sea level sometimes. It’s not all that easy, but I survive. I hiked near that altitude once for 20 miles.
I don’t know what to make of all this sometimes. I think I will drop off to sleep one day soon and I will just stop breathing. That doesn’t seem to scare me. It’s just the waking up unable to think straight and feeling like I’m dying that ever bothers me. When I couple that with my lack of joy in living, with a loss of interest in companionship or love, and with no enthusiasm for the sex that always made me happy, I wonder if this is it? Is my life over? Not in any figurative sense, but really. Is this what it feels like to die, or just to grow old?
I should do something, right? I try. I have a meeting tomorrow with people who want to change the world of politics. That used to excite me, but it’s more running on inertia now. I do the things I used to do, and new things too. I tried out to be a VJ ( a TV announcer/spokesperson), and it was good to try. Didn’t happen. I went to a local winery and I will be working there a couple days a week, with flexible days and hours. I might be serving/selling wine, or helping clear the ditches, or helping with new construction. I may be able to help with some of the tedious paperwork stuff, since I have some experience with maintaining inventory and budgets. It’s a new place for me. Something to do.
I don’t know if my life will change again. I tried the guitar, but I’m not doing much with that anymore. By now I thought I’d have a few dozens songs down. My photographs never sell, so I don’t know how much I will keep that up. My stories never sold, and I know they’re not that good. My poems pale next to most everything I hear or read. You’d think that would make me sad, but I don’t feel sad so much as tired. I don’t know what the point of it all is anymore. Going through the motions, eating, sleeping, doing things, watching things, reading, writing, working. I just don’t know. I know that people say, even when they’re dying, that life is a joy, and we can just enjoy every minute. Can’t say I feel like doing that.
In reality, I think my life is winding down. I think it may be ending soon. I can’t say why. It just seems like it. Sometimes the brain knows things we don’t consciously admit to, or recognize. Animals have been observed doing that: preparing themselves to die. They sometimes seem to know. Are people any different?
There are lots of things I can do: volunteer to help kids with their homework. Ask someone out. I have tried to get interested in other people, but the spark is just not there. It’s not here in the sense that perhaps there is no need anymore? If my life is going to end soon, then there really isn’t much point in anything. I look at that in the reverse direction, and I think, if there isn’t much point in anything anymore, then maybe that’s the sure sign that I am going to die soon. I have no regrets, no bucket list, no things I need to resolve. Death doesn’t scare me. Nothing scares me. Nothing excites me either, so that seems the same as death.
Well, tomorrow is another damn day. Who knows what will happen?
I had a dream last night: I was moving. I didn’t want to move. There were other people I was living with, and I didn’t want to go with them. I stayed in bed while people finished packing. I got up after awhile. There had been a very young kitten hanging around for awhile, feral, skittish. I didn’t know where it had come from. I saw it now, asleep by the bed. It looked so sweet and happy there. I went into the bathroom to pee and noticed little bits of cat shit around the toilet. Seems the kitten had decided to stick around. I thought about sticking around myself, just by myself. I heard a truck horn. There were to be two vehicles going. Four guys in one big truck and the two women in a car. I remember thinking it odd that the women and men were going separately, fearful that the women were going to disappear. That it was deliberate.
I went back to the cat, stared at it. I decided it was my cat. I could stay. Then I decided to go after all, but the cat was coming with me.
Posted in Dreams, Life, madness, My Life, rambling, Random Thoughts | Tagged: death, depression, emo, end of life | 2 Comments »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on February 11, 2010
I remember tasting
in your navel
ran my tongue
between your legs
into your sex
your red almond
Posted in Life, love, marriage, My Life, poem, poetry, relationships, sex | Tagged: love, love lost, marriage, poem, poetry, red, sex, women | 3 Comments »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on January 15, 2010
A new year. It was a new year. It was the first new year whose coming I had not celebrated. I had not anticipated such a new year.
After a fourteen-year marriage, I was alone. The house I’d lived in, worked on and renovated was lost to me. She had that. I would keep my future pension. That was all.
I was uneasy in my new place. Winter-bare trees stared in my windows. I stared at the rented walls, the rented high ceiling, the rented hard brick floor. It didn’t feel like home. It was the nicest place I could find. It had all I needed, a small kitchen space, a nice bathroom, two bedrooms and a fireplace in the living room. I had my books, my old vinyl, my 16-year old TV. Still, I felt like a visitor, as though this was a hotel room far from home. It seemed cavernous, empty and cold.
After almost four months there, I decided I was going to have a Christmas tree, but I had no ornaments. eBay to the rescue! Over the next two months I found and purchased dozens of old glass ornaments. I’d remembered the thin glass ornaments my parents had decorated the tree with every year, many of them German, family heirlooms. Online, I found indents, and double indents, and triple indents! There were multicolored ones, all fragile, large and small, and round ones, tear shapes, bell shapes and cello shapes.
I had walked down the street to the neighborhood tree lot. They brought in-state trees down from Mora every year. I carried my tree home, as though I had walked into the forest and chopped it down myself.
Once decorated, the tree stood there silently all through Christmas. As the new year arrived, I’d grown to accept it as part of my house. The place seemed more like a home. On New Year’s day, I built a fire and kept it going all day, for just me and my tree.
Posted in Christmas, family, Holidays, Life, madness, marriage, My Life | Tagged: divorce, marriage | Leave a Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on January 2, 2010
I happened to notice that today’s date, in the standard US nomenclature, is a palindrome: 01022010, if reading as January 2nd, 2010. That is the way most of us speak of the date in English in this country. Of course, it is sometimes written another way, as the 2nd of January, 2010. Under that convention, today’s date is 02012010, not a palindrome at all, and confusing. Of course, under that secondary convention, the palindrome for this year would be the 01 of February, 2010, or 01022010, but that dating convention leads to far more numerous palindromes. I prefer to use the first convention, by which the last such palindrome date was October 2nd, 2001, and, which is more interesting, the one before that was August 31, 1380!
Of note are these: October 10, 1010 (not a palindrome), although January 1st, 1010 was; December 12, 1212 is an interesting repeating two-digit number also, but, again, not a palindrome; and November 11, 1111 (now, that was quite a date!). Perhaps people don’t consider 11111111 as a palindrome?
So, assuming today is the palindrome for 2010, then one question that would arise is: when is the next such year? Obviously, it occurs on November 2nd, 2011; 11022011. However, no such date palindrome occurs again until 2020: 02022020. For those who put a lot of faith into numbers, it may mean something. It means nothing of importance to me, but, still, I find it interesting to note that our 12-month, approximately 30-day cycles yield such rare sequences of numbers.
This would all be so much simpler is there was only one conventional way to write a date. So, I’m looking forward to February 2nd of 2020, the first date in 1010 years that is unambiguously a palindrome by any convention, even one that puts the year first.
Is the next dual-use, unambiguous one after the year 2020 in March of 3030? There is, of course, Sept. 22, 2290, an ambiguous palindrome (It’s either 09222290 or 22092290), and October 3rd, 3001, (it’s either 10033001 or 03103001). Another 1010 years? I leave that to you, but I believe there is such a date. Tell me if you think you know what it is. There’s a hint in this post.
Posted in 2000s, Random Thoughts | Tagged: numbers, numerology, palindrome | 4 Comments »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on November 2, 2009
After spending nearly 40 years of my life working, post high school, I retired from my last job after 25 years there.
In high school I flipped burgers, but after leaving high school, my first real job was running equipment in a physics lab at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. It was a good job, working with a machine that used x-rays to measure molecular spacing in crystals, like silicon and germanium, which would prove vital to computers later on. It was, however, boring and repetitious, but I took night classes for free there. I stopped working full time to attend the University of Maryland Baltimore County for two years, but continued working part time as an independent contractor. I simply typed up a bill for my time every week. As good as that was, I was also involved in anti-war and anti-government protests, as well as volunteer work with a free clinic, classes with a chapter of the Black Panthers, and experiments with sex and drugs, so college work seemed irrelevant. The University finally told me my grade-point average was too low to continue, so I’d have to drop out for a couple semesters. Instead, I left town with my bicycle, riding through parts of Michigan, Canada, Wisconsin and North Dakota. Short of money, I took my second real job, as an electrician’s assistant for a large mid-western carnival: Murphy Brothers Mile Long Pleasure Exposition. I spent a full season with them, running cables to rides, troubleshooting, and maintaining the generators. Then, when my final pay was stolen by Toothless Lester, so he could go on a binge, I stayed on and worked small fairs in Oklahoma and Florida. Florida in winter is nice, and I got to swim in the ocean in December, but the ride I was with didn’t get enough business, for the four of us it took to set up and run, for us to eat all that well. I split to Virginia to visit people I’d met in Canada. The only work I could find there was helping out on a small goat farm, so I passed on that, and hopped a train back to Baltimore.
I got another job at Johns Hopkins after a short search, and this time I was preparing genetics and developmental biology laboratory materials for the pre-med students there. That job got short circuited when a graduate student opened a drawer in a chicken egg incubator, and left it open. The large rotating drum full of dozens of drawers full of eggs then tilted forward, and the drawer slid out. It didn’t have far to go, and could have slipped back in, but ventilation was maintained by aid of a wooden blade revolving around the drum. The graduate student was long gone by the time the wooden blade slammed into the open drawer, jamming the whole device, and causing the premature hatching of 50 to 60 chicks. I was blamed. As it was, there had been complaints from the students of contaminated agar plates, which was also blamed on me, even though the students did not follow instructions very well, and violated every protocol they were given to prevent contamination. Another job down the tubes. I knew exactly what to do: get on the bicycle again. This time I left Baltimore directly, and rode west to Arizona. After hiking across the Grand Canyon and back, I ended up in Scottsdale, Arizona, working for a crafts foundry run by Paolo Solari, a visionary architect building an “Arcology” in the desert. I made bronze wind-bells, melting bronze, ramming clay/sand mixtures around molds and then pouring the bronze, cleaning up the raw products, assembling and even selling them. Sometimes I helped out by giving tours to tourists and other visitors. It was a fine job, but I met some bicyclists traveling through who were doing advance work for a cross-country bicycling/networking trip. I agreed to join them when the group arrived from California.
That was my longest break from working ever, although it involved riding a bicycle nearly every day for six months. Sometimes we did odd jobs to supplement our communal income, and we all gave workshops in our specialties. Mine was bicycle maintenance and repair. The tour ended, and I tried working for a solar contractor in Philadelphia, but that didn’t work out. I hadn’t enough experience in carpentry (none with solar panels) to satisfy my boss, who had wanted to have me work unsupervised. So, I traveled to New York City. I knew a few people there and had a place to stay. Then began my fourth major job: bicycle messenger. I pedaled letters, packages, advertising films and even artwork all over Manhattan on my trusty metal steed. However, I had met a fascinating and very sexy woman in Albuquerque when the bicycle group had stopped there for ten days. Although I had met several woman in my travels, she seemed like the one. She wanted me to move there, and I wanted her, so I found my way back to New Mexico. Unfortunately, there weren’t many jobs available in the Land of Enchantment. After six months of looking, working odd jobs, and hanging around the unemployment office, I finally got a job at the University of New Mexico as a mason’s helper. For a couple of years I replaced broken sidewalks, mixed hod for block walls, and even laid a brick floor in the University President’s house. There was also some remodeling and jack hammer work. I transferred to a job at the Cancer Center for about a year and half, injecting and implanting, respectively, tumor cells or tumor chunks into rats and mice. Then I would treat them with radiation and drugs, monitoring them, weighing them, and dissecting them. It was OK work, but the Director, and my boss, the Associate Director, took their grant money and moved to Philadelphia. I had no desire to go there, much less to the east coast, so I was out of work for another six months, doing odd jobs, and even collecting unemployment while I searched for work. I finally found a good part-time job, analyzing electroplating baths for a printed-circuit board manufacturer, which gave me a chance to take University classes again. I did that for four years, but my quality control position was dropped, and I was looking for work again. This time I ended up back at the University, working initially with mice, removing their glands for analysis and isolation of immunoglobulins, the wonderful molecules that protect our bodies from disease.
This time the job lasted 25 years. It changed continuously though. I stopped working with mice, and ran machines again exclusively. There were machines for determining the amino acid sequence of a protein, for purifying such proteins, for making short versions of such proteins, for analyzing the total amino acid content of biological samples, and determining the purity of all of the above. That changed too, as we obtained new machines: first, a machine for creating synthetic DNA. Cool. Then a machine for determining the sequence of various DNA samples. That became my job then: making and sequencing DNA. Interesting at first, but ultimately boring and repetitive, fraught with problems. The problems could be fun to isolate and resolve, but dealing with an ever-changing clientele of Ph.D.s, graduate students, post-graduate students, undergraduates, and dealing with all the budget balancing was sometimes frustrating. As this last and final job wound down, I went through the motions, doing the best job I knew how, but increasingly disinterested. I could barely force myself to go to work, much less work all day, every day. In the end, I suddenly decided I’d had enough, and retired.
So, what do I do the day after retirement? I went hiking in the Sandia Mountains here. Hiking the entire 18-mile length of the Faulty trail from Placitas, New Mexico to Tijeras, New Mexico. It was fun, with beautiful views, a clear blue sky and leftover snowfall from a snowstorm four days earlier. Faulty Trail has a mysterious origin. Diamond blazes appeared on trees marking its route before any official Forest Service recognition, and it was unofficially called the Diamond Trail. Probably an old herding route, it was apparently cleared by a horse club. The Forest Service took it over and renamed it Faulty Trail in honor of the dikes—fissures filled with igneous rock that moved up from a lower fracture and created the limestone blocks—that appear alongside the trail. Working in a laboratory for twenty-five years, however, does not really prepare one for hiking rolling hills 18 miles at almost 8000 feet above sea level, even with some hiking experience over the last year. I saw wild turkey, rabbit, raccoon, deer, and even fox tracks in the snow and mud. Many of the trees date to the 1700 and 1800s, and some have been cored and marked with their age, so that is a wonderful experience. I even saw a large black coyote near the crest of the mountain. It was one hell of a long day however, from the meet-up at 7 a.m., to the timely lunch break halfway, to wandering off the trail for a bit, to the final late, forced steps on the darkened trail in the light of a full moon at 7:30 p.m. (2 1/2 hours beyond schedule). Tired, sore, and as hungry as a bear, I ate, went home, and crawled into bed early that night, and slept the longest I have in fifteen years: 8 and 1/2 hours non-stop!
Now that is worth retiring for.
Posted in Bicycling, hiking, Life, My Life, Travel | Tagged: Bicycling, leaving home, occupation, retirement, road trip, work, working | Leave a Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on September 30, 2009
Rat shit, bat shit, dirty old twat! 69 assholes tied in a knot! Hooray! Lizard shit! FUCK!
- the world, according to photographer/model Kassandra Leigh Purcell
Posted in humor, Random Thoughts | Tagged: assholes, big cheer, Cheer, shit, twat | Leave a Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on July 18, 2009
There was a lavender festival in my neighborhood last weekend. I didn’t go, but there was fresh lavender, and other products for sale across the street from me near the coffee shop. I decided my house needed a little boost of sight and smell, so I bought a bunch of the fresh lavender. Oddly, wildflower plants like that, when placed in water, need to have the water changed every day, as they foul it quickly. I didn’t know that. It’s true. That bunch of lavender sucked up every drop of water at first, then the second day the water was rank. It does need to be changed every day. So, who cares, right? It’s just one of those things I might have mentioned to my ex-wife, and she would have ridiculed me for saying it. “That’s really interesting,” she’d sneer at me. She was a hard woman to talk to. She loved to spread gossip, talk about other’ people’s lives, her sister and bother-in-law, her mother and her mother’s depression, or her other sisters, or her friends. That was all she cared to talk about. This worked well for her on the phone, because she could call one person, pump them for information under the guise of curiosity and friendliness, hang up the phone and talk about the conversation she’d just had with the next person who answered the phone. She hated it when no one she called was home, especially if she had something she wanted to tell everyone. I was always amazed at her ability to have the same conversation over and over. She didn’t particularly like to talk with me, because I had little interest in the personal lives of other people, so I had little to say. I tried, for a long time, to listen attentively, but not only had I usually heard much of the stories while she talked on the phone, but she had the habit of repeating the same stories over and over, not remembering who she had talked to. This had the effect of making me zone out. She wasn’t saying anything new, or interesting, so my mind would drift off, particularly since she always had the TV blaring. It was very distracting.
I have no idea why I’m rambling on about this. Just chain of thought. So many things to think about lately. I finally got around to fixing the refrigerator today. I had put a call in to the Sears repair people, because I had no idea what was wrong, or how serious it was. The old thing cools really well, and keeps the freezer compartment frozen, so I had no complaints there. However, the freezing cold water dripping onto the top shelf and turning to ice bothered me. I had a large plastic container under the drip, as it dripped at really odd times, sometimes all at once. Long story short, it’s $70 just to get a Sears repairman out, and then parts and labor. It seemed cheaper than a new one. I gave them my credit card info over the phone, but later on, a repair guy called, asked me about the problem, and told me how to fix it. Since it involved turning the refrigerator off and “defrosting” the frost-free thing, I had put it off. I needed some ice coolers and ice for my food, and I couldn’t carry all that on the motorcycle. I have a car, but it needed work. First, the “mass airflow sensor” died. Having no idea what or where it was, I asked the dealer about it – would cost a lot for the sensor, then labor, and I would need some other engine work done. For $800 plus bucks, I didn’t trust ‘em. I took it to a local mechanic who quickly diagnosed the same problem, but said he could probably clean the sensor and I wouldn’t need to buy a new one. Cool. $257.70 I could save. however, he said the engine had not been running correctly with the air flow off balance, so I’d need a tune-up. It was about time for one, so I told him to go ahead. Still, even though he did a great job, even replacing the crappy battery terminals, the fouled spark plugs, wires, and valve cover gaskets, I still ended up spending $827.70. So, I felt it was money well spent, if I could then depend on the car, in case I needed it. Of course, when next I did need it, the serpentine belt broke, completely shredding all over the engine. It was beginning to look like I’d never get those ice chests and ice so I could empty out the freezer.
Naturally, on my way to get a new belt, I laid the bike down when the front wheel spun sideways on some loose gravel in a turn bay. Scraped the fuck out of my hands, my shoulder, and cut my face too. I totally freaked out the employees and customers at the dealership; walked in with blood running down my face, and all over my hands. Got the belt however! It was hard to work on with my hands bandaged. It took me a while to figure out how to replace it, even with a diagram of the path it had to travel, but I got it on last weekend, and everything worked. So, finally I got the ice chests and ice today, so I could empty out the refrigerator. Took three hours from the time I left for the ice and ice chests, took out all the food, and effected the fix I’d been instructed in by the repairman. It all centered around a drain hole for the defrosted ice water that would ice over and prevent draining. Since it couldn’t drain normally, the icy water would overflow into the refrigerator compartment. Twisting a copper wire around the heating element and sticking it into the drain hole was the cure. So far, it’s working. I’m not certain I did it correctly, because the “obvious” place to wrap the wire around wasn’t so obvious to me, but I did get the entire refrigerator and freezer cleaned up. Oddly enough, while it ran a long time to get back down to the cold temperatures, it then stopped cooling, long before it usually does. It used to be near freezing in the back of the refrigerator compartment, but now I’ve had to raise the temperature setting I’ve been using all along. It’s more efficient now. I’m hoping this fixes the thing for good – it often seemed to me to run far too long at a stretch, often long into the night. Of course, it would have been way cheaper, easier, and less painful to buy a new refrigerator.
So, tired, but satisfied, I popped in a movie: Waltz With Bashir, an animated film by an Israeli filmmaker who fought in the war in Lebanon in the early 1980s. He had forgotten most of what he did, and travels around in the movie visiting old comrades from the war to see what they remembered. What little they did remember centered around atrocities, young men shooting blindly in every direction out of fear, massacres, and other horrors. This is an army oddly similar to the US army, in terms of weapons, training and sheer chutzpah. I was tempted to think that Israel has no idea what modern warfare is about, and has no misgivings about killing innocent people for no real purpose. Of course, I found that they weren’t really all that different from the US. Our military has done, and is doing, some really horrific things in the name of freedom, democracy, and protection of the “homeland”. I think the US and Israel are evidence of the new way war is fought, without clear strategy or objectives, just fighting and killing with huge tanks, powerful weapons, and clueless soldiers, in hopes it will all come out right if we spend enough money, shoot enough bullets, and drop enough bombs. Looks like something is being done, but all that happens is war continues, with the certainty that even if a conflict ends, another will start. We’ve entered the period of endless, mindless war that was adroitly predicted in the novel 1984. Always war somewhere; we’re always winning, but the enemy fights on, and we need to support war or we’re unpatriotic. It just goes on and on. There is no longer an end. Even if the combat troops leave Iraq, we’re leaving behind bases filled with troops, a clear provocation. In Afghanistan, we don’t even have a winnable objective, no way of defeating the Taliban, al-Qa’ida, or other terrorists. Bombs, tanks, and bullets just aren’t accomplishing anything except more deaths of our soldiers and local non-combatants, and a terrorist every now and again, and we’ve no plans to try anything else. The more we fight, the stronger the Taliban and al-Qa’ida get. It is mindless destruction, with unprecedented levels of non-combatant deaths, but all we ever care about are “our troops’ – support our troops, support our troops, support our troops, and don’t question any of this, because then you won’t be supporting our troops. I’m sure there were good Germans under Hitler, good Japanese under the emperor, good Iraqis under Saddam Hussein who “supported our troops” too. People never seem to notice that, and it no longer seems to matter. No one really cares. As long as innocent people are dying somewhere else, it’s not really our problem, because God is on our side. Of course, God is also on the terrorist’s side, on the dictator’s side, on everyone’s side in every war, but still people die; still people lose.
Rambling again tonight. No real purpose here. Just a lack of purpose. All seems pointless now. War is pointless. Patriotism is misdirected. God is equated with war, guns and victory over all. I honestly don’t know what to believe in anymore, or what to care about, and that is reflected in my personal life. No desire for companionship, love, or sex. Just day-to-day mechanical living. Why?
I started another blog alongside this one back in 2007 that was about ennui and war and all that. This blog was personal at first, but now it all seems to run together in my head; can’t keep any of it separate, and nothing seems more or less important than anything else.
Posted in depression, Life, madness, misanthropy, My Life, rambling, war | Tagged: ennui, lavender, refrigerator, serpentine belts, war | Leave a Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on July 7, 2009
What is it with me and pain? How is it I seem to mess myself up so often? I went hiking Saturday the 4th of July. It was fun. We took off-the-map trails, found four geocaches. Along the way the trail was about a 60 degree angle, down and up again. Going down I managed to slip on some loose rock and spun all the way around before I caught myself. Ripped my middle finger open a little, bled on my backpack and shirt. No big deal. The hike was worse going back up; had to stop often to catch my breath, as we gained a bit of elevation as well as the distance climbing. Made it. Then, on the way back, it hailed! In July! Pea-sized bits on our faces and arms. Stopped under some trees by the last geocache and put on our rain gear, as it was pouring too. Stayed where we were for a while, as lighting and thunder were arriving simultaneously. We didn’t want to get into an open area where we were the tallest things around. Finally headed on up to the top of the mountain where there was a porch around a gift shop that people drive to. We had coffee and brownies, courtesy of one older hiker. Not a bad day all in all. I was sore in my upper legs later, and then sore on Sunday still, and then sore on Monday. It didn’t hurt to walk upstairs, but downstairs was difficult. I was not used to scrambling down such steep trails with loose footing. Different muscles used, and they complained until today. Today, the pain and stiffness was gone. The cut on my finger was healing nicely.
I had to stop by the auto dealer on my way home. Friday had been a holiday from work, so I had driven my car for once, looking for a new desk chair, and a few other things that don’t fit on the motorcycle. The ’96 Mercury Cougar is a good car, but I’d recently had to spend over $800 getting the mass air flow sensor fixed, and having the engine tuned up with new plugs and valve covers, filters, new battery terminals, etc. It was running smooth and quiet. All of a sudden, on my way home, it had made a funny noise, and the steering crapped out. It’s power steering, but I could still move the wheel just enough to turn. Found out the belt had disintegrated. It was broken and shredded all over the engine. A lot of coolant had boiled out too. The belt is a serpentine one, snaking around various pulleys that operate the power steering, the air conditioning, the generator, as well the water pump. Well, that was where I was going after work today, to the dealer for a good, reliable serpentine belt.
They had moved far up the interstate, and I had to fight traffic going north. I got off near where they said the new place was, but didn’t see it. It was supposed to be on the frontage road, and I hadn’t passed it yet, so I went down the side road a bit to turn around. Pulled into a turn bay, but hit gravel. The bike went down fast. Picked it right up, although someone had stopped to help. He even offered to put my bike in the back of his pickup, and take me to a hospital, but I thanked him and told him I was OK. He had seen the bike spin out from under me. The bike is OK, a little scratched up, especially my brand new windshield. Crap. Anyway, I got back on the frontage road and went through the intersection this time, and found the dealer about two blocks away around a curve. Parts guy took my order for the belt, but he didn’t have a cash register in his work area, so he sent me out to the garage. I told him about the accident. He said he’d get me some gauze too and meet me up there. The lady at the register gave me some wipes to clean myself up a bit, baby wipes of all things. I didn’t know how my face looked, but I had seen and felt blood running down near my left eye, and my sunglasses were full of blood too. I paid for the Ford Motorcraft belt, $52.81 and they gave me some bandages. I went into their men’s room to clean up. Nice gashes near my eye, and the eye was already swollen and dark. Probably have a black eye tomorrow. Scrapes on my left knuckles, my right thumb is torn up, both palms are scraped and full of gravel bits. My left knee hurt, as well as my left shoulder, where my new heavy-duty cotton shirt was torn open. I bandaged what I needed to in order to grip the handlebars and clutch and brakes, and headed home. When I got there, I found a 1 3/4 inch diameter scrape on my shoulder, almost round, looks like the skin had been taken off with a belt sander, and still weeping. Oddly, it is not bleeding much except around the edge, and it doesn’t hurt. Smaller scrapes below it, right into the tattoo. Both knees are scraped, but the left one is bleeding a lot. Bandaged everything else up that I’d missed at the auto dealer, after cleaning with a little peroxide.
Damn, only one Advil left too. I had wanted two. Added four aspirin. I don’t even know why I’m complaining. I didn’t break anything, and the bike still runs. People go through worse every day. Still, I wonder why I’m so damn careless and accident prone? I ride every day, so I suppose the odds were against me. Just can’t believe I was so stupid. Should have slowed down more before getting in the turn bay. Should have been looking for hazards. Should have taken the car in for scheduled maintenance – perhaps they’d have caught the bad belt? and then I wouldn’t have had to go there, but I rarely even drive the car. I didn’t think it needed more maintenance so soon. Of course, it’s 13 years old.
Oh, man, my neck and shoulder area hurts now. I sure hope I didn’t do any damage to my collar-bone or neck. More and more, I feel like I just want to be home and stay here, never going out again. Work is a real pain with the budget problems and the move to a new lab space. I really don’t want to deal with any of it anymore. I’m tired. And, so what?
Posted in Life, madness, My Life, rambling | Tagged: '96 Cougar, hiking, motorcycles, pain, serpentine belts | Leave a Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on June 5, 2009
The Legend of 1900. Watch it. The piano playing is phenomenal! The story is unique.
Piano duel, Part 1 ; also: Piano duel Part 2
<-The real Ferdinand “Jelly Roll” Morton. As a teenager Jelly Roll Morton worked in the whorehouses of Storyville, New Orléans, as a piano player. From 1904 to 1917 Jelly Roll rambled through the South as gambler, pool shark, pimp, vaudeville comedian and pianist. He was the first great composer and piano player of Jazz and an important transitional figure between ragtime and jazz piano styles. He played on the West Coast from 1917 to 1922 and then moved to Chicago and where he hit his stride. Morton’s 1923 and 1924 recordings of piano solos for the Gennett label were very popular and influential.
He fell upon hard times after 1930 and even lost the diamond he had in his front tooth. He died just before the Dixieland revival rescued so many of his peers from obscurity. He blamed his declining health on a voodoo spell. See: Red Hot Jazz.
Posted in Life, madness, misanthropy, opinion | Tagged: jazz, Jelly Roll Morton, Legend of 1900 | Leave a Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on April 12, 2009
Woke up from a nightmare last night. Middle of the night. My heart was racing. I was horrified. It was raining. I lay there for a time listening to the rain. After awhile I heard hail hitting the roof. There was lightning too. In the dream, I had just killed someone, someone I loved. In the dream, I didn’t feel anything. I killed without remorse. That woke me up, I think. I had been thinking (in the dream) I had no feelings in me, but as I came back into consciousness, I realized I did care, and the horrible reality that I could do something like that terrified me.
Oddly, I can’t remember now who it was I was supposed to have killed. Never saw the face. It was, however, very real, and I was really sure who it was when I woke up, but now I can’t remember for certain. But, I clearly remember coming from behind, strangling her, and burying her. The whole time that was going on, I was aware, in the dream, of my disconnect, of my inability to feel, or care about morality. It was as though I had actually lost all socialization, and had become a serial killer, and without the slightest hint of remorse.
Got up this morning after lying there for hours after that. It was only 6:00 am on a Saturday. I should get more sleep, but I wake up nearly every night, sometimes at 1:30 am, sometimes at 3:30 am, or 4:00, and sometimes I just watch the clock tick off the half hours until it’s time to get up. Made coffee. It’s a special blend of mine: I take a can of “Lite” coffee, which already has half the caffeine of regular coffee, and I mix it with a can of decaf coffee. Still I can’t sleep at night. I’ve tried doing without coffee altogether. After the headaches stop, I feel good, but I still can’t sleep right, not even after months without caffeine. I never get 7 or 8 hours sleep anymore. The amount is not always vital, as long as there is some deep sleep involved, but 5 1/2 hours is my longest time spent asleep, with or without coffee. I don’t think it’s enough time to get a good rest. I’d imagine this is why I’ve been so tense, irritable and depressed, but those things affect sleep, so it’s hard to say which came first. Doesn’t matter what time I go to bed, I usually fall asleep right away, but I always wake up long before it’s time to get up. I’ve gone on ten-miles hikes in the mountains, dropped into bed, to sleep, perchance to dream, but still I wake up, sometimes sweating, sometimes with a bad dream chasing me. It’s aging me fast. People used to think I was younger than I was, but now they’re sure I’m older than I am. I have permanent dark circles under my eyes. My hair rapidly turned from salt and pepper to almost all-white, so I dye it now.
Today a rental movie came in the mail: Hancock. I enjoyed it. I even felt some stirrings of emotion at all the appropriate times. Movies somehow do that to me. Hancock, of course is about a guy who happens to have super powers and creates more havoc trying to help than he helps. Not knowing who he is, or where he came from, he stumbles along until people step up to help him straighten out his life. In the end he does OK, and even finds out who he is. Heroic, and a happy ending too.
After the movie, I sat back to daydream, because I always imagine myself in any movie I watch, or any book I read. I became a superhero. I don’t have super strength or the power to fly, or magnetic power, or x-ray vision – none of that. I have the power I’ve always imagined I had, to transport myself instantly anywhere in the world or universe. It’s a dormant power that surfaces when I need it. My step-daughter Maya goes into the hospital soon for brain surgery. The doctors are highly skilled at it, and the danger is not insignificant, but any operation is dangerous, and a brain operation seems more so. 4 1/2 years ago, Maya had her brain opened to remove a tumor, and they got almost all of it. Enough cells remained to regrow, and she had chemotherapy. The chemo didn’t work. She lost all her hair, was sick as a dog, but the tumor actually started growing faster. She had radiation treatments then, and the tumor was “burned” out of her skull. No traces left on MRI, nothing in her blood, nothing in her spinal fluid all this time. Now there’s something there. Could be scar tissue, a common occurrence with radiation treatment. They don’t know. So, they’re going back in to find out.
In my daydream, I get a call from the hospital. She’s just died. I scream, and suddenly I am there, standing by the phone hundreds of miles away. I ask to see her, and I grab her hand, talk to her, tell her to come back, and she does. She’s not dead. She recovers, but I die. It’s a funny-strange scenario, but it actually makes me happy to think I could do that. I’d readily trade places with her now if I could. I don’t want her to suffer through the pain again. I want her to continue enjoying life. She can have mine.
Posted in depression, Dreams, Life, love, madness | Tagged: heroic, horror, madness | Leave a Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on March 6, 2009
The moon, low to the horizon and huge, has a reddish tint to it tonight. I tried to take a picture when I got home, but it was behind the trees already.
I watched it heading west on my way home at 3 a.m Friday morning, in the western hemisphere, North America. It was not full, but the light it reflected on a clear night was spectacular.
It reminded me of the scenes on the red surface of Mars in the movie I had just watched. Watchmen. The only movie I’ve watched in a theater in over a year. The only movie I’ve ever gone to see the first showing of, and at midnight to boot. I read Watchman, the graphic novel, many years ago. Still have it lying around. Impressed me then, and the movie impressed me even more. Damn, that was a spectacular movie. Special effects aside, the graphic depiction of human nature qualifies it as literature, in my opinion, so it ought to be hailed as such. That was one movie that surely tapped into the words and made them even more visual than the two dimensions of the flat page. Of course, imagination has no bounds when reading, so the pictures, the colors, the artistic vision are not necessary, and so neither is the movie. Nevertheless, this is how we entertain ourselves, and ideas must be presented as entertainment. The story, the book, the movie: all are superbly murderous, bloody, violent, tragic, lusty, depraved and, yet, somehow more than that, and much more than entertainment.
Such a story. Is it a tragedy? It ends with horrible destruction, then hope, and finally, a theme that runs through the entire movie ends it: mankind sucks. We could do better, but we don’t. Even the noblest among us would sacrifice millions to save billions, and lie about it. And the lie provides the hope for humanity, and, in the movie’s ending, the lie is about to be exposed.
Of course, I had hoped to have seen the movie with Karen. She’d heard about the graphic novel, but it was out of print. She hadn’t tried to read it sooner because it was DC comics and, not Marvel. Growing up, of course, I knew about the superior writing in Marvel comics, the multifaceted characters, the gray areas of truth and right and wrong, and the real life, love and rejection, paying bills, death, and jobs and tiny human dramas on the sidelines of every larger action. The stuff that goes on even if you’re a superhero. Karen admires that about Marvel and doesn’t care for DC comics. I told her it was worth reading. By the time I found my copy, it has just been reprinted, and she had already bought a copy. She hadn’t read it last time we spoke of it, so I’m not sure what she thought. We have similar ideas about war and peace and science and fiction and religion. We’ve read many of the same books, seen many of the same movies, and admired the best of humanity in all of it. Unfortunately, the difference in our ages prevents us from seeing something like Watchmen together.
[aside: ran into Karen at the coffee cart later this very day. I had to have coffee to stay awake after getting maybe one hour of sleep after this movie. She smiled and forced a wave to me when she got in line. I was talking to someone, so I waited until she come over to sprinkle cinnamon on the whipped cream on top of her iced mocha. Told her I'd seen Watchmen, and she asked me about it. Told her how exciting it was, and the crowds there. Asked her, since it was Friday, after all, if we could meet for lunch later. She said she was having a working lunch. Said she had to go. The oddest thing of all was that I asked her if she had ever read the copy of Watchmen she had bought. She got real defensive; said she'd read it two years ago! But I know she bought it only recently, when the second printing came out, and I had even asked her if she'd read it, and she said no, that she hadn't had time yet. Now, suddenly she read it two years ago? That doesn't make sense. Something is very odd here.]
When I asked her if we could see Silver Surfer together – that’s when she let me know. She said, “That would be like a date!” with a look of horror or disgust on her face. “Inappropriate.” That’s the word she used many times. Inappropriate for me to ask her out, to want to meet her after work, see a movie, have a drink, give her flowers. Even leaving aside my romantic interest in her, she can not even think of me as friend outside of the workplace. I rarely see her anymore; we work in different buildings, for different departments, but, occasionally have lunch still.
As intriguing as Watchmen is, I still found part of me wishing I could watch it with Karen. I didn’t ask her. I know it’s beyond her to imagine going somewhere with me. She’d rather go to a play, like Monty Python’s Holy Grail, with her uncle than with me. I guess old men are OK if you’re related to them. It’s not even sad anymore to think about. It’s something I’ve had to accept, like my former wife telling me I had to move out, or she’d call the police, tell them her life was in danger. Very effective. Very legal. I could have challenged it later, but by then, I’d have been out, and why would I want to live with someone who’d done that to me? And Karen. How nice it would have been to tell her about all that, to have a friend I could talk to, who would listen. She wouldn’t listen – it was also inappropriate to speak of anything personal. I’m not really sure why. I could understand a woman not wanting to hear about my disintigrating marriage or the end, when it came. But, even later? Long after the divorce, she wanted to hear nothing of it. Of course, sometimes I think it was just because she didn’t want to encourage my inappropriate feelings for her.
But, life goes on. Sort of. In Watchmen, life goes on, but the underlying tensions are not gone. Even the deaths of so many millions can ultimately have been for nothing. I understand the characters in the story who speak of the pointlessness of it all, that we have exactly the society we wanted. We are violent and selfish and greedy and murderous. Perhaps we’ll never change. We cringe at horror, but do little to stop it. We even participate in our own little ways.
And me? I go on for some reason. Inertia? I don’t know. I move along with work, with my union activities, with reading, and movies, and guitar, and hiking, and it’s not doing a whole lot for me. If it were doing something for someone else, perhaps I could accept that as my motivation. I’m just not really sure I care about anything anymore. I was happy enough being married to someone I loved, even if not every day was a good one. I could have gone on that way for a long time, maybe forever. When it fell apart, and, abruptly it was over, I found myself insanely in love with Karen. I felt so good, so alive, so ready to fall in love all over again. It was exhilarating to believe in love, to think I could actually have the “in love” feeling again. That would have given me a real reason to enjoy life and want to go on. The chances seem slim now. I feel a great sense of accelerated aging, of death coming soon, but I don’t fear death. I would like to be happy while I’m alive, but perhaps it’s just not possible anymore. I don’t even know what would make me truly happy. Karen. Well, there’s her, and my feelings for her. I’d certainly be happy being with her, but it cannot be. So, I seem to be rejecting all possibilities that come my way: the old girlfriend back in my life, the other former lover living close by, the union sister who tried to interest me in dating a friend of hers, or even herself – why am I so withdrawn, so quick to misunderstand, so quick to push people away?
Posted in Life, love, madness, marriage, My Life, rambling, relationships, war | Tagged: death, divorce, karen, violence, war, women | Leave a Comment »