Thursday, December 31, 2009

out with the old

"life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well-preserved body--but rather to skid in sideways, champagne bottle in one hand, keyboard in the other. body thoroughly used up, totally worn out, yelling 'wow, what a ride'!"

2009 was a hell of a ride.

and while the tendency to focus on the bad is hardwired into our dna, there was plenty of good in 2009 as well. i'm almost sure of it.

one easy example--george bush was run out of washington, d.c. well, maybe "constitutionally mandated to leave office" is a slightly more accurate description. either way, he's out. that's good for everyone.

the corrolary to the fall of bush was the rise of obama. barry floated everyone's boat higher (even those who, like achors, prefer to sit in the silt at the bottom).

how about the hudson river landing of us air 1549? no matter what else happened in '09, those folks had a good year. i mean, even if they went on to lose jobs, break limbs or have dick cheney himself brush past them, they could say, "woohoo, it's all good!"

alex rodriguez was exposed as a-fraud, when it was revealed he used steroids to inflate his babe stats, er, baseball stats.

at the meeting of the g-20 in london, barack obama continued to rehabilitate the image of the u.s. by not massaging german chancellor angela merkel.

sarah palin resigned as alaska governor, halfway through her term. she told supporters that "she could do more for the state away from the office." no one in the state disagreed.

al franken went to washington. mark sanford went to argentina.

republicans protested the very idea of healthcare, and dubbed themselves "teabaggers." progressives smiled and snickered quietly.

tiger woods' salacious fall from the iconosphere caused a spike in the value of media stocks, and a simultaneous freefall in the value of his sponsors' stocks. woods shrugged and said, "that puts me at even par after 12 holes. given the playing conditions, i can't complain about that."

* * * * *

closer to home, there was plenty of good for the spaceneedls, as well. the missus and i stayed gainfully employed, when others around us were not so fortunate. we even got to take a couple vacations.

unless something goes seriously sideways in the waning hours, we avoided the h1n1 virus in 2009, and most of the family stayed healthy throughout the year. when i say "most of the family" i mean "not me." but that's good, too. better me than them. plus, i learned much from the experiences that will be increasingly valuable as i get increasingly old. if i'm fortunate enough to do so.

we added a canine family member, but lost a rodent family member. on balance, i'd say we came out ahead in that transaction.

there was some bad, reported here, some bad (not reported here); but the long view shows a huge preponderance of good (reported or not).

and so, we welcome 2010 with the same rum-soaked bravado that captain jack sparrow greeted the kraken: "hello, beastie."

"life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away."

Friday, December 25, 2009

dreams, redux

when you think of recurring anxiety dreams, what comes to mind?

i've heard lots of people say they're in college, and they've failed to study for the finals that are imminent. they forgot to drop the class, or they forgot to attend the class because it was a tuesday-thursday thing, or some variation thereof.

i've had those, and they're disquieting, in an "i don't know why" kind of way. i mean, i've been out of college far longer than i was in it.

regardless. those dreams don't hold a candle to the disturbing, inexplicable chimera i experienced again just last night. in it, i was (brace yourself...) golfing at pebble beach.

i know. i'm sorry to spring it on you like that. please take a moment and collect yourself. better? okay, let's get this over with.

we'll start with "why this is an anxiety dream." because in it, i haven't played or practiced in forever. i'm at the elysian fields of golf (a place millions of golfers better than i will never see in person), and i have no game whatsoever. i can barely swing the club without fearing i'll whiff completely. (those who've seen me play wonder how this dream differs from reality. to them i say, "ha. ha.")

more, it's getting dark, and the group i'm in is making no forward progress. we're losing daylight, and there are no refunds. i'm wasting my chance at pebble beach!

high-class anxiety dream, huh?

what does it mean?

that my life is pebble beach, and i'm frittering it away, ever ill-prepared? that there are a bunch of holes left to play, and darkness is approaching? that life, like pebble beach, doesn't give rain-checks?

great. couldn't i dream something more literal, like monsters chasing me? and for some reason my legs aren't working properly, and no matter how hard i try i can't get my feet up out of the concrete?

wait, i have those too. what i wouldn't give for the occasional flying dream. soaring around without the benefit of or need for wings. that sounds like fun.

but no. i get golf.

could be worse, i suppose. i could be dreaming about sleeping with tiger woods.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

yoga party


i'm as flexible as a steel bar. yes, i can bend, but it takes a long time and much effort.

which makes yoga a very good idea. for me, not for the steel, which is impervious to good ideas.

given my recent medical history, getting more flexible is more of a mandatory than an option. my meager efforts at stretching over the years have proven effective only in demonstrating my capacity for self-delusion. yes, i can touch my toes. no, i can't touch my hands behind my back. not without dislocating something.

the bad news is, i've attended two yoga classes in my life. the good news is, the second one was today. the second step in a long journey, and all that.

i was not specifically cleared by my surgeons to partake in this activity, but then again, they didn't say i shouldn't. what could possibly go wrong? yoga is as wholesome and holistic as exercise gets, isn't it?

i know what some of you are thinking. there's a perception out there that yoga is an unmanly pursuit, unsuitable for manly men. "go lift some weights, eat some steak, and drink some bud," you scoff.

and, you'd be wrong. you try doing some of these moves, without lots of padding. and a spotter. and a paramedic.

yoga is hard work. the entire class i was sweating and shaking and tipping over--often at the same time. good thing i'm not self-conscious about such things, or i might've had to rush out of the studio for an immediate ego-ectomy. i was saved from that by a newfound state of blissful self-unawareness, in which i'm conscious of the pain, but not how ridiculous i look. this has been a necessary adaptation in my rehab, and it has come in handy more often than i would've previously admitted.

the people who are good at this sort of thing are amazing to watch. anyone who can do this without needing emergency surgery must be in pretty good shape. for lots of things. who wouldn't want to emulate that?

and we haven't even mentioned the philosophical and spiritual benefits of the practice, which are many and ancient and ostensibly wise. i could use some more wisdom, ancient or otherwise, if that weren't already painfully obvious. trouble is, i'm not sure if i have time for the philosophical-meditation thing. it might cut into my crazed running about like a headless chicken, after all.

* * * * *

update: two days post-yoga, i'm sore all over. shoulders to hamstrings to feet. which theoretically means i did something right, workout-wise. i'm not sure that assessment synchs up spiritually. in fact, and i'm just guessing here, i'd say it doesn't. probably it means that in typical american haste and taste for excess, i overdid it.

so much to learn. so little aptitude for it. time for some stretching.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

standing eight count

"fall seven times, stand up eight."

--japanese proverb

within the past week i've been cleared by two world-class surgeons.

cleared for what, exactly, is not exactly clear. but we'll figure that out later.

first the orthopod gave me permission to resume doing rehab-esque squats and dead lifts.

next, the neurosurgeon said i was fine to get back to my regular activities. "go wild," she said.

obviously she's not familiar with my regular activities. but that's not important right now.

what is important is that i've recovered sufficiently from my various maladies and surgeries to start doing something.

two pertinent points of order:
1. what am i capable of?
2. what do i have the latitude to do?

permissions notwithstanding, there's the little matter of conditioning to consider. i can run on the treadmill for, say, 15 minutes. after that i go all weeble-y. and in the weight room, strength is not a strong suit, currently. it's almost funny how quickly i lost the capacity to help iron resist gravity. the weights are taking a little too much pleasure in pushing me around, i think.

so, it appears i'm capable of remaining upright for brief intervals, if followed by frequent naps. upshot: lots of work must be done to make up for all the work that was undone, post-op.

as to the second variable, the answer is...variable. we'll stipulate the usual bucket list of living in an FLW-designed house, finding amelia earhart, and wiping the smirk off of wall street's face.

more immediately, i have a number of mandatories that require considerable time and energy. children, for two; dogs, cats, a house. and last but never least, mrs. spaceneedl. once their needs are met, there's this blog, and my job at spaceneedl sprockets. not necessarily in that order.

add up those committments, and i'm left with 43 minutes per week, free and clear. that should be more than enough time to get centered, recharge the batteries for the week ahead, and find a cure for picene flu.

or i could set those things aside and focus on the unread books piling up on the coffee table. not to read them, but to make room for more things.

or i could sit and read postsecret, because it really is that good.

what to do, what to do...

"go wild," the doctor said.

good advice. i think i'll take it.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

can i be franken with you?

if i haven't mentioned it before, al franken is my favorite senator.

p.s. ten years ago, if you had told me i'd one day type the phrase "my favorite senator," i'd have probably winced and felt a little ill.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

see saw

the spaceneedls made great progress on a jigsaw puzzle today.

this unremarkable news is made remarkable by the fact that the puzzle had no electronic elements to it. it did not make noise or evolve or explode.

it's a simple 1,000 piece puzzle.

worked on diligently and quietly by the entire family.



i have a bet to make with you.

i'm betting you've never had a dream in which a predator drone featured prominently.

do i win?

who dreams about predator drones? outside the people who make them, use them, and are targeted by them, i mean?

yeah, me. last night. i had forgotten all about it until this morning, when i was sitting here reading frank rich in today's new york times.

the column has nothing to do with war, unless you'd like to make the case that the ongoing destruction of america's middle class is a kind of insidious warfare. which you could, without argument from me.

rich frames this week's observations through the prism and premise of "up in the air," a movie in which the industry of slashing american jobs turns pink slips into gold. not for the newly jobless, of course, but why quibble? where else but in america could we not bat an eyelash at the prospect of supplanting jobs that produce something with those that kill production?

quoth barack obama, “Sometimes it’s hard to break out of the bubble here in Washington and remind ourselves that behind these statistics are people’s lives, their capacity to do right by their families.”

really, barry? that's one hell of an observation. would it be unprogressive of me to observe that it sounds like something george bush would've said? except from bush we expected rhetoric that was equal parts obvious and useless. from you, mr. change we can believe in, we expect more. and better. and smarter.

where was i?

oh, yes. predator drones. what do you suppose dream analysts say about those? particularly when one has no exposure to such things, except through distant, abstract accounts of collateral damage halfway around the world.

strangely, the "free online dream interpretation" sites are unhelpful. they offer nothing specifc about drones, nor anything but vague attack references: "a feeling or fear of persecution, hostility, aggression, etc., by another person; a situation where you feel your boundaries being crossed or your integrity compromised by someone else."

oh. thanks. that's helpful.

so, i'm left to my own interpretation, ephemera-wise: i'm in a strange place, amongst people i don't know, with the certainty of an imminent attack. we all scurry for cover below ground, where we are surrounded by an array of machinery and technology of indeterminate purpose.

there is much anxiety and running about to escape the expected explosions...then the scene shifts to something else, equally bizarre, equally non sequitur.

make of that what you will. i think it might be related to the recent acquisition of spaceneedl sprockets by a multi-billion dollar holding company, and the uncertainty that transaction has spawned. i'm betting it's definitely that.

unless it's something else entirely.

do i win?

Monday, December 07, 2009

cold call

it's cold, and ajax is old.

which is how i came to spend half the afternoon yesterday rearranging the garage for a cat.

ajax was banished to the garage three years ago for peeing all over the house. if you're not familiar with cat-peed things, they're ruined. the smell never goes away.

so when he peed on the recently reupholstered couch, he was out.

if that seems harsh, you should be apprised that we set him up in comfort. he has the entire space to himself. he has multi-level shelves to clamber around on, three beds in sunny spots, and his own litter box. he's away from the kids and the dogs and the other cat, and most of the time he seems very pleased with that arrangement.

over the weekend, however, i went out and found him shivering in his bed, which horrified me. the rotation of two space heaters wasn't doing its job, which meant i wasn't doing mine.

did i mention he's old? ajax is 18, near as we can figure. he's still pretty spry, but he doesn't get out and run around much any more. so, barring some immediate change in the weather, if he's cold, it's not like he's going to warm up without help.

so in a frenzy of cat hair, i pulled everything off the shelves, reconfigured the various beds and cushions and blankets, and repositioned the space heaters for maximum heatage.

now, even as the overnight temps have dipped into the teens at our house, ajax is much warmer.
and i feel much less guilty.

Sunday, December 06, 2009


my daughter is walking around singing "ring of fire".

for the record, she's no johnny cash.

why she's singing "ring of fire" is anyone's guess. where she learned it is hard to imagine. it's not like we have old-school country stations teed up in the car. or on the itunes.

johnny cash was big at my parents' house back in the day. they had the albums (along with selections from frankie laine and glen campbell and, inexplicably, jim nabors) and the hi-fi console stereo to play them. so when i walked around singing those songs, one could at least see why. sort of.

* * * * *

the boy, meanwhile, has developed a taste for black sabbath and ac/dc. this is at least partly due to "rock band" on the wii at the neighbors' house. yesterday, driving to christmas festivities on bainbridge island, "highway to hell" came on the radio. the boy asked us to turn it up, and he sang along. he knew all the words.

i just shook my head and blinked, uncomprehendingly.

* * * * *

when did these children turn into real people with musical tastes (not to mention these particular tastes)? i mean, it wasn't that long ago they were singing "rubber duckie" and "C is for cookie" and "baby beluga". how do i reconcile the gap between elmo and ozzy osbourne when i'm just now having a post-headbanger phase of my own?

to recap, my daughter is serenading us with songs i sang when i was her age. my son and i are enjoying the same retro music, at the same time. we're all coming at this from directions and perspectives and generations that could not be more different and still be of the same species on the same planet. my head vibrates alarmingly at the mere thought, and i would not be at all surprised if it spontaneously combusted. poom. like a big ol' safety match.

* * * * *

does it sound like i'm vexed by this karmic confluence of musical musical chairs? i'm not. i'm merely befuddled. and consternation is standard operating procedure for a brow-furrowed parent still in his or her own evolving mode. processing this multiplicity of variables may require more brain cell coordination and metaphysical consciousness than i can muster. so i frown a lot, and people think i'm vexed. it's an easy mistake to make.

* * * * *

if, as some philosopher said, music is the universal language, then maybe it'll facilitate some intergenerational amity in the spaceneedl house. maybe this harmonic cross-current will bond us in a more meaningful way than the time-honored command to "turn that noise down!" it's hard to complain, after all, if i'm the one asking them to turn it up.

it's good not to be too predictable. to defy convention and not be bound to the norm, whatever that might be. especially in this country. in this case, at least, we have that going for us.

as long as the children don't tell me to turn down my music, we'll get along just fine.