I stepped out in the morning to do my garden walk-through. I have been battling rats that like to eat my roma tomatoes (only my roma tomatoes), and since taking out the family, I do a daily inspection for critter activity. I feel like a detective, looking for flattened areas of traffic, disturbed soil, nibbles, toothmarks, half eaten fruit. What a ton of work it is just for my tiny little garden. I couldn’t imagine having to survive on it.
But today there was a new mystery. There is always a mystery. The critters of the night lead a secret existence, the insects, mice, rats, dogs, and iguanas, little forces of nature with their own agendas contrary to my own.
I almost stepped on today’s mystery.
What is this? I picked up one of the several green tomatoes scattered about. I turned it over. It was sticky and had a couple of large puncture marks about the width and size of our Lucy’s canines. The stickiness was Lucy slobber. I’d know that persistent agent anywhere.
What is she doing with my tomatoes? This is bizarre. Is she playing with them? She’s not eating them, but brings them back to the terrace. I scolded her, “Lucy, stop taking my tomatoes!” I knew she didn’t understand, but whatever.
Over the course of the next few weeks every few days, I would find tomatoes in various states of ripeness placed on the terrace. It was exasperating. I’m not the best tomato farmer in the world, so every single one counts. Stupid dog! Stop picking my tomatoes. She knew I was upset and would cower, “I don’t know what I did to make you mad, master, but I’m sorry,” she seemed to say.
She’s a good dog though, very loving, smart, and craves attention. Olaia calls her an, “attention hoarder.” And whenever I go into my garden, she trots along with me and watches. We know how smart she is, because she’s so easy to train and is eager to please.
And still the tomatoes came, rolling around in the hot sun. Maybe I’m thinking about this all wrong. Could Lucy be trying to help me? When I pick the tomatoes I always bring a handful back and place them on the terrace while I clean up. And while I’m pulling weeds and picking them, there’s Lucy watching me. Could she be imitating me? She isn’t eating or playing with the tomatoes. She delicately picking them with minimal tooth marks and brings them back to the house and leaves them. A-ha! I think that’s it. I have a farmer dog, harvest helper.
If only I could train her to only pick the red ones though… and not slobber on them.
I have been helping my father-in-law with a laptop computer from his cousin who passed away recently. The cousin had been a playwright and performer in the New York theater scene for decades. Recently he had become less mobile and had trouble getting in and out of his apartment. Once I was able to access it, I found draft legal papers in his laptop indicating a lawsuit against his landlord to get required accessibility modifications. That did not look like fun. I could imagine the toll it took – behind the scenes I could hear the landlord fuming to himself, “Why can’t the old goat just die?”
The laptop, a new shiny Sony Vaio purchased in 2011 (model from 2011), had as his username login 21centuryplay. Such illusion, I thought. He was in his seventies, but looking forward to a new century of creative works. It is the dawn of a new era. He would define himself as a man, a writer, a performer for this new century.
First things, first. The laptop did not function and nobody could access its data. There was a electrical short of some sort and all the thing did was issue long beeps on start up – as if in perpetual keypress. I tried to connect an external keyboard, but nothing. The shorted key(s) were disrupting anything I tried and I couldn’t disable it.
The only thing left to do was to take out the data drive. I disassembled the case and pulled out the tiny 2.5 inch SATA drive. I then placed it in an external enclosure and copied the data to my workstation. There, I could retrieve anything of use. My father-in-law had been looking for an indication of his last will and testament. Everybody had insisted his cousin had one, but no one could find it. I grepped through the files and found nothing. It looked like the last login was April of 2014. There were a couple of unfinished writing grant requests. I retraced his steps to an online form; the procedure for request seemed daunting to me. Perhaps he had printed them and filled them out by hand. I hoped he had, anyway.
There were various drafts of the lawsuit, the back and forth, the changes, the settlement. His landlord was ordered by the city to make the required changes. Did he? I couldn’t tell. I hoped this man had at least some dignity in his last year, or was he stuck in his apartment, only going out when someone was there to help him down many flights of stairs.
I ordered a new keyboard for the laptop on the off chance it could be repaired to working order. I pried the old one out. Underneath there was a sticky goo. Orange juice? Year-old orange juice reduced to its sticky syrupy essence. Now I understood the droplet marks on the screen. On one spring morning, Carlos had sat down with his morning orange juice, popped open his laptop to read the morning variety, a mix of gossip and New York local news. He had logged in as 21centuryplay. He was reminded that he should get working on that. Perhaps today.
Then his arthritic hands failed him, and he dropped his glass of orange juice a few inches to the table. The glass didn’t break, but the liquid sloshed out over the screen and into the keyboard. He did his best to wipe it up, but the keyboard ceased to function and the laptop was rendered useless.
Didn’t he have anybody to help him? I wish I could have been there. I would have fixed his laptop and encouraged him.
I know now that in a year he would have passed. It’s with profound sadness at seeing into this man’s past that I write this. He didn’t know what was coming, or rather when it was coming. He had hope, evidenced by his username, and plans, and he still had ambitions, still had creativity. He was failed by his body and modern technology, thwarted by the world of flesh and blood while his spirit continued to yearn.
Every man who has reached even his intellectual teens begins to suspect that life is no farce; that it is not genteel comedy even; that it flowers and fructifies on the contrary out of the profoundest tragic depths of the essential death in which its subject’s roots are plunged. The natural inheritance of everyone who is capable of spiritual life is an unsubdued forest where the wolf howls and the obscene bird of night chatters.
— Henry James Sr., writing to his sons Henry and William
Did ya’ll seriously not run that that by operations first? No? It’s like right there in the company mission statement.
“Love thy neighbor.”
What do you mean, love can have many forms, some of them liquid? Would you like to be doused with water on a cold San Francisco morning? Well, of course you wouldn’t. I know you’re not homeless. What do you mean they shouldn’t be sleeping in doorways? I’ll bet they don’t want to get wet, probably because they don’t have a roof over their head. Instead of sprinklers, I’ll tell you what we should have installed – beds in the community hall. Oh, that’s where you play bingo.
Please come see me in HR, ASAP.
These arches keep catching my eye. They are everywhere in Puerto Rico. I note that I have taken so many pictures of them in a variety of locations. There must be something to it. Thought I would share since I think they are nice.
The year before Laura and I started dating, there were signs. The first that I can recall clearly was very typically in the vein of the clueless male.
I was talking with this girl at the Sigma Chi house. We hit it off instantly and spent the hours getting to know each other. You remember those days, no – two people insatiably smitten with each other babbling on about absolutely everything? “Do you want to go someplace else?” I asked. She said sure. I grabbed her hand and with the exuberance of a puppy I blurted out, “You’ve got to meet my friend, Laura.”
“Uh, um, sure, I guess…”
I mean, who does a thing like that? Men, that’s who. We are stupid.
What was I thinking? Did I really just ask her to meet my female friend, Laura? As luck would have it, this girl was really into me, so I got a break. Her half-hearted acquiescence was all I needed and I took it. We rushed over to Laura’s apartment and knocked on the door. Nobody answered. She and her roommates were out.
Jana and I ended up head over heals for a time, but I still reflect upon that first instinct. I wanted her to meet my friend, Laura. I was a like a little kid who wanted his new friend to meet his other best friend. I probably also wanted Laura’s approval, to look this woman over and give me a thumbs up. Stupid, right?
Then there were the notes obviously written by lovers, the gifts, the attention. It’s a wonder I dated anyone during that time. Any woman would wonder. Who is this Laura person? Can they really be just “friends.”
Laura had her pursuers as well, pretty boys who didn’t last past one or two dates. I’d go over and help her prepare. My friend Lauren tells me she knew we were destined to be together when she saw me iron a dress for Laura. I would tell her she looked lovely, gorgeous in her outfits. Makeup was perfect. A million bucks. Now off you go. Good luck. He’s a moron if he blows it. She’d smile, tell me that I was sweet, give me a peck on the cheek and head out for her date.
“How did it go,” I’d ask the next day.
This one was too into himself. This one was too shy. This one was just a pretty face. “Ugh, I can’t believe I made out with him.”
It was all innocent. We swear it was. We were friends. There was not a hint of romance, no designs, no inclinations, just an affectionate platonic love.
And so it goes onward, just the two of us. Eventually all the way back in 1992 on this very day, we deliberately started down this path together. If we are honest with each other, though, our trajectories had converged long before. We wanted the best things for the other, the best dates, the best times, and each other’s approval in so many ways.
It’s all so transparent in retrospect, but at the time we were blindsided by that fateful day where we became more than friends.
Recounting the stories of our youth to our 16 year old, she joked, “It’s like God was watching a reality show and started yelling at the TV, ‘Will you guys just kiss already!'”
..that we obsess over our technology, hunch over it, faces uplit by the glow of flickering screens – the iPhone, the tablet, our computers, our screens, we use them to search for things, to learn things, to yearn for things.
It was better when we ran barefoot, it tells us. You see, the modern running shoe is not optimal for the way our bodies evolved. We cackle. These are the things that Big Shoe doesn’t want us to know. We know better now.
We run free now but not complete. Our device wil tell us the next step. We enter our search in google with a small “g.”
It was better when we ate raw food. You see, our bodies evolved to eat what was in nature, unprepared, unprocessed. Bleached flour, high fructose corn syrup, white bread, canned food – these are the foods that Big Agra wants us to eat, but our bodies know better. Don’t be a slave, man.
We swipe the screen, our fingers dancing a sort of mini-tango of pinches and whorls. Here it is, another piece of truth that has been lost to us, brought to us by this gadget pressed together by beautiful Chinese hands.
We poop wrong. Modern humans, in our eternal fascination with everything civilized and clean and controlled, have forgotten how we were supposed to poop. We were meant to squat on the ground, knees high, pressed against our chests. It is only in this position that we relieve our bowels without undue stresses upon our rectums. Big Toilet doesn’t want you to know that, though, as they lie and cheat and steal to support Big Sewer Authority.
We nod our heads. It all makes sense. We know the truth now. We are free, free at last to poop in a hole, eat raw food, and run barefoot through the field – not too far though, we must keep to the confines of the fire, not straying from its light or nearest charging station.