Nothing better than driving the Scout home topless from work in 80° sunshine, an impromptu ride to the Home Depot in a stinkingly fast Corvette, multiple beers in the twilight, kids playing happily on the swings, and an early night to bed for a busy Saturday ahead.
This represents what I’ve been up to for the past five days or so. Long nights, little sleep, and lots of coffee.
Monday I spent the morning at the Baltimore County courthouse as a witness against the fellow who broke into the Honda and stole my iPod. The subpoena said 8:30 so I got there on time, but then realized half the shit in my backpack would set every alarm in the building off, so I had to run back and empty it in my trunk. (in hindsight, I should have just left the whole thing there). The courtrooms have as much personality as a sheet of drywall. Apart from the judge’s perch, hard wooden pew-like benches, and all-weather carpeting, there is nothing else to look at; no windows, artwork, or embellishment. I sat and waited through a dozen or so cases: A father of three had been in jail for 40 days for stealing four newspapers. A kid from Essex was popped for driving on a suspended license for the fourth time. A confused man who spoke no english listened as the proceedings went on around him. As far as I could gather, he had touched a 15-year-old girl inappropriately. He muttered to the DA through an interpreter as the girl and her family glared at him from the far side of the room.
I spent the first half hour wondering which of the rough-looking gentlemen they brought in would be my nemesis. It turned out it was none of them; I had to wait until the third batch filed in sullenly before he was called. It turned out he is a schizophrenic who hasn’t had a job in twelve years, who lives with his mother, and who has a rap sheet longer than my arm. The judge patiently listened to the case, was made aware there was a witness in the room, and then offered him a choice: three years in prison or admittance to a program for mentally ill recidivists. While I wasn’t happy the guy had stolen stuff from my neighbors, I was glad they didn’t just throw him in the clink and forget about him. I hope he and his mother get some help.
We said goodbye to Teller this evening. Monday’s X-rays showed a blockage narrowing his trachea to the size of a stirring straw. He spent much of yesterday in the basement, in a back corner away from the light, trying to get comfortable while fighting to breathe. At midnight, I carried him upstairs and placed him gently on the end of our bed, but after a while he hopped down and laid next to the bed until morning, wheezing softly.
He would compress himself into the smallest ball possible on my lap and pass out for hours, and I would stroke his soft fur and feel my blood pressure sink to the single digits. I got home from work this afternoon, found him, and gently sat him on my lap, careful not to compress his windpipe. We stayed like that for about five minutes, and he purred involuntarily when he could draw a full breath, but it got to be too much and he hopped down to recover in the other room.
I will miss his odd meow, his soft, downy fur, his comforting heat and bulk on drafty winter afternoons, and his atrocious breath. Most of all, I will miss his beautiful green eyes, imploring me to pick him up, rub behind his ears, and curl him up in the crook of my arm for a long nap.
Teller is at the vet today, and the news isn’t good. He has a growth of some kind in the back of his throat, which accounts for all the wheezing he’s been doing lately. That’s the good news (that we know what it is). The bad news is that the vet is doubtful we’ll be able to do much for him other than pain management, although she’s going to try a steroid shot to bring the swelling down. We’ll have to do some kind of a consult with a veterinary surgeon to know if there are any options, but she’s not getting my hopes up. It’s hard to imagine life without his warm fur, constant purr, or sharp claws when he gets into his happy place (he kneads with his claws involuntarily, which is sweet but painful). We’ve always joked about life without cats, but I didn’t think it would be this soon–and the house will be much quieter with only the stupid one skulking around.
Update: Bad, bad news. We’re throwing a hail mary pass with steroids, but the prognosis is bleak.
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There’s nothing more satisfying than using a 10-year-old computer to do an important job. I’ve got our old Powerbook G4 here at work crunching fonts from a handful of file formats into OpenType files that we can use anywhere. I’d converted a pile of them a few years go but stopped when the machine I was working on (a twitchy G5 tower) started bombing during processing. The G4 has been chugging along happily for a few hours now, and even though it’s running very hot it hasn’t complained yet. Perhaps I can get all of these legacy files finished and put to bed once and for all.
It’s becoming clear to me now that I can’t drink coffee after, say, noon anymore. Yesterday I ate a sandwich accompanied by some healthy carrots and hummus for lunch, and immediately fell into a three-hour carb coma. Afraid of passing out, I bought an overpriced cup of coffee and sipped on it until 4:30; this had me staring at the ceiling until 2AM this morning. This makes the 22-year-old in me sad.
Brian Lam, of the Wirecutter, wrote an article that sums up a lot of what I’ve been thinking about for the last six months or so, but haven’t been able to put into words. Using a quote from, of all people, Ted Kaczynski, he illustrates a great point:
Technology lets us do things faster and more efficiently; why would we use that newfound free time to do more and more of the same old thing? I’m not just talking about smarter consumption of content like Johnson is– I’m also saying, fuck consumption.
I spend about two hours each night on the bed looking at my laptop before I go to sleep. Sometimes I’m watching TV and looking at the computer, sometimes I’m switching to my phone. And the whole time, I’m wishing I was doing something else–I spend eight hours a day looking at a computer, why the hell am I doing it when I get home?
So I’ve started a list of things—small things—that I can accomplish with the 1-2 hours of free time I have after Finn goes to bed. Things like spending non-TV time with my wife, reading, doing self-assigned illustration projects, cleaning my workbench, untangling the nest of wiring in the basement, (when the weather warms up) maintenance on the cars, etc. With each one of these things there are ancillary tasks that must be accomplished before I can begin, and those will be part of the list. I’m going to try and close the laptop when I get home and leave it until I get to work the next morning, unless I’m using it to create, not consume.
Addendum: I read this article abut the top five regrets of the dying, and I’m going to try and use it as a roadmap for the time I’d like to reclaim.
I woke early this morning to the sound of Finn using the bathroom, and when she was done she crashed on the bed next to me. When we finally began rousing ourselves, she complained of a headache. She was running a fever, so I installed her on the couch in front of Nick Jr. and Mama made her some juice to drink.
This week has been a blur of sleep-work-home-sleep with no productive outcome. I spent about 3/4 of my work week in Photoshop compositing images for a client but we haven’t sold a concept yet. I broke up a three-week Scout drought for Wednesday’s commute, and was rewarded by a minor fender bender on the 395 onramp.
The keg of Dead Ringer IPA in the kegerator still hasn’t carbonated fully; there’s a hint of fizz in there, but not as much as I’d like. I have plans to brew with my neighbor tomorrow afternoon—he has two batches fermenting and a third to brew, as well as a propane-fired stove in his garage. He’s also my A/V expert, being an electrician by trade, so I’m going to finalize my television mounting plan with him.
I’m trying to motivate myself to start shooting pictures again. My commute has been a predictable figure-8 for the past three years, and as a result I don’t see new things for inspiration. The solution could be adding an extra ten minutes to my morning commute to find new routes into work, as well as more trips out with the girls to explore. I’m also considering the purchase of some 120 film to roll onto 620 spools so that I can shoot some black and white pictures of the girls.
I was plugged into my headphones at work when I felt the first rumble, and at first I thought it was just another big truck driving by on Redwood Street. The rumble went on for too long and was too severe to be a truck, and just as I was pulling my headphones off, my coworkers were asking what was happening. We all started saying Earthquake at about the same time, and that was right as the first wave passed. Then, the second, more powerful one hit, and I felt the floor start moving in ripples underneath my feet. Another coworker came tearing down from upstairs, yelling, “Get out of the building!” and we all jumped from our desks like we’d been shot out of a cannon. Feet down pounding the stairs, outside to the street, where other people emptied out of their buildings and stood around gaping at the sky like us. Sirens wailed across the city. People stared into their cellphones and texted frantically. I’d left my phone, wallet, and keys on the desk upstairs, so I stood around feeling stupid until we decided the coast was clear, then went back upstairs to an “all circuits are busy” message and the magic of the Internet to confirm my girls were OK.