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A storm, an anniversay, and a funeral

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Mom and Dad cut the cake in October 1951

So I went to Portland last Friday amidst rumors that the biggest storm since the Columbus Day storm of 1962 was about to hit the Pacific Northwest. I was worried that there might be mudslides on the train tracks, after several days of steady rain, but the train trip ended up being uneventful, and aside from some strong gusts of wind on Saturday and a fair amount of rain all weekend long, the storm ended up being kind of a bust, at least as far inland as Portland.

The reason for the trip was to celebrate my mom and dad's 65th anniversary. On Saturday, my sister-in-law, Terry, made an amazing dinner featuring salmon smothered in crab meat. We dug in, then did a round of toasts to Mom and Dad. Terry got up and put one of Dad's favorite songs on the stereo: Don Williams' "You're My Best Friend," which is a man's testimonial to his love for his wife. I looked over and saw Dad toasting Mom with a grand gesture, and I completely lost it. I can't describe what I was feeling, but I had to leave the table to blow my nose. Terry followed and said she was sorry, and I said, "No, I love the love." That's as close as I can get, I think. I was just overwhelmed by love and a feeling of complete connection with everyone at the table.

The next day was Kate Yule's funeral. Since I was in town anyway, I decided to go. (I had brought appropriate clothes just in case.) I had expected to see a lot of Seattle people there, and in fact I ran into kate_schaefer and Glenn right away, so I sat with them in the pews. I also spotted hal_obrien and akirlu, although I didn't get a chance to talk to them. Needless to say, this was also a very emotional experience for me, since Kate died of the same cancer that I've got. The booklet they handed out before the service included John M. Ford's sonnet "Against Entropy", which I'll just repost in its entirety, since it's such a moving piece of work:

The worm drives helically through the wood
And does not know the dust left in the bore
Once made the table integral and good;
And suddenly the crystal hits the floor.
Electrons find their paths in subtle ways,
A massless eddy in a trail of smoke;
The names of lovers, light of other days
Perhaps you will not miss them. That's the joke.
The universe winds down. That's how it's made.
But memory is everything to lose;
Although some of the colors have to fade,
Do not believe you'll get the chance to choose.
Regret, by definition, comes too late;
Say what you mean. Bear witness. Iterate.

Lots of people got up to tell stories about Kate, attesting to her intelligence, generosity, warmth, wit, and love of lists. Most moving to me were the two nieces who were clearly devastated by the loss of a beloved aunt. However, there was lots of humor too, and one of the men from the Gay and Lesbian Square Dancing group that Kate joined before she met her eventual husband, David Levine, got up and talked about how she hid her true identity at first, "but eventually she came out of the closet as a straight person!" My brother had kindly driven me to the ceremony and waited around until it was done, so I left immediately after it was over.

The next morning Mom and Dad and I had breakfast at the Dockside Saloon and Restaurant, just as we did on my last visit to Portland last month. On that visit, the waitress told us they served crab cake benedicts on the weekend but would be willing to make them for us whenever we wanted. So we settled IN at the same table as before, and the same waitress came up and said, "I remember you guys!" We were of course pleased, and we had crab cake benedicts, which were pretty damn fine. On the train to Seattle later I discovered that my niece was also on board. I knew she was coming to Seattle, and we had made a date to have lunch today, but I didn't know she'd be on the same train. So we sat together for a while talking about her willful, headstrong five-year-old daughter who apparently has already figured out that she needs to behave differently with her teachers than with her parents. Since my diagnosis, the surest way to make myself cry has been to think about how I won't be able to watch her grow up. "Perhaps you will not miss them. That's the joke."

So I'm back in Seattle feeling emotionally drained. Was it Joanna Russ who said that feeling clearly is just as difficult as thinking clearly? Boy, howdy.

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Mom and Dad in their condo on Sunday

Laura by Vera Caspary

Laura cover.jpgTHERE ARE SPOILERS.

I read this 1943 novel in the Kindle edition of Library of America's Women Crime Writers: Eight Suspense Novels of the 1940s & 50s. (Obviously the cover I'm using here is from a previous book publication.) I've seen the film adaptation several times -- and twice more since reading the novel -- and it's one of the classic film noirs. In a wonderful overview of the collection and analysis of the methods of mystery/crime fiction, film scholar David Bordwell paints Vera Caspary as quite a character: "Vera Caspary was a woman to be reckoned with —- Greenwich Village free-love practitioner, Communist party member, occasional screenwriter, boundlessly energetic purveyor of suspense fiction, passionate paramour of a married man, and advocate for women in prison." In her appreciation of the novel, Sarah Paretsky says that Caspary had strong feelings about how Laura was presented in the movie: "Caspary fought with director Otto Preminger over the way he depicted Laura’s sexuality in his 1944 film version. Caspary’s rage, as she herself called it, remained so intense that decades after the film’s release, she attacked Preminger (verbally) when she found herself seated near him at a restaurant."

I actually didn't get any sense of a strong sexuality in Laura from my own reading, but I'm willing to admit that I may have just been obtuse. I didn't get any sense that she'd had sex with her boyfriend, Shelby Carpenter, or any of her previous boyfriends, nor did I get any sense that she wanted to have sex with the detective, Mark McPherson, with whom she ends up falling in love. The only depiction of what might be considered sexual feelings on her part that I can remember is when Waldo Lydecker accuses her of a weakness for men with lithe, hard bodies.

The one major difference from the film that I picked up on is that the novel is told from four points of view: It opens (like the movie) with a section from Waldo's point of view as he tells McPherson about the history of his friendship with Laura, then (like the movie) it switches to a section from McPherson's point of view as he prowls around Laura's apartment and begins to develop feelings for her. (To my mind, this is the most sensual part of the novel, as McPherson sniffs her perfume and strokes the fabric of her clothes, almost as if he's trying to become her.) The third section is a transcript of an interview with Shelby Carpenter, which is also depicted in the film, but without the immersive flashback that characterizes Lydecker's narration. Then we get a section from Laura's point of view, and this is more or less completely missing from the film. I wonder if that's what enraged Caspary, because it turns Laura into someone without her own perspective on things; someone whom we only see through the eyes of the men who desire her. Finally the novel switches back to McPherson's point of view, which he shares with Lydecker by quoting some of his thoughts about Laura. Again, this is mimicked in the movie by giving Lydecker the last words spoken.

The film seems like a relatively faithful adaptation of the novel, other than the elision of Laura's point of view. What it helped me to see is how carefully Caspary melded the conventions of the mystery novel and the romance novel. What I'd especially forgotten is that once we learn that Laura isn't the person who was murdered at the beginning of the book, she becomes one of the prime suspects for killing Diane Redfern, who is the person who was mistaken for Laura after her face was blown off by a shotgun while she was staying in Laura's apartment and wearing Laura's clothes. (One change in the movie is that forensics establishes the true identify of the corpse, but only after the detective has already figured out who it was.) The detective is thus not only trying to determine who the killer is, but whether Laura is someone he can trust with his love. It's also a story about a woman trying to pick her ideal kind of man, and it seems very traditional in the way it depicts her choices. Lydecker is a control freak, Shelby is a fop, and McPherson is a manly man. As Paretsky points out, self-control seems to be the redeeming quality. Another major difference between film and book is that in the book Lydecker is a grotesquely fat man who enjoys food and drink too much. He represents an effete parasite class of snobs trying to turn the commoner, Laura, into an artificial treasure removed from her roots, whereas the working class detective can recognize her true value. While the romance aspect of the novel gives it a vastly different feeling from the hardboiled tradition, it's still the hardboiled dick who gets the girl in the end. However, Laura is an agent of her own fate, and the key conflict is the psychological battle between her and Lydecker, which she ultimately wins all on her very own.

An anecdote in memory of Kate Yule

Portland-area fan Kate Yule died yesterday. She had the same kind of brain cancer as I do: astrocytoma, which is a form of glioblastoma multiforme. When I received my diagnosis, about a year after hers, she sent me an email with the subjectline, "Welcome to the Club". I appreciated the gallows humor, but the thing that really moved me about this message is that I knew it cost her real effort. She seemed to lose her ability to write after the surgery to remove the initial tumor, so she was fighting through that difficulty in order to send her commiseration. She was a sweet and thoughtful like that.

My other anecdote is much sillier. The 2006 Worldcon was held at the Anaheim Hilton, which is the same hotel where two other LACons I had attended (1984, 1996) were held. The hotel had schematic maps by the stairwells on every floor that were singularly unhelpful. They had nothing indicating "You Are Here" or any markings whatsoever to help you find the function space you were looking for on that floor. They were simply schematic maps without any text whatsoever that I can recall. At some point Kate and I were complaining about this in a hall party, as you do, and Kate exclaimed that the next time there was a Worldcon in that hotel, she was bringing a Sharpie to make annotations on the schematics. Unfortunately, LA seems to have given up running Worldcons, so we've never had the chance to follow through on this idea, but I still think it's an excellent example of DIY fannish thinking.

Some of you were much closer friends of hers than I was, but we all lost someone special in Kate.


Everfair by Nisi Shawl

Everfair cover.jpgI'm starting to think I should just read Andre Norton novels for the rest of my chemotherapy, because I'm finding complex, ambitious novels like this one difficult to parse in my current mentally-lethargic state. There are a lot of characters, a lot of locations, and a lot of story thrown at us in short bursts that form a kind of shifting mosaic. It's dazzling, but I tended to lose my way at times.

I know Nisi Shawl socially, and I remember a conversation with her when she had just started writing Everfair in which she said that steampunk was too Eurocentric and that she wanted to write some Afrocentric steampunk. So this is an alternate history about King Leopold II of Belgium's atrocities in the Congo, which amongst other things inspired Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. What Shawl does is posit the creation of a new nation in the vicinity of the Congo, founded by a coalition of British Fabian socialists, freed American slaves and American missionaries, and local African tribes. This nation is called Everfair. At first I thought the steampunk aspects of the story -- steam bicycles and airships -- were tangential and extraneous to the alternate history, but what I eventually realized is that Shawl was speculating on how advanced technology could have been introduced into Africa in the late 19th century and how that technology might have allowed the Africans to defend themselves against Leopold. Leopold's forces were infamous for maiming their victims in gruesome ways, and Shawl makes good use of steampunk prosthetics as a response to these atrocities.

It seems from her Historical Note that Shawl sees Everfair as a kind of multiracial Utopia, but it's an ambiguous Utopia full of tension and conflict. Colonization of Africa by Europeans does not completely stop because of Everfair, and Everfair itself is depicted as having colonial aspects. The white members of the nation are still racist in the ways that white people of that era were. Despite the fact that Leopold is ultimately defeated by the forces of Everfair, it of course doesn't stop World War I from happening or Everfair and other African nations from being sucked into the war as proxies. Africa as a whole is still subject to European power rather than a driving force in the international economy. In the end, however, a balance is struck between contending forces in Everfair that could well be called Utopian.

One of the things that confused me as I was reading the book was the approach to technology. The way the airships are powered initially has to do with special earths provided by a tribe in Africa. I couldn't tell if this was a reference to something real, or whether it was kind of magical property. Likewise, characters have special powers such as being able to inhabit animals, that seemed like pure fantasy to me. Shawl seems to be incorporating African folklore into the supernatural elements of the story, which fit well with what was going on, but to my mind militated against reading this as science fiction.

This is a high concept novel that's worth reading for it's offbeat take on a piece of history that has, as far as I know, been largely ignored in the science fiction world. The closest thing to it that I've read before is Terry Bisson's Fire on the Mountain, in which a slave rebellion in the US connects with European revolutionaries and creates a socialist state in North America called Nova Africa. Shawl delves more deeply into the details than Bisson did, but alas that made it harder for me to understand in my current state of mental incapacity.

A Wealth of Health News

Last night I started my seventh round of chemo. I'm doing twelve rounds in this phase of treatment, so when I've done my fifth dose on Sunday, I'll be just over halfway through this phase of chemo. I think I've said that since the first couple of rounds, I've been rebounding more quickly from the five days of chemo -- my appetite comes back more quickly, and my energy for walking longer distances rebounds around the same time, which is about five days later. However, I'm also noticing something that seems like a cumulative effect of the chemo: most days I feel as though I'm swimming through molasses. I feel sluggish, lethargic, and mentally foggy. It could be worse! Last night I tried taking the chemo without the Ondansetron anti-nausea medication (which causes constipation) and woke up in the middle of the night feeling nauseated. Constipation it is, then. Or rather, it's the drugs I take to counteract the constipation.

A couple of weeks ago I had my annual "wellness check-up" with my personal doctor. Actually I switched to a new doctor, mostly because I wanted to go to a clinic that was closer to my house than the old one, but partly because my old doctor pissed me off by not ordering an MRI after the first seizure and especially by getting defensive when I went back to him after the tumor was found to try to get him to rethink his earlier decision. I had three nagging problems I wanted to deal with on top of the "wellness" stuff that the insurance company insists be checked on every year. One was the nagging pain in my left shoulder, which has felt a lot like the pain from rotator cuff tendinits in my right shoulder a couple of years ago. Another was a patch of persistently dry, chapped skin under my left big toe. Then there was my plugged right ear, which I couldn't seem to clear with my wax removal kit. The second two problems were relatively easy to deal with.

She assigned physical therapy for the shoulder problem. The physical therapist diagnosed the problem as bursitis, not tendinitis, on my first visit, but in his written notes he seems to be calling it everything: bursistis causing impingement that then causes tendinitis. I'm doing PT twice a week and home exercises every day, and it seems to be getting a little better already. He said it would take four to six weeks, which is a lot less than what it took for the tendinitis. I asked him if tai chi would help prevent these problems in the future (once I'm done with chemo), but he said basically I need to get back to the upper body strength exercises I was doing before I started treatment for the cancer.

Yesterday, after a PT session, I got an MRI and visited my oncology nurse practitioner. She was over an hour late for our appointment, during which time I had to argue myself out of believing that the delay was because the MRI had revealed a new tumor and she was preparing herself to deliver grim news. No such thing. The MRI showed no sign of a tumor. She showed me the last four, which capture the wound from the tumor removal collapsing and healing. Fascinating to see in a long range time lapse view.

However, she also told me that my oncologist, Dr. Mrugala, has taken what is essentially a promotion at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, effective in January. She has also decided to move on with her career, meaning I will be shifted over to a new oncology team midway through my treatment. Another nurse I worked with, Natalie, is already gone, which is why I've been hearing back from other nurses when I leave messages at her number. This causes me some anxiety, but I was placated by the fact that my old radiation oncologist, Dr Halasz, will be able to step in to provide some continuity. I actually didn't know how to feel when Carrie gave me the news, and I was a little surprised by how bereft I felt as it sank in. I've hardly ever seen Dr. Mrugala, who strikes me as more of a research scientist than a physician, and Carrie has been great, but I've never felt as much kinship with or sympathy from her as I did with Dr Halasz and her nurse, Gaia. But in my foggy mental and emotional state, any change is hard to process. It probably didn't help that Carrie was signaling some distress or uncertainty on her own part, or that I thought I caught a whiff of alcohol when she first entered the room. (That latter bit is completely scurrilous and probably just a product of my anger at how long I had to wait. I was seriously getting ready to walk out, I was so pissed.) I appreciated my Mom's suggestion that I may end up liking my new treatment team even better than the old one.


Birthday celebrations

As I said previously, I turned 56 on the 19th, and a week of celebration has ensued. Worldwide! Well, from Australia to the UK anyway. The sun never set on my birthday celebration, by grab. Highlights follow.

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Including those you can't see in the photo: Andy Hooper, Scott Kreidermacher, Rob Taylor-Manning, Marc Laidlaw, Abi Ludwig, Luke and Julie McGuff, Suzle, Jerry Kaufman, Paul Carpientier, Julie McGalliard, Dave O'Neill, carl juarez, and at another table, since we outgrew our space: Jane Hawkins, Carrie Root, and Karrie Dunning

The night of the 19th, friends gathered at Brouwer's Cafe to celebrate. It was a good turnout, with 20 people (including myself) showing up. A lot of them were people I know through science fiction fandom, but the thing that made me anxious going in was that there were several who I knew from college or work or other parts of my life. How would the "outsiders" interact with the fans? As it turned out, they all interacted famously. From the head of the table I watched with great contentment as friends from different parts of my life chatted and laughed with each other as if they were enjoying themselves. I guess not all my friends are as introverted as I am and are fully capable of engaging socially with people they don't know, although I did get a message the next day from a friend who didn't show up apologizing for having had a panic attack and thus bailing out at the last minute. After Brouwers a smaller group retired to my house to drink Woodinville Bourbon and to smoke a strain of weed called Alien Ass Hat, both of which were gifts -- and excellent gifts at that.

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In my birthday finery with Paul Carpentier (and Carrie Root and Karrie Dunning behind us) at Brouwers (Photo by Abi Ludwig)

On Friday I took the train to Portland to celebrate the four family birthday birthdays in September (Mom, Dad, and my sister were also born in September). That evening we were joined by my cousin, Kris, and her husband, Steve, for pizza and wine. The next evening I had another gathering of friends, at Sam's Billiards, but this was an even more eclectic group than the one in Seattle: the old childhood friend from Salem who I may haven mentioned before has gotten back in contact with me 28 years after we last saw each other; her domestic partner, Jim ("happily unmarried for 36 years!"); my niece and her boyfriend; Dan and Lynn Steffan (from my fannish life); Sarah Gulde, who is a fan from Portland whom I'd never met before but who was put in contact with me because she wants to run for TAFF; Adam Lunoe, who is the tattoo artist who did my latest tattoo and whom I wanted to introduce to Dan and Lynn because they are tattoo aficionados; and, very briefly, because he was on his way to work a graveyard shift, my old college friend, Carl Lesher. Once again, everybody seemed to hit it off splendidly, much to my happy surprise. I was particularly happy to see Adam, Dan, and Lynn deep in conversation as I headed out the door. My one regret is that my old childhood friend glommed onto me and wouldn't let go, so I didn't get to talk to anybody else.

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Sarah Gulde, Lynn and Dan Steffan, my niece, Jolie, and her boyfriend, Jeff, and my old childhood friend, Elaine, and her partner, Jim

Yesterday I had breakfast with Mom and Dad at Dad's favorite breakfast spot -- a dive called the Dockside Saloon and Restaurant, which seemed wonderfully out of place amidst all the gleaming new condos in the north end of the Pearl District. In fact, a new building is going up all around the grungy old place, and I think it's great that a splinter of old school Portland will survive amidst the splendor.

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At the Dockside with Mom and Dad

After all that partying, I'm worn out, so it's good to get back to my routine life of physical therapy, blood draws, MRIs, chemo, and movies. More about that in a day or two, I suspect.


Uncommon names

I just noticed that there's a reporter named Theoden Janes at the Charlotte Observer. That first name can't have come from anywhere other than Tolkien, can it? I've never seen it anywhere else before.



I post things on Facebook that in the past I would have posted here, so let me share this one for those of you who haven't seen it already:

Thanks to Elonna Marci and her daughter Sophia (aka the Neighbors) for serving a lovely birthday dinner to me and Denys last night. We ate on their back porch just like old times, and the elders talked about movies that were made before new high schooler Sophia was born, because that's what adults do, right?

Today I'm 56 years old. It's hard not to feel that birthdays have become some kind of perverse countdown now, but I'll try to be good and see it as a countdown to ecstasy -- reelin' in the years and all that. It doesn't help that because of phone transition adventures, the Seahawks game, and dinner yesterday I didn't make it to my scheduled blood draw, so now I have to start my birthday with that. It was supposed to be on the 19th anyway, until I tried to change it, so I guess it's fate. Curse you, fate!


The Cost of Hope by Amanda Bennett

Cost of Hope.jpgLabeled "A Memoir" on the jacket, this book is actually trying to do a lot of different things. The subtitle is "The Story of a Marriage, a Family, and the Quest for Life." In the blurbs, Judy Woodruff is quoted: "This extraordinary, memorable look inside the life of a loving family facing a terrible diagnosis raises urgent questions all of us need answered about the delivery and cost of medical care in our country." This book was given to me by my brother months ago, and now that I've read it I'll be curious to find out what he took from it, because I had a hard time with it.

It's a portrait of a man, Terence Foley, and of the author's relationship with and marriage to him, and it's the story of his battle with cancer. Scattered throughout is evidence that the book started out as two magazine articles about how much money that battle with cancer cost. I had problems with most of this, to be honest. Amanda Bennett was obviously deeply in love with her husband, but her portrait of him makes him seem like a Type A jerk to me. She portrays him as a larger than life genius, and he clearly was extremely bright and ambitious and driven. All of it seemed out-of-proportion to me. He comes across as over-bearing and arrogant. She portrays their relationship as tempestuous, with constant arguments and shouting at each other. Again, I think this is meant to show that they were passionately in love and deeply engaged and connected in ways that surpass reason, but I found the portrayal of their relationship just as irritating as the portrayal of Terence Foley. Maybe I just don't know enough super-ambitious, super-accomplished people, so they just seem alien to me. Their lives didn't look like much fun to me, but Bennett keeps insisting it was fun turned up to eleven.

As for the cost of battling cancer, I almost stopped reading the book because I found that part of the book so perverse. Who is it aimed at? Is she asking me to stop and think about what my treatment costs before I agree to try it? She ultimately admits that they didn't do so, because they had insurance that covered it. Me too! I don't think it's up to the patient to figure out whether the price of treatment is "worth it." If I was paying out of pocket (like one friend of mine is) it would be different, because then I'd have to think about debt, but the evidence seems to indicate that people who are about to die don't really give a shit about debt, for fairly obvious reasons. Ultimately I thought she might be aiming that part of the book at policymakers, because one point she makes is that through looking at the insurance bills after her husband died, she learned that different hospitals charge different prices for the same procedures and that different insurance companies pay different amounts/percentages for the same procedures. I would agree that this probably ends up making our health system inefficient and too expensive, but again, I think that's something that needs to be dealt with in law, not in my decisions about what treatments to take.

What kept me going through a book that irritated me over and over again was the story of Foley's struggle with cancer and Bennett's struggle to accept her beloved husband's mortality. There's another dimension to "the cost of hope" that she at least flirts with, which is whether the hope that the loved one will survive leads one to make bad decisions that cause suffering. She gets into the nitty gritty of their research into different treatments for kidney cancer that were just going into clinical trial at the time Foley was diagnosed, and that's all quite interesting. Yet while it shows you the difficulty of the some of the decisions they had to make, in the end it seems that they made good decisions that didn't prolong his suffering. So is this book going to help me make good decisions when the difficult decisions start to come? It's hard to say. The bottom line seems to be how much you are willing to suffer for a chance to live a little bit longer. When it gets to the point where they have to take drastic measures to keep you alive, that's probably not such a hard decision, but I have no idea what will happen if/when the tumor returns and they ask if I want to do another round of chemo, more surgery, or a new treatment for which they don't have much data yet. Reply hazy, ask again later.

Blasts from the past, recent and less so

As I think I mentioned in my post about the eight days in Oregon in August, I returned to more emotional turmoil than usual, and it just got worse for the next week or so. I characterized it to those who asked as feeling sorry for myself, and certainly part of it was feeling roiled about my cancer and the treatment for it and where this is all likely to end up. But there were other components to what I was feeling that had nothing to do with cancer or treatment or mortality. It's difficult to write about, because it's pretty abject emotional territory and because I don't want to name names. Basically I got very angry at a female friend of mine, and at myself, because I have a thing for her and thought she reciprocated but has lately seemed to pull away from me. I've already gone through one cycle of feeling this way about her, right after radiation treatment, and I've now realized that part of what was going on this time is that when I got back from the trip with Hortensia in July, I felt at a very deep, insecure level, that I had lost a life partner of some kind. This made me feel desperately lonely and inadequate, so I almost immediately shifted all the intense feelings I had for Hortensia onto this other friend of mine. Mind you, this was all internal to me. Nothing was expressed or communicated, thankfully so. It was all taking place in my imagination, for one thing. All of it. The idea that Hortensia was still a potential life partner should have died back in 2009, but I was incapable of facing facts. The idea that my friend is pulling away from me is almost certainly completely a by-product of my imagination too, because the idea that she reciprocated in the first place was also a projection on my part.

The fact is she's a popular girl with a busy social life and lots of guys chasing after her, and I've always been on the margins of that. The fact that I can still get twisted up in my own internal romantic projections is deeply embarrassing to me, but as soon as I realized that I was doing it to compensate for the perceived loss of Hortensia, my levels of anxiety, self-pity, and anger dropped through the floor. As I wrote to another friend recently, "As stupid and immature and flailing as I think these emotional shenanigans are, I can forgive myself for my loneliness and my desire for love." I've never been very smart when it comes to love, but I hope I've gained at least a little self-knowledge over the years. It doesn't ever seem to help me gain the love I yearn for, but it has helped me recognize the love that I actually get nonetheless, including from "lost" Hortensia, who may no longer be a prospective life partner but still sends a hell of a lot of affection my way, bless her copious heart.

On another emotional front, earlier this week I found a Message Request in Facebook that was sent back in August 2015. It was from a woman who was a childhood friend of mine in Salem. We stayed in contact for a few years after high school graduation, but then we lost contact in the late '80s. Last time I saw her was at our ten year high school reunion in 1988. I've wondered about her over the years but wasn't bright enough to try to look her up on Facebook. There aren't that many people from that era of my life that I still think about. Why her? As we've been chatting in the past few days I'm realizing that she was one of my earliest friends, dating back to pre-school days, before my family moved to Yap. She and her mom lived just a few blocks from our house, her aunt and uncle were our next door neighbors, and we went to school together from fifth through twelfth grade. I suspect we went to kindergarten together too, but she doesn't remember that. She did confirm that she went to the Little Red School House, which is the one I went to.

It has been a strange trip to get her perspective of those long ago days. She told me it took her days to build up the nerve to even say Hi to me after we got back from Yap. It sounds like she may have had a crush on me in high school too. I had no idea, partly because she was too shy to tell me, but no doubt partly because I was fixated on girls who were basically unobtainium to me. Story of my life, eh? Or so I tell myself. She claims there were girls in high school who were warning her off from me. Was that in her own head? Or were there girls who actually were right next to me, yearning for me to ask them out? Probably so, which makes me feel absolutely autistic. Or maybe they were girls I wasn't interested in. Well, shit, no wonder I hated high school so much! I had no fucking clue about anything emotional or social, and if someone had feelings for me that I didn't reciprocate, my impulse would have been to run and hide. I've been looking back at some of my old correspondence from right after high school and rolling my eyes at what a self-serious, pretentious, overly-intellectual twit I was. It took me decades to learn how to tell my friends that I loved them and was grateful for their friendship. Yet I always had a group of good friends, so I must not have been *completely* awful. I was probably more generous with my feelings and my support than I remember being, but I lacked self-confidence.

Anyway, I'm guessing there will be more noodling about the past in the future. I'll be very interested to see where reminiscing with this old friend will lead down the twisty path of Memory Lane.


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