November 25, 2003

Though I still have other sets of stationery that were in line ahead of this one, I put it first because I love the filigree and because there is a little story behind it worth passing along. Tricia's stationery Forgive the name engraved at the top. Tricia herself had forgotten it was there and was a little shocked when I pointed it out to her at her yard sale Saturday. And suspicious that I still wanted it. "Do you deal in stationery?", as if my intentions were to resell this jewel she had so little favoured. To whom would I sell a slightly used box of stationery, especially one with "Tricia" inscribed on it? If I could find a Tricia who wanted it, wouldn't she prefer "Patricia"? So many useless questions for a 50˘ yardsale purchase. I just told her I liked to write letters and that people I wrote to were used to my oddities.

Another lady was convinced that all her junk was worth something on eBay. Her great-aunt's quilt, maybe, but not the 1998 calendar featuring antique tractors (which I bought for $1), and I hope not the "brand new" Victoria's Secret lingerie she bought but decided she didn't like. It seemed eBay was our competitor in all negotiations, the suitor in reserve for her affections if we did not give her the respect she thought she deserved. Meanwhile I was just thinking, what have we come to, that we can't enjoy the quiet pleasure of buying something cheap we would not pay full price for new or on eBay? If yardsales aren't sacred, what is?

November 27, 2003

Happy Thanksgiving! I trust you had a fun day, or at least one as relaxing as mine. I spent most of it in bed, reading. We all had slamcakes (Jackson's name for pancakes, I guess because when you cook them in the Perfect Pancake maker, you flip it over and slap it down on the burner to make them fall onto the top half of the pan) for breakfast, and I cooked a turkey breast and rice and gravy for lunch. We all got plenty, including little Leo, the newest member of our family (more on him later), who also got the first bath of his life today. Just now I have stripped the turkey and put it all away and now it's time for bed.

January 11, 2004

Happy New Year! Well, it's not really MY new year, and if it were, this would be a bad year for me so far. I am still recovering from the one-two punch of a bad backache I woke up with the day I had to drive back from the Christmas visit, and a bad cold that started the next day. Tuesday morning it was just a scratchy throat, but I knew the first sign. So I started taking Echinacea immediately, and I think that might have saved me. Though you might not have recognised it the rest of that week. Between my back and the rapidly worsening cold, I couldn't take work, so I left after an hour. And I stayed in bed mostly for the next two days. My next day scheduled was Thursday, New Year's Day, and I made it through that, miserable as I was. Then I had three days to rest, but by Saturday morning I was much better. Those who don't believe me when I preach the gospel of Echinacea should note that this is a mere 4 days after the first symptom. Vitamin C, plenty of liquids, and rest should round out this best care regimen.

Oddly enough, I felt much worse Saturday night, even spiking a fever. Possibly from Echinacea toxicity. The darkest hour, but Sunday it was all over. Except for having no energy. Monday made this clear. Another twelve hours when I didn't want to be there did me in. But Tuesday it was like the sun burst through the clouds and I was feeling almost back to normal. I think that was the first day I really laughed and sang to myself at work since Christmas. Wednesday my appetite was back. Thursday I started cleaning house. Things I have neglected since my trip but which haunted me since I've been back were finally tackled: sweeping, mopping the kitchen, putting away the boxes of Christmas decorations, washing laundry, straightening my desks, and still more sweeping. I put up a new shelf in my bedroom for my boxes; things are getting organised. If people think it looks like I live in a warehouse, what should I care? I'm just one more artifact in my life. I started dreaming of building a bed made of shelves to maximise the space over the bed and just as a general reminder of my place in the scheme of things.

Being bedridden, or pretending to be, gives you lots of time to read, and I have been through quite a few books. I'll pass these along next trip home, maybe Easter. Our Only May Amelia, about a few momentous months in 1899 for a Finnish girl growing up in a wild river valley in Washington state among farmers, fishermen, and lumberjacks. There's a Boy in the Girl's Bathroom, which I have avoided in the past assuming it to be a silly school story; but it's really an early work of Louis Sachar, who won the Newbery for Holes, and I don't think he could write a normal, silly book. I just finished a novel by another Newbery winner, Jerry Spinelli, a few minutes ago: Stargirl, but it's too soon to talk about it, it left me so raw with joy and sadness.

I haven't been back to the gym yet, both because of the lack of energy and the backache, both of which seem to have passed; but it's good to take some time off from it, too. I'll return next week renewed. I've spent time researching my next computer. I'm about to sell all the ones I have sitting around, I hope, including the one I'm using right now. A couple need a little more work, and I lost interest toward the end of last year. But I'm putting an ad in the paper Tuesday with a good price to liquidate them. I still haven't won the lottery or the Cashword, a prized crossword puzzle that runs in the Monday paper. It uses long SAT-like fill-in-the-blank sentences that allow for two answers differing by a single letter, from which you have to choose the best. And the best is always frustratingly arbitrary. Here are two samples: "—— can be said to be seen to best advantage in the spring." (parks, Paris); "Police may well investigate neglected —— following brutal murder on estate." (mail, maid). The following week the "correct" answers are given along with a brief explanation of the puzzler's "reasoning", but these are often so infuriating as to inspire imaginary mayhem. So think of it not as a puzzle, but a lottery with much lower odds. The prize is now over $2000, which is not to dismissed out of hand. I keep trying, and try not to get to angry at the mangling of the English language.

January 23, 2004

Help, I'm a prisoner in my own house! But Poe is the one with cabin fever. UPS is bringing my new computer sometime today, but I don't know when, so I can't go anywhere. I wish I could tell them to hold it at the distribution center and I would come pick it up, but I tried that before and they wouldn't agree to it. And knowing my luck, they would come when I was just walking Poe around the block, so we didn't go for our noon walk and he's not too happy with me. Luckily, Michael came home for lunch, so I was able to run to China Boat to pick up a peanut chicken, and I took Poe with me. That helped for a while, but he's getting rowdy again. UPS seems to never deliver to our house before 5, and I'm probably wasting my time, but I can't take any chances.

It's not really my new computer. It's just what's called the "barebone", case/power/motherboard, a package deal to which you add your own processor, hard drive, memory, and peripherals. I ordered the CPU and RAM from another company, and they arrived by FedEx yesterday, even though they were shipped later than the barebone.

Yesterday was a good day. Just as I was walking out the door to go to work, I got a phone call from a man that wanted to buy a computer for his girlfriend. I described the first system I had for sale and he said it sounded like what he wanted, and asked if I would deliver it to him at work, since he couldn't get off until later. He worked at First Fitness on the east side of town, but it was worth the trip. He didn't require much selling on the computer, and he paid cash. Another $250 on a computer I bought off eBay for $100 and only added a CD-RW.

Then last night a crazy woman called me to ask about my computer for sale. She turned out to be a seventyish headhunter. I know much more about her, since she spent the next twenty minutes telling me about her life. She works from her home in a business she and her husband founded, but her husband died of a massive heart attack two years ago. They were out at dinner and he died at the table. It was a good thing her son was visiting at the time, because she wouldn't have survived without him. It must have been fate. But he's still living with her, 50 years old and out of work, even though he's an LPN. She told him just writing a resume is not enough, he has to get out there and be seen. This part was getting a little depressing on top of being a little disturbing, so I wrapped things up. Back to the computer. She had one custom-built seven years ago, but she thinks it's getting too old, but she's not sure what she should do to replace it, but she thinks she doesn't need a brand new Dell. I told her it sounded like she didn't, that I had a good computer I could sell her for $200 and that I would set it up for her and give her instructions. She said I sounded honest. She's going to call me next week to set up a time to see the computer. She just "sold a head" or somesuch, and she should be getting the money next week. That would give her more than enough to get the computer. So I said I'd see her then. Aren't old people fun?

Tuesday offered another highlight for this week. I went to Wal-Mart with few real needs and fewer expectations. But as I passed the DVD trash bin, a huge wire crate piled with cut-rate DVDs, 2 for $11, I decided to stop and dig through it. First I found a two-disc set of old Westerns, then the documentary on Seabiscuit which I passed on months ago and regretted but until now couldn't find again. And just as I was about to give up, an odd girl with dyed-black hair who was digging with me called out to her boyfriend, "Hey, look, it's Pingu. Don't you want Pingu?". He seemed totally unimpressed, but my heart did a flip and stopped. Pingu is a claymation penguin I had caught a couple of times only on Cartoon Network, but he captured my heart. The action is simple, sometimes slapstick, but it's emotionally rich and magical down to the absurdly charming "penguinese" the characters speak. "You don't want Pingu?", she said again. Surreptitious but focused, I watched how this was going to play out. If she didn't throw it back, I would have offered her money to let me have it. She wavered. I don't think she knew who Pingu really was. She didn't give any "I saw this on TV." or "I LOVE Pingu!". Would she or wouldn't she? She did! Threw it right in front of me. I almost snatched it up, but I had some pride, some restraint. I hid it behind another one and then picked it up. I'm not sure why it mattered, but it was weird. But I now had Pingu! I'm a happy man. And I started watching them today. I decided to space them out, though. Each episode only lasts a few minutes, so I want to savour them.

February 22, 2004

Will this letter ever end? Each time I add to it, I don't come up with a good ending. The weather here turned beautiful Wednesday afternoon. The first crocuses and jonquils have shown in our yard.

Michael didn't win the Mega Millions, even though he played plenty of numbers. He passed his insurance agent exam, got a promotion, and now he's considering a job offer with another company that sounds very promising—— more money, easier work, a lot at home on a computer——, but it's always risky to make that jump and he hasn't decided yet.

Leo is the newest member of our family. Wilco died mysteriously and Michael contacted a friend whose property seems teeming with feral cats. She caught one for us, but he only lasted a few days, dying of mysterious causes, with suspicion falling on aggressively playful dogs but no conclusive evidence. We didn't grieve long though before Michael got a replacement. This one was very wild, not the least of which in fur. We called him the punk rock kitten, hair sticking out evahwhichway. But he has turned out to be a winning cat. He loves to sit in my lap when I'm trying to work on the computer, and he's also an attack cat, lying in hiding until you pass by, when he swats at or pounces on you. Much much fun. He's just now taken to going outside a lot, and he finally learned how to use the cat door. Which is good news to me, because previously he would only go to the bathroom under my bed, whether I put a litter pan there or not. But he has almost stopped using that. A nasty chore which I only put up with because of his age. But now he's old enough and the weather's in our favour, so out he goes.

Hope everything is good there. I am coming home for Easter.

PS. It snowed here Thursday morning. Jackson was excited. If it wasn't his first snow, it was at least the first one he had gotten to play in we imagine. He was pampered and caged often at his last home. We imagine all kinds of indignities and impositions foisted upon him at his last place. I took lots of pictures of him exploring and romping in the snow. He was tired by the end of the day. I wasn't so happy with the snow, though. I went to bed Wednesday night with a scratching in my throat. I was almost too tired to get up and take something for it, but it kept me awake and I finally did. I started taking Echinacea and Vitamin C, and it hasn't progressed much, but it's still an annoying little cold. I've rested as much as I can, taking advantage of the fact that four days off is a lot of time to lounge in bed reading and napping. I had to go to work a couple of hours Thursday because I am working on a project to overhaul our stockroom. Other than that, I've done as little as possible and I feel as well as can be expected. This is nothing like the cold that got me right after Christmas, but it's still no fun. I am also working on a couple more computers to sell and when I get them ready, I will have to run a new ad in the paper. And I still have to do my income tax returns, but I do them over the phone and it only takes a few minutes and the money gets directly deposited into my bank account, but I have to do a little work first to prepare for the phone task. As I said, I will be coming home for Easter and I requested the Monday after Easter off so I won't have to rush back. See you then, but I'll try to write another letter before.