Tuesday, September 29, 2009


[FFP took this yesterday from our balcony, looking south at sunset. All the clouds were reflecting sunset in the east and south. I didn't look at the actual sunset, but FFP went to the pool deck on nine to take some pictures there, too.]

When I was in school or working, sometimes a sick day sounded like the best thing in the world. Bundled up in bed with some books or newspapers, watching mindless TV. Yeah. Even if a box of Kleenex was needed nearby and you were in a drug fog, it didn't sound so bad, staying home with your entertainments. As DVDs and cable TV came along, it sounded even better.

Truthfully, though, there never seemed to be a good day to be sick (or pretend to be). Always an important event at school, a customer visit at work or a critical deadline or bug to fix.

Yesterday I felt almost perfect. Not quite, one niggling problem but nothing that would keep me from doing just about anything. But...I'm retired. And, in what is really sort of a rare confluence of events, there was no errand, Dad duty, tennis, social event or really any good reason to leave the condo. I needed exercise, but there is a gym steps across the hall.

So I stayed on the tenth floor of the 360 condos for an entire day. Fact is it's been thirty-six hours now because a little rain nixed tennis this morning. Yesterday, Forrest interviewed someone in North Austin, worked out at Westwood, grocery shopped for his mom and us, went down to get the mail and later a package delivery, had lunch with someone at Garrido's downstairs, drove his lunch date home, went to the parking garage with a load of recycling and went to the pool deck to take pictures at sunset. Today, he's been to the dentist (on foot) and to the little grocery downstairs for banana bread.

Yesterday, I cleaned the master bedroom (change and wash linens, dust, vaccum, even the blinds). I took the time to ponder some of the books and objects in there. There are a lot of books I want to read, one I need to read and return to its owner. Today I'm working on some laundry. I have a plan to dust the office and vacuum in here when FFP is away on a lunch date. Maybe.

I watched "Pierrot Le Fou" off and on on a Netflix DVD. Godard's film is really a celebration of settings and objects in Cinemascope. "Life" as Godard said "in Scope. " That's what I thought while watching it. That's what he claimed in a quote I found later on imdb.com.

I read all the papers, did the daily puzzles. I read papers from Sunday and other old papers that I hadn't gotten around to reading.

I did some of the paper reading while glancing at CNN, listening to the iPod (Sonny Rollins, Chet Baker, etc.) and riding the exercise bike in the gym across the hall. I also listened to the iPod while cleaning while FFP was out, blasting it in all the apartment's speakers.

I wrote a blog entry (see below) that was much more coherent than this one.

I reviewed all our credit card and bank accounts and Dad's, too.

I watched the Dallas Cowboys play football while FFP slept in his chair. I would have watched a movie or TV but I kept thinking he would wake up and, besides, I was reading papers and working puzzles. Actually, it was sort of an interesting game.

I stepped out on our balcony from time to time to check on construction and de-construction: the Austonian, the W, the courthouse, the decommissioning of the Tom Green Water Treatment plant and some noisy street destruction by the city. (They are putting in a water line to Seaholm track that necessitates tearing up the street every other day.) I watched the sunset reflected in the non-west sky.

I ate yogurt, cereal, a banana, nachos, some hummus. I drank a lot of coffee and, in the evening, a couple of glasses of a rosé FFP opened.

It was just like those pretend sick days in my dreams. Listening to music, TV, DVDs, papers, little chores. Just staying home. Being home when others are out and about. Reveling in all the entertainments and catching up.

But, now, well, I've got a bit of cabin fever. I feel I need to go get on the elevator and go to another floor at least. I'm not sure I'm cut out to be a recluse.

Monday, September 28, 2009


[Photo: February 2008, MOMA museum reflection self portrait in a shiny airstream trailer included in an exhibit. Would a magpie be attracted to a shiny airstream? For sure a peacock would...they love to preen or maybe fight their reflections.]

Let's go back a bit. It's March, I think, 1999. I don't have any online journals from then and I can't find any computer files from this time. I have typed in some paper journals from the '90's but none include this exact time period. So the following is from memory. Faulty, faulty memory.

I was reminded this morning of magpies when I read one of my favorite online journals and John Bailey posted a little haiku (or, at least a poem, I never remember poetry rules) in today's entry that involved a magpie.

Anyway, it's March 1999. I am in a rehab center in the Denver area with my parents, visiting my sister. There is snow outside and there are large black and white birds flying around. It's pretty. Those birds were magpies and they were the first I'd ever seen. I'd heard people called magpies because they were attracted to every shiny object that came along. But I guess I'd never looked the bird up in a book and seen how striking the bird was, large and black and white. I wished I had a picture of them against the snow. My dad enjoyed seeing them, too, and knew what they were I think. He loves nature and new things and always loved seeing things and going places where you might see something new.

The life of our immediate family had undergone a sea change in the December before (1998). My sister had suffered a cranial aneurysm. By a miraculous chain of events she got to the hospital and survived a repair of it. Unfortunately she developed subsequent ischemic strokes and suffered some brain damage and partial paralysis during three weeks of ICU. Now she was in a rehab facility learning to walk again and use her right arm and undergoing cognitive therapy and such. My parents were old enough at this point (they were 77 and 82) that I vetoed them visiting my sister for months. My brother-in-law and my grown nieces were providing the support my sister needed. They didn't need to worry about old folks falling on an icy patch, etc. This had made for a solemn Christmas at our house in Austin. As I remember it we got continued news of complications from Denver. We did the little things that make a holiday (eating, drinking, working a jigsaw puzzle, exchanging gifts) but our minds were on my sister for sure. My parents had trouble swallowing that she was so ill. Parents never expect to see their children in that condition, even if the child is fifty-five.

Finally, in March they were set on visiting my sister in rehab. Of course, it was still winter in Denver. I was still working. I must have taken some vacation. I arranged for us to fly up there and rent a car and stay in a hotel. I determined that I'd look after the parents so as not to interfere with my brother-in-law and nieces, all ready if not overwhelmed by the now months of the ordeal at least not needing another thing to worry about. I don't remember if I flew to Dallas and met my parents there. I do remember renting the car and getting a Subaru Forrester with four wheel drive. The weather wasn't bad. A little snow, no blizzards or really slick roads. I delivered my parents from door to door.

I remember being so glad to actually talk to my sister and see that she still had her voice (although its timber and pace was changed forever), lots of cognitive ability and a drive to get better. The insurance company was trying to dismiss her from rehab as having recovered as much as possible (before she walked again, which she has been able to do for the last decade) and when an insurance rep visited, she reached up with her right hand to shake hands with the woman. The woman did a little double take, knowing it was a left brain injury but having read that she wouldn't recover use of her right side. Sure my sisters arm and hand were weak and spastic but she lifted it from the sheets toward the woman's hand. (She got her reprieve and learned to walk with a cane and use her right arm more.) Dad accompanied her to one therapy session and my mom, niece and I chatted in the room. We somehow started talking about a relative who had divorced and were trying to remember the first spouse's name or something like that. We could not remember. We asked my sister when she came back. She knew right away. OK, I thought, a lot of long term memory intact. Still it hurt to watch her struggle to play checkers on a giant board with Velcro pieces.

When you are in the midst of a struggle like that, if focuses your attention. We'd been feeling that even hundreds of miles away but up close we joined the local relatives in a scenario that heightened everything going on with one woman's therapy and dampened everything outside that reality.

Then I looked out the window and saw the magpies. My dad identified them, probably. Maybe he told a story about seeing magpies somewhere before. The world outside intruded on our myopic view. Things might not get better but they would change and there was a world outside this crisis.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Looking For Inspiration

I was running through old pictures looking for inspiration and I found this reflection in the window of the (now razed) Las Manitas on Congress Avenue. This was taken in July of 2008. The Austonian across the street was just climbing up to the sky. Oddly there are two fliers in the window that caught my eye. One is for a writing class that my friend Dean Lofton runs. However, I wouldn't meet her until months after this picture. There is also a flier for the Austin Film Festival film camp. AFF is one of my 'causes' and I'm currently drumming up business for a fundraiser for their Young Filmmakers Program. I doubt I noticed these things at the time. Just shooting the reflection of the Austonian construction in the window of a restaurant that was making way for a hotel that has yet to be started.

Why do I need inspiration anyway? I see people every day who have passion for their jobs, causes, projects or art. The work compels them. They don't have to find out what it needs to be. That's the secret to being inspired. it just comes at you and you can't resist the work.

Sigh...it isn't happening. In spite of that I'm going to go read the tiny fragment of a novel I have on my computer. Which will, no doubt, elicit a bigger sigh.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

I Must Write

I really feel like everything is a muddle...but I *MUST* write. Why write? Why not clean the bathrooms? Why not become embroiled in FFP's sudden interest in iPhone apps that has him playing music on his computer? I don't know. Perhaps because I just tweeted this:
Write until the UT game starts! Really. Not to be interrupted by FFP downloading iPhone apps . Random inspiration from stuff on my computer.
And if you tweet it, you must do it. Right? Well, no not really. I think I tweeted that I was going to clean the bathrooms yesterday. And, of course, I didn't.

And really he never bothers me with music or playing tapes of his interview subjects except now it is kind of a pain for some reason when I set out to write with a deadline. I guess I should have waited until the game started to do my writing exercise. Of course, that's when I planned to clean the bathrooms! Really. (It makes me nervous to watch the game. I don't care about the game, but it is bad for everyone in town when UT loses.)

And so my life goes. I've had a little more 'free' time this week than usual. Tennis got rained out twice and my dad was less needy. I spent a bit more time reading and did a little cleaning. (Just not the bathrooms.)

It was a week of worrying a little about my health as I suffered through pain in my hands. I've had it off and on for forty years and no doctor has ever diagnosed it, but this was an especially painful bout. On Thursday I dribbled some hot coffee on my hand and was relieved that the irritated skin (it wasn't really a burn) distracted me from my other hand pain for a few minutes. (Or was it the petit pain au chocolat I had with the coffee?)

Yeah, the week went along, goals cast hither and yon.

I watched a movie I'd always meant to watch to better understand modern cinema: "Bottle Rocket" with the Owen brothers. I didn't find it as charming as some people. I didn't dislike it as much as I did "Napoleon Dynamite." I don't feel a Wes Anderson connection, sadly. I'm out of touch with the young people.

"Bottle Rocket" is (apparently) about rich boys who can't quite find themselves without doing a bit of crime. Actually the boys are men who never grew up. There aren't any adults who did grow up about, either, with only a few criminals to look up to. Anyway. Not much for me to relate to there.

Today I did get to play tennis. It was fun. I almost won three sets, losing the last 7-5 in a tie break. For once, my dad insisted he didn't need me to come out after tennis to do something for him, so I took advantage and stayed at the club and worked out briefly and joined FFP for some food in the pro shop grill. I had some year or two old New Yorker magazines in my car and I was reading about Peter Gelb, the GM of the Metropolitan Opera in one of them while working out and eating. Mr. Gelb has had an interesting life. I read about people like him and am often moved to wonder what my life would have been like if I had been the son of a NY Times managing editor and a writer instead of the daughter of a farmer/hospital attendant and a school teacher.

Now FFP has left his computer and put the bath mats in the laundry. This is always the first thing I do when I'm going to clean the bathroom. Does this mean he is going to scrub the shower, clean the glass and mirrors, scrub the toilet and mop the floor? Sure. Sure, it does. So I can just sit here and write. Now he is emptying trash. He is showing me all right. It's not all on me to clean now that we don't have a maid.

It's not really the interruptions. Nor the thinking about what might have been. Or the lack of inspiration (where on my computer isn't there just that?). No, it's just that I don't really want to write. I don't really want to type even. I want to...clean the bathrooms?

FFP did manage to distract me a little first by looking for the channel which will have the game and then by talking about going down to the store to get something to snack on. But it isn't really about what he's doing, is it? It's just the right time for the mop, the wrong time for the writing.

[Picture is a reflection at the downtown Omni hotel which reflects the depths of my confusion vis-a-vis writing and chores.]

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Stuff and Nonsense

There are big things in life: major illnesses, major events, momentous duties. There are things that cost a lot of money and things that, rightfully, take a lot of time. But mostly life is a drifting sea of puny ideas, passing moments, and meaningless flotsam and jetsam. I've always liked the concept of flotsam and jetsam. The former is the stuff left adrift after a shipwreck or, more generally, the stuff left adrift by our lives. Jetsam is stuff tossed at sea to lighten the load, to stay afloat or, generally, the things we eject from our lives. More intentional but just about the same at the end of the day.

Yesterday as I tried to bring a little order and less counter clutter to the kitchen I was sorting through bottles of liquor and liqueur. I decided to leave some whiskey, blended Scotch and vodka out at the ready and to stow away some things like tequila liqueur, some single malt Scotches and such. I wondered when we'd acquired some of this stuff and when, if ever, we or our guests would get around to sipping it. Last night when we got home from seeing an art film, I decided to have a drink or two. (Full disclosure: I had a beer at Roaring Fork before the show) I picked a single Malt that was out on a small bar cabinet we have in the dining area. The truth is that we usually drink outside the house and when we drink at home, my usual is wine (if FFP opens something), beer or a Manhattan (expertly mixed by FFP). Usually the lack of limes stops me from making a vodka tonic or gimlet I might otherwise mix. In any case, this ragged history of serving alcohol and drinking at home has left us with a number of artifacts. Some bottles are unopened and may never be. Yet, there is no beer and there was no chardonnay so FFP bought a bottle at Royal Blue last night.

When I was doing the kitchen puzzle, I found a coffee grinder. Funny, because, when our machine with the built-in grinder went to the shop, we went out and bought one because I swore we had divested of every one we owned in the move. Now the infamous and much-worshiped at this house, Capresso Jura Empressa E8, is back and seems to be functioning, grinding, tamping and brewing one precious cup of la crema coffee at a time. So the drip coffee maker and the new grinder and are tucked away in the cabinet. The old grinder? I put it in our storage cage. Why, I don't know. I suspect I'll never use it again. There was much incentive to toss things last spring and summer when we knew it just wouldn't all fit. Now, if there is a square inch in that storage cage or some cabinet, there is a foolish tendency to hang on to things.

It is all trivial, I understand that. Equally nonsensical is the way we spend our time. Last night I had my doubts about the art film we'd signed up to see: "Rape of the Sabine Women." But I must say, the lyrical choreography, the weird settings and strange score combined to make me happy and curious...that feeling I get when art stirs me. I'd been in a particularly low mood. It did pick me up. It made me want to study the telling of this tale in painting and myth and it made me want to think about the issues raised by the context of Eve Sussman's film (the '60's). (Most unlike her vision would be the Rubens painting I found on the National Gallery web site! Those '60's figures in bright, tight shift dresses looked very different than Rubens', um, rubenesque figures.)

Tonight we will go to an event. It involves a fashion show. Inexplicably I enjoy fashion shows. (Longtime readers know that I'm a living, breathing fashion emergency.) We chose the event over a meeting to plan another event. That event needs ticket sales and hype just now and we find the best way to generate that is to go to other events and find people who are interested in our other cause.

My entire life feels trivial. My regular Tuesday tennis date was rained out. Dad appeared self-sufficient during my morning welfare call. So I read the Science section of the NY Times while riding the recumbent bike for 55 minutes. I intended to lift some weights. But FFP made lunch (salad and tortellini) and I felt like sitting and reading. And so my days go...full of stuff and nonsense. I'm not thinking great thoughts, but rather I'm bothered and irritated then thrilled and enthralled by small things. Euphoria has been in short supply but it has been interesting inside my head anyway. As I type this, I'm listening to a play list on the iPod created from the Leonard Cohen song "Hallelujah" sung by k.d. lang. This is the only thing Apple calls Genius that is genius. It included Elvis, ABBA, Cream, Cheryl Crow and the Dixie Chicks, Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, Pink Floyd. Now there is music trivia in my head.

[A note on the photo: it is the side of a wine box that got stored in the move last year. From the looks of it, this one didn't have anything especially stellar in it. However, the photo with the box decoration and scribbling reflects my stuff and nonsense mood.]

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Another Day

FFP actually took this a few days ago. But, yeah, every day the sun comes up and you figure your schedule out and bumble through. It's Sunday and the temperature out is pleasant according to my computer. So it would have been a nice day for a leisurely walk. But my actual plan is to walk to a restaurant on Congress (El Chile) for a press party and ASA fundraiser. It's a short walk (about ten blocks). We'll return to the condo after that. I should probably exercise or do some chores at that point, but, if I feel like the twenty block (round trip) walk hasn't necessitated another shower, I won't do those things but, rather, probably sit around and read the Sunday papers.

We'll dress up a bit and go this afternoon to a graveside service at three. After that we'll come back, change and go take my dad on a outing to a friend's house for a (belated) birthday dinner. We have good news on the Dad front: he felt strong enough to maneuver his walker down his sidewalk to the curb to get his mail and papers. After five weeks and six iron infusions, maybe he is less anemic.

That pretty well shapes our day. Looking at the calendar for next week...I have morning things four days (incl. Saturday) and social things every night except Thursday (when FFP has a board meeting). All the events are fun except for a finance meeting at the country club and I've no complaints about being busy having fun. But I hope to find time to do some cleaning and to reorganize the kitchen. We bought a toaster oven we'd like to keep on the counter and our beloved coffee maker is back from the repair depot and the counter is just too cluttered. I think I need to find a place to put away some liquor bottles and stuff like that. The cabinets have been poorly organized since we moved in. There should be plenty of time during the days for this work. Yes, but...will I do it!? Will I find other more fun things to do? Some of the time, probably. I also need to get serious about some gym work.

Well...I wrote the above before we had our walk and some food at the party. I eschewed the alcohol (of course, it's too early) but I still feel the need for newspapers, another coffee and maybe letting the eyes drift downward.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Is This Blog Dormant?

Maybe this blog is on its last legs. The post below this one is dated two months ago. I couldn't begin to catch you up on the (in)Visible Woman because I barely remember where I've been or what I've done. But maybe I can sort of revive the thing somehow.

I wouldn't like this blogging thing to end up being threatened with extinction. I don't want to be reduced to tweets and facebook comments. So here I am, trying to put together just the kind of recap of life I should avoid and decorating it with (yet another) shop window reflection. [Sur La Table at the Domain with, mirrored, myself and a much larger than life representation of the rare and threatened whooping crane. I wasn't shopping at this store but rather going to, ugh, the Apple Store.]

So...what have I been doing?

Cursing Computers. Yep and all the makers of hardware and software. My vision of sleek systems in my modern apartment has been shattered once and for all. I had outfitted the place with two iMacs, wireless printers and a Time Capsule from Apple, hidden in a cabinet. I was running boot camp on one iMac and FFP was running that with XP. He didn't take to a change to Mac, even for a few moments. We did daily backups wirelessly to the Time Capsule which was also a router. I am running VMWare and XP and Mac OS X. So. Right before we were going on vacation and in the middle of a health crisis for my dad, FFP's iMac started getting errors that looked suspiciously like a hard drive going bad. I made extra backups and tried various things to diagnose it. This computer was purchased eighteen months ago and was initially delivered with a bad hard drive which Apple replaced, taking about ten days to do it. Fortunately we hadn't put it into service at that point but had spent a lot of time configuring it only to get weird errors and finally do a surface scan that showed the hard drive had lots of bad sectors. When I got back from vacation and found a guru to help me deal with this, another problem cropped up before I could get an appointment. The Time Capsule power supply failed. One day it just stopped having a light. I found scores of people on the Web with the same problem with units bought around this time. Desperate to replace the router and backup functions this piece of equipment served to provide, I bought a router and resurrected some ancient USB external drives. Meanwhile I returned the Time Capsule to the Apple Store where they took it in to have their geniuses examine it for life.

My newly-engaged guru came over. Initially I think he thought it was just a matter of a WIN XP installation corruption on the iMac. He put a lot of effort into cleaning things up and we ran a few CHKDSKs which ran forever, finding errors. Finally, on the second visit, it became too sick to boot. At this point I'd put everything on a laptop for FFP to work. This wasn't going to be a great solution for long term not the least because I didn't have good backups in place and the laptop, years and years old, might give up the ghost itself at some point. So we decided, even though the iMac was under warranty, to replace the hard drive ourselves. (That would be the guru doing it. It is at this point that you have to understand that my guru really is an expert and that the Apple Geniuses are so-called to hide the fact that they are pimply-faced nerds with no concept of running a business.)

Apple said they were replacing the Time Capsule. Only they gave me one that was obviously used. Indeed, when I brought it home it also did not work! To receive this non-working product I'd had to sign that they took no responsibility for the loss or breach of my data on the broken one they wouldn't return to me! The 'genius' said breach just meant loss, not that someone might obtain my data. I not so patiently explained that, no, it meant breach and was on a separate line from loss in the lawyerese I was asked to initial. I almost made the kid cry. I didn't feel as bad about that as I should have, probably, him not knowing the meaning of the word breach and all.

So we (my guru actually) swapped the bad Apple (ha!) hard drive with one from Fry's, getting Vista installed (learning curve for moi!) and I bought a new Firewire backup drive for that machine so I could have local backup I trusted more and that would be fast. (I reinstalled my remote backup solutions, got FFP's data on it, etc. after the guru efficiently reinstalled most software.) I finally got a new Time Capsule from Apple but have only put it into service as a LAN drive. Can't trust all backups from all machines to something that the geniuses consider so cavalierly. Indeed, when I was giving them the thing they said "It's OK because you still have the data on your machine!" Well, of course, I had one of their machines failing. And I had generations of backup on it, too, which you don't have on your machine. So, yeah, not impressed.

I ended up getting only one wireless printer to work and the communication among machines isn't working entirely. The guru must come back and give more help. I have more gadgets strewn out where they are visible than I did before. The condo is becoming as messy as my old office. I had to deal with Vista trying to hide things from me about installing external drives and scheduling tasks and endlessly asking me if I started programs, too.

And my love/hate relationship with computers just keeps on. There are more decisions and issues coming. I just can't think about it all now! There's Snow Leopard and how it works with VMWare and whether to upgrade to WIN 7 in October. And then there is replacing software that just barely limps along with XP and will not be tolerated by Vista or WIN 7. I love computers but only when I'm doing something I love. This includes the accounting tasks I do, I love having them automated. It includes writing this blog, surfing for info, using social media. It does not include upgrading, debugging, backing up, diagnosing, buying, returning. Which for the last few weeks was ALL I DID. Or so it seemed. Which may explain why I got surly when I had to change the ink cartridges in the ink jet printer today. I feel like an IT employee who never gets to use computers, only gets abused by them. This long-winded blog entry may stand as evidence to the contrary, of course. Also I tweeted my dissatisfaction with Apple (with a hash tag I made up: #applekoolaid) which caused a lot of strange followers. I must admit that ever time I saw an Apple commercial, it made me mad. And there were a lot of them in the U.S. Open Tennis coverage. (Yeah, I wasted some time watching TV. So sue me!)

Editing Cogent (?) Blog Entries and Stuff that Will Never Be Published. Ideas, nicely expressed and crafted. Written and rewritten. Publish button never pushed. Oh, I haven't done that much of it, but still. I did have some ideas and start blog entries I couldn't wrap up while you've been missing me. (Haven't you?) I have published Austin, Texas Daily Photo daily. Even left a stack to be published while I was on vacation. But this quotidian task is hardly writing or publishing. It is surprisingly hard to find a picture every day, though. And I do try for a paragraph of accurate drivel. Not enough writing has been done in any case although I've started a few things. It would take dedicated time and I'm all interruption these days. Still, the starting to write has taken time.

Paying Too Much Attention to Social Media. Facebook, twitter, news on the WEB, other people's blogs. It's random like a collage. I like collages and I like scanning that stuff. But. Too. Much. Time. And sometimes I respond when someone says something I find stupid or sanctimonious. And that is really a mistake. I craft a comment no one wants to hear. Stupid.

Taking an Idyllic Trip. Portland, OR. August. It's a perfect idea. We've done this several years and the weather has been pretty wonderful. Especially the comparison with Austin and especially this year. When we were gearing up to go, however, Dad started fainting or threatening to faint. So the whole idea and actuality of going was fraught because of Dad's problem which turned out to be critical anemia. Finally, I got him started on iron infusions, lined up a variety of help and support and we went anyway. We did check e-mail but mostly we read books and papers, talked and ate and drank with our friends. We walked among straight fragrant trees and on the beach. And actually saw two movies. Loved them both: "Whatever Works" and "Julie & Julia." It was nice weather and lots of low-key fun.

Buying Gadgets (and not). For months I thought I might get a Smart Phone. My carrier is Sprint. I have a nine-year-old phone. I'm not kidding. It works, though. I thought of getting it replaced with a Blackberry or something. Then, around my birthday I had the idea of trying an iPhone. This wasn't as hard as it could have been since FFP has an AT&T contract. So we got an extra number on his account and got one. Took it on our trip and used it to look at e-mail and such. It was pretty cool really although the battery doesn't last long. FFP liked it enough that he got one for his AT&T phone. I'm still carrying around my Sprint phone, though, because it holds juice longer for just phoning. I've liked the iPhone though, truthfully, although I'd have burned it in longer before getting FFP one, but he wanted one and there you go.

For the longest, I wanted to buy a vacuum and a toaster oven. We'd given up some old ones and promised ourselves new ones in the condo. I kept borrowing a vacuum from a friend who is a condo neighbor and we got by with just the pop-up toaster and the microwave. Today, though, I bought these things. You know what? I hate having to unpack and figure out this stuff. But I did.

Still glad I never bought a GPS gadget or a Netbook. The iPhone serves pretty well for these needs. I guess I should have waited for the vacuum and toaster oven apps! And I wish I hadn't had to go buy a new router and backup drive thanks to Apple's gadget failure.

Being a Child. No really the child of the parent who has no one else. And assisting occasionally with FFP's, too. It's never enough.

No matter how much time I spend with my dad or working on his affairs I feel like it's not enough or I feel incompetent at it. I feel guilty about not helping FFP's parents more, too.

The whole situation of being their support system also gives us pause vis-a-vis our desire to travel more, too. In the last year and a half, my dad has had a crisis before or during our three trips. Fortunately we were here for the latest crisis at my in-laws when a tree limb took out their electric meter and left them without electricity for over two days while electricians worked and the city took their sweet time to inspect the results. It was interesting how deftly they lived without electricity (they refused to leave). It was maddening that the city took them to task on other improvement paperwork that was incomplete...from decades ago! Would that the city did their own work so carefully.

Reading. Read Richard Russo's Bridge of Sighs. Mostly on the trip. Excellent book spanning generations, continents and characters and yet seeming intimate at every moment. I was reading, when I last reported to Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life. In an amusing cosmic twist I lost track of this book and spent a couple of days puzzling over where it was until I remembered putting it in a briefcase to take when I took Dad to an appointment. Probably should read that soon. I am hopelessly behind on my newspapers. Still I spend lots of time reading them.

Cleaning. It's never enough. Himself does certain things. I feel guilty about when and how I clean. By the time I've made it through what would be the 'last' task (say cleaning the kitchen) the 'first' task (say cleaning the master bath) needs doing again. Will it help that I no longer have to go borrow a vacuum?

Puzzling Over life and, well, crosswords and Ken-Ken. I find crosswords irresistible. I tackle the NY Times on Sunday through Wednesday and sometimes Thursday. I'll do the one in the local rag most any day. Their difficulty doesn't vary by day. The Times has started running Ken-Ken and I find myself drawn to these as well. I know I waste time on these. I can't help myself, though. Maybe there is a Twelve (Across/Down) Step program for it.

Tennis. It's one constant. Well, when I'm not traveling. Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday I get out there in the morning with one stalwart 75-plus-year-old woman and various otherladies to play round robin doubles. It isn't exercise really (which I desperately need more of) but it's fun. And a constant. For the last few weeks the added morning activity of taking my dad for iron infusions on Fridays has meant getting up and at it four days a week. Almost like a real person with a job.

Fretting over what I'm not Doing. I need to get rid of more stuff. I need to organize stuff at my dad's. It was good to see my nieces leave with a few things. I need to get control of everything. I don't work and how hard can it be? Well, it takes time to fret about that, it does.

Socializing. We had the first black tie event of the year. The Ballet Austin Fete was held in the still-under-construction Austonian. We are always going to other little events, eating out. We celebrated my birthday with a nice gathering with music. It's the rare evening that is empty on our calendar and then we seem to find a bar or restaurant to spend it in. This was what we envisioned, I think, for retirement and downtown. But sometimes I think I should stay home more. And, you know, write, create, clean, organize.

Watching People Work and Play. This is an easy thing to fall into from a tenth-floor perch. I find myself out on the balcony or in my chair, watching earth movers (at the court house site), cranes moving (at Austonian and the W) and destruction (at the decommissioned Green Water treatment plant). Also sometimes just watch people coming and going from the nearby venues, out on the town, gong to dance class at the Butler Dance Ed. Center, just wandering in my neighborhood. Like Chance in "Being There": I like to watch. It almost seems like I'm getting work done or going out myself. Only I'm not watching it on TV.

Yeah, that's been me...and I hope you were doing something momentous yourself whilst I was gone!