From here to infinity

This is sort of a “part two” to my previous post from last November (!), so I will sort of pick up where that left off, briefly outlining the stuff that resulted in me skipping this year’s Limerick Contest (sorry!) but OTOH seeing more clearly. In this picture you see what I have been wearing around since last Wednesday, as a kind of “old person’s festival bracelet,” if by “old person’s festival” you mean “hospital stay.”

(Oh wow, the intern just walked into my office. Didn’t know he was still around. In fact, I had totally forgotten all about his existence. Like some Netflix series based on some comic book involving alternate universes and young people. But I am your intern! What I have an intern? I don’t have any intern. Call security! Klaxon.)

(So maybe it’s good that i am writing this in order to remember it, as a friend suggested).

So anyway. Around the end of the previous post I got a virus. When that was over I went bouldering with Gamma again, fell, and wrenched my injured shoulder in such a way that it seems to have popped back into place, much improving mobility and reducing pain.


Then the sweetest man in the world, my father-in-law, passed away.

Then some other stuff.

Then I got the virus that my father-in-law had… that had played a role in his death, RSV, and was really sick and at times very worried and couldn’t go to Rome with Beta which we had been planning for months. Then my wife, who was taking care of me, got it because it’s 100% contagious. And we raced against time to recover before my cataract operation (hence the bracelet in the first picture).

And all this time, I couldn’t even feel sorry for myself, because even worse things were happening to other people all the time. (I could feel sorry for myself, I just had to pretend not to.)

So anyway my wife recovered from her virus in time to drive me to the hospital for my procedure. Here in Austria, it seems as if instead of offering that procedure at every hospital, they concentrate it in a few hospitals per province, resulting in specialized eye clinics and a kind of conveyor belt experience, like the I Love Lucy episode with Lucy working at the candy factory except you are the candy and Lucy is an experienced cataract specialist who is not overwhelmed.

Everyone we know who had undergone the procedure had only good things to say about it. (After the operation, of course, my wife told me all the negative stories she had withheld from me previously so I wouldn’t worry.) So I was looking forward to it, but also really scared because this involved my eyes being cut open, the lenses removed, and replaced with artificial lenses.

Due to my Internet research (Reddit, mostly) I expected my initial consultation at the eye clinic to include a conversation where we talked about all the different lenses available, but basically all they said was Here’s a prescription for eye drops come back in a week for your operation.

I would get the public health system lenses and probably need reading glasses but be good for distance if I was lucky.

So anyway a week went by where I was basically afraid all the time and worse things happened to friends and loved ones then we went to the clinic and they took me into a room and gave me the bracelet and asked me when my birthday was (soon! Really curious what they’re going to send me!) and my name and if I was able to lie down on my back for 15 minutes at a time and I was like, yeah no problem, thinking, my dude I lie on my back all night long.

Time goes slowly when you’re lying there scared and excited at the same time and wanting to get something over with. A guy in his seventies (judging from his birthday) came in for the same procedure. A 94 year old woman (judging from her birthday) came in. When they asked her if she could lie on her back for 30 minutes, she said, My dude I lie on my back all night! and I laughed more loudly than I should have and everyone looked at me.

Anyway there were a bunch of other candies waiting there with me for the conveyer belt. Then my turn came.

I got a bunch of eye drops to anesthetize my eyes and disinfect, but nothing to paralyze my eye muscles and this really worried me, like this was my primary worry, that my eyes would woggle or goggle during the operation and my eyes would be wrecked and it would be all my fault. This was the core of my anxiety the entire time, plus my eyes were going to be cut open and pieces removed and switched out.

This operation is nothing for claustrophobes. I mean, I am basically a claustrophile and even I found it unpleasant to have a rubber mat adhered to my face with a little window that opened over the eye while a nurse asked me my name and birthday and verified that We were doing both eyes today. And where is my surname from (Ireland). And what brings me to Austria and other small talk.

And I’m like, I can move my eyes, how do I keep from moving my eyes during the operation? And they’re like, Just stare into the blinding light and also we have this anti-blinking clamp we screw into your eyeball like in Clockwork Orange.

I for one am really surprised there hasn’t been a remake of Clockwork Orange yet, and simultaneously relieved there hasn’t. Can you imagine how bad that would be?

So there I am, literally strapped down on the operating chair – straps holding down my arms, which if you are a claustrophile is not a problem, just another detail to remember when you tell the story (and allows you to distract yourself as you recall all the movies and TV shows you have seen where people got their arms strapped down, rubber mat adhered to your face, thinking, am I going to have a bunch of new fetishes when this is over? Do they sell rubber mats on Amazon? Surely they do! But are they good ones, or cheap Chinese ones?, scared to death you are going to move your eye, sweating, staring at the light, unable to blink, they are putting drops into your eye i guess so it doesn’t dry out, staring at the light, not moving, not moving while the nice surgeon asks you your birthday and we’re doing both eyes correct? and begins, telling you what he’s doing every step of the way, and you feel them fiddling about, and stare at the light, and then he’s like, ok we’re removing the lens now and you’re actually relieved he did not tell you when he was slicing the little incision and you’re relieved that bit is over and you apparently didn’t move your eye at the wrong time and having the lens removed is like, someone is fiddling with your eye while worse things happen to loved ones somewhere and it tickles a bit and then the light you’re staring at goes rather blurry and you think, wow, with lens, without lens, big difference. And he says, ok now we’re removing the cataract and he’s fiddling with your eye and you can’t tell if he is scraping it out or busting it up with ultrasound and sucking it out (according to something online) but it feels like scraping who knows. Then, Ok we’re inserting the new lens into the little sac behind your pupil now and the light is back in focus and clearer than before and ok that eye is done.

Then they clean everything up, get clean tools and stuff, put a new mat on your face with the window over the other eye and you wonder if this is what it feels like to be a bathtub floor only without a naked person sitting on you and they do the same thing to the second eye.

Took maybe half an hour in all, then I was back in the room with the other people waiting for their operations. They had lots of questions and my post operation relief resulted in a sort of giddy-manic enthusiasm and I couldn’t shut up, telling them how great it was and how much I could already see (That clock on the wall! I can already tell the time! And that sign on the wall – I can see that it is a sign, but I can’t read it yet…). And basically, Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt.

So anyway since last Wednesday I have been excruciatingly positive and enthusiastic about cataract operations, mine personally and the procedure in general. I am a missionary. Brother Mig of the Church of the Cataract Procedure. “Colors are more vivid! Well at least the red end of the spectrum! No more running stop signs for me! And things are as bright with sunglasses as they used to be without!”


I had to wear these protective eye covers for a day, until my first checkup at my eye doctor the next day. Like, I was so enthusiastic, when I looked in the mirror with them on, I thought, I’m so handsome! OMG I can see clearly now I’m so handsome.

Apparently the combination of giddy relief and the somewhat blurry lenses of the protective covers led me to believe that, temporarily.

On Monday, after several days of recovery, I went to work. I am currently able to see, quite well, without glasses. Even reading. Computer distance is fine, looking at my phone is a bit harder, if I hold it at arms length it’s ok though. So I guess I will need reading glasses eventually? Which is great – you can get them cheap at the store, and don’t need to buy expensive prescription sunglasses etc. or the expensive trifocals I used to wear.

At work on Monday I – an introvert – cornered three people, only one of whom even asked me how the operation had gone – and told them about it at great length, and with enthusiasm. Same as I guess I’m doing here.

So that is the story of my eye operation. I survived the fear, didn’t goggle or woggle at the wrong time, and now I can see a lot better, probably. I have the feeling that I am forgetting something, which I will add here if I remember it.

For now, I’m taking it easy, letting my wife do the heavy lifting, drive me to the train station (my good morning photos on Instagram this week are taken safely out the passenger window instead of dangerously out the driver side) and waiting to see what the eye clinic sends me for my birthday soon. I bought new sunglasses, non-prescription RayBans, and wear them all the time, just waiting for someone to ask me about them, or my new festival bracelet.


Good morning.

Dem bones

Although i was warned
that the rocks were slippery
i go skinny-dipping anyway
in a swedish lake
while falling the voice of the woman
who had warned me
flashes before my ear
my daughter Beta is like
dad are you okay and also put a towel on
my doctor says it could take months to heal
then i do something to my back
back home
weeks of pain to pay
sitting in the driveway
on a hot day
pulling weeds
face-palm emoji
eventually i go bouldering again, with Gamma
as soon as i can
and eventually i fall and fuck my back
back up
plus a bonus shoulder
today i finally have my appointment
with an orthopedist
(in the meantime, between my fall
and today’s appointment
i take muscle relaxants and painkillers
which make me depressed and suicidal
(says on the package)
bc Alpha and me go to Istria on a bus tour
and i want to enjoy it
which i did)
(anyway the meds help
although i stop taking them because
they make me groggy, depressed and determined to end it all.)
monday, day before yesterday,
i feel well enough to go
bouldering again with gamma
after which my hand, back and shoulder feel better
but now my knee hurts!
despite no accidents
my new orthopedist
waggles my leg and arm
and says well you know, kneebone connected
to the hip bone, etc, i
can give you a shot but just time
will do it too
i opt for time
one thing leads to another
gimpy back makes you stand funny
which stresses your knee
for want of a nail
now my other knee hurts more
but the first one hurts less
i’m not complaining-
just thinking about how
you learn more about a system
when it breaks down
than when it’s working

When are you going to do these?

When are you going to do these?
My wife brandishes a sack of purple iris things and some other bulbs that she bought recently that i thanked her for buying.
On the weekend, I say, this not being the weekend, but Thursday, although I am home, having skipped work / opted to work from home due to the plausibility of a reaction from my 5th covid shot as an excuse.
It’s always the weekend, she says.
Which is true, I married a philosopher and she is retired now.
However I am drunk (and drunk gardening = risky), because we went to the bank today to negotiate a higher interest rate on my savings account after which we went for a walk along the Danube that ended abruptly at the Alpenverein with wine.
Abrupt and unexpected, but not unwelcome.
You only live once, so.
The problem is, i dunno.
Kid in a candy store problem, I guess.
In this abundant, beautiful world.
When there is so much to love.
Despite everything.

Self help

In the middle of the night
in Sweden, in the northern part
northish, anyway,
at midsummer
there are no stars
the light shimmers when you get up
and walk through the woods
to the outhouse
shimmers. it is not

what you are used to, shining from
like the sun through
the trees to your eyes.
it breaks and shimmers
in all directions.
at least i am pretty sure,
i didn’t have my glasses on.

we saw two moose
a big one one evening
a little one the next evening

i sat on the porch in a lawn chair
i looked at the lake
and at the trees
eventually i noticed i was not thinking
i was a little surprised

what am i doing when i am not thinking
i am living
so i lived on the porch
for a few days.

would i recommend this?
i don’t recommend anything
you’ll figure it out

We’ll be fine, dad

They say
when you meet a bear
play dead
If it’s a grizzly bear you
may also climb a tree
because they do not climb
due to their anatomy
but they have a long reach so you
must climb up high,
higher than you would think
and quickly, probably.
others say
raise your arms up
make yourself bigger
yell maybe
or is that mountain lions
if you have bear spray
maybe play dead
then give them a squirt when they get close
others say wear bells on your
clothes so you don’t surprise them
don’t feed them
don’t pet them
and whatever you do don’t piss on their tree
I have never seen a bear in the wild
although once i thought i did
in the fog
but it was just tree stumps
but i was still real scared
and once, and my little sister will confirm this,
when we were picking huckleberries in the hills,
it got foggy, and i told her to walk
in front
on the logic that should we
encounter a bear,
she was quicker than i and
could elude it better.
Bears are on my mind because
they have bears in Sweden,
i have been told,
and my daughter Beta and I are
flying there tomorrow
to spend a week in a dinky
red cabin
in the woods
by a lake
and i for one am really
looking forward to picking
berries in the woods.
and hiking with my kid.
i joked that we were concerned about
spending a week together in a tiny
cabin, but she reminded me
that i had helped her learn
to drive
and we still get along.
and i will walk in front this time


A man in his mid-60s wearing a dark suit walks through a genteel urban neighborhood on his lunch break, feeding crows here and there but mainly scanning the skies for the Attack Crow, which he is trying to befriend by feeding it before it can attack him.

His head swivels like one of those big antennas that swivel so much.

A little old lady with great hair and looking very fit in tight jeans (little old ladies are not what they used to be) with a little old dog on a leash follows the man around and finally cuts him off on a street corner and just regards him, as if waiting for him to recognize her, or slowly realizing the man she thought she recognized is a stranger — the man is not sure, and wonders if she is just going to reprimand him for feeding nasty crows, or complain about it, but she finally, after standing there staring at him, just says,

“Grüß Gott!” to which he replies “Guten Tag!” and after an uncomfortable pause that he cannot parse both go on their way; the man guessing it was a case of mistaken identity, maybe? like maybe he has a doppelgänger in the neighborhood (because this happens on a regular basis, strangers greeting him with odd familiarity) that all these people now think is unfriendly or he is getting really bad at remembering faces.

Or maybe she was just giving him an impromptu psych eval because he looked suspicious or crazy because he was looking over his shoulder and up at the sky and the roofs of buildings because he was in the territory of the attacking crow?

Because, seriously, for 2-3 blocks it feels like a forgotten episode from the Twilight Zone TV series which, auspiciously, began the same year the man did, 1959, and ran until 1964, the year he entered school and gave up hope for humanity.

Rod Serling pitching his idea for the episode: Imagine if you will a man on the cusp of retirement losing his mind because of a crow that attacks only him for some unknown reason.

TV network executive: Rod that doesn’t make any fucking sense. Rod, that makes no goddamned sense at all.

Wie geht es dir?

Come out
to the woodpile
The stones i am moving
have a lot of spiderwebs on them
and i hear my father’s voice
“it’s more scared of you
than you are of it”
that’s when he lost all credibility
for me
a little boy
because – first of all, how do you know how scared i am, or a spider; second, some spiders are no doubt motivated by fear to bite you; third what good do you intend to do by saying that?
and that is who i have been ever since,
a little boy without faith
in his father
besides he was a lot of admirable
things, for a little boy – how far he could
hit a baseball!
and fix a car!
but his fears were ultimately a prison
something else i inherited,
besides the chuckle and the short legs
so what do you do?
i have spent a lifetime
saving all the bugs
even the jumping rat in that house
in greece that one summer when the kids were little.
and now
in honor of my father
and myself
and my kids
i do it even if it scares me
and after a very challenging
and scary
and fucking weird week or so
to the point where
i am unable to sleep
i ask you
o wise spider
is it possible to confront too
many fears
at one time?

Not at your age
pack as much in
as you can
not because of some YOLO hangup
but because of YNKWTAWB thing
you never know
when the aneurysm will
you know?
no i am just shitting you
just live
live for the life
for the curiosity
for the discovery
for the hugs and kisses
for the colors
and the textures
live for the laughs
double check your ropes
and start climbing
check your oil, your battery
and go
whatever whatever
take all the steps and
it might be a dance and
when a fly gets stuck in your web
bite it