Oldfish

Oldfish hangs there (hang? is there? When you’re surrounded by water permanently so that you no longer even perceive it, you can’t really say swim, especially when you’re not swimming, but you can’t say ‘float’ either, not if you’re a fish, because floating… floating is the last thing a fish does, if you know what I mean, floating is just another word for turning the belly to the light, for meeting the gulls, for taking the air (except, of course, if your swim bladder goes and you lose bouyancy and sink instead, drift down, your sphere of visibility (I almost wrote sphere of light, which sounds too metaphysical) shrinking to darkness as the sunlight weakens and visibility decreases due to increased density of suspended particles in the surrounding water (which remember you don’t perceive, being ubiquitous) drift down to, finally, the bottom of this bottomless lake and stop and hear nothing but the sounds of life coming from far away until they fade away)… we’ll just say is) Oldfish is there at the center of his sphere of visibility thinking about how language brings him no joy anymore. Language used to be a thrill all the time. Not that language no longer interests him. It remains his primary way of experiencing and manipulating his world. He is hardwired for that. He remarked, he felt unexpected pride and an upswell of love when he remarked a while ago about how a reason he sometimes spoke slowly in conversation or felt it hard to keep up with a group talking fast was because everything he heard was seized upon by his mind and the language analyzed and dismantled to its constituent parts and each of them held up to the light and turned this way and that and the refractions observed and the different potential meanings and intentions regarded and correlated and catalogued, puns in this column, malapropisms here in this pile, etc., possible intended hidden meanings and double entendres and triple entendres… and Youngfish said, Aha that’s where I have it from! (meaning, Oldfish concluded, less a hard and fast belief in genetics than a feeling of (familial and occupational and etc.) relation. It was a loving (love of Oldfish, love of language) thing to say and made Oldfish happy, despite his declining interest in language, because language continued to and would always define him before anything else (surrounded him and permeated him like water, but a water he was conscious of and took great pleasure in swimming in, now maybe less than before, but still) as he continued to be here in his sphere of visibility, the dimensions of which varied according to several variables including depth (distance from source of light – sun or moon), density of matter suspended in the water (affected by depth, activity in the lake – churning by swimmers or boats, for example – season (more leaves and other debris in the fall, as well as lower angle of sunlight) and into which at any moment — this is another fact that defined him, that explained or was used as an excuse for what had a different cause, his anxiety, his hypervigilance — Bigfish could swim, appear suddenly, in which case either It was all over or Evasive action was taken or Bigfish was interested in something else and You lucked out, but You never know, in the end, until it is too late, or not too late. Oldfish hears further than he sees, he swims, his sphere of visibility moves, shrinks in the murk by the shore where teenaged humans swim and kick up mud and splash, grows toward the center of the lake until you get to the shady side then darker again although clearer water. Oldfish sees the furthest near the center of the lake, on the line between sun and shadow and there he remains a while, not basking, maybe resting, maybe eating a Smallfish, or a bug. Maybe thinking. Somewhere is Bigfish, but here is sun, and cool shade.

Where you might have a better than average chance of finding me when I am gone

Stuck in bed for two weeks (dr.’s orders) with bronchitis (bronchitis taking up most of the mattress, stealing the covers) I finally get bored enough to attempt a blog post and find the below already written in my drafts folder.

When I die, I typed with my thumb into whatsapp, spread my ashes in the used camera place on Bennogasse. You might have to make a few trips so the guy doesn’t notice what you’re doing.
Ok, said my kid.
I thought you didn’t want to be cremated, said my wife.
It was more the idea of dying I objected to, I said, than cremation. Also Westbahnstrasse from the vintage camera stores to the apnea diving cafe, and on Kaiserstrasse in front of another camera shop and the photo processing place. Oh, and save some ashes for Powell’s Books in Portland (fiction and poetry section) and the university book store in Seattle (nonfiction).

I was only partly kidding, mainly about being cremated, as my wife figured. But we all have special places we’d like to haunt, or maybe just the ghostly among us.

It occurred to me at lunch that we can also haunt them while still alive, so I took the subway to the 8th district and walked over to the camera shop. The owner is retired and just runs it in his free time because he likes it. He had time for me today and showed me old Leicas THAT WERE POTENTIALLY WITHIN MY BUDGET and a Hasselblad and a Rolleiflex with tilt-shift and a wide-angle lens that focuses as close as you want, I mean, I was focusing it on stuff about a centimeter away before I got tired of that.
The place is in an old shop with old wooden floors and shelf-lined walls covered with the history of photography, all the best stuff locked behind glass.
I’d be happy just standing there, breathing the air, maybe holding out my arms, spinning slowly with my eyes closed but that would look weird and he was there showing me cameras and telling me stuff and even when he wasn’t there, there could totally be a hidden camera somewhere.
Anyway, lovely gear.
Same with Powell’s. You just want to lick the floor. So many books. You want to get locked in at night and sleep in a book fort. And the last time we went to the University book store in Seattle, they had to throw us out. My wife and the kids and I all wandered in different directions and met at the cash register at last call, all with armloads of books, each of us holding a whole different world and wondering how the hell we would get all these books back to Austria.
Other places to haunt: the Virgil chapel in Vienna (at least it was nice before they remodeled it, I haven’t been back since, but I will never forget being all alone there, underground at the Stephansplatz subway station, and the meditative ambient acoustics and dim light). Or wandering the streets of Vienna in miserable winter drizzle.
Or lots of other places, at night, in the early morning, whenever the light’s not too bright.
And in the foggy fields at sunrise. Or right there with you, when you feel alone.
Look for me there.

Tomatoes

Beta: Did Gamma bring you guys any of the dried tomatoes I made?
Dad: Spicy little guys!
Beta: That would be the dried jalapenos.

At the shop

Man: My wife wants Intimacy.
Clerk: Intimacy or intimacy?
Man: You mean, did she capitalize it? She was speaking. I assumed she meant a brand.
Man: You know that ad with the model reclining in a black dress with a freaky long leg.
Clerk (holds up 2 spray bottles): This is the scent Intimacy. This other one is intimacy.
Man: I think she meant the scent.
Clerk: You sure?
Man (shakes head)
Man: What else do you have?
Clerk: We have a bunch. This is enlightenment, for example.
Man: Small-e or capital-e?
Clerk: Lower case. Here. (sprays man on wrist)
Man (smells)
Man: Whoa, I’m an asshole.
Man: Dude, I mean, a real dick. Ffff. Sshhh… I…
Man: Geeze.
Man: Oh my god. My poor family.
Man: I had no idea I was such a prick. I’m a total prick.
Clerk (looks at spray bottle): Hang on. Sorrysorrysorry. Wait.
Man: What.
Clerk: Sorry. My bad. That was self-knowledge.
Clerk (sprays man with a second bottle): This is enlightenment.
Man: Whoa.
Man: You’re also kind of a jerk.
Man: We’re all jerks.
Man: We’re all like, jerk cells in god’s digestive tract.
Clerk (puts bottle away): That one’s new.
Clerk: It just came out.
Man: It might need a little work.
Clerk: Intimacy, you said?

My banana is freezing

What are you doing for the inauguration?
I broke into my own house. I forgot my keys at work, and the cats were locked in the house and hungry, and the organic vegetable delivery was outside behind the house, and it is freezing cold now, and driving back to work to get the keys would have taken 90 minutes so I had to figure out a better plan.
So I asked myself, WWMWTMTD?
What would my wife tell me to do?
So I broke in.
I’m not going to say how, maybe a burglar is reading this. It took me about 2 minutes; Gamma used to do it when she was in grade school and forgot her keys somewhere so it’s either not exactly hard or Gamma and I are natural burglars.
I figure a professional burglar could do it in way less time than that.
Then I fed the cats and got the vegetables into the house and ate some organic fruit.
My banana was freezing (not a euphemism).
Later I will give old red cat his dementia pill.
Other red cat gets antibiotics daily. I wrap those pills in bacon.
Bacon is his favorite.
They are easy to remember because he gets them every day.
Old red cat gets his once every two days, so I get mixed up and forget to give him his dementia pills, which is ironic, LOL.
He either sleeps or stares at his water dish, so it’s hard to tell if they’re helping.
Right now he’s sleeping, and I hate to wake him up to give him a pill.

Thanksgiving

I am thankful for my wife and kids and the rest of my family, and all of you, and for this awesome planet of ours, not to mention universe and the sciences, which are really great sciences, the best.

And the arts, seriously.

This year, I am additionally thankful for our new post-fact society, thanks to which I am now extremely handsome and funny, not to mention smart and – surprise! – long legged and adorned with a sixpack and giant schlong. My hair is not thinning, and the hearing aids are a thing of the past.

Now, when strangers see me on the street, they think Most Interesting Man in the World, and not Santa Claus or Kenny Rogers.

Thanks to our post-fact society, I light my cigars with $50 bills and my cigars are from Cuba, my friend, because I am alt-rich or something.

Thanks to our post-fact society, limousines slow down in the street so their passengers can lean out the window and give me high-fives and bouncers give me fist bumps.

Now, global warming is a business opportunity, not terraforming for aliens who swim in acid and breathe carbon.

Now, there’s enough for everyone, as long as they’re not lazy.

Thanks to post-fact society, everything’s great again.

Everything.

Just great. Thanks to whoever invented this!

Practice

(Trigger warning: violence against old ladies)

Last night, I kicked an old lady in the belly.
In my defense she was crowding me.
I thought I just got her leg or something.
It didn’t feel like a belly.
It felt like a leg, or a foot.
And when I was hanging at the end of the lane wiping fog off my goggles and she told me what had happened, I said “I’m sorry.”
Those exact words.
In my defense the pool was really crowded and people in the Austrian pools I’ve experienced have no pool culture.
Normally, you have a lane and you swim laps in it clockwise or counterclockwise.
In a systematic fashion, in other words.
In this pool last night, the left half was being used by kids training for some team and the lower half of the right half was full of very large persons with neoprene gloves standing around for a fitness class, and everyone else was sort of swimming around in what was left over.
Not that it really matters. I also feel uncomfortable in a pool with strict lanes, because what George Carlin says about driving – how all the other drivers are either idiots (slower than you) or maniacs (faster than you) also applies to swimming and I am usually an idiot but sometimes also a maniac, and I don’t like myself in either role.
So I was relieved when my wife got sick of it (and probably didn’t want to listen to anyone else I kicked tell them about the hip operation they just had) and we left and asked for our money back.
We didn’t get our money back but we got credit to use the next time we swim.
It won’t be on a Tuesday, that’s children’s day and they’re the worst.
On paper, Monday looked good – the whole right half of the pool was free, but that’s the difference between theory and practice for you.
Practice is always fucking with you.