And the streets will flow with whiskey

M was in Innsbruck, which is beautiful in snow and rich; the advent markets there are fancy and bookstores plush but the mountains around it are high and somewhat overbearing, and the hotel was a dump. His wifi barely worked. He befriended two silverfish in the bathroom. He named them Gregor1 and Gregor2.

Then it was decided that his little group would drive back to Vienna in the middle of the night, in the snow, which was crazy. But doing crazy things, he discovered, can launch you into an alternate universe. It did that night, he saw unusual things like rows of trucks stopped to put on chains, or whole flocks of them sleeping in rest stops and gas stations until the storm passed; or maybe they do that every night. And German police asked them for identification, M’s little group, and advised against eating at that truck stop and M wondered why. Was the food bad? The service? The clientele?

And M slept a little, and the others, except for the driver, and they arrived at 2.30 in the morning and he finally got to sleep at 4 and woke up in the wrong universe and he’s still trying to figure it out. Everything is pretty much the same, but only pretty much.

His daughter’s street flows with whiskey. Or smells like it at least.

His other daughter is a little bit funnier than before. Driving into town, he tells her about a friend’s trepidation at bathing in a spa said to have special curative powers for gynecological diseases. Gamma says, the waters supposed to cure diarrhea are probably pretty bad, too.

M thinks he has all his Christmas presents in time this year. Definitely the wrong universe.

Ten things you should know about Christmas

Just kidding. I just wanted to say how much I fucking hate cars.

I had totally forgotten about it, but Brian reminded me.

Anyhow, I fucking hate ‘em.

You probably didn’t know that.

In high school, I couldn’t understand the kids who spent all the money they earned working two jobs on their muscle cars, while I saved mine for a trip to Europe and stuff like that.

Until one let me drive his Camaro. So, okay, they’re really fun to drive. More fun than a 1958 Chevy Apache half-ton pickup truck, or a VW Golf on its last legs, that sets itself on fire when you’re 300 miles from home on the Olympic Peninsula, and Swiss hitchhikers laugh at you.

I especially hate Fiat Doblos, although they look okay. Nice design, lousy mechanics.

Decent public transportation would save so much money it’s not even funny. Theoretically. Of course, someone can always fuck up public transportation and so on.

I took the train to work for 5 years until I got tired of repeatedly having bronchitis every winter, like 4-5 times a winter.

Barring the discovery of some miraculous new energy source that will enable cheap flying cars, though, seriously, what about slot cars? Lightweight electric cars that look like Formula 1 racers, powered not from heavy batteries, but practically battery-free, powered instead by juice from rails in the center of the lanes? The roads could even be made of solar-electric panels and generate their own power during the day. Maybe this would be an unpopular idea because it eliminates batteries, which are central to a lot of electric car business models.

Anyway, I hate cars. I hate buying them, buying the gas, paying for repairs and paying for insurance. Most of all I hate having to take them to the fucking mechanic to have a light bulb changed. That right there is symbolic for me of the way cars are designed to extract maximum revenue from their owners.

Also, your favorite music sucks. Now get off my lawn. Merry Christmas.

Of course with alcohol.

Alpha is in Kyoto getting a massage, or something, so Gamma was kind enough to accompany me to a concert last night at the Konzerthaus in Vienna, where the Klangforum Wien performed Donatoni, Brice Pauset and György Kúrtag. It was quite good, if you want my in-expert opinion. We subscribe to their concerts, and are really enjoying this year’s series. I fall asleep a lot, I feel bad about that. It’s like borderline narcolepsy. When I have trouble falling asleep at home in my bed, I imagine I’m in a concert and I usually fall right to sleep. It’s because I get up so early, I think, and then have a long day, and then go to the bar at a hotel that shall remain nameless for legal reasons before the concert for a drink, and not any sort of condemnation of the music. Also a little more oxygen in the atmosphere  inside the concert hall wouldn’t hurt.

Gamma is 14. She joined me at the bar last night. I had a beer although I wasn’t really in the mood for a drink, because they won’t bring you peanuts if you don’t buy a drink. Gamma ordered a strawberri daiquiri. With alcohol? asked the waiter. Sure, said Gamma. She let me taste. It was very good. That is something I find agreeable about Austria, they’re not all paranoid about carding people who order drinks.

Another agreeable thing about the country is that its president also subscribes to this modern music concert series, and sits two rows in front of us, just him and his wife. Either that or his security detail is so good that they’re invisible. Last night Gamma went over and said hi to him.

I think it’s neat to have a president who enjoys new music and is accessible like that.

And it’s also neat to have kids like I do.

Even my cats have been friendly and remarkably sane lately, except for the senile gray cat, who is as nuts as ever.

Yes, yes I did

I remember, back in the early days of blogging, back when my first computer was powered by a little steam engine, that bloggers often wrote about what they had dreamed.

I sometimes did.

Then that got old.

Also, it turned out that I might have interesting dreams, but they rarely are still there when I wake up.


A couple nights ago I had a vivid nightmare that someone had bought the wrong breakfast cereal.

It was just an image and an emotion. The image was this box of muesli. It looked wrong. There were too many puffs in it, for example. I do not like my muesli with puffs, or with chocolate. At the moment, it is hard to get muesli in Austria without puffs or chocolate, that may have been the source of the dream.

Or it may not. Who knows with dreams?

Anyway, in the dream, I removed the clear plastic liner from the box, with all the cereal in it, and double checked. But it was clearly full of puffs.

Someone had bought the wrong muesli.

I was filled with profound disappointment.

Then I woke up, as one sometimes does with nightmares, still saturated with the emotion.

Wow, I thought, that was some nightmare.

Once, I had a nightmare about a rock in a stream. A big, flat boulder about an inch under the surface, with the water flowing silently over it. At night. That one filled me with regret and guilt. Some terrible crime was buried beneath that rock.

I have never forgotten that one.


On the other hand, I once had a dream about trying to kill a guy who was absolutely impossible to kill. He kept fighting back, it was amazing. I was tussling with him in a friend’s basement while a couple friends watched television upstairs, so on top of everything else, I was trying to kill him quietly. For some reason, it was impossible to strangle him. He was about as strong as me and kept getting away. I finally stabbed him in the neck with a shard of window glass. I hit an artery, too, because the blood was squirting out real far. Unfortunately, I seemed to have only nicked the artery, because although the blood squirted out real far, it squirted in a real thin stream. It was taking forever for him to bleed to death.

In fact, he never bled to death in that dream. He just kept rassling with me.

Then I woke up, full of anger and frustration. Still, it wasn’t exactly a nightmare.

Dreams, aren’t they weird?

Where do they come from, I wonder.

Rapture of the deep

Mike Nelson didn’t know which way was up. He looked around in the darkness and kicked himself for getting himself into this situation. An experienced diver like him! Rapture of the deep killed fools, it killed people who ignored the time, divers who went too deep for too long. But not Mike Nelson, for God’s sake!

But here he was, miles down in darkness, and he didn’t know which way was up.

He didn’t know anything.

He hung motionless in the darkness and thought about that. He knew a couple things. He knew that he didn’t know which way was up, and he knew that he wasn’t really Mike Nelson. He was just some diver who had gone too deep for too long, and that was that.

Aw, hell, he thought.

Rapture of the deep.

Diving is one thing. Making it back to the surface is another thing. But the first is no good without the second.

Aw, hell.

Mike Nelson, who wasn’t really Mike Nelson, looked around.

Fuck, seriously. He couldn’t see a thing. Nothing. No thing.

Then something, like, flashed.

Pretty far away, he thought, although he could’t really tell because it was really dark and his eyes might be playing tricks on him. But something flashed, like a bioluminescent fish out hunting. Or maybe krill closer by. They glow, he thought.

Krill glow.

The diver  had seriously no idea which way he was pointed. Hell. How long had he been down here?

He listened to the ocean. He could hear everything. The whole oceanic sound-effects record was playing all at once. The pinging of submarine sonar. The song of a humpback whale. The clicking sound that one fish makes. Crabs clicking their claws together in a catchy syncopated rhythm.

At least that’s what it sounded like. Remember, it was dark.

He listened to his breathing.

The hiss of his, of that thing that did the air. Starts with an ‘R’.  Regulator. The hiss of the regulator. The roar of the bubbles passing his head, roiling up toward the surface.

It hit him. The bubbles go up. He just had to follow them. Slowly, of course, so the nitrogen dissolved in his blood didn’t form bubbles and give him the bends, but, yeah.

He lit a torch, briefly, and exhaled and watched where the bubbles went. He was glad he did, he was totally turned around. He got straightened out and turned the light back off because he didn’t want to attract anything large and carnivorous with foot-long teeth and shit.

Just as the light went off and darkness engulfed him, he might have seen something large and gray out the corner of his eye.

Jesus, what was that? His heart slammed in his chest like a rat in a coffee can.

It made him want to drop everything and swim to the surface as fast as he could.

He tried to keep down the panic. If it was a shark, it would already have eaten him. Right?

So that was something else he knew. Two new bits of information. Something gray was real close to him in the pitch darkness, and hadn’t eaten him. Also, now he knew which way was up.

What more could a guy want?

How to not punk yr kids

I didn’t have the heart to get even with my daughters for fooling me. Part of the problem was that I am too soft-hearted to freak them out when it came down to it, and part of the problem was that I am too wise to start an arms race with them, because I can’t see that ending well for me.

It was not for lack of ideas. After consulting with a friend, I had two plans that made me laugh until I cried, just thinking about them. An administrative hell plan for Beta (notice of eviction containing a grammar error (she is a stickler for proper grammar, among other things) and a contact # that puts her on perpetual hold, while Pachelbel’s Canon (of which she is sick) plays eternally); a medical hell plan for Gamma, requiring her to (among other things) collect urine samples and stool samples daily for a week.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg, of course. There were lots of fun, custom-designed details, like the stool-sample-kits would be especially constructed to be impossible to open.

For example.

But I decided not to go through with it.

It’s not that I choked. See the above.

After it became clear to me that I would not do it, I shared my plot with Gamma.

She laughed and laughed. A while later she told me she was sorry I had not gone through with my plans, because she had a really good idea now to get even.

Yes, sometimes the wisest move is no move at all.

World prematurity day

Yesterday, 17 November, was World Prematurity Day. I saw a discussion on Mefi where a list of the things that can go wrong was mentioned, and I remember how terrified I was when Beta was born seven or eight weeks early because I had seen the same list. So much increased risk for so many conditions. You’re just gobsmacked when you go in and see the tiny child in the incubator for the first time, hooked up to wires and tubes and the doctor gently explains what to expect and what to fear.

It gave my opinion of medical technology a real makeover. Until then I had seen it primarily as a way to expensively and questionably drag things out at the end of things, but it made a real convert out of me.

I have written about this here before, so I won’t go into great detail, but it is important to me to point out, in case some frightened young parent stumbles across this by chance some day, that while all of those risks are real, things can also go very, very right. Both of my daughters were born prematurely, and they are both healthy, brilliant, original, wonderful, funny and beautiful, beyond all hope and expectation, and I am thankful for them daily. So have hope. May you be as fortunate and lucky as I was.