Cognitive dissonance

On the one hand, the current state of things is a convincing argument that old, white men should just STFU for the next couple of millennia.

On the other hand, I am an old, white man who likes to write, if not talk, although I do that sometimes, just not on the telephone, if I can avoid it.



I have been told amplifying non-old, white, man-type people is good. Unfortunately, my megaphone is tiny, but I will do what I can.

I have also been told, for example by my therapist, and other women I respect, to just fucking relax, so I will also be working on that.

When I was younger I read only books (and consumed only art and other cultural output) by heterosexual CIS-males, because it was more relatable for me.

Now that I try to broaden my cultural consumption, that old stuff often feels really shallow when I return to it. Maybe that is just a function of getting older, though.

There was a tweet (? i think?) where an old dude said his hardware was old, white, CIS-male dude, and he was stuck with that, but his software had been updated multiple times.

I guess that’s one thing you can do, get your head out of the seventies, or whatever.

I was talking to someone about the acceleration of time as a function of age, and how to ameliorate it. All I could come up with was mindfulness, paying attention, remaining curious, which I guess you accomplish through meditation and related practices, or doing scary things beyond your fear threshold, or things you love, or things that fascinate you, whatever gets you in the flow. (My only relative who lived to be over 100 was a curious, friendly, artistic type all her life… and an early feminist…)

Concentrate on things you love. What else?

This is good news for me, bc as a person governed by anxiety for most of my life, there are plenty of options beyond my fear threshold. Maybe this world, the old known world that just speeds by, is my safe little lobster trap, while that world, the scary, interesting one, with sharks and mermaids and things with teeth and things that glitter, where time slows or stops entirely, is unknown but has so far not killed me, either.


I mean, both get you eventually.

Maybe I’ll try to talk my wife into skydiving. If it works for her I can try it.

Have you tried something beyond your threshold of fear? What was it? How did it turn out for you?

90 is the new 70 or something

So we were invited to Tante Hermi’s 90th birthday party and I joked, Oh this is gonna be LIT but the joke was on me because it was.
At least relatively lit. Lit-er than I expected.
Plenty lit for me.
It was held in a Serb restaurant in Vienna, for one thing, so before the evening was too far along even the vegetarians were eating meat, the red wine was very heavy and good and eventually there was a lot of schnapps. Tante Hermi apparently invited only charming, fun relatives and when the band (guitar, bass, accordion, violin) showed up she was one of the first to start dancing and one of the last to stop.
I was a designated driver so I stayed rather sober.
And I couldn’t understand much because tinnitus etc.
But I still enjoyed myself and watching Tante Hermi get down *really* gave me a more positive view of getting old.

Some days Omi is just on the floor

Some days it is a crow wanting your lunch, and some days it is a Slovak home care lady wanting you to help get Omi onto the toilet.
Some days the rain stops and it clears up and you take a walk through golden leaves, buy lotto tickets and salty fruit-nut mix (with rhubarb pieces), take pictures of the sky and the roads are quiet, abandoned, and the sidewalks empty except for a crazy man screaming and another crazy man slinking back and forth up the street and, later, a small lady you cross the street to avoid because you try not to scare women if possible.
Some days the small lady crosses the street too, though, back over to meet you, and walks up to you and asks for help and you realize she had been on the street looking for help but the street was empty but for you.
And you say, sure, what do you need?
I need you to help me get Omi back up. I dropped Omi. There’s nobody else in the house and no one else on the street.
She just slipped through my hands and I (here she gestures to herself, a gesture that emphasizes her lack of size) am small. Too small to pick her back up.
Ok, you say. Sure. You follow her into the house, one of the mansions that line the street. Briefly you think, there could be robbers.
No, vampires.
If you were a vampire and got hungry during the daytime, you’d ask your minion to go invite someone into the house.
You imagine David Bowie and Catherine Deneuve inside the house.
She ushers you up the stairs and into an apartment and into the living room and you wonder, how does one lift an old woman in a hospital gown with no pants on without hurting her or her dignity or your back?
You take one side and the helper takes the other side and you try to do what she does and you get Omi onto the toilet, which is a chair with a cut-out part for a bedpan.
You aren’t sure how much of what is going on Omi understands, to what proportions she is confused or mortified or flustered or resigned or what.
The helper thanks you and you step around the diaper and wish them a nice day.
The streets are still empty, still no crows, all the way back to the office, not a one, nor a dog.

50 things I failed to do before turning 50

I had a list of things I wanted to accomplish before turning 50. In no particular order, here it is, as near as I can recall. Contrary to the title of this post, some of them I actually accomplished. See the footnotes for more details.

  1. Fix the silicone caulking in the kitchen.1
  2. Sand and paint the fence.2
  3. Fix the downstairs doors so they don’t drag along the floor.3
  4. Start drawing Bug comix again.4
  5. Compose something for a string quartet for some kids.5
  6. Figure out my electric cello.6
  7. Get an amp for it.7
  8. Compose a percussion piece to be played by slapping spatulas on Dame Helen Mirren’s naked body.8
  9. Publish a book.9
  10. Publish a story.10
  11. Submit stories, at least.11
  12. Make a list of potential places to submit stories.12
  13. Write a list of 50 things I want to do before I am 50.13
  14. Lalalalala. No one reads these lists past 10, amirite?14
  15. Learn to paint.15
  16. Build a treehouse.16
  17. Learn to fly.17
  18. Learn to ride a motorcycle.18
  19. Learn to speak Chinese.19
  20. Climb Mt. Everest.20
  21. Acquire as many crossbows as a man needs.21
  22. Zombie sword. Zombie sword.22
  23. Lose 15 kg.23
  24. Learn ballroom dancing.24
  25. Learn wine basics.25
  26. Communicate with my father.26
  27. Make up with my wife.27
  28. Establish career as nude photographer.28
  29. Learn to bake bagels.29
  30. Learn to bake sourdough bread.30
  31. Drive across the USA.31
  32. Take the Trans-Siberian railroad.32
  33. Learn to scuba dive.33
  34. Learn to throw a knife.34
  35. Quit smoking.35
  36. Stop being depressed.36
  37. Overcome shyness.37
  38. Prostate exam.38
  39. Learn cello.39
  40. Learn basic electronics.40
  41. Throw a party for my friends.41
  42. Learn the art of invisibility.42
  43. Get rid of a bunch of junk.43
  44. Get the yard looking good.44
  45. Get a tortoise tattoo.45
  46. Make a few good friends.46
  47. Give away all my junk and move to a Zen monastery where they happen to teach you badass fighting skills, too.47
  48. Work from home.48
  49. Invent something clever.49
  50. Be illuminated.50

2fail, so far this year, although in my defense i have been waiting for warmer weather. will get it done this summer.
3fail, as last weekend’s houseguests can testify.
4fail. although i have been noting ideas.
5started to do this, but it was rejected as too difficult to play. it was minimalistic, with long stretches of repetition, and would have been too hard for the kids to keep track. instead, they composed a piece themselves, which is even cooler.
6am starting to do this. will be easier, i suppose, when i have an amp.
7working on this. many friends gave money towards this at my party, and I’m going shopping with a musician friend this saturday. some friends actually gave me a small, old guitar amp at the party as a joke. i tried it out this morning and despite its size, it cranks. but don’t tell alpha i already have an amp, or she wouldn’t appreciate me getting one suitably large.
8working on it. although i have the impression that the composition would be the easy part of  this project, and getting dame helen to go along with it would be more difficult, with her busy schedule.
9to do this one must write one first, which i was working on, although i recently took a break to write some short stories.
10working on this. strictly speaking, i have actually published stories, but that was many years ago.
11i’m submitting stories every week. so, not fail.
13working on it. this is a pain in the ass, though. any list i write is bound to be arbitrary. maybe i’ll reserve the right to change it as necessary.
14wow, you’re even reading the footnotes! respect!
15i have painted abstract paintings i and/or others like, but it’s more a therapeutic, mystical process at the moment than an artistic one. looking over another 50 list i just found, i see another version: “paint enough pictures to have an exhibition, whether or not i actually ever have an exhibition.” this would be a nice goal, actually, and i even know a great cellar to have an exhibition in, although the light is not so great, being underground and stuff.
16acrophobia and the lack of big trees made this impossible as a kid. although i have overcome acrophobia, a lack of big trees continues to vex me.
17won a flying lesson at the age of 11 in a contest of some kind and have liked the idea of flying since then. no time, though.
18fail. i decided it would be too dangerous.
19fail, or, if you accept a substitution of rudimentary japanese for chinese, success.
20fail, unless you accept a substitution of walking up mt. fuji.
21success, if you belong to the “a man needs zero crossbows” camp.
22fail, although this is a non-negotiable must. a H&K  repeating shotgun would also be swell, but i accept certain persons’ antipathy to firearms. also, it’s not like i really have any need for such a thing. it’s more an object to be admired theoretically, or from afar, like helen mirren.
23working on it
24working on it
25fail. switched to single malt for a while, because there was less competition. that is, fewer people could wax rhapsodic about whiskey than about wine. simply saying, hrm, iodine aftertaste, must be an islay and you were an expert, as long as you avoided actual experts.
26fail, for the most part. we were on good terms when he died, we were always on good terms, he was patient with me, but i have this feeling that i let him down without meaning to.
27this currently looks like success. no doubt the purely academic nature of goal #8 helps.
28fail. this was a boyhood goal, fueled less by aesthetic interests than you know.
29success. still perfecting them though.
30fail, but have not given up hope.
31fail, so far.
32success. 1986, i think. highly recommend it, if you don’t mind the idea of sitting in a train for 2 weeks. once would be enough for me, though.
34fail. have tried this, and learned that it’s harder than it looks. finding a place to practice is also harder than one would imagine.
36have been lucky in this regard lately. exercise helps. still sufficiently melancholy, but have not experienced extended uncontrollable depression for a long time. brief depression while exhausted or stressed, yes, but it has passed rapidly, lately.
37success. i made a speech at my birthday party. i am not going to start selling encyclopedias door-to-door any time soon, but i stood in front of 50 people, okay, friends but still, the idea would have filled me with terror recently, and told them what i thought of them. i told myself this was necessary given the occasion, so no one had to twist my arm. it really made me happy. i got choked up and had to stop before i’d said everything i planned, but it sufficed; and it was probably good that i didn’t sing “kilkelly, ireland” as i had briefly considered. knowing when to quit is half the battle. i subscribe to the opinion that it is a good thing to tell people what you think of them sometimes, at least if it is positive, and i appreciated having the chance to do this. looking at a roomful of people who had accepted my invitation and come, i was surprised to realize i had so many kind and thoughtful friends. i have been perceiving the world differently in the days since then, and not only because i’m fucking exhausted from 1. the partying and 2. cleaning (although the guests were extremely clean and well-behaved).
38really should make an appt. it’s been a couple years.
39working on it. here too, i’ve surprised myself by sticking to it, although i would suck less if i practiced more.
40fail, electronophobia. although a book i recently bought about hacking electric objects to make simple instruments is motivating me to pick up a soldering iron. i showed it to a friend who knows the vegetable orchestra, and she told me they have the same book and have been experimenting with it. that’s how cool i am!
41success. about 60 people came. my only regret was that i didn’t have enough time to spend more time hanging out with each person.
42fail, mostly. except in restaurants and with taxis. man, i get my money’s worth out of that joke, don’t i? but it’s true. however, i generally don’t feel the need to be invisible as much as i once did, which i think is a good thing.
43working on it.
44working on it, although i’m trying to train it to look good with a minimum of labor on my part. did put in a nice little vegetable garden this summer. if it works i’ll make a larger one next year.
45maybe some day.
46way exceeded this one, despite my rotten character. people are basically beautiful, and intelligent, and funny and talented, and they all like me. or are really good at faking it. i used to suspect the latter, but i’m getting over that.
47outgrew this one, i think
48have managed to avoid this so far. there are some serious pros and cons to this.
49This would be the Chaos Coefficient, if you ask me. As well as the idea that efficiency is good for individuals but bad for societies, in certain ways. C=(f+p)f is the formula for the chaos coefficient, where “f” is the number of family members living under your roof, and “p” is the number of pets you have. It is an approximate measure of the average chaos level you can expect in your life.
50i was super illuminated in the night of 8 may, because i had a sore back and took some muscle relaxant, expecting to go to bed early, but friends dropped in and one thing led to another and i felt awful just giving them one beer, but i was out, so i got out the jameson, and as they say on the warning label, do not mix with muscle relaxants. i was so relaxed that when my wife came out to the terrace to say hi, she thought i was my friend and gave me a hug and said welcome back to austria, nice to see you again. of course, the friend shares birthdays with me so we’re practically twins. and when i stood up, i fell right back down again, although i adjusted quickly. so illumination has its pros and cons, too.