Life Hack/No Life Hack

It is November and the weather is dark and depressing. My city just underwent a terrorist attack. Currently, as I write this, Trump is doing “better than expected” (=cheating is going well) in initial counts. My tooth broke off day before yesterday and I spent yesterday morning at the dentist getting the rest ground off and a temporary crown applied and it was, of course, not in my budget. And, finally (?) we are not only in the middle of a pandemic, still, and our second lockdown (so far) — we are quarantined for the second time, waiting for someone to come test us, bc we were exposed to someone who tested positive.

You may ask yourself, why is Mig in such a good mood?
Well, strictly speaking, not a good mood, but maybe, why isn’t Mig in a worse mood?
Why isn’t Mig depressed?
Or, more accurately, why isn’t Mig more depressed? 2020 is being 2020 with a vengeance, he can’t see his friends in person, etc.

Ok you know what, when I started this post that was going to be the joke – there is no life hack, right? Things are terrible and I’m depressed. Except right now it occurs to me I am not really depressed. I am sad, but that’s different. My opinion – and I am not a psychologist – is that if you have a reason it’s sadness, not depression. I am sad bc a young man felt compelled to shoot random strangers. I am sad bc of seasonal grayness. I am sad bc I can’t see my friends who *are* depressed and try to cheer them up. I am sad bc I have to figure out how to pay for a crown on my molar (I have the money don’t worry).

I don’t know. My tent wisdom comes to mind – when I started this post, it sucked that it was raining when I was in a tent. But before I finished the second paragraph, it was great to have a tent when it was raining.

Maybe it’s just my brain’s last desperate attempt to cheer me up before I plunge into despair, but right now I am thinking about everything, and everyone, I love. My family. My friends. Random people I follow without knowing on social media saying decent, or indecent but funny, or kind, things right now. The city of Vienna. The country of Austria. The person who hollered “Schleich di du Oaschloch” at the terrorist. The Viennese personality that phrase is so typical of. The Americans who voted against Trump.

And so on.

I don’t know. Maybe it isn’t enough. We’ll see I guess. Maybe absentee ballots will be so overwhelmingly against Trump something good will come of 2020 after all. Maybe the feeling of unity and kindness in Vienna will last. Maybe my friends and I will cheer up. I am already thankful for a lot of things – my breadbox is full of bread, my wife and I are getting along, my small cats like me and the big one doesn’t bite me much. My transmission is making a funny noise but I only have to drive to the train station, usually. My children and my wife and I are all safe and healthy, except maybe for coronavirus. I don’t know, it’s a balancing act.

It always is, for someone, I guess right now we’re getting a taste of it, in case we didn’t realize before.

Now excuse me, I have to go into the cellar and write, Gamma is my new writing partner and we’re doing Nanowrimo this year. <3

Eye like mouth

A play in one act.
Living room. Three people watching TV. Two women, mother and daughter on one sofa. Man lying on second sofa.
Man: I was walking down the stairs at the train station and got real dizzy and realized it was because I had forgotten to breathe.
Woman 1: OMG you do that too? Mom doesn’t believe me that I do that.
Man: I think it’s related to tension.
Woman 1: So do I. See, mom?
Woman 2: Hm.
Woman 1: When the doctor was cutting open my incision she stopped and said, “please keep breathing.”
Man: Yee. (Watches TV)
Women 1 & 2: (Watch TV)
Man: Oh geeze.
Woman 1: What?
Man: That guy being interviewed’s right eye, on the left on the screen, looks like a mouth and every time he blinks it looks like it’s closing and opening, with an eyeball inside. I think it’s due to his minimal eyebrows.
Woman 1:
Woman 2:
Man: It looks like a mouth!

The Light of Peace

On Christmas Day
we celebrated at our house
I picked up my in-laws at their house
and drove them to our house.
They are old and wobbly
and there are lots of stairs
so it took a while to get them into my car
also my mother-in-law had a flame
the Light of Peace
that had come all the way from Jerusalem
that she wanted to share with us
and we had to be careful with that
so as not to light anything on fire
and especially not let it go out.
it was in the form of a candle, protected in a little
wood and glass lantern type thing.
she put that into a pot and carried the pot
for extra protection of all involved.
the light, as i understand it, someone goes to jerusalem
and sets something on fire from the Light of Peace there
and hurries back with it before it goes out
then they light more things on fire
and take them to churches
where people come and light other things, usually candles
and take them home
where the Light of Peace
shines on Christmas.
their neighbor had gone to church to get a flame
and come over and lit their candle for them
doubling the Light of Peace.
all the way to my house it smelled like something was burning
in my car but it was only the Light of Peace.
at my house everyone stood around
and watched
while I took out our candle
or rather put their candle-lantern thing into a larger lantern
of ours
a big glass affair
and took our candle and a long wooden match
with which to transfer the Light of Peace to our new candle
while leaving their candle burning
thus doubling yet again the Light of Peace
but instead, with the large match, I pressed the first candle’s wick
into the melted wax
extinguishing the Light of Peace
undeniably, before five witnesses
fuck, I said.
it’s like that Jack London story with the trapper starting a fire in winter,
i said
but none of them were Jack London fans.

Full disclosure

Mig: Hi. Watcha doin’?
Gamma: Well I was going to do yoga but I got stuck taking tests online.
Gamma: I wondered if I could name 20 elements, so I took a quiz, then I fell down a quiz hole for an hour.
Mig: Ah.
Mig: Your mother asked me what I was thinking. I said, well, I was thinking if someone kidnapped me and cut off the tip of one of my fingers, and then released me but threatened my family if I told anyone, if I would tell anyone. And how long it would take her to notice one of my fingertips was missing.
Gamma: Ah.
Gamma: Well, actually, full disclosure, I was thinking, if we were on a quiz show where they killed you if you didn’t know the answer, would I be able to name 20 elements.
Mig: Ah.

On memory and reality

My little brother sent me some short videos this week.
It went like this: he transferred VHS tapes to a DVD. Then he played the videos from the DVD on his computer, and filmed the monitor with his iPhone. Then he sent me the iPhone videos via a social media site, and I forwarded them to my family.
The quality of the videos was of course poor; not only were the original tapes nearly 30 years old, each step transferring, copying and refilming degraded them further.
And yet: they were still superior to my own memories of the events — a visit we paid to my family in the United States when our oldest daughter was one year old.
Alpha and I are now older than my parents are in the videos.
The house in which we sing Happy Birthday has since burned in an arson fire, and then been torn down to make way for a mall parking lot.
Some details were only slightly surprising: Beta is a serious baby in the video. I remember that she was a serious baby, but she was even more serious than I recall.
Some details contradicted our memories entirely: for 30 years, we have told Beta she never crawled, just went straight from rolling to walking. But in the video she crawls just fine. She was a fast crawler, chasing my parents’ wiener dog all over the living room.
To be honest, the videos freaked me out a little.
The speed at which time passes, for one thing. How people just die, two people from the video, for example, but time just keeps going.
But we know that. What really freaked me out was how the evidence contradicted our memories. I know I forget things. We all forget things. I know I have forgotten most of my life, when it comes down to it. But to see blurry, grainy but genuine evidence that even the little bit I remember is false, that’s freaky.
It’s one thing to read somewhere that memory is nothing but stories we tell ourselves, and that any particular memory is altered to a greater or lesser extent with each re-telling, but to actually see the proof like that makes you wonder what else you’re wrong about.
What grudges you’d be better off dropping.
What pain you could let go.

Being invisible was just the tip of the iceberg

Suddenly the Invisible Man is besieged by old snapshots.

Snapshots on the walls of his daughter’s empty apartment when he drops off something.

Including one of his wife wearing fairy wings and waving a magic wand while his daughter, as a child, regards the camera with a sober expression.

Snapshots in frames on his desk, or taped to the walls.

Including one of his wife smiling in a blue swimming pool, holding his daughter as a toddler, also smiling.

So much sunshine and smiling.

There are more. In one he carries his daughter on his shoulders. It is from before he became invisible. It is underexposed and he has black hair and a black beard and looks scary. His daughter is hugging his head. They are surrounded by flowers.

(It is the older daughter in most of the pictures, because the pictures of the younger daughter are mostly digital, and lost forever, or somewhere hard to recover).

Looking at all these pictures would be bad enough for the Invisible Man for the nostalgia alone but it’s worse.

The Invisible Man thought being invisible was bad, but it was just the tip of the iceberg. The snapshots goof up time and the Invisible Man becomes unstuck and encounters all his past selves, and the past selves of those he loves.

If you think being invisible is bad – and listen, it is, robbing banks is fun only so long – becoming unstuck in time and encountering all your past selves really sucks.

Because it turns out every single one is a stranger.

Those past selves you remember don’t even exist.

Memory is funny that way.

And in many cases, not every single one of these past selves is someone you’d care to remember.

There is a reason memory does that.

This is why forgiveness is so important.

Because sometime the snapshots add up and time dissolves and then what?

He calls his wife and apologizes.

Water under the bridge, she says.

Sunk cost.

In Russia, cat adopt you

Odin wonders, did kittens have something to do with the loss of his one eye and he made up the story about the spring of wisdom because it sounded more divine?

He wonders, is that what happened to Van Gogh and he made up the whole cut off his own ear story because mad artist sounded better in the 19th century than kitten?

See Odin woke up at 3.30 with a kitten gnawing on his ear, making nomnomnom sounds and purring sounds, and smacking its lips.

It also bathed his entire head as he tried to fall back to sleep.

You ever try to fall back to sleep in the middle of the night with a kitten chewing on your head? he asks the crows.

Of course not.

Of course not. The crows aren’t even there, Odin is just imagining them today. His wife packed him a lunch and he ate it early in his office and now he’s sitting there while workmen drill holes in brick walls on all sides and concrete walls and do other things similarly noisy to floors and ceilings with other power tools.

What say the slain?

Here is what I wish for you: that one day you lay aside the millstone of recognition for just a second and driving down the street, say, you see a young woman walking toward you on the sidewalk, smiling in the morning sunshine, on her way to work, dark hair flowing in the breeze and unaware of you and the sight of her makes you happy and you think, what a beautiful, together, strong, happy, professional-looking, competent, smart, intelligent, interesting, charismatic and unique woman and only then after this objective reaction to a stranger, realize she is your daughter.

What say the hanged?

Seeing yourself at the center of creation is a failure of imagination.