Greetings, loved ones / Let's take a journey
9.24.2023 [LIVE STREAMING KOL NIDRE]Today we went to the cemetery. I haven’t been to the cemetery in a very very long time.
It was pretty busy at the cemetery. There were a lot of flowers and a lot of people – for these are the days of awe!
A funeral service had just ended at the chapel, assumedly for a big Dodgers fan, or for a Giants fan loathed by his nearest and dearest – other than a few men in suits, everyone was wearing Dodgers jerseys. I didn’t mistake them for actual Dodgers players, though. They didn’t look like actual Dodgers players. A lot of them were middle-aged women. None of the real Dodgers are middle-aged women.
We parked at the wrong cemetery lot. We drove up the hill and stopped at the lot that we thought was the right lot, but it wasn’t – it was one lot too soon. The lot where we parked (which was one too soon) was active. There were flowers. There were people. Two young people stood quietly next to a 1992-2007. There was this big group further back – a family – all ages – talking – gathered – laughing – multigenerational – communal.
I felt sad about the two young people. I felt sad about their 1992-2007. I felt jealous of the big family, even though I couldn’t see their dates: they looked so family.
When we realized our mistake, we walked up the hill, past the low wall (granite?) to the correct funereal subdivision. Everything looks different now. The cemetery has grown. The Christian cemetery on the other side of the fence used to be way over there but is now right here. Things have sprawled and connected. Bodies have been planted and planted.
We found the stone (it’s not really stone, it’s metal set in concrete) with “G-- S--” and his years. Mama said she wishes the words on it were less formal. She didn’t use “beloved” because she never liked the word “beloved” but did leaving off “beloved” make it sound like he wasn’t beloved? She wishes she had thought of a word that adequately and accurately communicated the immensity of our love.
I told her I’m sure it’s alright, I don’t think he would have minded about the wording.
Can he possibly be here? Is he here? Is he – here? Is he down there? Is he more here than he is elsewhere?
I set the slightly grubby foliage I’d brought from the garden – salvia, white roses, rosemary, pomegranate – on his grave. Someone else had left a rock nuzzled up against his headstone, painted with a sunset and a cactus. Who had left it? And why?
Two dragonflies were mating. They hovered - locked in each other, buzzing as one cohesive sexual unit - over a beloved Russian father brother grandfather and great-grandfather.
Are you here? Were you ever here? Are you down there? Is what’s left of you down there? And what is left of you? And is it here? And is any of it here? And was any of it ever here?
The dragonflies kept mating.
And what did I feel? How did this all make me feel?
I needed to pee – that is what I felt. I felt the need to pee. Pee is like that. It fills you so full. There isn’t room for anything else. Needing to pee is like that – it hones feelingness and points it towards one goal.
We walked back to the car and drove down the hill. I peed in the chapel restroom. The Dodgers had all left. The Dodgers are departed.
We stopped at the faux waterfall by the cemetery exit. I dutifully rinsed left hand right hand with the bike-locked tin cup. Micah tried using the hand dryer embedded in a faux-boulder, but said it was broken.
We went to the zoo.
By the time we got home, our new neighbors had cut down most of their jacaranda tree and accidentally a bit of our pear tree with it. Everything looks so different now.
Grant us pardon as the gates begin to close! Grant me pardon, specifically! I would very much like it! I have made mistakes! I have made so [beat] so [beat] so [beat] so [beat] many mistakes! I have been slimy [beat] I have been wriggly [beat] I have been stupid [beat] I have been stagnant [beat] I have been empty of thoughts [beat] I have been full of pee [beat].
.וְעַל כֻּלָּם אֱלֽוֹהַּ סְלִיחוֹת. סְלַח לָֽנוּ. מְחַל לָֽנוּ. כַּפֶּר לָֽנוּ
9.13.2023I am not sure if it was because it was September 11th, or because of the recent smash-and-grabs at the Americana at Brand, or because some other threat had been freshly intercepted or identified or imagined, but the Grove was dotted with armed guards. Not paramilitary or anything. Just black-clad man/woman duos probably younger than me – pink-cheeked – chest out – hand-on-gun. You had to practically squeeze between two at the east entrance.
I am not sure if it was because of the guards, or because it was September 11th, or because it was a Monday, or because the weather was oppressively gloomy, but the Grove was dreary and quiet. I went into the Apple store because the whole point was that I had to go to the Apple store for Apple reasons. The new Apple store is so big, all mirror and glass. There are rows of ficuses growing right up through the floor.
I was worried that Kitty would pee on one of the indoor Apple store trees.
I am not sure how dogs work. I am not sure if dogs can tell whether an indoor/outdoor tree in an architecturally innovative indoor/outdoor retail space is an acceptable peeing tree. I am not sure how they approach these things. I am not sure how they feel about places like sound stages where indoor looks so outdoor. I am not sure how they make these decisions. I am not sure where they draw the line.
She didn't pee.
We walked quickly through the rest of the Grove and then even more quickly back out. It was dreary. It was gloomy. Half of the stores were new, and boring. This distressed me. Change that is boring should be outlawed. Stores in malls dedicated to a car brand where the front is all glass and the whole store is filled with just one car and god knows what the point even is should be outlawed. Change should only change for the better. Change that makes things feel even more same than before is perverse, and MUST be outlawed.
We left the Grove. We walked along the park. There was a man walking in front of us, and, because he was walking in front of us, we were walking behind him.
At first I thought he was a businessman. He was wearing a suit – black, maybe, or dark gray. I could see a patch of pale neck above an off-white collar. He had a crossbody messenger bag, the kind with an inner laptop pocket, the kind that is very Y2K young professional. He carried a cup of gas station coffee in his right hand. There was a bald patch just beginning to assert itself at the crown of his head – I love how men’s bodies self-tonsure as they age. It is wonderfully devout.
I was walking behind the man, and, because I walk quickly, I was soon walking less behind him than I was before.
I think it was his gait I noticed first. I have seen men like him – men who walk the way he walked – but just in movies and TV. He walked the way they walk in those movies that I haven't seen. Halting. Stiff. Lurching in a straight line.
Then I noticed the decaying fabric of the suit, the stained sleeves, the dirt on the office-appropriate crossbody messenger bag, the gray pallor on the thin slice of visible neck. The ankles of his suit pants were torn, and splattered with something. The loafers were crusted with brown. The man made his mechanical way down the street. I watched him from behind, too nervous to interrupt his progress by squeezing past him the way I squeezed past the young guards and their proud guns.
The street was so quiet and the park was so quiet – because the weather was bleak, or because it was a Monday, or because it was September 11th, or because I had entered some quilted layer of universe. It was just me and Kitty and the dead man and the thick air and the gray sky. “The world has already ended,” I thought, “but there has been some sort of lag and I am only just beginning to notice.”
The man walked on. I have never seen someone who looked so afterwards, so past-tense. Maybe he had left for work one day all suit-crisp and coffee-bright, and then had fallen off the edge of the world. Maybe there was a Susan in HR still waiting for him to respond to an email. He had fallen out of a life. If I followed him, if I kept walking behind him, he would lead me somewhere else. I would fall out of my life as well. He would lead me to the other side, where people didn’t remember their name, or their mother's maiden name, or the name of their first pet, or the full spectrum of visible colors.
Finally he reached the 7-Eleven. About a month ago, they started blasting classical music in the 7-Eleven parking lot. It is aggressive classical music. You will walk past the 7-Eleven and glance in at the Baked Lays and off-brand bagged nut mixes and Rachmaninoff will absolutely swell around you. Rachmaninoff deters the swaying men. Rachmaninoff says “no Ralphs shopping carts here.” Rachmaninoff says “take your fentanyl back to the park.”
The man threw away his coffee cup in a trash can surrounded by trash. He lowered his cup in slowly and intentionally. He didn’t seem to acknowledge the music. Maybe he lives in a world where Rachmaninoff plays everywhere all the time and is not worth acknowledging. The sky was gray. The music was all around him and under him and on top of him. I waited across the street, by the statue of Haim Solomon – in 4th grade, on the school bus, we passed that statue every day. “Ham Solomon, Ham Solomon,” Danielle used to sing. “Beef Jerky, Beef Jerky.”
I pretended to have missed the walk signal to lengthen the gap between us. I let him slouch further towards Bethlehem.
Then I went home to my nice house, and put on my slippers, and drank some green tea, and tried to “get some work done,” and brainstormed ideas about my Intended Academic + Career Intentions, and rejected the ideas, and watched an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and waited for the world to end in earnest.
9.8.2023Once a year for the past three years, a bird of prey has swooped at my head while nobody else was watching. Two years ago, it was an owl. Last year, it was a hawk. Last week, it was also a hawk, although probably (statistically) a different one.
The owl swooped me in my own backyard. It was dusk, and I was going out back to build a makeshift fence around the vegetable bed so those damned squirrels didn’t dig up my seedlings. This is called being responsible. This is called being a farmer. I put on a hat before going outside, not because I was worried about the sun’s harmful rays (it was dusk) but because I was worried that the garden spider in the rose arbor would rappel down onto my head, and a hat felt like an appropriate form of protection. I didn’t think about owls. I thought about spiders. Owls didn’t even cross my mind. Then one did. I was on the patio, my back to the house, when a massive taupe underbelly descended from the roof, passed directly over my head, crossed the backyard, and rose again over the neighbor’s ficus hedge and out of sight. It positively whooshed.
The hawk swooped me in my grandparents’ backyard. We were there for someone’s birthday. I don’t remember whose. My mom was there, and my aunt, and my cousin, and my grandpa, and maybe or maybe not someone else. We stood in a circle singing happy birthday to someone — I don’t remember who. Not me. They’re singing songs of birth, but not for me. I was wearing a hat, this time on account of the sun. Not a birthday hat, just a normal hat. Maybe if I had been wearing a birthday hat I would have looked more architectural and less edible and I wouldn’t have been swooped. But I wasn’t, and I was. As with the owl, the attack came from behind. The hawk had been perched on the telephone pole behind me and then descended. Because we were in a circle, and my back was to the pole and the hawk, theoretically other people should have been facing the hawk, and the pole, and seen the whole thing. They were, but they didn’t.
Afterwards, I said, all breathless and shaken, “did you SEE that?” It was meant as a rhetorical question.
Everyone answered “see what?” I do not have the sort of family where people notice things, especially the things that are noticeable, like a very-up-close hawk.
But my mom had seen. She held my clammy hand. “You were almost carried away! I almost lost you!” Never in my life had I felt more like a field mouse (except the time with the owl).
“If you hadn’t seen the hawk,” I told her, “If nobody at all had seen the hawk, I would have believed entirely that I have gone mad.”
The most recent hawk swooped me on the UCLA campus, in front of the law school. It didn’t fly away afterwards. It perched on a branch just above my head and stared. Perched and sat and nothing more. I wondered, flatly, "Is this how it ends for me?" The only person nearby was an apathetic and slightly greasy young man on a concrete bench. If he saw anything, he didn’t say anything.
Only that morning — BEFORE I got swooped for the third time (!!!!!!) — I had been speaking with my mom about The Birds of Los Angeles. I asked her why I had been (at that time) twice swooped. I live in the middle of the city. I do not live in a field. Nobody else I know gets swooped. This doesn’t seem to be a problem for anyone else.
My mom said it is might be because, when I wear a long braid and a baseball cap, my head probably looks, from an aerial perspective, like an opossum. The hat becomes a body and the braid becomes a tail. Then, when the bird gets close, it thinks “that is not an opossum” and aborts the mission.
I think this is a strong hypothesis. I sometimes feel like a distant opossum, so I don’t doubt that I look like one.
However, when I was at UCLA, my hair was loose and I was wearing a visor. That is not what opossums look like.
In the old times, everybody who was anybody said “birds are omens.” Everybody who was anybody said “birds are sent by the gods to hint at events to come.” They really did have a point. Aeschylus said something like this. He knew what was what. His head did not look like a possum. His head looked like a rock. He really did have a point.
Something tells me I’m into something good.
9.3.2023If your goal is to see a man, there are many ways to make this happen. One of the ways is that you can go to the lumberyard. If you go to the lumberyard, you are likely to see a man. You might even see more than one.
The lumberyard is connected to the hardware store. You will probably also see a man in the hardware store. There is a man in the hardware store now. He is looking at epoxy. Look at him looking at epoxy -- he knows what is what. This is a man who knows what is what. He knows how to use epoxy. He can compare two cans from two brands and look at the small writing on the side and say - "THIS one."
He knows how to use a jigsaw. He can say things like - "...normally I would say this calls for an A-frame, but with galvanized L-brackets drilled into the studs of the supporting wall it should be structurally solid as-is." This is the kind of thing he would say. He can say this because this would have meaning to him. This would mean something to him.
There is another man in the hardware store. He is looking at houseplants, which are 20% off but are still probably not worth it because they were just that overpriced before the markdown. Look at him. He is a soft man. He is not getting lumber. He is getting two overpriced houseplants at 20% off. He is wearing a short-sleeved button down with a pattern that is a little funky but not that funky. Only slightly funky. He probably says things like - "...honestly, these tomatoes are so good I'm thinking we should leave them out of the salad and just serve them sliced with olive oil and the good salt."
However, there is a chance that he, too, knows about epoxy. He could know about epoxy. On second thought, he probably knows all about epoxy. He does. I'm sure of it now. He knows all about epoxy. He is an expert. He also knows all about hardwood v softwood, although not about gaskets.
And look! Look at that man there. That man has said "sweetie, it's fucked up how much the contractor's asking for the drip irrigation install. I'll just do it myself." And then - "you know what -- I'll have Jim come over and we'll have the whole thing set up in an afternoon." Not out loud. Not now. But I'm pretty sure he's said it at some point.
If your goal is to see a man, there are many ways to make this happen.
It strikes me that I don't remember anything about the Peloponnesian War (431-404BC). Not even when it was, or how to spell it.
There were a lot of men in the Peloponnesian War. If you'd seen the Peloponnesian War, you would have seen men. Even if you were too far away to see the war well, you would have known that what you couldn't see so well was men.
I used to know things. I was in a history class in 9th grade. Doc was our teacher and he called me "Eugene" and made us put together these massive binders of notes and maps and timelines and readings etc. etc. When we answered questions correctly he would throw chocolate at us. He would yell "HUBRIS! Hubris is the downfall of Persia! Hubris is the downfall of Athens! Hubris is the downfall of man! Hubris! Always hubris!!"
I'll bet there are a lot of men who know all about the Peloponnesian War. They know about the Delian League. They know about war strategy. They strategize. I have never been able to strategize. If only I knew more about the Peloponnesian War. If only I understood its causes, course, and effects. If only I understood what strategy is good strategy and what strategy is bad strategy. If only I knew how to effectively become a naval superpower. If only I knew about gaskets.
I have wormed. I am worming. I will worm again.
Small quick thoughts about people I know and don't knowZach
Past DiariesMay 2023
About me:My first love was Tony, the sweet blonde boy from Atlanta. I loved him fiercely. I lost myself in his smile and in his gentle blue eyes. After two months of loving Tony, I realized that he was a figment of my imagination, a fever dream brought on by the harsh conditions in the trenches and by the raging infection in my wounded calf.
Tony might have been imaginary, but our love was as real as anything, and still throbs gently in my heart, and in my calf wound, which never healed properly.
This is for him. This is all for him.
- I want a coat with 100 pockets, an advent calendar and a garment all in one
- To make: advent calendar cargo pants (Use and then wear once emptied? Access as you wear? Wearable advent calendar = Versatile!)
- Grandfather's shopping list: medjool dates (MEDJOOL dates NOT deglet noor! Important!); soup (minestrone + split pea); bananas; orange juice (w/ pulp); herring (pickled); sharp cheddar