Wednesday, November 27, 2002

I've just finished reading the latest Anne Lamott novel, "Blue Shoe," about yet another single mother and her family in crisis, liberal politics, betrayal, and feeling, feeling, feeling, kitschy phrases like comparing the sound of a digiridoo to an eggplant with a light shining behind it. Very Apropo. Very Lamott. Her characters remind me of what I imagine Susie Hofer to be -- all twisted, perplexed, confused, messy and hypochondriacal, but with a healing grace and faith. I haven't heard from her since she canceled dinner. Wrote her an e-mail. Called. Any further attempts at contact would be pestering.

Funny. When I think about Susie I am reminded, for no apparent reason, of a place from childhood -- the view of a grassy area from Jeremy Powers's backyard. Not far from the backstop of the softball field in the church yard. The same backstop constructed of old telephone poles, two-by-fours and chain link fence. Kind of like how Claude Debussy reminds me of the banks of Spring Creek behind a ranch house on the northeast corner of the busy Alpine-Spring Creek intersection. But at least I can pin that to an event. I discovered Debussy listening to library tapes on my daily drive to work at Millward Brown, and I passed that ranch home en route. I have no direct memory associations with Susie and this small grassy area that always comes to mind when I think of her. Maybe it was a favorite place of hers from her own childhood and the mojo vibe of that place was picked up by my unconscious. If she ever contax me again, I'll ask her.

I listen to American Beauty, the only Grateful Dead album I own. Remember back in college days I wrote an angry column about token girlfriends, loud car stereos, and my contempt for the Dead. I wrote I was glad tye-dye dress tie hawking drug addict Jerry Garcia was taking a dirt knap. Had a hippie fella, Ted Polack-last-name, pointed a finger at my chest in photography class and said, "You're such an asshole!" Not a passive Deadhead Ted. It is the most emotional and confrontational reaction I've ever received about something I wrote. Even worse than the group of black women who ripped me a new one when I criticized the Million Women March. Ahh, college days. I miss the hoopla. But in a reversal of most people's political maturation process, I grow more liberal the older I get. Comes from my love of trail and a deep-seated conviction that the pro-business GOP-heads want to blacktop and strip mall the wild places I hold so dear. Of course I know Dems are just as bad. All politicians go where the money is. I wish I could take back the comments I made about Jerry Garcia. American Beauty's a great album. Also like that Touch of Grey album, released when I was in junior high. The Dead are very trail. Down home, laid back. Still, jam bands bore me after a while. And I've long since grown tired of the company of sedentary potheads. Most Deadheads are bearded anachronisms. But my woman looks good wearing beads and a peasant skirt.

Just read in the Register Star about the 7-year-old second grader who died of asthma complications last week, the same day his little brother Isaiah cut his lip open in my gym class. A double indignity that day for little Isaiah, a day he will never forget. An excerpt from the editorial:

"[A]sthma is a growing and serious problem across the nation. From 1980 to 1994, the latest figures available, the number of children with asthma rose 74 percent. Asthma accounts for 14 million missed school days each year. Martinez’s death came as a shock to his classmates, who were playing with the 7-year-old just hours before he collapsed. In school and out, many people aren’t aware that asthma can be debilitating, even life-threatening. In 1998, 246 of the 5 million American children with asthma died."

The editorial is no great shakes. Informs readers that deaths from asthma are rare, but people should regard the disease with seriousness. One question not answered is, Why has asthma increased so dramatically? Isn't our air quality better than it was 20 years ago? Like all medical questions, the answer is as multi-faceted as each patient profile. My pet theory is too many kids are stuck indoors, don't get exercise, and/or are living around smokers. Get your kids outside. Open your windows.

Esther's got the beginnings of a cold, and this morning she woke up and blew her nose. It sounded like she did it right next to my ear. I dreamed it was a big snake about to attack and woke with an adrenaline start and violent rustle of bed sheets. What the hell was that?! I said. What time is it? Quarter to one. God, I thought you were a snake. Esthers grabs a handful of pink toilet paper off a roll, turns her back to me and blows again. She falls back asleep. I stay awake and listen to my pulse calm as the fear chemicals work their way through me. Upstairs neighbor Erik has water running, for what seems like forever. Oh, yeah, I remember. He has a dishwasher. Where does he fit it in his small kitchen? I listen to him cough through the bathroom vent. A smoker with a cold kind of cough, deep and wracking. God, the air is dry, I think. And I've got the nasty taste of rotten phlegm in the back of my throat. I better not be getting a cold again. I'm surrounded by sickness.







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