Before I start, one brief caveat: The past week has left me so much adventure to report that tonight I am too deep in the weeds to get into the woods. I must, once again, pause my ongoing journey through that forest we’re exploring. So, if that's what you’ve come for, you may want to bow out here, and check in again next Sunday. :]
That said, it's been several strenuous weeks since last Sunday, here in Lake World-be-gone, my new home. This morning (Monday 3/11) found Shannon and I on yet another ferry, heading toward a hospital emergency room in America—because, here in paradise, that's where the emergency room is. But I'm starting at the end of a story which might be easier to parse if I start closer to the beginning instead:
So. Many weeks ago, last Monday morning, Shannon and I were preparing in earnest for our then-upcoming trip to Los Angeles for Uncle Hank's funeral--putting finishing touches on his obituary, making last minute plane, rental car and hotel reservations, scheduling the gaps between Hank's graveside service, wake, and the triage of his—um—rather eccentric estate, with visits to family and friends in the greater L.A. area—when our tax return arrived from the accountant.
Despite having earned little if any more this year than last, and having paid a great deal of interest on our new house here as well as some hefty business expenses, we were dismayed to discover we owe thousands of dollars more this year in unanticipated tax debt—thanks, apparently, to the new tax-reduction legislation rammed through congress last year on behalf of malnourished billionaires everywhere. We're now looking into a payment plan with the IRS, to go with the payment plan for that $5000 of upcoming jaw-remodel I mentioned a few weeks ago.
Shannon has been having a very bad time with sore muscles in her neck and shoulder lately, which suddenly got much worse after seeing the tax bill. So I took her to town on Tuesday for an appointment with a local chiropractor and his wife, a local acupuncturist. Their treatments seemed to help a little. Until that night.
Tuesday night, as I packed for Wednesday's dental tourism jaunt to America, the carefully color calibrated computer I use to print all my large format art prints—a $2,500 Companion 2 combo PC/touch-screen Cintiq—the one computer I own that is, I mean, was, NOT sick—suddenly went dark. As I plugged and unplugged peripherals, I could hear it respond, which suggested it was still functioning behind that blank, black screen. But without any ability to see the desktop, all the convention and product-release preparations I am currently up to my armpits in—including floods of extremely time-sensitive printing—were now dead in the water. So I went downstairs and had a total meltdown over dinner. I mean, like a twelve year-old. 'When does this cascade of catastrophes stop? Oh, the humanity!!!’ Shannon listened quietly, rubbing her neck and shoulder a lot, until I went back upstairs to pack up the broken computer to take with me to my dentist appointment in America the next day, hoping to find a computer repair shop there sufficiently familiar with Wacom Cintiqs to fix this machine—or replace it— IN A HURRY! If that proved to cost more than we could currently afford, what’s one more payment plan? Right?
Wednesday morning, as I waited in line for the ferry with my broken computer and my broken teeth, Home Depot called to say that our replacement dishwasher had arrived. (Remember the broken dishwasher?) That was only $500, so no payment plan required, but between the dental computer repair mission I was already embarked on, and our flight to L.A. the next morning, I told them I had no idea when I might be able to go back to America again to get—and pay for—the dishwasher. I had barely hung up when the dermatologist in America called with biopsy results on that other problem I...may not actually have gone into here yet?
The good news was--not cancer!Yeah! Apparently, what's been spreading all over my body these past six months is a looping histamine response to some kind of insect bite I got last year—for which they had just sent a steroid prescription to the local pharmacy on Orcas Island—for my convenience. Except that I was already on my way to America, to see a dentist, and then flying to L.A. early the next morning So I just figured I'd go down to the pharmacy on Oracs—for my convenience—and pick up that prescription from last Wednesday on Monday when we got home—which is not what happened. But, once again, I'm getting ahead of myself.
Back on Wednesday, before my dentist appointment, I visited the very best computer repair shop in this part of America, where I was sadly assured that ‘no one in these parts,’ would be able to help me, because hybrid PC/tablets of this sort were so tightly integrated and used such complex innards that there was no way even to open them up without destroying them. I would have to send my broken machine back to Wacom—in Portland, Oregon—for repairs—if the device could be repaired at all. None of which sounded good for my dangling string of work deadlines.
With all hope authoritatively extinguished by the best, most reputable computer repair shop ‘in these parts,’ I did the only thing left to do: went to see the Geek Squad at Best Buy.
That's when it began to snow.
People sometimes ask me what inspired The Book of Joby...
At Best Buy—renown in ‘these parts’ for not being the best buy when it comes to techno-expertise—a really very nice young man shook my hybrid laptop like a coconut and put it to his ear, then pulled out a VGA adapter compatible with one of the ports on my broken machine and used that to attach my darkened Companion 2 to a flat screen monitor on his Geek counter. Et voila! There was my functioning desktop—perfectly visible on the commandeered monitor! Upside down. Which made it almost harder to use than the Windows 8 interface already does. Neither of us had any idea why. The screen doesn't tilt-rotate as far as we could tell. But, happily, ctrl/alt/arrow keys very nicely rotate the desktop upside down on the actual, blacked-out screen, so I can see it right-side-up on the stand-in monitor I bought there, now connected to my blank-screened Companion 2 by the VGA adapter I also bought there, to get me through until I'm able to obtain a whole new, fully functional computer—on a payment plan.
With nearly two hours left before my dentist appointment, I left Best Buy in a relieved daze--stunned that they had actually—if temporarily—solved my problem!
Not wanting to attend any funeral—least of all one in L.A.—looking like the sheepdog/Bigfoot hybrid I have come to resemble lately, I went next to get my hair cut. I had tried to do this earlier, back on the island, but my local barber happened to be in Panama City this week, which is where Orcas barbers go, apparently, whenever they're not barbing. So, having just had such improbable good luck with my broken computer at Best Buy, I took my broken hair to Supercuts. As I signed in there, my phone rang again. It was Best Buy, informing me that in my state of dazed relief, I had left my still broken but now useable computer on their counter. I drove back through the now very heavy snow to get it, then returned to Supercuts, where a REALLY nice young woman mistook me for military personnel, and CUT MY HAIR!
All of it.
I’m sure it will grow back someday—even at my age—about the time my local barber heads back to Panama City, if my recent luck holds. Until then, I endure the salutes offered me by passing strangers.
That taken care of, I went at last to see my really very nice dentist and his very nice staff, who explained the various surgical phases of my upcoming 18-month long remodel—and the many upsides of impending bankruptcy.
Then, I returned to Orcas to pack for the next day's trip back to the airport in America, only to learn that Shannon’s neck and shoulder pain had worsened so badly that she’d tried to see our local doctor, but had been unable to get an appointment because the doctor and all of his staff were so ill with the horrific flu going around here this season that none of them could come to work that day.
After a sleepless night for Shannon, we left early next morning to fly out of a brand new airport in Everett, WA., which had opened just four days earlier. Now comes one of the happiest items in this overtly cheerful post!
This, much awaited, brand spanking new little airport is HOURS closer than SeaTac International south of Seattle, from which we have always had to travel in the past, and even better, entirely on this side of all the nasty, now-famous traffic that adds hours more to any passage through our state’s most legendary city. And not only is this airport so much more convenient, it is also, by orders of magnitude, the nicest airport anyone has never heard of! Every inch of the inside looks like one of those Kohler Bathroom Fixture adds (You know: ‘My house looks like the Taj Mahal because I have a Kohler toilet and sink.’) There were exactly ZERO people in the security line when we arrived. Three cheerful TSA agents gave us their full attention. One of them asked for a hug—and I gave it to him! (No! STILL not kidding!) Inside, it’s like the bar at a Four Seasons restaurant! Orchids under all the little lamps, on all the little end tables in between all the big, comfortable, leather-upholstered chairs and chaise lounges—around the fireplace! S-t-i-l-l N-o-t K-i-d-d-i-n-g! A large spacious bar with really marvelous food and drinks. One of the best cocktails I have ever had. And almost no one there. Yet. ...
I predict that within one month, this gem will be discovered by the greater Seattle metropolitan area, trampled and crushed to dust. Sitting in that lovely airport lounge on Thursday was like visiting a Pompeii street-side cafe a few days before Vesuvius blew. I can tell...well, someone’s grandchildren, that I saw it—whole. Before the fall. Now, please, forget I mentioned it. :]
Just a few hours later, (6:30PM to be precise), we landed in L.A. and were picked up at the airport by a really very nice young man from 24 Hour Rental who narrowly dodged merging, honking cars at high speed while handling client calls on two cell phones at once and telling us about his several day-jobs. (It’s a small company—and a very big city.) By then, Shannon’s left hand had started to go numb. But I just thought it was the car ride—which left me a bit numb as well. Once I figured out that the only way to open my rental car window was with an actual crank handle, (How quaint!), and that each of the doors had to be locked individually—from outside—with an old fashioned metal key, we were on our way to a very nice Double Tree Hotel—where they give you a cookie for everything!
Shannon didn’t sleep that night because of the pain, and told me, half in tears at 6:00 Friday morning, that she couldn’t feel her thumb and forefinger anymore, and could not take the pain—and needed an adult to help her do something about this. I looked around in a panic as it dawned on me that there were no adults within site at that hour. I would have to fake it. Half an hour later, we were at the Kaiser Urgent care a few miles away, where two very nice nurses let us hang out in an empty room until the urgent care staff got in an hour and a half later at 8AM. The doctor’s verdict was Ridiculopathy... That’s not just slang for the general condition of our lives these days. It’s a real thing. (Though actually spelled with an ‘a:’ radiculopathy—but pronounced just the way I first spelled it.) It refers to muscle pain and numbness radiating from a pinched or inflamed spinal nerve—often caused by a displaced or hemorrhaged vertebral disk. A course of steroids, some opioid pain meds, and prescription Prilosec for her stomach got Shannon through the rest of our weekend get away, if none too comfortably. Worst of all, she couldn’t drink! Anything! At Hank’s funeral!
Nonetheless, Hank’s graveside funeral turned out to be really kind of glorious. It was a cold, windy, but beautifully clear day. We met many of his closest friends down there for the first time, and, as I’d hoped, they told us sometimes heartwarming, sometimes wrenching, but always amazing stories about all the sides and virtues of Hank we had seen little or none of from such a distance. Most of Hank’s friends were musicians—some of them very accomplished—who made some lovely music for us all beside Hank’s coffin. And, yes, a few of them were clearly well fortified for the occasion (Yes. That is what I mean.) But they were—every one of them—amazing, enjoyable, profoundly authentic, deeply thoughtful, startlingly intelligent and creative people, who had found Hank as difficult and frustrating at times as any of his family ever had, but loved him all the same, as deeply and as joyfully as I can imagine anyone ever being loved and celebrated. We met so much more of Hank that day than we had known before, and shared our stories of his earlier life, which many of them knew little about, as well. We, his family, left that gathering knowing all the way down that for all his struggles with mental illness and alcohol addiction, Hank had neither lived alone, nor died alone—at all.
I have found myself wondering periodically during the past few years about the way some people seem to break open when they die, pouring out into the lives of those who knew them even more vividly than they ever did while still alive. Hank is hardly the first person—including a few of my own family members who have died during the past couple years—to seem more frequently present, and more vividly ‘alive’ to me after their deaths than they ever seemed before. Is this the afterlife? Out here? At death, do we stop living within the confining boundary of our bodies, and start living in the minds and hearts and thoughts of everyone we knew—as we never did before? Do we break out into the world—and live in countless places all at once, rather than in just the one place everyone called ‘I’ until then?
There were some harder parts later, bits of work about cleaning up some of Hank’s now discarded shell in the world, which I will not go into here. They were not parts that belong to me, or are mine to share with others. But, in general, his seems to have been a far better passing than it might have been. There are ‘good funerals.’ This was one. And we in hank’s family will be keeping in touch with some new people now—others in whom Hank seems to live even more vividly than he did before.
On Sunday morning, exhausted but satisfied, Shannon and I flew back to that lovely new airport in Everett. After getting off the plane, the airport was so nice and peaceful, the music and the quiet so good, that we decided to just sit down in their lounge chairs and hang out there for a while—have some lunch from their delicious menu, and gaze out at the warm, sunny afternoon. When was the last time you flew home from an emotionally and physically exhausting trip, and decided just to hang out and relax in the airport for a while before driving home? ... Yah. Us neither. Ever. :]
We dropped by Home Depot to pick up that dishwasher, and got back to Orcas Island at around 9:00 last night. Shannon took the last of her L.A. pain pills, and, at 3AM, woke in awful pain once more, her left hand not just numb, but noticeably colder than her right. Since our doctor here wouldn’t be able to see her until nearly 4PM, we drove back to the ferry landing and took the earliest boat we could get, back to the emergency room at Island Hospital in Anacortes. The place was a zoo—largely because that flu I’ve mentioned is epidemic here right now, though even that seemed not fully able to explain the crowd. They were finally able to see Shannon—at around 4:00, alas. She got some new meds, which we hope will prove more effective, and a second, different prescription to take to our local doctor here if these new meds also prove insufficient to solve the problem. We were finished up just in time to catch the 7:10 Ferry back, and are home—again—hoping for a whole night’s sleep tonight. She’s already working at it as I finish writing this.
And that, dear cyber friends, is why my post this week is late.
How was your week? :]
Hope to see you here next Sunday—with far less to report.