Category Archives: Life

Grasping at the center

When neighbors and acquaintances learned about my son JJ’s condition, they would sometimes say “But, he’ll be OK, won’t he?” That’s what they wanted to believe, because the alternative was clearly, inconveniently, painful. And my answer was always, “No, no, he will not be OK. He will never be OK.”

And when he died, I remember thinking that I would never be OK, either. Not that I ever was — OK — but I never would be. That was 14 years ago, in 2003. The same year that John Gregory Dunne, Joan Didion’s husband, died, and also the year in which Joan’s daughter Quintana got ill, went to Los Angeles to recover, hit her head disembarking her flight and went into the coma from which she never recovered.

Watching the Didion documentary The Center Will Not Hold (Netflix), with descriptions of The Year of Magical Thinking (book and play) and conversation with Vanessa Redgrave, whose daughter Natasha died of another head injury, I wander into consideration of loss, and the possibility of losing another child, and thinking no, I will never be OK. I will be functional, I will be capable, I will be productive, and occasionally happy. But I will never be “OK.”

And I’m OK with that.

P.S. More than a small part of my interest in both Didion’s writings on California and those of Eve Babitz is that they write about a time in which I was “coming of age” in the same milieu: suburbs of Los Angeles. Specifically, Didion and Dunne lived in the Portuguese Bend community of Palos Verdes at the same time I was in middle school on the other side of the peninsula; lived in Hollywood as I was in high school (Rolling Hills HS, now Peninsula HS), then Malibu while I left high school and went off to UCSD. It took more than 40 years for me to discover and start reading both authors.

What I did on my winter break

. . . or, really, what I am doing:

  • Finished digitizing the last of my LPs, and packed the keepers (Zappa, Beefheart, Tull) away in LP-sized storage boxes
  • Nearing the end of ripping CDs
  • Since Tuesday, watching Dr. Who marathon on BBC America (via Sling), leading up to the Christmas Special on Christmas evening (which again conflicts with the start of the Sydney-Hobart Race)
  • Reading
    • The History of Modern France, by Jonathan Fenby
    • What Unites Us, by Dan Rather
  • Saw The Last Jedi yesterday, in 3D because that’s what screened at the earliest available showing, 10:30 a.m.; bought tickets via Fandango and learned how to pick it up from kiosk at the theater (Cinelux Capitola)

Adventures in digitizing

For the third — fourth? — winter break in a row, I am making time to digitize my collection of LPs. Why? Mostly because I expect to move some day, and I’m not going to move three big boxes of 400-500 vinyl records. They weigh a lot, and it’s not going to happen. So I’m turning them into ones and zeroes on some big hard drives, and backing up to the cloud.

This time around, I’m pleasantly surprised to find that there are not as many albums left to record as I thought. Right now, it’s Ali Akbar Khân’s Ragas of India (Book of the Month Club edition).

Once I’ve finished with the LPs I’m willing to part with, I’ll deliver them either to Streetlight Records or Metavinyl in downtown Santa Cruz. Then get back to ripping the remaining CDs; I sold perhaps 200 to Streetlight last weekend.

P.S. Recording Clear Spot from Captain Beefheart, and it’s really good!

Christmas, etc.

I’m not a big fan of Christmas. The sugary promotion of emotion turns me off, the forced generosity makes me gag. I’ve developed a routine of gifts for the kids: books, videos, trinkets, and a stocking full of miscellany. Good enough.

That said, it wouldn’t be Christmas (yes, even as a Buddhist, Christmas is what we celebrate in the U.S.) without three flix:

  • A Charlie Brown Christmas. It’s the classic that sets the mood.
  • White Christmas. I still gag at some of the maudlin military camaraderie, but it’s not Christmas without it.
  • Scrooged. Bill Murray is indeed scrooged, until he gets it, really and enthusiastically gets it. Plus Bobcat Goldthwaite, Karen Allen, and Carol Kane’s “Nutcracker” fairy. Gets better each year. Just don’t staple those antlers on the mouse.