Fear of falling

In 1987, the world’s human population reached 5 billion and the last of the Kauaʻi ʻōʻō (Moho braccatus) died. According to the bird’s Wikipedia entry, “The last Kauaʻi ʻōʻō was male, and his song was recorded for the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. The male was recorded singing a mating call, to a female that would never come. He died in 1987.”

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Non-extinct birds in Washington Square, NYC

Back in those days when there was still wan hope for the Kauaʻi ʻōʻō, I took a creative writing class for what I hoped would be an easy few credits on the road to a long-delayed undergraduate degree. A guy wrote a short story called “Fear of Falling,” about a man who managed to fall into holes in the ground. I don’t remember much about the story, but the writer impressed me. He was lean, wore John Lennon glasses, and always had a scarf on and some kind of tweedy long coat. He looked like I imagined someone starting out as a writer did, and he used his adjectives to great advantage.

The story receded from memory until recently and has resurfaced as a brand new fear. In these days, there are lots of things to fear, but, a month into the news blackout, I’m left to my imagination, a place darker than the combined output of all media, fake and real.

This is the dog’s fault. Several times a day, the dog must be released into the back yard so that she might pee, poop, sniff and chase things. I stand watch, plastic bag in hand. Recently, on a windy day, a branch fell from the old sugar maple, landing a few feet from me, but ever since, I’m convinced that this will happen:

On a brutally cold day, a branch falls, striking me and knocking me out. As my blood leaks out, I slowly freeze to death. The dog, heroic and well-meaning, but barely 40 pounds, tries to drag my dying body to the door and to get the attention of my family. Alas, she is too small and my body is discovered hours later, only moments after dying.

Now, whenever I leave the house, I scan the trees, looking for telltale signs of imminent branch failure, ever vigilant, ever fearful that something will fall on me. I also check for a Kauaʻi ʻōʻō, ’cause even though this isn’t Hawaii, you never know. You just don’t.

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The murderous sugar maple
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Artisanal Onion Products

It has been 14 days since my last post, and 18 since giving up passive news intake. There have been a few news leaks, but the break from information has made what does slip through seem more like snippets of a Margaret Atwood novel than news of current events. I love Margaret Atwood as much as the calm feeling that all is well and we do not live in one of her worlds.

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Artisan Onions (view from our basement window)

Good news: I’ve finally had the time to fulfill my lifelong dream of starting a small-batch, basement-made, Artisanal Onion™ line of products. These are available for purchase just in time for the annual International Major Religious Holiday Day.

Order for that someone special by midnight tonight and receive it in time for, if not any of the upcoming holidays, some future holiday or another.

Still in stock, we have holiday-themed Batch 33 Onion Cologne, Batch 142 Onion Body Wash, and Original Batch Classic Onion Breath Mints. Made in America. Get yours now!

Day the 4th

Before diving into today’s post, a reminder that International Turn Signal Observance Day is fast approaching. As you know, the US has pulled out of the ITSO agreement, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go ahead and use your turn signals anyway.

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Uplifting image of people on a California Beach, December, 2015

Now, where I live, there are alleys behind the houses, only here they call them lanes. The other day, I overheard several of my neighbors chatting about landscaping, and other neighborhood matters like the regrettable incident during Halloween.

When suddenly from the west a loud bang, followed moments later by a cold wind.

“What was that?” neighbor one confuddled?

“Could have been a nuke,” neighbor two suggested.

“No, too far west. It would be more to the south, right, where DC is?” a passerby walking a charming Newfie mix said.

“Besides, that cold gust would have been a hot wind that melts the skin right off the bone,” neighbor one concluded, a note of cheeriness in her voice.

Then it started raining and all said in unison, “Thunder! It was thunder! Of course.”

Then, and this was beautiful – and to be honest, I started to feel particularly bad about squatting and hiding behind a bush observing all this – they put their arms around each other and began singing folk songs in what sounded like ancient Gaelic.

Now stop worrying and get out there and use those turn signals!

No News is Still News, Day 2

Day 2 came and went, and still, news crept into my life. This time, the old fashioned way, by word of mouth.

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Utah, September, 2017, near or in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument

Half of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, they say, is to be sold off to the highest bidder. This most recent September, a guide led us through that strange, parched, changing landscape for 10 hours, from high perches above dry river beds, through a slot canyon, and past centuries-old petroglyphs. During that time, we went four hours without seeing another person. As we entered the slot canyon, we came across someone lost, and later, a party of four trekking the other way.

My good friend Alfonse sent me a sound remedy, to soften the silence. WXPN, a university radio station in Philadelphia, PA, US of A, is playing the songs of the seventies from A to Z. For your enjoyment, I place here the link.  After nine days, they’re up to the letter M.

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Viewing the Petroglyphs from a distance. To the right is the entrance to a slot canyon.

It’s a disappearing natural world and if you pay too much attention, you’ll draw some grim conclusions. I subscribe to a daily email from ScienceDaily which gets me the latest science news. Sometimes it’s sparks the day’s writing, and sometimes…

  • “Dahl’s toad-headed turtle threatened by fragmented habitat, shrinking forests.”
  • “Tigers cling to survival in Sumatra’s increasingly fragmented forests.”
  • “Fish exposed to treated wastewater have altered behavior.”
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Petroglyph up close.

Finished Broadchurch! Thirteen stars. Highly recommended.

 

Pre-Apocalypse, Day 1

Technically, the numbering should be backwards, but that’s incalculable. After a TV-free day, fell asleep and slept the night through. I would have slept later, but, per usual, the dog woke me as soon as the first light of day crept through the curtains.

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Row homes on Greenmount Ave., Baltimore, Maryland, USA. 2017.

As you know or don’t know, I haven’t been sleeping well for months, wondering if we are experiencing something like what Europeans did in the 1930s, a rising anxiety as a dark veil descends upon our civilization.

Since the start of the year, I’d scaled back my media intake, mostly news, and that worked for awhile. But it wasn’t enough. So yesterday, after determining that sleeping was more important than being well-informed, I began not watching TV (except an episode from series 3 of Broadchurch which is unavoidable). I gave up my morning NPR fix while scrambling the eggs. I ran from the room when my soulmate turned on cable news. I even skipped my daily dose of sportscenter.

No TV. No NPR. No evening news. No Facebook or Twitter feed. I turned off all the notifications my phone gets except actual phone calls. Now before me lies the daunting task of getting accustomed to the sound of thoughts that are my own.

One other thing, all media intake at this point must be by intent, not by beep, ding, flash, or habit, and must serve the purpose of reminding me that people can work together, expand knowledge, and solve problems. So last night, before episode six of series 3, Broadchurch – have I mentioned that it’s excellent – watched the documentary, The Farthest: Voyager in Space. It did the job. For now.

 

“This will all be yours”

Philadelphia Pants

“One day, young man, Philadelphia Pants will be yours.” Of course, I ran it into the ground, foolishly expanding into custom-made bandanas, of all things. If only I’d listened…

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We made pants. Good pants that fit well. Philadelphia Pants closed in 1989, after the ill-fated bandana venture which, if I’m to be completely honest, was just one in a series of my missteps. All that remains is this Philadelphia Pants, the one with the dot com. And though I don’t have an assembly line at my disposal, skilled tailors, seamstresses, and pressers, I can do with it what I please. Except make pants. I’m not going to make pants.

Today, a photo. This is Little Pete’s, an institution for 40 years at 17th and Locust in Philadelphia, which closed this spring. It was, they say, beloved. I ate there once, the day of this photo, unaware of its reputation and its…

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Note to the piano movers

First, thanks so much for coming during the hurricane. As I told Big Al on the phone, the upright piano in the dining room needs to be moved into one of three upstairs rooms.

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Ignore the dog

I am talking about the Steinway, not the Baldwin, which is slated for destruction and may already be rigged with explosives. The first and best option for the Steinway upright (please do not move the Steinway grand) is the bedroom in the southwest corner of the west wing of the second floor. Take precise measurements of the hallway before you start. Of particular concern is the sharp left zig-zag leading to the small stairs. Remove the handrail but under no circumstances are you to destroy it – nothing should be destroyed unless you receive instructions from me to the contrary. If you are able to navigate the west wing stairs, hallways, and hairpin turns place the piano along the south wall. As always, before moving the piano, please check inside for dead animals.

Should the southwest second floor bedroom prove inaccessible, try the north tower. Again: measure, measure, measure. You may use my husband Derek’s surveying tools as long as you wipe your fingerprints from them when you return them to cold storage. The round tower stairway may prove tricky, however, I have every confidence in your abilities. If needed, you may construct and install a suitable winch which should be removed upon successful completion of the move. Place the piano in the exact center of the tower facing west so that my daughter Ezmerine can play her little concertos at sunset, her only real joy. If you see Ezmerine, please do not comment on or make notice of her nudity. Though she is a free spirit, she is very touchy on the subject. On second thought, the tower is the first choice.

If options one or two fail, then as a last result, use the east by northeast drawing room. I don’t think any explanation is needed here as I’m sure one of the first two options, particularly number two, which is now to be considered first. If this third option is even a consideration, contact me on my fourth mobile phone. Big Al should have briefed you, but phone #1 is for my husband and family; #2 is for my agent and attorneys; #3 is for my current lover, Geoffrey, although it’s possible that Antoine, Isabella, or Gert may still have that number as I haven’t blocked their calls yet. Just in case. So, cell phone #4 only. #5 is for my aftermarket medicinal supplier.

Anyway, it’s a small job and I expect you to be finished in under an hour. Help yourself to the special brownies as you leave. Should the access road to the house be under water due to the hurricane, you may wait out the storm in your truck.

TTFN,

Violetta Cheesegrater-Fencepost

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