Saturday, December 15, 2007

Some More Notes And Memories

So today I was cleaning out the older car for its sale to my sister when I stumbled across my briefcase. Inside were some letters from my revisit to Humboldt State in 2004. Total treasure. I will share some of those times tomorrow.


Friday, December 14, 2007

Social Insecurity with The Bureauman

So, I finally made it down to Social Security today. I have to admit that it was much, much harder than it seemed to be when I set the appointment. I had it set in my mind:

Social Security employee hears I have arrived
Social Security employee invites me in
Social Security employee accepts documents in pile
Social Security business done.

But we all know things that are sad are never quickly dispensed with. No, we are forced to linger over the minutest details in an excruciatingly slow, deliberate process, then wait. So how did the process go?

I checked in at a computer which found my appointment. A receipt printed with a random-looking set of numbers on it. I waited about 15 minutes. The wails of a mentally disturbed man gave a depressing audio backdrop to the pained and sad conversations around me.

"Well, we didn't know we had to apply then, we thought we had to wait until we were homeless..." a woman said to a bored-looking woman in a leopard-print jacket.

"I did buy Medi-gap coverage, and they were supposed to help me with hospitalization," an elderly man rasped ever more loudly to a sympathetic African American man. "I can't pay $15,000 on social security for that bill, and they say they are going to use my check for the next five years. I'll starve! Hell in a handbasket! Hell!"

"His daddy got me 'pregnit,' but he got blasted in LA," one very pregnant Latina told a very Wonder-bread looking intake guy. "I'm supposed to get some money for when he gets born, right?"

I want to correct her, since her boyfriend has been "blasted" and I can't stand ignorance anyway, but I keep my mouth shut. She's suffered to some degree, and she needs all the self-esteem she has.

"Francis Pruett," a voice from an open door calls. "Pruett?"

Finally. I handed the man my papers as I walked up.

"Just hold onto all of that, we'll get to it," he said.

I do and follow him into the maze of cubicles with identical desks, identical computers, identical plastic furniture, identically lacking in personal items, identically sterile, identically institutional, identically empty, identically oriented workspaces. Still, it takes him a long time to find the "right" one for us to sit at, which he motions to.

"Well, Mr. Pruett, first of all, Social Security wants to express to you our sincere condolences on your loss," he says, logging into the workstation with no eye contact whatsoever. "We know this is a difficult time for you, and we appreciate you reporting your loss to us."

I started to ask him a question and he interrupted me.

"We are going to fill your application out and then I will have you certify under penalty
of perjury that all of your answers are correct after you review it," he said, looking at me as if I had planned to lie, suspicion and derision in his gaze.

I nodded.

"May I see a picture ID, please?" he asked.

I showed him my license... he nodded and tapped into his computer as if his first ruse had failed him. "Damn! He has ID!" he must have thought.

"May I see the death certificate?" he asked.

I gave it to him, then my birth certificate, hers, our marriage certificate, which conspired to choke me up. Then, a copy of her memorial book fell out and I reach down... the whole pile of things I carry with her paperwork hits the floor, old pictures, her degree.

I thought to myself "I just spilled my Marcie." I gathered her up silently. The stuff had spread far and wide. There is no help from Bureaman, though. Just his impatient silence.

"Did you live with the deceased when she passed away?" he queried, staring angrily, defiantly at his screen.

"I took care of her to the last minute," I said.

He huffs and moves his head a little. "Did you live with the deceased when she passed away?" he repeated, his hands poised to clack at his keybord.

"Yes," I said. I wanted to add, "Yes, I lived with her as she died, I lived with her as she lived, I lived with her for a few hours when she was dead and I lived with her around fuckers like you who I would rather not let fucking live you fucking nitwit."

I didn't.

"Did you ever apply for Social Security benefits? Did she ever apply for benefits? Oh, I see she had disability benefits. Did she ever serve in the military? Work overseas? Work for the railroads? Work for the federal government?"

Yes, no dice, but they made me work, I wasn't crazy enough yet. Yes, that's what she... No. No. No. No. No, she had a soul.

"When did she become eligible to receive benefits?" he asked.

"I don't know," I respond. "It was a while ago."

"I see," he said, tapping loudly, frustrated that he has to look it up. "She became eligible in 2005. She worked one year on disability and made $13,000."

Wow. Bureaman can do his own homework. Good for him.

"I am going to print out a copy of your application. After you review it, we'll certify it," he said, getting up. He walked a few feet away and snatched each piece as it printed.

I scan the paper slowly and read the details. I notice him drumming his finger and not looking at me.

I nod and had it back over. "It looks OK," I said.

"Good," he said, whipping the paper around and into a folder which he snapped shut as he stood abruptly.

I stood as well but he had already turned and walked to the door, which he opened well before I got there. I took my time walking to it, noting him getting frustrated.

"It will be thirty days or so before your check arrives," he said. "Maybe faster."

Thanks for the $255, USA. Mighty white of you.

Fuck you, Bureauman.


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Bah, Humbug!

So, today was a big day at work. We had our annual Christmas Luncheon, which I enjoyed for the most part. Beef, Chicken, Fish... I took a little of all of them, despite my move toward less meat and more veggies. I was not in the best of moods, though.

I could not help but think about how, in the past, I would have maybe had Marcie there to show off. It was one of my favorite things, as childish and selfish as it was. Once in a blue moon, Marcie would bother to go to one of my work events and knock everyones' socks off. It always bought me a little breathing room, and more than a little respect afterward, mostly because of how we were together.

There was no dance floor anyways. I did mention that they should have one next year, if only for the sake of having one for people to use, as people could bring their significant others. But really, there would have been no point for it by me this year.

I won't be doing public things like that for a while, I've decided. *Sigh*

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Messages Out of Time

"Did you find it yet?" she asked, smiling as she flipped through her New Yorker, watching me carefully as I ate my breakfast of omelettes and hash browns. "It's in your wallet someplace."

I looked up at her mischievous smile. Marcie was ever aversive with her pretty eyes when she was being bashful or playful, and always embarrassed at my tendency to look her up and down, drink her in a bit. Even now.

"Not yet," I said. "But I don't want it to be something I dig out, I want it to be something I find."

She shrugged me off "Okay, if that's what you want." It was genuine, it was her. "It will be a surprise when you least expect it. That is, if you forget about it. Look at this."

She showed me a small cartoon in typical New Yorker style featured two men speaking in front of a gigantic television and home theater system. A baby sat wearing headphones in the middle of the screen. The caption read "We're past Baby Einstein. We're on to Baby Bruckheimer."

And the issue of her love note was forgotten for the moment, buried mirth, then in busy days and nights. My wallet grew and was culled repeatedly, her note remaining undiscovered within.

When autumn brought the pain of her resurgent, insistent disease and we ventured out to Julian for a break from the pain, she asked again, "Have you found it?" I knew instantly what she meant as we laid together amidst crickets and owls and dark.

"No, baby," I said. "I haven't looked. It will come up when it wants to, or when I need it."

"I know, honey," she said, settling in and pushing back into me a bit.

And as I cuddled behind her in our little bed and breakfast and stroked her, I was quiet, and so was she. It had been a long day and her energy had waned quickly at the end.

After some time, when I thought her regular breath meant she was asleep, I could not hold in my tears. I let them roll down my eyes but did not sniffle or moan.

"It's okay," she said, groggily, half-asleep. "You'll find it, honey."

And then she slept, and the note was forgotten again, for a little while, at least. And then the world burned around us, and we both struggled to barely breathe.

"Did you find it yet?" she asked, her words so warbled and strained now. She watched me as I busily tried to finish cleaning her up for the second time in a few hours, trying to cover her and give her back some dignity. My queen, my lover, my wife, now my patient, too.

"Yes, I found the pad you wanted," I said, reaching for it. "Do you want to write a list of things to ask the nurse?"

"No, honey," she said. "No, did you find the mm mnogk? The mgogt?"

Realization dawned. "No, I didn't find the note yet, baby. I'll find it, I promise. Hold on," I said, intending to tear my wallet, a gift from her, apart to find it.

She touched my arm, her hand shaking as it had begun to always do. "I love you," she said, nodding as her tears came. I simply draped myself on her and held her there and whispered my love over and over. Her breathing slowed. She slept.

And the note was forgotten once more. And the fires subsided. And then she was taken from me, and I began to write notes to her. And I wished she could somehow write back, but the note stayed forgotten.

Then, December 11, exactly 6 months after she wrote it, the note fell out of my wallet as I looked for a business card.

"Just a note to say hi and tell you how much I love you, during your busy day, my dear," she wrote. "I am always thinking of you, sweets. Your ever-loving wife."

She had added a little heart and, as she always did, she dated the note for me, 6/2007. I found a reason to get up and take a walk outside, around the district headquarters.

I managed to swallow my tears until I got home. And I decided to write her back when I stopped swallowing.

Hi, baby. I miss you, honey, terribly, as I always do when I work. I am always thinking of you, too. I feel like I will now spend a whole life waiting to come home and see you. Thank you so much for your wonderful note. It will help me get through this work and through these very long, very busy days. Love, your devoted husband.


Monday, December 10, 2007

Tonight's Movie

So, first off, “Starting Out In The Evening” was long and it was layered. Certainly, the core story, concerning an author (Leonard Schiller, played by Frank Langella) whose long creative snooze is almost interrupted by ambitious and somewhat manipulative graduate student Heather (Laura Ambrose) is interesting. But it's not that interesting.

Not helping is all of the window dressing going on. Creative death abounds. Schiller's daughter Ariel (Lili Taylor) is a former dancer who now teaches pilates and yoga, which she characterizes as, "what happens to dancers when they die."

Ariel's smashing her head up against a wall of stereotyped 40th birthday female angst and her "Oh, my god, my clock was ticking and I think it stopped" shenanigans provide the movie with more a hoped-for audience demographic than a plot element. Lame attempts to cast Langella's Schiller as disappointed non-grandparent aside, Ariel's newly rediscovered love for, then liberation from, then love for an emotionally distant man-child only serves to set up a punchy line or two between her and her father. Even the cross-racial window dressing is just that.

Ambrose's Heather does everything she can to wring something of quality for her thesis out of Schiller, whose lethargy and doubt in engaging her seem both fortuitous and wise, if boring and lifeless. But when he finally caves in and opens up a little, it comes off as something dirty, and Ambrose's Heather seals that deal for us on all counts. No distance off-camera is off enough in this case, and that is what we get.

When the writer becomes bored with his characters, as both the on-screen and the off-screen and, likely, the screenwriter did, there is a tendency to toss them into tragedy or crisis. Sitting there waiting for it as ham-fisted telegraphing paraded across the screen was excruciating. Foreshadowing my ass. There was a veritable total eclipse every quarter hour with partials on the half.

The end of the movie lingers over small details, which will appeal to the perfectionist whose obsession with endings and closure overrides all sense of boredom. Unfortunately, the "Is it happy?" finish that redirects the movie utterly serves less a delicate touch than a mercy killing that also drags on too long before the screen blackens.

But at least Ambrose was a redhead.

My rating (1-5): No.
Marcie's Probable Rating: "Sorry, honey. That was so bad."

This review does not reflect my gratitude to my coworker for sending me the pass from the Film Commission. Listening to the crowd around me was a hoot, too. Thanks, Elizabeth.

Movies With Marcie

One of the activities Marcie and I made it a rule to do together was see previews. The San Diego Film Commission often sent Marcie tickets to movies (via email) which were in pre-release screening. Sometimes feedback was needed; sometimes it was just an audience reaction observation opportunity for the studios.

When Marcie passed, I lost that source of free tickets with her email account. However, my coworker Elizabeth sends out copies of the same tickets to me, which is nice. So far, I have not been able to see any of them, but tonight I will try to make it to see “Starting Out In The Evening.”

It appears to be one that Marcie would have enjoyed tonight's selection. From the press release and ticket blast:

All that remains for Leonard Schiller (Frank Langella) is his work. His one enduring goal in life is to finish the novel he has been laboring on for almost a decade. With his four earlier books out of print, he has learned to starve himself of the desire for the success he was once so close to, though beneath this practice lives a pull for his work to be rediscovered.

Leonard’s main contact with the outside world is his daughter Ariel (Lili Taylor), a dancer-turned-Pilates instructor, with whom he has settled into an amiable relationship, though he must hide his disappointment that at thirty-nine she is at loose ends, still looking for love and a father for a longed-for child.

We’ll see if, sans guarantee, I am able to pull a seat. It’s at the Horton Plaza 14, for which I am grateful, since there is little parking for some of the others downtown. Marcie and I also had some mischievous moments in that theater… usually because we found ourselves more interesting in the dark than the drivel we often found there. At any rate, without that distraction, I shall endeavor to provide some useful feedback, as she did, later on.

At the least, the synopsis makes the movie sound like a relevant cautionary tale for me… we’ll see. More info later.


Sunday, December 9, 2007

Marcie's Little Qipao (Adult Situations)

In trying to stay upbeat for a few posts, it has occurred to me that I could share some of the fun... within reason. So, as I have alluded to before, Marcie and I had quite the sexual relationship. Come back tomorrow if you don't want ot hear about it. I won't get (too) graphic.

One of the things Marcie did for me that stood out was put up with my various passing fancies. I had a passing fancy for jumping her in while she was in her work clothes, so she put up with that for a year. I went through the stockings and garter phase, she loved that (or pretended to), did the merry widow lingerie thing, etc. etc.

One of those passing fancies that stood out was the cheongsam (or qipao). Marcie introduced me to this sexy Chinese dress with her all-night Gong Li movie events, remarking on how they fit the actress, testing to see if I thought Gong Li was pretty (I did, but she's not my type).

I was soon thinking Marcie would fit one even better, and started pestering her. I had all but given up after a few solid months mentioning it in the afterglow, at dinner, when we woke up and were cuddling in bed against the impending responsibilities of work. Basically, whenever it struck me I had not mentioned it.

Well, Marcie surprised me with her little qipao after a trip to Chinatown in San Francisco. She not only wore it for me, but she went through elaborate hair preparations, leaving her red locks in a chopstick-bun. She could have been quite the arm-candy at a social.

Alas, we never got to put it to use in a social setting. She wore it a few times for me and made the mistake of wearing it after we had been separated by a trip I took to school (5 weeks). The resultant ravishing was too much, and the zipper gave out (meaning became separated from the silk).

But her green-blue eyes really went well with it. Not having her to model it takes a lot away from the dress, but it's still a pretty reminder. I can't wait to ask Jane about that shopping trip when I visit later this month or early next year.

In Better Days We Had Animal Pals

In better days, Marcie and I would take walks around the neighborhood. Generally speaking, Marcie did this every day or other day and preferred to go alone, but it was not uncommon for me to go with her.

It was nice to hold hands, even as they turned sweaty and Marcie grew annoyed. It was also fun to stop and chat with our mutual animal pals, petting the dogs we knew wouldn't bite. Both of us also enjoyed being waylaid by attention-starved "outside" kitties, which invariably ate up a good five or ten minutes of our time.

Marcie drew the animals in. I had always been boastful of my charming ways with the furred set, but Marcie was so gentler and quiet, usually able to suppress her own versions of my sometimes boisterous outbursts of delight at spying some furred denizen of the neighborhood. Consequently, I have many of my neighborhood animal pals because of her and because I was with her when she won them over.

Tonight I took a little walk down the block and visited a few of them before dusk brought the cats' more private nocturnal urges and the dogs' more guarded natures to bear. I wanted to take a walk with Marcie, so I just retraced our meandering neighborhood route.

Each animal I met and pet opened a floodgate. Memories of visits from those better days, those sweaty-palmed, frumpy-comfy walks, washed over me as not one or two or even three, but six separate cats we both had known visited with me tonight. I also checked in on Fred the Bellowing Basset Hound, who bayed mournfully when I was done petting him and moved on. I "feel ya," brother Fred.

When I got home, I turned and looked down the alley I liked to walk home in. Marcie and I both enjoyed visiting with a huge clutch of cats, all feral, who live behind a TV repair shop there. I noted a stunning sky, and thought I would share a snapshot I ran in and got the camera for. It became a "Stunning sky with telephone poles" shot of the alley instead.

Alley of The Cats at Sunset