Saturday, February 23, 2008

The cat visits: Making the rounds for Marcie

Marcie enjoyed walking all over our neighborhood and even in Kensington from time to time. She loved the shady passages, old Craftsman homes and the winding, calm roads.

But truth be told, she was in it for the cats.

Our neighborhood is overflowing with cats of all shapes and sizes, colors and patterns. Marcie loved nothing more than to find a new feline friend to play with for a few minutes. The kitties definitely were beguiled, to the very last one.

A particular week of chemotherapy had been very rough on Marcie, and she was pretty exhausted. She looked at me as I prepared for a quick run.

"I wish I could see my kitty friends, but I am just too tired to for a walk today," she said.

I decided a quick run was not the best exercise and, before I left, grabbed my cheap little Emprex camera. I walked the neighborhood far and wide, and I snapped some pictures of her friends.

Cheap or not, the camera had a nice camera-to-rca cable to let me show her the shots on the television.

I caught two of her favorites one day, both "Tuxedo kitties" as she called them. I also snapped a few shots from "creaky kitty" I would learn as she named them all.

Then while preparing for a run at Morley Field, I spied a familiar gray form. The cat looked like the Stoddard's kitty Samantha, who had passed. I took one of her and her friend, which Marcie dubbed "the creamsicle kitty."

What I showed Marcie, (Also featuring Seamus)

She enjoyed her show and was fascinated by the Sam clone and the "creamsicle" cat. But all was not perfect by any means.

I did not capture one very important kitty with my lens, and soon Marcie was asking me to go see her. Cavinia, the last neighborhood kitty Marcie went for a visit to.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The places of our early love (pt 2) Cortez Hill

At our little apartment, 1573 Ninth Ave, Marcie and I began our life together. The old building was put up in the 1920s as a boarding house behind the main apartments. Behind that were old vacation bungalows converted into cottages.

They were the old San Diego's "No-Tell Motels." Stars, politicians, executives and their extramarital partners and the occasional honeymooner stayed in them back then.

The whole neighborhood stank of decay in 1993. There was a former Denny's, sometimes open as the "Spice house," usually not under stable management or ownership for more than a year at a time.

Nonetheless, our little home was architecturally interesting. Did you say you'd like a tour? Enjoy:

With her receipt of $6,000 from the Casa Arleda relocation settlement, plus the rent she had saved by not having to pay for some 8 months before that, Marcie had gathered quite a nest egg.

She needed it. CVS, her employer at the time, had decided to close its mall stores. Sav-on was buying others and hiring away some of the employees, but Marcie and I had no car and she could not reach the new location in La Jolla.

The store finally closed.

"I think I am going to take some time off," she said. "But I am going to look for a job that I want, and it's not going to be retail."

I smiled and kissed her cheek as X Files played on the television, back then a mutual obsession. She smiled and I remember now thinking that my silent support was just what she wanted to hear.

Marcie took some time off, but she found a job at the Union-Tribune as a customer service representative for subscribers. She still had quite a nest egg. She decided, one year after she had been laid off, six months into her new job, how to use it.

"Honey, I am going back to Paris next winter," she said. "Thats going to be my first vacation.

She said it as she rocked on her feet a little, happy and waiting for questions as she smiled.

I could only smile. I had hoped she would want to indulge in travel before she went back to work, but she had been prudent and had wanted to have a job first.

It was a very happy day in our little home.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The promise of honor

Compliments complement. Nothing we do in love becomes worse with a compliment, everything is just made better. But sometimes, I know the tendency is to let them slow or stop, or to be used as bandages when we wound each other.

Marcie and I served each other compliments constantly. Some were too much. My head would swell when she called me a genius, her handsome man or, most preciously to me of all, her hero.

She was better at it sooner than I was, but I am very glad she taught me to be free and direct with them.

The issue really came up in Humboldt. I was under constant stress, working after a full load at school every day, full time, and trying to find little gestures for Marcie to enjoy her life more in Arcata.

I was also a reporter who took his work on the community page of the school paper very seriously. I was neglecting her. One night, she just broke down.

"Frank, I don't even know why I am here," she said. "I hate this place, I hate the hippies and the rain and the cold. I hate my job, I hate how far it is to the city, and I feel like you don't even acknowledge me anymore."

She burst into tears and I remember holding her as she cried on our old green couch, whispering my love to her.

"You don't tell me anything anymore," she said. "We have sex and you don't talk to me, you don't say nice things to me, you just take me for granted and I'm too scared to complain because you're so happy here."

"I don't know why you are just soo distant from me now," she said, wracked by hitches and moans.

I was crestfallen. I had no idea how it had come to this. I remembered how I had spent the morning admiring her as she prepared for work, watching her from the bathroom doorway that morning.

I loved watching her put on her makeup. But I most enjoyed watching her put on her clothes in the soft twilight, her nude form silhouetted by the light in the bathroom, the smell of her lotion my own little alarm clock.

Then it struck me. I had become caught up in my own head. I thought about how hot Marcie was, and I thought about how good she was to me, but I was just not saying it.

Marcie always told me how sweet I was, how good I looked dressed up and how proud she was of me. I was ashamed.

I promised to improve, and I did. At first, she thought that it would pass. But I added little bunches of hand-picked flowers from the roadside and my long hikes in the woods and fields, just because.

I would always try to pick a flower or two with a special connection in my head to her.

"This bunch is for your red hair and your white skin," I said once, holding a bunch of what I did not know was a rare lily in Humboldt County. "It captures my eyes and makes me want to lean over and inhale you."

They were corny but honest, and with them and a conscious effort, I slowly moved my thoughts into words. Now it is habit.

From time to time, when I grew slack in my attentions, I would revive them with an occasion, not noting them but simply reinstating my conscious will to honor her.

She noticed last year the difference and as we cleared our hearts of all our pains and all our unsaid things, she told me about it.

"You have never stopped telling em how you love me, how beautiful I am to you and how happy I have made you and bearable I make the world for you," she said. "I always thought you would just need to be reminded from time to time."

I nodded and kissed her tears as they welled up and slid down her pale cheeks. I was dying inside.

"You have never stopped telling me, not since we had our talk in Humboldt," she said. "Do you remember our talk?"

I nodded and held her close. I whispered to her that I would never stop telling her all of the things she deserved to hear. She wound my fingers with hers, squeezing and massaging them between her own.

My last compliment to Marcie was how good she smelled with her lotions and creams after I had sponge-bathed her on her little hospital bed. I kissed her and she smiled and nodded, mouthed a thank you and rested. She never awoke.

That I kept my promise was the first soothing realization I came to when some of my pain passed, but that it was no longer possible to keep holding up was the most painful one I had to acknowledge with it, despite the honor I pay her here.

I never took her for granted, and I know I never will.

The places of our early love (pt 1) Casa Arleda

When we met, Marcie lived in one of the coolest old buildings in the Banker's Hill area. Cool in the sense that its architecture was distinct, its design discernibly grander than other old apartments and its decay utter and to the bone. Casa Arleda.

Casa Arleda, previously a drab off-white decaying hulk. Now in more color and higher rent brackets, and offering less entertaining drama, I am sure

Marcie had moved within the building once before I met her. While renting that unit, a pipe burst in her closet, soaking and ruining much of her clothing with rust-loaded, yellow water. She was able to recoup the loss from the building's insurance, and she moved to another studio.

Within months of that move, the building came under assault by the Health Department for innumerable complaints. Rent was suspended because of the landlords' inability to resolve its legally unlivable state. Crack heads literally roamed the halls. It looked it. Badly.

One of the aforementioned rock cocaine and/or amphetamine aficionados took it upon himself to steal cable from the elevator. He failed. He failed rather spectacularly, too.

Apparently not thinking before hacksawing, he was still working when the elevator cables snapped and he hurtled atop the old thing two full floors into the basement. He smashed his face on the edge of the roof hatch with the impact before falling through, limp, into the elevator's graffiti-splashed interior.

He lived to tell the story to me one day as I tried the elevator button. He had a long, face-spanning scab and two bad split lips. I believed him, and he was more explanatory than apologetic.

The landlord hired a security guard who apparently took over the drug trade. It was funny in its own grim, sordid way.

Marcie thrived, though. She was loved by everyone there, from the man she called "My tweaker next-door neighbor gay friend," to "The little boy with a crush on me whose mother is a freelance clown in Balboa Park." Seriously.

Whenever I visited, we had breakfast and walked out to her little third-floor hallway bay windows, which always triggered some paranoid looks through peepholes and occasionally sudden door openings.

Here was the place I would look up at when I came to her in the night, and the balcony we smoked overlooking the city on. Until someone stole the intercom system, Marcie would buzz me in. Usually, though, the gate was propped open.

But it mattered little. We looked out over the bay and the city south of us and simply lived in our little love spell. When eventually the place was shuttered, each tenant received $6,000. Marcie began looking for her new place weeks before.

Marcie and I moved in together when she left Casa Arleda. I will admit that it was not a long time between the day we met and the day we took up residence together, but it was also true that our motivation to do so was purely lust and love. But we dressed it up well.

But Marcie did have an excuse to dispel my romantic notions, indeed. Far be it from her to admit sentiment over practicality.

When she asked if I wanted to move in with her, I pretended it was not on my mind at all, pride besting both my growing need for her and our relationship's honesty for the moment.

"Oh, Jesus, Frank," I remember her saying. "Do you really need to live in a little hotel room downtown when we are sleeping together every night anyways? It's so stupid. It's a total waste of money."

I held out for four hours and whispered in her bed, panting and stroking her back and butt. "You know, you're right," I said. "It does seem like a waste of money."

I was rewarded with her happy snort, a drawn-out, delighted "hee hee hee," a happy kiss on the mouth and her quick dismount to the shower.

I suddenly realized we had both been playing it cool. But I was happy, because it was a great thing to know that she was as smitten as me. I joined her in the shower.

I moved in my meager possessions, books, textbooks, clothes, a computer and some utensils, the next day. It was my best move ever.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Catching up

I have some wonderful pictures of the places Marcie and I lived, but I want to take a few more of the places and things we loved before I publish. I intend to write a post in story form, using slide shows to enhance the readers' understanding of the settings. I will keep you all posted.

I am getting ready to make another pass at selling everything which has no real meaning. When I do, I will let everyone know. Furniture, clothes, excess books, and computer junk, electronics... think, "garage sale with estate overtones."

I have begin planning the next version of the web site/blog, which will actually be one focused on the upcoming sojourn and my preparations for it.

I will be locking off all of my previous posts and backing them onto a local drive soon. This is mostly to allow me to redo the whole site and pull of any content I will want to sharpen up for the book, which I have started sending queries on. I'll keep you all posted on that, too.

I have been preparing for some serious cuts at the school and have options already on the table in case I am caught up in the chopping of positions. I have less than a year on the books, so I do not even get to have seniority factored in. Nonetheless, I am and will be fine either way.

You're all up to date, the plan progresses, and I hope that president's day has been good to all of you. Maybe something more substantial will appear later for you to chew on, you never know.


Sunday, February 17, 2008

Marcie and Hiking

Marcie and I shared one passion which I like to think I won her over to. Hiking was a natural, as Marcie loved to walk for her exercise, but the territory we wanted to hike in was always a point of contention. I could hike anything, and the sweatier the walk, the better.

Marcie, on the other hand, was not so adaptable. To Marcie, everything east of us was part of a vast, dry wasteland of sand and skin-drying Santa Ana winds. Dry skin was a mortal sin in Marcie's world. It finally took the promise (true) of a nice waterfall and a tree-lined walk to it to get her to Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, where she enjoyed Green Valley Falls.

Winning her over on Federal parkland was a different story. Cleveland National Forest and it wonderful Laguna Mountain Recreation Area veered way too close to the desert for Marcie. But she had expressed a desire to visit when the snow was on the hills.

We never did get to, but I decided that I would go up and hike the places I had known as a kid, including Kitchen Creek and the Sunrise Highway. I felt her presence with me as I walked, and I managed to take a few shots of the stark contrast of desert and snow, the amazing eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountains, and some views I thought she would ahve "ooh'd and aah'd" at.

Certainly, these forests are nothing like the redwoods and moist conifer forests she loved in Northern California, but they have a beauty all their own. I hope you enjoy these snapshots, and please click on the slide show to visit the web album.