Thursday, July 31, 2008


Sort of. Old car wouldn't start this morning, but finally did. Then as I was driving to radiation treatment, an exhaust pipe let loose and huge loud obnoxious muffler noises began emanating from underneath. Decided I would try to pick up the new car today instead of tomorrow. Called them. The side moulding had come in earlier than expected so sure, come on down. (Side moulding is no longer standard but an option!) After radiation treatment, I met K. at my former office to get stuff off the computer there, and to retrieve more of my books. The HR person who was also meeting us said she had good news: my long term disability benefits have been approved. Glory be. But not until I had written the union rep, a benefits rep, and this HR person earlier in the week saying WHEN WILL THERE BE A DECISION?? I AM DESOLATE!! And calling the insurance company making the decision. They had sent me a "customer service survey" even before the decision had been made, so I called the person at the bottom of that insulting piece of mail and said WHEN WILL THERE BE A DECISION?? I AM DESOLATE!! And it was true. So, the squeaky wheel. I cried all the time I was in my former office gathering up my things; this is not how I wanted to leave the job. The HR person had done a good job making sure no one else would be around, for which I was thankful. K. was right on top of the details, and was a tremendous help. My great IT guy was there, and just whisked all my documents onto the flash drive; I will miss him. We schlepped all the stuff to my old car, K. said she wanted to go with me to pick up the new car, so we made a plan. I stopped at the bank, got a cashiers' check, ran home, let the dog out, cleaned out all the crap from my Corolla, met K. at her house and went and picked up the Forester. She liked it a lot, which helped me like it more and feel a bit more excited. I was gonna give my Corolla to a teenage friend, but her parents decided against her having it cause it would cost them more for the insurance and upkeep. so I traded it in, and my cost for the Forester was less than I originally was expecting to pay. I feel lighter now that the LTD is approved, but now HR is saying that I have to be approved for Social Security disability TOO in order to retire at the end of this year. That was never my understanding, so will check in with my witnesses who were at the meeting where all of this was discussed, and see what they remember. The University is always trying to pull a fast one, and I have to keep on my toes. K. invited me for leftovers, she showed me her motorcycle project and her scooter project, and then we went to the park by the Sound to play with Momo and another local doggie. Too bad Bindi wasn't with.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


This story was written by my friend in New Orleans.

Valuing a single small life in the face of global disaster

June 2, 2008 By Jim Gabour

A frail beating heart in Jim Gabour's household is also a route to compassion in the world beyond.

He was deserted by his mother at birth and survived by his wits as a literal infant. He begged for food from seedier neighbourhood hangers-on, those scarcely better off than he. He scavenged for meals through rotting garbage in restaurant dumpsters, running between shadows on the precarious New Orleans lakefront. He occasionally trapped a fish which had strayed into the shallows or found a recently dead crab washed up on the shore.

He slept in abandoned cubbyholes hidden in the maze of small, damp caves that criss-cross beneath the jagged concrete of Lake Ponchartrain water breaks.

He managed his own life for well over a decade, with help from no one. Then as he was trying to cross a street, once again scrabbling for food, he was hit and critically injured by a car. The vehicle rolled over him, and did not stop to help.

Neighbours saw his injury, ran to the accident site and tried to find him. But, like sole survivalists are wont to do, he had instantly gone to ground to try and recover on his own. Other than recent bloodstains, there was not even a sign of him to be found when that help first arrived. When by pure chance he was discovered weeks later by a rescuer, he was on the verge of death, had lost one eye, all his teeth and the use of a leg. His tongue was split down the middle. Untreated, his bones had fused incorrectly.

He was in constant pain, and tried as best he could to communicate that distress.

His volunteer doctor ordered him taken for rehabilitation to a wooded inland farm in Mississippi, a place that catered to such lost souls. He had really just been settling in there when, in 2005, hurricane Katrina came ashore just south of the place, inundating the coastline with a thirty-foot storm surge. Trees and dwellings were considerably thinned.

But he survived again, and even began to thrive, together with others of his ilk and age for the first time.

By December 2007 he had recovered enough to be offered for adoption on the internet, his story accompanied by a picture of his tortured, though admirable, face.

But an adoptive family was not considered a likely result. Even the rescue agency itself admitted that a crippled, toothless, and half-blind 13-year-old was a long-shot for adoption.

He now lives at my house.

My own 12-year-old, who had lost an eye on the same side to illness at birth, had died only months before, and through an improbable chain of events starting with his picture on the internet, the limping little boy came to live with me.

You see, he is an orange tabby too.

A loving presence

"Tigger" he is called. He was tagged as "Tiger" when adopted, but the old boy was much too loving and non-aggressive to be called that, and so his name was softened with another "g". He weighed twelve pounds, 5.4 kilos, when he arrived here on Marigny Street in New Orleans. He gained weight and then a feeling of safety, on a steady diet and much petting.

Now after months of stability and love, those measures of happiness suddenly are declining hourly over the last seventy-two. Something bad has entered his system, and his breathing becomes more laboured by the moment. At first the doctors thought a harsh uprising of asthma, and then, a possible heart-attack, sending some sort of embolism from heart to lungs. It is the weekend, his regular vet is not available, and the emergency clinic where he first was treated had him overnight in an oxygen tent.

In the process of diagnosing his condition and evaluating his current status they have performed a number of scientific and medical procedures, including taking a life-sized X-ray. They looked inside his thick orange fur and discovered even more of his history.

There is a bullet lodged in his side. It has been there some time and has scarred over.

Two of his spinal vertebrae were crushed in what were probably the jaws of a large dog.

He has many many other healed wounds.

All this violence attached to the touchingly affectionate creature that has slept purring with his head and front paws on my hip for all these past months. But I never realised just how far he had come, how much he had endured. Yet here was a creature still able to blot out past horror and simply offer himself as a loving presence in others' lives.

Today, this nervous Sunday morning, while I waited for word about Tigger's imminent transfer to a different, much better-equipped, and vastly more expensive critical-care facility, I looked at the headlines on the web, on openDemocracy, and in the newspapers. None of which was comforting.

I read the stories of so many lives lost to tragedy and terror, both natural and man-made, and became lost amidst the reported masses of unprovoked and undeserved pain and death.

There are so many of them, so many innocents taken up in the tide of misery and forged into a singular face - the cyclone victim in Myanmar, the quake casualty in China, the tortured child of Sudan. Too many. And too much pain for the "civilised" world to bear. For whose convenience they are transformed a solitary, horrific entity. Some unified image to haunt the nights of liberals worldwide. Who, like me send a pound, a euro, a dollar, and try to forget the individual faces. They are too much for the heart when considered one by one. Too much.

A feline respite

But this old tabby and his X-rayed contents have made me begin separating faces and lives, and stories. Maybe this is his function on earth, showing himself as a reminder for compassion on a personal scale.

Today, over my clean coffee cup, silverware and plate, in the security of my own locked and alarmed home, I once again am forced to realise the depth of true sorrow, of the loss of individual lives.

Our minds protectively do indeed perceive them as a single face, but they have many. Their stories, the vast majority of which are never even considered significant, much less told, are each profound.

Their worth is no less than the story of the politician, the intellectual, the philosopher. If faced with the choice, I would undoubtedly prefer the existence of Tigger in this world to that of the current United States president. Though I fear the cat and I both now owe W a debt of sorts. Saturday, before taking Tigger to the emergency room, the mail arrived with an "economic stimulus payment" - a check from the federal government made out to me for $600. Today, just hours ago at the ritzy veterinary critical-care hospital, I was required to put down a deposit on the Tig's bill: the hospital's finance person demanded I pay $600. I am not kidding. Exactly $600. Which, confounding George W Bush's economically subterranean policies, I gave to the hospital and did not spend at Wal-Mart.

No matter, George. All of us eventually die. Only the worth of the story remains.

Tigger would tell them that they all matter, if he could. He himself matters, here in this hard place where creatures live and die at the whim of their fellows. Where the self-aware are ruled by the caprice of the planet on which they are allowed momentarily to exist. And occasionally use the litter-box. Then to not exist.

I spoke to the doctor just now. My tabby is awake and purring in his oxygen tent. I must go read him the Sunday paper.

Comics first.

He likes the way I explain the brightly-printed comics. There are speaking cats in those pages, felines who are in charge of their lives.

He is not well, you know, and to heal must have brief respites from the pain of reality.

As do we all.


Jim Gabour is an award-winning film producer, writer and director, whose work focuses primarily on music and the diversity of cultures. He lives in New Orleans, where he is artist-in-residence and professor of video technology at Loyola

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

New Car

This is the car I bought. 2009 Subaru Forester, Sage Green Metallic. Thanks to AR and CC for their help; they came with, separately, and both chose the Forester over the CR-V.

Saturday, July 26, 2008


Got it down to a 2008 CR-V and a 2009 Subaru Forester. Leaning towards the latter. Better visibility. Have no idea how to negotiate price. Am asking a friend for help. Niece R. was here for a couple of days, left yesterday afternoon. It was so wonderful and special having her visit, but I was sad before she arrived knowing she would leave so soon, and am sad that she is gone. Much loneliness. She helped me put together a bookshelf and hang one of the stained glass windows and weed my Edgerton garden. She took Bindi on two long walks. We enjoyed a local thrift shop together. She makes her own clothes that are stunning, creative, flamboyant. Radiation cancelled on Thursday as the machine was "down." Starting to see the same faces in the waiting/dressing room. One woman had throat cancer, her voice box removed. Lots of breast cancer. Still no news on the long term disability. Hard to blog. Can't concentrate. Visit to another doctor for a second opinion last Monday was a waste, as they hadn't gotten the surgery notes but didn't tell me till I was there three hours. I'm ok with other people, but as soon as I'm by myself, I get lost. Where's my Agadore?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Beachy Keen

Went to Rocky Neck beach yesterday with a small group. It was nice, and as usual, wonderful to swim in salt water. It was only when we were about to leave, around 2 pm, that I noticed a couple of jelly fish in the water, so we skeedaddled. Wow, that's an old fashioned word! Don't even know if I spelled it anyway correctly. I slathered with sun screen and we had three umbrellas, so I didn't get burned.

Had a dream where I was asking people for help with choosing a car. I'm having a hard time. The CR-V Honda is fine, but it seems the front seats are a bit shallow, meaning the depth of the seat from back to front, and I seem to be fixated on that. Shouldn't the car seat reach almost the bend in your legs, meaning your knees, when you are sitting in it? My old Corolla does. The CR-V is about 3-4 inches short of that. Drove a Suburu Forester, and it was ok, as was the Rav-4, but none is turning me on. I'm not expecting them to, since what I really want is a Lexus or a really cushy sedan, but the former is too expensive, and the latter too low to the ground. I feel like I shouldn't go to the dealer and ask to drive the cars more than once or twice, but I feel like I have to drive the cars six or seven times to make a decision. I should just be bold and say that's what I need and if they give me guff, I won't buy from them.

I hope we get some rain today. It has been dry dry dry.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Overdid It

Yesterday on my way to the first radiation treatment (I remembered to take the Atavan!), I stopped by a local jeweler to have the crystal replaced in my favorite watch. He said it would cost about $100! The watch didn't even cost that much, and the crystal was just cracked, not broken, so I think I will leave it be. Then after the treatment, I went to the Y summer camp pool near my house for my first swim since the surgery in May. It felt so nice, even tho the place was a bit trashed from the camp kids, and I swam back and forth, back and forth, slowly for quite a while. Then I came home and got Bindi, ate some food which gave me kind of an upset stomach, then went to a garden committee meeting at the community garden. After that I spent over an hour pruning the herbs in the herb garden there, Bindi got loose and I had to wait for her to get tired and come back to me, then we left the garden and came home. I was exhausted. Was supposed to go car shopping at 10am this morning, but I was so very tired, that I called my friend and cancelled.

Now, in an hour, back for another treatment. Sigh.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

More Roberts

16 July 2008

The incense and candles from my last post. Holdovers from Catholic masses. And then morphed into the hippie culture. Now just purely sensual comforts. I am always reminded of Robert Mapplethorpe, the exquisite photographer, long deceased, and his attachment to altars because of his own Catholic upbringing. I saw a biography of him at an exhibit of his work, and cried because I felt such kinship with the man. His tenderness and vulnerability and his dark side. His portraiture is astonishing, including a self-portrait he made of himself shortly before his death.
The photo is of irises, dated 1987, photogravure technique.

Went to the cancer center Monday and yesterday, for set-up xrays. Today I start the radiation treatments. Monday I cried and cried all morning, but took Atavan before the appointment and was able to get thru having my head locked onto the table with the mask before the x-rays were taken. Yesterday I neglected to take the drug, and fell apart, esp. after listening to the story of a woman who had throat cancer. Sitting in the waiting area of the women's dressing room, I watched woman after woman come in, put on the gown, and sit and wait for her name to be called for treatment. How can I not be changed by this experience, since I will be doing the same thing for 30 more days?

Trying to decide which car to buy. Looked at Hondas, and Toyotas, and like the Honda CRV better than the Toyota Rav-4. Why are they making the back windows so ridiculously small? I'm having a hard time feeling what I like. None of them is calling out to me. I need something with room for the animals and the gardening stuff and my constant junk collecting, with a seat high enough that I don't have to bend my knees very much to get in and out. So sedans are out. They are all too low. The Toyota Matrix and the Honda Fit seem a little small to me, even though they get better gas mileage. The hybrids like the Prius have seats that are too low, but the fuel economy is very tempting. But I don't drive long distances, just around towns nearby, so it's not like I'm commuting and driving state to state where fuel economy would be much more important. I went onto the Car Talk website and took their Auto Advisor questionnaire for buying new cars. After I answered all the questions, it advised a Honda CR-V!! Making big decisions right now is the last thing I want to do, but the clutch on my 19 year old Corolla is about to go, and I don't want to put money into replacing it.

Supposed to get into the 90s tomorrow and Friday. Have a beach date on Saturday with a few folks. Can get a library state park pass so I don't have to pay the entry fee ($10). Called the YMCA here and I can use their outdoor pool on a fee per use basis ($10). Apparently, this camp pool is spring fed and very cold. May check it out this afternoon after the treatment.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Minute by Minute

13 July 2008

Light the sandalwood incense. Burn the candle. Pop in the cd. Remember my connection to those I love and who love me. Remember my connection to those I love and who love me. Remember my connection to those I love and who love me.

Little 5 year old Tom at dinner last night, so shy in the beginning. Then I asked D. for paper and markers, and Tom and I began to draw houses. And watch the fireflies. And he began to smile and even laugh, so beautifully. He put his finger to his lips and said, "Shhhh," as the fireflies were getting closer, he said. We heard rustling in the woods. I said a squirrel maybe, he said the wind, and looked up at the tall trees whose branches were swaying to and fro in the evening light.

Rachel and Frances left yesterday morning at 7.30am, after staying with me for three nights. The new anti-depressants must be working for me, as I did not crash. Already checking out my frequent flier miles to see what my options are. Will wait till niece R. is out there, then go visit all, including JK in Sacramento. Can I take the doggie-do?

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Drove Myself to Distraction

First to Guilford for a cookout. Some nice folks, good food, and to top it off, a couple who came late brought the five baby mallard ducks they had rescued from the road, found without a mom. I got to see how they were fed, in a dishpan of water with crushed egg, crushed cheerios, crushed dog/cat kibble, smushed cooked green beans. Then I helped dry them off after they did their feeding thing. It was totally way too cute and sweet, and what an adorable peeping they all made. Got to see my old digs and picked blooms from the lavender plant I planted there, and gave some to everyone. The photo above looks just like the baby ducks. They couldn't have weighed more than an ounce each, so delicate, so vulnerable. Taught someone the difference between lemon verbena and lemon balm. One winters over here, the other not.

Then to the neighbors across the street for the son's graduation party. Really high energy, great music blasting from the outdoor speakers, lots of nice people, and a good talk with a guy who used to sell cars. He thinks I should look at Subarus. Why won't someone just go out and pick a car for me and I'll pay for it?! A little boy named Teddy who was so vibrant and full of spirit was walking Bindi around and brought her back to me with Bindi's back right leg limping. He said he "slipped." She seems ok now, but will keep an eye on it. B. said she'd make a copy of the Marc Anthony Spanish language ballads cd that was so beautiful.

I was out from noon till 9pm. Tomorrow I have a lunch date back in Guilford with the Robs, and then Frances will come to my house for a sleepover tomorrow night. I seem to be easily distracted when I am with other people. When I get back home, the reality of my situations sinks back in.

Camilla has a bladder infection, and from licking her belly clean of fur had a badly irritated patch of skin, so she's on two new meds for those problems. I think she is feeling better now, tho. Poor girl.

But I managed to change the sheets on the bed, which feels great when I can manage it. I sleep better.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Small Things

A Hoops & Yoyo e-card from my 13 year old niece.

Yas calling from Australia.

The neighbor across the street inviting me to his son's graduation party.

The Pekinese Chihuahua mix named Oliver in the dog park.

Finding people who want to go to the beach.

The vet being happy when Camilla peed on his office floor.

Cool breeze after a hot day.

Jeff weeding my garden and creating beautiful paths.

Watching "Wall-E" with R & F.

Fresh strawberries locally grown.

A new scratching box for the cats.

Bindiana Bones' new pink cap with a flamingo on it.

Talking with my sis and my niece on the phone.

Alice in Wonderland fabric.


(Graphic from