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August 19, 2003


There are times when I just can't get to sleep, and the only thing that helps is a warm cup of coffee. I have no idea why this works...but it does. It can't be hot coffee, where you have to puff-sip, puff-sip. It's needs to be right around body temperature, and the cup, too. I'll sit for a minute, letting my hands take heat from the cup, and then put the coffee down in two or three big draughts. Within a couple of minutes, everything's slowing down, drowsing...and I know it won't be long until the black velvet slides over my eyes and takes me to morning.

I'm not sure why this works. The "warm" part makes sense -- warm is comfort, and shelter, and nuzzling. But the "coffee" part...all I can figure is that the caffeine acts like that just-a-bit-too-loud ruckus coming from the kids' room that makes mom call out, "Okay, that's enough now! Go to sleep. I don't want to hear any more noise coming out of there!" The caffeine is just enough energy to snap all those restless pieces of me out of their fidgeting, and let the sleepy take over.

There are other times, when I can't really get awake. Usually the depression is like a typical schoolyard bully -- mostly bluster and taunts, but little real danger...its major impact is in its persistence, not its punch. But once in a while, the depression comes on with fists flying, a hot young boxer lookin' to make a mark. I get so beat up that I feel like even taking care of myself is out of reach; I can't even get to the ropes, let alone leave the ring.

So I go mow an old lady's yard. You're always welcome to mow an old lady's yard, and she'll thank you with tea and hard candy and whatever stories or complaints she has ready; she really appreciates the time. For me, it's a chance to call out to the boxer, and tell him, "That's enough! -- let all those fidgeting pieces wake up; they've got things to do now."

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July 28, 2003

Walking Men

There's a new guy at the group home, and I don't think he's going to make it.

About four blocks away from one of the print shops I service is a group home for psychologically disabled men. They're all "walkers" -- all day long, they walk. A couple of guys have relatively short circuits; you can see them pass the shop every hour or so. Others have longer circuits, taking up to three hours before they pass through the four-way stop that I use as a lap counter. The new guy's circuit is around six hours.

Quite a few guys go through the group home; maybe one a month. If they can adjust to the income, accomodations, and comrades, then they've got a good place to live. If not, they're gone, and someone else gets to try out their slot.

One guy who didn't make it had problems crossing certain intersections. He would start crossing, then stop, then try to "push" against some unseen (by me) barrier. On a good day, he could best whatever it was he saw that was blocking his path. It might take three or four pushes, during which time cars would honk and people would stare, but he wouldn't know it -- he was all smiles from having made it across, from having a good day.

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July 25, 2003

Todd-ie Boy

No more Todd Mundt Show; brunchtime just got a little bit duller on UoM Radio. And that's saying a bit, because the show could be pretty... dull.

Sometimes it was Todd -- computer news was dominated by Wintel franchises; nothing about Macs, little about linux... just Windows stuff. Sometimes Todd channeled an Iowa Boy Scout ("I mean, would a large American corporation really do something like that?"); at other times he seemed to try too hard. But there weren't too many clinkers; only a handful in the last three years.

Usually, if a show went bad, it was from bad guest-age. Scientists who couldn't say, "Yes," without eating up 45 seconds of air time were always a favorite (and still are on Science Friday ;-). The "well-coordinated" guest -- frquent on Todd's show -- was also a treat. These folks are well-prepared, well-spoken, and will always interject at some point, "Oh, that's a good question." After a while, you could sense a well-coordinated guest's presence early in the show, and then spend your time waiting for the, "that's a good question," outburst (almost like a drinking game, if you don't mind having only one or two drinks a day ;-).

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July 07, 2003

One Hand Speaking

A friend's father was hospitalized, following a coronary. A triple bypass was scheduled; routine enough, but always a risk. On the phone, as she was telling me about it, I could hear the unvoiced words you just know are in there somewhere -- "What if he dies?" There was also a wispy hint of ambivalence in the manner of conversation; like a recap on the news... "Well, he had a heart attack; it's pretty bad; surgery's scheduled; everybody's busy; gotta go."

When my dad died, we were effectively estranged. One day I knew he was sick; three days later I knew he was dying; two days later he was dead. I had been trying to make peace with him for a couple years (not very successfully, perhaps because I wasn't doing it very well), and had walked away in frustration only months before. I didn't like him, but I was afraid of losing him.

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