Purple socks

purple socks

In Graham Greene’s novel “Monsignor Quixote,” we meet an elderly innocent Spanish Catholic priest, who learns that he’s been promoted to Monsignor. He is very excited about this, because he now gets to wear purple socks.
You know I love purple. I have a couple of purple shirts, ranging in color from Concord grape to light lavender, with several shades in between. A long time ago I bought a lavender enamel star to wear on my lapel, and I told people it was a symbol for gay rights (this was before we had any kind of established symbols, so you could tell people anything and they’d believe you).
But never before did I have a pair of purple socks (see above). They’re pale lilac, with little nubs. Naturally they’re Italian.
Story: there’s a nice little men’s-clothing shop in our neighborhood called Milan. The clothes are beautiful, but they are far too highly-priced for my dollar-store lifestyle. Though their window I could see a lovely display of socks: lemon-yellow, pale lime-green, pale lilac. I have admired them out loud to Partner many times.
The other night Partner surprised me with a pair of lovely purple socks. He pretended that our little stuffed dog Blot Malloy bought them for me. This is Blot:


I ask you, does he look like he has the money to buy Italian socks?
Partner finally confessed that he’d bought them for me. I asked them how much they cost, and he wouldn’t tell me. “I’ll admit,” he said, “that they were more expensive than any socks I ever bought before.”
I wore them to work the very next day, in combination with black pants and a pale-lavender shirt. I showed them to a number of people, and they were dazzled. One even said: “And look! You’re wearing a purple shirt too!”
To which I replied: “Did you think that was a coincidence?”

For Sunday: Buck Owens sings “Cigarettes and Whiskey and Wild Wild Women”

cigarettes and whiskey

There was a television show called “Hee Haw” back when I was a kid. It was a real breakthrough: the country/western world went prime-time / nationwide with a variety program, with stupid sketches and lots of music.

The hosts were Buck Owens and Roy Clark.

Buck Owens, bless his steely Republican heart, was a classic C&W performer. This song of his still goes through my head sometimes. Don’t ask me why.

Slightly better news

slightly better news

Good news, first of all: my PET scan results have come in, and my cancer is confined to the left side of my throat; it hasn’t spread anywhere else in my body. (My hematologist / oncologist was actually giggling with excitement when she told me this. I think I love her.) This means that the radiotherapy can be focused very precisely in the area of the tumor, and I’m not so far along as to be incurable.

It’s barely two  weeks since I learned I have cancer, and I have learned so much!

For example:

  • One of the most effective chemotherapy drugs, cisplatin, is very dangerous for people (like me) with hearing loss. It can make us lose our hearing entirely, or cause lifelong tinnitus. I’ll be taking the milder carboplatin instead. (Imagine having a platinum-based drug infused into your body! I’ll be worth a fortune!)
  • Another, taxol (which I’ll be taking in low doses) causes hair loss and some neuropathy (mostly numbness and tingling) in some patients. I’ll be sure to take pictures of myself during the process, if I become especially shaky and peculiar-looking. You can all have a good laugh.
  • Radiation to the throat makes the whole area sore. I won’t be able to drink for the duration; it will sting too much, and probably also interfere with the various treatments and medications I’ll be taking. Bugger!

But mostly I have learned that this whole thing is ridiculous.

I look over my doctors’ scribbed notes and I see things like “tonsillar cancer.” I have tonsil cancer!


Feeding tube? Ridiculous.

No drinking for the duration of the war? Double ridiculous.

I think of Professor Remus Lupin in the “Harry Potter” books – one of my favorite characters – who taught his students to fight off boggarts (which take the shape of your most secret fear) with this spell: “Riddikulus!”

And he was right. Most of our fears are really ridiculous.

If I can just keep repeating that particular spell for the next three months or so, I’ll be just fine.

The cormorant and the mayflower

cormorant and mayflower

I was walking across the Point Street Bridge recently, here in Providence. There’s an ancient wooden piling / dock beneath the bridge, which is now terribly rickety and unsafe.

But the birds love it. There are always gulls and ducks there, and sometimes egrets and swans. And almost always there are cormorants: lithe delicate birds with slender curving necks and broad wings, which fly low over the water’s surface and dive quickly to snap up fish with their sharp little beaks.

The cormorants were resting that day. It was warm and humid, but there was a pleasant quiet breeze blowing off the land toward the ocean; I could feel it up on the bridge, and the birds on the piling could feel it too.

One cormorant was facing into the breeze, its winds outstretched as if it were flying. It stood and rocked gently in the cool breeze.  I took some pictures, but I’m not very good with my phone’s camera, so you can barely see it:

cormorant flying

“He was pretending to fly in the breeze,” I said to my friend Cathleen later, showing her the photo. “He looked so serene and happy.”

“He was drying his wings,” she said soberly. “It’s just instinct.”

Maybe Cathleen is right. But I prefer to think that the cormorant was dreaming about flying.

It does my heart good to see things like this. Not very many things make me truly happy, now that I’m a sour old codger. Partner makes me happy, and once in a while Apollonia or Cathleen says something that makes me laugh.

But seeing that bird in imaginary flight made me happy. Sometimes small things – a flower, a tree, a bird – take us out of ourselves; they make us realize that life isn’t as difficult as it might be, and that sometimes there are moments of pure unconsidered joy.

Which brings me to Elinor Wylie.

Elinor’s poetry is mostly forgotten nowadays. She was active in the 1910s and 1920s, and died in 1929. She’s a minor poet, but (I think) an important one. I have bits and pieces of her verse rattling around in my head all the time.

This is the last stanza of her poem “As I Went Down by Havre de Grace”:

As I went out by Prettymarsh

I saw the mayflower under the leaves:

Life (I said) is rough and harsh

And fretted by a hundred griefs:

Yet were it more than I could face,

Who have faced out a hundred dooms,

Had I been born in any place

Where this small flower never blooms.

Teddy bears

teddy bears

A Tumblr acquaintance, Wooferstl, posted recently that his childhood teddy bear was lost sometime in the 1990s. In its memory, he bought a life-size Costco teddy bear. He posted this photo of himself with CostcoBear recently:


woofer teddy 1

I know the feeling.

I had a hideously ugly teddy bear when I was a kid. He was stout and had a strange just-been-strangled expression, but I loved him beyond measure.

He lived in my mother’s house for a long time after I left home in the 1970s, but I brought him back to live with me again after her death, and now he sits high up on a bookshelf in my bedroom (with his very own stuffed animal to play with), looking down on the passing scene:

my teddy 2013

He spent a lot of years in my mother’s basement, seeing nothing but her doing the laundry once in a while. Now he sees me getting ready for work, and coming home and changing clothes. This is at least more interesting for him, I hope.

He is full of something like sawdust. He is not cuddly. But he’s my childhood friend. (I think he belonged to one of my siblings, but I’m not sure. He certainly looks ancient.) He was with me in my childhood – he played with me and slept with me – and now he’s with me again, in my twilight years.

I’d like to pass him along to another child, but he’s not much of a toy; he smells funny, and he’s not cuddly (as I said).

He’s aging, just as I am.

I hope that, when my time comes (not anytime soon, I hope), he’ll want to go with me.

I’d like to have him along for the ride.

Thus the name

thus the name

When I created this blog three years ago, the name “Futureworld” came to me right away. I had a dim realization that the title wouldn’t be as meaningful to others as it was to me, but that didn’t matter very much: it was my brand-new beautiful little baby blog, and I was determined to call it whatever I pleased.

But my thoughts ran something like this:

I was born in July 1957, just a few months before the official beginning of the Space Age. My childhood was full of astronauts and science fiction. Soon, we thought, we’d be living in an unimaginably advanced world; no one would suffer or be hungry, and everyone would have a flying car, and everything would be utterly futuristic and wonderful.

Well, you know what? Some of that stuff came true. The Internet is still a miracle to those of us who remember the primitive 1950s and 1960s. Partner and I comment almost daily on the fact that we can pick up a mobile device at a moment’s notice and summon up the weather report, or the news, or the cast of a 1944 movie, or Skype someone on another continent, or do any number of other bizarrely futuristic things.

So: Partner and I are living in the “future” that we were promised back in the 1950s and 1960s.

Except that we’re not. People are still stupid and retrograde. There are still politicians who want to restrict voting rights and immigration. Just like the 1920s and 1930s! The world is still at war. Just as in 500 BCE!

That’s what I meant by “Futureworld.” Here we are, in 2013, and we should be living on space stations and speaking Esperanto, but in many ways we’re still primitives, attacking and killing one another over trifles.

Ah me. The farther we go into the future, the more firmly we remain stuck in the past.

In Tony Kushner’s play “Angels in America,” there’s a scene in which two ghosts – a medieval one and a 17th-century one – appear in the 1980s to speak to their descendant, a gay Manhattanite with AIDS. The medieval ancestor doesn’t like the 1980s, and leaves as quickly as he can. The other sighs and looks around himself. “The Twentieth Century,” he says sadly. “Oh dear. The world has gotten so terribly terribly old.”

Brother, was he right.



I’ve spoken before about nicknames in my family. My mother Tosca was “Shim,” and her brother Primo was “Bud,” et cetera.

Well, my friend Apollonia has taken this to new heights.

Every day she comes up with a new name for me. Today it was “Gort.” (Klaatu barada nikto!) The other day it was “vigliacco,” which is the Italian word for someone beneath contempt.

I, on the other hand, give her only lovely reverent names, like “Principessa,” and “Miss Kim Novak,” and “Mother Nature,” and “Reverend Mother,” and “Great Old One.”

You can tell that we plan these ahead. I think about it in the morning, and I can tell she’s planned hers too.

It demonstrates that we care for one another.

For tomorrow: what do you think about “Ursula the Sea Witch”?


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