September notable nine

Lots of people do Top Ten lists of one sort or another. But do we really need to fetishize the number 10 simply ’cause that’s how many fingers most of us are born with? And do such lists really need to revolve around hierarchical rankings? I don’t think so.

So here’s my “notable nine” for September 2010. These aren’t necessarily the best — or the worst — things that happened to me this past month. And they’re not presented in any clearcut order. They’re simply nine slices of my life from the past 30 days that deserve some sort of recognition.

  • Mocha. The old girl is still with us. She is now fourteen and a half. She was diagnosed with a tumor in her snout in March, and there isn’t anything to do about it that will make it go away. The tumor has grown large enough that it’s reshaped her face a bit. She’s got a perpetually slow-dribbling bloody nose. She’s stopped eating cheese and seems indifferent to treats. And yet, she still gets a pep in her step when it’s time for a walk, and she’s still a pretty perky pooch overall. Not sure how much longer she’ll hold on, but she’s here now. And that’s good.
  • Tank. People have asked if I intend to bring a new dog into my life once Mocha decides it’s time to retire to the Land of Fat Squirrels With Broken Knees (aka, Doggie Heaven). And I don’t know for sure. Mocha will be a very tough friend to replace, after all. But for the next 8-10 months or so, the question is moot, as I have temporary custody of “my” former cat (back when that “my” would have been an “our”). And she’s as adorable as Mocha, though she fancies herself to be a cruel and vicious killer.
  • Mom. I shared a brief Mom anecdote in this space a couple of weeks ago. There’s no fresh update since then (which is good . . . or as good as it gets, anyway), but my trip to DC back then lingers for me still.
  • Billy Bragg. He played live at The Cedar on the 8th. And was amazing, of course. Even if he didn’t play the tune below.
  • Hops. When I moved into the new house a little more than a year ago, I decided that I needed to expand my homebrewing adventures a bit by growing my own hops. So back in March, I planted a couple of hop rhizomes (calm down, you crazed Deleuzeans) on the south side of the front porch . . . and they appear to be almost ready to harvest.
  • Theme Time Radio Hour box sets. A few years ago, Bob Dylan started hosting a weekly satellite radio show. I’ve never heard it live, and have only heard one episode in full. But I know enough about it to know that his playlists — which revolve around a different theme every week — are a glorious potpourri of old country, folk, blues, r&b, soul, gospel, and then some. And, thanks (I think) to the quirks of how UK copyright law treats compilations of recordings of a certain age, there are three separate labels (Ace, Chrome Dreams, and Mischief Music/Music Melon) that have each released a series of multi-disc sets drawn from Dylan’s radio show. There are a handful of duplications across the collections, but nowhere near enough to make any of them redundant. And, between them, that’s 22 discs (so far?) chock full of musical delights.
  • Washington 13, Dallas 7. I was born and (mostly) raised in DC. And while I was never even remotely close to being an athletic child, I was still a straight boy. So it was almost inevitable that I would become a fan of the team with the most heinous nickname in all of US sports. And I’m a very loyal sports fan. So that allegiance still holds. Even without the nickname problem, this has not exactly been an easy cross to bear for the past decade or so. ‘Cause the team has disappointed on the field far more often than it’s provided moments of glory. So it was awfully fine to see them open the season with a primetime beatdown of the Cowboys. The two games they’ve played since have not ended so happily. But it’s always good to watch the Cowboys lose. Always.
  • USBank. Over the past several years, I’ve toyed with pulling my money out of USBank and finding somewhere else to put it. A different bank. A credit union. A shoebox hidden in the freezer. Anywhere. That interest-bearing, mile-earning, no-fee checking account I opened when I first came to Minneapolis has gradually morphed into a no-interest, points-for-gifts-I-don’t-want, $20-per-year checking account. And they closed the branch on campus right across the street from my office. Grrr.
    But then I went and did something stupid. And, much to my surprise, USBank made it right.
    Several months ago, I realized that my favorite brewpub has dartboards. Real ones, that is. Not the cheesy electronic ones. And so I started carrying my darts in my computer bag, for those occasions (and it’s happened more than once) when I was at Town Hall and had someone to beat at darts with me. Being prepared like that was smart. Forgetting I had my darts in my bag when I tried to fly to DC to visit Mom, however, was not so smart.
    Fortunately, I had arrived at the airport with time to spare. And the TSA agent who took me aside was very nice. He said that I could go back to the “dangerous” (my word, not his) side of the security checkpoint and get the customer service office to mail my darts home for me. The “customer service office,” however, turned out to be the airport branch of USBank. Who not only mailed me my darts, but they did so for free. And, evidently, they do that for everyone, not just USBank customers. My darts were waiting for me when I got home.
    Even more impressive? Two days later, there was a handwritten note in the mail from the teller I’d dealt with: “I hope your package arrived safely, & I’m glad we were able to help.”
    None of which guarantees that I won’t still move my money at some point. But even big, greedy, penny-pinching corporations can still do nice things sometimes. And it’s good to acknowledge it when they do.
  • Reclaiming the University. In response to this dispiriting-looking event, the Faculty for the Renewal of Public Education (of which I’m a proud member) and the Education Action Coalition MN organized a much better conversation. Our event rocked, and was very well attended. Their event pretty much lived down to my already low expectations.

Out of the mouths of mothers

Mom’s got dementia/Alzheimer’s. It’s not fun to witness. She’s still (mostly) able to recognize me and my siblings as people who she knows and loves, though she’s not always clear on exactly who we are in relation to her (back in May, for example, she clearly thought my sister and I were married to each other, and we never figured out which one of us she didn’t recognize as her child).

Every once in a while, though, even when she’s clearly not performing very well, she manages to bring a smile to my face. Today, for instance, we had the following exchange:

Mom: I don’t even know what my name is.
Me: Your name is Jacquie.
Mom [clearly surprised, yet pleased, by this news]: Oh! Well. That’s very personable.


I’m in DC for a few days to visit Mom.  It’s the city where I did most of my growing up (assuming, of course, that I actually did grow up) and it’s always a little weird to come back.  There are parts of it that still feel very much like home (whatever that means) and there are an awful lot of memory triggers around town that manage to catch me by surprise when I stumble across them.  Today, for instance, I realized that a house I was driving by was not only the childhood home of a high school friend, but it was also the house where said friend gave me my first taste of marijuana.  (I can say that, yes?  The statute of limitations has long since passed.  And I’m not running for office anytime soon.)

What made this particular memory trigger so . . . surreal? (I’m not sure what the right word is here, so that’ll have to do for now) . . . was that it happened with Mom in the passenger seat.  Which wasn’t awkward because sharing tales of teenage drug use with one’s mother isn’t exactly an easy thing to do (though maybe there was a shred of that) as much as it was awkward because Mom’s got some serious memory issues of her own these days.

So while I’m experiencing a surfeit of memories from 20+ years ago, Mom’s having trouble remembering some pretty basic facts about her own life . . . and trouble remembering conversations that happened mere moments ago.  Twice during that same car ride, she asked me how old I was.  ‘Cause she couldn’t remember the answer to that question on her own — and ’cause she couldn’t remember that she’d asked the question a mere twenty minutes after I’d answered it the first time.

Perhaps there is some sort of odd “conservation of memory” principle at work here, but the juxtaposition of my mini-flood of memories with Mom’s increasingly “gappy” memory has made for a bit of a push-me/pull-you feel to my trip so far.  I don’t think this is quite what they mean when they say you can never go home again . . . but maybe it should be.

My mother would be so proud . . .

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The South

That’s a Southern accent you’ve got there. You may love it, you may hate it, you may swear you don’t have it, but whatever the case, we can hear it.

What American accent do you have?
Take More Quizzes

Though this doesn’t explain why people who’ve never met me before routinely tell me that I sound Canadian. Maybe I’m really from some hitherto undiscovered part of the continent called North Quebecarolina . . .