The other Mary’s gospel

After a long while, I went to the symphony for John Adams’s Gospel, according to the other Mary.

It was a different crowd; I cannot recollect having seen so many young people there before. At the intermissions, they talked politics and protests.  In my limited experience, the everyday man here tries his best to stay out of that stuff, and there are systemic efforts at every level to keep him ignorant and complacent. Even voting is an act usually out of scope for most, though I suppose that is likely because of the fact that they don’t get time off from work to vote.

Now I hear discussions about gerrymandering and immigration, about foreign policy and redlining, about healthcare and education, about military spending and mortgages. I feel optimistic about this growing awareness. Asking the right questions can only happen once you start asking questions.

New concert partner is a doctor. Plenty of interesting anecdotes, about people and their lives, about little and big things that happen to them, and about the growing changes in opinion in the community about mental health and stress.

The rains today reminded me of a cousin, Rose. We had been close growing up, though we had been different in temperament and had different interests. Same age.  What I remember is that I had come home from school, and it had been the peak of the monsoon rains, and I had been told the news that they had accidentally given her a higher dose of anesthesia for a simple medical procedure. She was in a coma for years. We visited her, at the nursing home where she was for a while, and then later at her house. She died many years later. Sometimes, when it rains a lot, and when the skies are overcast grey, I think of her.

My mother had called. I am struck hard by homesickness, all of a sudden. So I have decided to read a bit and distract myself from that.

Nancy Isenberg’s White Trash book, about the class struggle over four hundred years, starting from Jamestown, and from London, has made me question so much. I think I will go find a nice romance book, set in an exotic location, with some aliens added to the the mix, to settle down with.


 

 

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mundane | belly fat

It has been a mundane month.

I try not to read the news, try my best to insulate myself from the outside, and navigate my days one by one. It works, for the most part. There isn’t a lot I can do when colleagues or friends discuss the events outside, but I try to filter them out. Enough for me is my life’s quirks. I have no sword to fight that mad world outside. Best be good and not make a sound.


 

At coffee, a female friend expressed envy over my comfort in all sorts of clothes. I thanked her, and wondered when I’d be as comfortable with everything else.

I still feel like an imposter in a man’s world, at work. There are conversations that invoke deja-vu, and yet I find it unable to stomach them, as they bawdily talk about women and sexual matters which to me are more suited to the realm of the home than of the workplace. My current boss somehow found it particularly appropriate to compare an arrow to a phallus, and while that seems a tad out of place for the setting of a meeting room to discuss random software stuff, it was still far from the weirdest things I have heard said by male superiors or colleagues. I don’t take any of it personally, since I know that it is probably only because the older men have spent their careers in a male-only sphere, and recent female additions to their workplaces are likely something they are still calibrating to. There are layers of concern – what if they are setting the tone for their younger male colleagues who admire and look up to them? what if this makes the place less welcoming to women? I don’t know. I am used to it by now, though I don’t find it endearing at all. I still find it effortful to connect with colleagues, and their nature, typical of the self-absorbed stereotype you see in the comedy sketches done on this industry, drains me. I come home and need hours to recharge. I think it is symptomatic of the worker in this industry, and not of the workplace. I am afraid I will one day become accepting of this world, inhabited as it is by aspirational versions of Don Draper and Peter Pan and Elon Musk, incapable as they are of bonding except in a very primitive manner, incapable as they are of taking the failures with the successes. There is the gender stuff. I’ll never be seen as capable until I prove it, whereas a man more inexperienced than me will be immediately seen as capable and entrusted with more. The salary gap is becoming a real concern. All of these are surmountable, though, with effort, and I am not unwilling to make that effort as and when necessary. Most jarring to me, however, is the coin-slot expectations. The coin-slots story continues, unbroken as I moved from college to grad-school, and then to the workplace. Somehow, men in this line of work often tend to think that being nice is the sole criterion to get female company and associated benefits. Somehow, professionalism flies out the window and all that is left is base pettiness. With the madness in the world outside, their views become more and more entrenched, and entitlement is a dangerous business, and it is hard to fight that battle everyday, in a graceful manner, with dignity, without endangering livelihood and without sacrificing personal values. I continue doing so, but it tires me. If I had known all of this earlier, I might have very well chosen a different line of work. Nursing, perhaps. It is a pity that I actually enjoy and thrive in the subject matter I work in.

I still think there are possible solutions to this, and I am trying to find them. I am disinclined to give up a great deal of risk and effort, undertaken over the years, because of other people’s ways of being. If there isn’t a way through, there must be a way around.

I have an inkling of what the solution might be. It will take a couple of leaps of faith, but I am told often that I am good at those when I dare make them. I have been reading old books that gave me comfort and strength in difficult times past, and I have been immersed in a language, still alive to many of us, beautiful and close to my heart. Perhaps I too shall write one day: Inimicum meum difficilimum gladio sapientiae magnae superavi.


 

In love with Gaga’s performance at the Super Bowl. Heard people talk about her belly fat. I had to look hard and long to find it, and then I found it sexy. The world isn’t becoming an easier place to understand. Time to get back to my cosy cocoon of studied ignorance, and the day-by-day approach through a life forcefully made mundane.


 

 

 

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Once a brave new world

The inauguration day was greeted with anxiety and fears by many of my friends and acquaintances. Even those I know back in my country had expressed concern over the state of affairs. Closer to where I live now, my friends here, who had voted for Hilary, went to the protest marches. Further away, on the other coast, for Sibelius, who had campaigned hard and long for Bernie Sanders, and for many of our mutual friends, this has been difficult to accept. The most worried people seem to be my acquaintances in the GLBT world.  I had been reading Huxley over Christmas vacation, and I have been listening to Dvorak’s New World off and on, and I watched the inaugural speech thinking about all of that.


 

I watch Ivanka Trump’s carefully curated social media channels and speeches. She is America’s New Woman; she has it all – a career, a family, and joy derived from both, while wearing beautiful clothes and shoes. She is happy to be a mommy of three, and a wife and daughter dutiful. Despite the successes she could enjoy in the political or business worlds, she prefers the traditional role of her gender. This is setting a dangerous precedent to young girls, I think. This is telling them that the New American Woman will have opportunities to succeed outside the home, but that her priority in the end is to her family, to be perfect at being a mother and a wife, a daughter and a sister.  When the choice is cast from what you want to do for your own sake to what you ought to do in order to be in the right, choice is only an illusion.

I am not generally inclined to comment on politics or celebrities, but I do find myself concerned over where this could lead the next generation of women to.


 

2017 has been a mixed bag so far for me.

I am glad to be back. I have new art on my walls and I am very pleased by that. I have been trying to be calm and methodical about my decisions.

I read fun books: Andy Warhol’s diaries! Andy Warhol is whiny and insightful, practical and successful, insecure and broken-hearted, likes buying buildings and hawking on the streets. He is a kleptomaniac of sorts, stealing cutlery from the Concorde whenever he can. He is convinced that everyone in New York is gay. He likes his close circle of people, even if he doesn’t really understand them much. He is wrapped up in his head and it is a strange place to be. He sees Iran’s revolution, hears about Lennon’s death from a few blocks away, watches an odd, unnerving presidential election of a film star against a politician.  He manages to market piss paintings, and buys many buildings.

I had to fix a tire puncture. I fell hard on a paved road and bruised my knees badly, and my laptop was damaged. I have a burn from accidentally touching the grill of my oven.

I have not made any progress on my grand diet plan. I think I will start on the first of February.

I got rid of a lot of old things that I wasn’t using. So I have more space now. This has been good for me, and has cleared up my mental cobwebs too.

I am planning to go to a gallery tomorrow. I hope the rain won’t close the highway. It has been raining here. It is good to see this state green. Spring, when it comes, will be a beautiful one.


 

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Waterfall | Vegas

I find that the beginning is the hardest to write, except for the end. I haven’t come here in a while, because I have been composing a beginning, and it has been taking me time.

A friend of mine had great success in Vegas, at the CES (not the casinos). She came back bearing news of victory and flattering press, of a job well done. She is highly talented, and determined, so I was glad for a well-deserved triumph. She spoke to me of waterfalls, of the roughness of the last two years, and of how she was glad to have me around, if only to irk her with my terrible attempts at philosophy. I guess she thinks it too politically incorrect to mention that my terrible musical skills makes it convenient to have me handy when attempting to flirt with poor musicians in downtowns. Off she goes north without me now, but we will see other waterfalls together. Sometimes, it surprises me how often we go through life, thinking ourselves alone, only to find that there had been grace unasked for all along, in friendships quiet and present.

Speaking of Vegas, the demos from the automakers made it look as if everything cool will happen this year. More and more assistive technology is making way to production. It makes me happy to see that. Thinking of those like my mother who didn’t learn to drive for various reasons and circumstantial causes, what is being done will help bring mobility and independence to a significant segment of us, one day.

I listened to a President’s farewell speech. It reminded me of waterfalls again. It may all look downhill from here, to some, but there is no denying that it was good, right then, with a well-meaning man speaking well, and speaking optimistically, of the next generation. It has been weary, here, and at home, with incessant political rhetoric and religion-based, class-based divisiveness, but even the weariest river winds to the sea, eventually. There must be equilibrium, someday.  I have been reading two books that look at these issues: White Trash, A Hillbilly elegy. I recommend them both, if you have the stomach for this sort of thing, since it is not exactly bedtime reading material, and ignorance does bring its own kind of peace which I personally can’t claim to dislike.

I saw lots of packing boxes at the Yahoo campus. I wonder what the merger with AOL will now bring about. I wonder what Altabba will do. It has been a rough, strange ride for them. I dug out my Solomon and comforted a friend who was working in their research division, but Solomon was little comfort to him. He is clever and good at marketing himself, so I hope and feel confident in his chances to land well on his feet.

What is named has significance. I am wary these days of naming on the blog. I reserve the hassle for those who matter a great deal. I am thinking now, of what it means.

I have been a paperwork fiend this week. I still have many more papers to sort through, but I am determined to trudge through. I haven’t yet started on my grand January diet, but I guess the fifteenth is a good date as well. I will have to drink all my wine before that.

I have lost some weight as a result of my trip. I am sure I will gain the pounds back, because cake and wine does my diet make, having plum cakes from home and cheap, delicious wine from my favorite grocery store.

This weekend – I had plans, though I have had to cancel them. Now I am too lazy to replan. So I think I shall stay in and write, unless adventure seduces me away from the warm blankets and my tea.

Happy New Year.

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Pavane (The Sibelius Chronicles)

This is my 500th post here! Also entering my seventh year, I think, of blogging here. It is not my oldest blog, but it is one that I have managed to drag about consistently, surprising myself at times, knowing my tendency to migrate myself about when it comes to blogging or journalling activities online.

Sibelius came with the rains. It could be worse, he tells me, as I serve him peppermint tea and try to get the mud off his boots. At least, he didn’t bring over the snow.

A nice Mexican dinner at a colleague’s home (cheese and chilis and much alcohol), coupled with some physical exertion, has left me well-fed and tired this weekend. I am in no mood for Sibelius’s hijinks. He manages to talk me into them nonetheless. Somehow, we end up getting new strings, which I had been putting off for the longest time, and playing Ravel’s Pavane very badly.

I made onion and cabbage bhaji,  which tastes nothing whatsoever like the street food in my hometown, or like my mother’s specialty rain dish served with hot tea. However, Sibelius doesn’t know any better, and he has no complaints.

Later, he made eggnog for us, and I swear again, to myself, that I will put myself on a no alcohol phase after the new year. My diet these days consists of alcohol, cranberry juice, tea, and coconut cake. It doesn’t sound ideal for my sorely neglected waistline. The cake is a marvel. It is delicious, buttery and soft, with browned coconut flakes forming a layer of yum on the top. It is surprising how well anything tastes when made for you by someone. In my easily imprinted duckling manner, I have taken to this delicacy with great affection. It does remind me of my curd-rice heydays, and my badam-milkshake days before that, where I had latched onto a single dish for months on end. My dietary preferences are likely a psychology major’s thesis topic wet-dream.

The kitchen is closed for the year now. There is plenty of spinach-carrot-pea-miso soup with noodles from today’s haphazard cooking to use up all the perishables in my refridgerator.

Now I have to start packing. There is so much emotional and mental packing to do, which leaves me procrastinating. I did draw some flowcharts and make a handful of tables. I feel better about that, at least. I know now what to do, even if I am still going to procrastinate about doing any of it.

I am less frazzled than I had been, though. I will be seen off, at least, and that matters to me. Regardless of the new administration, visa matters, and the uncertainties involved about trips international in nature, at least I will have someone to hug me off before I spend twenty odd hours on the plane, where I will have little distraction to keep me from dwelling on my life, my worries, family matters that tend to weight heavily on me in general, and my immediate and longer-term concerns. The questions of settling down, versus trudging on, the constant press of social and familial anxiety over my rather directionless foray through life, my own concerns about purpose and meaning – all of these are heavy everyday, and heavier over the holiday season.

I am sitting here drinking tea now, and I am thinking about Maurice Ravel, who smoked a lot, and was a dandy, and managed to make beautiful music despite all of that. Surely, I can get somewhere too, then.

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Scar | Scare | Scarf

A friend of mine had a medical procedure last week. The scars worry her now. They are quite marked and I can only wonder about the pain. I hope she heals soon. I am more concerned about that than about the scars.

Attacked by pimples over the last few months, I attempted a brave and bold method to get rid of them before Christmas. It seems to have worked. I am keeping my fingers crossed. One more week! I am looking forward to a quiet, wound-down, low-key Christmas. I am done with socializing for the year.

An old colleague of mine joined my current company this week. I am not too pleased by this development, mainly because this brings back memories of extreme incompetence mixed with terrible gossip. I like my gossip curated. At least, we shan’t be working together, and I am thankful for the small mercies.

—-

There was an earthquake scare yesterday night. I slept through it. I am used to tremors because of a train line in close proximity.

I have been trying to mentally pack, to figure out what I need to arrange and sort out before I leave next week. This venture has been futile because of my tendency to wool-gather and worry about 2017.

I am quite tired, after a few difficult years, and I am loathe to leave my comfy shell to risk draining myself emotionally.

It is unpleasant to give, to listen, to be patient, to be supportive, and all the rest of that package, when there is little effort to acknowledge or reciprocate.  It is bad enough that I work in an industry full of people who wouldn’t be out of place on Big Bang Theory or Silicon Valley. Dragging all of it home is inadvisable, and I am trying hard to follow my own advice.

Friends went to the SF Opera’s Aida, and someone broke into their car.  The spate of robberies and related incidents always go up around Christmas, I have heard locals say.

Sibelius plans to do one of his intrepid travel plans, zig-zagging across from east to west, and back east. I don’t have my usual level-headedness to talk him out of it. Maybe, hopefully, his mother will.

—-

There is a WhatsApp group for old community friends and my life is starkly different from theirs now. It makes me uncomfortable.

I saw a picture of Johnny Depp with many scarves. He could give Steve Tyler a run for his money. It also made me think of aging. He had been aging well through his forties, but now he looks a relic.  How will I age, I wonder? I must remember to eat more coconuts.

At least, the scarves are plentiful. I have a lovely one as a Christmas gift, which I will wear on New Year Day. I plan to leave no stone unturned when it comes to setting up auspiciousness for the next year.

Happy Christmas.


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Wreath | Our daily bread

I have to get a Christmas wreath for my door. It is a tradition, regardless of where I am, to hang one up to mark the turn of the season. I usually get to it on the first of December, but I was out of sorts today. It shall have to wait for tomorrow.

The past few days have involved tedious, repetitive, manual labour at work, something that I try to avoid since my constitution doesn’t like very much, especially as it is not an activity that I enjoy. My hands feel as if they are dead weights. Thankfully, a friend nagged me into visiting my shady Chinese massage house where they occasionally take male customers for discreet purposes.

I received my first Christmas gift! This reminded me that I have to write and post cards soon. I tend to be unsystematic about it each year, and I find that I send cards out either in early December, or very late and they double up as New Year greetings.

There is a masquerade ball to attend on this Saturday. My friend, fierce Christmas merry-maker that she is, has agreed to kindly accompany me. That will make the event more bearable. I am not fond of having to fraternize with colleagues outside Monday-Friday work hours. I have questions of vanity to sort out – Should I wear black? Should I dance if there is dancing? Should I comb my hair? I like having these questions to belabor about. There are no wrong answers, and the ramifications of swinging one way or the other are minimal. They are more preferable to the deep-seated, gnawing, life-sucking queries that have haunted me for years.

It is my favorite season of the year, but I am yet to settle into my customary Christmas-spirit. I find myself in a state of unusual uncertainty about the holiday season. There is a tepidness to my festive gaiety. Copious consumption of hot chocolate hasn’t helped with that yet. I wonder if I expect 2016 to spring a final, curtain-down surprise.


Most of the New Testament was difficult to get through for me, when I had been a child studying catechism. It dulled in comparison to the colors and the stories of the Old Testament books. Yes, Paul used to write good epistles, when he could veer away from his sanctimoniousness. I liked John’s Revelations, which is a poster-child example of what mushrooms and lysergic acid can do for you. The most memorable, though, was the Lord’s Prayer. Mathew’s Gospel is one of the most accessible books in the Bible, self-contained, and explains matters neatly without being verbose. The Lord’s Prayer is a stellar example of these qualities that this book has. It is pithy, catchy, and easy to memorize. Most of us born into that religion know it by heart. Give us this day our daily bread. What do we need to live? What is bread? I had asked these questions back then. Now, far moved from belief and faith in gospels, I have a better inkling of what I need as my daily bread. There is nothing in my life which caters to the need. The need to give and take, to find balance in my personal and professional interactions, has been substituted often through writing, through creating and telling stories. Writing had been a balm in many situations where the cards were stacked against me, where there was more taking than giving. Things, predictably, are derailed when I am denied the ability to find solace in that. I find that I try, as I must, to make do with less today so that it may bring me more tomorrow. The struggle seems unceasing on some days, but everything that began must end. I have more faith in the wisdom of Ecclesiastes than in the promises of a gospel.

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