My body as Agency

Friday weather — it’s only raining where I live!

Ten years ago my body decided to kill itself.

I collapsed in Time Square’s subway station, and was transported to Bellevue with a heart rate approaching 200 BPM.

The 9 years’ of immense disappointment since 2001 had culminated with an inevitable conclusion.

I was now 60, and my body was giving out.

My career had lain in ruins since 9-11.

Worse yet, my beloved Manhattan had been gentrified beyond recognition.

The sorts of people who used to live between City Hall and 14th Street, the demi monde of  true bohemians and artists and writers and drinkers and crazies, had vanished.

They had been the reason why I moved into a tiny, $227.50/month studio on 13th St and University Place back in ’74 — during NYC’s final golden age as a place where creative outcasts who didn’t fit in anywhere else could live both eccentrically and on the cheap and meet interesting people from all over the world.

Being right next to Union Square, I occasionally had a chance to see such people, sometimes even while singing Demon Alcohol at the top of my lungs from the vantage point of George Washington’s icy horse at 3am in the dead of winter.

Now Lower Manhattan’s prized and unique vibe was dead, displaced by the sorts of young professionals who used to rent pricey one-bedrooms in the Upper East Side — thanks then as now to Daddy — for a year or two before buying the bourgeois starter house in Greenwich or Scarsdale.

But I didn’t die, although after my thyroid operation, I ceased to look like the person I had been most of my life. At least I didn’t end up sounding like this ancient Egyptian.

I was now balding, with what was left of my hair grey, with bulging eyes, pretibial myxedema, Plummer’s nails, tremors, extremely fat, quick to tire, given to mood swings, and easily distracted.

This was the same person who used to work 12 – 15 hour days on Wall Street for years on end. I now could not finish reading a novel, let alone write one — which I once had thought was my true calling in life.

Fast forward to the present.

Though I survived, and eventually looked less grotesque than I did in 2013 — when I travelled to Egypt, during the year the generals removed the only freely elected leader the country has ever known — I remained lost at sea, without purpose or direction.

I returned to Egypt in 2017, and stayed for 7 months in Gouna on the Red Sea.

This was after the orange pig’s election, when I decided that the US was no longer a safe place to be an Arab-American. There had been a few unpleasant scenes with neighbors who threatened me physically; I eventually had to call the police.

Well, now these cunts are either all dead, or have moved away to even more right wing, racist parts of Florida.

But I’ve survived — even though El Gouna did not turn out to be my cup of tea.

I’m still here.

Despite everything, my body has refused to give in; it continues to fight back against everything that wants to destroy what remains healthy in me.

This might stretching the analogy, but isn’t that impetus a form of “agency”?

In the sense used by William Gibson. (Btw, I just put a hold at my local library on his latest — large print of course — and I’m psyched for the upcoming relaase of The Peripheral on Amazon prime.)

As readers of this blog know, I have spent much of last week trying to get my back porch ready for Geneva’s arrival.  Geneva is a gorgeous little German Shep dog that my wife and I will be picking up in Boca a week from Sunday.

The constant rain has frustrated my attempts to get various things done, such that Geneva can have a nice, safe enclosed place — which I am calling her “habitat” — to gambol in for her month of sequestration during her run of shots, when she will not be allowed to interact with other dogs.

What is weird is that this rain has centered on the Treasure Coast; the rest of Florida is sunny.

Fucking annoying, to say the least.

bleach burn
Bleach burn scab

But the painful burn on my right hand has now scabbed and is begining to heal.  This injury happened from the bleach I was using to get rid of mold on the patio screens.

That is what I mean by agency — or resistance, if you will.

My body is fighting back, and refusing to let my hand turn into some puss-filled, gangrenous mess.

I’m unaware how it knows how to do this.

There are all sorts of things that my body does that I don’t consciously know how to do.

How do I know how to breathe?  Or manufacture red cells?  Or heal wounds? Where does the instinct to thrive originate? Or the will to defend one’s country?

There is much about the future that is bleak.

Currently the United States is being led by a conniving, malevolent fuckface who is probably not going to be around in 10 or 20 years when the disastrous nature of his malicious environmental policies come to roost.

But I still have the hope that despite everything — just like when it looked that I was done for, back in 2010, on the verge of a myocardial infarction that could have ended my life — we the majority in this coutnry will fight back and defeat this evil turd and his base.

Instead of obsessing about the Reaper’s impeachment sham “trial,” I’ve been writing a lot recently about DIY handy man stuff.

After all, isn’t Nancy herself — instead if standing shoulder to shoulder with Schiff as he eviscerated this White House’s assault on American democracy — spending the week yukking it up with her good friends in the Knesset?

But what about those mutilated Arab children in Gaza and elsewhere, Nance?

Fuck ’em.

They’re all a bunch of terrorists, I can imagine Bibi saying, soothingly, to gullible Nancy, no doubt over caviar canapés and glasses of chilled kosher wine.

Maybe — given her obvious intelligence, which is is plainly evident in the maddeningly halting geezer way she has of talking, as well as her impressive grasp of global history, which all can tell from her humble preoccupation with fancy couture — Nancy thinks Palestinians are just like them Red Injun terrorists, savages who dared stand up against the palefaces.

And besides, poor Nancy can’t see any Palestinians at this shindig, even if she wanted to, because there’s walls everywhere, conveniently obliterating Palestinians from the old hag’s view, at least from the windows of the so-called “President’s House,” where the triumphalist Zionist event she was attending at US tax payer’s expense took place, the “president” in question being one Chaim Weizmann, a venal racist, thankfully long dead, who once wrote to his wife: “The Arab retains his primitive attachment to the land.”

And Nancy the soon-to-be octagenarian Wonder Woman is so perfectly okay with that she channels her inner Gal Gadot and proudly hangs Israeli soldier dog tags on walls at home or at the office or wherever.

Nancy, Nancy, Apartheid Nancy: truly a moral giant in these difficult times.

How on earth did she keep a straight face under all that ghastly makeup when she ever so grandly handed out all those personalized impeachment pens of hers? Were those footed at the taxpayer’s expense too?

paint curl
latex paint curling on oil base previous coat. Nasty.

Now the porch work I’m doing, of itself, is inconsequential in the larger scheme of things.

patio screen
How it looked after I scraped and sanded it yesterday. Much better!

Focusing on the small and doable is a bulwark. What’s important is that I’m planning for a future. One that will be better than the present. One hopes.

Even the act of getting a purebred German Shepherd dog at my age tacitly implies that I expect to be around for a while, and that I will have the energy to deal with a full grown work dog in her prime.

Though it may seem right now that things look bleak, I still hold onto to possibility that, come November, the tawdry orange pig and his smugly nihilistic friends will be ousted from power and forced to face the music, Southern District of New York-style. The blood hounds up there are waiting patiently, their eyes laser focused on his every

Meanwhile, I shall bide (ugh, too close to Biden— the very same genial idiot who in 2008 suggested carving up Iraq into three) my time, spruce up the habitat and get ready for Geneva.

She’ll be here any day now.

The times they are indeed a-changing.

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Getting ready

skin rash on hand
My nasty skin rashes – the brown one on the wrist hurt like hell, forcing me to stop

If it’s dawn, it must be reveille.

I’m sitting at my comp at 5:24 am. Coffee is hot and strong. It’s 40 degrees out, almost unheard of in South Florida.

It might rain later in the day, so I want to get an early move on and finish cleaning the green mold off the beams that hold up the porch screen. (Update:  it did, negating my plans.)

Moldy gravy — 12 to 14 feet up

Yesterday, I had to stop standing on the scaffold and painstakingly sponging off the mold, because of a strange skin rash on my right hand that flared up again. It may be a spider bite, a reaction to the bleach I’m using, or something to do with my immune system (I have Graves Disease, for which there is no cure) going haywire again. (Update:  It’s a severe skin burn from the Clorox bleach that was running from the sponge down to my exposed wrist.  I am going to finish up the job in the next day or so using white vinegar and peroxide. Meanwhile Calamine is helping soothe the burn.  It should heal in a couple of days.)

More moldy gravy at the apex of the lanai — I am 6’3″ and the scaffold puts me 4 feet off the ground.  Still I have to extend my arms to the max to reach this.  One false step and it’s a major injury. At first I was terrified the scaffold would collapse; then I just went for it, and trusted my sense of balance, despite an aging, out-of-shape body.

Only a few sections left, though, and I hope to be done with this dangerous work by today. (Update: never happened.)

Too bad a stiff brush attached to a pole is only partially effective. You literally have to keep wiping the mold over and over with a sponge; nothing else works.

I also made (what I thought was) good progress yesterday with dog-proofing the porch screen (or “lanai,” as they call this around here).

Today I plan to put up the remaining three grilles I have left.

It’s not a simple matter of just drilling them in.  I have to first spray them with clear Rust-Oleum, and that takes an hour and a half doing both sides and waiting for them to air dry. Might be longer today, because of the cold, so I might use a hair dryer.

Then I have to wash, sand, and paint the beams that will hold them in place — after getting rid of the mold that accumulates at the bottom of these porch screen panels.

(Update: see next post regarding the major painting setback that happened when I hosed down the panel — after waiting 12 hours — with a jet of cold water from a garden hose.)

Then of course I have to sweep and carefully vacuum up the metal shards that collect when I power drill in the zinc screws.

white ibis
One reason why grilles and gates are needed

After all that, I have to hose eveything down, to get rid of the bleach underfoot and any remaining debris.

I’ll be paying an 8am visit to Lowe’s to make sure they order more grilles, and also to come up with some candidate ideas as to how to set up a DIY portable barrier that I want to erect on the lake side of my property. (Update: I ordered 10 more.)

portable fence
The gator gate

I might also bring back from Lowe’s a chaise longue while I’m at it. (Update: some other time.)

Later today, a professional window installation outfit will be coming to give me a quote on replacing the sliding glass door that leads out to the porch.

The current one is too old to be of much use any more.  I want to install a new one that can sustain Cat 5 hurricanes. It needs to have a built-in, heavy duty screen so that we can have the door open without letting insects or lizards in. This is likely to be an expensive project, as I also want storm shutters installed.

Grilles and portable fence combo

Eventually, I will be redoing all the windows too, as they are pretty much on their last legs from the fierce Florida sun. I will be needing shutters for them too, as well as the front door.  Storms are likely to get worse in the years ahead, even though global warming is officially a myth in Dixieland.

I am not unaware of what is going on in Washington, but have the impeachment trial on T.V. ignore and am not following any of it closely.

jewish german shep
Haunch-atrophied German shep mixed breed making sure all is well prior to today’s World Holocaust Forum in Jerusalem. Nancy Pelosi and Mechanical Pencil and KGB Vlad are all in attendance. The abundance of ironies within ironies, much like a Babushka doll, boggles the mind.

With the acquital of the orange pig a foregone conclusion, the only interesting question that remains is how long will the majority consent to be governed by a right-wing, armed-to-the-teeth minority that subverts the rule of law at every turn in order to remain in power, enrich itself, and force its cultural and religious values on the rest of the country in perpetuity.

By choice, I am forcing my concerns to be far more parochial.

Putting blinders and headphones on to cancel out all the vileness and desperation around me, my sole focus is preparing the house for the arrival of Geneva, our beautiful German Shepherd puppy.

She’ll be here in 10 days, at last.

That event will be far more important to me than anything the orange pig and his enablers could possibly do or say.

As for the rest, you don’t have to be a Las Vegas bookie to know it’s probably not going to end well in November, when Geneva will be all of 11 months old.

But I’m getting ready for next week.

This concrete work provides me with a sense of tangible accomplishment, despite the liminal sense that some are about to cross a line from which they might not be able to return.

Update: Increasingly cold and drizzly today, so I’m taking the day off to read The Lost Archive.  I did go to Lowe’s, bought some frogtape, ordered 10 grilles, and bought a $15 steel, green, folding fence that fit perfectly in the spot where I want to block off entrance to our yard.  The sliding door people arrive at 4pm, but in the meantime, good reading ahead!


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