Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Have I landed in a great place or what?

When I first toured Terwilliger Plaza, one of the things that I found particularly appealing was a notice on the bulletin board for a biweekly discussion group calling "Inquiring Minds" that was studying Thucydides' account of the Peloponnesian War.

I can understand that this would not float everybody's boat. But please believe me that it floats mine. And this morning I went to my first meeting of "Inquiring Minds".

Dear God! It's great! The man leading it (he and his wife live on my floor) has a clear, deep presentation of material, and he encourages class participation by having people read passages and by facilitating group discussion. There were 30 or 35 people -- the room was just about packed -- and no one was stupid or shallow or bombastic. (OK, I'm sure someone in the room was occasionally stupid and/or shallow and/or bombastic at some time in their life, but no one was during class this morning.)

I want to be part of this class. Study material comes as stapled copies from a translation the leader likes, and he only had one left. So I dashed back to my computer and got the book from which the material comes onto my Kindle. Then, just now, the leader called me because he was concerned that I have access to the passages the group has been working on for the past several weeks. His wife brought me the Only Remaining Copy of the study material so I can bookmark excerpts on my Kindle and ...

Is anybody still with me? I know, I'm talking about some guy from 2500 years ago who wrote about a war between two Greek cities, and I'm babbling as if I had just won the Megabucks. Well, heck, take your thrills where you find them. Whoop-de-do! Thucydides!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Side effects 1

I lived at RiverPlace for 17 years. Some people, moving to a new place, would immediately want to reach out and involve themselves in activities, meet new neighbors, craft a new style of living. Not me. Being a bit of a recluse, I'm spending a lot of time in my new space, petting my car, playing on my computer, feeling the slow accumulation of familiarities, finding places for the few things Lizz didn't unpack for me (and some of the ones she did).

One odd side effect of the new space is the quality of my dreams. They have gotten deeper, brighter, and much more detailed. This morning I woke from one with a Beatrice/Benedick theme to it. I had inhabited it so thoroughly that it took me an hour after I woke to escape the feeling of needing to hide my true feelings for fear of his scorn. And, dreams being dreams, he was Stephen Colbert. Sort of.

I think I need to get out more. The Alfred Hitchcock Film Festival here is showing "The 39 Steps" tonight. I should head on down, if only to be around other people and away from my computer. Though maybe, if I want to calm down my dreams, Alfred Hitchcock is not entirely optimal.

Friday, February 21, 2014

At last, visuals

I am a word person myself, but I know there are people who want to see pictures, so here's an attempt at providing for their needs. Great big Chris came by to hang my pictures for me, so, although I am succeeding in messing the place up, inflicting detritus on all flat surfaces, the walls are looking better.

Here is my front door, with a poster announcing that I'm the new kid and welcoming me to my new home. Once you step through the door, this is what you see.
You're seeing the picture Kay and Ketan brought back for me from China, and you're looking into my bedroom across my (unmade) bed toward the mountainside.

Here you're looking along the south wall of my living room. The picture on the wall is a collage of family photos that Lizz made for me back when she excavated my condo while I was in Russia. I've got a new desk on order that will sit against that wall over by the windows.
This is the west wall of my living room. You can sort of see the mountainside through the righthand window, but I've got marginally better pictures of that view.

If you look down and to the right, you can see my little yellow beetle in its new parking place. It's about half a block from the door closest to my room, an uphill slog which I'm sure is good for me, even in the rain. I'm a little concerned that, if we have another spate of really cold weather, I'll find that the diesel fuel in my tank turns into jelly, and I'm not sure whether it melts back into a usable form or not. Guess I'll find out.
And on the north wall, just beyond my already random-stuff-covered dining table is the Kovel "Harlequin" flanked by twirly metal things with color-filled glass balls. Lizz pointed out to me how conveniently the track light illuminates that place on the wall. We then take four or five steps toward the "Harlequin", turn right, and voila! the kitchen!

Note that the refrigerator already has all my magnets on it, courtesy of Lizz and Jim.

The bedroom has a bed in it. The bathroom has a shower, sink, and toilet in it and is somewhat cramped. The east wall of the bedroom has a closet with mirrors on the sliding doors, in which I am reflected taking a picture..

So there you go. It ain't art -- my medium, as has been noted earlier, is words, not images. But I wish I could do a better job on the mountainside. It really is very cool to look out any window and not see somebody else's windows, as I did in the condo. And I would have to be very skilled to show you the tiny birds that flit in and out of the wiring that protects the parking lot from falling rocks. I don't know whether they actually nest in the mountainside, but come spring I hope to find out.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Miscellany on Thursday morning

I now have internet. Emerson and his boss Chris spent an hour or so figuring out how to make it work. I'm not sure what the problem was -- apparently it's usually abracadabra thank you there it is. But whatever was wrong, it isn't any more.

Ochi definitely approves of the windows in the new place, which have six-inch wide windowsils along their entire inside length. He can pace, he can sit, he can stare, either outward or inward, he can preen and pose. And he does.

I wonder what it will take for this place to feel like my place. Maybe getting the pictures hung. Maybe the inevitable accumulation of mess. Maybe establishing routines so everything doesn't feel like I'm making it up as I go along. A certain degree of that is enlivening, but when every little decision has to be made and feels tentative, it's like walking on sand which may become quicksand at any moment. Not deep quicksand, of course, just not good solid ground your feet don't have to think about.

Internet radio now works again. I went through a couple chat sessions with the guy on the other end telling me to "log in", and me dutifully logging in on my computer screen when what he meant was to log in on the radio itself. Not all language problems have to do with whether your English is good. Sometimes it's just that you say "potato" and I say "potahto" and we actually mean different root vegetables entirely.

Well, OK, today should be fairly straightforward. There's a Terwilliger art fair I want to go to so I can see my neighbor Betsy's photographs. I've got tickets to see a play tonight, to be preceded by dinner at a really good Italian restaurant. And in between I can arrange to get the pictures hung and make my first delivery order to Safeway to reassure myself that I can make that work. No, I can't think of any reason why it shouldn't, but everything feels so tentative and ill-defined that it makes me feel claustrophobic and/or incompetent and/or like I just made one gigantic mistake in moving here, where I will be for the rest of my life.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Hallelujah! Well, almost.

Maintenance came through!

A gigantic man named Chris just knocked at my door in response to my complaint that my garbage disposal didn’t work. He made a small fuss over Ochi, thus winning major points with me, and knelt down on the kitchen floor to explore the disposal. “Hmmm,” he said. All repairmen say “Hmmm.” I think it’s an invocation of the gods of mechanical things. “We never plugged this thing in. Let me go down to the shop and see whether we have the cable I need.” And they did. And I can now grind up coffee grounds.

And as Chris left, I asked him when Emerson would come by to get my internet hooked up. And 20 minutes later, Emerson came by. I still don’t have internet – something is peculiar about the wiring to my room – but I have a working TV and DVD player and even VCR, which I didn’t have in the condo (never got around to hooking it up), and Emerson promised to check with his boss to find out why he can’t get me internet. He will call me in the morning with a progress report. And it turns out I won’t have to pay Comcast for internet access any more. Terwilliger Plaza has tnet, which substitutes for it. And soon everything will be at my fingertips just like at RiverPlace, and I will be happy.

It is a relief to find that I am in the hands of friendly workmen who know when to say they don’t know something and explain what they intend to do about it. And I can soon schedule my free hour of maintenance to get my TV and my pictures hung on my walls. And I’ve actually done a load of laundry in the laundry room half a hall north. Thank you, God, I’m almost here.

Tuesday 2

I had a pleasant talk with my next-door neighbor Betsy, a fit, intelligent woman who does photography. (I will see some of her work tomorrow at the Art Fair.) One thing she said was a bit sobering.

“You will almost certainly be asked to get involved in Plaza management,” she said. Terwilliger Plaza is a cooperative owned and run by the residents. “Those of us who are still relatively healthy have to carry most of the load – our ears still work, our legs still work, our minds still work – at least relatively well.” I found out today* that the average age at which people move to Terwilliger Plaza is 82. I’m twelve years earlier than that. I didn’t come here intending to take care of a couple hundred frail old people, but I can see what she means. If we are indeed all in this together – and thus protected from the predations of megacorporate profiteers – then those who can pull their own weight plus a little, need to do so.

*Yesterday at the monthly Residents Council meeting, I met Harley Sachs, an author of mysteries, some of which he set at Terwilliger Plaza. I’m reading the first one, The Mystery Club Solves a Murder, in which the author gives the average-age-at-entry-is-82 factoid. He does a wonderful job of weaving his plot around the frailties and strengths of his six women protagonists. Great literature, it ain’t, but somehow reading descriptions of (fictional) events taking place here makes me feel more at home than just being here does.

Tuesday 1

Don’t get me wrong. I’m really glad Ochi has re-emerged from wherever he hid himself for the first six hours after I brought him to our new home.

But once he decided this is an OK place, he had to come tell me about all the new things he was discovering. All night. It was very unlike him. Back in the old place, he seldom even slept on my bed.

But last night, every hour or so, he jumped up on the bed, walked over me, sometimes sinking claws lightly into exposed skin, head-butting my nose, speaking various mrows and purrrts, telling me in detail of what he was discovering. There was no sense of anxiety – it wasn’t like he needed to be reassured. He just wanted to share his explorations. Every hour or so. All night.

So now I’m feeling kind of disconnected, as if just walking the laundry down to the washing machines is kind of more than I can manage.

I gave the contractor the keys to the condo this morning so repairs, painting, and carpet laying can commence. He thinks it will take about three weeks, which is not unreasonable, and then the condo can go on the market. The housing market in Portland is pretty good at the moment, and my south-facing one-bedroom with the skylight and fireplace should attract buyers.

So now if they will only please dear God come connect my internet. I could have called them last week, and it would have been all set up when I moved in. And with 300 aging people’s needs to attend to, they can’t be expected to show up within minutes of being called unless it’s an overflowing toilet or something. And yesterday really was a national holiday. But I want my internet. Please. Dear God.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Monday, later

So now I’m trapped.

I called in to ask to have my internet connected, and the nice lady on the other end said Emerson will call me to set up a time, and I don’t dare leave for fear of missing Emerson’s call. Which means I can’t go down to the common room to get connected and post items to the blog. Which means I can keep writing them, but you can’t read them until Emerson calls, freeing me from this enslavement to the sound of the phone.

The phone, by the way, is not my cell phone. It didn’t occur to me until I got here that when the instructions say, “Call extension 1020”, it isn’t something I can do through Verizon. The assumption is that of course people will bring landline phones with them – who doesn’t have a landline phone? And the answer is, for instance, me.

Fortunately, the Wittwers had a spare, and John brought it up to me yesterday afternoon. It’s a lovely little Panasonic, plugs into the wall outlet, gives me access to the TP phone network. I can even get an outside line just by dialing 8. (Local calls included in the monthly fee, long distance is extra.) And this morning it let me call the nice lady who promised that Emerson would call. I have to wonder whether Emerson has my phone number, and in another hour or so I will probably call the nice lady back and make sure they know how to reach me. The Wittwers’ number is their room number with a preceding digit, but the number on this line has no connection to my room number, so maybe they can’t find me.

I should be embarrassed to post publicly such naked evidence of internet addiction. But on the other hand, one of the unexpected benefits of old age is that the number of things that embarrass me is dwindling. Soon, I will happily flap down the hallway in my flannel nightgown and fake sheepskin slippers because what the hell.

I want my internet.


With Betty Lou’s death, I assumed I would be on my own for unpacking and settling in. I looked around at the herd of brown cardboard boxes, wondering what was where, feeling lost and overwhelmed. I remembered the signature line on my friend Nanette’s email that concluded “Do not do anything for anyone that they can do for themselves,” something that had seemed cruel to me when I first read it. But now I saw what it meant: I had ceded doing the move to Lizz and now I was seriously disempowered to finish it, in part because I didn’t know where anything was, but more because Lizz had done for me something I could have done (more slowly, less efficiently, more clumsily) on my own.

“OK”, I thought to myself, “get it together. Start Doing Something.” At which point I got a text from Lizz: “Heading to your place to do some unpacking do not argue about this it will do me good.” And she swept in and unpacked 90% of the boxes, finally admitting exhaustion about half an hour after she should have. She was so worn out she forgot her coat and arrived at home without her keys.

Last evening I had supper with the Wittwers, the couple who live one floor down and who attend my church, the people who gave me the tour of Terwilliger Plaza that opened my mind to the possibility of a retirement home that wasn’t depressing. The pizza and salad were delicious, the conversation was lively, I met a man named Tom who fought in Italy in WW II and writes articles for the Terwilliger Plaza monthly newsletter. BJ Wittwer invited me to come back for breakfast, but I declined, thinking, “ I am seriously in need of some solitary time in my new place.”

I should have accepted. I’m sure BJ’s oatmeal would have been better than mine, and I won’t be solitary here anyway – I have to get my internet access* scheduled, and I need to arrange for my complimentary hour of maintenance time to get my TV and pictures hung on the walls. I need to pick up my cat Ochi from where he boarded over the weekend. I need to figure out what supplies I need and order or buy them. There’s a monthly meeting of the TP Residents Council this afternoon that I’d really like to attend – it is open to all residents, and it will give me a flavor of how things run around here. I’ve already met one of the two floor reps, a guy named Al, who told me, “Most people are pretty reasonable. There are a few bad apples, but you will figure out who they are.”

*Internet access. There is public wireless access in the common rooms (like the sixth floor lobby where I am now, looking out over downtown, thr river, and the hills of east Portland), but I need to get it hooked up in my room. I had to ask three or four people before I found someone who knew the password to the public wireless – those who want internet access have their own, and those who don’t don’t care. I can write these entries in my own place, but I can’t post them until I walk my laptop down the hall. Good exercise, but I WANT MY OWN INTERNET!! You can guess which tasks will get top priority today.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

what the hell

Today I'm homeless.

My daughter Lizz (may God bless her heart!) is doing all the work to get me moved from my condo to what used to be called a retirement home. Her only condition for taking all this on was that, in the actual process of moving, I had to NOT BE THERE. (She's right, of course, if I were there I'd just be wringing my hands, feeling useless, and projecting this nervous sense of ill-at-ease all over everything, contributing nothing positive to the process.) This means that I can't be at my old place and I can't be at my new place, hence I'm homeless.

I'm spending several hours at the church where I'm treasurer, doing things I haven't had time to do for a couple weeks, but it also puts me in the company of the numerous homeless people who consider the church a refuge. "Got no place to get out of the rain? Hang out at St. Stephen's!" (I would not have made that connection myself, but the Paul, the Minister for Outreach, made it for me, and it's too damned good not to pass along.)

So why am I moving?

The proximate cause is that my water heater died, in the process flooding my bedroom. This required the removal and disposal of the carpeting in my bedroom. This meant the eventual replacement of the carpeting in my bedroom, which meant the replacement of the carpeting in my condo, and if I'm already that far into making it ready to sell, what the heck, why not go ahead and sell?

But why not replace the carpeting and live in a condo with new carpeting? Well, I'm 70. I'm arthritic, diabetic, obese, and increasingly isolated because it's so much easier just to stay in my pajamas and play minesweeper on the computer. My mother died of Alzheimers, and I know there are periods when my brain seemed stuck in first gear. As my friend Tony suggested, I'm feeling like I'd be safer in a "fenced yard". And since that is almost certainly somewhere in my future, I decided to choose which fenced yard I'd do the rest of my living in.

Coincidentally, some friends from church gave me a tour of the place they're living, Terwilliger Plaza. I expected to dislike it, and I was wrong. The energy is great, the services are outstanding, the residents seem lively-minded and friendly, and it's still downtown. I have a small (576 sq. ft.) one-bedroom apartment that looks out at Portland's West Hills. Not in the "provides a sweeping landscape vista" sense of "looks out at", more the "I look out my windows and see a rock wall that is the geologic skeleton of the West Hills" sense. The wall is covered with wire fencing to save the driveway below from falling rocks, but it is also covered by a variety of vines which protect the nests of small birds that I  have seen dart in and out. The view from my condo was of another condo. The rock wall is definitely a step up.

Oh, I do wish I could take a nap.

And as I wrote that, the church doorbell rang. I am not responsible for answering the door, but I did. Outside was a garrulous old man missing most of his teeth who tried to get me to give him a coat or feed him or let him come in ("You're a Christian, aren't you? You're supposed to help people like me!"). The Jesuit volunteer working with one of the groups that rents from our church came out from their office and saved me with good, clean assertiveness. "Fuck you", the guy said as he stomped away. His hoodie was soaking wet, and his hair clung dripping to his scalp. He was old and cold and wet and probably wished he could take a nap somewhere warm and dry and safe. I should at least have given him the last of three oatmeal raisin cookies I bought with my Subway sandwich.