Thursday, December 02, 2010

A Brief Unwondrous Update

Yes, so it's been a long time, right? Needless to say, much has happened over Scotland way - including various hillwalking adventures, trips to Italy, London, and Berlin (where I am currently stuck until Edinburgh airport reopens), finishing the (very) rough draft of Novel #1 and writing 38,000 words in Novel #2, one very yucky case of conjunctivitis for Jack, said boy dressed as a friar (after an unauthorized haircut from granny) for Halloween, a great big bonfire for Guy Fawkes night, a huge Thanksgiving Celebration, the first night of Hanukkah, and so on and so forth. And none of it documented on the Internet. Did it really happen then? Hmmmmmm....

Monday, September 27, 2010

Just have to get ONE post in for September!

If you look back on my archives, you'll see that I blog in cycles. Sometimes I feel a compulsion to write every day, other times I don't feel the need to blog for months (years, at one point). I feel guilty about it sometimes--stupidly, I think, because I doubt I actually disappoint anyone by disappearing, though I hope people at least wonder about me sometimes--but, if you've read my Blogging Manifesto, then you know I am trying to give myself a break about it. Because I blog for me, right?

But I am still here, and do have some lovely pictures to post of all the things I've been doing here. I am tremendously happy. There were a few pretty bad days a few weeks ago, brought on when I ran out of my medication and fell into melancholy, but David convinced me to call up the doctor here and get more medication. I didn't think it was possible. Even in America it's a huge process to get antidepressants sometimes, seeing as you have to go through a psychiatrist and be assessed and all that. But GOD BLESS THE NHS. I don't care what anyone says, I have never had a bad experience with the Universal Health system here.

I went to the doctor--a GP, not a shrink--told her what I was on, she asked a few questions and wrote me a prescription right there. For free. FOR FREE. And I paid only three pounds for the drugs themselves, drugs that cost me a $15 copay at home, where I have insurance. It was like a small miracle.

So I am much better now, and after a few stilted writing days I'm back on the old word wagon. Plus the weather's been really lovely, and David's mother has been taking Jack and I for long walks through the Scottish countryside almost daily. Something about spending that much time outside, surrounded by green, is more therapeutic than a mountain of medication.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Festival Season is Upon Us

So I've been absent for the past two weeks, mainly due to the fact that I am having a wonderful time. It is festival season in Edinburgh, which for those of you who don't know means 250,000 people from all over converge on the city for a month to take part in what must be one of the most unique events in the world: the Edinburgh Festivals.

There are actually several festivals. The first is the International Festival, the original festival that brings in twenty(ish) incredible international performances from all over the world, including opera, ballet, theater, and modern dance.

But it's what has grown up around the International Festival that is truly amazing: the Fringe Festival. Basically, anyone from anywhere can put on any type of show they want. They just have to find a venue, pay a small fee, and bam, they're in the program. The program this year is 350 pages long. There are 2,450 performances. Let me just say that again: There are 2,450 performances. In something like 368 venues, including large playhouses, churches, community centers, pubs, street corners, schools--wherever. One show takes place on a bus that travels around the city. A show can happen anywhere, and there is a show happening basically at all times. Pick up the brochure, and you'll find something to see even at two in the morning.

Many of the shows are standard productions like plays, musicals, ballet numbers, stand-up comedian acts, etc. But a lot of them are not. One performance that ran for the first week was a one-on-one show (as in one performer, one audience member) that took place in a busy coffee shop. Another performance outfits the viewer with an ipod and sends him or her out into the city with a series of directions, ending up with the viewer unsure whether passersby are just people walking down the street or part of the performance.

Basically, it's a breeding ground for experimental, avant garde theater, and there's nothing quite like it. Performers typically put on one show a day, then spend the rest of the day advertising, so that when you walk down the Royal Mile, it is heaving with people in elaborate costumes passing out flyers, musicians busking to the crowd, mini-performances being put on everywhere in order to get people interested in a show. The atmosphere is electric.

So far I have seen a music-and-dance show from Zimbabwe with a cast of thirty extremely talented, extremely energetic singers and dancers; an early morning comedic interpretation of King Lear; four different stand up comedians; the meditative chants and dances of the Tashi Lhunpo monks of Tibet, and a few other random things for good measure.

So yeah, I've been busy. To top it off, the Edinburgh International Book Festival (the largest in the world) also kicked off last weekend, so 750 authors from all over the globe are traipsing across the city in between giving talks and signing books at Charlotte Square. The Literati Glitterari, you might say. Philip Pullman, Tess Gerritsen, Jeanette Winterson, Fay Weldon, Alexander McCall Smith, Louis de Bernières, Ian Rankin, Andrea Levy, Zadie Smith, Jasper Fforde--the list goes on and on.

So my days are full at the moment, and I'm happier than I've been in months. The activity and the happiness have been inspiring me: As of last week I've got 80,000 words in my novel. Only two scenes left to go. So please excuse me if my posting is sporadic. For the first time in a long, long time I'm too busy living life to actually write about it, and while it couldn't last (I'd burn out!), it feels really good right now.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Back in the 'Burgh

Thanks to everyone for all your kind words after last week's tragedy. I'm feeling better now, but it took a while. Thankfully I had much to occupy my time as we had four days to finish packing everything and hop onto a plane to Scotland.

So here we are, back in lovely Edinburgh, and I'm feeling better than I have in months. Nothing like new adventure to jolt you out of stagnation. I move to keep things whole, right? Anyway, we're here for nearly five months and I am ready to dive into life again. Wish me luck :)

Monday, July 26, 2010

It's very sad around here.

We just got back from our family vacation in Hilton Head, and what I wanted to be doing was posting pictures and gushing about how fun it was. But I just don't feel up to it. My sixteen-year-old cat, Koty, died while we were away. Alone. In the basement.

I know it's a bit self-indulgent to grieve so greatly for an animal when the blogosphere is full of people dealing with losses so significant and terrible that mine pales in comparison. But I am just so wrecked I have to write about it.

It's not so much that she's gone. She was sixteen years old, and her last year was full of health problems. She developed a mammary tumor in November that constantly opened up into a bleeding wound. Due to her age, we weren't sure if we should spend $1000 to fix her, as she wasn't in any pain and still ate like a horse. But she had to remain in the basement of my parents' house to keep from bleeding everywhere. Eventually, the thought of her living out her days in the basement was just too awful. So in May we sprang for the surgery. The vet almost didn't do it, because her blood tests revealed that she was in kidney failure, relatively common for older cats, but in the end the pros outweighed the risks.

She made it through, and David and I took her back to our house. For two months she lived there with the roam of the house, on our laps every night while we watched television. But she wasn't entirely well. Not in pain, but vomiting and urinating all over the house. Exceptionally gross.

Two weeks ago we moved back in with my parents in preparation for our departure to Scotland, and Koty had to go back to the basement. I was so busy and preoccupied that I basically only saw her when I fed her twice a day. She barely moved from the same spot in the corner of my Dad's office those two weeks. But she was still eating like a horse, and seemed perfectly fine.

When it was time to go, we couldn't find anyone to come and take care of her. Finally our housekeeper agreed to come on Wednesday and Thursday, but as we were leaving on Friday, that would mean she was alone for four days. We have an automatic feeder with hard food and an automatic waterer, so foodwise she would be fine, and she'd been alone for three days before. I felt bad, but honestly I was just so busy and stressed that I didn't think about it much. It never occurred to me that what happened would ever happen.

On Thursday, the housekeeper called to say that Koty hadn't eaten any of the food she'd put out the day before, hadn't used the bathroom, and appeared very sick. We were all worried, and thought about calling someone, but weren't sure what to do. The craziest thing, what I feel so so awful about, is that we did nothing. I'm not sure why. I must have been in some serious denial. She's gone through periods of not eating before, but she's a resilient cat and I guess I just never thought she could be that sick. We would be home in two days, and then I would take care of her.

Only when we got home it was too late. We found her lying in the same spot in my Dad's basement office, eyes closed, cold and stiff. This was, no joke, one of the worst moments of my life. Finding my faithful, loving cat, whose favorite place in the world was on my lap, dead on the floor--where she'd spent her last week of life alone and sick, abandoned and helpless while we played on the beach--just kills me with guilt and shame.

I have no doubt that she died because of me. I know that if she were a healthy cat, obviously she would have been fine. But I didn't realize how sick she was, and without the wet food that she loved her kidneys probably shut down and she died of dehydration. I've heard that this isn't agony, more like a hangover that you spend a lot of time sleeping off, that she probably slipped into a coma and died peacefully. But I just picture her hurting and wondering why no one was coming for her. I honestly don't know how to get over my part in her horrible death. She deserved so much better.

If you've read this all the way to the end, I appreciate it. I haven't been able to sleep and have barely eaten since we found her. I know she was just a cat, but animals have such innocence that their suffering is all the more horrific. Anyway, I hope one day I can forgive myself. But for now, wow, that day seems far off.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Ah, Cleveland

Once again I am getting nostalgic about leaving Cleveland. This city holds a paradox for me: I love it so much, and miss it while I'm away (often I can't imagine settling anywhere else), but within a few months of living here, I am inevitably desperate to get out.

It's not Cleveland, it's me. Something about coming back to my hometown regresses me into utter complacency. I can't seem to see it with the fresh eyes I wear in other cities I've lived in. Tourist's eyes, I suppose you could call them. I lose the energy to actually go out and do things here at a shocking rate, and end up doing nothing even though there's so much to do. This doesn't happen in other places. Maybe it's my history bogging me down here. Maybe it's the fact that I already have old friends, so don't bother making the effort to make new ones, even though my old friends are busy and, for the most part, a fractured group that doesn't form a cohesive whole (I know a lot of people who don't know each other, that kind of thing). I honestly don't know what it is, but living here erodes me. Which sucks. Because I love it here.

Before I leave, I should really do a Cleveland post that gets into the meat of what makes this city so awesome. But until I do, here's Anthony Bourdain talking up Cleveland in the wake of Harvey Pekar's death (RIP, Harvey):

The Original (Goodbye Splendor)

Friday, July 09, 2010

We interrupt this blog to talk about Lebron James.

So it's no secret that I'm from Cleveland. I grew up in this town and I live here now. And I love it. It's a great city, hugely underrated a far as I'm concerned, with a stunning amount of diversity, a world class arts scene (one of the top seven orchestras in the world, an amazing art museum that is always free, the largest theatre complex in the nation outside of Broadway, just to name a few), some of the top-rated restaurants in the country (Cleveland has recently been named a top culinary destination by a variety of magazines), a library system that is unrivaled by any I've seen (New York's libraries pale--I mean pale--in comparison), and a true Midwest friendliness.

But it's a sad town. People are leaving in droves, people like myself who love it (and nearly everyone who was raised her loves it), but can't stay in a place that constantly feels as if it's on the verge of dying. The school system is in a shambles. Unemployment is everywhere. Our economy is balanced precariously on the medical field and, until last night, on the Cleveland Cavaliers.

We're a city of perpetual disappointment, eagerly snatching defeat from the jaws of victory every chance we can get, and in no other place is this as true as in sports.

In football, baseball, and basketball, Cleveland has fairly consistently made it to the championships (with the exception of the Browns, who once were the eighties). We play better than anyone else. But we always, we always, lose in the end. It's a metaphor for the city itself. So much potential, so much to offer, but not enough to make the difference between a city that is thriving and one that is dying. It's sad. It's really, really sad.

And now Lebron. Lebron Effing James. I am speechless about it.

Because it's not just a game in Cleveland. In a lot of ways, it's all we have keeping us afloat at the moment. He's brought hundreds of millions into a city that desperately needs it. He's provided a role model for kids in a going-nowhere educational system (though whether a ballplayer should be a role model for schoolkids belongs in another post). Most importantly, he brought hope to a city that had none. He was one of our own, born and raised, and he promised us--he actually promised us--a championship that he failed to deliver in seven years. And then he turned his back on us.

It's not just that he's leaving, though he shouldn't have left. I honestly think the best choice would have been to stay for five more years. To give five more years to the city that nurtured him and loved him, to try and give them the championship he promised, with the understanding that when that five years was up, he would be free to move on with no hard feelings. That would have been the gracious, some-things-are-more-important-than-Lebron decision. That would have been a show of true greatness.

But I know it doesn't work like that. Though it baffles me, I understand that the only loyalty that exists among sports players is to themselves. I hate this system, where people follow the money and the winning, rendering the teams they play for meaningless beyond being the economic engines that drive them. I don't get it; I hate it; but that's how it is. I know that.

So leaving is one thing. Fine, leave. He has to do what "makes Lebron James happy." (Is he always going to refer to himself in the third person now? What's next, the royal we?) So it's not that. It's how he did it. It's as if he set things up to provide the greatest possible humiliation to an already cowed region. He waits until the last possible moment, then he sets up a nationally televised Lebron Show to announce that he's leaving, only letting his team know a half hour before. He draws it out for dramatic effect, for maximum media attention. It's like breaking up with someone from Oprah's couch. Not only am I leaving you, but I'm going to disgrace you in the process. It's as if he has only contempt for us.

But of course Lebron wasn't thinking about that. Lebron was only thinking about Lebron.

So like I said, it's not that he's leaving. It's that he could have left with grace, and instead he leaves with shame. If this were a movie, the entire audience would be rooting for the Cavs to take the title next year and for Lebron to have his comeuppance. But sadly, this is not a movie, and the underdog seldom wins. Real Life doesn't reward loyalty or grace, Real Life rewards talent alone. And he took it all with him.

Good riddance.