Wide Awake in Wonderland

We’re only dancing on this earth for a short while

Leaving on the midnight train to Sighisoara October 5, 2008

Well, the 23:25 train, but same difference. I’ve checked around, and the route has a bad reputation in general. Now by ‘bad reputation’, I don’t mean to say I’ll be abducted and sold into white slavery, just an above-average chance of petty theft, day or night.

On the other hand, the advice I keep getting is to never take my eyes off my bag. Thus, in a strange way, I may be better off on a night train in that I can sleep with my bag (the hostel owner pantomimed what I would call spooning my bag through the night). I’m not thrilled about this, but I figure I’ll do what I can do to minimize the risk, and not worry about it further.

Actually, I would say that philosophy encapsulates a small epiphany I had recently: So much time is spent worrying about and fretting over and developing complex strategies to control things that never come to pass or cannot be controlled. Yesterday, after spending so much time “planning my actions” (a.k.a. worrying) about this night train, I decided to throw in the towel. I’ll still hide ‘the good stuff’ in the bottom of my day pack and lock it and – depending upon the vibe I get – bike lock it to me, and I’ll still planning to try to befriend the train conductor (by telling him/her straight up that I’ve heard bad things and am concerned and can they help me), and that’s all I can do. Onward and upward.

In other news, I had my first true bought of homesickness today. I had some moments early in the trip that I thought were homesickness, but I now realize were just garden variety fear. However, today I saw the first Malamute of the trip in a park in Budapest. From a 100 yards away, I could see it peeing on everything in its path and taking five minutes to sniff every three feet. A Mal if ever there were. But at that pace, I was able to catch up to the owner. I asked if he spoke English, and he said no. So I persisted. I identified the dog as a Malamute, and he agreed, and I tried to explain that I had one too. He scowled at me. I tried charades. He looked away.

I walked ahead of them and sat on a bench, considering turning on my computer to pull up a picture of my dog so that he would understand what I was trying to say, and maybe let me pet his Mal. At that moment, they started to approach, and the dog stopped to sniff a tree three feet to my left and a bush one foot from my knee, and never acknowledged me in the slightest. And in a stupid way, the realization that the dog WASN’T my dog – or anything like him (If Dozer loves anything, it’s a human being he’s never met before), was quite sad.

It was the sense that something that looked so incredibly familiar could be so foreign. Like seeing the mirror image of a loved one, and having them walk right by like you don’t exist.

So to stave off some ‘lost at sea’ feelings and kill some time before the late train, I decided to go to the movies. I’ve been wanting to go to the movies for weeks now, and having done everything I set out to do in Budapest, the time was right. Hungary just got the ‘new release’ of the Dark Knight (Batman) movie, and it was still in the original English (with subtitles). I got my ticket, but the concessions looked off, so I didn’t indulge in one of my passions – movie theater popcorn. Call me crazy, but I’m pretty sure that a country that only sells Cheetos in ‘hotdog’ and ‘ketchup’ flavors is going to find a creative way to screw up popcorn. Like maybe covering it in prune juice or something.

Anyway, it was a good movie, and good escapism, and it was almost laughable how the sight and sound of Morgan Freeman could feel so comforting. And I guess that’s why, walking out in the Budapest night, I suddenly felt crushingly sad and lonely and…homesick.

But it was a pretty long walk back to the hostel in Pest, and on the way I had a chance to work through my feelings. And what I realized is that in its own way, homesicknesses is a blessing. It’s the other side of the coin of adventure and independence and solitude. And it’s a reminder that you belong somewhere and have a place to go back to…and that you want to go back to.

So the key really, in those ‘weak’ moments is to draw from them, and realize what’s good about feeling bad. Because feeling like a stranger in a strange land means you’ve undertaken a big adventure and pushed yourself far beyond what you thought you were capable of. And longing for your home? That means you’re fortunate enough to have a home and people that love you and a whole country where people talk and you can understand what they’re saying without getting a headache. And feeling sad, well, that just means your heart still works.

So here’s to the fear and the sadness and loneliness. Without it, it’s much harder to define who we are, and who aren’t, and who’s important, and what really matters. And with that information as a compass, we’re able to get on a night train to Romania feeling calm and knowing it will all work out in its own strange way.

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Be still my broken heart July 24, 2008

It’s 4:12 a.m. where I live, and I should be giving my dog her heart medication. However, I got up and couldn’t find her…anywhere. I scoured the whole house and then went back inside to get a flashlight and after ten minues of searching, my flashlight caught the reflection of her open eyes on the hill in the back yard. From the looks of things, she went out to do #2 and had a heart attack and died. It strikes me that she’s kind of like Elvis, dying on the toilet, only without the fried peanut butter and banana sandwich. She actually ate on her own tonight, and I finally allowed myself some real genuine hope that the nightmare of the last 96 hours could end happily. My beef with god has just gotten that much bigger.

Why does it seem all my pets die with their mouths open? And I can’t get them to close after they’re gone? Pixie didn’t look as tortured as Jerry – my cat who died a year and a half ago of skin cancer – but finding her that way will haunt me. My brain simply doesn’t know what to do with all this pain.

Meanwhile, I’ve been thinking a lot about Neil Young today, probably because I have never felt more helpless in my whole life than I have the last few days. I keep hearing his sad singing:

“Leave us
Helpless, helpless, helpless

Baby can you hear me now?
The chains are locked
and tied across the door,
Baby, sing with me somehow.Blue, blue windows behind the stars,
Yellow moon on the rise,
Big birds flying across the sky,
Throwing shadows on our eyes.
Leave us
Helpless, helpless, helpless.”
 

 

 

Have you ever listened to Lou Reed’s Magic and Loss? It’s an album about death and how to cope with it. I have the CD out in the other room. Tomorrow (or today I suppose it really is) is probably a good day to play it. I first heard the album with Lukas, someone else who’s gone now too.

Life’s like a mayonnaise soda
And life’s like space without room
And life’s like bacon and ice cream
That’s what life’s like without you

Life’s like forever becoming
But life’s forever dealing in hurt
Now life’s like death without living
That’s what life’s like without you

Life’s like Sanskrit read to a pony
I see you in my mind’s eye strangling on your tongue
What good is knowing such devotion
I’ve been around – I know what makes things run

What good is seeing eye chocolate
What good’s a computerized nose
And what good was cancer in April
Why no good – no good at all

What good’s a war without killing
What good is rain that falls up
What good’s a disease that won’t hurt you
Why no good, I guess, no good at all

What good are these thoughts that I’m thinking
It must be better not to be thinking at all
A styrofoam lover with emotions of concrete
No not much, not much at all

What’s good is life without living
What good’s this lion that barks
You loved a life others throw away nightly
It’s not fair, not fair at all

What’s good ?
Not much at all

What’s good ?
Life’s good –
But not fair at all
What a terrible few days this has been. I’m simply stunned – and so terribly heartbroken – by it all. Life is good, but not fair at all.

 

Atheist prayer July 20, 2008

The blogger and her muse in happier, healthier times (this spring)

The blogger and her muse in happier, healthier times (this spring)

Okay, maybe I’m not a full-throttle atheist like my dad, but I’m definitely not a believer in anything traditional. Likely “spiritual with a very weird belief system involving parallel universes, past lives, quantum physics, shamanism, doing unto others, spirit guides, and maybe a dash of Buddhism” is the best description, and it’s safe to say that traditional prayer is not something I partake in regularly. Nonetheless, like any good hypocrite, in the throes of tragedy, such as I’m in now, I find myself groveling back to God and invoking the sacred words of my Catholic childhood. Hail Mary, full of grace…

My beloved German Shepherd mix, Pixie, is in the vet emergency hospital on dog life support, bleeding internally. Because I live in a stupid town large enough to have a single emergency vet, but too small for them to have access to an ultrasound, nothing is known about WHY she’s bleeding internally. She’s eight and a half years old and otherwise in perfect health. However, this morning she wouldn’t get up, just laid there panting. And when the doorbell (her mortal enemy) was rung, she didn’t respond. Also, according to the emergency vet, after a dog turns six “all bets are off”. They’re in geriatric pet country, and anything goes.

Anyway, with what she knows, the vet feels there are two possibilities:

1. Pixie has a heretofore undetected cancerous tumor on her spleen that has ruptured, and the blood is coming from there. In that case, they could do surgery to remove the spleen, but that would only buy her another month of life. That’s clearly selfish and cruel, so I won’t do it to her. In other words, if I learn tomorrow that this is the fate of my beloved girl, I have to put her down.

2. The long shot and the great white hope: Pixie has an autoimmune disease that is causing this bleeding. In this case, they would likely do several blood transfusions and then put her on a lifelong course of steroids, wherein she would live a normal life. I never thought I’d wish an autoimmune disease on my dog, but considering my options, all the Hail Marys are for this to come true.

The really weird thing is that i had a nightmare on Friday night about my dogs (the other one is an Alaskan Malamute who’s two and a half): I came home to my house and it had a chain link fence. The fence gate was open and the yard was empty, and I knew something bad had happened to my dogs. Someone said, “She’s dead, isn’t she?” and I started panicking and calling “come here, Sweet Girl. C’mon Pixie.” But I didn’t know where to start looking or where she might be. I worked myself into such a panic that I woke up.

I guess that doesn’t actually matter in the big picture, however. For now, I can do nothing except try not to think about it, and try not to fret and bawl and get terrified and start dwelling on how much that dog means to me and how much we’ve been through together and how I feel like my heart has been ripped out of my chest and thrown into a volcano. Thus, in the spirit of honoring the most wonderful dog – and maybe even “person” – I’ve ever known, I’ve decided to post a few pictures and maybe even a little video of her.

If you’re feeling particularly generous and regardless of your religious persuasion or lack thereof, perhaps you might say a little prayer on our behalf…