Reluctant operator

•June 22, 2017 • Leave a Comment

This evening, after driving home two miles from a musicale that happens every Thursday, I noticed Charlie got across the street by himself, despite his near blindness. I always hope he’ll get a Sense of Direction, and he must have a little bit of one, otherwise, he’d be standing by the car waiting for me to steer him across the street to our little abode.

He headed straight for bed. I was still full of music, and Bonnie Simmons was on KPFA, and hell, it’s the solstice time…long days. Long years: 50 years since the 1967 summer of love. In L.A. it was  happening differently–for this twelve-yr old kid, it was radio music and crushes on guys like Eric Feldman (who never stopped his infatuation with music).

The house is warmish from the heat of the day. I go into the bathroom and notice the soap-dish Charlie fab’d about 10 years ago is looking ….coated with soap scum. I took a nearby brush–the writing’s nearly gone, but he’d marked it up: “Charlie’s scrubber”. Hanging above the claw-foot tub is a big 4 gallon bucket which is inscribed on the underside: “C’s nettle-gathering bucket: KEEP CLEAN”.

I soak his soap dish and get it back to beautiful stainless steel with delicate wire-work to hold the soap above the surface which thoughtfully tilts into the 1936 sink.

Everywhere are reminders, written notes which cry: This Is Charlie’s. Do Not Use. Now he can’t read. And I am in charge of maintenance around here. I have to use his things. I rarely rarely go in his sacred machine shop, but today the cleats on my ol Shimano shoes–at least 3 yrs old–need some attention.
The work bench is a mess. I’ve left everything on it, and none of Charlie’s projects (he’d left the fork he was building for me in the central work-spot) remain. All dismantled, except the aforementioned fork which Cameron Falconer carefully completed so I could ride the bike C’d built me that summer when I was at Middlebury learning Japanese….

Anyway, it’s so heavy, all this territoriality that has crumbled and my extreme reluctance to assume the mantle of Boss…

Just had to share this..

Tackle the page

•June 7, 2017 • 2 Comments

I’d like to thank you regular readers, first off…It was precisely a decade ago that Chris Hill plopped me down at a table to begin this WordPress blog. In those days it was free, but since about 2011 I’ve had to pay to keep ads off.
It’s in vain that I protect you from ads, since the rest of your day is saturated with them, but I like to think it’s a small plus.

Mark Twain: “Write without pay until someone offers pay. If nobody offers within three years, the candidate may look upon this as a sign that sawing wood is what he was intended for.”

And if the candidate has to PAY to write (like me) then….sawing wood, and dumpster diving is what she was intended for.

Daily life here at our Asylum for Two is pretty nice, especially when I reflect on the trauma of so many people’s lives. The garden blooms. Charlie can take a walk on his own and usually not get lost. He can dress himself. He can eat without help. I could even leave food for him to heat..he’s not the avid vegetable chopper of yore, but he doesn’t miss that. What he misses is Touching Metal. His hands are ‘butterfingers’ (this is the too-frequent epithet he flings at his nerve-damaged digits). His feet don’t coordinate enough to skip, though I coach him on that. He can see a LITTLE BIT, but not enough to ride a bicycle alone safely (I’ve let him do it unsafely, and it’s not a good idea).

We are OK, and going to Be Here Now, since that was what fate delivered in September 2015.

 

New for 2017!

•October 31, 2016 • 1 Comment

Calendar

http://www.lulu.com/shop/jacquie-phelan/unmitigated-gal-jacquie-phelan-2017/calendar/product-22887185.html

 
Calendar
 

http://www.lulu.com/shop/jacquie-phelan/nostra-signora-del-fango-2017/calendar/product-22887191.html

Getting Out On The Mountain

•May 10, 2016 • 3 Comments

In the last 7 months I’ve had so few chances to get out on a ride, it’s hard to call myself a biker. I never thought I was that married to the machine, and to the self-imposed role of cyclist first and foremost.
The result is, that when I’m motoring about (and I do this ten times more than ever before) I see the riders out on their bikes and feel a distinct squirm of the gut.
Envy?
Regret?

Evidence of some big cosmic gear shifting?

Our dear friend and caregiver David D. reminds me that the ‘self’ is an imaginary construct, and that truly we are all part of a cosmic One.
I’m very late to the sagging table of spiritual bounty, having been force-fed Catholicism at a tender age.
But these days, I’m subscribing to a notion of Togetherness (with occasional additional subscriptions to a God) simply because the idea of sharing the burden is so appealing. I pray that I’ll not be ding’d for Failure to Subscribe the first 60 years.
Anything at all to relax my racing mind.

These days, I ride Tuesday mornings, 7 a.m. pretty regularly–before Charlie wakes up–with an early bird gang of fellows who’ve ridden for at least 35 years without fail, week after week after week. They vacation together. Many kayak together…and for the past few years, but mostly the past 7 months, they’ve embraced me as part of the Over The Hill Gang. They were ‘over’ when they were young men, artists, professionals, & bon vivants. And now they’re really over the hill, modeling muddern maturity to anyone that cares to see a weathered face, rippling calf muscles and exuberant energy.
Sign me up….

michael lipson baldy

Tamalpais, fog, and the Over The Hill Gang riding up Baldy today. Photo: Michael Lipson

So long Owen

•February 17, 2016 • 4 Comments

Jacquie, Owen, Franklin
Last Saturday, a few of us convened to say goodbye to a friend and mentor who had died the previous month.

Owen Mulholland (I’m leaning on him, and he’s with his twin, John Mulholland) was one of the first diehard bikies I met in Marin County.

Within a year of meeting, both of our lives veered in new directions. I quit trying to pass physics classes in order to apply to medical school, and started envisioning myself as a bike racer, and he fathered a son.
Emile grew into a superb human being and I managed to acquit myself in the racing.

I shared one little thing with Emile: the sting of Owen’s tongue.

When dancing on the podium with Liz Newberry who’d just won the national cyclocross championship (a new thing for women), Owen chastised me for unseemly behavior.

But he also backed me when I needed a letter for a small grant from the Women’s Sports Foundation. And rode with me, and listened as I wept about being yet again shunned by the men’s morning ride.

He was a writer, historian, father and above all a cyclist to the core.  He truly lived to ride, and Emile saw to it that his close friends would be able to experience a meandery loop through Point Reyes, taking in a couple of side-trails and then climbing up the long long wooded spine of Mount Vision. I went with the dirt riders on my Croclo-Zeiss (Cunningham  cross bike). There were kids in front of me and old men behind. In the middle feels comfortable now. The ride was just hard enough for me to feel worked, under the forest canopy which the Japanese know is so healthful.

Road riders convened with the dirt riders and we shared stories. Franklin Blackford (the fourth person in the above picture) spoke of how he was embraced by Owen and his men’s Wednesday riding group within months of moving here. Believe me, it’s rare. Our county doesn’t have a warm fuzzy exterior, but there are people within that reach out and grab you.

After the ride, John Mulholland approached me with a smile and announced I was wearing his Pedal y Fibra jersey from 1963, when he raced in Mexico. I was flattered, and wondered how it ended up with Charlie Kelly. It was C.K. who gave it to me (well, he was throwing it away, actually, and I caught it mid-throw), and who swore it was from someone in the Grateful Dead crew.

A very patched up 5 pocket work of sartorial art, I am keeping and wearing this thing til it’s in shreds. It’s only fitting.

 

 

 

 

Bearing up under the strainers

•January 22, 2016 • 2 Comments

jacquie sieve 2015bearing up under strainers

As Months Go By

•January 20, 2016 • 9 Comments
It’s four months to the day since Charlie’s “episode” (the bleed that nearly killt him–7 weeks after falling from the bike and breaking a few bones).
Now that we’ve lived through a third of a year, we understand better that the healing curve is nice and Malthusian at first…Charlie went from a curled up ball with arms pressed to his heart (I think this is a sign of a really bad brain injury, according to the author of “Over My Head”) to a guy who can, with careful supervision, walk about 4 miles with small ‘balance disturbances’ and stumbles. He still doesn’t have a clue where he is–on which trail, how far, etc. Will the ‘inner compass return?
I discovered an unfortunate fact: I’ve become my sharp-tongued, overworked mother Doreen. She had six ‘accidents’*, one after the other, and we little Phelans were just so terribly inconvenient!
Mom and Dad were party animals, and we felt the sting of their resentful ‘parenting’ too often.
So I bark : “AUUGH!! WATCH your RIGHT FOOT–it’s too close to the trail’s edge” . I had chosen a single track trail up behind Deer Park School to hear all the little rills roaring down Bald Hill.
“I’ll be careful. Sorry”.
I cringe when I hear Charlie say “sorry”.
It’s ME who should be sorry for being shrill.
Yesterday we got in 90 minutes of walking, cleverly timed between rainstorms. Life is good. It’s also not-so-great. Then it turns great again.
Our friend R. M. lost two rellies this week. Our other friend Nick F. brought us a feast of roast bird, potato, brown rice and veggies…and withdrew politely to allow Charlie that Alone Moment that his royal Shyness so patiently awaits.
This is in direct conflict for my wish for MORE people to visit….my battery gets charged by visits, while his battery drains away ….Is this TMI?
I believe one of the toughest things for Mr. Do-it-Yourself-Depend-On-No-One (so you won’t have to engage socially) is the fact that now, since he’s ‘down’, he must allow his mechanically worthless wife to seek assistance around Off Hand Manor. Our 60 yr old shingled shack, like any home, requires constant vigilance…today was typical: a leak from the woodstove flue. Somehow the ‘hurricane cap’ allows rain to drip right down from the roof to the floor. It is black and creosote-pungent. It might not be doing the unpolished hardwood floor any favor.
I discovered all that, and a wet floor just when we were celebrating the first day with no doctor’s appointments in about 3 weeks….and now, partway thru making oatmeal, I had to change gears into “supplicant of support “, when I’d been such a helpful cook and housekeeper, chauffeuse and bed-warmer.
Mike Schultz came to the rescue (he and Scott Bowman are the only guys who wear as many hats , skill-wise, as Charlie).
By three this afternoon, there was enough slack in the sched that I could get out on my road bike and catch 2 hrs of fresh air, and upon return, Nick Fain was carrying a roast bird and pile of organic roast veggies, plus a bottle of rouge under his arm…so he spared me the hour’s dinner prep. We didn’t know what to do with the extra time so I had Charlie pen one of his patented thank you notes. He’s able to write, but unable to read. Must learn more about this “pure alexia” condition, where somehow part of the brain can generate legible (if badly spelled) text, but in no way can it be re-read. It’s like, as soon as it’s on the page, a mysterious substance scrambles it, and the only way Charlie can read it is to put a finger on a letter, then look it up on the 26 letter alphabet on a plastic sheet that he keeps at the dinner table to ‘decode’ the occasional word. Each word takes about ten minutes to de-cipher. It’s maddening, and he’s trying to be patient, but both of us pray that at some point, a ‘patch cord’ will allow free interplay between the writing and the ability (not yet there) to read.
And: don’t get us started about his ruined sight. There is only about 10% of his vision remaining and we don’t know if it will come back. Of course one must be cheerful but er…can we just hurry thru the next 3 yrs to see if the eyesight returns to 50 % or so? Then he could ride a bike (not on pavement but on dirt, where things don’t pull out in front of you suddenly , etc).

Ah…well, this is the day-in-the-life. Tomorrow Robbins Peek the PBP veteran tandemist will take Charlie round the county a little bit…and get him a schosh stronger.

*Irish term for “bundle of joy”

 Here’s a shot Charlie Kelly took of us at the local park last week.