Saturday, September 19, 2020

Preface To Avenues: Have I Ever Lived On An Avenue?

Recently I've been showing pictures of places I used to live.  I've lived in a lot of places.  But I've never actually written them down in a kind of list, so I'll do that now - to the best of my ability - to see if I've ever lived on an avenue.

There are no dates & addresses because that would be too much work.  I do not remember living on the first two roads but my sister Karin confirmed those were my two residences before my mother left my father.

(Garland, Texas) Daughtery Drive - Rolando Drive - Kingsley Road - Cranford Drive - 5th Street.

Some of those residences were on the same street.  For example, when I returned home for the summer after my sophomore year of college, I lived at my sister Pat's - who lived at the time on Rolando.

(Austin, Texas) Elmont Drive - Town Lake Circle - 46th Street - 45th Street - 40th Street - Avenue A!

Look!  I only had to go up to 1992!  At the end of a devastating break-up, I found myself in a shitty efficiency in an apartment complex on Avenue A.

Here's where I went from there:

(Still in Austin) Depew Avenue!  Right after that, I lived from five years on Depew Ave.!  How could I forget that?

& what then?

(More Austin) Red River Street - Fairfield Lane - Ridgemont Drive.

(Huntington, West Virginia) Neel Street.

(Lexington, Kentucky) Tulsa Road - Southbend Drive.

(Fort Worth, Texas) Diaz Avenue!

Lookee there!  I lived on a road called Diaz Avenue in Fort Worth, Texas!  We lived there for just a few months - & there are only three more roads I've lived on since then:

(Still Fort Worth) Bal Lake Drive

(Portland, Oregon) 62nd Avenue?!?

Oh man I swear I didn't know we lived on an avenue here in Portland!  But I guess we did - for about six or seven months.  Now, alas, we live on plain ol' street.

But wow.  From 1992 till around 2002 I lived on an avenue, plus a few months in 2016 & in 2019.  That's like one-fifth of my life lived on an avenue.  I didn't even think I lived on even one avenue!

Look forward to pictures of these places in the future!

Friday, September 18, 2020

Thank You

Over a hundred people saw & maybe even read my blog post yesterday about my mother.  Most of them were pointed here by Facebook, I linked to what I wrote.  The response was kind & thoughtful.  Many of my Facebook friends actually met my mother.  & three of my siblings responded as well.  I wanted to share what they said here.

My oldest brother Eddie wrote, "Because our world was so different me being in another decade I am glad you wrote about your life with mom I too knew her stubbornness and her eccentricities but my version is more a view from a much earlier time because I got in person looks at mom and dad together and saw the toll it took on mom.I wish that I had known you and Chris up close but by the time you were born I was already moving into my adult life so I had other priorities by then.but never doubt that I loved all my siblings just in different ways and times thank you for your insight into our mom I think each of us have on own chapter about her"

He's right.  I wish I had the skill to write a book about how all seven of us saw her.  I just don't.

My brother Ralph wrote: "Gary, no better words were ever written for Mom. She would have loved this. I know that grief and pain will eventually fade, but it still hurts. You know Mom was immensely proud of you even with you lovable quirks. Know that I am always available, so hit me up any time. Love ya Bro, stay strong"

Ralph was the one sibling I reached out to - I speak regularly with my sister Karin - after Mom's death.  I hope he doesn't mind me sharing what I wrote to him, which was this (in part):

"Been thinking about you a lot.  Hope you're holding up all right.  It's been a weird past few days, I'm never sure how to navigate grief so I simply let it wash over me, & it makes moving around in the real world awkward & uncomfortable.  I talk to Karin & know she's strong enough to handle this.  I'm not really close in any way to Chris or Steve or Eddie.  But I do know Mom talked about you a lot, & she loved spending time with you - it was one of the high points of her week to go to lunch or go shopping with you.  You probably don't feel this way because everyone knows Eddie was her favorite, but I think of all of us, she liked you best."

That's something that engenders in me, at least, no jealousy.  Something about my brother Ralph resonated so much with my mother that even when she was frustrated with him, she loved to talk about him.  & I liked it when she was happy.

Finally, my sister Karin wrote: "Well done. I love you baby brother, even though you are technically a grown up now."

Karin always has to get a dig in!  She knew I'd appreciate it.  "Technically"!  She should be a comedian!

Truly her approval meant the most.  I worried she might have some issues with what I wrote.  It has to have been one of the hardest things I've ever written.  & frankly I'm still reeling from it.

More radio show stuff anon.  Again, I appreciate anyone who took the time to read my self-therapy here.  That's what I wanted to say here today.

Thursday, September 17, 2020



(Mom & me, some Christmas in the mid-2000s)

My mother died on Sunday.  It wasn't a surprise, there was time to prepare for it.  She was suffering from Alzheimer's, which had dramatically worsened since last I saw her, in May of 2019, right before we moved to Portland.  She died in her sleep, which is how she wanted to go.  I know this because she talked a lot about her death.

But I confess I find grief baffling, inscrutable, unpredictable, subtly cruel.  Last night I needed to sleep a couple of hours before doing a live remote radio show in the early morning, but my brain kept having a conversation with me about her.  It wanted me to write something about my mother.  Although I suspect I will be writing about her for the rest of my life.

When I was young, I was extremely attached to her.  I used to have nightmares that placed me on one side of a chasm, or river, or some uncrossable mass, & her on the other.  The dream would move her farther away from me, the distance increasing exponentially, & I'd awake frightened & alone.  I remember in the presidential campaign of 1980, when Reagan talked blithely about nuclear war, I'd be terrified that I wouldn't be with her if we died when the bombs finally rained death from the sky.  But I grew out of that.  My mother was stubborn & slow to trust me, & we fought constantly in my teen years.  I was very glad to get out of the house & go to college to get away from living under her roof & her rules.  There was something about me she didn't understand, & maybe didn't want to understand.  & I'm sure I felt the same.

In my adulthood, I began to feel something like an obligation to both help her & to be in touch with her.  She retired around the time of the OJ Simpson trial, & she watched that spectacle night & day.  When it ended, she found the remaining broadcast television wasteland uninteresting, so I had cable installed in her little apartment, & I guess I paid for it for over a decade, maybe two.  For a time, until she told me to stop, I would send her fifty dollars a month - she had very little money.  Maybe I felt I had to pay her back for something?  A debt I could never entirely repay?

& I started calling her every week.  This became more important after I moved from Texas, when I couldn't see her regularly - the visits dwindled in the last decade to one a year until we lived in Texas again from 2016-2019.  My mother was a gossip, so I was kept informed about the rest of my family through her narratives - & when my sister Pat was alive, I'd ask her about what my mother told me, to see how my mother would alter some tales (& the same with Pat!).  While my mother often expressed disappointment about her children - I was told by Pat about the times I disappointed her - she always took their side during conflicts or disagreements.  Well, she took her boys' side, anyway.  Mom was harder on her daughters because she felt they were stronger than her sons & could take the criticism.

Everything I write seems to need some other explanation of my mother's world view.  She was raised in Nazi Germany by a very superstitious mother & a fun-loving father.  I believe this is why she thought women were really in control of the world & men were lovable goofs, who only appear to run things because women let them think that.  She married an American who had joined the army to both fight in World War Two & escape from the awfulness of his life in Texas.  Their first child, my brother Eddie, was born in Germany, but postwar Europe had little opportunity for them, & the family was brought back to Texas.  Settling in Garland, my mother had more children - Pat, Steve, James, Karin, &, in 1968, both me & my little brother Chris.  (Yes, we were born in the same year, me in January, he in December.)

My birth was unexpected - my sister Karin is six years older than I am & was the proper stopping place for the family.  My father was very deep in the cups by then, & probably wasn't going to get better any time soon.  My mother despised him for his drinking, for his weakness, for the privation his disease caused - although she kept it well-hidden for most of my life.  When she would unload on him - long after he was gone - I was somewhat shocked - she really never showed the anger that she kept inside, at least not to me.  Her obituary - which you can read here - doesn't mention my father at all - & that's exactly how she would've wanted it.

The mother I grew up with worked to support five children living at home.  & she worked hard.  & she wasn't around a lot.  Some might have thought it was something like neglect - though she always made sure we were fed, & had clothes, & had a place to live - none of the evictions she had to deal with with my drunken father! - it actually turned out to be very good for me.  I was introspective by nature & left alone I read, & listened to music, & drew comics, & even pretended to have a radio show.  Mom the housewife might have forced me to go outside & attempt to play sports or other such horrors.

It really does seem like I'll be writing about her for the rest of my life.

My mother was a fearful person - one time on the phone with me, she paused & said thoughtfully, "I guess I'm just afraid of everything!" (I laughed out loud) - & her greatest fear was death.  Raised by a Catholic mother (who really must've had a fascinatingly complex superstitious understanding of the world) & a Lutheran father (who mostly seemed a bit Epicurean), she somehow synthesized a good guess of what comes after death: She believed there was a god up there, who doled out punishments & rewards, & whose approval or disapproval was demonstrated in how one's life was going.  In the past few years she told me these two contradictory things: she told me that this god had definitely favored her because she had been blessed with her own health, & healthy children & grandchildren; but in moment of unhappiness, she would wonder how she met his displeasure - "What have I done to deserve this?" she would ask me.  Hedging her bets, my mother kept herself as healthy as she could - she was in no hurry for confirmation of this afterlife hypothesis.

She also feared being put in a nursing home, where obviously the poor elderly people were treated abominably - terrorized, even - by a naturally sadistic staff.  This was the impression she got when my father's father was put in one before I was born - an impression she simply could not nor would not shake.

It was therefore a difficult irony that her worsening mental state required that she be in a place where professionals could look after her.  It's hard to know how much of her was left in her brain at that time - our weekly conversations were getting shorter & shorter, & at least once she didn't know who she was talking to, as she kept referring to me in the third person & seemed to think that Gary was still a child.  But I suspect enough of her knew where she was & attempted to fight it by using her super-power, which was stubbornness.  She thought if she were uncooperative, she might be made to leave.  & believe me, if she had been mentally well, she might have succeeded.

Unfortunately, she wasn't.  She stopped eating & drinking.  The staff told my sister she had the demeanor of one who had simply given up.  My sister & oldest brother got to see her in the end - the pandemic made it impossible for anyone else to visit except for window visits - & she was very weak, she didn't open her eyes, she would only talk in German.  She went for ten long weeks in this manner - a testimony to how strong she was, how well she kept her heart & lungs & other organs healthy despite being diabetic.  If her brain had been unaffected she'd be with us still.

She died seven days before she would turn 91.  My sister & I talked the day she died, we remembered that our mother kept moving her age up in conversations.  Before she turned 90, she was 91.  This year she was 93 or 94.  She marveled at how long she'd lived at the same time she expressed that she didn't want to live all that much longer.

Well.  Writing all this hasn't really helped me much - I had hoped this would be a kind of therapy for me - it may be that I miss the Sunday phone calls or at the very least am in denial that I will never speak with her again.  It may just be that I have so many more things to say about her.  She was my mother, after all.

She asked me to give the eulogy at her funeral.  She's being cremated & the pandemic would make it impossible for us to gather, so my sister is planning a memorial service in the spring.  Maybe these thoughts are rough drafts for my final obligation to her: to try to tell her story in the way she deserved at the last gathering of her family for her.

It may seem weird to write this on my radio show's blog but I share my personal stories here too.  My mother liked listening to me on the radio - she listened live to my KNON show in Dallas & called me right after it to tell me what she liked about it (she always kinda wished I'd get paid for it though).  She thought I wasn't ambitious enough.  Another thing I couldn't entirely explain to her.

Gosh, Mom.  I don't know if it's time to say goodbye yet.  Let me write some more about you later.  You'd probably find all this very flattering.  Even if you'd think I ought not to share some things.  Don't worry, I can anticipate your disapproval & your embarrassment when I get to those stories.  & I know you'll love me anyway.  We never quite got each other entirely, but we did love each other.  That was a pretty solid arrangement.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Self Help Radio 091420: Fiction

(Original image here.)

Fiction comes in many forms.  & of course they're all lies.  I'm sorry, I can't hold my tongue any longer.  The theme of this week's Self Help Radio shouldn't be fiction, it should be "LIES!"  It's all lies!  Fiction isn't real!  The stories in your precious books aren't real!  Your movies, your plays, your television show - those are people pretending to be other people.  They're not really in outer space!  Or even in New York!  They are in false places called "sets" or else if they're "on location" they're not the people they say they are.  & those precious books of yours - someone made the stories up.  They never happened.  Surely there shouldn't be a show celebrating that!

While we're at it - have you heard about how faulty your memory is?  Just read up about it - read non-fiction books & articles about it - you'll see that much of what you think you remember is just stuff your brain changed to protect you!  So your memory is mostly fiction!  Imagine that!  You can't even remember your own life properly!

Although.  If that's the case.  Fiction is all we have.  All right, then.  Let's have a damn radio show about it.

It's where all Self Help Radio episodes go to die: at the Self Help Radio website. Please remember there's a username (SHR) & a password (selfhelp) to listen.  The show is almost exactly two hours long.  What happens on the show is below.  Enjoy.

As long as you remember it's all lies!

Self Help Radio Fiction Show
"Ficciones" Los Vidrios Quebrados _Fictions_
"Fiction" Joni Mitchell _Dog Eat Dog_
"Fiction" The Lucksmiths _Warmer Corners_

introductions & definitions

"Fiction" Afrika Bambaataa _Hydraulic Funk_
"Fiction" The Nails _Hotel For Women_
"Fiction" Islands _Should I Remain Here At Sea?_
"Fiction" $10,000 _The Crossword EP_
"Fiction" The Concretes _In Colour_

interview with creative writing teacher Errol McDougal

"Love Is A Fiction" The Shirts _Street Light Shine_
"Living In Fiction" Icky Blossoms _Mask_
"Fictional Girl" Kelley Stolz _In Triangle Time_
"Fictional Decision" Drahla _A Compact Cassette_
"The Fiction (Gareth's Song)" Osunlade _Rebirth_

Book Corner with Ned Dry

"Science Fiction/Double Feature" Richard O'Brien _The Rocky Horror Picture Show_
"Science Fiction Man" Clare & The Reasons _The Movie_
"Science Fiction" Happydeadmen _Classics - A Decade In Pop_
"A Science Fiction Film" Woody Allen _Standup Comic: 1964-1968_
"Science Fiction" George Coleman _Bongo Joe_

interview with the Rev Dr Howard Gently

"Part Past Part Fiction" The Chills _Heavenly Pop Hits_
"Stranger Than Fiction" Yeah Jazz _Six Lane Ends_
"Lost In The Fiction" Jim Salinger _Starry Verse_
"Political Fiction" Half Pint _20 Super Hits_

conclusion & goodbye

"Beautiful Fiction" Braille Stars _Fields & Streams_

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Whither Fiction?

(Image from here.)

Trying to think just why I would do a radio show about fiction...  I'm almost certain it's because I listened to the Lucksmiths record Warmer Corners very close to the time I listened to the Joni Mitchell record Dog Eat Dog.  Not necessarily one after the other, maybe not even the same day - but close enough that I thought "Hey, both records have songs I like called 'Fiction'!"  & when I have thoughts like that, it means I'll probably want to do a show about it.  The deal was probably sealed when I was listening to a Kelley Stoltz record - In Triangle Time - & there was a song called "Fictional Girl" on it.

As someone who loves fiction & probably reads too much of it, I struggled with what to include with the show - someday surely I'll do a show about books & I really do one day (if I haven't already - let me check) should do a show about libraries.  So how many songs about fiction that don't mention fiction I could include was somewhat hampered by other themes waiting in the wings.

What will get played?  You'll have to listen tomorrow - Monday morning - on Freeform Portland, 90.3 & 98.3 fm &  From 8-10am.  & as usual, it will be entirely unreal, which is to say, a work of fiction.