Sunday, September 25, 2011

25 September 2011

Hi there!

Yesterday morning, Peggy and I went to Dorn's for breakfast, and the food was delicious, and the service was topnotch. The waitresses at Dorn's are efficient, friendly, and GORGEOUS, in their black pants and white shirts. I always want to compliment their teeth.

The very last time Tank went to a restaurant, it was Dorn's.

After breakfast, we went to the embarcadero (just one store) so Peggy could buy a few last-minute items, mostly gifts, including a beautiful bracelet for ME! Such a sweetheart! We drove to Terry's house, but she still wasn't there, so we took some pictures in the front yard. Then, we drove to downtown Morro Bay and walked up and down a few streets, checking out some of the shops that I'd only seen from a moving car. We went to a vintage/antique/consignment shop, and I found something to buy! It was regularly $9, on sale for $5, and it's a small end table (I think), or maybe a plant stand. Stained wood, with two little shelves for books or a layabout. Some delamination on top, but I can ignore it or repair it. I'm so glad I found it!

Right away, Peggy found something VERY cute also. It's a bright-red felt hat in a Queen-Mum style that I'm CERTAIN she can sex-up adequately. It, too, was quite a bargain. We looked around a lot, but didn't find anything else (as I recall). You know that butterfly-themed tray-and-coaster set that Nola received as a wedding gift? We found one just like it!

Peggy bought some very cool stuff at another bead store, and then we went to a few more vintage/antique stores, but didn't buy anything. We drove to the avocado orchard, where we bought Haas avocados, because that's the only type they had, which surprised us. to buy California avocados in California.

At 1:04 p.m., we hit the road. (In case I haven't mentioned it, Peggy was wearing a belted black-and-white polka-dot shirt dress and black ballet flats. She looked like a young Lucille Ball.) We talked and drove, stopping for gas in Boron, but I think that was the only stop. Oh! Before we left town, we had one last Morro Bay meal at Bayside restaurant. We shared fish and chips, and each had diet Cokes and side salads. Tasty. They recognized us from the day before.

The day started off overcast, but by lunch time it was almost clear. We enjoyed the view of the bay and the marsh from Bayside.

Peggy and I shared the driving, and she pulled into Las Vegas at 8 p.m. (after we picked up dinner at In-N-Out, which is very near the motel). That I-15 Motel 6 is kind of scary, and we didn't leave much in the car overnight (I took Tank's mattress-cover shirt in with me) (we risked leaving the unripened avocados in the car). Peggy is a good sleeper, and I am not, so I lay there most of the night, wishing we had more than six TV channels from which to choose.

Peggy was up at 5:00, grooming, and I got up at 5:55, and we left at 6:00. Once again, we were very efficient, and stopped once for a McDonald's drive-up window in Mesquite and once for gas in Nephi, and the trip took a mere six hours (one saves time by not stopping at Cove Fort for a tour). We reached that point in our trip when we'd run out of conversational topics and were feeling mildly annoyed with each other, so we didn't talk nonstop, or about anything important. It's that inevitable rundown to the trip's end, and the resumption of normal life. I like normal life, and so does Peggy, and I think we were both eager to resume. In Sandy, Peggy drove off in her Jeep, I embraced hearth and home for ten minutes, and Dan and I went to La Puente for lunch.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

24 September 2011, a few minutes later

Oh! I forgot to mention that last night, after dinner, Peggy and I went for a walk on the beach. It was near sunset, and the beach was empty, and I think the tide was high. We parked near Tank's house, and walked past the benches, and down the steps, and then we walked south. It was wonderful. We talked and laughed. I walked in sandals, and Peggy walked in bare feet. It felt so good to be there. We talked about our other trips to Morro Bay, together and separately. This is our 5th time together, I think. She has four other visits, and I have six other visits, as I recall. Once, days before Tank died, we were here at the same time, although we hadn't traveled together. That together-time lasted a mere 18 hours or so, but I don't think either of us will ever forget it.

It was very overcast last night, so we couldn't see the sunset, but it was still a pleasure. When I was ready to turn around, I encouraged Peggy to go farther, but she returned to the car with me. We sat on the benches for a while, watching the ocean.

24 September 2011

Hi there! We were in the motel lobby anyway, so I paid the three bucks, so I can continue to communicate compulsively. I just showered, and Peggy is walking on the beach. She looked darling when she left here, in black bike shorts, a grey hoodie, tennis shoes, and an iPod. Or maybe it was her phone. Talk about communicating compulsively...

The day is overcast, and beautiful, and we can hear bird sounds from in here.

Last night, we drove to Terry's, but she wasn't home. We went in, and not much had changed. It was immaculate...not even a water-glass on the sink. I bet she's out of town. I mention that without fear for her safety, or the safety of her possessions, because her house is surrounded by neighbors who are clearly keeping on eye on things. While we were there, the Vietnam vet who lives next door made a point of being in the front yard, and looking our way, and waving, and maybe jotting down my license-plate number.

It was fun being in the house, especially alone (I mean...with Peggy). Terry has had Tank's study repainted white, and it looks good. It was brown paneling, and now it's white paneling, and it looks cheerful and clean and much larger. Tank's desk is gone, replaced by another desk, which is big and attractive and looks slightly used. Sturdy wooden thing. She also repositioned the desk so it is now against the utility-room wall, which looks good. It has HER stuff on it, but it certainly didn't feel unfriendly or anything (not to me, anyway). That little card-playing table is still there under the window. I thought she'd add more blinds or curtains to the house, for privacy, but she has not. She replaced the two TV-watching chairs with matching nubby brown easy-chairs...slightly smaller chairs than would have been desirable with Tank living there. But attractive. Also, you know how he had the huge TV on a huge desk? She replaced that desk with a table. Also, you know that bookcase that was right there at the entrance to Tank's study? It's now where his desk used to be...between her desk and his chair. I'm including this info for Sally, 'cause no one else is likely to care. :) It looks good. Easier to maneuver in there. They would have been good changes to make while he was ill. The art on the walls is the same, in that room. It's more sparse, and more like Terry, but not radically changed.

Peggy just came home, and said that she left some of Tank's ashes at the beach! Cool! What a good girl. :)

Oh...while we were at the house, I grabbed the off-white shirt that Nola made for Tank (out of CW mattress covers, I think) that Terry found after Tank died. Terry told me about it, and said that it was hanging in his closet, waiting for us to pick it up. :) Thoughtful of her. :) It was the only thing hanging there. It's good to have it.

There are minor changes in the rest of the house, too. That picture of Tank's (flowers on the metal chair) is now at Sally's house, and Terry replaced it with a picture of an Asian man stooping down something. It's white and light blue and fairly large, and it looks good in that position. If you know the house well, you notice it right away, and you aren't surprised that Terry chose THAT picture. The rest of the furniture is the same. There are lots of snapshots of Tank in the bedrooms, and his bedroom seems unchanged, including some medical stuff in the closet. I was taken aback, really, by how unchanged it all was. The snapshots on her little desk in the living room (Chuck R., the Lay grandkids) are identical. The kitchen seems less cluttered, but not different really, except for a cute wooden layabout on top of the fridge that I really liked. I opened a cupboard, and it seemed like she'd done some neatening. That sounds intrusive, but it didn't feel so at the time. I don't know her plans for the future, but NOTHING indicates that this is the house of someone who is planning to move soon.

Then Peggy and I drove to Dockside for dinner. There was a lot of harbor action as the boats came in, and we were sitting by the window, and it was a lot of fun. There was an 8- or 9-year-old boy helping his dad after a day of fishing, and they both seemed to be having a good time, and they reminded me of dads and sons I've known over the years. Peggy and I shared a platter of grilled seafood, which was delicious, and served with au gratin potatoes. It's a pleasure sharing meals with her, 'cause we don't get overfull. We shared a cup of shrimp bisque and a side salad, also. Tasty! As I recall, Peggy took a photo of the bisque. :)

We don't linger and talk over meals, since we're going to continue to be together AFTER the meal. Dan and I are like that, too.

We came home, and hung out in the room. The neighbors were both noisy AND intimate. Gross. We didn't watch TV, but just talked and laughed until Peggy fell asleep. Earlier, I walked barefoot and PJ'd to the candy machines and got Paydays for both of us, and cookies for first-breakfast.

I forgot to mention that Kelly called the other night, on Nola's birthday. That was a pleasure.

Also, I noticed just now that these posts indicate that Tank wrote them. I hope that isn't confusing to anyone.

We WERE going to hit the Farmers' Market this afternoon in MB, but it would put us on the road for several hours after dark, and I'm uncomfortable with that, so Peggy agreed to skip the market, and head out at about 1. This morning, we're going to Dorn's for breakfast (to share eggs Benedict with crab cakes), then a little shopping downtown, then the avocado stand where I plan to buy large quantities of unripened avocados, and then home. We'll stay in Vegas tonight, and be home midday tomorrow. I miss my family and my clowder. Or glaring. :)

Much love... Polly.

Friday, September 23, 2011

23 September 2011, later

Hi from Motel 6! We slept in again and then went to Carlock's Bakery again. So good! We walked in, and Peggy said, "It smells like Tank in here." :) It did! Like old-ish man, and coffee, and...something fried. And there WERE a lot of elderly men in there, true to the demographic in this area. I don't know where all of the elderly women are. Peggy had a cookie and a cinnamon roll, and I had a meat-and-cheese filled croissant. Again, we stayed at Carlock's to eat, instead of eating in the car. It was so reminiscent of Tank. I wonder how many times he went there. 100? 200?

We drove north to Ragged Point, which is SUCH a gorgeous drive. The day was beautiful, too: a little cloudy and about 65 degrees. We stopped to view the elephant seals, which is always a blast. There were about a hundred of them visible, and no babies. I suppose it's not the time of year for babies. They made a lot of seal noises, and did wacky seal things. Most were sleeping, but I noticed one seal using a front paw/fin thingy to cover another (sleeping) seal with sand. I wonder why. The sleeping seal didn't seem to mind. Some of the seals on the beach were either playing or fighting or mating. It was exciting, and such a treat to get close to something so natural. In the water, others were diving and playing and barking.

I was fairly comfy in my sturdy sandals (men's size 8.5), and Peggy seemed just as comfy in her strappy black espadrilles with a 4-inch wedge heel. There were about 40 people seal-watching, and only ONE of them (Pegbo) was wearing anything other than flats. A few people (most people) cast a glance her way. I don't think she noticed.

("I think I make really good shopping choices when I'm with you," Peggy just said, from the bed. "It's true!" she reiterated, when I laughed.)

The seal-watching reminded me so much of Tank. He would have LOVED that we stopped, even though we've both been there several times. The sounds and smells, the group of cheerful tourists, the giant and oblivious seals, the two daughters, so much alike and so all would have pleased Tank.

We drove north for another half hour until we arrived at Ragged Point. Since we wanted jewelry, we immediately walked toward Brother John's kiosk, but it was closed, which surprised us both. We went to the mini-mart next door and inquired about when Brother John would be back, and we were given the surprising and unsettling news that Brother John had died on August 19. I was shocked. I thought he was my age (he was 71). He seemed so healthy and fit a year and a half ago. I was very sad.

We walked to the gift shop, and asked if they had any of Brother John's jewelry. The nice middle-aged hippie girl that worked there told me that they did not. She said that he died of cancer, and had been quite sick and unproductive for about a year. She said that he knew he was sick, and didn't seek medical care, and when he finally did, they treated him with chemo, and he died that night (after his first and only chemo treatment), peacefully in his sleep. We talked briefly of death, and she mentioned the Mayan calendar, and Peggy bought a beautiful scarf (or a beautiful table runner...I couldn't tell), and we left the gift shop. I was still sad.

Peggy and I shared a BBQ sandwich and the best onion rings I've ever had. Like a good Utah girl, I mixed mayo and ketchup, because other states refuse to climb on the fry-sauce wagon. It was a delicious meal, there on the patio. We chatted about the handful of times we'd been there with Tank, and how happy he'd always been, and how cheerful, and how generous. If I'd said to him, "Wow...those fries look good," he would have plunked a handful of his fries onto my plate, without a word said. For someone who loved food, he didn't become emotionally attached to food, and would hand it over without considering how doing so might affect his share.

After we ate, we walked toward the ocean, where, as I recall, "The Sandpiper" was filmed. I haven't seen it. I should watch it, and pretend that Elizabeth is Nola, and Richard is Tank. That would be fun. We walked to the farthest viewing area, and hung out there for a while. Gorgeous beyond words.

We climbed back into the car--happy--and drove south. I mean, as happy as we could be, given that Tank is gone and that Brother John is gone. We held them in our hearts. Well, I just assume that Peggy was holding them in her heart, also.

It was only about noon (it's as if time moves more slowly here), so we drove back to Morro Bay and hit Coalesce bookstore, another of Tank's hang-outs. We didn't buy anything, but it was fun to be there, and we checked out the plant-filled backyard, which houses a wedding chapel, and is a little slice of Central Coast heaven, and Peggy expressed chagrin that she hadn't chosen this as a marriage location. It's all private and lush, with water features and succulents and a good vibe. We walked a few stores down the block, and Peggy shopped for jewelry-makings while I people-watched on a bench outside. Between the bead store and the bookstore is a coffee shop, and I think it's quite likely that Tank went there for a cup after picking up his Parker books at Coalesce. It was easy for me to imagine that, and his gait, and his booming-but-polite voice, and his pleasure.

We were driving back to the motel, but I missed the exit, and we took a scenic drive and ended up at Morro Bay State Park, which is shady and pungent with eucalyptus trees. We pulled into the parking lot and took a walk around the grounds. Neither of us had ever been there before, which surprised us, 'cause it seems like the kind of place Terry would recommend. Very cool! There was a gnarled old tree that looked like Tank, if Tank were a tree, so Peggy climbed into the intricate root structure, so it seemed like Tank-the-tree was hugging Peggy, and I took some pictures. She posted them online, and Kent immediately responded with a funny comment about Peggy's "hiking" shoes. We went to the gift shop, where a cute woman who looked like Jane Lynch chatted us up and rang up our purchases. I bought a small gift for Elvis, and it was the first item I've purchased other than food. Peggy bought more gifts for her grandchildren.

Near the State Park is Bayside restaurant, and we went there for dessert (my idea). Peggy spotted a tasty-looking appetizer, so we shared a delicious skewered tuna steak with teriyaki sauce, in addition to sharing a slice of coconut cream pie. We hadn't PLANNED a meal, but it WAS a meal, but we have no intention of skipping dinner, fyi.

On the way to the motel, we stopped at Bottle Liquor, 'cause Tank loved Bottle Liquor. It's a friendly place, and it's easy to understand what Tank loved about it. I bought wine for Dan, and a scratcher. The scratcher is still in the car, but I'll let you know if I win big.

We finally made it back to the motel, and called Terry to let her know we were in town. Strange, though...the phone rang once, and then stopped. It happened a few times, from both my cell phone and Peggy's. I don't know what that means. The car is there, but hasn't been moved in the several times we've spotted it from Highway 1. The house was completely dark one night when we drove by. Maybe she's out of town. We're about to leave here, and just knock at her door, and see if she's home. If not, we'll find the hidden key, if it's still there, and take a look around. You check on her. :) And to grab anything that we think we deserve.

"Wow...I just got to a new level on Angry Birds," Peggy just said, with awe in her voice, from where she's sprawled on the bed in her f***-me shoes. Now, she just added: "I'm thinking about going to get some beef jerky. In the car." :) Then she yawned, and didn't get up. Fyi, the Angry Birds are now fighting (or whatever they do) at night. Now, Peggy's at the motel door, trying to get it open, to go fetch the jerky. She struggled with the door briefly, but finally managed to get through, and here she is, back. "Look!" she said, holding a bag of Brach's Pick-a-Mix from Spensers. "I forgot all about this!" she said. Then, seconds later, again, "I forgot all about this!" :)

So, I'm going to sneak up behind Peggy and wrest the bag of candy from her grimy hands, and then we'll go to Terry's. I'll be in touch later. We have wi-fi for another few hours, but god knows I can't afford another $3 for the next 24 hours. Our love to all...

23 September 2011

Hi there! I hope everyone had fun yesterday on Nola's birthday. And Happy Autumnal Equinox!

Peggy and I are in Morro Bay for a few days. We drove straight through on Wednesday, which was 13.75 hours of fun. Stopped briefly in Scipio, Cedar City, Primm, and Boron, and arrived in the Motel 6 as the sun was setting. After we checked in, we drove to the Whale's Tail, but it is closed, permanently, and the property is for sale. Tragic. So we went to the Hungry Fisherman for fish and chips. It was delicious and relaxing.

We chatted nonstop on the long drive. We experienced a minor problem with the AC in the Fit, which was bothersome. It was 95+ across the desert, and the AC fan seemed inadequate (it seems fine now). For several hours, we were damp, and I complained frequently. We rolled the windows down as we approached the coast, and it was glorious.

After we left Barstow, I handed Peggy a map and asked how far we were from Bakersfield, and she (master cartographer) examined the map closely and said, "About two inches." :) And giggled.

After dinner, we drove past Terry's house, and her car was out front, but the house was completely dark. The exterior looks adorable, as it always has.

Yesterday, we slept in, and then drove down to the Embarcadero. We checked out several stores, and then had lunch at Dockside Too, which is a favorite. There were a LOT of animals to watch, including some HUGE seals that swam by about 20 feet from us. They looked to be about 7 feet long from nose to tail, maybe 300 or 400 pounds. There were 2 or 3 of them, and they seemed to be playing together. There were also giant pelicans swooping across the water's surface. The live music was provided by Liam, who wasn't as good as the musician in February, when we were here last. It was mostly light jazz, but toward the end he played (and sang) the Beatles' "I Will," which I adore. "Love you forever and forever, love you with all my heart. Love you whenever we're together, love you when we're apart." :) That was fitting.

We shared Tank's favorite (chicken taquitos), and I had two tacos (shrimp and salmon), and Peggy had one taco (shrimp). So tasty! So relaxing! Dogs and middle-aged men everywhere.

We did more Embarcadero shopping, and Peggy bought lovely scarves and jewelry. We bought some vegan jerky for Kaycee. :)

We drove to Spencer's, but the Farmers' Market was just setting up, so we drove to Los Osos and Carlocks. Peggy had two cookies, and I had a haystack. Wow. I bet Tank loved date-filled haystacks. We sat down with diet Cokes and our treats, and took our time. Carlocks was uncrowded at that hour. We imagined all the times Tank had been there. We felt grateful that we had such a long list of places that Tank loved, that we could visit.

We drove back across the marshy Los Osos (so beautiful) and went to Spensers for tomatilla salsa, wine, and beef jerky. We hit the Farmers' Market (in the parking lot), which has grown since I was there last (nearly a year ago). We bought strawberries, blackberries, and coconut bread (my good). Oh, and fresh-squeezed OJ. And apple sauce. We received free samples of cherry tomatoes and apple-pecan bread. Everyone was friendly. The selection of produce was nothing I have ever seen before. It was so easy to imagine Tank shopping here, and taking it all home for dinner. It seemed like there were dozens of types of lettuce, and dozens of types of squash.

Peggy and I seem to move very efficiently from activity to activity, so it was still early afternoon, and I agreed to go shopping in San Luis Obispo for one hour (the bidding started at 1.5 hours). It's such a gorgeous place to shop, and she bought a merlot felt hat with a floppy brim (like Ali McGraw in Love Story), some A&F cologne, gifts for the grandkids, outrageous note cards, and jewelry fixings. I shopped with her sometimes, and sat on a park bench sometimes, and enjoyed every minute. It's a clean, friendly town with lots of cute college girls who travel in packs, and cute middle-aged men who travel alone. I observed both.

We stopped briefly at the motel, and then went to Cayucos and the Sea Shanty. We shared a burger and onion rings, and each had a side salad. So good!

Back at the motel, Peggy fell asleep instantly, while I watched Big Bang and then tossed and turned until about 3 a.m. Sleeping is HARD.

Today, we're heading for Carlocks again ('cause Tank would want us to), and then to Ragged Point (near Big Sur) for $20 sandwiches. We're also going to purchase jewelry from ex-monk Brother John. You help us remember the trip. After that, we'll touch base with Terry, and invite her to dinner.

Well, Peggy is actually all ready to start the day, and here I sit with wet hair, so I'll log off. You take care! Love, Polly.

Friday, July 8, 2011

8 July 2011

The night before last, I had a dream about Tank. He was very ill, and living in a lovely, rambling, white clapboard hotel surrounded by a porch, situated on a grassy hillside. It appeared to be a 1920s sanitarium where one might recover from tuberculosis. Tank wanted to get out of there, so several family members picked him up in an over-sized pickup truck that belonged to Kelly. I was there, of course, along with my siblings, and Sadie, and Kaycee with 1-year-old Charlie on her lap. Tank made eight, and we all fit comfortably in the extended cab of the white truck.

Sally was driving, because she told Kelly that being a passenger hurt her back, but driving did not. Kelly was sitting in the backseat, his arms folded across his cheat, clearly unhappy with the arrangement.

Just as we were about to leave (we were headed for Purple Turtle to get tacos), I suggested that it would be handy to have a couple pairs of paper skivvies with us. So Sadie (all knees and elbows...looking about 13 years old) hopped out of the truck and ran back to the sanitarium, quickly returning with two diapers, identical to the ones I recently used on young KJ. No one saw a problem with that, so Sadie climbed back into the truck, and we headed out, Sally carefully maneuvering the large vehicle down the grassy hillside.

There was a bit of a party atmosphere in the truck. We all seemed to know that this would be Tank's last ride...that he wouldn't survive long. (He was walking, though, and wearing a polo shirt and slacks; the shirt wasn't tucked in, and he was barefoot.) Charlie was wearing an orange T-shirt, and happily perched on Kaycee's lap, gnawing on a chunk of bread. We kept grinning at each other, knowing that this final outing was bringing Tank a lot of pleasure, and knowing that he--not others--was choosing where he would die.

The dream ended there, and blissfully. I felt confident that we'd make it to Purple Turtle...that the end would come after lunch.

I miss a lot of things about Tank. Just the other day, Dan mentioned how much he missed Tank's loud, enthusiastic, predictive phone messages: "(Laughter.) Dan! Polly! (More laughter.) Just called to say hello! You're probably out having lunch! Or walking the dogs! Having a wonderful time, I'm sure! I'll call again later! (More laughter.)" And we usually were out having lunch or walking the dogs (but sometimes we were snaking a toilet, or I was sobbing quietly, baffled by a particularly complex Excel spreadsheet). I also miss his frequent and sincere (but not needy) invitations to visit, the warm and solicitous way he asked about "our Clayton," and the way I could please him by discussing the latest Parker recalling a perceptive line or a meaningful exchange between two of our favorite characters.

I miss the validation I received from Tank. He validated generously and spontaneously, and--since I'm cursed with an external locus of identity (and no, the irony isn't lost on me)--I appreciated every validation, every reassurance, every recognition of every accomplishment, no matter how insignificant. I signed up for swimming lessons? Wonderful! I got an A-minus on my Biology final? Wonderful! I did seven push-ups, took E to the aquarium, stopped at a Kool-Aid stand in a bad neighborhood, made Enchilada Pie for dinner? Wonderful! With siblings and other peers, there's usually some sense of competition, no matter how minor or subtle or vehemently denied. Not so with parents. They're always rooting for you.

My favorite thing about blogging is that paragraph-to-paragraph transitions are optional.

Decades ago, Dan's sister-in-law delivered full-term stillborn twin boys. Family and friends were gripped by the tragedy, but eventually other topics of conversation were broached. Maybe out of emotional discomfort, maybe out of a misplaced sense of kindness, people stopped talking to her about what had happened...about the boys. She wasn't ready to move on, though, and she told me that she wanted to hang a sign around her neck: "Please ask me about my dead sons." To this day, I appreciate her gritty honesty. Sometimes, I think about that, and Tank. "Talk to me about Tank!" I want to insist. "Tell me that you miss him. Tell me how much he meant to you. Tell me that you can remember...when he was alive."

Tank never said that he was a Leonard Cohen fan. I'm certain, though, that any lack of fanaticism is related to a lack of exposure. If he'd heard the live version of "The Gypsy's Wife," with its eerie violin solo, with its heartbroken refrain ("where...where is my gypsy wife tonight?"), he would have declared himself a fan. Perhaps I've mentioned it before, but--at the end of Tank's life--I often thought of my favorite lines from that song, and hummed them occasionally when I was alone with him.

It's too early for the rainbow,
too early for the dove.
These are your final days,
this is the darkness, this is the flood.

I think he would have forgiven the biblical origins. I sometimes wonder how aware he was at the end. Scary as hell, I'm sure, but fascinating, too, to have a sense of what's going on. Tank had a curious nature. I can imagine his last thought being, "This is new...this is interesting..."

Please forgive me for complaining in my last blog entry, regarding the Laugh Lots sign. Right behind me, on my study wall, hangs a three-feet by three-feet sign that reads, "Pay Attention" in Tank's handwriting. It actually says:


The L's only look like L's if one has seen Tank's L's. Dan read the sign as "Pay Attentio alpha-alpha-to-the-Nth." :) Which is probably only funny to me.

Ya'll take care.

Monday, June 27, 2011

27 June 2011

It's been five months.

Here's a list of Tank's stuff. Of course, he shared furniture and appliances and dishes and pans, so they were left behind. And I'm convinced that if--a year ago--he'd moved to another house in Morro Bay, he would have ditched half of this stuff. If he'd moved farther--to Port Townsend, to Sandy--he would have ditched 90 percent of it.

86 books

Detective fiction: 17
Other fiction: 5 (including a gorgeous hardcover Joseph Conrad)
Word origins, quotes, writing, speaking: 12
Anti-religion: 6
LA waterfront: 11
Movies and showbiz: 7
Philosophy, history, science: 23
Controlling diabetes: 4
Jokes: 1 ("Beyond the Far Side")

There were two duplicates: "The Best of Sydney J. Harris" and Eric Hoffer's "Working and Thinking on the Waterfront."

62 items of clothing

T-shirts: 4
Woven-cotton shirts: 6 short sleeved, 1 long sleeved
Polo shirts: 4
Cotton-knit lounge pants: 5
Sweat pants: 4
Jeans: 1
Khaki shorts: 2
Khaki slacks: 4
Socks: 4 pair
Shoes: 4 pair (3 white tennis shoes, 1 gray tennis shoes)
Skivvies: 7 pair
Gloves: 2 pair
Belts: 2
Hats: 4 (2 baseball caps, 1 canvas bucket hat, 1 narrow-brimmed straw hat)
Bathing suits: 2
Scarf: 1 (bright red wool, fringed...probably packed inadvertently)
Fleece jacket: 1
Windbreakers: 3
Sweater: 1

Wall hangings

Poster (Lakers, a couple decades ago)
Poster (aerial view, Port of Los Angeles)
Posters (3, Tank's writing)
Wooden sign ("Live well, laugh often, love much")
Pencil drawing (small, matted, 1910)
Pencil drawing (framed, San Pedro)
Modern art (by Tank, on glass)
Modern art (by Tank, bark glued on styrofoam)
Sign ("Pay Attention, LL" by Tank, 3 feet by 3 feet)
Sign (Tow Away Zone on one side, an invitation to a party at Tank's on the other side)
Sign (Spencer's Market "proudly sponsors" Tank's radio show)
Painting (large, framed, yellow lawn chair and a bucket of red flowers)
Painting (framed, sailboat)
Blank canvas (1 foot by 2 feet)
Over-sized birthday card (from the Alexanders, 1 foot by 2 feet)


Lots of cassettes, VCR tapes (movies, Tank), CDs (music, Tank on the radio), DVDs (movies, Tank)

Miscellaneous items

"Laugh Lots!" written on a piece of fencepost with black Sharpie
Paper (large stack, assorted sizes and weights)
Life magazines (about a dozen)
Duffel bags (4: 3 canvas, 1 leather)
Blankets (2, both small)
Towel (large, brown, embroidered with the word TANK and several small military tanks)
Frisbee (yellow)
Crockpot (olive green, without a lid)
Eyeglasses (2, readers, brown plastic)
Baseball glove (well worn)
Rope (coiled, clothesline type)
Checkers game (plastic)
Chess game (plastic)
Picnic basket (wicker, small)
Utensil crock (blue)
Puzzle (in original package, "What Movie is That?")
Boom box (with a Gipsy Kings CD)
Large box of empty coffee cans with lids
Attache case (black with red-and-black-checked interior)
Paper cup filled with nuts and bolts
Tape (packaging, Priority Mail)
Tape (masking)
Tape (2, Scotch)
Tools (4, assorted)
Bird feathers (3, assorted)
Flashlight (in working order)
Ruler (NFL theme, plastic, 12 inch)
Wine corks in a gallon Ziplock bag
Metal bracelet ("Live well, laugh often, love much" on one side, "Live the life you have imagined" on the other side)
Tiles (about 4 inches by 4 inches; "Dance like there's nobody watching" on one, "Sing like there's nobody listening" on the other)
Bottle opener
Eggs (4, stone)
Eggs (2, plastic)
Dominoes game (very old, in box)
Box of white chalk
Box of crayons (only 6 left)
Shoelaces (45 inches, new in package)
Antenna ball ("76")
Electric razor
Bottle of Tums
Hospital bootie (1)
Ink-filled stamp with home address
Drawing pad (18 inches by 24 inches, spiral bound)

There were several items that had been gifts from one of Tank's kids, so those items were returned to the gift-giver. (One was a wall hanging that defined the word Dad, making reference to the guy who pushes you extra high on a swing, allowing you to see things that you might not have seen otherwise. Another was a pencil sketch--beautifully done by Anna C., who worked from a photo--of a young Tank working under the hood of a sports car.) There was also an American flag, which was sent directly to Peggy from the navy, and she kept it as her first-choice item. There was also a large sepia photo (with a rigid backing) of early San Pedro, which Tank told Peggy she could have.

To my mind, the most desirable possession of Tank's was the chunk of fencepost with "Laugh Lots!" written on it. I didn't get it, and it was no one's fault but my own. I was distracted...maybe by grief, maybe by the over-sized cookies Sally brought to the divvying-up event. Kelly got it, and it's displayed prominently in his house. "I love it," Susan gushed, when Sally and I visited recently. I thought about grabbing it, and running to the Fit, and driving until I crossed into Canada. But I took a deep breath and thought about the cool things I did score: a long-sleeved plaid cotton shirt that I can wear like a cocktail dress, a container of Tums that I keep in the glove box, the suitable-for-framing piece of tree bark, the three feathers to which Dan attached pens and keeps on his desk, and one of the Sydney Harris books, in which Tank wrote "Please return to: TANK." He included his address and offered a polite "thank you." The book smells of his seawater, like sunshine.

Peggy made me a beautiful bracelet for my birthday. It has a don't-blame-don't-complain theme. When I wear it, I spend slightly less time blaming and complaining.

I was chatting with a friend recently, and I said--of a mutual friend--"He's never been allowed to be himself." Once we're adults, though, "being oneself" doesn't require the permission or encouragement of others (although many of us get confused and think it does). Tank--especially the last dozen years or so--was very determined to be himself, and he derived great pleasure from doing so. He didn't always manage it, of course, and a case could probably be made that "being himself" wasn't always in his best long-term interest. Few achieve and maintain the level of clarity that allows one to express the self of today without harming (to some degree) the self of tomorrow.

But even so... I always got the impression that Tank was trying to get the most from a moment by making it uniquely his turning off the voice that told him what others expected, what tradition dictated, what was standard operational procedure, what was prudent. Tank understood that much of what we take to be mandatory is actually optional.

I know that my effusive praise of Tank sets him up for criticism. He would be the first to assert that his mistakes would fill the back of an F-150 to overflowing. And that--if lucky--one acquires wisdom with age, but one still makes mistakes at an alarming rate.

In addition to Tank's bulkier stuff, there was a huge box of story ideas, notes-to-self, and correspondence, which I divided among the four of us, shamelessly keeping the best for myself (sometimes, I made copies). Eventually, I'll blog about each and every scrap of paper. Like me, Tank was comfortable throwing away correspondence once it was read, so I was surprised when I found a Thoreau quote that I sent him, cut from a magazine and inserted in a letter. It reads: "There is no remedy for love but to love more."

I had a credit at, so I recently ordered five Simon and Garfunkel CDs, because I only had albums. I've been listening to them in the car, and today--it was inevitable--I suddenly heard the unmistakable first notes of "The Boxer," one of Tank's favorite songs. Besides its musical perfection, it's clear to me why Tank loved this song. After 9/11, when normal TV programming resumed, Paul Simon was the musical guest on "Saturday Night Live," and he sang "The Boxer." It's an ode to resilience. "In the clearing stands a boxer..." The song takes a while to end, with just enough lie-la-lie's to suit me. But this time, as I listened to the song end, I imagined Tank turning and walking away from me, with that football-injury gait, his arm up to wave a final time. As he waves, his face is already turned away from me, in a posture that would seem dismissive if it weren't so familiar and affectionate. Try thinking about that while you listen to "The Boxer." "I am leaving, I am leaving, but the fighter still remains."