Posts Tagged ‘DMV’

A New Yorker cartoon from the 1930s (subject: skyscrapers)

Usually I tell of what I did once I succeed in parking. Now my subject is Parking itself


On Wednesday I went with my friend, Panorea, to the National Gallery in DC to see the Christmas blockbuster show, Vermeer and his Contemporaries. I will write about that separately. I thought this time instead of telling about the show or lecture or whatever event it is I went to upon succeeding in getting there and/or parking, I would tell the framing that characterizes almost all I do: parking the car. Yes, I hardly ever go anywhere without having to park my car near where I am going to be or near the Metro. Surely, you will say you sometimes take a bus or a cab. Rarely. I drive mostly and alone most of the time — listening to unabridged texts of books read aloud to me on CDs or MP3s.

A typical choice for me

Wednesday was not exception — though I had a friend next to me.

Lately I’ve been taking a chance and parking my car on a block where after 3 hours I could be ticketed knowing that I will not be back within the three hour limit. But I had noticed directly across the street from the King Street Metro stop a garage entrance over which there was a new sign: Public Parking. I had just read a story in The Post where we are told the flagrantly injust justice department is now allowing police and DMVs and local authorities to hike up parking fines, and then if they are not paid promptly enough, add fines. I determined I would not scoff-law the way I often succeed but park in that new parking garage.

Little did I know the sign was a lie. Why I never thought before about the large number of people who must work in the enormous building across the street from said Metro station I know not. Nor the altogether hundreds of people who work in the many other similar huge tall (prison-like) cement buildings (with rows of windows) near by. There used to be a huge railway yard on the other side of Duke Street and it is now filled with soulless apartment houses nearby further on. What was there in the 19th century?

Parking for the 90%

Well where do these people park? in labyrinthine caverns everywhich way under roofs in danger of collapsing. That’s where. As I drove in, I saw signs saying one or other of the vast areas were pre-assigned to people in the building. I saw signs for prices for monthly, weekly, all day parking. I felt something was awry and wished I could get out. But I had promised my friend and worried she would think me mad if I said “I do not like this (Sam I am).” So I said to the attendant, “Is this a public parking place or do you have to work here to park here?” Somewhat to my dismay he could not speak English very well, but grinned and seemed to indicate, yes you can park here, and waved me on. I got out of my car to ask again, and someone came over and said I had to go down to the fourth level and then someone would show me where.

I should say that for 3 years now I have parked in one of these caverns under a tall building but as a “Schwabb private client.” Ahem. As I drove in, an attendant would come right over, take my key and near the entrance in group of designated spaces park my car. The ticket I had punched for coming in, would be validated by a stamp and I could punch it in going out and pay nothing. I had never looked about me. Now I had to.

What more characteristic of modern life — this one offers automated parking!

Everywhere cars parked every which way. The lanes weaving in and out. Pillars which from my parking in a not such a bad garage under the OLLI at AU building in DC I knew endangered the side of my car as the spaces are hardly big enough. Worst of all I saw spots where several pillars were put up all together with what looked like maskin (spelling?) tape. Panorea wondered if they were to to prevent the ceiling from one level from caving to the next. She was joking, she said. Of course it’d hold. Ha! Criss-cross I went until an attendant came over and indicated (none of them spoke English well) he would show me where to park. I asked, “Was there any room?” “Of course,” he grinned. I didn’t like it. The sign lied; only a tiny proportion was public parking at the deepest level – some concession to the city? I had to give a man I somehow didn’t trust to be there when I got back my car key to leave the car there. Car keys nowadays are these tiny computers which cost $400 to replace. I hate them — as what if I lose it, and then have to get a new one. Why consumers put up with this I know not. I was told when I bought my first Prius in 2013 this was the kind of key used for years. I realized that was and my old key (made at a key maker) was old-fashioned but I did not know one had no choice.

Had I been alone I would have driven out and gone home or gone to the blocks where I usually park and take a chance. I hesitated looking at him. He asked me if we would be back before 7. Before 7! we’d be back before 4. (It was 11 o’clock.) Well I managed to park the poor car without bruising it. Then we had to walk up. No elevators until one floor before ground. Lanes going everywhich way. Panorea was watching so as to find our way back.

I tried to dismiss my worry from my mind and probably did, mostly.

But when we got back 5 hours later, I felt anxiety as we approached that garage door with its lie about Public Parking. The garage was much emptier. Panorea did guide us back, except forgetting one of the stairways which I found. Whew. Once we were on the fourth floor in the correct area, I saw the same man and he called out to me from across the cavern and waved. I should have trusted him. He remembered me as I had made such a fuss, been so reluctant to leave my key with him. Then he had trouble finding it in the box nearby. Luckily the car was near the box. I began my NYC persona: “Are you going to have to tell me you have lost my key? is this what is happening here?” He took each key out on his board and began trying it on the car. I asked, “What would I have to pay?” he looked upset. Finally one lit up the car doors and so it was the right one in his hand. Panorea said he was a Muslim man and scared of losing his job from the way I was behaving. So I felt bad. He was in charge of the whole of the fourth level. Poor man. There all day and maybe other nights. Sitting on a metal folding chair.

Many scenes in that remarkable serial drama, Breaking Bad, occur in space just like this

Well, we slowly drove up from the fourth to the ground floor. It was not easy finding exit signs and sometimes we were going down or across, but finally it seemed to me, we were at the same entrance we had come in. “How much?” I said, glaring but relieved. $18.00! For 6 hours. Not so bad, but had it been $40 I would have paid to get out of there. Then I drive up and over a kind of mount and find I am not where I had been, but two blocks down from where we had come in. Under these huge buildings are vast connected garages.

Next time when I know there is no place to park (no garage, no grounds) and I have to take the Metro I’ll take my chance and street-park it.

Welcome to the world of the 21st century. When Jim and I took Izzy with us to London when she was about 9, she was far more impressed with the London underground, all the escalators, elevators, corridors, trains, than any tower of “crown jewels” or museum. I thought she was correct. Far more impressive and important. I did remember coming out how the last number of times Jim and I came to NYC by car we had to give the car over to valet parking and I was aware the attendants were doing it because only they could stack the cars efficiently enough. I saw elevators moving stacked cars up and down.

Another New Yorker cartoon — recent

So on that Wednesday the important lesson I learned was to wake up to the vast undergrounds of parking all over Northern Virginia and all vast cities with tall and big buildings. And I want to say I’ve been leaving this aspect of all these trips of mine out. The problem of where to park my car? I’m much better at parking against sidewalks between cars than I am in these lanes. The OLLI at Mason has a large enough parking lot on the grounds for everyone there at any given time to park. But at AU, Kennedy Center and other places I’m confronted with these many leveled garages. Wolf Trap is out-of-doors but immense and it can take over an hour to get out to the highway. And it’s dark and I can’t see well. This is not a small thing and figures in on my thinking when I decide to go anywhere.

Context, said John Berger.

Miss Drake

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Photo of my newly painted house — gentle reader imagine a much lighter, whiter cream color ….


Eleven days since I last wrote, and I and Izzy and my older daughter, Laura, are off to Rehoboth Beach on Friday morning to stay in a hotel on the beach front, a suite of rooms where we hope to relax. Sun, wind, fresh air, sand, a boardwalk, I just hope it won’t be too hot — as it has been today.

I’ve had a new pleasant experience — I attended my first face-to-face book club where the people discussed the book for real, Ian McEwan’s Amsterdam, such that I wanted to go back and reread because I realized as we talked the book had more depth and varied rich passages and characters than I had given it credit for (Booker Prize winner or no). It’s organized by the OLLI at Mason: serious fiction, with a moderator, all in circle on plain chairs. It’s a bit far for me: Reston, but then I learned how to get there now and it felt worth it. I am listening to a reading of Winston Graham’s sixth Poldark novel, The Four Swans, a fully mature stage within this continuing cycle of novels, about to be dramatized this coming June on the BBC (the third season, which will begin with fifth, The Black Moon). So however tiring, the time in the car is not wasted at all. I look forward to going again; the club meets from September to May. I’m getting better at finding places by car (with my trusty garmin and printed out maps).

I’ve also — unhappy this one — been again astonished by the irresponsibility of doctors at Kaiser when it comes to prescribing drugs (pills). A doctor knowingly prescribed a sleeping pill he must’ve know was addictive and then showed no concern if I was addicted to it. Paid no mind to this aspect of what happened at all. And in true Trump-style manifested a shameless disregard, denial, of obvious truth. After three years and some months of taking a mild depressant each night to help me sleep sufficiently to be able to drive and live my days, I discovered the pill a doctor prescribed is no longer working. I’ve become inured; to make me sleep, I have to take say two pills and they don’t always do the trick — or as much heavier, addictive pill, Restoril, becomes necessary. As my widowhood and the contour of a life that will be mine (with my disabilities over travel, circumstances, placement &c), on my own (as they say) — a long, long road stretching out before me, years I must walk through, I was understanding Julian Barnes’s word for his wife’s “disappearance” as a death-time, since he didn’t and couldn’t forget her, shaping this aftermath; then growing so tired of coping with all sorts of things, deep angst.

So I tell a little of this to the psychiatrist and his reaction: prescribe a pill (new drug!) said to make the patient sleep and provide release from anxiety, Remeron it’s called. He seemed to care that I have a bleeding problem at first; was going to send me to hematology but when he contacted them, he recontacted asking me about bleeding episodes “so so we are on the same page.” Then behaved as if I had had no hemorrhages in my life (when I’ve probably had 4-5). In effect he refused to question an old diagnosis from the oncology and hematology people at Kaiser that I have no hemorrhage problem after I have experienced 4, twice coming near death. That’s not his area. I took one Remeron Tuesday night and found myself in the grip of a trauma, a kind of intense trance where my feelings were no different but at a distance, my body feeling sickened. It was harrowing. I came near a car accident! Not until Thursday noon, did it wear off. I tell this to the psychiatrist and what does he say, Oh, we’ll try another anti-depressant in a couple of days when this wears off. This should be astonishing. Is it? Well, in a mood of self-preservation (what happens when I grow old, I must maintain independence as long as I can), I instead for the next three nights I went “cold turkey,” and took no pills. I felt better physically, more alert than I had in a long time. But I am not sleeping enough — 2-3 hours is not enough.

Vanessa Bell (18791961), gorgeous (just look at that hat) Lady with a Book — from later in her career

I simply returned to segmented sleep, which is my natural pattern, sleep four hours (if I’m lucky), up for a couple where I read in bed, and then hope for another hour or so, from new tiredness. I won’t take any more of these drugs. So a new pattern of daily life is emerging. I’m reading good books at night, and then again just after the second awakening. I might not make it to the gym the way I had been this past winter.

I need a good doctor. Responsible. Looking after my health as an individual.

Leave Kaiser? If I did, I could never go back as I was not the federal employee, it would cost me so much more (I am grandmothered into an earlier deal), and I know from experience when I find myself facing lists of doctors from say an insurance hand-out I don’t know who to go and end up with no one. More than half the time before the HMO I had bad encounters, and no regular doctor. And was fleeced, often disrespected. I remember years ago being charged $37 for five minutes of man’s time – he laughed at me when I said I was suffering from headache. The American health care system is indeed a joke, even when they are not outright fleecing and bankrupting you. I did frighten the present Kaiser psychiatrist by my email to him on the Kaiser site; he phoned me (!) and talked of how he was so concerned, how much thought he had put into this, did I want to come and “chat” (that’s his word for what passes for serious talk with him), and I heard him typing, taking down every word I said lest I sue. That’s why he cares about: his career. (Addiction doesn’t concern him at all. Like some dentists’ attitude towards teeth: the real ones are not as good as the pretty crowns.)

Outside Kaiser I am told this prescribe-drugs and send the patient to a social-worker therapist is the protocol. I did have a good psychiatrist when I went to the Haven for a few months after Jim died — pure luck. She did talk of my past and deeply and helped me see things I had not before. But I lost her when the DMV removed my “driving privileges” and harassed me for months over it (invisible computer monitoring is the way they use the cops to stop people from driving — in the state of Virginia there is a class action suit against the DMV for egregious use of this technique, among other things impoverishing people who can’t get to their jobs) and I couldn’t reach her any more. American institutions, American lack of public transportation. Deep culture here? from many practices followed, isolation structured in.

An interesting mid-20th century painter, John Piper who I read about recently in the LRB: Chicester Cathedral from the Deanery

Just one small life — insignificant against the unfolding of the Trump regime (stop gentle reader and watch this two-part Dutch documentary). Today I spent some 5 hours altogether at the OLLI at AU anniversary party/luncheon (they have been going for 35 years) where Diane Reims spoke. While she is a decent woman I can see, intelligent I did discover why I never listened much: too schmaltzy, too mainstream, and they applauded her for her sentiments a couple of times. What a group these people are. Many went to private colleges, even Ivy League and this in the 1950s, or early 60s. Many of them slightly older than me, most just luckier than me. Many came from genuinely middle class families which led to their careers. So many were lawyers — the men of course. All with grown children, two to four, grandchildren, traveling as a pair to them in say Switzerland or Florida. Though I know there are some single women there (divorced, widowed).

I sat with the good intelligent woman who was the teacher of the Woolf class I attended, who herself used to teach at University of Maryland. It was good talk — of the Brontes, the neglected Anne, the greatness of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Emily Bronte’s poetry, DuMaurier’s powerful Branwell Bronte (a biography) and Gaskell’s Life of Bronte. She and her husband used to go sailing down from Cape May to Bermuda (never did get caught by pirates); she described wonderful evenings after a day’s sail, friends where their crew. She travels regularly; rents apartments in Italy, there for art biennales (the Venice one), goes on hiking trips to Maine with him (at 80); he was a tenured professor of chemistry, Emeritus. I was again berating myself for when Jim suggested we learn to sail decades ago, somehow we never did it — he had found a flyer about lessons; maybe it was my fault; my nervousness; there was the problem of having a boat — we couldn’t afford to own one and Linda and her husband did own a boat.

Through it all I felt how lucky this woman has been. She attributed to her husband the sailing expeditions. He knew how. (Jim could have learned; it would have been good for him.) I was wishing too how I had bought some summer house when he suggested that — somehow we’d go out and look and not do it, not buy — they were another mortgage. He did love boats — or the idea of boats from his growing up in Southampton. I remember one year he said let’s go to this Renaissance conference in Italy and I demurred. Why? shy? in Florence it was. Had we done that would we have begun to go to Italy regularly? with what money? well, he was making enough to go to England and Landmark Trust houses. My fault he and I didn’t live the life we could have?

Others at this table and elsewhere were talking of their Road Scholar vacations and casual holiday in historical places, and I can’t do this — to go on a tour by myself I will have to get up immense courage, to the Lake District and just beyond, it’s 14 days and $5,000. The places to look at sound alluring. Do I want to go to this schedule, I’d have to buy some clothes, sit down with others to 3 meals a day and so on. Would I enjoy this? strangers. What would they be like? I’m told by people that you make acquaintances, even can get sort of close, but then the trip is over, the relationship ends.

But I long for a good life: it’s like I died just as I retired. Jim had been retired for 8 years or so and then I retired, but my life depended on his and his ways, so his dying within a year of my retiring is in effect the death of the life I would have had — it might not have been like these people probably, but in that direction. I had a sort of revulsion or came home from it exhausted. Nervous. I left a little early, had endured enough I felt — everyone talking of the courses we teach or take. Meaning well. It was relief to leave. I said to myself I am over 70 and I don’t want to be pressured — felt so just intensely reluctant at what profession I had had (the offer of that adjunct at the Georgetown place in an innovative BA program for older returning students, the first year I was widowed which I flubbed, couldn’t seem to cope with the dean). I’d have to learn Blackboard, or some other latest technology and cope seriously with students. Eagerness comes from youth, from hope. And my learning curves in tech are so deep.

What life would I gain this way? Tired after a lifetime of in my way trying hard, repeated perhaps making bad and wrong decisions but not because I didn’t care and didn’t mean to end up well — because at the time they were what seemed best, what I could do, what I was led to do, yes by Jim’s advice too; he would say why beat your head against a wall driving two hours to get to this job? I hoped I would somehow know some fulfillment and I did for a time, after I came onto the Net and for say 15 years. I did fear so, that he would die youngish, but turned away from the possibility this disaster would happen. Dreaded it too much. He did leave me solvent, in this comfortable house, with 10,000 books …. our lives history.

Julian Barnes’s phrase is deathtime — a person has a lifetime and then afterward a deathtime in the memory of the life left behind … and in the memory of others (in say books).

A dream picture: put on face-book for another FB friend, Harold Knight (1874-1961), Morning Sun

I finished Oliphant’s Kirsteen this week, in the end a flawed satisfying book, like others of hers (deserves a separate blog). I tell myself I’m still working towards a possible book on “The Anomaly,” and serious reading there has shown me there were very few women living alone until 1850 (in any kind of comfort or safety). Not possible. Not allowed an income to do it on, not allowed the security of knowing no one can break in. And I’m reading a delightful Portrait of Cornwall by Claude Berry. Wonderful black-and-white, grey, photos from all over Cornwall.

Teaching has come to an end for now. I did have a wonderful findal session with the class group at the OLLI at Mason over the profoundly moving Last Orders by Graham Swift. They loved it too. Since then I returned to Waterland, the book and film. Soon I’ll start preparing for this summer’s course: historical fiction, old fashioned first, DuMaurier’s King’s General, which I remember as so erotic, lyrical, so melancholy (the heroine crippled in a wheelchair), and then the post-colonial, post-modern, anti-foundational type, Sontag’s immensely brilliant The Volcano Lover. My review work includes Nick Holland’s In Search of Anne Bronte.

One of Laura’s four cats, either they cooperate more or she is better at capturing them in a photo ….

Since Nine O’Clock

Half past twelve. The time has passed quickly
since I first lit the lamp at nine o’clock,
and sat down here. I’ve sat without reading,
without speaking. With whom could I speak,
all alone in this house?

Since nine o’clock when I lit the lamp
a ghostly image of my adolescent body
came to me, reminding me
of closed and scented chambers,
and past pleasures – what brazen pleasures!
It brought before my eyes
streets now unrecognizable,
bars once filled with movement, now closed,
cafes and theatres that once existed.

The vision of my body in its youth
brought sorrowful memories also:
the grieving of my family, separations,
the feelings I had for my own kin, feelings
for the dead, whom I little acknowledged.

Half past twelve; how the time has passed.
Half past twelve; how the years have passed

— C. P. Cavafy — one of Jim’s favored poets — I have the book of his poetry in my house

Too late, too late, too late, turning to see too late.

Probably I ought to start signing Ellen

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Home again

Dear friends and readers,

The temperature going down to freezing here; I’ve flowers in all three patches, white tulips, soft lavender, clumps of different flowerets and buds.

For these weeks I’m feeling I am moving in and out of peopled worlds in Pittsburgh and here in DC and Alexandria, where I abide. Who knew there were so many constantly reforming clouds of people. And then Izzy finds herself over the moon after several 10 hour days watching ice-skating at Junior World Championship in Boston.

For myself: Around Thursday noon I started off. So many miles. Thanks to my “garmin,” which talks to me with a bland American women’s accent, I had little trouble driving from Alexandria, Va to the Omni William Penn Hotel. The voice is most important at these transition moments when the highway gives out, you have to come off and drive through some series of low-cost gas stations, “family” food restaurants, and motels that have grown up precisely because this the highway gives out here. She tells you a few minutes ahead to bear left or bear right, cites the sign accurately, and with ease you get back onto said highway going in the right direction.

The route in the city reminded me of old highways in Brooklyn, and then I had simply to drive up a wide street, turn left twice and there I was, in front of the hotel. Nearly 5 hours each way. Homeward I worried intensely at one point because my gas was low and I had to realize that there were no on-highway gas stations. I got off said highway and nearby filled “‘er up,” and back on I went. I began to feel dizzy once I was near home, so got off the highway and found myself in a traffic jam around an accident.

This led me to stop off at Noodles and Company for a pasta dish to bring home; I downed it with Shiraz wine while watching yet another episode of the very well-done 1972 War and Peace scripted by Jack Pulman and the 2nd episode (Of 3) of the utterly inadequately adapted Dr Thorne, scripted by Julian Fellowes: a friend has likened him to Popplecourt; it’s as if Popplecourt were explaining Trollope’s art to us. I’ll write about this film adaptation separately too: coming to and going from I had listened half-way through Trollope’s Dr Thorne as read dramatically well by Simon Vance. I collapsed into bed, by that time my pussycats staying close by.

I had a good time while there: it was rejuvenating to go to sessions filled with varied intelligent talk and papers on new aspects of a subject matter I’ve spent my life reading about, studying. I’ll write of these separately. I was at two nights of receptions. I renewed old friendships during the first night’s dinner and first day’s lunch


40 years on Robin Ellis returns as the deeply reaction Halse and Aidan Turner defies him (2015, scripted by Debbie Horsfield)

My paper, “Poldark Rebooted: 4 Years on” went over well; the three other papers were from different points of view and done differently yet all linked as about recent TV and movie films (Outlander among them). The audience was not too small and we got good questions. The second night I seemed to gravitate towards the Burney group, and spent the second night’s dinner time and the next day women’s caucus with them. I can’t say I participated in intellectual political talk (as I do regularly now at the OLLI at AU in DC), but I did hear about local politics in different places from friends as well as happenings among books and writers and coming conferences (at Chawton). What people were working on, their topics of special interest and told of mine. One woman on sabbatical reading Burney’s manuscripts in the NYPL, living in Brooklyn for the year.


The William Penn Omni hotel is a beautiful building: art deco central hall or lobby downstairs, and the grand ballroom beautifully carved. It was the second time I’d been there: before with Jim I arrived at 11 at night and remember we got a meal!

As a memento I found on sale Norma Clarke’s probably highly readable biographical Brothers of the Quill: Oliver Goldsmith in Grub Street — its cover takes the left-hand side of Hogarth’s picture, enrichens the browns and yellows, suggestive of Grub Street life.

William Hogarth, The Distressed Poet (1736)

The experience occurred in the context of the two OLLIs, going to the Jewish Community Center, Smithsonian, the Folger, so I felt how I enter into and float out of differently peopled worlds. How different this is from the way I lived by Jim’s side. It’s like a quiet merry-go-round or roundabout. You get off and find under this pavillon a set of numerous people having adventures, stay and talk in whatever form is appropriate, then you go back to the path towards the merry-go-round and get on and off at another place. Interesting and informative discussion over lunch at Temple Baptist Church (one of the AU OLLI locations) by a retired lawyer and an economist about the importance of the supreme court, how much of US civic life corporations through their control of media is being poisoned.

But how and why do all these people keep it up? Cheerfully too. I feel so aware of these worlds’ fragility. That’s the strange and built-in dangerous thing: the necessary disconnect between casual friends and other people all the while you renew what you can or just have fleeting good talk. Here’s a question: how do you define friends?

Outside Izzy’s window in Boston: celebratory and commentating snow ….

Izzy had taken a 10 hour train trip to Boston via Amtrak. She had a long trip there and back and there was an accident at Philadelphia the day before she came home. No money in the US for public transportation. Fortunately her trip back was only (only) 40 minutes longer, so it took 11 hours. But she was comfortable the whole time. A decent seat, decent enough food available (real sandwiches with people to serve it), free wi-fi. She was not continually photographed or scrutinized as in a airport. She did not have to sign up for “paid privileges” which allow a cell phone or ipad to work, and separately for any music or movies (as in abusive airplanes).

She stayed in a hotel in Boston, from the which there were trains each day going back and forth from hotel to convention center. She found herself coming back to the hotel with the same people each night. Her day sometimes started after 10 or 11 or once noon. She often returned at 11 at night, once much later.



She got herself to the Museum of Fine Arts twice (it was a stop on her train), and explored the first floor. She said it was huge:


She saw a sign outside “to the Isabella Gardner museum,” but did not have the time for it. She walked in the city commons, on three different mornings, and late in the evening ate in different places around her hotel room, mostly Italian restaurants. Those nights she did return early it was very cold out; her window high and the winds strong. So she stayed in with her ipad and books.


Since she had the same seat for all but one day (as did most others), she sat behind the same group most days: British women who talked to one another and briefly to her too. Her sense of ecstasy as she watched and watched and the experience mounts she captured in a phrase she used to my question, “How’s it going?” “I’m over the moon.”

Miss Drake

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Dear Friends and readers,

At dance fusion workshop this morning and a couple of weeks ago, this song came up and we danced to it. I was there for the first time in 2 weeks, and though the song was still part of the routine, the teacher had mysteriously dropped four Beatles’ songs part of this particular set. The song bought back unspecific memories of intense enjoyment dancing with Jim:

and so I remembered this song whose full lyrics I never looked at before, all I remembered was “buttercup fill me up, and “I need you so,” “I need you more than anyone darling, you know I have from the start …” and such lines would sound in my inner ears at high moments with him:

At the end of class I did have to endure all these cheerful wishes for a good holiday — or that was the dominating consensus. The teacher refrained and just remarked we would not have class next Friday. Last night I made a mistake last night of going to the Haven to listen to a presentation. That’s the last one of those I go to (so car liberty has downsides). I should have known better; Jim would have warned me against it. Platitudes ending on exhortations not to hurt other people’s joy. Right. But I did dare to drive there at night and met someone from the grief support group I attended last spring. She said two of the people there, an older man and a younger woman (statistical probability exemplified here) are now “going out with one another seriously.” They were not inconsolable it seems.

My win? I got from the DMV three days ago a brief letter (not even 8 by 11 in size) saying I had fulfilled all “medical requirements” and no further reports would be asked for. They wished me “continuous safe driving” from here on in. It only took nearly $5000, going through 2 lawyers, being part of an HMO which enabled me to reach several doctors readily and take tests, back and forth on cabs, much stress on phone. The last set of reports had two doctors’ describing me (no medical condition whatsoever, cause grief, endless tests are dangerous from the radiation &c&c) and my regular doctor was franker too (doubtless tiring of making out forms). The lawyer said the description was such it would help us win a hearing and the DMV would not want such a hearing. I’m told that of those whose license is suspended (and it’s not done to all people, unfairly upper middle class men are rarely suspended I’m told — as forsooth they need to drive), most lose it for life if they blank out for however small a period.


Having gotten it I celebrated by a scavenger hunt in my car. While at JASNA, I received by my cell phone a message from British seller telling me he had just cancelled a box of CDs recording Timothy West reading aloud Framley Parsonsage because the credit card I had on file doesn’t work. (If you knew how hard it is to get good readers reading great books since Amazon invented the thieving tricker of audible.com and bought up many many such recordings from Books-on-Tape, Cover-to-Cover, Blackstone’s even). This credit car number had been cancelled because it had been hacked into, and I had to wait until I got home to try to reach him and make him understand. He did. But mailed it “registered mail,” doubtless meaning well. I go to NYC and package arrives on my stoop but postman takes it back to post office as label means I must be there. To get my hands on it took 3 trips to two post offices, 2 phone calls and 1 supervisor and finally a man going in to their den and finding it in a bag. The US post office has gotten worse since it’s been under fire from Congress — trying to destroy and then privatize it. And changes in it make it more “independent” each office so now one post office doesn’t know what the other is doing. I’ve now bought myself Dr Thorne, from Downpour which still sells CDs, MP3s (so I can listen in my car), where people get on the phone to help you buy your product. Not West or David Case, but Simon Vance who is an intelligent reader at least and does the reading dramatically. Somehow it has always meant much to me to have this reading aloud in my car as I drive: it makes time not just endurable but pleasant.

Then I bethought me I’d find where to park in Shirlington on weekdays: it’s a theater which genuinely plays the best movies available in the area (it does not reach for the NYC and LA first run or older film, nor Wiseman for example). It took a good deal of searching out, but I found a place set aside for the Shirlington theater on the second floor of a garage not far off. I saw Laura Poitras’s CitizenFour. It was a freezing cold day and to take a cab was to stand in the cold waiting for a cab 10 minutes each way, and Uber cab has a hard time finding the theater whose address is misleading.

Poitras and film-colleague at a first showing of CitizenFour in NYC

CitizenFour is chilling, a sombre piece. That it’s by a woman and shows a woman’s perspective is one source of its effectiveness; I notice the reviews are ignoring this and wonder if Poitras’s other films have failed to call attention to her by anyone but gov’ts able and willing to harass and threaten her. I’ve now made her The oath, the second of the trilogy, my next choice on Netflix: it’s about the man who became the chauffeur to Bin Laden and was imprisoned, tortured, but is now freed because his lawyer was able to win a court case about how to define terrorism — aiding someone tangentially is not enough to label you such it seems.

What sobering is the power of the people running these gov’ts and how easy it is for their agents to survey, arrest, and lie about it. Poitras’s use of clips from the mainstream media (CNN, Fox, NBC, MSNBC, even one from PBS) makes them stick out as gaudy circus material in comparison to her quiet palette. Snowden appears to suggest that since he is now not in a terrible prison for life, nor was tortured, nor is set to be executed, he has won sufficiently to encourage others to join in. It’s true a kind of network sprung up to help him: human rights lawyers, people with access to other people who got him on a plane and took him to where the US could not reach him and now by chance the resurgence of the cold war has led the Russian gov’t not to extradite him. Julian Assange’s wikileaks’ connections played a role: he is still in that Equadoran embassy. He has his long-time girlfriend living with him and the last scene of the two of them is through an apartment window where they are boiling water, perhaps for sphagetti? The closing scenes shows how dangerous all they are doing is for them. We see Glenn Greenwald telling Snowden about a new or other whistleblower and he writes the man’s name down on a pad with a pen; then he tells him something else by a pad with pen. Snowden does not say anything more than emit sounds of surprize and startle. The room they are in could be bugged.


One response to this movie could be to stop posting, stop blogging, silence yourself utterly — obviously that’s not mine. The news organizations which back or backed Greenwald, MacAskill are under threat but carry on because not to do is is not to exist and that’s my excuse for carrying on too. One almost does not know what to say: yes all your records are available to the US gov’t. Internet providers comply; if they don’t, they are supenaed and forced to hand over mountains of signficant data (like someone’s email, passwords) or shut down (as Lavibit courageously chose to). One learns about the British counterpart, especially CGHQ (is that the acronym), which has been doing its work far more broadly for more years than the US; which I remember Jim talking of when he went there once: Portsmouth is not longer a place where people mess around in boats much, he said. Big Brother has gone digital? David Bromwich’s essay.

There is a passing discussion of liberty which one lawyer says is now unfortunately defined as privacy: that’s a real loss as what’s at stake is more than privacy. The eighth amendment (saying gov’ts haven’t the right to confiscate or hold back your access to your money or property before a trial) is gutted. The way in which the actors in the film communicate is on black screen with white letters on the Net. The last time I saw that was 1993-95 the first two years when Jim and I were on the Net and that’s what the screen looked like when I sent messages to the original Trollope list and Austen-l. He had to type in strings of number and letters every once in a while to do this, and we used a phone line made available somehow or other from Mason (as an adjunct I did have that “privilege”).

Not over-stating what happened to me — I see the behavior of the DMV to me and what they were prepared to do to make me comply (put me in jail for a non-harmful act when I committed no crime) as the non-technological world supporting the technological nightmare the movie demonstrated exists. We are a society that incarcerates people upon first impulse, punishes them, immobilizes them, set up economically to make jobs insecure and get people to move about to take any where they can get one. set cities up to keep people apart (Atlanta, Georgia), pass laws to forbid improving public transportation (in Tennessee). Caroline told me of being a court (for something else) and seeing four desperate men with lawyers waiting for DMV hearings.

The new landscape

Next week I’ll see Kill the Messenger at Ballston, with a typical review by Rolling Stone: to me it’s about a man murdered once he fell into obscurity. I’ve been reading Trollope seriously as a political writer (he is extraordinary if you think about the implications of his texts) and guess he would have seen that as central to the film’s message.

Miss Drake

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Friends, I now have come to see the US is become a surveillance society where the poor or powerless are policed by organizations like the DMV because they can.

Read this report and watch the video from PBS


This young married couple unable to pay the court fines for a violation that was thrown out of court were put into jail; then they were charged monthly high interest by the organization given the power to monitor their activities and report them to the police who would be told to jail them if they didn’t pay up. They have since paid in the thousands of dollars far more than the original ticket or fines and yet are not free of debt to this far from disinterested company. The company is empowered by Alabama (and others in other southern and western states) who give a percentage of the take to these states who are wresting money from the most vulnerable people of their states in this way. Among the reasons for their failure to not-pay is the death of their young son (died!) in a hospital, which left enormous debts. The PBS Reporter who told of this could not get any of the agencies to talk to them. The reporter finally cornered one official in a county meeting: the man would not get up to speak to him, would only say the courts allowed this treatment of this couple.

If you want to get many ordinary needed things done, you find you are confronted with an official who has access to all sorts of records about you — from medical, to prescription, to financial.

The deep anxiety and unease from awareness of the power of this surveillance state we now live in the US silences people — they are ashamed, they fear retaliation in the form of more punishment. Without the ability to drive a car (a necessity not a right), many people lose their jobs, itself a sine qua non in the US for basic survival.

What happens with the powerless is that a small incident which should by its reality and merits cause no more trouble than the time it takes to get over it, is blown up to ruin the person’s life in order to profit those who prey on that person in order to get their salary, keep their place in an organization, make a profit or just self-righteously watch the miserable person canting to them whatever hypocritical moralisms are being used to hurt them.

Glen Greenwald and Laura Poitras and Ewen MacGaskill have all been awarded a prestigious Pulitzer prize for investigative journalism. Greenwald argued the purpose of the mass surveillance is not to find terrorists (for so much information makes it harder) but to monitor the whole population so that those in charge can get after anyone they please. Recently there has been a ruling that military people can jail someone without cause: if Hedges and Company lose it has more than an effect on one area of law and custom: the national security state. It encourages other institutions to feel they can flagrantly violate the rights and needs of citizens. When the letter de cachet went, it was a sign that you could not do commit sweeping injustice without a thought any more.

It’s worth reading Chomsky’s demonstration that obviously the people running these gov’ts have no interest in the security of the people who live in them. What bothers me is how the average person has a hard time letting go of the idea these institutions are doing things justly and on the people’s behalf.


P.S. It’s been reported that the NSA knew about the Heartbleed bug for several years. They never told anyone as they wanted to use it themselves. There’s a law signed by Obama giving them authority to withhold information about serious bugs if it’s useful to their monitoring of us all.

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What causes some cats to fall repeatedly?


I thought I’d try to go to a movie (The Grand Budapest Hotel) where I thought I could walk it. True, it’s a 25 minute walk but I do have to go under a scary tunnel and when alone it was worrying.

Then the sidewalk is a mess in several places — and not meant for walking. So I fell twice. It was hot, the cars whizzing by. Bad scrapes. It’s a steep hill and my heart beats fast as I don’t go to a gym. I can’t order a machine at home as I’ve no one to put it together. Who says the DMV doesn’t want me dead? or for reasons I can’t fathom to stop driving after 34 years without an accident or even a serious ticket hitherto.

If I didn’t have insurance the tests they have asked me to have again (they don’t believe the ones they’ve got) would be a couple of thousand; how I am to get to the Springfield Medical Center without a cab. The Metro stop ends where there is no sidewalk and I have to cross a three way highway at that point. Perhaps I’ll die. Like the old woman and her cow. That rhyme comes back to me.

My lawyer is doing all she can, though it feels like Trollope’s satire on lawyers through their names, Slow and Bideawhile. Doesn’t seem so funny or seems funny in a different way now.

They said they would convene again and do another medical review and perhaps (how wonderful it is to have such power) give me a restricted ability to drive, but they didn’t say when.

Because We Can
Because they can, you know

Yvette tells me we must change some of our passwords. I have no idea how to do it but she says she does so after supper if she’s up to it, we’ll do that. Anxiety-producing whatever we do. 8:00 pm update: we have changed a large number of my passwords. I have written them down on a yellow card which is now a precious document.

In Last Orders Jack tells Ray that the one who is left is the worst off, has the much harder time. I wouldn’t have wanted to die the death Jim did — one died by thousands of people cut off unnecessarily in their relative youth or as children and teenagers — but Jack has a point. Jim is not here for me; one cannot replace a life-long deeply congenial partner beloved and far future is a grim outlook.

I am so exhausted I’ve retreated into shoverdosing on Season 2 of Breaking Bad. Powerful and riveting I must admit. I am with Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) all the way; have utterly bonded with this character.

Refusing to be bullied by nasty mean cop

I hear his intonations in my head.


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Whether it be the continual aloneness; how the new state and perspective brings home to me whatever are my relationships more clearly than they once did; my position when I come out into whatever world when he is not there to soften and veil it, not there for me to turn to as someone who values me and finds me of value; how I cover my face with my hands and cringe with distaste and feel sick with shame at the thought of another man; of never ending (until I die) uncertainty about so much, what to do, what not to do, how to judge this, think of that, gauge the other; of the cruel results of this license suspension (a job offer to teach a course in Loudon I fear I must not take up and thus I lose this opportunity to be part of this school forever); little things (being cheated for big and small amounts), big ones; exclusions, there seems not a day, sometimes not an hour goes by that does not gouge me.

I am keening today, my heart so desolated because I have had to not accept an offer to teach a course called “The Historical and post-Colonial Turn in Recent Fiction” for George Mason University’s summer session at OLLI because I cannot say for sure I will have my right (it’s not a privilege, it’s a necessity) to drive back by mid-June. I can hand the papers in again as of May 17th and I might have it back; my lawer is trying to get us a hearing where I will ask for a restricted right to drive back, but I cannot say for sure. I spent hours fruitlessly looking at the train and bus schedules, wishing they were otherwise; I had the boldness to ask a friend if he had Tuesday mornings off and could drive me six times for which I would pay him. He did not answer because it is too much to ask. Today I was rooked for $29 to go to a nearby (6 minute) hair-dresser; it would cost me hundreds to go to Loudon county back and forth six times.

Does the DMV want me to kill myself? No. But they would not care if I did and if I did would triumph over me that I am clearly not fit to drive. I will try not to just to show that they are wrong to treat me punitively and as a cripple, but if I should die (say a car runs over me as I try to cross roads not intended for pedestrians) I hope someone who may read this blog will write about this in some prominent place under the headings of DMV death and the cancer epidemic.

While away I thought about widows in literature and realized how until recently their grief was dismissed. In the 18th century until near the end, especially on the stage the widow is someone who is lascivious, will go with any man afterwards, is frustrated and wants sex from any man (the last thing in the world any widow would want), but especially young handsome ones; how hostile most depictions. Near the end not much better, rather made into figures who sublimate their supposed desires, who want power over others. Yes in the Renaissance you get widow poets mourning (two I translated now not ironically but in terrified anticipation, in some kind of dread), but it’s done in these formulaic ways. I tried and tried to think of empathetic portraits, and the best I could come up with was Shakespeare’s Kate’s speech after Hotspur’s death, Cleopatra’s after Antony’s, but these are all idealizations of the man. Jane Austen begins with Mrs Dashwood who is not provided for by a legal document beyond her original jointure, so when her husband’s uncle dies, she becomes dependent on a verbal promise which her step-son does not honor. This is the practical outlook. While away I bought myself an 18th century play, The Rival Widows, or Fair Libertine by Elizabeth Cooper, herself widowed young (as Cooper’s mother was before her); her play is about an intelligent young widow, Lady Bellair, who was coerced into marriage with an older man and then cheated of her jointure, and is pressured by Lady Lurcher, older widow (the usual nasty salacious type, greed-driven, hoarding) into marrying someone Lady Bellair does not want so the older widow can have the man Lady Bellair is (seemingly) in love with and who (seemingly) loves her (the two do not marry at play’s end): many women would not grieve upon becoming a widow if the husband was someone they were forced to go to bed with, obey, bear his children. And what goes down in the records are often women without money, widows as paupers, widows working at this or that to stave off abysmal miseries. This situation helps explain why so few women write of the experience of this loss and all it brings until the 20th century. By why a portrait of a vile older widow. I have now and again come across an article here on-line which recently tells of the pain and loneliness, but there is not much except for courageous widow poets before the later 20th century; in a few of her stories, Jhumpa Lahiri does tell, Bengali/US-style. Oh some of these are fearful.

To force myself to go on? That’s what Yvette says when I have asked her. Control oneself and pretend you find living quite bearable.

Anew I have understood why Clarissa’s choice near her novel’s and life’s end. How I have imagined her silently appalled as I read her correspondent’s supposed non-hostile letters to her. I have bonded and identified once again, on terms not so different after all.


Saskia Wickham as Clarissa

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A paraphrase from the Associated Press: just a part of the column (the central story and decision): a woman “caught” having taken some prescribed medicine had her license suspended for 180 days; she had the money to fight this for 4 years.

The Iowa supreme court in Des Moines “threw out” a 180 license suspension for Teresa Bearinger of Urbandale. She drove into a mailbox in 2011. The police arrived, and she tested postive for “controlled substances.” These were traces of her prescribed medicine. The police did not file charges, and cited her for “strking fixtures on a highway,” but the Iowa DOT when it got her urine results, suspensed her license for six months. She contested it. At the hearing her doctor said all the drugs were prescribed; she had been told they could cause drowsiness but that it was safe for her to drive.

Apparently she had not eaten enough that morning and said that. The DOT or Iowa’s DMV’s response was what they did was “reasonable” as their “license revocation proceedings” are “remedial, rather than punitive.” They don’t know what public transportation is like (non-existent) in most of Iowa?

In a 7-0 ruling Friday, the court disagreed with DOT’s interpretation, saying Bearinger’s license could not be suspended. DOT’s interpretation would allow drivers who have taken cholesterol drugs, antibiotics and antacids that have no impact on driving to have their licenses revoked, Justice Thomas Waterman wrote …– Drivers caught with prescription drugs in their systems should not have their licenses suspended if they have taken the medications according to their doctors’ instructions, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled Friday.

Not punitive? Today Yvette and I tried to shop on foot to our local Safeway instead of using Peapod (on-line service supposedly provided by Safeway; but they do not have the same goods as the local safeway; do not bring all that is ordered; send crushed and unripeable items; come very late at night). My back was hurting by the time we were walking up the last part of the hill from the Safeway in the valley below us (where the mall is located) and Yvette was finding it an ordeal to push the shopping cart. Not only an ordeal, but almost like the shopping cart that broke last week under pressure from a lot less goods, this one’s wheels were dangerously wobbling.

Apparently the DOT and DMV of Iowa would not answer phone calls from AP where they asked them further to respond with whatever is their excuse. After all stonewalling has ever been the public technique of all DMVs it seems. Ironically I suppose that were public transportation decent in the US individual DMVs would not be as punitive: what after all would be the point?

The plaintive’s attorney said he felt “Friday’s ruling was very significant for some drivers.” Note how carefully phrased.


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still dark morning drive
Outside this morning


It is a source of perpetual astonishment to me that a majority of people prefer to get up in the pitch darkness — the sky is black out there until well after 6:30 am right now when they could be getting up (before 6) in the blessed light. This morning the winds are high and strong and it is 20 degrees fahrenheit out there. I was forced to push my clock ahead on Sunday; in fact most of the clocks did it themselves, moved ahead one hour all on their lonesome, imposed this on me.

I remember when Daylight Savings Time (what an ironically inappropriate term, euphemism as you add no daylight) started in early May and ended in late September. I’m told at one time it started in June and ended in early September. It ought to be called Morning Pitchblack Darkness Time.

At 10 to 11 I have to wait for a bus in this weather for over 20 minutes to make sure I don’t miss it. It may be as high as 27 by then? I wear two pairs of gloves and still get chilblains on my hands. Two hours there and back.

Last night even with the trazadone I could not sleep more than 2 hours in a row. I went to bed at 11:30, shut the light off a quarter to midnight and found myself wide awake at around 2. I did manage to fall back until 4:16 but after that I could not sleep.

There is no use pretending. I have been victimized by the DMV; have to hire an expensive lawyer to help me and she says she cannot guarantee we’ll win at all. Yes there is no due process because there is no right to drive. It’s called a “privilege.”

I am embarrassed to tell the sum I paid — I no longer find the $5000 retainer or consultation fee of Breaking Bad beyond belief. I’m not paying that much, but a little more than half. Not horrific in today’s terms; but to me extraordinary. I guess people pay such fees for divorce help? I did it because I have no reason to trust the DMV ever to unsuspend the license. She really took me seriously as I now think the first lawyer, a man, did not.

I wonder if that’s because he is a man and she a woman.

While I was there she went into my DMV files on-line (one can!) and discovered 1) I never drove illegally. In fact my license was un-suspended as of Jan 19th when I was in full compliance, but then it was re-suspended on the day after the phone call. So that’s why I was able to buy a car, get a registration and insurance. She then said there is something odd here. Usually one’s license is suspended under a code. She showed me a bunch of codes in a large book. Mine has no code cited only “medical reasons” and then no explanation. No wonder the woman on the phone talked to me in a manipulative rude way to get me to hang up. This second lawyer said, yes, there is nothing here to say they can’t keep doing this. She was puzzled as she said there is no line of argument we can begin with as there is no code cited nor any medical reasons cited.

So I’m to get another copy of my medical records (as the ones I have do not include neurological tests), she ordered a certified record of the DMV records and she’s going to begin by requesting a hearing. And right away. You must of course wait for a certified record. A way to slow you down, an obstacle. The hearing is with the DMV itself. That’s when it’s possible to get a restricted driver’s licence. She said you cannot get a restricted right to drive without a hearing. If we lose there, then we request a judicial review — go to court. That would be to go outside the DMV to a judge.

I don’t want to sit helpless. What gets me is my license was returned to me and then there’s this meeting and they reverse themselves. The second said I didn’t help myself with my statement (a description, true, of what happened) — she didn’t say I necessarily hurt myself; she felt it was (at best) ignored.

I did phone the first lawyer too and finally his paralegal came on the line. In fact she picked up the phone. The previous times I could get only a receptionist and then a secretary. They were waiting for me. What kind of behavior is this? She is just now composing a letter to someone to ask about how they came up with the term “syncope” since that is not in the medical records at all; so here is our opportunity to question them. A feeble protest if you ask me; the woman on the phone would say “blanked out” means syncope. This paralegal had not thought even to go on line. When I told her I had and what I found out she did not appear to register it. I could have told her to desist as I have someone else, but I thought maybe a letter won’t hurt.

I found I could not get my medical records released from Kaiser without signing a form. I did download one online and mailed it, but it would be better for me to go in to make sure the neurological tests (missing in the stuff I gave the lawyer). It’s a helluva a trip — as I’m told the walk to the Kaiser building form the Franconia-Springfield station is longish. I will probably have to get to the Kaiser by myself: I’m told the walk from the train station is a mile and sometimes there is nowhere to walk. I’m thinking that I may try to the Metro on Monday early in the morning and then come back by cab — a risky ordeal but I’ll do it.

I have a trip ahead of me as of Wednesday where I have to make sure I don’t get lost (Williamsburg, Va), get myself to the hotel, then to the conference and come home safely.

Is it any wonder I can’t sleep.

There is no use pretending anymore to hope for anything: I remember Mr Bennet to Elizabeth: “What is there of good to be expected?”


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Gillian Anderson (a recent beautiful Miss Havisham)

Dear friends and readers,

I am aware Miss Havisham has a bad reputation: she was spiteful and sadistic to Pip, and brought Estella up to be very mean. Well Estella would do fine at the DMV, never be out of a job. And as to Pip, I never liked him. Look how he treated Magwitch. ‘Nuff said.

Not long after the Admiral died, I realized the psychological acuity of Dickens’s symbol. This is not the first time I’ve been aware how Dickens frequently does not or cannot consciously psychoanalyze a character nor present a realistic one in depth but intuitively brings forth a presence which is more than half-crazed but enacts real feelings and behaviors we keep hidden but are perfectly understandable reactions to the world we live in and people it shapes. Moreover that Dickens will himself sometimes show he has not understood or empathized with his own creation: he appears to loathe Miss Havisham as an aging virgin (therefore useless?) But when I got onto a Yahoo list-serv meant to discuss Dickens’s works (Inimitable-Boz it’s called) I was not surprised when I expressed identification with her, after a couple of howls at her, a few people wrote in that they felt for her and thought she was a symbol of how women are hurt, damaged, twisted by society’s demands they marry — and after all she was deserted.

It’s in her stillness, the connection of that stillness with death, her solitude (often wrongly presented as regal) that the power of the image resides.

Helena Bonham Carter as Miss Havisham

Miss Havisham (does she have a first name?) came to mind when I finally got a letter from the DMV. It was calming to realize they felt they had to send an explanation and some apparent method whereby I could get back my “privilege” to drive — it’s not a right you see, it’s a privilege, this, in a society with such poor public transportation. They prefer not to believe the doctors’ reports & machine print-outs — and as for my statement they ignored it. Epilepsy is what they want to discover. They send different papers for the doctor to fill out – fewer and just one doctor — expensive (yes I pay co-pays) neurological test again. And they demand he really fill out two sides a form “fully” — which he didn’t before. I should not have this test before May 17th but can thereafter. Then if (if I am reading it aright) the tests are satisfactory (but they are the same tests and machines) I can drive on probation, with repeat tests at six month intervals for 2 years. Like someone trying to catch lightning.

This time I face the ambiguity of the letter — recognize it. All it says is the DMV demands must be fully met and until then license suspended but now I know the list of demands can be met and they can still say not fully met.

So, if they felt like it this could go on and on. People have told me oh no, have faith they’ll give it back. Why? Why should I have faith? based on what? A concern for my well-being? Because of them I have stopped sleeping unless I take a strong pill.

34 years of perfect driving certainly counts with the insurance company. They did not put my insurance up — or only a tiny amount. A set of perfect scores on machines is nothing? that my husband just died and I am deeply upset is irrelevant. May they rot in hell — they are victimizing me because they can and they sweep by — I’m collateral damage to them. Like a bunch of US soldiers anywhere in the world sweeping by. Like shooting fish in a fish bowl one soldier said of his time in Kuwait.

It is a form of shaming and humiliation; I’m policed with no one on my side. I now suspect the lawyer is either poor or indifferent to me.

I do see too all the doctors are scared. The primary care man said there’s a rule against doctors contacting the DMV. They can take the doctor’s license away — they can — and that as we know is a license to print money. And I’ve just discovered that Kaiser’s new rule (overriding individual doctors) may be not to prescribe restoril any more. When the website and tape refused to put the prescription through and I asked the psychiatrist, he did not reply, only suggested if I knew of a near by pharmacy he could phone it in there.

Nothing in the US today is done with your or my interests in mind at all. Someone is afraid the corporation will be sued or lose money.

I’m a better driver than 9/10s of the people on the road today. I know I am.

I now realize I should that day have said “I lost control of the car and don’t know how that happened” and then clammed up. Too late. Bad propensity of mine, telling the truth.

A kindly neighbor who put a shopping cart together for me that I bought from Amazon (the everything store that sends you crap made in China by impoverished people unable to write clear instructions) told me his license was suspended some years ago for not paying fines; the DMV dumped a very high fine on him and suspended the license. Trouble was to pay it he had to go to work and he couldn’t reach work without a car under two hours each way. He was caught once by cops and told them his story. He was taken before some magistrate. What fun.

Actually we phoned the groceries in using peapod (on-line delivery service provided by giant — you pay extra for it).

I can reach AU in less than 2 hours; it’s about an hour and one half, the worst or slowest in Virginia. Once I get into DC it’s not so bad. I got there and was commended by all for my 2-3 minute teaching presentation, and this time found the bus stop for going back to the Metro. So I can have some social life locally that is useful. Honestly all I was doing with my car or mostly was shopping. Movies are now mostly out — though I can reach the E-street Cinema in DC (train fast, Virginia bus once an hour); it has sometimes has good movies. I can’t reach the grief support person at the Haven now — I can’t be sure when I’d get there using the bus and walking so can’t make an appt.

Going back to NYC did spring to mind — a fantasy (sell house, get rid of 1/3 of books, put 1/3 in storage and move with the rest) and I don’t know anyone there any more. Away for 34 years now. Manhattan was once home and I know it the way I know Alexandria. Don’t have this trouble of getting or feeling lost. Several times over the 9 years the Admiral was retired he made plans to leave Virginia. Immediately after he retired he said let’s go back to England and looked into getting a consulting job in Leeds as a computer software expert to help put medical records on-line. He discovered we’d take a 40% tax hike (he was a British citizen still) so that was out. Once we went with a real estate agent around Queens and up into Inwood in Manhattan. Last February he found another apartment, 2 bedroom in upper Manhattan. But we hesitated. It would take all the money we could get for this house and the apartment’s value could go down. And the following month he said he was having trouble swallowing. But he did dream this too.

Miss Havisham and her clock. Set to 9:30 was it? Jim died at 5 minutes after 9 on a Wednesday night. Also a mirror — instrument of self-torture. In the Gillian Anderson version which gives a new turn on the symbols, she looks out a window — it is more sympathetic to her than any other I’ve seen. Miss Havisham is not pictured with cats (though sometimes with mice). I can find no cats in the movie stills or old illustrations. My girl cat now stays close to me almost all the time, firmly ensconces herself on my lap wherever; or sleeps on a green pillow in the next room within hearing distance. The boy sits on a pillow just near my chair; when I sit in the front room he wants me to play with a string toy with him endlessly. Yvette tells me he wails when I’m gone more than a couple of hours.

How many widows there are and how inexorable are these social patterns. Set up for whom? in this case not corporations, this is not the result of a political arrangement but something has rather to do with gender and family exclusions — older women are useless to men and are keeping the money as did Miss Havisham. What matters is the family group and the widow gets in the way. Keeps her own money from others — though if she’s wise she doles it out. The big cosy family does always help the widow. In India there are no suttees, but read Jhumpa Lahiri and you see widows in India and other traditional cultures are treated like dead people, and they are preyed upon badly. They are at least no beaten like their daughters-in-law. I did say my two Muslim friends on line dropped me immediately upon my saying Jim had fatal cancer — I stand for some terrifying life that could happen to them any time.

The pussycat is on my lap as ever. Sits tight. Wise pussycat.

This has forcefully brought home to me the reality of my situation without Jim. The deep grief is all being alone. I would not have lost my license either if he were here. It’s also all the things that keep happening and I keep doing because he’s not here.

And could it be I’ll last 20 more years without him. Enduring all that this brings.


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