I awoke in the night fearing my fear. Here, I obliquely quote FDR’s famous caution that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Actually, FDR went on to say much more interesting things in that famous 1933 speech. In particular, “nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” For me, this is as useful an FDR quote as the other. Because, yes, I am always struggling with “unreasoning, unjustified terror.” And I might as well just come out of the closet and say so.
Doubtless a lot of people struggle with this sort of thing. But it is a great drag on the flywheel of life. We need all the momentum we can get, after all, and excess friction is to be avoided. So, this very afternoon, I plan to do a rather humiliating thing: sit in my car and practice using the pedals. When I say “practice,” a better word might be “condition.” Thing is, I no longer trust my time-tested driving responses. And it could be argued that this is good. I am, after old and substantially paralyzed. So it’s a reasonable thing to consider that, well, maybe it’s time to stop driving. And maybe, just possibly it is. But things are rarely black-and-white. And the more important thing is that I really seem to have a baseline level of fear — that when not focused on driving will readily find another target. Mortality. Illness. It’s there.
Meanwhile, winter is a comin’ in, sing God damn, oh sing God damn. We can thank Ezra Pound for this, by the way. This means that being married to a cook, marvelous meals are on their way. So what to do on a wintry San Francisco day but go shopping?
This is among the few practical household tasks I can undertake. Upon occasion I can be of actual service as a hunter-gatherer. The first thing I was hunting was a clothes dryer. Messieurs Bosch had supplied us with one five years ago, but the thing has given up the mechanical ghost. Several technicians have seen it and shaken their heads in sad disbelief. Angela Merkel would have cried, I am certain. But there you have it. Dryer kaput.
Cherin’s Appliances occupies a surprisingly large portion of Valencia Street near 19th St. It is also one of the most forgettable retail locations I’ve ever witnessed. In fact, the place appears to be closed. The windows are either appallingly badly washed. Perhaps spray-painted by vandals. Nothing could be said to be on display inside. Although through the semipermeable windows some washing machines can be seen to be lined up as though ready for mechanized combat. Aside from that, if the place was going out of business, or had gone, the casual passerby would not be surprised.
But according to a feeble website, the place was open. So I went there and rolled in through the front door. Or tried to. The electric wheelchair-friendly door was not very friendly. Fortunately, someone saw me. The door opened and I was in a sort of warehouse, at best. But there were a surprising number of people all seated at the back. All ordering appliances for people. I gather that in San Francisco, this sort of thing occurs over the phone. Send me a couple of washers, will you, with a side of television and a couple of freezers? To go.
The man I spoke to sat at an old battered desk with a computer monitor, not a PC, hailing from the 1990s. We ordered another German dryer. And I wandered out 10 minutes later, about $1300 poorer. Nevermind. This is San Francisco where everything is a seller’s market. And speaking of markets, where next but Rainbow Market? This is one of the trendiest places in health-obsessed California. All manner of things good for you are on offer, not to mention slightly obscure ingredients for global cooking. Jane wanted fenugreek, and dammed if Rainbow didn’t have the stuff in a bulk container. An assistant measured out 50 g, and I went away content.
And the connective tissue in all this is that most urban of things, the bus. I went everywhere I describe on buses. Muni, the San Francisco transit system, is really rather amazing. And a good thing. Now that I’m barely driving, I can still get around.