Wine at 1PM

Anybody who has cruised with me knows how much I love champagne, and how my treat to myself after a morning lecture is wine at lunch, because I am off the hook for the day.  Anybody who knows how I am at home knows that I don’t drink much at all—at most a glass of wine a day, and often not even that. Today is an off-the-hook kind of day, though, and I am doing something I almost never do at home—settling in with a wine spritzer at one in the afternoon.

I am ready to go.  I have finished all the work associated with leaving  San Diego, traveling for the next week, and getting my car and myself across the border. It’s all done except for the last few things I can’t do until just before I leave.  Even coffee  for the next two mornings is ground and in a baggie so I could pack the grinder.  Can’t be without that!

To my great relief, all I want to take will indeed fit, however tightly, in my car, and it is organized so I only have to take out what is essential every day and cross my fingers the car alarm keeps the rest of it safe overnight. Dan says “don’t leave anything visible in your car that you aren’t prepared to lose,” but after having shed myself of almost everything I own, I have a pretty casual attitude about what losses aren’t survivable.

Between now and the notary appointment this evening to sign papers for escrow on my condo, I have nothing to do.  This is part because I managed to exceed my to-do-list this week.  I even have a full tank of gas already.  Tomorrow I have nothing on my calendar because I have learned to leave a day before any big trip for the last- minute crises that would otherwise freak me out.

Tomorrow, nothing as well.  I could leave but now I am in a zone where just resting and breathing seems like a better idea.  Saturday will arrive soon enough.  Time to enjoy the sunset of this chapter before waking into another.




Just Ask Shaksper

“Did you see this?” Dan, asked yesterday.  “This is crazy.”  And yes, an article claiming that the Rutgers English Department had declared grammar “racist,” did indeed invite such a response.  As I thought MUST be the case, there was more to the story, which now seems to have been a deliberate hit piece.

There is a lot of jargon in the article, https://freebeacon.com/campus/rutgers-declares-grammar-racist, which doesn’t help the cause, but I can see more clearly now that Rutgers’ intention was not to declare grammar unimportant or an oppression to be overthrown, as this article would have the reader believe.  The idea is to get students to think about English and why it is the way it is, rather than just memorize grammar and usage.

I saw, in decades of teaching experience,  the relief on students’ faces when I told them that Shakespeare wrote his own name four different ways in the four extant examples, and not once the way we insist it is properly spelled now.  But now, if a student spelled it one of the ways that was okay with Shakespeare, it would be considered ignorant.
Likewise, the move away from gendered expressions like using “Mankind” for “Humankind.”  It is important for students to understand that they make authorial choices that affect readers and may hinder their own thinking.  They may not be aware that sources they read may be outdated and perpetuate concepts we really should move beyond, and that they may not want to foster in their own writing.
I remember in my own life the difficulty I had in moving away from using gendered pronouns in sentences like “Every student is responsible for his own conduct.”  That was just the way it was, and I was suppose to know that in these settings I was also a “he.”  That changed gradually and with some effort to “his or her, “ but because that can get awkward, people used  “their.” I confess, I would mark this as an error in papers for many years. I told my students to phrase everything in the plural to avoid this, as in “Students are responsible for their own conduct.”  Now, it appears, the Grammar Police, whoever they are, are saying “their” is okay in referring to a single subject, as in the example above.  I am not so much of a purist as to be unable to feel some relief at this, but enough of one to admit it does set my teeth on edge.
Rutgers is NOT institutionalizing praising students’  free expression when they write ungrammatically. NO instructor of college writing would ever blow off the importance of  writing in an academically acceptable way.  I am offended at this condescension and besmirching of the incredible effort we put  into helping  a student without  traditional English speaking and writing background develop the skills they need to reach their academic goals and succeed in their chosen professions.
BTW, I used “they” in the singular in the paragraph above.  Maybe you didn’t notice.  You might have noticed if I had used just  “he,” and you might have noticed if I used “he or she.”  (I also improperly used “but” as the first word in a sentence earlier.)  MY choices, based on my understand of the “fluidity” of language, to use the Rutgers English department’s wording. And my choice to use a sentence fragment to express it.
 “They” may be wrong in grammar orthodoxy except for plural subjects, but in my opinion, in many situations it is the least obtrusive pronoun to use, given that any other phrasing might have called attention to the pronoun rather than the point.  Grammar guides say that one shouldn’t  start a sentence with a conjunction like “but,” but as a stylistic choice  I am not “wrong” to opt to use it.  Students who want to become a solid writer need to have these conversations with themselves , rather than be ignorant of the power of their own language choices.
People who take pride in their writing are well aware of the importance, and sometime the agony, of choices.  In fact, except for correcting typos, all editing is a matter of rethinking previous choices.  But one has to be conscious that there are choices—often a whole arsenal of them—if one wants to able to do more than blurt out first impressions and thoughts on a page.  That is exactly what students need to learn to move beyond.  That, to me, is the whole point of what Rutgers is trying to accomplish.

By the way, for an article, still a bit rife with academic jargon, but more balanced about the issue, there’s this one:  https://medium.com/@newspoet41/critical-grammar-and-the-great-distortion-b08f80e6726a





So Not Used to This

I am stir crazy.  It’s not a sensation I have much experience with, since usually in the lead-up to travel I am crazy busy getting ready.  I have this new lecture to prepare, that fairly new lecture to revise, that much-used one to review.  I have a travel wardrobe to whittle down. I have  travel arrangements to make or confirm.  There’s not enough time in the day, and then—  poof!—departure  day is here.

Compare that to my present reality.  I don’t actually know when I am leaving for British Columbia, since it depends on when I get my car title in the mail, which could be any time from today to a couple of weeks.  I don’t have anything to do around my condo, because my role there is done.  Nothing to do but wait for updates from my real estate agent. Another thing out of my hands.

I’ve done most of the things to shift my life in the needed direction.  I’ve gotten myself set up for a mail service, and I’ve notified most of the people and institutions that actually send mail to me at this point (not many).  There are things to do relating to getting myself and my car into Canada, but most are supposed to be done fairly close to the date I will show up at the border.

I have gotten my quarantine housing set up, and my first two places to live, which will get me to November, so nothing to do there.  I’ve done all I can without being there to set up banking, vehicle registration, post office box and the like, which means I have done very little except a bit of basic research on things I can’t do right now.

There are a couple of things I could do today, but nothing so pressing it is likely to get me out of this chair.  Plus, in keeping with my plan to isolate as much as possible the week before I leave, I am limiting my outside contacts to close to zero,  in the hopes that I will be ready to go a week from now, at the end of July with a minimal chance of taking the virus with me on the road.  There goes any chance to mask up and do something fun, or just anything nonessential, outside.

My big event today so far is doing a load of wash.  Then in an hour I can start thinking about lunch.  Then what?  Well, I could put in some time on my current writing project, get in touch with a few friends, do a little exercise routine I have set up for myself.  Yeah, but those all take effort, and the scariest, least familiar part about this is that i don’t have the drive to do anything.  I am, sad to say, not even very good at taking naps.

I guess I just have to wait this out, and remind myself that I am 1) safe 2) loved, and 3) on the cusp of something very, very different from today.  Even on a cranky, listless day, those are blessings not everyone has.  Gratitude, I remind myself, with a heavy sigh.


Camping in My Condo

I wrote a few days back about being in the Middle Muddle, trying to close out all the details of the life I am leaving here in San Diego and getting everything in place for my move to British Columbia.  I wrote about the uncertainty, or muddle, of being in this liminal place between worlds.

For the last few weeks, since all my furniture was moved out and renovations were finished  at my place, I have been perching in my partner Dan’s condo.  I had stayed there before  for weeks at a time when my condo was rented while I was Living Travelly, so this is  nothing new, or even all that unusual. I am really fine living out of a suitcase (or in this case a cardboard box and a little room in a closet).  In fact I am pretty much fine wherever I am, which is a good thing, because tonight I find myself back in my sparkling, good-as-new condo sleeping on the cushion from the bay window in an entirely empty bedroom. Here is a photo of my temporary lap of luxury.

“Covid doth make campers of us all,” Shakespeare might have said, but since he’s not here, I’ll say it for him. The reason for this unexpected return is that Dan was feeling headachy and stuffed up yesterday, and though we are in the same space all day, somehow the idea of spending the night as close as people are in a shared bed just seemed like an invitation to a heavy dose of whatever it is he has. So I stayed here last night. This evening Dan feels maybe a little better, maybe the same, but no worse.  No fever. No body aches, no nothing except what might be no more than seasonal allergies. Nevertheless, we thought a second night of caution was called for, so here I am.  We’re both pretty sure it’s not Covid, but the jitters can come on in an instant at even the thought.

it’s funny how I can turn into a quivering blob of freak-out about the idea of getting this disease, when overall I don’t consider myself to be a worrier or timid about facing life. Maybe it’s because being on the verge of something new has made me realize how much I don’t want my options taken away. Soon, I’ll be sleeping in a succession of unfamiliar beds as I make my way north, and the place I find to live will be filled with things that aren’t mine.  So for now, I will just sit in the quiet of this empty room, thinking of this as a moment when my past has been cleared away, and my future remains as blank as this room, but waiting to be filled by whatever my new life turns out to be.


The Middle Muddle, Twelve Years Later

There are  two ways of  arriving at a beach.  The first is to say “Wow!  I’m here!  This is great!”  The second is, “Man, this is a hassle!” as you slog through calf-deep sand, carrying everything you wanted to bring.  Right now, I am in that sand.  I can see the fun, beauty  and excitement ahead but I am not there yet.

On the home front, my condo is on the market, with immediate nibbles that suggest a quick sale.  I’ve gotten what I am taking with me to British Columbia down to what will fit in the car. All of that is good, but getting my furniture and my son’s  things that were in my storage unit to his new place in a Phoenix has been a horror story. Eleven days later, after charging me well over an additional grand for this and that, the moving company still hasn’t managed the 350 mile drive, and Ivan, with a broken shoulder in need of surgery  (and the necessary medical records in the van) has been camping in his apartment, sleeping on an air mattress and sitting in a collapsible chair for the entire time, which by the way is now in the fifth day beyond the guaranteed delivery date.  Note to all:  Never use Cross Country Movers, or Evergreen Relocation Services, unless you relish spending time later in Small Claims Court, where this is headed.

Within a few days, I am hopeful Ivan will have his furniture and my condo will be in escrow.  That brings me to my other set of issues associated with  driving to Canada.  I need title to my car in order to take it across the border, and nothing, of course, is ever easy to obtain from a bureaucracy, especially during a pandemic.  I am hopeful I will have it before the end of the month, but I can’t leave until then, except by going to the quite drastic backup plan of going without it and flying back to get it later.  Two  fourteen-day quarantines for two entries , no car while there, need to ship at least some of what would fit in the car—not a lovely Plan B.

Finally, in the “My Kingdom for a Horse” category, there’s the last small but essential detail— new glasses.  In the last year I have developed some pretty significant double vision, and though after my cataract surgery I haven’t needed glasses, I really don’t think I can drive anymore without them, not because I can’t see cars well enough to stay safe, but because I can’t read the road signs.  It’s been okay in San Diego, where I know my way around, but once I get past the Central Valley of California, I am in unfamiliar driving territory.  They tell me that because of reduced staffing, the glasses will take from 2-3 weeks to arrive.  Lemons to lemonade—I felt lucky even to get an eye exam with Covid restrictions!  And if I have to wait a little longer so that someone who truly can’t see without glasses gets served first, so be it.

So, if everything goes brilliantly, I will be out by the end of this month, and if it goes not quite so well, early August.  I am trying not to obsess about it being any longer.  Often I succeed, except, of course, when I am trying to go to sleep.

I remembered many years ago writing a post I called “The Middle Muddle,.” a state that feels very much like now.  I went back to see what I wrote and was surprised to see that it was my very first blog post ever, and  it has been almost 12 years since I posted it.  Wow!  Well over a decade and more than 300 posts later, I wondered what that me was saying about my life as I waited in the interminable period between being done with my first novel, The Four Seasons, and waiting for it to come out.   If you are interested, You can find it here: https://www.laurelcorona.com/3/

I ended that post with a message from Laurel 2008 to Laurel 2020:  “What have I been up to, here in the middle muddle? Being amazed, thrilled, and grateful for everything that had to go right to find myself here on this beautiful road, just waiting for “much more” to pull up and offer me a ride.”

Still rings true, although this time I’ll be driving the car.  And maybe along the way, I’ll stop at a beach.


The Things She Carried

Today marks the second full day I have lived without most of my possessions.  This morning I felt for the first time, after (finally) a good night’s sleep, that I have already begun this new chapter of my life.  I had envisioned it beginning as I drove away from San Diego, and of course that will be perhaps the most dramatic early marker, but it  is good to have a transitional period, where I am still here, more or less in my old life, while in a significant way it is irrevocably over.

Some time ago, I posted here ://www.laurelcorona.com/liminality/about being invited in by my tenant when I met her by chance in the hallway. I wrote then  how surprised I was to feel nothing about seeing my space, still by and large as I left it.  Someone else was sleeping in my bed, leaving my dishes in the sink, putting their things on my coffee table, but I felt no sense of possession, longing, or even interest in any of it.  I glimpsed even then how true it is that I am simply not emotionally attached to material things, much as I may enjoy having them.  Yes, I took a lot of care choosing the furniture for my condo, the first place I ever bought on my own, but once I felt the need to be free of it, it was just more stuff.  In fact, if anyone asked what I most want  to carry with me now, near the top of the list would be my blender.  Go figure!

So, what is this liminal feeling like?  Mostly exhilarating.  I walk through my empty condo without nostalgia, appreciating the echoes that mark my complete removal from the space.  Life here was good, and now it’s over.  All I think of now is how terrible the bedroom carpet looks and how badly the walls need a paint job.


Sometimes I wonder if there is something a little bit off about me, that I tend to grieve so little. No, that’s not exactly right.  It’s not so much that I couldn’t feel more, but simply that I don’t let feelings of loss grab hold of my life. Maybe it would be healthier if I did, but I don’t.  Easy come, easy go.  Sometimes hard come, hard go, but the net result is the same. Move on. Yesterday is over and tomorrow will be good.   Adjust to the new until you can genuinely embrace it, stay there a while, then move on to the next new.

I think some of this is the result of moving a lot when i was young, but more centrally, I think it comes from the cruel reality of having had to reconstruct my life after my son took his life.  Once you have lost a child to early death, nothing will ever phase you again.  May you never, dear reader,  have a chance to test this theory. If you already have, I am sure you agree.

This cold core protects me from pain and helps me see many losses as opportunities.  It makes it easier to go through life with a smile on my face, or at the least a sense that a nasty day is likely to give way to a better one.  Is that good? Maybe there is something I would gain by saying, “Okay, Laurel, what are you really feeling?” Or am I better off leaving well enough alone?   Something to explore more as I get reacquainted with myself, largely unencumbered (see photo of most of what goes in the car) on this new part of my life’s  journey.







Did You Hear About Ms. Parker?

A little sort-of poem I wrote about what it’s like to see people pretending they can go on like normal in the face of nothing being normal

Did you hear about Ms. Parker?

Pop Quiz Parker?  No, what?

She died, man.

No kidding?  From what? School lunch?

Nah, she got the Rona.

Aw, shit, that’s rough.

Yeah, on a ventilator for a couple of weeks.  Someone at church told my mom.

Have you seen the pictures?  Lying on their stomach, ass hanging out…

Till they flatline. Don’t know you’re dead.  That’s how I want to go.

Yeah, but no time soon, man!  It just kills old people.

Bye bye, Boomers!  More room for us.

Hey, you wanna meet up?  Tiff’s throwing a party.


Tomorrow. I’m going to the beach to meet friends today, then pizza with my cousins after.

TIff’s hot! Maybe she’s got a friend for you.

For me?  Why don’t I get her?

Too much for you to handle, bro!

Yeah, well, maybe she’ll have two friends for me.  Double down!

You dog!

Hey, don’t forget to wear a mask—all day at the beach!!!!!

Yeah, right, like that’s gonna happen. Text me Tiff’s address.

I’ll see you there.


Small Is Big, Less Is More

I gave up paper dolls at an embarrassingly advanced age, because I have always loved telling stories.  As I grew older, I spun fantasies about eternal bliss with every boyfriend I was remotely serious about, down to the names of our children.  When I actually was married with children, the fantasies shifted to vacation brochures about bicycling at the edge of the Sahel, barge travel in Burgundy, and yes, cruising.  All of this had to be done in the lap of luxury, of course—hey, it was fantasy, so why not?

When life hit me with a ton of bricks, the stories I told myself were about the happiness I believed I could eventually recreate.  When I felt mismatched with several jobs, I did the same.  Looking back, I can see a shift in thinking as I grew older, from fantasies to real-life stories that were in my control to shape.

Some of what were once fantasies began to come true.  At forty, I started traveling a little.  I saw Paris for the first time, and Florence. At fifty, I finally found a job I loved, as a community college professor. Also in that decade, I began to channel my fantasies into writing historical fiction. By sixty, I was well into in a beautiful relationship that made me realize what I could  have been looking for all along. Little by little my dreams came into better sync with my resources, a true blessing.  Now, as Sinead O’Connor beautifully puts it, I do not want what I haven’t got.

Retirement was eye opening for me because it gave me a chance to think anew about what to do with my time.  My fantasies of seeing the world materialized in the form of more potential cruise bookings than I could handle.  Suddenly I could say yes to any cruise any time without a thought to the academic year.  I have spent most of the past few years in a daze about what I have actually been able to make happen, from Borobudur to Bangkok, the Côte d’Azur to the coast of Chile.

Then in 2020, as for all of us,  my life shrank overnight.  For so many of us, dreams have been put on hold, but for me, it’s been a opportunity, now that the buzz of my life over the past few years has died down, to  pay attention to what my dreams are at seventy.

I am still so eager to get back to seeing the world, but maybe I am ready for different kinds of exploration.  I have seen the edges of every continent except Antarctica, but I have not ventured farther from port than can be done on a day trip.  Land travel sounds excellent and  it doesn’t need to be exotic.  I have seen very little of the United States even though I have been in a hundred foreign countries. I have not indulged yet the most do-able of fantasies, as my friend Jane did when she went off to live for a month in Spain. How about Italy, or France, I wonder, or someplace more exotic—just for the experience?

The most momentous shift in my thinking has been about how I want to live.  Seven years ago, I needed a sense of security as I rebuilt my life after Jim died, so I made the logical decision to buy a condo while the market was at a low.  It was a sensible move at the time, and financially I don’t regret it, but I have found, as I examine the foundations of my happiness, that I am not really cut out for home ownership.  It has been, to be blunt, a pain in the ass.  I am paying for something i am not using a lot of the time, and getting and keeping renters has its own stresses. I need to be free of that obligation to live in a happy mental space.

Since this pandemic forced me into a world the size of my condo,  my thinking about my comfort zone has shifted radically. As a result of cruising as much as I have the last few years, I now feel totally at home in temporary spaces.  I am fine living out of suitcases for months at a time.  I don’t need to be surrounded by possessions.  I don’t need a bed that feels exactly the same every night.  The pleasant sense of cocooning is internal now, not reliant on a settled place to call home.

Suddenly, with this realization, life opened up.  I don’t need a condo.  I don’t need a permanent  address.  I don’t need my furniture, or most of what I’ve been carting around  from one storage spot to another without ever looking at or using.  More than indifference about such things, I actively needed to get rid of them in order to discover who I am at seventy and who I want to be.

So I leapt.  In a few days, the movers will take my furniture to my son, who is also setting up a new chapter of his life in Phoenix.  Almost everything I owned is gone, except for a few boxes of files and some memorabilia I plan to pass on.  Note to self:  Never again buy anything it will be a pain to get rid of. Seal that promise in blood.

My condo will be painted and repaired, then put on the market.  I am past the tipping point, and I am feeling the beginnings of relief.  When a few details fall into place I will be on the road to British Columbia.  I don’t have a date to leave, nor a place to stay, but I am far less stressed about this than I was about what to do with some beat-up bookshelves and old IRS files, and what time  the movers can  arrive.  Shredding, shedding, and fretting—what has been taking up my life these days is now almost in my rear view mirror, as I find out what life looks like for the me I am becoming.