Friday, April 10, 2009

Third Tape, or, Virtue Rewarded

Went in at six this morning to swap in a 3rd backup tape. I take a childish delight in being at work at odd times, and using the security fob -- which never fails to make me think of Get Smart -- to open the building doors and make the elevator respond. Up to the tenth floor. The strange early morning light makes the workspaces soft and tender. I avoid turning on lights, and go through the empty, twilight offices. In the window beyond Juli's desk Mt Hood hovers above the clouds, across the river; soon the sun will rise behind it.

Working by feel, I open the safe and find the third tape. In the server room -- a closet really -- which has no windows, I yield and turn on a light, joggle the mouse so as to wake up the monitor, pull out the old tape. Yep, the backup is still running, having filled up this tape since I swapped it in last night, at ten o'clock, stopping downtown after my last massage. The IT guy and I are perplexed about why the backups are suddenly so much bigger. We used to be able to fit a full backup on one tape. We both have guesses, but we're old enough in this game not to believe in them. Nontechnical people get to believe in their guesses; tech people learn not to. I swap in the third, and I hope last, tape. It takes a minute or two, and I sit perfectly still, breathing evenly, till the byte counter starts to increment again. Forty-five gig and counting. What the hell is taking all that space?

The elevators take me back down. You don't need a fob to make them go down. You also don't need a fob to get out: you just have to touch a metal plate from the inside. Not like Gringott's.

So out onto the rainwashed streets. Dawn in Portland. Asian women are hard at work readying their coffee shops for the day. It's all brown people downtown in the early morning: Asian shopkeepers, Latino cleaning staff. The white and black people are all still asleep. Easy to remember where I parked: across the street from the Greek Cusina's huge purple octopus. So. Virtue rewarded: now I get to drive up to Tosi's, have eggs and bacon, and write a rambly morning blog post.

Trees are beginning to leaf: pointillist clouds of buds hover at every street corner, their brilliant spring greens alternating with the pink, or white, thicker-clotted clouds of fruit blossom.

After several months of having a hold on Mark Doty's collection, Fire to Fire, at the library, I finally got it -- they were caught on the hop, I guess, by the book winning the National Book Award, and had a long line of people waiting for it: they bought five more copies, then, but it took forever to get them. The publishers caught on the hop, too, no doubt. It's nice to know that there are enough people waiting for a prize poetry collection in Portland to make the library scramble for five more copies of it.

Worth the wait. My favorite so far, in the section of new poems at the start, is a poem about a beauty parlor in his neighborhood, the House of Beauty, burning down:

If beauty is burning, what could you save?
The house of beauty is a house of flames.

Also not to be missed is one about the grackles' evening jam in Houston:

Now one's doing the Really Creaky Hinge,
making it last a long time;
now Drop the Tin Can, glissando,
then Limping Siren...

Also reading The Brain that Changes Itself, a fascinating and readable account of brain plasticity -- of the research that established that some blind people could learn to see, by way of cameras relaying patterns of electrical impulses to their tongues; and that some stroke victims, given proper stimulus, could recover sensation & motor control by colonizing other parts of the brain to replace the damaged areas. The brain is not, apparently, nearly so hardwired as was long thought.

That was some comfort to me as I was doing massage in a nursing home, last week, on a woman who had lost all function on her left side. She was learning to feel again, on that side: she could feel me rubbing her left foot, and knew which one it was. That was progress, big progress. Her husband of 63 years told me eagerly of how much progress she'd made. They were casually but deeply tender with each other.

"That hurts?" I said

"Oh, my lower back has always hurt," she said.

"She'd wake up and walk around hunched over like this for an hour or two," he said, standing up and demonstrating. And then added ruefully, "We thought that was bad, didn't we?"

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