As a committed Zen student whose ego is dropping away just as sure as shit, I like to celebrate myself whenever an excuse arises. What better excuse than the end of the Gregorian year, when it’s natural to look back at all one’s noteworthy experiences over the last trip around the calendar?
In February I moved out of my apartment in Jersey City and moved into Amy’s house in Maplewood, NJ. After some 14 years of living in Jersey City, this was a significant transition. I went from living alone (i.e., with two cats and my daughter three nights per week) within a 90-second walk of a 12-minute train ride to downtown NYC to living with my de facto spouse plus her three kids plus my one kid part-time plus two cats plus the semi-full-time live-in babysitter in a three bedroom house in the suburbs, an hour and forty minutes from my workplace. Living in my delightfully disorderly shithole in JC was wonderful, but it was time to move on. Adjusting to the commute was a bit of a challenge, but I handled it. I used to complain of not having sufficient time to read. So I picked up a copy of David Copperfield and made good use of some of those hours on NJ Transit.
- In May, Amy sold her house, and together we bought a bigger one in South Orange. Then we moved into it. Big enough for all our kids, with a home office in which Amy shrinks heads when she’s not caring for children or doing laundry. This 1920-something beast is full of surprises, some of which were overlooked by the home inspector. We marvel at how previous owners could have done the lazy stupid incompetent things they did. But the place has its charms — not the least of these being the people who inhabit it — and within a couple of decades I’m sure we will have everything fixed up to our satisfaction.
- For my birthday — also in May — I got me a nice little pneumonia. I left work so weak I could barely walk to the train, but I was too cheap/stubborn/in denial to take a taxi. Collapsed into bed, lay there trembling and hurting for a night, then woke up with the worst of it over. A few days and a few doses of drugs later, I was as good as status quo ante (only slightly older).
- In June I underwent a vasectomy. Too much information? Gee, I’m sorry. But it’s a pretty cool procedure, recovery is quick and complete, and from then on life is more convenient. (Over six months later, the facility where the procedure was performed is still waiting on Blue Cross Blue Shield to “process” their claim, but keep reading.)
- In October I participated in civil disobedience actions along with other single-payer healthcare activists at the offices of UnitedHealth Group in Manhattan and at Blue Cross Blue Shield in Newark, NJ. Getting arrested in Newark was a breeze; we were in and out in a couple of hours. Getting arrested in New York was another story, as we went through the system and spent the night in jail at the Tombs. Why do this? Because I reached the point where complaining, going to legal demonstrations, donating money to organizations like healthcare-now.org, writing emails to elected officials, and so forth, just wasn’t enough. I had to do something more to help rid our country of its disastrously inefficient and rapacious profit-driven private health insurance industry and replace it with single-payer national health insurance. Did my getting arrested help further this objective? I don’t know. But lying down and giving up is not an option.
- In November I ran the New York Marathon in 3:34:43, fast enough to qualify this 50-something male for the prestigious Boston Marathon. The first third of the race was a test of discipline, and I failed. I got too amped up, ran too fast, and spent too much fuel. The last third of the race was a test of character, and I passed. I had to summon the fortitude to keep up the goal pace even with the tank on empty.
- In December I performed in our organization’s annual Follies for the 17th consecutive year. The show makes fun of the judicial and political system, and modesty aside, we have some talented people and put on a truly funny show. This year I sang a country and western tune, playing the guitar in front of an audience for the first time in over 20 years. For someone who used to play concert repertoire like Bach, strumming a few chords is less than trivial. But I took it seriously and practiced in order to make sure it looked easy.
No doubt about it: I am a lucky bastard to be living this interesting life.