The Chai-Mac

June 17, 2009

It is thin and black and it holds my life. Hinged, it sits at the edge of a table, its keyboard on a towel, its screen dangling straight down off the edge. At 8:47 this morning, I was comparing prices on two websites for compostable, biodegradable “green” cups, plates, forks and spoons, preparing to spend four or five hundred dollars on a year’s worth of supplies for my writing groups. I had just written down the discount code for, which would eliminate the cost of shipping, when my left arm somehow connected with my 20-ounce smooth glass (full) cup of chai and it tipped all over the table, quickly spreading the hot, sweet spicy liquid right up to the edge of Eli’s laptop, dousing Karyn’s yoga catalog and notebook in the process. Unfortunately, the bulk of the chai went straight into the base of my laptop. I instantly turned my I-Book over and out the chai poured.

Eli,” I said, “go get a towel.” He came back with one lousy dishtowel, which he used to dab at his barely dampened case.  Talk about adolescent narcissism!

My computer died instantly and with it my mailing lists, all my classes, rosters, files…my back-up system had been on the blink for a while…well, we don’t want to go there. Because I don’t know and won’t know, at least for a while, whether I’ll get my laptop—or my memory—back.

I drove to class and called Scott, my friend and computer guru. “Turn it upside down and lay it on a towel for a few hours. Then send it home with Bonnie.”

And so I am now sitting in class, writing in a notebook, the old-fashioned way, as my students write in response to the prompt, “initiation.”

For the rest of today and the next few days, until the fate of my computer and its data are known, I have a choice—enjoy a computer-free life—or fret. I can obsessively catalogue what I might have lost or focus instead on what is in front of me—walking with Lizzy and Lucas to the pool after class, a half-hour swim, tomorrow’s five mile walk. Bryan and Brinn coming for dinner tomorrow. The book at my bedside table I am so enjoying. Karyn, who is leaving for India in nine days, why not drink her in instead of indulging in hours of mournful pre-grief for what I may or may not have lost?

As my mind wanders inexorably back to this morning’s accident, this is a choice I will have to make a hundred times today. It’s all where we put our attention, is it not?

I can’t believe how calm I am. Maybe my meditation practice is paying off.

June 18, 2009

Yesterday afternoon, Scott called and in his exceptionally cheerful phone voice said, “Well, here’s the good news. I’ve saved all your data. I’ve taken your hard drive out and it’s fine. You won’t lose anything.” Then he hesitated, though his next words were superfluous, “I’m pretty sure you’re going to have to get a new computer.”

I knew right away I was looking at a couple of thousand dollars. My desktop computer died a few months ago and my workhorse laser printer has been on the blink and may need replacing as well. The jury (Scott) is still out on that one.

I’ve replaced my computer system every five years or so, ever since I bought the very first Macintosh computer—a Mac 128—in 1984, when Ellen Bass and I were starting work on The Courage to Heal. At the time, Ellen was a confirmed Luddite. She refused to get a computer and typed out everything manually, then sat with scissors and scotch tape and cut-up pieces of what she written when she wanted to edit. She’d tape pieces together the way she wanted them and then type the whole thing all over again. Or give it to me to type. Bascially, back in 1985, I not only typed everything I wrote; I retyped everything she wrote into my trusty white Mac 128.

I haven’t owned every Mac; I don’t replace my computer gear as often as some early adapters do. But when your business in online and you work on your computer,), upgrades are part of the cost of doing business. This changeover, however, was going to come a few years earlier than it would have otherwise.

After I hung up from Scott, I made an appointment at the Apple Store in Los Gatos to get a final death sentence on what Scott gleefully referred to as my “Chai-Mac.”  Once again, I said to myself, “See how well I’m handling this? Last week, we had an $1800 bill for our Honda Odyssey and this week I’m looking at $2000 to compensate for the premature death of my Chai-Mac. It’s only money, right?”

The moment after I had this self-congratulatory thought, I had a sudden, compelling urge to dig around in the back of the freezer to unearth the one leftover loaded cookie I’d purchased at the medical pot dispensary that is just a block away from my kids’ junior high and high school. (“Do you know what’s down the street from your school? “ I asked Eli. “Yeah, yeah, that’s old news.”) I’d made the purchase when I was going through chemo and it was the only thing that would help. I’d hidden it in a non-descript white paper bag and shoved it under a mountain of blue ice blocks. Now, in my mellow time of need, my reptilian brain remembered that it was there—one last cannibas-laced organic chocolate mint cookie. Even though it had been many months since I had last indulged, and despite the fact that I had promised the kids I was done with medicinal pot (quite the role reversal, wouldn’t you say?), I had to have that cookie. I wanted it and I wanted it now. “But I’m in training to walk 60 miles,” I said to myself as I started to rummage around in the freezer, “I’m just starting to exercise. I don’t want to put shit in my body.” But then the grasping part of my brain chimed in again. “C’mon, you deserve it. What’ll it hurt?”

And the next thing I knew, I had reached in the freezer and unearthed the cookie and peeled back the plastic wrapper. Eating it was easy.

I knew I had at least an hour before anything would happen, so I drove down and picked up Lizzy from martial arts, came home and started dinner. An hour after that, I was definitely headed somewhere I did not want to be. Maybe if I’d eaten a quarter or the cookie or just taken a nibble, but no, I’d gnawed my way through the whole frozen thing and was now paying the price. I was far more stoned than I wanted to be.  In fact, I realized, far too late, I didn’t want to be stoned at all, and now there was nothing to do but wait until I came down.

Karyn came home, took one look at my enlarged pupils, and guessed at what I’d done. Karyn has never been a stoner and she teased me mercilessly when we took Tyson out for his evening constitutional. She made fun of my supposed equanimity and calm, at how well I was handling my little accident. She really didn’t have to say much because I was experiencing instant karma all on my own, trying my best to stay in the moment, but eagerly waiting for the present to turn into the past.

June 20, 2009 

I wasn’t able to go to sleep until 2 AM and the whole next day I was in the grip of a physical heaviness (otherwise known as a hangover) that dogged every step of the 6 miles I walked that day. A thick layer of fog saturated my every thought. Thank God, two days have passed. I woke this morning, clear-headed and refreshed.

I guess it’s the last time I’ll follow that particular little trail. It reminds me of my last time on the Big Dipper, the world-famous roller coaster at the Santa Cruz beach boardwalk. The last time I rode it, I spent the whole time saying to myself, “I will never go on a roller coaster again.” Or my last acid trip, 32 years ago, when I was 21 and took acid with my father. We were up in Omland, my cousins’ land above Boulder Creek. My dad and I had a conversation on that trip that led me to forgive him for abandoning me when I was 14, a change of heart, contrary to popular opinion about acid revelations, that lasted until the day he died. Despite our successful rapprochement, I didn’t like the strength of the drug and never wanted to be that high again. I never took acid again.

June 22, 2009

Thursday night, my mother and I drove over the hill to the Apple Store. If you’ve never been to an Apple Store, it’s a techie’s candy store. Young people, very much like my son, just a few years older, stand behind the counter of the Genius Bar answering questions and solving problems with Macs, I-Phones, and Ipods, in ten minute intervals. Young people in brightly colored shirts with hip logos bustle around with hand-held computers that can instantly total your bill, read your credit card, spit out an invoice and the forms you need to submit for your rebate. All the latest toys and the biggest monitors are on display, ready to be played with. The doors are clear glass except for a white Apple logo embossed on the front. The first time I walked into an Apple Store, I felt like I’d traveled to the future. I was delighted and amazed.

The guy in the blue tee-shirt at the Genius Bar said my laptop could be gutted and rebuilt for $800, but Scott had told me if it cost more than $500 to bite the bullet and buy a new one. It wasn’t hard to do. In just 24 hours, I had completed the stages of grieving for my old Mac and was actively lusting after the new model.

Those young techies–they’re just so helpful and attentive. Just fifteen minutes after I walked in, I plunked down my credit card and walked with a tidy white box with a carry handle, inside, my new 15-inch MacBook Pro.

And here I am a few days later, my new friend up and running, my data intact, all set to go.

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