Friday, April 30, 2010

Mac Musings (and Roma)

My beautiful new computer is back at the Mac Store. It kept falling into comas while in sleep mode and not waking up. (How many pacemakers has Dick Cheney had, and yet he wakes up every morning. Fie on you, Mac, with your puny, unreliable, liberal heart! And yet, sigh, I love you. I'm like Fanny Brawne, devoted to the weakling John Keats, with his lofty mind, eloquent poems, and ravaged, tubercular lungs.) In any event, I am back to working on a computer that has all the heft, noise, and physical charm of a dorm refrigerator, and yet she goes and goes despite being old, slow, and fat. We should all be so lucky.

While squinting at my old Mac, which has chugged along faithfully for six years despite a persistent hard drive error and a measly 9 MGs of working memory, I chided myself for being so blown away by the new one, a Ferrari-like machine with a 27" screen and more than one hundred times the power. I hardly knew what to do with the new one. Did it break down because, like a little old lady, I was essentially driving too slowly in the right hand lane, with my wee Word documents and poorly composed Dog Park photos? Was I not pushing it hard enough? Should I have sat down and begun creating multimedia presentations suitable for submission to prestigious international film festivals? Did my new Mac sense a life of useless twaddling on food blogs and the NYTimes Web site? Did it yearn to be free?

I was certain that my Roma felt that way when I first adopted her fourteen years ago. Then she ran away for ten days, living like a wild thing in Bull Creek Park. She seemed chastened when she returned to civilization and more cooperative. She learned her commands (she was particularly resistant to "down"), and she never really strayed again until she reached a venerable age and couldn't  hear me yelling, or at least didn't care. Will my new computer return to me in a similarly humbled state? Will it take commands like "wake up" better? Will it effortlessly open my files and do my bidding without wondering how much better life would be on the desk of a 20-something video game designer? Will we be together ten years from now, having spent a decade posting thousands of diverting blog entries and editing millions of multiple-choice questions?  I'll let you know.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Memento Mori

It was a beautiful day on Sunday, warm, sunny, and dry. Perfect for doing hip, cool Austin things. I cleaned carpets instead. Woo!  Living on the edge! The truth is that I live in squalor. The past two years have been hard on the carpet, what with a not-always-able-to-hold-it Muzzy puppy (now 3!) and, once her issues were resolved, an elderly and incontinent Roma. So on Sunday, I simply couldn't ignore the stains and smells, and I got out my vet vac.

Surprisingly, the rhythm of running the machine over the carpet in each of five rooms actually put me in a kind of meditative state. I'd load a fresh bottle of soapy liquid into the machine. Ten minutes later, I'd dump out a gallon of murky water. In between, I'd move methodically over small patches of rug. I thought about Roma a lot. After all, she spent a lot of time cruising the carpets in our house. She had several special spots, depending on her mood and the weather. For a while, she slept on a bed behind the sofa in the living room. Then, when Muzzy came along, she decided she preferred to spend her nights in the guest room. In the summer, she'd lie on tile in front of the intake vent to the air conditioner. When I worked in my office, and she was feeling sociable, she'd find a corner to curl up in.

I felt a bit guilty, removing pretty much the final traces of Roma's daily life. In fact, when I moved a piece of furniture in one room, I saw the tell-tale scratch marks in the carpet where she would dig, dig, dig with her nails before deciding she didn't want to lie there anyway. I remembered how, when we first moved into our house and rats in the attic were a seasonal problem, she woke me up from a deep sleep with her rug scratching. I'd hopped out of bed thinking that the house had been invaded by giant rodents, but it was only Roma rearranging herself.

But, you know, there are better ways to memorialize my old dog than to preserve the stains and scratches on the floor, so I hit the wet vac button, and away they went. Sorry, Roma!