If you squint, you can see Switzerland

The last of my buzzcut photos: #5, in honor of Swiss National Day (August 1st), with occasion-appropriate t-shirt and athletic shorts:

The wearied old professor, squinting into the sun in Ramona Birdland (where the squirrels and, alas, roof rats also play), at the controls of his excellent — maneuverable and very sturdy — outdoor walker (photo by Kim Darnell)

The basket has a niche for the string bag that holds my Oxo flatware, so that I have utensils I can actually hold when I’m eating out (I have another, inside, set); and a space for the little black bag that contains other important things for going out, like my wallet. Underneath the seat is a storage space for transporting things, like small purchases. The wheels can be easily locked in place so that the seat can serve as a chair, for resting when I get out of breath from exertion (my mystery dyspnea) and for eating at a table (when stationary it’s analogous to a wheelchair).

You can see a variety of bird feeders, all of which are subject to depredation by the squirrels (even though the tray and various piles of seeds and nuts are put out for them and refreshed daily — if there’s food anywhere, the squirrels crave it, even when they’re standing literally knee-deep in prized food. Yes, even the feeders on the window: in, oh, 50 to 100 attempts, a squirrel can learn how to leap from the fencing onto a feeder; or how to leap from the ground, hang into the doorknob in the windows and from there leap up on an angle onto a feeder. I keep getting new generations of squirrels, each having to learn these tricks on their own, so I’m guaranteed an almost constant supply of squirrels falling from the sky in abortive attempts to scale Windowland. Until they succeed, and then perfect their performance.

To the right of the big tray, you can see just one edge of one of the few plants whose foliage the squirrels and rats will not gnaw on: a big pot of wild strawberries, with lush foliage spreading in the shade, and intensely fragrant little fruits that the animals used to eat as soon as they ripened, but (unaccountably) no longer touch, so that I get them, hah!

All of this, of course, is an elaborate exercise in getting by in drastically constrained circumstances. I spend many days in which I see my helper Kim for maybe half an hour at 6 a.m. and then go through the rest of the day isolated, with only what I see out that window for company. Though I’m gradually venturing out, masked and distancing, with great trepidation, for other contacts — in particular the Saturday morning breakfasts with my daughter Elizabeth and grand-child Opal (who is now at the end of their first full-time job, in customer service for a Safeway, stories to come, and then off to college at Pitt — exactly what I did when I graduated from high school, also at the age of 17, though I was a copyboy for a newspaper and went to Princeton (and got to return to work at the paper as a reporter on all my holidays from school).

I have also been back to the local very high-end Greek restaurant Taverna, in company with the admirable and always unpredictable — pet portraits and lost-wax casting! — Max Vasilatos (down from the City), where we were fussed over by one of the managers and one of the servers, both of whom seemed genuinely delighted that I was alive and back at their much expanded and pandemically redesigned restaurant (“We were worried about you”, they murmured; “I’ve been sick”, I replied, omitting for their sake all the awful details of near-death and misery, “but I’m really happy to be back”. Oh, happy indeed.

Swiss National Day. This morning Elizabeth Daingerfield Zwicky, who once lived and worked for part of every year around Neufchatel, told the story of a visit back to the city on her company’s business on Swiss National Day, which she had not previously experienced. Quite startling, and strikingly un-Swiss: wild, chaotic, painfully noisy celebrations, with people setting off fireworks every goddamn where, even on children’s playgrounds. (In contrast, in E’s village outside Neufchatel all the churchbells tolled at 10 p.m., signalling that there was to be no noise — no playing of music, no merry-making, no running of washing machines, nothing — until the morning.)

I have not celebrated Swiss National Day with any sort of Carnivalesque disorder, though I did decide to acquire a mid-sized Gay Pride flag to display at my condo, now that one of my neighbors in the complex has somehow surmounted the HOA ban on such displays with a big rainbow flag on a balcony and a Black Lives Matter sign on the street.

Meanwhile, though Palo Alto is now a complex of the outrageously privileged, tons of ordinary people work here, serving the needs of the elite, and I get to chat them up. I go out, an old disabled, barely dressed, fat man (see photo above), seriously dripping with faggot semiotics (but not on Swiss National Day), so of course no one could possibly take me for one of the rulers of this universe, and people are mostly pleased to talk to me, if somewhat startled. It’s good to have a hobby in old age.

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