It has been fascinating to try to solve the problem of care for Angie,
the dog that belongs to the man for whom I am housesitting in Venice.
Much of the past week was spent trying to find appropriate care
for her, should I need to leave suddenly for Chicago or New York, if
my mother needs surgery.
The thing I have found most fascinating is how few resources Rod
has. He has owned this house for 20 years and does not know
or feel comfortable enough with his neighbors to ask for their
help in case of an emergency. The only people he could recommend to
help live in San Clemente, almost two hours away.
This is not about Rod. Nor about judging him or finding
him lacking in some way. My heart goes out to
him in his isolation even though with his rigidity, it is
an isolation of his own making.
are going to have to talk about animals and how we create such intimate
connections to them. We may more attention to television and pets
than we do to other people.)
I am thinking more about how a lack of connectedness in one's most
immediate place is a problem for many people.
Last spring when I was housesitting for my friend Lisa who has lived
in her apartment building in New York for many, many years, I
encountered a similar problem.
Lisa has a very beautiful and sensitive cat named Suruthi who needs
companionship and special tending or he will be lonely and
sad. He is just very frail and very old and very soulful. Like someone's
aged uncle with fur.
Lisa's regular catsitter who was supposed to help out after I left,
canceled at the fairly last minute.
So from Australia, Lisa tried to negotiate by email and phone
to find someone who could help take care for Suruthi. Like
Rod, Suruthi has a special place in her heart. He is her
She couldn't find anyone, including when she looked within her circle
of intimate friends. Given the distance and timeframe, she
became more freaked out by the day.
parents didn't care too much about pets, though one day my mom
(the social worker)
worked past a pet store and noticed that a monkey was scratching
a dog. She was outraged and went into the store to complain. "Lady,"
the clerk said, "you'll have to buy the dog if you don't want it
to get scratched." So she did.)
I rescheduled some appointments, extended my stay in New York and
set about talking with the super's wife and kids
as well as some other
neighbors to see what could be done. Eventually, with
enough conversations, I was able to find back up for a while until
Lisa came home so I could go home.
I think the conversations were key. I think if we don't have conversations
with our neighbors, we cannot have a relationship.Some
people will come through generously in the face of an emergency,
especially if it is on a national level. That seems to call upon
some hidden places in the collective psyche.
happened today that made we realize that we have no idea of how
might be responding to us. I went over to another building to speak
to a office worker (because she wouldn't pick up her phone.) I
thought I was being nice and non-argumentative. I found out later
that she was furious because I had been short with her. It was
a very interesting experience. I felt like I should be giving feedback
forms everytime I interact to make sure that people are receiving
me in a positive manner.)
for the most part, it is our relationships, no matter how tangential
that encourage us to step off the curb of the
contemporary reserve on which so many of us live. To help out.
Lisa and Rod both have lots of conversations. Lisa may well
be talking right now with fellow academics in London or Sydney.
And Rod is in contact with fellow divers around the world.
But—and here is the key—these conversations are mostly taking
place over email in virtual time.
And shouldn't one's first conversations be where
(Kim: The whole idea of the world being flat is that our neighbors
are everywhere. Which doesn't help Joan when she's trying to find
a new petsitter.)
commented that my office has no windows and I tried to convince
windows are in the mind, and I have more windows in the pictures
that surround me than most have with glass. So it is with "where
they live." Where does a person actually live? You know that expression
about being lost in one's thoughts.)
was pretty freaked out when she couldn't find someone to help.
She had recently separated from her partner
of many years and told me it was a shock to realize
that she not have a secure network of people to help support her
This in a city of what, 8 million people?
I am not sure what Rod realizes.
What I realize is that such occurrence is more than an
immediate problem to be solved. More than the question
of who can take care
or Suthuthi for a few weeks here or there.
The problem is much deeper and endemic. It is a problem
of modern life and a signpost for what is missing
from their life and lives of
And I am wondering what it means for my life as well.
regret that I haven't bonded at all with my neighbors (except at
least one I've
gotten to know somewhat...though never made it into their house.
Most of our relationships seem to be business ones, not personal
ones. And after being with people all day it isn't on the top of
my list to be with more people.)
Tuesday, Jan 24, 2006