Saturday, June 06, 2009

Death Throes of the Gourami

I live with a bunch of animals. One dog, Loki, and a bunch of fish and amphibians. Many fewer than in years past, but still there are a lot more frogs and salamanders in this house than most people have.

The last few days have seen the slow demise of a very old gold gourami. It is the last of three that I got over five years ago ... I never keep any records of my critters, so I am never quite certain how old they are. I thought I had two females and a male, which works out much better than two males and female. But sexing gouramis, especially young ones, is a bit of an art. I think we made a mistake, because one of the three rapidly declined under pretty steady assault by the one that is now in its death throes. Once the third one was gone the remaining pair quickly mated and produced three or four crops of fry. I took those that I could net to my vendor, a fine Burmese/Chinese couple who have a hole in the wall place off Polk Street that is a temple of the aquarium arts. It's called Ocean Aquarium, and any aquarist in San Francisco would be well-advised to check them out. Tell them Stephen sent you.

I don't really care to breed fish, and I was happy to know that some of the fry made it to adulthood. But the effort appeared to exhaust the female, and she only lasted a few years. I figured the other guy would soon follow, but he has hung on for years and years. Now he is at the end. I want him to die soon; I do have a method for euthanizing fish when it is necessary, which is when their incurable disease could harm others in the tank ... I put them in a container of their own water in the freezer and let them slowly fade away. But how can I take this creature from the home it has graced for so long and make its last few moments on earth a trauma. I know, it's only a fish. But it has been a sweet presence in my life. It has been looking at me every day for many years in the vestibule as I arrive and as I leave.

I started keeping fish and 'phibs in the late 80s. I love being around animals ... I would have many more if I could. I do not have cats because I am allergic, and that is a big bummer. I started keeping fish and amphibians under the influence of my great friend Kurt who died on May 10, 1992. I remember the date of his death by looking at the first page of any of the books he willed me because I marked each one with that day. To check again today ... I always forget the day ... I pulled Marvels of Insect Life, edited by Edward Step, F.L.S., with no publication date, but with a signature on the front page "Ethel Eaton, December 1945." The book is a treasure.

I revel in the old. I love living surrounded by thousands of volumes of books, many of them old and cranky, not used as much as they might prefer, but waiting for the moment when they are cracked anew. I am their guardian, ensuring that when I, like the gourami, pass on, they will be ready for another stage in their longer than my life. Book should outlive us, just as we should outlive our animals.

Yes, this is maudlin. But I have a pass on indulging my inner-maudlin. I am at the end of the first day of a three-day weekend, one in a series designed to slake some of the tension of the upcoming two and a half months of stress in my job, notwithstanding that I spent this first day off at an all-day Drupal training session. I have three major web sites to go live between now and September 1. The first two will be a new course and class search site and the course catalog for which MRU the major research university where I stack shekels in aid of higher education and my own sustenance; the last of the three will be a new Drupal-powered replacement for the Registrar's site for which I am webmaster. I have worked my whole life to hard deadlines, and I do enjoy the electric stress more than is healthy. But facing the looming period of madness ... I pause.

The big boss, whom I admire, set up a little half hour meeting with me for Tuesday. I asked him what it would be about. He said with a laugh he did not want to tell me because it might give me a heart attack. Now I write this knowing that he might, or at least could, read my blog. I do not think that he does read my blog, not because he is uninterested, but because I keep him apprised in person of my latest speculations on history and happenstance and the ludicrousness of life. But if you do read this, dear T, remember that I say it fondly and drolly. It did give me a heart attack. I truly, honestly hope that the announcement is more work ... I can always handle more work and more responsibility. What I dread is the notion that I might be reconfigured to somewhere less felicitous. Given all the water under the bridge, and my assessment of the situation, I have come to the conclusion that the announcement will be more work, of a very specific sort which it would pointless to adumbrate here. If so, I am ecstatic, because the key to mastering work is to know how to take on more work and make it work. I am game for that.

Aside ... I always misuse the word "adumbrate" but this time I do not care. I am not even going to look it up as I do 4 or 5 times a year.

So this is the three-day weekend so far ... dying gourami, day-long session at a Drupal conference in downtown San Francisco, wondering what it is that the big boss thinks would give me a heart attack. And a re-encounter with the Marvels of Insect Life.

I could ramble on, and I intended to do just that. But this is surely enough.

For those of my dear friends who keep accounts, this is the Friday post; I owe you a Sunday post, and I will repay your diligence with yet another excursus into old Sumer. Given that I have Monday off, and that I am late with the Friday post, the Sunday post may not happen until Monday. I checked with my internal oversight committee and got an okay. FWIW, we have no Internet in the house, so that explains my lateness on the Friday post. I finally managed to connect up via an unprotected WIFI from next door ... but I do not want them to know about it since their inattention has saved me more than once from the horror of being offline.

Photos by Arod of my sweet friend, Loki. I do not have the heart for photos of the dying gourami.

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