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1. I drove to Modesto Thursday night. I have experienced near-panic attacks on my last few drives out there. I don't understand why. They usually take hold of me after crossing the Bay Bridge and traversing East 580 through Oakland. Something about the lights and the traffic and the curving steep downgrades--they make me forget to breathe, and I feel like I'm about to pass out and cause a horrible accident. This sensation usually lets up once I pass Hayward. But, last Thursday night, it lasted the whole way. I kept thinking to myself, "get me off this goddamn freeway!" What has happened to me? I used to love driving late at night. Maybe it's because I now only drive a few times a year? I never experience that anxiety on my return to the city--maybe because I'm more relaxed with driving.

2. Sitting in my mother's apartment, I sometimes I caught my reflection in the mirror across the way. And there was always this pained expression on my face.

3. I drove to Ceres to pick up my father for breakfast Friday morning. He is usually waiting for me outside, in front of his home. This time, it was just M.,his wife, out there. 'Uh-oh, something's wrong,' I thought, as she approached my car. She said that he had had a dizzy spell and collapsed while getting ready. She said that he seemed to be okay now and was resting and that I should come in to see him. I parked the car and followed her inside. Her son was there with his family. All these new people made me recede a bit further inside myself. My father sat in a chair in the living room and seemed to be okay. I was touched by how worried every one was for him. I am glad he is around loving and caring people. He insisted that he was fine to go to breakfast. M.'s son graduated with a degree in marketing and was trying to talk to me about the ad industry, because my father told him I worked for an ad agency. I explained that I just work in the mailroom and don't really know anything about it. He is a confident and sociable young man--I always feel at a loss when I am around such people. Sometimes I can fake it--for a bit--and make other people think I am confident and sociable. But I think I failed. The real test came when they asked me for my cell phone number, as M. was still worried about my father and wanted to have a way to get in touch with me while we were at breakfast. The only time I ever use my cell phone is when I go to Modesto--maybe three or four times a year. So, I don't know my own cell number. Everyone stood around, staring at me, while I tried to retrieve the number from my phone. It was all very awkward. M.'s son said, "I'm surprised you don't use a cell phone all the time. Seeing as how you're in advertising." I'm not in advertising! I work in the mailroom!

4. My father and I had breakfast at Denny's. I enjoyed my omelet and coffee very much. First coffee I had had in weeks. There were long gaps of silence in our conversation. I was a little worried about him and his collapse earlier that morning. But he now seemed fine. He probably just needed to eat something. I used to get like that at work when I would skip lunch and feel really lightheaded. I don't do that anymore. He sounded good. He is presently off chemo therapy and still volunteering his time with hospice and giving talks to church groups about coping with cancer. I am so proud of him.

5. My mother and I had dinner at a restaurant way outside of town on Christmas Eve. As we drove 132 East, we sometimes saw boarded-up houses between the orchards. There was still a bit of light left in the day. I wished that Tiffany and her magic cameras had been with us to photograph the houses. I'd like to watch Tiffany going up the dirt driveway to shoot the house while I try to explain to my mother the visual appeal of abandoned, boarded-up houses at dusk.

6. We pulled into the parking lot of a restaurant. My mother fell in love with a rooster that had somehow found its way into a treetop. Dinner was so-so. I chose a chicken breast soaked in some kind of brandy sauce. I was disappointed. And there was bacon on it. And there was bacon on the cheddar-cheese potato wedge appetizer things. Too much goddamn bacon. Bacon is okay. But it doesn't go with everything. I was proud of myself for declining a complimentary glass of wine. I was on a sobriety binge all last week and did not want any wine with my dinner. It was completely dark outside after we finished dinner. The rooster was still in the tree. It sort of nestled within its own feathery self for the cold night ahead.

7. We got back to my mother's apartment in time for me to catch Jeopardy! The only time I ever see television is at her place. I detest television. But I do love Jeopardy. I know the answers to maybe 1/3 of the questions. I probably wouldn't get that many if I was a contestant on the show. I would most likely sink into a wide-eyed catatonia and make a fool of myself and win zero dollars.

8. I sent a text to R., wishing her a merry christmas. She didn't respond until late the following day. It was a very general, self-contained reply, wishing me a merry christmas. It didn't invite another reply. She was probably spending Christmas with her husband and his family in Utah. I didn't want to be a pest. So I didn't reply to her reply. Her birthday is tomorrow. I mailed a card yesterday. I hope it gets there in time. I didn't write much on the card. I don't have much to express, these days. I felt inhibited, knowing that whatever I wrote would probably be seen by her husband.

9. I returned to the city Sunday morning. I promptly ended my sobriety binge. This is a strange week. The office is officially closed until January 4. No work for me other than half-days tomorrow and Thursday. I love having all this time to myself in the deep, dark days of December.

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