More Medical Journaling

During my annual visit to the cardiologist yesterday, I revealed that I had been conscious of a reduction in my stamina when walking, accompanied by a slight burning sensation (without pain…hard to explain) in my chest. I told him, as well, about the CT scan results and suggested that was the reason for the symptoms. He did not want to make that assumption, so he scheduled me for a “treadmill cardiolite stress test” early Monday morning in Little Rock. I don’t relish driving to Little Rock early Monday morning, especially because the preparation for the test requires me to avoid caffeine in any form for twenty-four hours before the test. The test will, according to the instruction sheet, take four to six hours. The test actually sounds like a convoluted series of tests involving walking at high-speed on treadmills made to mimic steep hills, while technicians inject radioactive dyes into my veins. Sounds like so much fun I couldn’t turn it down! At least I get to wear “comfortable two piece clothing and good walking shoes.” One aspect of the instructions for the test that concerns me is that “it is very important that you remain very still during the imaging,” referring to a segment of the process during which a “gamma camera will be moved over your heart and take several images of your heart…” I have a very, very hard time remaining absolutely still while on my back on a hard surface. My inability to do so is what made it impossible to complete an MRI last year when the doctors wanted a good look at the bone spurs causing pain in my neck and arms.  I will just have to wade through it, I guess.

That’s Monday. Then, on Wednesday, my primary care physician scheduled the PET scan. I don’t have full details, but I know it will involve time on a flat surface during which someone will instruct me not to move. Same concerns as above.  I don’t yet know when or where the biopsy of the lung mass will be conducted. I assume they will conduct the biopsy regardless of whether the PET scan shows a bright spot (or spots) that could be cancerous. Here’s an explanation of PET scans that I found interesting and informative:

Cancers grow as dividing tissue require nutrients. Cancers require sugar. In order to perform PET Scans a particular sugar is manufactured. This sugar is radioactive. Fluorine-18 flurodeoxyglucose, known at FDG, is the radioactive tracer used in PET Scans. The patient receives this as an injection, getting a small radiation exposure, less than most CT Scans. Cancer cells take up this FDG sugar and it is trapped inside. The PET Scanning machine then measures the radiation signal.

The more radiation the cancer cell takes up, the “hotter” it is on the scan. A lesion that is hot may be cancer. By matching the PET Scan to other tests (such as a CT Scan as in a combined PET-CT) it is possible to tell where a tumor is located, what it is touching and by how hot it is, how likely it is to be cancer.

…PET Scans can detect the spread of cancer. It is critical at the start of the cancer process to accurately “stage the patient.” By knowing whether a cancer may have metastasized, the oncologist can design the proper treatment.

I’m probably getting ahead of myself with this exploration of PET scans, but it’s better to know what I may be in for than to wander into it blindly.

Sometimes, I think patients can explore too thoroughly the procedures they expect to undergo. For example, I could feel my level of anxiety grow while reading about the processes involved in a needle biopsy of a lung mass. It’s one thing to know what the doctors will do; it’s another to imagine the experience in details before the procedure actually takes place. On the other hand, conducting research into the processes is fascinating. I did not know, for example, of the existence of a specialty called interventional radiology.  Assuming my reading material is correct, my biopsy will be performed by an interventional radiologist. After the procedure, which typically takes less than an hour (according to what I’ve read), the tissue sample extracted from the lung mass is sent to a laboratory for testing. The results may be known shortly after the procedure, but it could take several days for the report to be delivered to the doctors. Once that happens, I’ll have a much clearer picture of what, if anything, will follow.

Okay, enough for the clinical language of medicine. My next post will be something very different. I don’t know what that will be, but it will be very different and won’t involve my physical health.

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Medical Journalist

I stayed home most of the day yesterday, expecting to get a call to schedule the P.E.T. scan and/or the biopsy, but I didn’t get the call. If I don’t hear anything by noon or thereabouts, I’ll call my doctor’s office to see what gives. Coincidentally, my annual visit with my cardiologist is scheduled for mid-afternoon today. I suppose I ought to tell him about the suspected malignancy.

Reaching the birth month of my sixty-fifth year is revealing more medical “crap” than I ever dreamed it would. Mostly little things that aren’t new but are annoying: a clogged sweat duct on my left foot that makes it painful to step “just so;” a skin rash on my scalp that itches like crazy (and is the reason for a visit to a dermatologist the day after my birthday); arthritic knuckles and elbows; stiff and arthritic knees; the list could go on. Adding lung cancer to it is not the icing I would have chosen  to put on the cake. But none of this crap would have been my choice, so there’s no compelling reason to complain except that I’m in the mood to do it.

I doubt I’ll write much today. I got up obscenely late, after 7:00, which for me is like sleeping in half the day. I feel like I’ve wasted time I could have spent in productive pursuits. Maybe I’ll continue my “medical journal” later. Or maybe I’ll put it off until the wee hours, as I am wont to do.

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Deviant Desayuno

Unable to focus on anything more productive since I awoke around 3:00 a.m. and wrote a long, rambling blog post, I turned my attention to something that always captures my imagination and attention: food. The result of my engagement with concerns comestible is underway as I write this. By adapting a recipe for a Chinese breakfast with ingredients suitable for Cajun or Creole cuisine, I am in the throes of making a breakfast that may either delight or disgust my wife when she arises an hour or more hence. (Under normal circumstances, she would be up around 7:30, but given that she had been up for who knows how long when she returned to bed when I arose at 3:00, the hour of her awakening is up in the air.) Back to the food. I’m making congee flavored with about six ounces of andouille sausage. The charcuterie that gave rise to andouille sausage originated in France, so my breakfast this morning, once complete, can claim French, Chinese, Cajun, and Creole lineage. If, as I am considering, I dress the finished product with German mustard, this could be a true bastard’s breakfast with no discernible parentage. Hmm. German mustard? No, I think not. I’ll stick to soy sauce and sambal oeleek; still, the result will be a dish that any self-respecting chef would condemn as an inedible concoction deserving nothing but scorn and a trip to the dumpster. I am no self-respecting chef, though, so I shall look forward, with relish, to enjoying my breakfast this morning. But I don’t plan on smothering the dish with relish, in case you wondered.

The photo is my deviant desayuno (that’s breakfast in Spanish, introducing yet another ethnic influence on my day) on the stove as it readies itself to be eaten. I’ll give it half an hour.

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Thinking Through the Fog

I’ve long thought that my wife and I both should have documented our experiences in dealing with her breast cancer fifteen years ago. I’m sure I’ve written, since then, about that time in our lives when our world was turned upside down. My impression then was that she was far better equipped, emotionally, to handle her diagnosis than I. But I don’t know with certainty. She’s never been one to share her emotions on matters so consequential, even with me. I know I was a wreck. And it’s probable that I was a wreck who wasn’t particularly supportive at a time when support was extremely important to her. We don’t talk about that much. Ever. It’s part of a dark history that neither of us documented. I wish we had. I’ve always wished we had documented the emotional roller-coaster that brought both of us face to face with mortality so directly. I remember my panic at the prospect that I might lose her.  I realized how crucial she was to my identity of myself; without her, I knew I would have drifted into a spinning fan blade that would cut me to pieces. That was a bleak time for me; bleaker still for her. She wrestled with whether she would undergo treatment or let Nature takes its course. I was selfish and insisted that she had no choice but to deal with whatever she had to do to ensure that she would remain here with me. I’m glad I was so insistent, but she’s never said how she felt about my selfishness.

Now, thirteen hours after the conversation with my doctor about the results of my CT scan, I’m more conscious of my choices than I was about my wife’s fifteen years ago. I still don’t know, and won’t for a few days yet, whether the 6 cm mass revealed on the X-rays and, then yesterday, on the CT scan is a malignant tumor, but I’m assuming my doctor is right and that it is. I need to know what the tests reveal about its nature, its likely history, and how quickly it is apt to increase in size and scope. And, of course, how far it has come thus far. Maybe it’s sitting there in my lung, as yet alone and unconnected to the rest of my body. Or, possibly, it’s already spread its reach beyond that 6 cm space and has reached into my lymphatic system and my liver and who knows where else. No one knows yet. But the radiologist’s comments in yesterday’s report suggests evidence that it may not yet have metastisized, if the results of my research into the language of the report is correct. I read “No suspicious mediastinal adenopathy” to mean the CT scan image didn’t reveal evidence that nearby lymph nodes showed evidence of malignancy. But, of course, I didn’t ask my doctor yesterday about that; I didn’t know questions to ask until I had wandered the length and breadth of the internet, attempting to learn for myself what no one yet actually knows. For the record, here’s the report from yesterday’s CT scan:

Exam: CT chest with contrast.
CLINICAL HISTORY: Pneumonia, unresolved or complicated; Unresolved pneumonia; Chronic cough
COMPARISON: Chest x-rays dating back to 9/7/2018.
TECHNIQUE: Axial images were obtained of the chest with contrast.
Interpretation: The heart is normal in size. The aorta is normal in caliber. No suspicious mediastinal adenopathy is identified. There is a rounded mass in the right lower lobe measuring 6 cm in size. There are a few air bronchograms centrally. There is a minimal amount of pleural fluid on the right. There are postoperative changes from CABG
surgery.
IMPRESSION:
1. Rounded mass density right lower lobe measuring up to 6 cm in size.
2. Imaging characteristics favor malignancy rather than pneumonia.
Biopsy recommended.

I remember my father’s death from lung cancer. He was in horrendous pain those last few days, helped only modestly by the morphine injections we administered that last horrible day. That was a long, long time ago. Today, it would have been different. Today, his pain would have been drawn out by days, weeks, even months, thanks to the wonders of modern medicine. I know very little about the extent of his cancer, nor the stage it had reached. By the time I knew he had terminal lung cancer, it had reached a point beyond which there was no return, no recovery. My situation is different. For one thing, I don’t even know with certainty that the mass in my lung is cancerous; so far, the radiologist and my doctor only suspect it. And treatments have changed dramatically since 1985, the year my father died. There’s virtually no realistic comparison between the two of us and our situations. He was 81 years old and had smoked two packs of cigarettes a day since he was a kid. I smoked for many, many years, but I stopped when I was 51. Ach. I could go on and on. The differences between us are so great there’s no point, though. And, frankly, it’s morbid to dwell on this stuff. Especially at this early stage, when I know damn near nothing about whatever it is in my lung.

Given all the “ink” I’ve used in connection with an as-yet undiagnosed condition, one might assume I am deeply troubled by something about which there are few hard, cold facts. But, in fact, I’m not. I’m more interested in it than troubled by it. I’m curious and admittedly a little nervous about what the future holds, but I’m not off-the-rails-afraid.

Just curious. I’m awake at 4:00 a.m. and have been since 3:00 because that’s who I am and that’s what I do on occasion. It’s not because I’m struggling to deal with my mortality. I’m not. I’m really not. But I do feel a little pressure to become my own copy and content editor, just in case. I haven’t spent the last umpteen years pouring my soul into my writing just to let my words disappear into oblivion without a fight. My legacy. There it is again. What will I leave to the world that the world can’t live without? Hah! We shall see.

I really do wish Janine and I had written contemporaneously about her  experiences in dealing with her breast cancer.  There were lessons learned during what was far more trying for her than whatever it is I’m dealing with is apt to be for me. But we didn’t. She had excuses. She’s not one to journal. But I didn’t have much of an excuse. I just didn’t do it. Nor did I write much, at least at the time, about my bypass surgery or, for that matter, all the hospitalizations and surgeries I had related to my Crohn’s disease. Maybe that’s for the best. Nothing puts one in a morbid state of mind more than page after page after page of detail about one’s illnesses and experiences with the medical-industrial complex.

I promise myself that I’ll document my experiences surrounding this latest medical issue of mine. I suspect I, and anyone else who stumbles across this blog, will find what I write boring in the extreme; I’ll do it anyway, so I won’t curse myself years hence for failing to have done it.

I’ve been writing for the better part of an hour and it’s only 4:20. I should go back to bed, but I won’t. With that, I guess I’ll make my first cup of coffee of the day.

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Surprisingly Calm in the Face of Mortality

Perhaps I’m waiting for confirmation of the doctor’s preliminary assessment—that I have a mass in my right lung that’s likely malignant—before I get nervous. Or perhaps the prospect hasn’t fully sunk in. Whatever the reason, I’m not panicking. I’ll wait until I’ve received the results of the P.E.T. scan and the biopsy before I decide how to react. I suppose I also should wait for the prognosis. Even then, I suspect I won’t panic. Something in the part of my brain that controls emotions is telling me to pay attention to information provided to me and to respond with deliberation and resolve. So that’s what I’ll try to do.

This news threw a monkey wrench into my decision, last night, to respond favorably to an invitation to play a speaking role in a play. This afternoon I told my doctor I had just been cast in a play and I asked whether, if I require treatment for cancer, I might have trouble following through on my commitment. He suggested that it might be better to put off my theatrical debut. While he said the possibility exists that the 6 cm mass in my right lung is benign, he said the imaging suggests that it is. So, I reluctantly told the director this afternoon that I’m backing out.

The issue on my mind right now is what I should be doing to prepare. Not for the tests and the prospect of treatment, but for the possibility that “it” could be even worse than I think. Come to think of it, I don’t think I should prepare at all; just let it come as it will. I came to that conclusion after attempting to understand tumor size and its relationship to “stage” of the cancer and their relationship to six-month and twelve-month survival rates. The complexity of those relationships and their potential to foster fear or depression or other such stuff I neither need nor want right now says I ought to leave them alone for the time being. I want to maintain the sense of calm with which I began writing this post. Better to ignore data too complex and requiring too much base knowledge that I don’t have.

My wife opted to stay home from cards tonight because the weather is nasty and even more threatening. That notwithstanding, I am comfortable in my solitude as she watches television, thinking through stuff that one best thinks through alone. I have thousands of documented moods and ideas and wishes and dreams to wade through on my blogs and in my files. Those pieces of me that I’ve shared with myself and the occasional visitor to my blogs merit at least some attention if I am to get them in a shape even remotely suitable for publication, assuming I’m able to do that. Nothing kicks me in the butt harder than knowing my precious writing may simply wither into vapor in the not-too-distant future if I don’t get my ass in gear and do something with it.  Aha! I knew it. My thoughts are not so damn calm as I thought. Well, they’re calm, but they’re not quite so unmoved as I might have claimed. Still no panic, no tears, no raging against the night, but acknowledgement that I’m not a fan of bedtime and I need to revisit my bouncing rubber ball that treats legacy like a demon one minute and a saint the next.

Still, I’m solidly behind the idea that my deliberation and resolve will win the day. They always have, in one way or another. We shall see. Indeed we will.

 

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Damn You, Anthony Bourdain, It Might Have Been My Turn to Die

I used to envision myself as the poor-and-unhealthy-man’s version of Anthony Bourdain. He was a grey-haired and large, well-muscled and weathered handsome guy, compared to me—salt-and-sand hair, a smallish and softly corpulent physique, smooth-skinned, and fundamentally homely. But we shared many of the same interests, tastes, and philosophical approaches to life. In reality, equating myself with Anthony Bourdain in any form or fashion is utterly arrogant and deeply wishful thinking that speaks forcefully against reality. I only wish. But last night, I heard a recording of his conversation with a guy in Indonesia, a Brit by the sound of the guy’s voice, during which the conversation turned to what the two of them would want done with their bodies upon their deaths. The Brit suggested a party of sorts, with his body burned and returned to the universe from whence it came. Bourdain wasn’t interested in a party. He opted to be “found dead” in the woods, where his body would be consumed by forest creatures and recycled. He also suggested being put into a wood chipper and sprayed against something or other. I missed part of that, and I may be glad I did.  At least that’s what I remember from both comments. I can relate to both of them.

Despite the obligatory detour from my originally-intended comments here, I am back to my desire to be someone “like” Anthony Bourdain. I want to witness the world with an open mind. I want to condemn the injustices I see and report them to the world, encouraging the world to join me in condemning them. And I want to do this while enjoying other cultures and their cuisines, not through haute cuisine but, instead, in kitchens of regular people for whom kitchens do not represent livelihood but familial or communal interaction.

My wishes and desires and dreams do not lend themselves easily to narrative. They find better expressions in poetry and vignette, emphasized through the occasional tirade and irrational rant. Yesterday, following church service, a smallish group of us engaged in conversation after watching a TED Talk delivered by Jonathon Haidt, who discussed the moral roots of liberals and conservatives. The talk was eye-opening and instructive. It revealed aspects of myself that I wish I could hide. It also allowed me, oddly, to look into Anthony Bourdain’s mind. I have tried for an hour to express just how that came to be, but I can’t. I will just say the video had impact. And I think I came to understand why Anthony Bourdain committed suicide and why I could follow suit one day. I’m not suggesting it’s on the immediate horizon (in fact I adamantly assert otherwise), but I think I can see how I might reach the conclusion that suicide is the best choice for me and for those I would leave behind. His exposure to the world revealed glorious aspects of this planet and the life forms that live on it. But his experiences also revealed ugliness that ought not to occupy humankind in any form on this planet. When one reaches the point of believing the ugliness outweighs the beauty, I think it’s time to go. I can imagine that would be my choice. And if the people I left behind were left with the option of dealing with a crotchety old geezer who sees nothing but the worst in all of us or the memory of a curmudgeon who loved the strange challenges of life on earth, I think they’d prefer the early departure of the latter by his own hand than the lingering insistence on living through the misery of a prolonged departure.

I don’t know what demons prompted Anthony Bourdain to hang himself. His death hurt me for a lot of reasons, but I wish his memory well and I wish those who mourn him better times ahead.

Anthony Bourdain and I shared a passion for food and, I think, for culture. He was far better at exploring both, but he was in a sense a role model for those of us who wish we could have lived his life. Lately, as I watch my culture slide into an abyss of our own making, I long for a culture like his in which his complaints can be heard and embraced by millions. But our culture today is more apt to eschew any contributions Bourdain might have made, calling him a commie or a socialist or a pussy. That’s one of the things that makes suicide attractive. But I can’t imagine reaching that point, not really. Not as long as there’s food to explore, a woman who loves me, and an opportunity to complain bitterly about so much for which there is to complain. Damn you, Anthony Bourdain! It might have been my turn to die!

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The Demise of Pie and Mash and Liquor

Based on an article I read online this afternoon in The Telegraph, I’m afraid hipsters have torpedoed my chances for ever eating an old-style meal of English pie and mash and jellied eel. Damn it! I really, truly would liked to have had an opportunity to taste a dish commonly served to dock workers and other working class folk in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Even for the bulk of the twentieth century, I understand that pie and mash shops were popular and thrived in working-class London. We (my wife and I), during our many trips to England in the 1980s and 1990s, never had the opportunity to try them. We were always taken to the “upscale” spots, not to the kind of places I really wanted to go. I wanted to experience London as if I were a working class Londoner. Instead, I was treated as a visiting American who, presumably, should be taken to expensive restaurants to eat food more suited to the American palate. I was too bashful to object. Later, when we went back in the late 1990s, we experienced the more common Indian food dives, which we loved, but still didn’t get to the old-style places that had survived for more than a century. Like A.J. Goddard pie and mash shop that closed today (Sunday, October 7) after 128 years. What a bloody shame! Some call the dish pie and mash and liquor (not the alcoholic kind, the “liquor” sauce made from eels). I wish I could try it. I guess there are some shops left, but they’re disappearing rapidly. I’m sorry to know that. Very sorry to know it.

Travel the world and experience it was it once was, and do it soon, or the great homogenization will rip your chances from your grip before you know it.

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A Proper Burial

Long ago, a friend taught me the meaning of the phrase “you die twice” and I wrote about it. I’ll get to that in a moment. It surprises me that the very modest traffic that reaches this blog usually gets here from web searches that take them to that post or to another one I wrote about “blind robins.” (A traffic monitor informs me which page each visitor’s IP address lands on.)

If it weren’t for searchers led here by their interest in “you die twice” or “blind robins,” the traffic here would be almost nonexistent. I know a few people read what I write with some regularity (and I thank them!), but that number is extremely small. I can count those fairly regular readers on the fingers of one hand, leaving a thumb free for use in hitchhiking. As I’ve said before, I write these posts for myself. But I admit that the lack of readership among even my friends and family can be depressing at times. I understand that people are busy, but it would make me feel a little less irrelevant to know that people are sufficiently curious to know what’s on my mind to visit from time to time. “Irrelevant” is a bit too strong a term. “Ignored” is the proper term, I think. Yet still I write. So, yeah, it’s primarily for me. I wouldn’t be approaching 2700 posts if I were writing for an audience. I guess it’s to release pent-up thoughts in my head to avoid an explosion.

Back to the phrase I mentioned first. “You die twice” suggests that a person dies the first time when his body gives out and dies when his name is spoken for the last time. Thereafter, he is no longer even a memory that matters. That’s a sad thought in some sense, but natural and understandable and expected in another. I’ve written about the matter, albeit not necessarily addressing it directly, several times before. Memory. Legacy. “One’s mark on the world.” In reality, evidence of most of us eventually evaporates, leaving not even an indentation in the space we once occupied, believing it was sacred space meant only for us.

“Who was that woman who lived alone sixty miles outside of Fort Boise in 1829 but was never heard from thereafter? Who was that bachelor who arrived in Galveston in 1899 and was swept out to sea in the Great Hurricane of 1900?”

Almost no one knew those people then and no one remembers them today. The questions about them are artificial; whether the people were real or simply sprang from my imagination doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter any more than the absence of memories about them. Their sacred space is busy accommodating “butterflies and zebras and moonbeams and fairy tales.” (At least until the memories of Jimi Hendrix fade into oblivion.)

Memories of us might linger a little longer through our writing or the music we play, though it seems unlikely in my case, given the paucity of people who’ve read my copious blather. And it won’t be music for me, inasmuch as I’ve never written any. But memories might linger longer if one writes a memoir. A friend asked the other day whether I’ve considered writing a memoir. “You’ve led an interesting life,” she said. I thanked her but silently wondered if she knew of any memoirs of a life like mine that anyone would consider reading. She mentioned something else, a little later,  she said bored her. “It was like watching paint dry,” she said. That’s what reading my memoir would be like, I thought. People who spend their careers in white-collar offices working with people they find only moderately tolerable don’t make good memoirists.

With that as a temporary backdrop, I often wonder what day-to-day life was like for people who lived in farms and in small-town America in the late 1800s and early 1900s; their memoirs or better yet meticulous journals would make interesting reading, I think.  I’m afraid our knowledge of history is too often based not on facts but on our interpretations of evidence that suggest facts. We fill in the blanks with what we believe the evidence suggests to be true, but we don’t know.

All the aforementioned blather notwithstanding, the world would be a dark, hollow, ugly place if people focused their attention on the fact that our brief existence ultimately will matter to no one. At some point in our lives, perhaps for entirety of our lives, we matter to someone. That, alone, provides solace against the knowledge that we’re nothing more than infinitesimally small microscopic specks in an immeasurably enormous universe. That fact that we have the wherewithal to think we matter even a tiny bit to a minuscule sphere of other beings for an instant of time too brief to measure against a spectrum leading to eternity should give us some sense that our presence has some meaning, however brief.

The words we leave behind, whether in our notes or books or plays or blogs or music what have you can postpone but cannot prevent the inevitable. Eventually, our words will no longer be associated with the name of the person who wrote them. Our names will eventually be spoken for the last time. It’s indisputable. The time it takes might be short or it might be long, but time will eventually snatch our memories from the universe.

While we’re here, though, we might as well make the most of it. Enjoy what we can and make our marks, knowing full well they will not be “lasting” in the true sense of the word. All our legacies can do is to prepare our memories for a proper burial in the fog of time, when our names are spoken for the last time.

 

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You?

I’m not paranoid, just observant. The jobless rate is the “lowest in 50 years.” For some reason, ads encouraging people to join the military have increased exponentially. Investigations into the many accusers of Brett Kavanaugh have been stymied. It’s all coincidental. Bullshit.

Mark my words, the spin designed to convince the uninformed has long been in operation. Jobless rate “lowest in 50 years?” Either “bullshit” or “let’s take Obama’s successes and morph them into our own.”

I want to believe the USA is resistant to authoritarianism, but it’s obviously not. I am in favor of opposing this bullshit. You?

What would it take to convince you that I truly believe we’re at a dangerous crossroads in our country? If I were to slit my own throat on national television, would that do it? Put me in touch with the producers.

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More Coffee and Less Introspection

If I could do it without waking my wife and angering my neighbors, I would assemble the necessary tools and materials, along with bright lights to enable me to see what I’m doing, and go outside and continue scraping my deck this morning. I got a lot done yesterday, but not enough. Today will be lost to the effort because of a brunch honoring a friend, followed by a meeting at church. I could get a lot done in the wee hours if I didn’t have to worry about annoying people with the noise and hubbub. And, of course, if I could successfully summon the sun to light my workspace. I suppose large halogen lights would do, but I’d have to deal with a tangle of electric cords. The sun would provide better light, anyway. But I’m afraid I don’t control the sun, one of many aspects of life on this planet and beyond that are outside my control.

In the long hours today of darkness after waking and before dawn, it occurs to me that there are more aspects to life over which I have no control than aspects over which I do. That’s not new information, of course, but it bears an occasional reminder. I don’t control the universe any more than the universe dictates how I spend every waking second, though the second point is arguable, I suppose. Perhaps a better perspective is this: I can’t control everything, but I can control something. That’s suspiciously close to the concept that I can’t do everything, but I can do something. That is, I can make a difference in some aspects of life, though not in every aspect. Still, the fact that I can’t control the sun is disappointing in the extreme.

Turning to a less whimsical theme, here’s some fiction I wrote last night:

Carrigan Smithers paced back and forth across the room, pausing on occasion to glance out the window to see whether the lights were on in his neighbors’ houses. He spoke into the microphone in his left hand, explaining to someone who might hear his recorded words later what he was thinking:

“I can no longer promise civility. I can no longer promise non-violence. I can no longer promise I will engage in debate. Instead, I can promise the possibility of incivility. I can promise the possibility of raging violence. I can promise the possibility I will slit the throats of people who would lie to protect their power. There comes a time at which even men who are too gentle to live among wolves must gird their loins and prepare to use their teeth and claws  to shred the flesh of those who would enslave them. That time has come. At the first sign freedoms are usurped, blood will follow in wave upon wave upon wave. Those who would steal our freedom will suffer the unflinching rage of people who won’t tolerate that theft. There will be hell to pay, far beyond any definition of hell anyone has seen heretofore.

Sharpen your machetes, make sure your axes are like razors, turn your knives into instruments of freedom. If you have guns, make sure they are at the ready. We must be ready for a civil explosion unlike any we have seen before. And we must be willing to engage. The lives of children and grandchildren and great grandchildren depend on it.

The reality, of course, is that our freedoms already have been usurped. So, if my words were to have any meaning, I’d already be in the midst of shedding the blood of those who enslave us. Nonetheless, I am angry. And I do think the time may be near for good people to abandon civility and its relatives in favor of freedom and decency. Granted, decency generally requires civility and non-violence, but that’s true only in “normal” times. These are not normal times. We have been played like a stringed instrument. A significant segment of our people have become pawns to a small group of elderly white men who are desperately afraid of losing their control over their wealth and power. Those old white men must be excised like the cancerous cyst they have become. My preference would be to do it the simplest way possible: vote them out. But they have followed a not-so-secret directive by “rigging the system.” Voting is no longer the simple process it once was. It requires, in many places, extensive efforts to prove one’s “legitimacy.” That is, one essentially must prove one’s Old White Republican Conservative Credentials in order to cast a ballot. When they take away my right to vote, they take away their right to live. That’s my sense of it.”

Carrigan listened to what he had said, then deleted the file. “That’s not the way I want to leave it,” he said, then continued to pace.

He looked at the photograph on the dresser, taken on his wedding day twenty years earlier, and sighed. “She wouldn’t have wanted me to be involved in the revolution, but she would have been proud of me when I joined it.”

So there you have it. Bad writing and a bad mood, coupled with an absolute inability to control sunlight. Hell, if I could control the sun, I’d probably also be able to resurface my deck without much effort. I think I live in a fantasy land, a place in my head that’s populated with a cast of characters than number in the millions and whose characteristics, attributes, flaws, and foibles are nearly as numerous as the characters. They all have untold stories that, taken individually, are incomplete and boring. But if I could consolidate them into one larger-than-life story, I could write a book. But by the time I get to writing it, my interests will have shifted to blacksmithing or roller-blading or developing an expertise in kangaroos. I think perhaps my inability to focus is a symptom of fear; fear that, even if I give something my best effort, I’ll never be very good at it. I’ve never admitted that to myself before, but I think that could be it.

It’s approaching 5:30. The sun won’t be up for quite some time and I think I need more coffee and less introspection.

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History in the Making

There will be a time when the immigrant children detained by the United States of America will write of their experiences. They will write of the pain and anger and fear they experienced at the hands of the mightiest country on earth. They will expose the underbelly of a nation conceived in liberty but dedicated to the proposition that it should control every nation on earth and shape them all in its own self-image, an effigy of an ex cathedra, benevolent god whose commands must be obeyed else insubordinates suffer the consequences.

History in the making is hard on those who will write about it one day. But when they write it their words will be written in blood mixed with hate and loathing and dashed hopes and dreams. Their words will be seared into the minds of those who read them, especially those who could have saved those children from the torture of unnecessary detention. We can only hope that justifiable rage does not burn so hot that a nation conceived in liberty isn’t reduced to ashes.

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Topical Grazing

I spent just over a half an hour during the latter part of yesterday afternoon in Hot Springs, visiting with a woman about whose life I have written. I’ve not posted my writing here. Her story is, for now, private. But it may one day become public, depending on factors too numerous and convoluted to get into here. I wasn’t alone with her. I was with someone else, the instigator of the exploration of the woman’s life story.

After our meeting, and after I had dropped the instigator at his house, I felt like the several meetings we’ve had with the woman and the hours I’ve spent writing about her was time spent in pursuit of rainbows. The outcome of our conversations, I suspect, will be nothing. Oh, I’ll finish the story. But it will go nowhere. That saddens me, on the one hand, but relieves me on the other. The woman’s story deserves to be told. My version of it is irrelevant; she is the one with the story, so she is the one to tell it. Not me.

She complimented me on my writing. I thanked her. What I didn’t do was thank her for allowing me to invade her privacy to such an extraordinary extent. I should have.

***

I read a bit about suicide today, suicide by people who don’t seem like “the type” to take their own lives. They are not people who aim to hurt their loved ones, but their pain is so intense that the will do anything to stop it. Even at the expense of their loved  ones. That’s got to be the most horrific pain anyone can possibly feel. Writers who can’t deal with the pain have committed suicide or endured its irreversible consequences. Suicide is irrevocable. Irreversible. Permanent in so horrific a way as to be monstrous.

How the hell did my post abruptly change from life stories to writing to suicide? Crap, I really am ADD or whatever the latest genesis of the experience is called.

***

Food isn’t the same as salvation, but it has the potential to make that logical leap. Yes, I realize that sentence makes about as much sense as a telephone pole in an ice cream store, but it is what it is, as they say. But, food. Food is not always cuisine, but cuisine is always food. At least that’s what I think. This afternoon, if all goes according to plan, I’ll take up yesterday afternoon’s interrupted plan and make some spring rolls. I’ll slip sheets of rice paper in water, one at a time, then put them on a flat surface and place the fillings on them and roll and wrap them. Ingredients like shrimp, napa cabbage, bean sprouts, rice vermicelli, cilantro, and anything else that strikes my fancy. And I’ll make dipping sauce with miso, lime juice, honey, soy sauce, garlic, and sesame oil. I might make some other versions of dipping sauce, too, perhaps using hoisin sauce and wasabi and lime juice. I don’t know for certain; time will tell.

***

I’m conflicted about Brett Kavanaugh. On the one hand, I believe his accuser, Dr. Ford, but on the other, I don’t have all the facts. Apparently no one does. The fact that the FBI didn’t interview either of them doesn’t help. But I can’t automatically assume that, just because Dr. Ford’s testimony seemed believable, Kavanaugh is guilty. He is guilty of being an asshole, which is enough in my view to keep him off the court, but only after a truly thorough investigation could I say with any certainty that he did what she claimed. It bothers me that people who regularly accuse “the right” of ignoring the law when it benefits them do exactly the same thing when it serves their agenda. No, I do not know whether Kavanaugh is guilty as accused. It sure seems that way, especially with the people who have spoken up since their testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee. But people lie. And, frankly, Dr. Ford’s comments describing her experiences by making reference to her hippocampus seemed contrived and artificial in the context of the rest of her testimony. But Kavanaugh’s testimony seemed utterly combative; he stonewalled every question about drinking, blackout, etc. More data. More information. More interviews. But that’s not what the Republicans want and it’s not what the White House will allow. The fact that tRump selected Kavanaugh is a strike against the man; that, alone, is reason to be deeply, deeply suspicious. tRump surrounds himself with lackeys who reach orgasm by doing his bidding. The Law. It’s becoming a parody of itself.

***

A story is brewing, a story I think will be good for next year’s L’Audible Art. I haven’t written a single line for it, but I’ve been thinking about it quite a lot lately. The way it’s coming together in my head suggests it would be far too long for L’A, but I might be able to shave it down and maintain its core message.

I’ve grazed enough topics for now. Time to face daylight.

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On Eating Glass and Other Horrible Pleasures

I’ve never eaten glass, but if I were to do it, I’d choose to chew ground red glass. I envision a crimson goblet changing from hard red glass into a fine pink powder as the grinder did its work. My imagination will take me only so far when I contemplate the way my mouth might feel as I consumed the remnants of what once was a beautiful water goblet. The revulsion I would feel as the crushed and powdered glass filled my mouth overtakes my fantasy and transforms it into a monstrous phantasmagoria. But I know it’s all in my mind. I would never knowingly eat glass.

Yet the curiosity that gives rise to that imagining gives rise to other, equally bizarre, daydreams. How would I feel if I placed my left arm in a guillotine and the blade suddenly dropped, severing my limb in an instant? I can imagine a sense of confused disbelief and horror, followed perhaps by excruciating pain.

What good does it do me to imagine such things? I think imagining events that almost certainly will never come to pass is an exercise that makes the brain elastic and able to process real events with greater malleability. And it enables me, if I choose, to describe the events or to paint them in words that make the events believable. By “greater malleability,” I mean the brain can more quickly discard the sense that a real event, strange and traumatic though it might be, is a trick played on one’s imagination.

There may be a danger in imagining awful circumstances, though. By thinking them through, applying logic to what happens and the order in which it occurs, one might normalize them. For example, imagining a treasonous politician being hacked to death by someone wielding a sharp machete might lessen the horror of witnessing such an event take place in real time. Maybe not, though. I suppose it would be unethical for a psychology professor to conduct an experiment that measures individuals’ responses to such an action; one group would be instructed to imagine such circumstances before witnessing a real hacking, another would witness the hacking without the benefit of pre-event conditioning. I’m pretty sure that would be a breach of professional ethics. Though I wonder whether the ethics issue could be overcome if the investigator could reasonably claim that the research subjects were incapable of feeling fear or pain…no, just no.

Ghastly though it sounds, the idea of focusing intently on how swallowing ground glass might feel can be instructive. So can it be to imagine all sorts of other horrible experiences. When we remove the shield that protects us from horrors around us, I think we’re better able to understand and express the experiences that arise from exposure to horrible experiences. Granted, one may not wish to understand and express those experiences, but understanding is the foundation of knowledge. So, understanding even the most grotesque aspects of our lives, whether real or imagined, helps build knowledge about ourselves and the world in which we live.

I think I’m spewing words just to spew words. I’m not sure I believe anything I’ve written. That is a clear warning to me a writer; if I don’t believe it, neither will the reader. Yet I started with the premise that I would imagine godawful circumstances and write about how they influenced my mental state. I don’t know that I’ve done that. Instead. I took a sharp left turn down a dark alley, where I was mugged by unethical research psychologists wielding sharp knives. They called themselves “students of darkness,  but I know them by their first names, Brett and Mark. Even from a distance, I can see that they are slimy, as if they had bathed in a tub filled with fish oil and human blood. When they realized I was a male, they pushed me against the wall and shouted “we’ll find another subject, one that we can joyously molest!”

Can you see from the preceding paragraph how the distorted mind works when confronted with obstacles to logical thought? It breaks through those obstacles with madness and brute force and then leaps over the remnants of the broken barricades like a deer leaps over a tall fence. Speaking of deer, I saw on Facebook yesterday that a young woman I know only casually killed her first doe, using a crossbow. I pitied the animal, but envied the woman and her husband for the venison they will soon enjoy. That combination of pity for the deer and envy for its killer is an odd mixture. It’s like love and hate, oil and water, truth and fiction all joined together with a rubbery material that can be bent but not broken. Yeah, I can’t quite describe it, but I can see it behind my eyes.

It’s after 7:30. Way late to be writing anything. The sun is up and light would flood the room if I were to open the shade, which normally I would have done an hour ago. But my fingers lusted after the feel of the keyboard and I had no control over them. But now I do, and so I will divorce myself from the keyboard and go about my bidness.

 

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Pawns

How the hell can I interpret what I meant four years ago today when I wrote the following?

Who controls us is a question I cannot fully answer, not with any certainty. But I think how they control us is clear.  We are taught our roles are simply to consume what is provided to us and to accept decisions made for us.  Even when we are asked to make decisions, they are not our decisions; we simply affirm decisions others taught us to make. We are trained to be passive participants in our own lives.  Only by being disobedient, by breaking free of the artificial constraints placed on what and how we think, can we take control of our lives. That is hard to do. Whether it is worth doing, that’s what I aim to find out.

You know what bothers me about what I wrote four years ago? It’s that I don’t know the message I was trying to send to myself. And I don’t think I ever answered myself.

I do know I feel compelled to reject whatever it is that controls us. I reject that control out of hand. But, then, what control do I have? Are we pawns? If so, who controls the moves?

Tonight, I’ve had more thought flood my brain than I’ve had in ages. But still I’m unwilling to share them. Or event to document them. I’m afraid my ideas tonight would be judged dangerous and illegal and seditious. So I must keep them to myself. Until the revolution.

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Published

One poem. Finally published. They (Do South Magazine) selected the one poem I submitted, Emotion. Now that it’s in print, I wish I’d submitted something else. But wishing is an idiotic undertaking, isn’t it? So I’ll try to stop. I have written dozens upon dozens of poems, most of which have never seen the light of day. Most of which should never see the light of day. Most of which were errors I allowed to erupt into word-farts. Still, most of them meant something to me when I wrote them. More so, in many cases, than the prose I write. Prose tends to need a structure around which it is built; otherwise, its story is meaningless. That’s true of most of my prose. It has a structure around which it is built, but that structure remains in my head, instead of finding its way to the story. And so the story is a half-thought, riddled with impossible bridges to nowhere, crafted on the edge of a cliff that’s dangerously close to disappearing into the empty sky below.

I wrote a day or two ago, or maybe today, that I’m not, nor will I ever be, and expert. I wish (there’s that idiocy again) I would have willed myself to be an expert in the expression of emotions through language. Such is life, though. It passes by and, unless one takes the early opportunities, it leaves one sad and regretful that one ignored taking advantage of all the opportunities.

Without further ado, here’s the link to the magazine in which my poem was published. It’s on page 6 or page 8 or some page with a number either close to or far away from those numbers.

http://dosouthmagazine.com/roam-october-2018/

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Smoking Cats

Last night’s dream was utterly bizarre. I’ll document what I can while the memory is reasonably fresh.

My friend, Jim from Dallas was to smoke a brisket for a large gathering. This gathering was to be held at a house in the country, an older place that sat on many acres. Jim arrived with the brisket, which he put in the refrigerator. He brought two live cats, as well, which he apparently intended to smoke, as well, and asked me to put the live creatures in the refrigerator. I didn’t quite understand the cats, but I tried to do as asked while the cats bit and scratched me. During the attempt to put the smaller of the two animals in the refrigerator (the refrigerator was a small one, like a dorm fridge), I noticed that something was wrong; it was no longer cooling. Jim checked and determined that the refrigerator wasn’t working, so he asked someone else in the room (there were several people there, though I’m not sure who) to go buy ice. I opted to let the cats roam the house while other preparations were underway.

I looked out the window and saw that my brother (the one who’s now in the hospital) was driving up the driveway. Then, others started coming down the drive; they were early by a couple of hours, which panicked Jim.

I heard a commotion in another room. When I entered, I saw my late sister and one of my nephews, along with many other people, sitting at a table loaded with baked goods, mostly pies and cakes. One of the cakes was extensively decorated with lettering; there were so many words on the cake it looked almost like the page from a book. My nephew pushed his hand down into the middle of the cake. When he pulled it off the cake, the top of the cake bounced back up, but some of the lettering was gone, leaving smooth white icing in place of the now disappeared lettering, but the rest of the lettering reappeared. My sister was upset with my nephew’s action and gently let him know it.

Another look out the window revealed a semi truck backing a large mobile home onto the field across the road in front of the house. One entire side of the mobile home, the one I could see from the house, was open, revealing several furnished rooms. People were in each room, seemingly oblivious to the fact that their home was in motion and the walls along the side of the house were missing.

While the semi truck was positioning the “open house” across the street, the minister of my church turned into the driveway.

And that’s all I remember. The memories of last night’s dream are melting away as I finish typing this. Strange things bubble up in the brain during the night.

 

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Context

Context influences a person’s experience. A sudden sharp pain in one’s finger makes sense in the context of carelessly slicing a tomato. The same sharp pain would be confusing if experienced while reclining on a sofa, watching television. Seeing a familiar face in a familiar place—a coworker on the job, for example—conforms to my expectations, but seeing that same person’s image, identified as a serial rapist, would confuse me. Thinking about this, I wonder…is it the context that shapes our experience or is it the expectations we hold for experiences in that context? Perhaps it’s both. Expectations and context go hand in hand. Modify context and the experience changes; modify expectations and the experience changes. No, the more I think about it, context more than expectations drives experience. Expectations play a crucial role, but experiences can take place in the absence of expectations about them. Experiences cannot take place, though, in the absence of context.

Not that it matters in the context of this discussion with myself, but I just looked up the definition of context. Third in list of meanings was one with which I was not familiar:

Mycology. the fleshy fibrous body of the pileus in mushrooms.

I love being surprised in innocuous ways. But not in the sense of the third definition of innocuous:

not interesting, stimulating, or significant; pallid; insipid

Context matters. Even in language. Especially in language. Context helps us understand the world around us. Perhaps I should rephrase that: Context is the world around us; understanding it helps us understand our experiences.

I could spend hours (and have done so) wandering aimlessly through the dictionary. Online dictionaries, which tend to be in database form instead of endless alphabetical lists, are easy to use, but massive twenty volume hardback sets that require dedicated pieces of furniture to accommodate their weight and bulk please me even more. The second edition, published in 1989, contained almost 22,000 pages in those twenty volumes. I could be entertained for years, just reading through the entries. But perhaps I’ll wait for the third edition, which was begun in 2000 and is said to be half complete. Perhaps I’ll buy a set as a birthday present to myself on my eighty-third birthday.

Before reaching this paragraph in this post, I allowed myself to scramble down the rabbit hole of definitions. One word that struck me with interest is “indefatigable,” meaning: incapable of being tired out; not yielding to fatigue; untiring. Oddly enough, there is no  definition online of defatigable, but there is a listing, but no definition, for infatigable. Somewhere in our language’s storied past we seem to have chosen to keep or to create words that felt more comfortable on our tongue, paying little regard to logic regarding their roots. I should have studied linguistics, English linguistics. I could have become an expert on aspects of the English language. I could have been a contender! I could have been somebody! Instead, I have no expertise.

Yesterday, we attended the Hot Springs AKC Kennel Club dog show. Just because it was being held, admission was free, and…dogs. So we went. And I watched closely as judges examined the ways dogs carried themselves, presented certain aspects of their pedigree, and handled themselves in crowds. I noted there were ribbons given for obedience, among other behavioral matters. The people doing the judging are experts in their field. I don’t know if the judges are limited to judging only toy breeds, working dogs, hounds, or what have you or whether their expertise crosses breeds and types of dogs. But they are judges. They are experts. That know things I don’t know and never will. I could, I know. But I won’t because my interest is superficial and fleeting. Just like my interest in everything else. Wide and shallow. One does not become an expert in anything when one’s interests are wide and shallow. Out of moderate curiosity, I inquired of Mother Google this morning: What is the opposite of a Renaissance Man? She answered with a flood of possibilities, but the arrows whose wounds hurt the most were “simpleton” and “hotshot.”

I have not showered nor shaved this morning, so I must move along. Today at church we have none of the usual churchy stuff; instead, it’s jazz music. I must be clean and clean-shaven to experience it. Otherwise, the context would not be right.

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Superficial Thematic Explorations of a Saturday Morning in September

I’ve noticed recurring themes involving anger, darkness, and pessimism in both my poetry and my prose. How could I not notice them? They are so obvious as to slap me in the face, hard, when I read them. But when I write them, their starkness hides behind the words I choose to write. They slither amongst my language like snakes moving between rocks, waiting and striking only when their prey are within striking distance. I don’t notice their presence until I read what I’ve written, when they announce themselves with a low, lengthy scream that draws blood.

Why do those themes grow like kudzu when my fingers touch the keyboard? Why do harmless words I use every day transform into psychological cudgels that shepherd me into a dark cave and then beat me senseless? Those questions and many others reside in my brain, where they’ve taken up residence alongside artificial answers. Artificial answers.  Answers that break like cheap plastic dinner forks when put to the test, revealing the broken logic and erroneous recollections upon which they are based.

Cynics are, by nature, suspicious. Suspicion is a breeding ground for unhappiness. Yet one can be cynical without being a cynic, I think. Cynics view the world as a place where selfishness is the motivator of action and altruism doesn’t exist. While I think many people act only out of selfishness, many more exhibit compassion, which I think is a relative of altruism. What does this have to do with my recurring themes? Those themes struggle against their antagonists: joy, openness, and optimism. Admittedly, though, my writing doesn’t often reveal joy, openness, and optimism. But the struggle goes on, if hidden from view beneath a heavy cloak woven from words that distract from the battle beneath.

I believe that, one day, I’ll be able to extract from my writing—poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and self-centered ruminations—answers to some of my questions. Not the artificial answers I wrote about but real answers that withstand challenges from every angle. I get the sense that I’m among only a small fraction of the population that haven’t found their answers. Most people, I think, find their answers early on and build their lives on the foundations those answers provide. Even artificial answers, when cobbled together with scraps of lies and baseless faith, can provide a foundation upon which lives can be built. The people who don’t find their answers early, though—or who refuse to build their lives on the broken debris of artificial answers—drift through life as if they were on the deck of a rudderless schooner with no captain and no crew. This is beginning to sound like “it was a dark and storm night.” I don’t mean it to be so deeply artificial as it sounds. I’m actually trying to equate the sense of an ongoing search for an unknown object with something physical. And clinging to the deck of an aimless boat is as close as I can come.

Another theme I almost forgot to mention: violence. I suppose it corresponds to anger, so I won’t devote much intellectual energy to it here. But I wonder whether my aversion to violence, on the one hand, and my not-so-secret fantasies involving violence to people I think “deserve” to suffer its consequences on the other, is symptomatic of the anger that drives some of my fiction. But, then, I wonder whether all of these themes simply flow from a creative well and are not symptomatic of anything other than creativity? I’d rather think that, so I’ll leave it there and go explore how one gets breakfast in a place like this. I know the answer: make it myself.

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In Memory of My Mother on Her Birthday

September 28, 1908. That’s when my mother was born. Were she still alive, she would have turned 110 years old today. She didn’t make it that far. She died thirty-two years ago, when she was 78 and I was 32.

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Stolid Ennui

I could write about anything I choose this morning, but I can’t seem to motivate myself to make a choice. I feel like my decision-making tool is covered with a crust of cynicism and anger, over which a hard shell of raw hopelessness has been affixed. That’s what watching a bunch of hack politicians “question” a sexual assailant play-acting in the hope of getting on the Supreme Court will do. I watched damn near the entire hearing yesterday, cutting it off near the end as we left to attempt to enjoy last night’s World of Wine. I believed Dr. Ford. I did not believe Brett Kavanaugh. Let me rephrase that. I think Kavanaugh may not remember his sexual assault of Ford, but I believe he assaulted her. And I believe the anger Kavanaugh demonstrated was real. But I believe his performance was staged. I believe he was coached to show righteous anger. I believe his behavior, utterly at odds with the behavior one would expect from a Supreme Court Justice, was responsive to the demands of his handlers. A Supreme Court Justice should exhibit stolidity, not rage. I believe Pablo Escobar would be a better choice for Supreme Court Justice than Kavanaugh. Enough of that.

Depression must feel like hopelessness. The latter, I know, is dark and ugly and debilitating. But it does permit anger to bubble to the surface, tearing through cracks in the cold stone shell beneath which hopelessness resides. Anger is too gentle a term. Rage is better. Volcanic rage is an even more accurate descriptor. Yesterday, I wrote that the idea of ascribing anthropormorphic motives to the actions of natural phenomena was absurd. But it’s not. The universe is a living being. We’re just microscopic components of a gigantic organism. The universe thinks, thanks in part to the work of tiny cells within it. The microscopic cells within our bodies contribute to our functioning; like them, we are the cells that contribute to the functioning of the universe. Without us, would the universe still exist? Of course, but it wouldn’t be the same, would it? It would be a more peaceful universe, to be sure, though that peace would occasionally be punctuated by violent warfare between stars and planets and asteroids and other such things about which we know nothing.

Hopelessness is akin to the sense that our Sun will eventually burn all its fuel and will become a cold, inactive clump of nuclear ashes. The inevitability of that distant reality is certain. There is nothing we can do to change it. It is destined to be. That’s like hopelessness. It is destined to be. Nothing we can do will change it. Resistance is futile. That sounds a bit like bad sci-fi dialogue. But sci-fi has a track record of accurately predicting the future.

I read a post on another blog recently in which the writer described his transition from an overweight alcohol-fueled loser of sorts into a fit, active, slim ex-drinker. If he had allowed hopelessness and its inevitability to control his life, he might have been dead by now. But he didn’t. He said his “secret” was to pay attention to everything he put in his body. He paid close attention. And he walked. With a sense of a man on a mission. Because he was. I wonder whether paying attention to everything we allow into our minds can overtake and overpower hopelessness. Would our own form of mind control work to change the future? Could my intellect somehow ensure Kavanaugh’s tenure on the Supreme Court is short, if he is confirmed? Would that it were so.

I don’t know what to write. I have no idea. I don’t even know that I want to write. Perhaps I should try acting. Let someone else do the hard work; I could just transform their words into a visual expression of their thoughts. But I’d have to memorize lines; I’m no good at that. Perhaps I should become a hunter. Give me a rifle and a target. Yes, I could work off my ennui by gunning down an innocent deer.

Back to reality. I’d better go wash the dishes.

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Another Ricochet

Murkiness, punctuated by an occasional pair of headlights as darkness bleeds into a dull, grey-blue drabness. As I sit at my computer, watching the day attempt to unfold, it occurs to me that I’m ascribing human attributes to the natural phenomenon of daybreak. I see the transition from nighttime to morning as an effort by nature—or the universe or something I can’t quite understand or describe—to accomplish a herculean task. Is the idea  that nature is attempting to salvage the world, after a night in which the world has abandoned the sun, utterly absurd? Yes, of course it is, and I don’t believe it for a moment. But I’m perfectly comfortable pretending it is so. Make-believe is my way of coping with the madness around me. It helps me make sense of chaos, allowing me to bring order to circumstances over which I have absolutely no control. It sounds a lot like religion, doesn’t it? Yes, I think it does, and that’s a scary thought. Despite my acceptance (or perhaps it’s closer to tolerance) of the religious aspects of Unitarian Universalism, I have problems with what I consider the dangerous potentials within many religions. The creedal nature of most of them tends to enable their followers to abandon critical thinking, relying instead on “higher authorities” to make interpretations of the creeds and to determine appropriate behaviors associated with them.

As usual, I’ve gone off on a tangent not entirely on track with my original thinking as I started typing this morning. Last night, over a vegetarian appetizer dinner with a small group from our church, the subject of adult ADHD came up. Two of the people around the table said, with conviction, they deal with in every day. I have for years felt that I might have a relatively mild form of the affliction. That could be the reason I can’t seem to finish much of what I begin writing. I lose interest or my interest in something else overtakes my interest in something else. Hmm. It’s something to ponder. But, for now, I have to get dressed and go stand in line to get my “enhanced” driver’s license. So I can board planes and travel to welcoming places. That sounds inviting.

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Documentary Shorts and Such

This afternoon brought unexpected enjoyment. I wasn’t planning on attending the Leisure Learning Institute (LLI) free screening of documentary films because I expected to be otherwise engaged (a History Committee meeting was scheduled). But, thanks to the meeting’s cancellation, I joined my favorite wife to watch four short documentaries. I am delighted I did. In less than an hour and a half, I felt myself relax and disengage from the Medicare search stresses that gripped me in recent days. And, as I watched the four short documentaries, I felt a kinship to humanity that has, of late, slipped away a bit. I wouldn’t call my afternoon life-changing, but it was most certainly mood-changing.

We started with what I’ve decided was my favorite. “The Shining Star of Losers Everywhere” presented the story of a race horse, Haru Urara, that never won a race but saved a Japanese racetrack from failure. Who knew such a story could be a tearjerker? Well, I should have known; I can spill tears over spilled milk. But this was far, far better than spilled milk. I highly recommend it. I offer a link to the full documentary, less than nineteen minutes long, below.

The second film, “Joe’s Violin” (also a tear-jerker), told the story of a man, a survivor of the Holocaust, who donated his violin to a girl’s school in the Bronx (the school is for girls from difficult backgrounds). The man’s (and his violin’s) story is told, along with the story of the pre-teen girl selected to play the donated instrument until her graduation. Tissues are required. Just over twenty-four minutes.

Welcome to the Last Bookstore” is another moving film. It focuses on a young man, crippled in a scooter accident, who reconstructs his life by building an independent bookstore that caters to book lovers and which attracts used books like magnets. Just eleven and a half minutes.

Finally, “Showfolk” is an intriguing look at a nursing home/assisted living facility that catera mostly (entirely?) to people in the film industry. The film shows how these people, many of whom were famous for their role in or supporting film, happily adapt to their lives as old folks whose relationships with other folks from their career days sustain them. I could only find a trailer for this one.

On an utterly unrelated note, I now have (or will have, as of October 1) Medicare supplemental insurance. I have entered Geezerhood, formally! All I have left to do is to select my Part D drug coverage, which I guess I’ll do tomorrow…after my quarterly dental appointment to have my teeth cleaned and made to sparkle (though they’ve never been sparkling white). The day after, if I can remember, I will leave the house early to go to Hot Springs to renew my driver’s license, dragging my passport, birth certificate, utility bills, etc., etc., along with me, so I can get an “enhanced” driver’s license. You know, the kind that will enable me to board planes and leave the country on short notice in the event the country falls into dictatorial hell, courtesy of the GOP and the mind-numbingly stupid and dangerous narcissist in the White House. Can you guess who I’m writing about?

I miss Lana and Mel. You may not know, but they were the ones who visited us over the weekend.

 

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Gliding Colors

I passed my physical with gliding colors. Almost everything looks fine. Except for a few aspects of my blood work that are “high-normal,” which was the case last year, as well, with a slight uptick that’s nothing to worry about, but could be if they continue their climb. My doctor suggests, ever so gently, that diet might address them. As in not eating so much. And eating a diet better suited to a lethargic geezer. He also suggests, ever so gently, that a little more physical exercise might be worth considering. My blood pressure could use some adjustment downward, so he prescribed another little pill. And he expressed a little disappointment that today’s X-ray showed no change in the little shadow on my lower right lung. So, he wants me to get a CT scan. But he’s cognizant of the impending formalization of my geezerhood and the Medicare it involves, so he’s agreeable to letting me wait until I’m on Medicare and have my supplemental coverage in place. He wants to make sure it’s not a troublesome mass of some sort. So, I will focus on getting my coverage in place ASAP. This afternoon. After the Writers’ Club meeting. And he suggests I continue taking gabapentin instead of looking for a more permanent correction to my arm/neck/ shoulder pain. “As long as it masks your pain, you’re probably better off taking it. It won’t do any harm.” Though I present that as a quote, I doubt that’s exactly what he said. But that’s what I heard, basically.

This blog has turned into a journal. I’m not sure I like that. I am not sure I like that at all. I may clear it out and start anew. Yeah, maybe I’ll do that. Or maybe not.

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Mellow Weekend Morphs into Monday

We had house guests this weekend, friends we’ve known since before we were married. I guess that means we’ve known them for around forty years, maybe longer. That stuns me. How could we have been friends for forty years, when I’m only twenty-eight? Well, I feel twenty-eight, emotionally. Physically, I guess the scars of living, coupled with ignoring healthy lifestyle habits, reveal my true age. But among those scars are keepsakes, quiet secrets one gathers up in the recesses of one’s brain to treasure in the privacy of reflective thought. Like a friendship of forty years.

Our friends arrived on Friday afternoon. Between Friday afternoon and their departure on Sunday morning, we ate pizza twice. And we drank wine as if we might be able to transform all known vineyards into deserts. (A couple of us also explored the beers of Hot Springs.) I attempted to satisfy hunger with bacon and eggs one morning and a Japanese-inspired breakfast the next; my attempt at Japanese was less than stellar. But we made up for all my food failings by eating homemade coffee ice cream brought all the way from Fort Smith. And we wandered the Village and Hot Springs and environs. But mostly we enjoyed the company of friends.

We talked about the possibility that our friends might consider moving to the Village. When that possibility surfaced, my heartbeat quickened. But they’re also considering buying an RV and wandering the country. Hmm. Maybe if they get one big enough we can come along for the ride. I daydream a lot. My imagination takes me places that don’t exist, places between reality and fantasy, tempered with wishes and dreams against a backdrop of the real world. But that’s not what this paragraph is about, is it? No, it is not. It is about the possibility, however, remote, that our friends could conceivably live nearby at some point. And we’d be able to see them much more frequently than a once-or-twice-a-year visit in one anothers’ homes. So, I’ll begin the hunt. I’ll periodically scan Zillow for possibilities nearby. And I’ll drop hints, complete with URL links to houses on the market and events of interest. And, of course, mentions of ethnic food festivals and the like will play a part in my suggestive communications.

But all of that will have to wait. This morning, I go for my annual physical, where I’ll report to the doctor that my cough has not disappeared. And then I’ll attend the Writers’ Club meeting. And then  I’ll tell the insurance broker than I’m not sure about the Medicare supplements and I want to know more about coverage, comparing one company to the next. Ach! Such a troublesome interference with the enjoyment of retirement!

Temperatures are forecast to rise to the low eighties today, a harsh reminder that the highs in the sixties over the weekend were simply teasers. Fall is not here, not really. Bah! I want a different climate. On to my second cup of coffee and preparations for the day.

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Experience

Walk through the hardest moments.
Walk without stumbling.
Slice through the fear with a machete
of resolve, tempered with rage and
trembling with unbending purpose.
Step over the broken pieces of bad
judgments turned to ugly regrets.

Push through the mistakes in your
path, thrusting them aside as if they
were merely leaves fallen from
a tree hungering for winter’s sleep.
Give yourself a chance to breathe.
Settle into the comfort of wisdom
gained from painful experience.

Extend a hand to the ones behind,
the ones slogging through fields of
pain waving in your wake, tired
from their journeys but trying
to walk without stumbling.
Let them rest in your hammock, its
threads woven from compassion.

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