Happy Birthdays to My Grandson’s Anthony and Aaron and also to Me.
“Indecision may or may not be my problem.”
TODAY FROM AMERICA:
Notes: 1. Barrie will be holding the Moby Dick Marathon somewhere in San Francisco later this month. Anyone wanting to participate should contact her for details.
2. I am planning a trip for the latter part of December. I may spend a few days in Hawaii first. Finances permitting, I am also thinking about either driving to LA and visiting some friends then going on to Ensenada (or Tijuana) for a week, or taking a cruise on the Amazon River for a few days (a bucket list venture), or a short cruise in the southern Caribbean. Given my age, I would like to know if there is anyone who would like to join me to share expenses and keep an eye on me or, at least, to dissuade me from doing this at all.
POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN EL DORADO HILLS:
Hmm… for the past few days, I felt like death was sitting on my shoulder taking a crap… Today, all that seems gone leaving behind only a faint nausea like the background hum of vehicles passing on a nearby freeway. Missing that sense of utter physical and mental despair that dogged me for most of last week, I decided to turn on the TV and watch the 49rs game.
One day this past week, HRM’s school, in conjunction with a local church, held an all-day event for the seventh-grade students in an effort, I suppose, to gauge their emotional wellbeing. H told me he was surprised that almost a half of the students, boys and girls alike, ended up crying after they told the rest of the class how bad their home lives were. At least four children claimed to have thought of suicide multiple times.
Now, for the moment, dismissing the possibility of mass hysteria and liberal guilt grasping me and demanding I do something to help these children, I must note, these children live in an upper-middle-class subdivision and are not faced with a lack of material goods even in those circumstances where their parents had mortgaged away their lives in order to provide these children the benefits of living here, I have to wonder if there is more here than meets the easy opinions of an aged retiree. For example, according to a study from New Zealand Only 17% of 11 to 38-year-olds experience no mental disorders. But then perhaps that is only in New Zealand.
H was very surprised and upset at his classmates’ distress. “I think I have a great life,” he said.
Today, a strong afternoon wind blew up from the valley and into the foothills. It made sitting by the pool a bit too chilly for me, but swimming in its heated water was delightful. Often when I swim in the afternoons, I am the only person in the pool. I like that.
The morning after I wrote the above paragraph, I learned that that wind, besides chilling me at the pool, also snapped power lines setting off wildfires and turning much of California into an inferno. Over twenty uncontrolled wildfires blanket the State as I write this. Much of the City of Santa Rosa has become a smoking ruin. Throughout the State, twenty-thousand people have been forced to abandon their homes. ￼
So, on Sunday, I will turn 78 years old. Like most people, I guess, I lived like I believed living would go on forever. 78, however, seems to me to be pretty old. I think I will celebrate by going to see the new Blade Runner movie. If I remember the original movie correctly, replicants as they were called, lived only about 6 years — shorter if Harrison Ford caught up with them. Too bad for them — a lot happens in 78 years — much of it forgotten — that is a shame too.
The smoke from the fires a hundred miles away savaging Northern California has reached the foothills today. If it is so difficult to see and breathe here, I cannot imagine what it is like at the center of the conflagration. The schools have notified us that students will not be allowed out of doors for recess. I have retreated back into the house and dousing my eyes with eye-drop medication. The blood sun red moves through a sickly yellow sky like a harbinger in a bad movie about the zombie apocalypse. Over 20,000 people are without homes here in California. How many more in Texas, Florida, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico I cannot guess.
MOPEY JOE’S MEMORIES:
The following, from my beloved friend Cousin Irwin Schatzman, was sent to me about eight years ago. He had throat cancer like I did. One year after radiation therapy, he was declared in remission, like I have been. One year after that, he was dead. Cancer had spread to his brain. He was a brave, funny, and kind man — at least kind to me. I still miss him.
MONDAY, DECEMBER 20, 2010
GLOWING MAN’S JOURNAL DECEMBER 2010
SAY WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THAT OLD BRAIN OF MINE? I don’t suppose you could refer to it as a “long-lost pal” or the former owner of “a saber-sharp wit,” but there was something there. It got me through quite a few years making things up so I could impress my colleagues and bring home a few farthing. But, I never really won any awards of note with it. In fact, now that I think about it, something seemed to hold back its promise of a larger potential. I just always assumed that greater things were not meant to be, but I suspect it was laziness and trying to enjoy the good life which stifled my growth as a person of some uniqueness.
The Glowing Man got his start in 2009 with the advent of a radiation program consisting of some thirty-three sessions intended to irradiate a tumor that had grown on the left Parotid Gland of yours truly. Actually the bugger had been inside my neck for over thirty years but I had never taken steps to have it removed owing to vanity and it was only when the pain set in that I decided it was time to go and maybe after the operation I might not be uglier than I have always been; One wag suggested that I could claim the scar as being the result of a bad duck in a fencing master’s class.
Being “cancer free” has had its appealing aspects (although that meant I had no spooky condition to talk about and while away the hours with my drunken friends). So I went back to a life of boredom, which included no drinking at all and with no drinking comes thinking.
Last month, I was shoved into one of those scanning machines for a test or two and guess what?! I was no longer alone in my skull. The picture of my brain which developed suggested to me that it was almost to be considered as hiding. So (music roll please) now I glow once more.
Every Monday through Friday morning at 8:15 AM, I hop a shuttle bus in Garden Grove and am carried out to Ontario, California where I proceed to get zapped. Only this time it’s a different course and only ten sessions are imposed, at least initially. You see unlike cancer cells not normally visible to the naked eye, the cancerous growths are most visible to the scanning equipment. One large tumor on the back of my brain and smaller ones on the sides of my brain. Not to be outdone, the rest of my body decided to add-on a tumor and installed it in my right lung. There goes any chance I will be able to sneak that cigar after thirty-five years of not smoking (cough cough). On the shuttle bus, each cancer patient tells their story and my telling has resulted in the appellation which I am currently being referred to by my fellow passengers as, “Mr. Tumor Head” – I don’t know how much that beats being called “Mr. Potato Head” but it’s a start.
From 9:30 AM to 10:30 AM we are in treatment flirting with the lady radiation technicians who have to move my stiff tired old body about and grasp me to help me up (I caught on quick) and then it’s back on the bus for the return trip arrival at the starting point about 11:30AM. Not bad timing and while maybe the activity does suck, the time spent doesn’t seem to be enough to consider as having ruined the whole day except for the concept of having to find myself in lovely Garden Grove, and twice in one day.
The radiation is intended to shrink the tumors. Once that is over if it works, it looks like a morning cup of chemo for as long as I want to try to hold the growth of the cancer in check so that it doesn’t spread including to other parts of my body aside from my brain and lung. I should still be able to brush my teeth and walk around the block (a final indignity for an aging male — the doctors fearing seizures and lawsuits took away my car keys, so no more driving). If the radiation doesn’t work, well then right now it looks like the party is over; however accomplished, the imbibing of chemo does not sound very appetizing to be sure but I guess it’s something to do in the interest of living better through chemistry, or just living.
Lifespan, shmife span. Don’t know for sure how long I will be around, although soon some ongoing investigation and reports by doctors will be finished and we may have a better idea. Maybe just months. Though 2011? Maybe not. My suspicions are on the short side. But If the chemo doesn’t do the job then the coming months will definitely bring on some changes. But don’t be concerned for me even if your name isn’t “Argentina”. Owing to how I have lived my life, and observations I have made about my existence, even with the threat of cancer hanging over my nose mean that I now strangely find myself content I do not worry. And if the inevitable should appear to be but a few steps or hours away, based on my experience, I am firmly convinced I can make the best of my last days if I want to. After all, I know by now, kid, that dying is easy, it’s living that’s hard.
The following factoid was sent to me by the Old Sailor for no discernible reason.
Charles Bronson was born Charles Dennis Buchinsky, the 11th of 15 children, in a Roman Catholic family of Lithuanian descent in Ehrenfeld, Pennsylvania in the coal region of the Allegheny Mountains north of Johnstown, Pennsylvania.
His father, Valteris P. Bučinskis (who later adjusted his name to Walter Buchinsky to sound more “American”), hailed from the town of Druskininkai in southern Lithuania. Bronson’s mother, Mary (Valinsky), whose parents were from Lithuania, was born in the coal mining town of Tamaqua, Pennsylvania. His father had Lipka Tatar roots.
A. David Wong on Top:
An Excerpt from Fear: Hell’s Parasite by Dr. Albert Marconi:
To understand what occurred, we must ask ourselves a simple question, one which is surprisingly difficult to answer: Why do we, as humans, have eyes? Your natural response would be, “To see things, you doddering old fool,” but as an answer, that is incomplete to the point of being incorrect. Your eyes fool you on a daily basis because they, quite simply, were designed for a very specific (and for the most part, obsolete) purpose. Remember, the vast majority of species on this planet do not have sight and get along just fine without it; you have no evolutionary need to become aware of the world’s general appearance. You, as Homo sapiens, have eyes primarily so that you can find and kill other living beings.
The prey we hunted—gazelles and the like—have eyes mounted on the sides of their heads, so that they can see predators coming from all directions. Ours face forward and grant us depth perception, to measure the distance between ourselves and our fleeing dinner. The true, deadly purpose of human sight is also the reason the color red attracts our attention; it is the color of blood, the sight of which would have instantly sent up an internal thrill of alarm or elation, depending on the circumstance. Thus, today you see that hue screaming for your attention from stoplights, fire trucks, and fast-food logos—a calculated appeal to your hardwired bloodlust.
All of this is to say that our sight is very limited, precisely because it is skewed to serve a few specific functions, all of which are geared toward one singular goal: Survival.
Thus, data that is not immediately relevant to that mission is filtered and discarded—you may have “seen” a thousand automobiles on your commute to work this morning but you will be unable to bring a single one of them to mind—unless, of course, a particular vehicle had swerved into your lane and caused a near-death experience. It is literally a form of tunnel vision, the limits of which you are largely unaware of moment to moment. It is therefore not difficult to circumvent this sense we call vision; even the common flea can effectively vanish before our eyes merely by jumping. It does not take any special intelligence or talent to deceive us. We would do well to remember this.
Now, extend this concept to the way in which you “see” the world in a metaphorical sense; the internal idea you have of the universe as you would describe it to an inquisitive alien. Remember, the brain and consciousness also evolved with survival in mind, to the exclusion of all else. Thus, your mental perception of the universe suffers from this same tunnel vision—it is in no way geared toward producing an objective view of reality; it only produces a view of reality that will help you survive. You will “see” the universe that you need to see. This is not a metaphor; it is an indisputable, biological fact born out of necessity.
Whether you “see” the universe as pure or corrupt, peaceful or violent, just or unjust, is largely determined by what you need to believe in order to motivate yourself to continue living for another day. Your perception of reality is therefore also very easy for other beings to hijack for their purposes. Think of the relationship between a cult leader and his followers. He will isolate them and make them believe they are an island in a sea of depravity, that signs of an imminent apocalypse are all around them. If he is adept at his task, members of the flock will readily lay down their lives in defense against this phantom threat. Ask them why, and they will state that their fatalistic beliefs are merely the result of unbiased, objective observation of the world around them. They are telling the truth! They just do not grasp the fact that they do not believe based on what they observe; they observe based on what they have been tricked into believing.
And so it goes for all of us.
Wong, David. What the Hell Did I Just Read: A Novel of Cosmic Horror (John Dies at the End). St. Martin’s Press.
David Wong is the pseudonym someone whose paying job is as an editor of Cracked.com. His series of novels (John Dies at the End) defies logic and common sense, and are filled with the smarmy adolescent humor of the magazine site as well as monsters and other strange creatures.
B. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:
Many years ago, when I was a mere lad, business executives used to tell us “the customer is always right,” now they tell us “our duty is only to our investors.” I do not view this as progress.
C. Today’s Poem:
I Saw A Man Pursuing The Horizon – Poem by Stephen Crane
I saw a man pursuing the horizon;
Round and round they sped.
I was disturbed at this;
I accosted the man.
“It is futile,” I said,
“You can never — “
“You lie,” he cried,
And ran on.
(Probably a Trump voter.)
D. Xander’s Perceptions:
Pete Xander — Having had my house in Lake Arrowhead burn in the Old Fire in late October 2003, along with virtually everything my kids and I owned, I can relate to the folks in Santa Rosa as well as victims of past fires in Malibu and Orange County. I was hired as a contract land use planner to the City of Malibu to help process permits for the owners of a thousand homes and outbuildings lost in Malibu after the Old Topanga Fire in 1993.
I heard many many horror stories from fire victims and knew what and how to pack in case of such an emergency. When my home went up in flames ten years to the day, I joined the unfortunate members of a club no one wants to belong to. I cringe and hold my breath every fall when the first Santa Annas blow, and I don’t relax until the first rains of November. As a staff member of the Coastal Commission from 1980 through 1986, I worked on permits to rebuild in Malibu, Pacific Palisades, Laguna Beach, and the south Orange County coast.
My heart goes out to those who suffered through the recent holocaust in Santa Rosa, especially the parents of young kids, who have the unenviable task of trying to explain to their kids how life will go on and things will get better. Be honest with them and don’t pull any punches, but explain things at age-appropriate levels. Your kids will have nightmares for months; mine did, and they were in junior high. Make it okay for them to feel scared, because they will, regardless of whether you do or not. Make sure they know YOU are scared, too, and that you understand why they feel the way they do.
Most importantly, though, be honest and open. They need to know they can trust you and rely on you. Hold yourself together for their sake, because you are all they have to hang on to. Don’t try to replace lost pets that look exactly like the pets they lost, and don’t be in a hurry to move on to the next phases of your lives. They need time for the open wounds to heal first, and you only have one shot at getting it right. Let them know it’s OK for them to be angry about what happened because it isn’t fair. Be there for them, and they will always love you for that.
The Wit and Wisdom of the Fat Man, Andy Dalziel (pronounced Dee-ell).
“I always said that If you ended up with life left over at the end of your money, the state would take care of you, but if you ended up with money left over at the end of your life, you were an idiot!”
“Women, eh? You can fuck ’em but you can’t fathom them.”
“Never trust a man who believes his own crap.”
“Okay, I’d spent a bit of time in a coma recently, but that’s no reason not to know what’s going off.”
“If there weren’t enough meat on young Clara to make a Christmas starter, there were plenty here for a main course with something left over for Boxing Day.”
“She laughed archly, like a cracked hurdy-gurdy playing ‘The Rustle of Spring.’”
“…she gave me a nod that would likely have broken my nose if she’d been close up, then turned to hoist herself onto a bar stool, showing off a pair of haunches a man would be proud to have the tattooing of.”
“Like me old mam used to say, there’s some folk you needn’t be kind to, but you should always try to be fair with everyone.”
“Once you feel like a prisoner, everyone looks like a guard.”
“…there’s many a good tune played on an old double bass—”
“She were a big bossy woman, used to rolling over folk who got in her way, like an anker of ale, but she must have been a bonny lass once, and she still had a gallon of jimp left in her.”
Hill, Reginald. The Price of Butcher’s Meat (Dalziel & Pascoe series Book 23). HarperCollins.
Of all the mysteries and police procedurals I have read, I like those written by Reginald Hill best — especially his series featuring the cops from Mid-Yorkshire, Andy Dalziel, Peter Pascoe, Sgt. Wield, and their significant others.
St. Johns after the Hurricane (from a friend of the Old Sailor).