“Man is fed with fables through life, and leaves it in the belief he knows something of what has been passing when in truth he has known nothing but what has passed under his own eye. “
—Thomas Jefferson in a letter to Thomas Cooper.
TODAY FROM AMERICA:
POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THE ENCHANTED FOREST:
It is autumn in the Enchanted Forest — Time to change from Hawaiian shirts to flannel; for hearing the fallen leaves crackle beneath my feet as we walk by; for golden sunlight in the afternoons and early sunsets; for the yellow pollen from the Deodar Cypress trees coating the cars and the sidewalks; and a time for sleeping late in the morning and for reflection.
On Tuesday, I went for my appointment at the office of the surgeon selected to operate on my neck. A very young doctor followed by a female medical student entered the examination room where I had been placed. He appeared to be of South Asian heritage. He examined me briefly and answered my questions. He was thin with limpid sympathetic eyes. He then left with the student trailing in his wake.
After a while, the surgeon himself entered with the young doctor and medical student in tow. He was a small man in a grey-brown suit and sporting a bright blue bow tie. For some reason, his appearance made me recall that I had read somewhere that surgeons have the highest percentage of psychopaths of any profession. He felt around my neck, had the young doctor stick a camera down my nose and into my neck and watched whatever it was he saw on the monitor. He then announced that the proposed operation was dangerous and I would probably die. He followed that good news up with the observation that there had been almost two months since the PET scan and his examination showed that during that time the tumor had grown substantially and now pressed too close to my cartroid artery to be safely removed by surgery. He then railed about the unwillingness of my health-care group to allow his health-care group to use their follow up organizations thereby limiting his activities only to the surgery. He ordered his assistant to schedule another CT scan. If it confirms his diagnosis, I may be in deep trouble.
My oncologist told me a few days before that if surgery is unavailable then we may try immunotherapy. At best, immunotherapy, he said, slows the growth and spread of cancer cells. If it does not work, then it is goodbye time for Joey.
I had woken up that morning in reasonably good spirits. By 3PM I may have become a dead man walking. Life is funny sometimes.
For the next day or two, I was very depressed. That little voice in my head, the one that talks all the time and tells you how good you are or how bad you are as though your goodness or badness is the most significant goodness or badness of anyone in the world, was worried.
“What does it mean to me for you to die?” it said in that same youthful voice it always had? “I mean, it’s not like sleep,” it added. “When you sleep you anticipate you will wake up in the morning. Isn’t that consciousness? You anticipate something is going to happen next even if you cannot know what.”
I was getting annoyed, even depressed with its musings. “That’s it,” it continued. “You close your eyes like you’re are going to sleep and you never wake .”
“That’s very profound, you idiot,” I said annoyed.
“No, you Don’t understand,” it went on. “Without anticipation, there is no life, no consciousness.”
“And this insight is supposed to help me how?” I enquired. It was silent. Perhaps for the first time in my life, I could not hear It. I was afraid, very afraid.
By Thursday I felt a little better — a good dose of valium and a nights sleep allowed me to begin to get things in order. First, I thought, “Write a will” — a wasted gesture. I always wanted to die with nothing. I am pretty close to that — both dying and money. I probably need someone to take my collection of Hawaiian shirts, however. I would rather not send them to Goodwill. Pookies last will and testament: “I leave to______ my Hawaiian shirts. End.”
So here I am typing at my computer, watching MSNBC and CNN and reading Tana French’s latest novel. It is a mystery novel, but so far I am not sure about the mystery. I have read about 1/3 of the book and all that’s happened so far is that the narrator gets beat up and spends a long long time in the hospital worrying about everything except who beat him up and why.
The weekend trundled by. I arranged for the CT scan on Monday that will indicate whether an operation is feasible. On Tuesday, I will watch the election returns. If the Democrats do not retake at least one house of Congress with a substantial majority, then — then what? I am too close to the end for it to make much of a difference to my welfare, but I may be sad for everyone else.
Perhaps, this is where it all may begin to end — in some ways, life has always been, little more than a scramble for scarce resources (money and sex — ok, not so scarce) ending in death.
A computer simulation by Jeremy England and colleagues at MIT showed that a system of particles confined inside a viscous fluid in which the particles are driven by an oscillating force, over time, triggers the formation of more bonds among the particles. In other words, shine enough light and apply enough heat long enough you eventually get life. In general, the function of life is to more efficiently convert matter (resources) to energy (movement). Humans have gotten very good at converting resources to energy and leaving waste and destruction behind — perhaps too good. Maybe the answer to Marconi’s query, “Where are they?” regarding alien civilizations of 40 billion planets in the Milky Way capable of sustaining life, is simply that advanced life-forms a become so efficient in converting resources to waste they destroy the planet before ever making an effective foray into space searching for others.
On Saturday, we had a barbecue and fresh oysters at Naida’s daughter’s home nearby. Sarah’s husband is a nurse. One of his colleagues, another male nurse, was there also. I asked them why they became nurses. Besides liking to help people, they agreed that employment opportunities were a major draw. One said, “I could be fired at my current job and before arriving home I would have a new one.”
Between medical appointments and various episodes of depression, I have not seen HRM all week. That makes me sad. On the other hand, autumn is a pleasant time to walk the dog and stand on the levee watching the river flow by.
The second third of the Tana French book focused on Hugo, the narrator’s beloved uncle, who is dying from inoperable cancer. Hugo surprisingly confesses to the murder and promptly dies the next morning while in police custody. In fact, the murder had been committed by others.
On Sunday Terry, the Cannabis King of the Siskiyou’s dropped by. It was good to see him. He had been looking into some alternative therapies for me. It is good to have friends. I have had some very good friends along the way. When I was very young, in grammar school, I had no friends so I used to pretend that I was sick so I could stay home in bed and read the encyclopedia. That is where I get my fondness for melodrama —pretending I a sick almost to death. Once I recall, I successfully persuaded my parents I was as sick as I had ever been in my life, so they let me stay home. After they both left for work and I was alone, I began to persuade myself that I was, in fact, very sick. I was sure I was going to need help or I was a goner. I slipped out of bed and crawled because I was too weak walk through the apartment to the door where, if I were able to open it, I could call for help and one of my neighbors would undoubtedly save me. I reached for the doorknob but I was too weak to grasp it and I fell motionless to the floor.
After an appropriate amount of time. I got up off the floor and walked back to the bedroom, climbed back into bed and resumed my reading.
On Monday I had my CT scan. More needles stuck into my body and radioactive substances injected into my bloodstream. After that, I drove up to the Golden Hills, ate lunch and walked a bit around the CCD park.
I finished the Tana French book today. Despite everything I found out previously and the resolution, more or less, of the murder that occupied most of the book, it ends with a twist as surprising as any I have read in detective fiction.
Today I have my appointment with the surgeon to review the results of the CT scan and determine if I am dead or not.
Well, the surgeon informed me today that if they operate there is a 90% chance I would die on the operating table. I do not know if that was an evaluation of his abilities or the complexity of my tumor’s location. He followed up that news with the opinion that, absent successful alternative therapies, my remaining lifespan would be somewhere between three and six months. Unfortunately, the only alternative therapy available to me appears to be immunotherapy which the surgeon explained to me would have about a 20% chance of success.
If the situation is as dire as he indicates, I intend to fully indulge myself of whatever unorthodox alternative treatment approach that I may enjoy — mushrooms, cannabis, of course, acupuncture, mood-altering drugs and the like. One of the good things about knowing your days are limited but you are otherwise in good health is that you have few restrictions on pandering to yourself.
In the evening, my sister joined us for dinner. She is down from Mendocino to attend an economic development conference. After dinner we watched the returns come in. I had hoped for better.
That night, I was afraid I would not be able to sleep. I tried all of my little tricks to help me fall asleep including counting my breaths backward from 99 and contemplating the SF 49’s starting lineup but to no avail. So I turned to Naida and said, “I can’t sleep so I am going downstairs so that my twisting and turning will not keep you awake.” She responded, “What are you talking about? It is 5:30 in the morning. You’ve been sleeping peacefully all night.”
The next day, my radiology physician confirmed the surgeon’s diagnosis and opined that under these circumstances immunotherapy was the best alternative — “Sometimes it works,” he added. I said, “It is odd feeling as well as I do but knowing I’m as good as dead.” “Yes,” he responded. “It is like that for cancer patients.” That got me wondering how many people I pass each day with similar problems to mine, that go about their days without complaint. Almost every day I meet someone who asks me how I am doing. As is my want, I tell them. They often tell me that they had gone through similar treatments two or three times already. It always makes me feel worse when I am unable to wallow in the uniqueness of my imagined misery.
I left his office with him promising to think about the possibility of additional radiation therapy should the immunotherapy treatment falter and traveled into the Golden Hills to pick up the Scooter Gang. I dropped them off at Dick’s house. They promised not to get in trouble (follow my rules, don’t hurt yourselves, don’t spill anything on the floor and don’t break anything) while in the house but begged to be able to get into a little trouble when they traveled to Town Center later. While I was leaving, Hayden walked up to the window of the car and said, “Remember Pookie you have got to believe.”
I guess there are no more adventures for Pookie — unless dying itself is an adventure — Pookies last adventure. Dylan Thomas wrote, “Do not go quietly into that dark night.” Well, I am pretty sure I will not go quietly. But instead of “railing against the darkening of the light,” it will be more like bitching and complaining (see my screed on bitching: https://trenzpruca.wordpress.com/2018/02/12/petrillos-commentary-on-bitching/). My mother always said I screamed constantly from shortly after birth until I began to talk and then I complained of everything until I became a teenager and then thankfully I only sulked.
My sister came by again yesterday evening. We laughed a lot. Planned for Thanksgiving and reminisced.
The leaf-fall of autumn has increased since the air has cooled and the Fall breezes grown stronger. They are falling too fast for the ground-keepers with their leaf-blowers to keep up so the Enchanted Forest’s paths and lawns are covered with yellow and brown leaves that in the sunlight look like spilled paint. While walking the dog I like stomping through the leaves, kicking them into the air and watching them fall back again like a 79-year-old child.
Today, we visited my chemotherapist expecting to set the schedule for my immunotherapy. We were surprised. Apparently, he spoke last night with the various doctors involved in my case. He said the radiologist changed his mind and now thought radiation might be possible. Also, my regular oncologist told him he was setting up an appointment for a second opinion at UCSF. He then laid out my treatment schedule. First, I get the second opinion. If that supports the first surgeon’s judgment, then we will begin a new round of radiation therapy, followed by Chemo and if necessary immunotherapy. Although this might appear to be more positive than the other recent medical opinions I have received, it actually seems to me to be simply a change in a treatment plan and not in prognosis. I think they are just trying to make me feel better. Despite their attempts to humor me I intend to continue bitching and wailing, “The end is nigh. Woe is me.” I do so like melodrama.
Yesterday evening, I picked up HRM from his mountain bike team practice. On the way home, after asking me how I felt, he mentioned that at the church youth meeting he attends every Wednesday all the eighth-grade boys, many of whom I know, prayed for Pookie. I may not be someone particularly optimistic about the power of prayer, but I cried nevertheless at the thought of the Scooter Gang praying for me.
On Friday, before returning to Mendocino, my sister came by to take us to a Japanese grocery store to hunt for mushrooms for my new diet. Later we had lunch at the Freeport Inn in the Delta. Following my sister’s departure back to Mendocino, Naida sautéed some of the mushrooms for dinner. They were delicious.
Saturday, we attended the weekly coffee at the Nepenthe clubhouse. It is the season when everyone there was involved in the various charity drives and party planning undertaken by the community. On the way back home while I was busy kicking the leaves about, Naida noticed a sign for a meeting at the small clubhouse of something called “Conscious Community.” We decided to find out what it was all about. We discovered they considered themselves a consciousness-raising group like those of the late ’60s except without the dope.
During the walk, we noticed a mysterious cement ball had appeared in the street in front of our house. It remains there today. Nothing like it exists anywhere else in the neighborhood. What can it be? A portent of something? Alien scat? A hairball from a giant cat?
Pookie with the mysterious orb.
–$710,000,000,000,000 to $1,500,000,000,000,000 – The estimates of the total notional value of all global derivatives contracts generally fall within this range. At the high end of the range, the ratio of derivatives exposure to global GDP is about 21 to 1.
A. Adventures with Hayden on Top:
One day, I set off with Hayden to drive to Mendocino in order to spend a few days with my sister. During the drive from Sacramento to San Francisco to pick up my grand-daughter Amanda and her mom Hiromi, they were joining us for the weekend, I tuned into the local university classical music station to listen to a 1977 NY Metropolitan Opera performance of that old Verdi warhorse, La Forza del Destino, sung by the aging Leontyne Price and the young Placido Domingo.
A few days before, I was listening to the same station while driving Hayden to school in the morning. As we approached the school, he insisted I turn off the music, which I did assuming he found my choice of music distasteful. Because of this, during the station’s introduction before the opera presentation, I asked him if he wanted me to change the station or turn off the radio since he did not enjoy the same type of music as I.
“Oh, no,” he said. “It’s not that at all. I was afraid that some of the bullies at school would hear the music when I opened the car door and make fun of me for listening to old people’s music.” Then for the next hour, he entertained me by singing along with the performers every part of the opera, especially mimicking Ms. Price’s lirico spinto soprano – sometimes note for note including vibrato.
March 29, 2013
B. Tuckahoe Joe’s Blog of the Week:
In searching through the Blogosphere, I discovered a blog entitled “Logarithmic History: the history of the universe — from the Big Bang to the end of the year — day by day (https://logarithmichistory.wordpress.com/). The author attempts to compress the entire history of the universe using a logarithmic scale (you can read the “about” section of the blog to find out what he’s about)
The first entry I came upon, I assume corresponding to November 4, the day on which I discovered it, contained an excerpt from Essays of Montaigne on Cannibals that I found fascinating. Here it is in its entirety.
Three of these men [Tupi Indians from Brazil], ignorant of the price they will pay someday … ignorant of the fact that of this intercourse will come their ruin … poor wretches …were at Rouen, at the time the late King Charles IX was there [in 1562]. The king talked to them for a long time; they were shown our ways, our splendor, the aspect of a fine city. After that, someone asked their opinion and wanted to know what they had found most amazing. They mentioned three things, of which I have forgotten the third, and I am very sorry for it; but I still remember two of them. They said that in the first place they thought it very strange that so many grown men, bearded, strong, and armed, who were around the king (it is likely that they were talking about the Swiss of his guard) should submit to obey a child, and that one of them was not chosen to command instead. Second (they have a way in their language of speaking of men as halves of one another), they had noticed that there were among us men full and gorged with all sorts of good things, and that their other halves were beggars at their doors, emaciated with hunger and poverty; and they thought it strange that these needy halves could endure such an injustice, and did not take the others by the throat, or set fire to their houses.
I had a very long talk with one of them. … When I asked him what profit he gained from his superior position among his people (for he was a captain, and our sailors called him king), he told me that it was to march foremost in war. … Did all his authority expire with the war? He said that this much remained, that when he visited the villages dependent on him, they made paths for him through the underbrush by which he might pass quite comfortably.
All this is not too bad — but what’s the use? They don’t wear breeches.
C. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:
Your successes may be enjoyable but your failures are usually far more interesting.
D. Today’s Poem:
Luigi Pirandello (1867-1936)
Luigi Pirandello was born in 1867 in Girgenti (now Agrigento) on the southern shore of Sicily. He attended the University of Rome in 1887 and later transferred to Bonn University. His doctoral thesis was a study of the Sicilian language. He was influenced by Luigi Capuana (1839-1915). Antonietta, his wife by an arranged marriage suffered a mental breakdown that is said to have led to Pirandello’s sense of disillusionment. He was a prolific writer, producing widely acclaimed novels, short stories, and plays. His masterpiece, Six Characters in search of an Author was written in 1921. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1934. He published five books of poetry.
Senza far nulla, un leone è leone:
e un pover’uom dev’affrontar la morte
per avere l’onor del paragone
con quella bestia, senza stento, forte.
D’alti pensieri l’anima infelice
nutrite, si che s’alzi a eccelse mète.
Un gran premio v’aspetta. Vi si dice
che veramente un’aquila voi siete.
Sciogliete in soavissima armonia
il vostro chiuso intenso ardente duolo,
fatene una sublime poesia,
e vi diran che siete un rosignuolo.
Ma dunque per non essere una bestia
che dovrebbe far l’uomo? non far niente?
non pigliarsi ne affanno ne molestia?
E ciuco allora gli dirà la gente.
Always An Animal
Without doing anything a lion is a lion:
but hapless man must brave death
to have the honor of being compared
with that animal, strong, without limit.
Nourished by the soaring thoughts of an
afflicted soul, if one reaches an apex.
A grand prize awaits. Then it is said
you truly fly like an eagle.
Write a sublime poem,
that sings in silken rhyme
of your innermost intense feelings,
and they’ll say you sing like a nightingale.
What must a man do to not be likened to
an animal? can he simply do nothing?
without feeling anxious or troubled?
People would then take him for a jackass.
– –translated by Arthur V. Dieli
“That’s right! Zombie bankers!” A flaming skull floated along beside the ghastly businessmen, howling like a hellish carnival barker. “Which is more terrifying: their eternal hunger for the flesh of the living? Or their reckless fiscal irresponsibility? No, seriously. Your input is valuable!”
Pike, J. Zachary. Son of a Liche (The Dark Profit Saga Book 2) (p. 528). Gnomish Press LLC.