Archive for August, 2009|Monthly archive page

News to Use or Ignore – Like I Really Care

In Uncategorized on August 23, 2009 at 1:06 am

     Okay, so I’ve been lax. I apologize! It’s not like I ain’t had enough on my plate to do and enough on my feeble mind to think about to also need to write all the derned time. So, here comes recompense of a sort!

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     First, I had chemo round number 5 at Duke on July 30, followed by brain surgery/Beta Knife Ct scan follow-up at Wake the following Wednesday. The good docs at Wake advise that I got the prettiest little brain they ever did see. No signs of tumor or any other problems at all. Phew!

     Then, I visited Duke again this past Wednesday, and despite barely acceptable platelet levels, I received chemo round 6. Thursday night I slept like a cat trapped in a dog pound, and last night I had dreams that would cause a therapist to be institutionalized just to have to listen to them (imagine what Saddam Hussein, a lacrosse stick, an inflatable doll of Madeline Albrigh tand a gallon of Neat’s foot oil have to do with each other), but otherwise I’ve had no real effects.

      In three weeks I return to Duke for a follow-up PetScan, and if all is as anticipated on the basis of past performance, Doc Potti expects to put me on a regimen of mere monthly maintenance, hour-long drippings of Alimta, administered here in Lex, with periodic follow-ups at Duke and Wake to make sure I continue as the same marvel of “recovery.”

     Apparently, though I haven’t fully appreciated it until now, my progress has been so superior to the norm that I’ve caused some head-scratching. Most folks can’t tolerate the effects of the chemo to even make it through 4 treatments, which is the normal goal, but I’ve managed 6 without any serious side effects besides a slight loss of hair. Which is why I have a Sinatra-esque haircut right now (think father), but also I’m receiving compliments on a haircut for the first time in my adult life. Shrinkage of the tumor remaining in my lung has been unusually dramatic so far. In other words, I’m way ahead of the curve for the similarly situated, and though this house of cards could collapse and be blown away any minute, for the first time since since last February I am able to wake up without feeling like I’ve got a Joe-Bftsplk-ian black cloud hanging over my head. Thanks for all the thoughts and prayers, which undoubtably have had a powerful effect, and I’ll keep you posted on the follow-ups! And, if anybody besides Jim Nance or Fatz can identify the Joe Bftsplk reference without recourse to the World-Wide-Web, I owe you five dollars!

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        During my relative silence, I have learned and reflected on some things that I narcicistically insist on sharing (how’s that for a turn of phrase…”narcicisistically insist”?). Those of you interested only in medical reports can tune out or log off now. Those interested in subtly calibrating my current state of mind can continue reading.

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      Prior to each of my 5,487 scans during the last se7en months, nurses concerned at my confession of a slight bit of claustrophobia have given me what has been described as a “mild sedative” in the form of a small, innocuous pill. I’d never been able to determine that the pills had any effect whatsoever. Instead, I had attributed my ability to lie still easily and sometimes nap and otherwise zone out during most scans to mental strength and meditative powers developed through yoga classes I’d been taking since Thanksgiving. Boy, was I ever WRONG!

     Prior to my last scan at Wake, I declined the pill. A few minutes into the scan, I would have mortgaged my child, sold my cat into slavery, read Mein Kampf backwards, lunched with Newt Gingrich, attended a Neil Diamond concert – in short, done anything to terminate the procedure. All my meditative mastery proved worth was about a half-thimble full of sheer, worthless hubris.

     They held my head steady with Jason-esque flaps folded onto my cheeks. Either this was the first time, or I had been blissfully unaware of it before. I wanted to scream.

      Then I was jiggered into the machine, where commenced a light show and array of repetitive noises designed to make a terrorist confess to anything within 13 seconds. I squenched my eyes shut against the light show for the 45 minutes or 37hours of the procedure. The noises were something else. Imagine the sounds Fatz’s stomach might make after dinner at PF Changs, and the sounds of 10,000 kittens being stomped to death by a Sasquatch, and the sounds of an old railroad roundhouse in full operation, and the sounds of British parlimentary debate over Indian independance, and put them altogether in a minuet of madness, a concerto of chaos, and you’ll have an idea of what I experienced. It was an episode of terror, more intolerable for being easily avoidable.

      The next time, given a choice, I’LL TAKE THE PILL!!!!

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      During our annual family week at Sunset Beach, Deirds and I took an afternoon off to go exploring up around Holden Beach. On Hwy 130, between Shallotte and Holden, we passed a strange looking array of buildings hidden under draping oaks on the north side of the road. Deciding to check it out, we pulled in.

     That’s how we met Crazy Mary, a visionary artist and combination nut/seer/saint and capitalist. Back in ’98 or thereabouts, the Big Celestial Cheese did the Saul/St. Paul thing, visiting Mary, an unassuming country housewife of the sort that you meet at chicken pie suppers, and telling her he wanted her to “feed the children.” Not having any normal means handy for raising cash, she picked up paintbrushes for the first time in her life and started slapping paint on anything her then nascent pack-rat predisposition brought to hand. In time, she found a market, publicity and something like acclaim.

      The house and it’s environs now resemble a psychedellic collage from the old Monkee’s TVshow. Ringing the house are outdoor playhouses which Mary has rescued from discard and rubbish piles and repainted and decorated, each according to a theme. There are two levels of them, with a rickety catwalk connecting the houses perched on ten-foot poles.

       Mary paints on just about anything, but prefers plates, mugs and old glassware, windows and doors, mirrors, walls, flooring and ceilings. She has just finished constructing a “bottle house” with painted floors. The front porch railing is topped by a level of Rolling Rock bottles. Here and there are donation boxes. Mary passes on virtually all proceeds from gifts and sales to the Feed the Children Foundation.

     The art ranges in quality from the nauseatingly cheesy (a series of pictures of the Pink Panther, looking like a Great Dane that has consumed a case of Pepto Bismol) and Betty Boop, to the wierdly and genuinely inspired (an illustration of “The 12 Days of Christmas” on a twelve glass-pane door). The prices range from a $4.00 seashell painted jigger to several thousand dollars for a major piece, which might be a trap-door depicting a scene from the Book of Revelations with mermaids and unicorns. Mary told us about recent shows of her stuff in Chicago and Milan.

      Almost lost in the midst of all the High Outlaw Culture is the fact that the place is also a flea market par excellance! Look around and there’s no telling what you might see: a museum quality array of old toasters dating from 1933; plates commemorating the Harding Inauguration; canes carved from every kind of knobby, twisted wood branches imaginable; random “Life” and “Colliers” and “New Yorker” magazines; ashtrays from every single tourist trap ever operated between South Carolina and Key West. In other words, it’s a veritable smorgasbord of the tacky and the useless, and it is utterly compelling.

      Mary has a web site, but it appears the server is haphazard and inept, as we have not been able to access it sine coming home. But google her name and you may find some good articles and photo sites on the web. If you are ever in the area, Crazy Mary’s is definitely worth a visit. Take your camera and snap pictures – Mary likes to pose. I guarantee the visit will improve your outlook on life.

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     Deirds and Harry alerted me to the latest plague to threaten the health and stability of our nation this summer. No, I’m not talking about the swine flu, terrorism, Miley Cyrus or any of the other over-hyped and ballyhooed banes to our continued existence. I’m talking about the stick and form people you see festooning the rear windows of increasing numbers of insufferable vehicles.

     As far as I’m concerned, there used to be four classes of people with regard to vehicular decoration. Now, unhappily, there is a miserable fifth.

     First are the NuFus, folks who drive like they live – neat, straight-ahead and unadorned. They drive Fords, drink Pabst and attend cinder-block churches. They are utterly unconcerned with what impressions they make.

     Second are the Preeners, who decorate their cars with whatever stickers and bumper stickers they damn well like. Some advertise allegiances, whether to sports teams, Jesus, or to whatever agricultural product they prefer. Others tout vacation destinations. Some celebrate vehicular accomplishment (in full disclosure, I must confess that I drove around for nearly 3 years in a Chevy Vega bearing a bumper sticker that proudly declared :I climbed Mt. Washington). Others put stickers on that “just look….like….you know…..COOL!” I’ve got no quarrel with anyone who’s a member of these two classes.

      Third, however, come the Broadcasters, who are a bit more problematic as a breed. These are the folks who so fancy things about themselves and what they think that they want the whole world to know about it. There are two susects of Broadcasters. One is the Beasties – the chest-thumping, in-you-face asses who eat red meat raw, drink Castroil, and who, though they would never vote for Obama, they’d sure sleep with his sister if he had one. These are the subhumans who think driving a pick-up emblazoned with obscenities is just the neatest thing. Next are the Limp Persuaders, the nose-bleeders who want us all to become Vegans, respect Wiccans, hug cops, and plead for China to leave Tibet alone. Find one of these vehicles in your driveway and you can rest assured that your daughter’s virginity will remain intact longer than her politics will.

       Fourth, and formerly the most deplorable, used to be the Remoras, lame and ineffectual status seekers who find status only vicariously. These are the whimps and whimpets who attempt to ride to the bank on the backs of their childrens’ modest accomplishments: “Proud Parent of a Duke Student” (as though that’s worth kuddos) or “My Kid Is An Accellerated Reader At Elmo Elementary!” I keep waiting finally to see the one such sticker or bumper sticker really worth displaying: “My Kid Does Not Torture, Maim or Burn Neighborhood Pets.” Now that would be something worth crowing about!

     Finally, and the newly minted most loathsome of the decorators are the Mirror Gazers, who put stick and form figures on their rear windows representing every breathing thing in their families. These are the utterly self-absorbed critters who think everything about themselves is just so wonderful that they’ve just got to share it with everybody else on the road, even if it’s information so banal that census takers and identity thieves aren’t interested. Mommies, daddies, number and sexes of kids, number and species of pets! I fully expect soon to see stickers added representing possessions: flat screen TV, Waring blender, Gucci handbag, Rolex watches!! And who possibly, except some deranged nut-case determined to commit vehicular suicide and take as many people with him as he can, could possibly be interested in who might be in the next car on the road? I mean, REALLY!

      Frankly, I’ve cogitated over the matter and sleep less easily than ever before. I have concluded that these rear window figurines are not merely Narcisistic noodlings, they’re signs. Somewhere, perhaps under cover on the dark side of the moon, are alien invaders, waiting until the time is right to start landing and taking over our bodies “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” style. When will the time be right? When the numbers of stick figures on cars identifies enough people with nothing in their heads and no lives that the aliens can colonize enough bodies to make a defendable beachhead. Mark my words! They’re out there!! Waiting!!!

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     During the last few weeks, Woodstock and Manson Family specials have been showing up in surprising numbers on TV. These follow on the heels of specials devoted to the Moon landings and the Stonewall riots that signalled the start of the Gay Pride movement. Though I haven’t seen a special on Chappaquiddick, that also happened during the summer of 1969. How the hell did we ever survive it?