Saturday, June 24, 2006

6.24.06 Saturday: Could Have Been a Horse

Let's say Franky Scale of 7,

the sun is up and Seattle's going to prove its good weather bona fides,
the secret of Seattle its residents hide behind all the stories of rain, so I hear.

Low 70s today, no bugs, no humidity. This morning I'm gathering sources, collecting some books, and outlining chapters for the "one book" I'm trying to get done right now. A memoir of sorts, or out of sorts; it's a broad enough genre to admit whatever schlock I'm going to add and I this seemed to be one project I'll enjoy while I do it and then hopefully my family and a few friends might enjoy it later. We shall see.

Yesterday I was sacked out most of the day and missed my daily post — somehow the end-of-cycle chemo fatigue caught up and kind of kicked my ass for several hours. All was sleep. The good thing is, however, that yesterday was the last day of the chemo drug-taking period and I am a pleased boy to be past that now. Eat breakfast and then NOT take the nasty toxic pills; eat dinner, same. During the week off you can feel your body begin to fight back, to restore some of what it's lost, to regain some ground, to filter out some of that toxic shit that fights the cancer (and so many other fast-reproducing cells in the body).

Makes me wonder, how many more cycles? Is it possible for chemotherapy to go on forever? Likely not, there will be one or the other solution, "solution," the chemo will beat out the cancer and the body will remain strong enough, or the cancer will outsmart the chemo, and that's it.

I think the answer to everything is here, it arrived this morning. As my oldest sister was telling me on the phone, "You coulda been born a horse." So I'm still sitting here trying to determine what it means? What could it mean? Deep? Mystical truth? Or...?

And to David's comments — David who deserves a "Happy Birthday," no? A highly spiritual martini on me; although I hope its effects are solidly materialist. A birthday in Seoul, watch out because I think that means that you pick up the tab. Enjoy.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

6.22.06 Two Short Book Reviews

Franky Scale: 6-plus, but I'm still sliding into the day, give it time. Compared to last week this time, I'll take it gladly.

Remember a number of books I mentioned about two weeks ago? Well, I’ve made it through half or so, of that group of five or so and wanted to offer my opinions. The book by Steven Levine called A Year to Live is a completely new age, pseudo-“Eastern” spirit quest, a manual for how to live the fullest life you possible can by pretending you’re going to die and then meditating, singing spirit songs, being “positive,” and forgiving everybody around you so the spirits of the universe harmonize, blah blah blah. Another way to put it, it’s a crock of shit. The long and short of it is that dying and confronting one’s death, or living the last undefined period you’ll ever have to live, is serious business; as a friend of mine said early on during this experience, “That’s why they say ‘Serious as cancer.’” Levine’s book is not, nor can it be. The premise is “Imagine / pretend /fantasize / whatever that you only have one year left to live, then do the make believe.” It doesn’t work, it all comes across as flippant, and far too feel-goody, and I’m already ill-disposed to spirituality so this kind of new age spirituality does not fulfill my needs. (I do agree with Pascal, that, to put in his own terms, "Kneel and move your lips like you believe, and you will believe." Don't understimate what he calls custom. But Pascal's not really trying to get over on anyone. Granted I don't know Levine's intentions, but.)

There’s one contemporary philosopher-critical theorist who calls these Levine types the New-Age Obscurantists. Accurate as I see it. Peace, love, and understanding (but weak versions, with no plans and far too much idealism). (And don’t get me wrong, I love the song, at least the Costello version . . .) . . . but the crystals, power songs and power animals, spirit quests, aura-chakra (sp?)-yoga blah blah blah and the reading of Carlos Castaneda as if all of his writings are factual anthropology rather than fictions and enriched imaginings, this group I can do without. And when I’m in the process of dying, books like the Levine book insult me. I gave it a fair shot, read about two-thirds of it before returning it for a gratifying money-back guarantee, and then leaving the store wondered what the hell I was thinking.

“Let’s pretend you have a year to live, and that will give you insight into a fuller life.” The proposition might actually be true to a certain degree — however, the proposal, or the plan, itself is impossible. You CANNOT pretend to die. You cannot pretend you’re really feeling the pain, that you know how to cope with the psychology of what Frarella (in a comment) posted just over a week ago: How long does it take every morning from when you wake up until you first “Oh fuck, cancer!”? That’s the reality of all this. There is no new-agey solution and peaceful zazen posture for that! Nor for the physiology that dictates incessant pain that will not abate at all until you get out of the bad and take your, now, 30 mg of oxycontin. Crystals and spirit animals, don Genero and power songs don’t do it either. (And I’m a big mushroom fan so I could hang with don Genero, just not to save my life.)

Racism is often just nasty and pretty straightforward, though there are ironic versions such as Orientalism too. The irony here, with the Levine Posse, is that these figures seem to love all things “Eastern”: Buddhism, especially zen / sôn forms and esoteric practice, the loose clothing oft times, the teas, the herbs and alternative medicinal techniques, the whole cultural sensitivity to a fetishized form of ancient wisdom pulled out of an old Tide laundry detergent commercial on 1970s TV.

Why am I saying this? In the Levine book, you can find at least one such racist error (sure it’s only a mistake, but it’s curious that it only happens with regard to a non-white group and therefore no one seems to mind, e.g., author, proofreaders, editors — can you imagine someone saying "In the European language the word is ----"?). The author is discussing some type of sitting meditation or some other “very Asian” technique and the use of a special type of pillow to situate under yourself while you do it. He goes on to tell us that “in Asia they call this the pigae [hypothetical word].” In where? They what? So, we have misguided petouli adoration for “Eastern” culture, mixed with a racist misunderstanding of the complexity and history of scores of cultures and peoples and hundreds of languages. All the billions of people, all the cultures, all the histories, all the traditions, all the literatures, etc. etc. and “there is one word in Asian for …” Argh. In the Asian language we might call this “Big-nose syndrome.” Just my opinion, of which you’re probably heard enough for one day; and like one commenter reiterated: “Opinions are like assholes, . . .”

Kubler-Ross’s book is not a joke, it is sensitively done, and I believe she’s well qualified to deal with her subject matter; the main problem for me is that the book is expressly written not for patients or for the terminally ill but for those around them. That said, I would recommend her main book, On Death and Dying, to anyone else who’s not terribly ill, and she’s got a slew of other books that look helpful (after a skim on my part). The one issue that sticks in my craw a little is a continual return to the idea of “after life” in her writing. By definition death is the country from which no traveler returns, didn’t Joseph Smith say that? ☺ Difficult to write about when no one returns. Near death experiences are problematic, but I think the “return” of the patient disqualifies these individuals from speaking bout “what death is like” with full authority — they failed at dying. Sure, that’s the goal for most all of us, we don’t want to successfully die. But if I’m going to get good advice on what it’s like to be dead, well . . . I’m going to have to realize that personal desires don’t always conform to the world of the possible. That’s it. If you don’t mind the after life idea and if you know someone who’s terminally ill, read Kubler-Ross. She reads like she is very serious and sincere about it all. Points to her.

The problem remains is that there is nothing I’ve found yet that explicitly addresses these issues and questions — all the new ones that dominate my brain — in a manner that’s compatible with a materialist world view, with someone who is simply non-religious, with someone who doesn’t necessarily want to read about “happy” “fun” “finding peace” etc. — just get some explanations about psychologically what to expect, how to cope effectively with those around you, how to be a “good” terminally ill person.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

6.21.06 Like Any Other Morning

[All right, I forgot the Franky Scale, but when I do forget it that's a good sign, it probably means I'm thinking of what to do with myself that approximates some kind of normalcy, rather than the fine points and/or consequences of "5" or "6" or "......
Franky Scale: I will say 8 at 8 today. It's early, but I'll work with it.]

Fatigue from IV chemo is like, well it's like a lot of things, we have similes galore throughout the blog. It's like something really heavy, sudden, out of nowhere, worse than you remember, and demanding, something that quietly comes up from behind and grips you, enormous hands, and once they've locked on, you're a puppet or doll and all you're going to do is follow the hands. Entropy in your little world, that's what I felt like yesterday so I was home by about 4 pm after my oil change and the large hands dropped me into bed.

Today, then, I decided that since it had been over 8 hours (of sleep that is) what the hell? why not just get up and work into my morning of small bite to eat (oatmeal today) and multiple cups of coffee (this now follows, interrupts, and precedes 8 or 9 pills that have to be taken with Prune Juice in two or three installments, but what'ya gonna do?). In fact, if I have (special) people in town would it possible to get the off their asses to come out before nine a.m. for coffee, staring off into the space, discussion, maybe even something productive — like, organize my bills, finalize some legal documents, plan the scary plans! Once or twice over coffee, cocktail, or dimsum with Frank there were some conversations that would stop a few people in their tracks. It's just not the kind of thing you'd expect to find in public, still it happens.

So I succeeded in getting a phonecall from my sister, now let's place bets: will I really hear back from her before noon? Or in time for late lunch? Either way, you will find me at Bauhaus. My clock's ticking.

[I'll take real bets if anyone wants to put up a time-near-arrival in the comments section. For now I'll hold off because I know them so well, so the game is called "Bet how well you know Sheri/Stephi's punctuality" ... If eveyone bets one dollor, lots of hits, you could make a C-note off this. It's 8:20 AM, and Sheri and I spoke at 7:58 AM, Ready, Steady, Go!

--There was only one bet, for 9:52 AM, which turns out to be only 20 minutes off and LATE! --which they surprised me and the universe. The dollor will by yours. Betting is closed.]

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

6.20.06 The Quickie

The Franky Scale: 6, a haze of bagged meds, pre-meds, post-meds, and whatever meds you like to imagine.

The Lesson: To write in verse is to throw a wrench in communication's gears. At least in some cases. Be grateful I'm not going to versify today, he said.

The Situation: IV chemo treatment all day with Larry & Lefty. Questions, questions, questions. Perhaps some answers too.

The Condition: Just about too tired to

Monday, June 19, 2006

6.19.06 turn time then sleep

wait for hours, ----start that again
----what four hours, for wait...?
scala di francis: 7 to start
scala di francis: less one Whole day
the daily game of subtraction.

three bottles from one Rx
[drop line] four from the next Rx
one left out, too much control, too much narcotic
for you my boy: you must wait three days till doom,
then pop, they're yours & we'll be happy to(o)

on my desk are permenant markers: red, black.
[txt msg: like to, guilt, promises, soon]
pulled over one writes "oxyco-done #4"
4th bottle, 5th mg, now the joke pill,
the other writes "B-6" — what, that's not controlled?
"no, but it's cheaper"

i can't keep any of them straight
[call in: truly sorry, just can't]
first red, third bottle, "loraz.", simple, to know
fourth gets "temaz." &/or "sleep" & is useless

"so why do i have that one?"
(Just in case, Hemlock, I mean, Sherlock.
then i write it out, s, l, e, e, p, close quote, why
do i put qts on the bottle's cap?

[text msg: baseball, "we," "u" lots of characters =
headache]is what is on my plate, food, they say, weighs
something like 20 lbs a spoonful, and if funny
you come do it, see how the process of trans-

substantiation really works: the Host to sheer ex-
aggerated weight, the weight to lips, the lips to tongue,
now the Host is just so many calories, & the weight
of the Fall is on your tongue. if it's funny, you come

do it. you cannot bring about the change but
through strength of will: oxycotton, metocloprom,
protonix, clonazepam, oxycodone, lorazepam, zofran,
xeloda + b-6, sildenafil citrate, & then zolpidem.

ah, that's right, how was your day?

6.18.06 Skimming...

[Musical note: I've been listening to this CD over and over again for the past two days, but not for months before that, and I'm thinking that Coltrane's live performance Newport '63 has got to be one of the best live recordings around.]

Sunday 18 June I let slip intentionally. What with the lengthy post on Saturday and the boredom factor of it being probably high. Today, a day of rest.

For me the day was physically all right, by the end of the day I'd post a solid 7 on the Franky Scale, but would have said 8 if you caught me in the first half of it. No matter, the nausea and other chemo effect subsided to a huge degree since Tues, and Wed, and Thurs, and .... so I'm happy not to complain today. It was spent mostly organicizing my "life" or my small apartment rather, which really had gotten out of hand, piles of bills and medical records and books and brochures on how to have cancer and how to die.

Speaking of which, tomorrow I'll go into details but the Kubler-Ross book is not really my cup of tea — it's not so much a book "for" terminally ill patients but I think it might be quite good for friends, family, care givers, and those of "you" around "us." So bizarre. Then the Steven Levine book was so bad I'm going back to return it. A crock of new-age spiritualist hooey (is that how one spells "hooey"), a nice word for bullshit. And the clincher was one point when he's explaining that "in the Asian language they call this thing X." "The" Asian language? Is that like "the" African language? All them Asians down there in South, Southeast, Northeast Asia... does he include the Middle East? "In Asia they say..."! I was already slightly tilted to one side by what seemed to be an occasionally glib new-age "approach" to how to die, from someone who is clearly only guessing, but then the ignorance and racism wrapped into that surely well-meaning line about Those Asians. Um, nope. (Just think of all the time some of us could have save in graduate school if we knew there was just one Asian language to learn that They all know....?) Anyway, very much not my cup of tea. I think I'm looking into a lacuna, the big empty spot of nothing, or little blind bit of nothing. Still, I can't see anything there, no good books on this. The old standards that tend toward psychology, psychoanalysis, then existentialism (taken broadly) really have a hell of a lot more insight than the ones you find in the "Self Help" section. Come 'ere, I'll give you a little self help. OK, enough of this. I'll explain more on the book review front tomorrow if time allows with Larry and Lefty in town.

It only took them something like 26 hours to drive here from Salt Lake. Hm. (... and I hope I did not disappoint by not talking about orgasms after the subject line above.)

[Request, serious one: If anyone has happened across this blog and has serious cancer, is terminally ill, etc. and it's moving in any way, and if you're interested in communicating one on one, I'd like to do so, or I'd be happy to, as the saying goes. We can arrange something, if so, just let me know. I've heard there are a few such people out there and there are definitely some internet addresses I don't recognize. Possibly being of some service to people like that — which means other people like me — was one reason in my mind when I started this whole thing. Keep fighting. Mr. J.]