Saturday, August 12, 2006

8.12.06, How Many Faces

Scene: Could be any middle class house, second floor, room with grey walls, room with books that are arranged by color first, then size, the streets outside are filled with debris from an unexpected storm. No on knows whether a criminal was caught last night, nor the why. There are family members and friends physically not far but not all together, connected by a thought, a text message, regular calls.

Chorus: How many faces does love wear? How many scenarios do we build around ourselves to make the Real conform to our desire, to our limitations, to our myopia? How many ruses to we employ to read every face as one of love? How many questions can we come up with before we realize that none of the answers matter?

Narrator: Still there is this questioning need, not just a play on words, but the questioning of need. Double genitive construction. Need’s questions & wonderings about our needs. All of its compressed into a calendar that is already unnatural but the degree of which is only highlighted by traumatic events. The immanence of such trauma. My life hasn’t had nearly the amount of trauma as so many, but I feel it as it comes my way. It’s like a preview of trauma, “Coming this Fall.” I already have tickets. Best seats in the house, the most expensive anyway.

Sister 1: Is there anything I can do?

FGC: The scale is mine, I’ve loaned it, I’ve named, I’ve given it over for unlimited use, and wishing the use were, in fact, without limit even though I see the limit every morning when I get up. The number itself may not be mine, but all the numbers are on loan, like Cummings’ line: you’ll have to loan me pain. In game with chips of when. “When?” When is the question that follows right on the heals of the morning’s realization: the a.m., yes it’s real, yes it’s still happening, no it’s not really getting any better, how do we move on? We just do, another no-answer question. It’s just asked because that’s what we do. I want it to be a 10, I’ve watched all day; but what am I going to tell you? It’s not, maybe a 5 or maybe a 6. I can look for more numbers but all that’s in my power is to offer them. hey, there’s a 9 over here man . . ., there’s a 7, too, did you see this?

Sister 2: Is there anything I can do?

Narrator: I imagine the characters say something like this, and I’ve heard most of it said, even if I’m the one that loans out the syntax and verbiage. It’s all just futzing though, cause I’m still looking for the metaphor.

Sister 3: Is there anything I can do?

Chorus: Why is the message the same despite the different faces worn? Or is it? Rather the medium, the form of the message, is actually the meaning? McLuhan style? Are we being given the truth, have you stripped the medium off?

Mom: I’m just going to finish this carrot cake and then . . . , you just wait and see.

Narrator: Nah, thanks I’m good. I’m just going to rest for a bit.

Offstage: There is water running in a sink somewhere. Erik Satie plays downstairs. One door is locked to a nap or to more personal pain. Something we imagine is pain from our seats out in the middle of the audience, where there is a strict hierarchy or pricing for seats. Some are clearly dear, some cheap, there is and SRO area, there are student discounts, and some are even allowed to come in to the performance and then leave, mid-act, before even the possibility of not the surety of applause. No one knows if there will be any, or standing, or throwing vegetables. There is the sound of a keyboard, not mine. The sound of water running doesn’t stop.

Chorus: So is this it? Is this all we get? Not even a metaphor? The metaphor? You trying to tell us it’s just waiting? That we can’t “do” anything? That the traumatic core of the Real might turn out to be anticlimax and no trauma but the trivial and the everyday? Open to any page, pick a passage, and it’s the same as any other? What do you mean by “Yes, except when the book, page, passage, and choice are different”?

Friday, August 11, 2006

8.11.06, In Search of a Metaphor

Reading: I am searching. Digging around, scratching the surface, poking around in corners, turning the container inside out, shake shake, in search of a metaphor. No, it's more than a metaphor. It's a whole allegory that I need: an extended metaphor. How can I possibly express certain experiences, certain events, I will have to say multiplicities, and do so adequatly and yet with the requisite amount of sensitivity? The only way is with a large, sophisticated metaphor. Where is it? I need it here now. (OK, just sophisticated, large is not necessary, isn't that what they say?)

Reading methodology: Speaking in tongues is about just that, I suppose. One reference from the bible will inspire another reference, they will face each other in a dialectic and work out the meaning. So here's the other one: let those who have eyes to see see, let those who have ears to hear hear. I need that allegory.

Today's gone nicely physically, with Frank and I wandering about SLC doing many errands, some stops for a bite to eat, turkey sloppy joe's at the Roasting Co., or a short visit with more family, and the Franky Scale I'd put at 7. Gorgeous weather, low 90s and not a stitch of humidity. (yes, mixed.) Mountains encircling you, granted they're midgetous compared with Rainier, but still, they do form a large circle. All basically good and I feel well, then I also know that after a whole day of being out and about I do need to rest. It's counterintuitive, it feels unnatural—I'm "otherwise healthy" remember? What ever happened to the otherwise healthy me?! Why do I need to take nap, what about a visit would require any energy, and so on, these are the kind of questions that compose that unnaturalness. My reserves are down though. Not to complain but to point out how strange it seems and how it's not always easy to remember until it's too late and my reserves are all gone. It's tricky, today too, tricky, feels like I'm on the line between just about right and way too . . .

Reading: . . . god, do I need that allegory, it'll start with a small metaphor, a bit, a scrap, just a tiny piece that falls from someone elses's expression, then grow. (I'll try to think. Think think think, a little rest and think.)

PS. too to SLC'rs: it's hectic and too nutty for me to be able to contact each of you individually but there might be a BBQ kind of thing on the weekend, maybe drop a line / email and let's meet up...?

Thursday, August 10, 2006

8.10.06, In the Belly of a Large Marine Mammal

[1 pm] Slick City. Day two. Where do I begin? The arrival and the afternooon of the first day were, well, something to make one speachless. So I will remain speachless on that for now. In my infinite wisdom I had sat down the night before SL and prepared my weekly pill box organizer so that I would have all the drugs I need for morning, midday, afternoon, and evening—no mean task. The scene reminds me of a scene in book I of Art Spiegelman's MAUS, My Father Bleeds History, in which Art is sitting at his father's dinner table and inerviewing him on his experiences with the Holocaust. His father is simultaneously telling his history and filling his own pill box, carefully counting out his pills and making sure he gets the right kind, the right number, for the right day. At emotionally strenuous moments his father knocks over his pills and screws up the whole process, so he'll have to start over each time. The son offers to do the recounting but the father assures him it's too complicated, and that he himself is a pro at this.

So that was me two nights ago. I did the job, prepared everything, put the pill box on my desk, and then I got my bags together and left for the airport. Pills on the desk. Infinite wisdom in tact. Needless to say I had to make an emergency call to G, my savior (if only I pray to her and ask forgiveness my cancer will be taken away), and she fedexed the necessary items which I got this morning. Thank you cheebus. My chances for GI regularity, "regularity," are greatly enhanced now.

There is still the issue of emotional stability while one waits for a miracle inside a large marine mammal, streamlined and hairless with horizontal tailfin for swimming, and a blowhole. A difficult balance to maintain, gastric juices all around.... More to come.

Let's put the Franky Scale at 6 and moving, up we hope.


[begun at 9 pm, returned to after midnight] My mother, Frank, and I had dinner at the Market Street Broiler here in Salt Lake this evening. Rather cute, dare I say it?, to watch Frank and my mother flirting, Frank just being very polite, and so much less sassy that I, so that she could extol his virtues and mockingly chide me; she was happy to be out, to be free for those few moments,—I’m overstepping bounds here, but—free to be who she is and just sit back and relax for a little while, to talk about something besides “What’s for dinner?” and you know, sadly, the rest. Too, Frank has not see her for long enough and he’s civilized or well-bred (?) enough to ask the old questions, the basics, to get the old stories out, some of which I’d never heard before. A charmer. One resulted in the most quote worthy line of the evening, my mother speaking about her suitors when she was young: “Boy, I would show those boys who thought they were special. And I’d bite hard! . . . Come to think of it, I think some of them did like it.”

The comment is far better without all of context. Then the night moved into a comfortable slowness, watching clips of Triumph, what is he called, the offensive dog correspondent? Then job talk, politics, the ever depressing topic of US foreign policy, and the like.

Another day with no chemo drugs, that part is a joy. It’s far more pleasant to worry about “easy” pills like stomach protectants, anti-reflux pills, and the ever-present pain meds. Still there is the psychological dimension of pain meds, the paradox: you need to keep up to speed on them all the time, if the pain gets a head start it’s very hard to catch up and the time till you do is lost to enduring and waiting; but then you worry a bit about what it means to need to up your pain meds. I’m taking at least 60 mg a day now whereas I was taking only 40+ mg two months ago. Thinking about what it means to need to increase the dosage. And as the opiates increase the GI function becomes more problematic. Which adds another dimension. Which is what it is.

Once more, out of left field it might seem but I’ve been having experiences and thoughts to motivate this, I’d like to say an enormous thank you to all of you. For reading and commenting, for taking part in a journey that isn’t always fun, for being supportive, and basically just “being there” for lack of a better phrase. It means more to me than I can adequately say, so please just take the thanks. I wish there were more to give in return. You’re all huge.

With that goodnight till next time I can steal away to the keyboard again.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

8.09.06, Walking for Coffee

Yes, there is a poem called "Walking to Work" and it's great. It's also true that on my way to get coffee this morning, between packing for SLC taking pills cleaning my place a bit and generally futzing, I wished I were Frank O'Hara or rather that I could write a poem as quickly and with "so little" material. The number of really good poems he wrote on a walk, at a newsstand, during a party at a friend's house is remarkable.

Me, I'm going to Salt Lake. I take lots of vitamins and the usuals, like our old friend Protonix and the "horsepill" sucralfate, but today is the FIFTH day with no chemo drugs and I'm thrilled by that fact. (OK, I may not jump up and down, but.) Genuinely feels much better, more appetite, real hunger sometimes, a craving will return, easier to hydrate, and this is all good, though it simultaneously can add to the tension deep inside somewhere about what it means to "let my body rest" for too long. To go for too long without chemo and the anti-cancer drugs. Ever nagging, no matter how much hunger I feel.

A little while ago one of my sister's sent me a link to the Salt Lake Tribune where there was an artilce about a former poet laureate of Utah's (! I had no idea Utah was so cultured — seriously) who just died of pancreatic cancer. Sounds like his whole stretch from diagnosis to death was about a year, not an uncommon number at all. Quite the contrary. But that's not why I'm saying this. What was curious was a comment he made about fear — all of us cancer bloggers talk about fear, it seems — and he noted that he was often afraid of going to sleep for fear he might not wake up. I'd like to add ". . . wake up!" the exclamation point. We all have our fears, they must all be legit for us personally, but I cannot grasp his fear at all. Isn't dying in one's sleep just about the mode of choice? If we could choose. So strange that I'm never, not even remotely, thinking about dying in my sleep, let alone being afraid of it.

No conclusion here, just made me think. To fear what happens in one's sleep, what are the waking ours like? What does it say about how we relate to control, lack of control, to lack, our desires unfulfilled, to the news that simply reaches us, comes to us, arrives, is simply there somehow when we open our pained eyes, about how we relate to someone simply telling you this will happen? And whether it even will, 100 percent of the time for 100 percent of the people, is only one piece of the how. Well, bring on sweet sleep, I don't mind a good nap or sound 8 hours — whatever that's like.


While in Salt Lake I can't predict posting patterns, but maybe I can think up some polymorphously perverse method for posting, like a guest/travel three-way covert something blog from Zion. (Unrelated point: the closer you are to the Holy of Holies, the better sin gets.)


Franky Scale: 7. Not bad after a few morning hours.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

8.08.06, Breaking the Pot & Progressing

[a couple of additions through the day below...]
Atypical is the best word I could find to describe this morning. First off, I was making my ten-foot shuffle across my kitchen, through the door and to the left, reached the sink and coffee shrine only to realize the pot was gone. Gone! Ah, this is not serious. It's in the sink because I'd made a lot of ooloong tea last night and poured it into the coffee pot to cool off, get it off the stove, etc. So after rinsing it out and the first little conditioned pre-response of a taste bud rolling over in bed to stretch and think "Hmmm, I wonder if today is a Mexican dark roast or a medium-bodies breakfast blend.....," wonders my taste bud, then CRACK! My other body, the one I'm apparently not comfortable using swung the pot too close to my dish rack and just a hair too close to that outermost clean plate, glazed a deep sea blue and so innocent.

Fucker. The bottom edge just popped out, about 4 inches, when even 1 inch is too much. No coffee at home today. Alas. Sigh, wrinkly face...

I can't post a Franky Scale number yet because it's so early; and I promise I won't let the coffee pot incident affect the numbers I post eventually. It is worth noting that today I got up at 8 a.m., not a full 8 hours of sleep, which I am very strict about now that I'm in the Big Casino every day (I still have no name for this period, though three diligent commenters did respond with a few possible names.... more on that later), but I figured I can nap later. Most strange of all is that I felt no sluggishness, a side-effect, if that's what it is, that's become so serious I had actually been planning on writing a blog today about it! Like two hours of wading through wet cement most days. But it has slinked off somehow, somewhere, for some reason I can't explain. The morning sluggishness could be from numerous things, sleeping pills (but I haven't taken ambien for two weeks almost), from chemo side effects, from cumulative body stress, from not running as often when nausea gets the upper hand, from...?

Or, why not the sluggish feeling today? Approaching it from this side: was it that I hydrated a lot yesterday? that I took some new vitamins? that I drank the ooloong tea I mentioned? what? what? I'm working on it. (this is likely extremely boring for you, but it's what's up, and the P---- Dream was not very popular with readers it seems, that's very odd too, with all of you.)

I'll post more later when I can formulate an FS number, based on the complex secret formula I have, and keep today going in good old-fashioned blog fashion.

[9:31 am] — A thought returned to me about the Mr. Jones, Who Is post.... with the help of our recent birthday boy, and it was Mr. Jones in context. The ever important context. One of the key points of that song, which I was surprised to hear a few disses about for its "cheesy-ness," but that's another matter, is that even though we don't hear much about what Mr. Jones wants, it's always "Mr. Jones and me." It's the two of them, interacting, or maybe just sitting there in quiet dreaming and voyeurism (which we all enjoy, come on). It's Mr. Jones and me hanging out, going places, playing off each other. So, there's one to add to my usually misanthropic nature.

[7:56 pm] — So now I understand the extent of empathy, what brings real response from everyone: my penis falls off, only two comments (publicly at least) BUT my coffee pot breaks and the comments flood in. Or, "Dude, sorry to hear about your unit, but the coffee maker thing that really sucks. Oh, and the cancer." ;-)

On that note, it's been better today, Franky Scale 7 I would say, but then Frank posts a "20" which is on a totally different scale it sems, so I could push toward 8 for Frank's sake. And that despite the fact that I'm headed to Zion tomorrow. Mm. Thoughtful pause. All my love to family of course, and what would life be without all that "interesting" history there. As my memoir fleshes out, it's a thought-provoking process to see the sketch that begins to form, Utah, family, past, all is past I guess, pets, old houses, small apartments (at least a score of those), and a number of thousand-plateau moments that rise up in the flotsom of memory. That said, still need to pack.

Today was good in terms of food as well, some vitamins (though a limited amount so far while I'm still checking on the potential efficacy of the scad of vitamins, etc., that are recommended, and three meals even, large lunch and dinner. I'll be fat by, say, Saturday. It was also worth noting as I did briefly yesterday, that meeting with M.M., my high school friend, how good he thought I looked. If you haven't seen me I imagine there are stereotyped images that come to mind: very thin, worn out, hairless or scraggly patchy bits of hair that I'm hanging on to, etc. It's not vanity at this point, just a little personal reassurance I'm giving myself by what M. said. I figure if a friend feels almost incredulous about "my disease" based on externals, then that should translate back into something material or physiological, right? I have lost a few pounds, but only a few, the hair is still there, some muscle tone loss, but not too bad. I'm going to add that, then, to my last restaging and say it pushes my condition more toward "stable disease" and more away from "partially progressive." God damn the cancer, I say. (A phrase I suppose that works for the religious and the non-religious. For the Christians, remember, taking the lord's name in vain is to make a promise you don't follow through with, to commit to something and then abandon it or act in a half-assed manner. It's very unlikely that in the Bible people were worried about others running around stubbing their toes and exclaiming "By Zeus!" and such. So I think.)

Work-wise today was less productive but that was mostly due to errands, an impromptu meeting with my Chair, dealing with paperwork, and other "normal" life tasks. In that sense I should not complain, thus I go to 7, or 7/8 as you wish. Part of the rush is in preparation for Zion, my return to the holy city where palm fronds are being laid down in the streets as we .... ooh, sorry, that one might actually be blasphemous. (I have a portable lightning rod here somewhere, which I'll find and dust off just in case.) But I have ordered a donkey for my ride in. Many things to do in SLC, people to see, though one thing that keeps coming to mind is southern Utah for sunset. There's nowhere like it, either for reasons of nuclear testing back in that dark time or for some more natural reasons. The horizon is wide down there, the colors of the land a variety like music for someone who loves the desert. An unbelievable place. Almost worth saying it's inspirational.

Final image: breaking the coffee pot should, it seems, be considered like some kind of zen enlightenment moment; I can see some poets going there--Ko Un of course. You unthinkingly break the pot right when you're primed and ready for coffee, then, poof, bodhi! Nirvana! All cares suddenly dissipate. I might have taken that way too, but my schedule's been up'ed lateley with all this intense experience, so even though I don't talk much about it, enlightenment was about three or four weeks ago, I think. (This also allows me to go buy a new pot.)

Sunday, August 06, 2006

8.06.06, The Trumpet and the Penis

[Franky Scale for Aug 7th somewhere in the high 6s; much better with no chemo drugs, more appetite too: also, met with old high school friend M.M. who seemed to find it hard to believe I'm as "sick" as I am, which I'm taking as a good sign. -Mr. J]

[Let me forewarn you about this post: First, it's an old dream, not recent. Second, it might be rated R, or by today’s rating system it might only be a PG-13, but if graphics were included I would qualify for NC-17. Among other things, it has “mature content” and the actual word “penis” occurs several times. And to think I’m going to post it on a Sunday. I figure it such a classic anxiety-cum-fear-of-castration dream that it really cannot but be shared in a public forum; also, the blog needs some levity before we all turn to stone, so here it is. Geographically disparate groves of stone trolls, grin-less, squatting, brooding over how inappropriate cancer is. Rrghh.

Franky Scale: Blah, kind of a 5 to 6, never really got going today, until I found the Penis Dream, that is.]

“Trumpet and Penis Dream”

First, I find myself in rural Utah, in farmland, in as much as some parts of Southern Utah can be called that despite how they differ from traditional farms. At a small high school in this place, about to go on stage and play the trumpet (which I do not play) — part of a larger musical number. Not just to play but I had to play with gloves on, these old black-and white cross-country ski gloves I have. — While I’m waiting to go on stage and play the trumpet, standing behind a low dividing wall that backed itself on the last row of seats, I looked to my right and my father was standing there — he didn’t even speak to me, though he must’ve driven for several hours at least to get there, to see me playing, presumably, the trumpet with gloves on.

Another place in the countryside now, five or six hours from my “home” — this term, just an index — no idea where, & I, someone else and I, a male friend . . . a . . . — no, it was R.P. [female]. The two of us had traveled here by hot air balloon. I go into the bathroom to pee and R. comes in, looks at what I’m doing, looks at my penis, kind of laughs at the oddity of the situation, but in a nice, playful way, and then I commence peeing. To my chagrin, however, my penis then tears off.

Seems it was attached not lower but where my belly button is, no where my belly button usually is, so I have a hole in my stomach at my belly button, painful as fuck and bleeding. I look down into my hand and can see the inside of the base of my cock — it’s torn off, right — the erectile tissue (apparently I was semi-erect when it tore off) looks like shell pasta that’s been overcooked. To say the least, this freaks me out — so I put it back, against the hole in my lower abdomen, trying to line up the torn areas of skin just right. Round peg, square hole; oval peg . . . Then I leave this place, kind of a rest-stop-type of bathroom, and head to a small broken-down off-white one-room store, in a two- or three-room building. I say nothing because I figured when the plane would come, this had been arranged apparently, to pull our air-balloon cage back into the air (we needed a pull-start, like starting a manual-transmission car on a slope) I would keep holding my penis there, stuck on, then go to a hospital in Salt Lake perhaps.

Nothing worked out in the store so I went back outside with R. to the barnyard area below the rest-room where we were “parked.” We’d have to sleep outside in the bitter cold, and because I didn’t want to bother anyone, I’m still holding my penis on, bleeding to death, losing my mind, and freezing to boot. What a night.

In the night, somehow, I found myself downstairs in what I thought was the one-room store place. Also there were a father and son who were playing with a video camera and speaking to each other in Russian. The father was filming the son, and I was seated behind the boy. From there I could see a bookshelf, inset, full of Russian books behind the boy the camera and the father.

A call came for me, from a Korean. So in the end, I’m standing in the store looking out a window onto a sort of farmyard, speaking Korean with someone on the phone, and my dick is probably lost forever. Then I began to write.