Sunday, January 26, 2014

in which 'foisted', 'dickensian', 'tupperware' appear and you are delighted

***1/ 4 / 14

First time in avalanche.

My tears. My sobs. My plastic face.

Not from sadness, yet. Nor from self-pity, yet. Nor yet from anger. Yet, when utter frustration slipped on that first clod of ice, the doomed escarpment crumbled and all else followed in sheets of blinding white. 

It finally happened. I snapped. It became too much. Not too much to bear but too much hold in and far too face-contorting to grin through.

It happened a couple of weeks ago before Christmas.  While trying to make a simple, declarative, sentiment-neutral statement to one person, a second person entered the room and engaged us both in a new conversation for which switch I was ill-prepared.  It wasn't difficult material from this additional voice that ratcheted the exasperation, in fact, the new material promised to be more interesting than the bland fact-divulging effort I was in the middle of; it was the additional voice itself that clicked the ratchet.  A voice requesting response.  A response requiring a change of tone. For the voiceless, changes of tone are not readily toggled. Without tone, we need italics and emoticons, at least while we hone our unwieldy pantomimes or fashion crude sign languages one unrememberable charade at a time, at least until we learn to write again with comprehensible intention--sarcasm, sincerity, just-joshing, etc.

You may detect just such an exercise underway. What you cannot detect is that it has taken me 60 minutes to peck out these five paragraphs or that I am now sitting up so I can go eat lunch-- because I'm on a touch-screen using a finicky finger and a languid brain :) 

[25 mins: corn dog accomplished. You might be detecting a trend in my fleetness in general.] 

Whatever headway I had made in the original "conversation" began disappearing step by step behind me, getting swept away by the new curiosity too quickly for me to keep pace. I have tried to accept this reality with grace; however, except toward a maintenance of my fraying sanity, whether gracefully or indignantly is moot. The voiceless’s petulant demands to be understood sound too much like his airy affirmations that he already has been. Nod through the screen if you follow me ;)

By the time I realize I've lost sync with both of my garrulous interlocutors, it is too late to reestablish my participation.  Their attentions have been turned to the other; what little level of grace I may or may not have had in the tank starts to sputter, the petulance rises indistinguishable from huffs of assent.

But I wasn't finished. And the unwatched pot began to boil. And the revolving door was stuffed at each go-round. And wasn't that the very same lightning-split poplar we passed an hour back and isn't the sun westering, the crows laughing, a demon ascending, my soul . . . doesn't it . . .

I snapped.  Not out of the blue.  Nor even the gray.  Not quite out of the pitch.Yet certainly from a new and curious darkness.  I cried, kicked the clod. I sobbed, sheets of white. I hid my face.   

***1/ 20/ 14

I played some big time football as I kid coming up outside of Richmond, VA. The streets were hard and the cul-de-sac was harder.  And if it wasn't for the hard knocks, I never would've made the team. I was undersized. Then again, so too were many of the greats. Among the laity: Zacchaeus, Lucky the Leprechaun, Tattoo.  Tiny Titans to their causes. Sycamore appreciation, first period participation, airways awareness. Among the relevant examples: Tarkenton, Jurgenson, Flutie. Diminutive Colossi of the gridiron. Like me all of these men amongst typically more statuesque men played quarterback which made all of us pretty big deals. Now, if any of these men were ever homecoming king two years running, all of us would also have been pretty enormous deals.

Nah. Being king was mortifying.  I hated it. Secondarily, because it was unannounced, uncoveted, and foisted upon me unwittingly.  Primarily, because it required a lap around the track in back of a "float", which doubled every other day of the year as some booster's backfiring Chevy pick-up, alongside an average sized prince and princess and an Amazon queen.  Two years running.

Playing football was brutal. I hated it. Tertiarily, because of the games--cold, wet, early in the morning. Secondarily, the practices--hot, dry, late in the day. Primarily, the equipment--in all climates, at all times, brutal. When shoulder pads are as wide as wide as you are tall, your blindside is effectively a 300-degree cone of doom.  If to wear your off-the-rack helmet necessitates a slathering of Vaseline on your forehead to keep from pulling your nape off in the donning and face off in the doffing, you might want to stick with little league, better yet, with your swing-set fighting off TIE-fighters in your X-Wing.  And my personal least favorite . . . the mouth guard. 

For the uninitiated: a tutorial. The mouth guard guards the mouth. From the inside out. In much the same way that a sock and duct tape guards your mouth from yelling for help from the trunk of an abductor's Lincoln. The mouth guard is plastic of a dubious plasticity.  It hugs the roof of your mouth caressingly (not all jabbingly), it glides over your teeth, soothingly (not at all squealingly), eases along the lingual passage, unnoticeably (not at all asphyxiatingly), then just when you're on the brink yogic relaxation, it settles in gently (not all disgorgingly).

So . . . I have to wear a mouth guard at night these days. 

Anxiety makes you clinch your teeth. Excessive salivation makes you grind your teeth, and yawning without sufficient facial strength to govern a yawn makes you clamp, clinch, and grind.

So . . . Blue, 42, Omaha, hut hut hut. Jonathan, you're running the wrong way! Yeesh! Who got chicken pox and made him king?     


When I was coming up, we lived on the hard times side of the tracks where you had go back across the tracks to get to a swimming pool; unless you knew the Hoitytoits whose veritable mansion sat atop the highest cul-de-sac in our subdivision, the owners of a legendary above ground pool. But you didn't know them from school nor did your mother from Tupperware parties.  Get over it, go to your room and play pick-up sticks. And pick them up this time.

The Dickensian side of tracks, people, where the sandboxes haven't been freshened since some brother combination took the initiative to flood the allegedly "perfectly good sand" to see if,  it was so perfect, how come it turned to mud. You're not getting sand until next summer, so you might as well get over it, go to your room, and play with your toes, for all your father will care when he gets home.

The derelict, dilapidated, decrepit side of the tracks where if you came home with holes in your jeans, you might as well not come home unless there was blood or shreds of flesh in evidence nor even disembark the school bus if you had "jumped off a cliff just because everybody else" was using Saul the Saw's box-cutter to deliberately slash your jeans in order jumpstart the fraying process. Just keep going. No fruit roll-ups. No Fraggle Rock. Just don't bother.

I offer these caricatures of reality so you can imagine my unease when I bought a brand new pair of jeans last weekend with prefab welts made to resemble the early stages of Saul's craftsmanship or artificially worn-thin knees only three or four real life encounters from being sent to my room.  I supply these postfab "memories" so you can understand my angst when coupled with the earlier-recorded fact of my reluctance to shell-out for a new pair, whether on principle or for assurance of need.

Truth be told (if only as a novelty in this section), my guilt is mostly fabbed, the pang of it alleviated by the dangling 75% off tag which suited my thriftiness and by the stitched Sears Roebuck & Co. tag which tickled my unfancy. Because when I was coming up a luckless orphan slogging the fetid quags of the Hinterland, one only went to Sears for spare tires again and to have ones vacuum repaired again.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

twice forgotten, willa cather, remembered

These 2 dates were accidentally left out yesterday's post. Up early this morning, I was stricken with terror.  Did I forget to explain the Willa Cather reference brought up back in November?  [11/ 9] Doesn't sound like me. In that case, did I forget to include that journal entry in yesterday's blog post? I guess. Apologies, Cather and readers.


"'This is the tragedy of effort and failure, the thing Keats called hell.  This is my tragedy, as I lie here by the racecourse, listening to the feet of runners as they pass me by. Ah, God! The swift feet of of the runners!'"  (Katharine Gaylord, "A Death in the Desert", The Troll Garden, Willa Cather.)

It's nearly unbearable at be so near vitality while in a state of unwilled inertia. Especially when thoughts of recent capabilities present themselves in rude contrast.  Katharine is a famous and magnificent singer; her illness has stolen further opportunities to experience the joy of making her music.  This is theft not only of joy in participation but in the joy of reminiscence, the thing Wordsworth calls a "serene and blessed mood."   Katherine cannot even speak of this loss,  calling it (in what I deem to be a devastatingly beautiful phrase) "too tragic and too vast."
The tragedy is clear, easily appreciated; but this vastness is harrowing to me.  Is it in relation to the cosmos, the very real expanse of a trillion-fold galaxies?  Is it under the compulsion of the eternities with which may or may not join everlasting Being?  Or is it a vast microcosmos-- colonies of innumerable bugs, trampled, spat, ignored? The molten grit in the glass-blower's figurine?  Whether written large or written small, I cannot help but be overwhelmed by the thought of vastness.  It goes beyond fathomless, approaches the sublime, and leaves me with what Joseph Conrad calls "the paralyzing sense of human littleness."

12/ 15/ 13

Yesterday was my 38th birthday. There was brunch, cake in abeyance, and a rendition of the Birthday Song as performed by two unbearably precious nieces and an inordinately handsome nephew.  Typical of fresh arrangements of old standards by a trio all aged in the single digits, this version was masterful in its seeming extemporaneousness-- beginning pianissimo in unexpected unison, proceeding to alternating triple crescendos crowned by ingenious dissonance then, effortlessly, breaking into unheard-of rounds-- now in sensible succession, now jazzy riffs.    

Applause. Bravos. Mirth. Cold bacon . . . in abeyance . . . because (most tunefully yet) . . . And maa-a-ny moor-a-or.

Gravid, grave caesura . . . cold bacon. Mirth.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

crass, profoundly inadequate, and categorically goofy


Before I continue with my journal entries which still lag a couple weeks behind present day, I think it would be useful to state that things are not as bleak as they must seem in the steady course of symptoms, ominousness, and an overall sense of sands mounding in the business end of the hourglass.  Given the purpose of this journal, this is largely unavoidable and would be, I believe, largely uninteresting.  However, at this stage, as yet a relatively lively one, ominous symptoms and bleak prognosis notwithstanding, objects in these reflections may appear larger than they are.  For instance, for the last few days in real time, my hand is regaining some of its functionality and my voice is regaining some of its strength.  You just didn't know it yet given journal lag and may not have known it upcomingly as I would likely, as often I have, foregone the largely uninteresting parts.

***12/ 23/ 13

Even in the early days of my glial adventures, car rides of two hours or more could be a struggle, mostly when said and done, keys pulled, pocketed.  The nervous system if slightly off-kilter, can send you reeling with no warning. It's the relatively abrupt cessation of velocity -- in the ears, the eyes, even in decelerating conversations; because passengers will lower their voices out of a strange respect for the decrescendo of tire on macadam, wind through window cracks.

I tried useful descriptions like "vertigo" to give my early-days neurologists that they might further guess at the nature of my emergent condition. I went clinical, hoping to approximate a  sensation they could readily grasp--a silly assumption since I had no idea if they'd had personal experience with the affliction at all, sillier still since I sure hadn't.  As it turns out, descriptions are useless when the nondescript and the described need not apply.

Lesson learned, I went more descriptive. I employed my aptitude for simile. I likened what I took for "vertigo" to standing-up with locked knees on a canoe as a speedboat within a hundred yards rives the brackish river with its beglittered, a la personalized bowling balls, prow sending facsimiles of ocean swells in your direction.  Oh, and there's a zinc-nosed Chaz slaloming hither and yon wracking your nerves with unwarranted derision. 

As it turns out, lesson not learned.  Similes without cognitive stepping stones are as useful as neurons without synapses.  As it turns out, you just have to be there. The best describers can do is aim for the median and hope for the largest collateral spray.  So it was that over time, my portfolio of useful descriptions diversified and my aim improved.

In the middle to latter days of these tumor-defined times, my doctors know my case thoroughly enough, my family and friends intimately enough, my acquaintances roughly enough such that I can direct my attention toward introspection, away from explication.  I can resort to rote, relieved of creative exhaustion, recuperate, and alchemize my experiences to a more valuable creativity.  Engendering this journal.  Made manifest in my poetry.  Materializing as embellishment in memoir, as out and out lies in my fiction. 

***12/ 29/ 13

Tips for multiforme:

> "Don't fight the hand that feeds you." As the numbness in your left hand progresses, you may find yourself in a bewildering tug-of-war with yourself. Don't panic! This is not an existential crisis incarnate. This is you incarnate trying to retrieve your cellphone from your left, front pant pocket.  After some rooting amidst back-up splash-zone hankies (those stashed variously on your person at all times in the event of reflexive returns of liquid intakes--more and more common as your mouth rebels), you reach over to assist your left hand with your right. You locate and grasp the cellphone, begin to retract your right hand. Resistance. Tug. Tug. A paranormal force pitted against your effete normal one. Panic! No, don't panic. You'll get your phone back. Tell Lefty to let go. It's all in good fun. 

> "Turn into the skid."  In your case, fall into the fall. When good old terra firma goes undulant Perelandra, or when a best-intentioned dachshund insists that it only takes one to tango, fall into the fall.  Don't panic. The odds are decent (decent) that you were already headed in a sensible direction, no bed of coals in your path, no protruding Wild Turkey bottle shards. It's counterintuitive but it's your best chance at survival. Don't panic. Moreover, don't be a hero.  You are currently in a relatively unprovoked free fall; the odds are goodly (goodly) that you are currently and previously incapable of dropping into a tactical tuck and roll. No heroics.  Live to fall again.  

> "Is your glass half empty or half full?" There are two types of people in the dexterity-challenged world: Those whose shoelaces are tied one bunny ear shy of a pair, and those whose shoelaces hop gleefully, unabashedly behind.  What type of surrenderer are you? Stubborn but ultimately sensible, or carefree from wire to wire? You can choose which but you can't choose whether.

> “To assume makes an ass out of you and me.” Just let the chips fall because you should: Always assume you have mac'n cheez on your face as high as your neap-tide hairline and/ or as wide as behind your ears where you daintily dab your Diamonds or defiantly deluge with your Drakkar.  Always assume you have broccoli casserole in your teeth as deeply embedded as your neap-tide gum line and/ or as distantly consumed as last Thanksgiving. Lastly and perhaps most importantly, always, always assume you still have Surfin' Berry Punch on your upper lip.


***12/ 30/ 13

There are a lot of things my wife did not bargain for when we got married eighteen years ago today and at least one thing she never would have guessed. To call her a trooper respecting the latency of my roguishness would be crass, profoundly inadequate, and categorically goofy. To call her a hero respecting the nascency of my disease would be crass, profoundly inadequate, and categorically goofy.

[A poem bethought of as I wrote today’s entry—it’s about year old, therefore, probably just about the time the tumor was changing gears]  

“A Few Notes On the Tumor”

The tumor is not a freak of nature.
It’s a diplomat thereof
Come to finagle territory
For the motherland.

The tumor is not an interloper.
It’s the lash of a flagellant
System unleashed to rein-in
The human pride. 

The tumor is a new idea
Bethought by a cellular
Synod in thrall to the orthodox, 
To time immemorial.

The tumor is a tag-a-long
Whose watch is synchronous; it’s the ape
In your shadow, the familiar
With whom you share contempt.

***1/ 1/ 14

Mostly because I'd be remiss not to commemorate this date by jotting pithy thoughts but also because  

. . . I'm drawing a blank.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

casper yourself

***12/ 8/ 13

Sometimes in whispers.  Sometimes in rasps.  Sometimes not at all. 

My voice.  I've used it all my life, presumably vociferously there in the beginning, complaining of goo. Reportedly, I became taciturn shortly thereafter as a countermeasure to my big bother's vehement protest to, if not my very existence then certainly to my very presence.  In the same report, this taciturnity continued until kindergarten when all Legion broke loose (as compared to my erstwhile cherubic demeanor, that is) and a series untoward events led to my dismissal as a candidate for K-5. Which you might as well know now that I trust with my sensitive topics, dear reader, means that I failed kindergarten. 

And I haven't shut-up since. 


Until last Spring when GBM announced its existence/ presence from a scroll of other unpleasantries by reducing my voice to whispers and rasps. To inscrutable exasperations and void exhalations. 

Which simply wouldn't do. So, at the expense of a grocery or to-do list I started communicating by dry-erase board.  Briefly communicating.  In between frequent "erasdrerer"[sic] (finger smear, raspy oath, shirttail retry) erasures. Which would simply have to do.

[Consumer report: "Dry"-erase "mark"-ers are available in a number of varieties, specifically two--illegibly beige and immediately ink-less.]

It is one thing to "speak" at your leisure in living rooms passing your board amongst family and friends and quite another to your MRI technician in the dark mission-control room of the clinic's basement-relegated radiology hub--no one to love you or hand you another marker. Quite, quite another when mistakenly left to your own devices (apologies presently offered, tardily accepted--no way to treat she of the love and markers, I confess) with the laboratory nurse and you're  unable pee in a cup, scarcely able to explain when asked, "do huh?" or "how what now?" Neither vocally due to circumstance nor by charades due to decency.

They don't advise you when you're a young buck to take notes on your speech development.  They don't suggest keeping a Crayola journal of your nearerest thoughts on the matter.  Frankly, why would they? What an inauspicious foresight that would be! 

"In the unlikely event of a relapse into your current toddling helplessness how will know what steps to take in order convey meaning?  What if you get lost in the mall making a break for the toy store while your mother dilly-dallies in J. C. Penney? What if you'd like another half-dozie oysters except this time Rockefeller instead of raw?"

"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it," you'd've been unable to say. But soon, without record.

"Or how deploy that sass-back, you've become so fond of?" they'll respond when the time comes, but soon.

But sometimes . . . unlikely events. And you'll have to learn again. Only this time, take notes, keep a journal . . . just do it . . . no sass-back. Because you never know . . . trust me, young buck, you just never know.

***12/ 9/ 13 

Top 10 Things You Never Want To Have To Resign Yourself To:

#s 3 - 9] TBD. 
# 2] Biting your tongue and/ or inner cheek at least 3 times a day.
# 1] Resignation.

***12/ 12/ 13 

More fun with multiforme. "More" as in additional, as adjoining to previous examples. Not "more” as in heightened, as transcending previous examples soon to include the following examples. Because  I think we can all agree that it doesn't get any more fun in the latter regard than as things stand; I deal in realms of possibility, not in faerie kingdoms.     

Equivi-fun with multiforme:

As the numbness in your left hand (or right, whichever applies to your predicament) continues to grow,  performance of its prior duties will become more difficult--perhaps to the point of downright unfeasible.

Do not despair. Not yet any way.  Embrace the novelty.  Experiment.  Put your own twists on these suggestions.  Add your own flavors. There are no right or wrong implications, just ones with varying heebie-jeebies factors.  

> Congratulate yourself when no one else was around to see you button your own sleeve cuffs by performing the old surreptitious yawn move from movie theaters and then, when you least expect it, pat yourself on the back. You'll only feel the contact from behind, not in your hand, creating a neuro- tactile misfire that allows for an un accustomed dual sensation. [Note: this seeming disconnect is the presiding principle in each example.]! 

> Console yourself after a particularly flustering day. Maybe your favorite team continues to watch from stands, eating nachos and photo bombing the Kiss-Cam, worse than that, they play their best games that way. Maybe you lost the extremities race by (1 lousy pt) as a result a bogus referee call counting "zounds!" as slightly beyond mild oath adhering to a Middle-Ages interpretation of the rules. Whatever's got you flustered just relax, place your hand caressingly on your thigh, throw your voice, say, "now, now, there, there."

> Casper yourself. Not that this one is under your control. Thus the maximum heebie-jeebies factor accorded to it. Just wait as if for a meteor, as if for your P.F. Chang's table to become available, as if anything you've been expecting for an hour in the cold, that you had nearly given up on, becomes a jarring reality.  Just wait.  For, in a moment of dumb listlessness you'll feel something on the back of neck and bristle . . . Casper! Or you trying to reach an itch. Wouldn't you like to know? Or, in a moment more, your  glasses rise up the bridge of your nose--some invisible force anticipating the need . . . Casper! Or a band of gang-banging Lilliputian teens trying to jack your specs. Time may never tell.  Or, forsaking the wait, you have gone to bed and fallen asleep. Or have you?  What just pulled your blanket up to your throat? And is it to cozy you up or to snuff you out? Or,have you been muttering Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice in a delirium of MSG?

12/ 21/13

Sometimes in voiceless blasts. Sometimes in bullfrog blarps. Sometimes in demoniac chortles.

My laughter.  

Hard enough to control when there are other options. Voiced blasts, for one. Those  embedded hints that distinguish between possible lunacy and workaday joke appreciation.  Subtle hints: "Ha, ha" (grin, giggle) "yep, oh, yep, no you're right, because it's true" (nod, chuckle). Not so subtle: "Bwah, hah, ohhh, yep, bwah, hoo. Good one, I'm stealing that one (patina of tears on eyes, AWOL guffaw)!  Not in the least subtle:  Buh-Booogah (milkshake eruption) oh, gah, oh gah, no, no, stop, stop (knee-slap, chest pound) I said 'shut-uh-uhp!' (things getting real, friendships tested, strawberry-snot--'now with real strawberries!'--bungee-ing from chin.
For two, hominid blarps.

For three, carbon-based chortles. 
These and other options not available to the articulatorily-challenged.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

s/he/one/jonathan and the kraken clutches of doom

***12/ 4/ 13


I am drawing too near predictable indignities to be able to afford avoidable undignified behavior. It's best to get an early start of not stockpiling ones legacy with instances of uncouthness, best to curb ones penchant for scatological language as soon as possible. One can't erase all traces (no matter how successfully s/he thinks s/he has employed impersonal pronouns) of persistent juvenility, but one can begin now. So now . . .

I, specifically (now that I'm all grown up), get the feeling that the oatmeal is about to hit the fan.     By that, I mean, recent symptoms make me suspect we'll find some tumor activity in either size or number this afternoon. "Why so optimistic?" one might ask. If s/he is being sarcastic.

"Well," Jonathan might reply, pausing . . . will he answer sarcasm with sarcasm or with his newfound maturity? 

Here are the recent symptoms as regressions to old ones: deteriorating facial muscle control, numbness in left-side extremities, diminished vision, garbled speech trending toward indecipherable.  Balance iffier, gait iffierest (to say nothing of trot or canter); and most horrifying to me, eating becoming too much like work again.

As emerging from the old: left hand growing stiff and a little achy when clinched.

Why so optimistic? I'm not really. In fact, I'm little pessimistic right now.  Why so? Because, in boiling, blurping, bubbles, the oatmeal is rising.

Circa-MRI: On the way to the clinic, I received a message from my mother telling me that my sister-in-law in Arkansas had gone into labor. Johnny was on the way. A namesake. A nephew. A glimpse of a legacy unspooling like an open-bail line let loose down the river, to eddy, to dive, to snag crags, to bob, nodding to prismatic trout, as dignified as the river itself--silvering into the next generation of shoal and slate. Into a gulf, a sea, an ocean, a silvering moon.

Intra-MRI: Supine, I'm slid into into my cold sepulcher where and when I typically remember just as the technician shuts herself out and me irretrievably in, that I misremembered to take off my cowboy-belt buckled by only a slightly miniaturized state of Texas and my steel-studded dog collar; where and when I typically think of Jonah and wonder what the weather is like in Nineveh.  But here and now, I am hoping that Johnny beats me out of our relative constrictions, it seems only fair, first come, first served, and all; and I am hoping to make it up for Christmas to kiss his delicious head during this optimum time for such delight.  I try to count the Price Is Right  Big Wheel clacks, thrum my belly in time with the Lone Ranger clomping up dust on Silver across miles of arid terrain, imagine being teased by schoolyard finders-ergo-keepers--neener, neener, neener--the typical din of this glorified, mortuary table. 

But here and now, I lose track of all pastime techniques.  I wonder if Johnny's here.  Come Christmas will I be able to kiss his whole delicious face clear off the face of this whole delicious planet?

Probably. Johnny's uncle is optimistic. 

Inter-neuro-onco-docto-office: the Verdict.  Images show growth in one the newer tumors--it's shaped like a nickel-sized paisley with an ultra-thin doily border, for reference. We suspect (me with my M. A. in Jingle Writing, he with his Doctoral Alphabet in Wrenching the Agonized from the Kraken Clutches of Doom) that the regressing and emerging symptoms are results of this growth.  We decide to add chemo to my Avastin, starting soon. Which, as I know from my 2012 experience, will be grody and not the teensiest delicious.

Nevertheless, I'm positive that I'll be home for Christmas, if only in one pair of jeans.