Sunday, February 23, 2014


[I have begun to subtitle segments of my journal from which this blog is excerpted for future organizational purposes, as seen immediately below. The blog posts themselves will take their titles from the posts as a whole. Having insulted your intelligence, may you still enjoy.] 

A Modicum of Expectations

1/ 28/ 14

One time on a dare when I was a sagacious teenager, I faked a seizure in front of a pizza joint to entertain some friends. What I mean by "on a dare" is that in my sagacity, I wondered out loud if anyone dared me to fake a seizure right in front of this pizza joint and nobody said no. As I found out several years later, my portrayal was poor in many key respects. Ah well. You live, you learn, your sageness grows.


Not only did I break down and buy some new britches despite my miserliness; I broke down and bought some new books despite my unfinishphobia. What happened was . . . I was given a $25 gift card to 2nd & Charles (a massive used bookstore) and went with the intention of getting something more luxurious than my usual basket of battered and deeply discounted books--mostly ones squarely-in in or quickly approaching "classic status".  Fine by me. But this was to be a splurge. Like a couple of $12 doozies--hardback instead of paperback (or paperback instead of title-page-and-final-page-backed). Or a $25 beaut--some best-seller or Booker Prize short-lister from aught-4 or later. I left with eight books. And 86 cents left on my card.

1/ 31/ 14

As house invalid during the attacks of Snow Kong and Icezilla this past week in the South, I missed out on the (already legendary, already depicted in constellation, already in post-production as a Sci-Fi or History Channel original movie) very real tales of misery and woe brought about by this crippling storm.  While my family made their ways from three points of the compass in an excruciating crawl, I monitored the immediate view from my window, kept tabs on the thermostat, periodically checked specs on the electric blankets, and, with Buddhistic equanimity, resisted the temptation to dig-in to the DVR recordings that I knew my family would want to see.

2/ 1/ 14

We all have limitations. Some probably spend more time thinking about them than they should.  I might. It's hard to say. It's easy to think that I might be especially limited, easy for being obvious.  Just walk a mile in the shoes of the person who has to walk for thirty feet behind me in a narrow hallway; put yourself in the thin jacket of the person who, in addition to not checking the weather before going out to dinner with friends, has elected to hold the door for me upon seeing me from thirty feet away caning-it toward the entrance at my top speed which now must to seem to him to be between no miles per-hour and backward.  I am clearly limited.

But what about the person in the hallway? Is her hurry blood-sugar related--actually urgent as opposed to my chronic molasses-syndrome. Or what about the kind stranger manning the door?  Is he actually
here with friends or because this is the only place left in town that will serve him alcohol as he tries to make new ones? Though not obvious at first glance, I can almost guarantee that they would think about these limitations regularly. Even frequently. Too much. They might.  I know I might.

It's a point of curiosity for me. What's too much thinking about our limitations? Obsessively probably is too much. Meditatively might be healthy. I cannot think of a way in which admittedly is not useful.  One thing I know for sure is that I spend a portion of every waking minute engaged in at least one of these modes of "limitations" contemplations. And in my defense and of those like me, I don't think time spent amounts to obsession necessarily, as long as there is a degree of daylight between one mode and the other, some extent of carefree elbow room between one breath and the next. Another thing's for sure: I am not qualified to (nor have the desire to become so) discourse at greater length on the psychological implications of the above.

So forget the quasi-science . . . here are a few of my pet obsessions, meditations, and admissions on the matter:

Neither I nor Miss Havisham could run away from an angry bear, but neither could I run away from an angry Miss Havisham.

Both my infant nephew Johnny Robert and thirty-nine year-old Jonathan Harold are prohibited from riding roller coasters at the amusement park based on signage wordage: the former for being entirely too much of a short-stuff and the latter for being too possessed of certain preclusive medical conditions. (Whereas they both might be equally reluctant to ride the carousel, sign or no, time will tell.)

Neither Stephen Hawking nor I can voice a cogent theory on black hole probability, but neither could I even formulate one.

Both Tiger Woods and I . . . wait, too soon on the last one? . . . too late? at any rate, both Tiger Woods and I may never hit another tee-shot in the fairway again--me certainly not for my career long mumblehundredandmumble yards, he just . . . well . . . probably won't.

And this particular pet is the most peeving of all but it's fortunately the least obsessed over too: I can no more run to save my own life than I can to save yours.

That bein said, if you expect to be rollin with me and mine, you best be joinin a gym, the NRA, or the Apple Dumplin Gang. Somethin.

An older poem belonging here.

Reprieve in REM

In my literal dreams, I can run.  Can swan-
Dive then swim then hold
My breath and drown.  Can resurface
On my own.  Can be
On a team, picked first for my capabilities—
Base-stealing, going long.
Can fight for myself, for my family,
Make fists
And jab.
Can launch, circle Saturn, survive
Re-entry, parachute, plummet,
Then swim, then hold
My breath and drown.  Can afford
To lose hope.  Can jog for fitness.
Can run.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

world as will and ambulation

***1/ 24 /14

Schopenhauer has his "Will to Life"-- live, don't die, spawn and don't kid yourself, unless yourself is himself, you couldn't not live, not not die, or not spawn even if you had mind to.

Nietzsche has his "Will to Power"-- be bendy or get bowled over and don't kid yourself, unless yourself is better than yourself or, at the very least, Schopenhauer's, at the end of the day however so unwillingly, you're gonna get bent.

The Black Eyed Peas have their ""--with a little hustle and a little muscle you can stay on that other level and, like Zarathustra, even take it higher and higher and don't kid yourself you're gonna wanna to stay and buy attire.

Jonathan has his "Will through Gristle"-- come what dysphasia or cartilage may, what correlative TMJ or embedded blockade of hyper-tensile pig-flesh might, I will finish this pork chop if it takes the rest of my life, the whole of my power, and/ or the last sputter of my hustle. And don't kid yourself, I'm going to gnaw-clean what my son leaves on his t-bone.

I forgot to mention at the top: File under "Culinary Triumphs".

*** 1/ 26/ 14
The throng crowds the gate.  They push in until many are mooshed against the great iron bars, arms snake through reaching for magnificence personified. Beyond are the impossible doors to the undreamable factory. Willie Wonka has set the hour and this is precisely it.

And this is a tick past it. And this a tock. And this an entire lifetime. The patience of the throng dissipates, the anticipatory thrill gutters.  Hundreds of foreheads scowl, eyelids cinch then open wide. Brows and lips contort, report "WelI, I have never!" Sponge-up and distill every ounce of incredulity. Set aside.

Few by few, the disheartened throng relaxes back into streets. Back to knife peddling and char-wallowing. But the nearest ones, the ticketed ones and their lieutenants, and those whose unobstructed view of the still somewhat promising proceedings and proximity to the global celebrities have stuck to the rails, still form a mini-throng; they watch the impossible doors. Now possibly ajar? Scoop the extruding, pent-up giddiness. Set aside.  

Wonka steps out.  What gasp a mini-throng can gather gathers and a now regathering throng gasps. Wonka limps toward them, wobbling despite the aid of a cane.  Grandpa Joe commiserates. The ticketed ones palm their gold, smooth crinkles in the foil.  Wonka stops. He falls.  Extract the consternation. Set aside.

Salts, Beauregards, Teevees, Gloops. Desiccate the disdain. Dispose.

Willy Wonka--all a'purple and b'velveteened--somersaults, sticks the landing.  Charlie smiles. Peel. Vacuum seal. Set aside.

Now, naturally, to Walt Disney's World--the Magic Kingdom, if we will. While Sam Walton's would suffice for my illustration, as it does when I make my irregular treks there, it would not serve as a particular boon to my anecdote. For this, I take you to an Orlando of Christmas not-long past along with my wife, her family, my son, and gifts.  At the time (as now), I was obliged to do my walking by riding and my riding mostly by the might of the others.  I was not new to this sort of humble reliance. Occasionally, I suffered these random bouts of neuro-motor giddy-up hitches; and a couple came with precision timing, bummer-wise: once in the Paradise of the Pacific, once in the Most Magical Place on Earth. Alas.

As we travel to Disney, we'll concoct a concentrated amalgam of our Wonka ingredients. We'll draw the result into a syringe, stopper, store, and keep out reach of children.  For now.

Now hie us concession-ward for we are famished and parched and made of money. Park me at at the first crumby gummy table you see and I'll save our treasured island until you return from the trough for we are prodigal and magically metabolized for this kingdom's fare. "Satisfied," "nourished," and "adequately fueled " for the day's interminable remainder, let's find some exultant children to shoot-up in the cheeks, chins, lips, eyebrows, foreheads as with so much baby-Botox from our vial of filched facial expressions.  For nothing is so delightfully adept at countenance-morphing as a double-taking two year old in a stroller when she discovers a daddy-sized man wheeling alongside her at eye level.

She'll treat us to the whole cartoon gamut from preoccupied Disney exultancy to the blank face of a tot taken aback to incredulity to the sparkling eyes of consternation to a crumbling flake of disdain and at last to the slow dawn of Charlie's smile.

These are my jounce-along friends.  My comrades in wheels. My winking Arthur Slugworths.

And they're everywhere. Disney, Walmart, so literally everywhere.


An anecdote I believe was why I stepped away from present time and locale.  And reports of this one can scarcely be exaggerated. So hie us to Mark Twain's Riverboat for a go around Tom Sawyer's Island. While pushing me up the ramp onto deck, if you need to use the cup holder on the back of my chair to stow your unwieldy souvenir soda, behoove yourself.  Just park me beside the family.

They have situated themselves on a bench to starboard in front of the deck rails for advantageous viewing of the various robotic life forms -- mechanical gators and animatronic employees and the like; I am situated poorly but for a view of my family--a superfluous sight on any vacation, in- or out- law. I decide to take off my brakes and maneuver myself closer to primer riverboat real estate, that is, towards the bow ahead of my family, next to the family up front with the secondary aim of waving surreptitiously at their awestruck toddler.

The deck is not as level as I thought it to be, my initial heave to my wheels not as propulsive as I had envisioned. My pitiful half of a foot forward goes unnoticed, so I decide to stop before things get lamer.  I start to ease back to my original station. The boat lurches. As do I. The boat settles back. I, unbraked, proceed astern. I, a quick-thinker, apply the emergency brakes with my delicate poet hands, and instantly pop a textbook backward wheelie which has been prerecorded somehow and played somehow in present-time slow-motion; given my delicate poet infirmity the situation is dire. My wife sees and rises from the bench into a freeze frame of horror, arms outstretched.  The visual effect, in slo-mo, is not that she is grabbing to halt me rather pushing to hie me. This illusion is comical so I can't help my slowly developing grin. My brother-in-law reaches me first; not as we all later agree, to salvage the ten dollar contents of his souvenir cup stowed in my seat back. First intent notwithstanding, he is there to keep my chair from going fully obtuse and my father-in law arrives just in time to assist in laying me at a ludicrous but sound ninety degrees. Time relapses to time proper and I giggle as I watch my wife regain animation through the half-shocked tremble of my skyward knees.

The figurehead family gawks from the privilege of their prow: teens pent-up, adults with disdain, the stroller-bound baby smiling as wide as the ersatz river.

Captain's proverb log~the opposite of guilt is not innocence; the opposite of guilt is being
ushered deferentially to the fronty front of the 8 mile queue to the "It's a Small World" ride alongside your family and whoever else has the gumption to get in tow posing as ever-distanter, never resembling cousins. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

verses from the bluffs

[I have written many lines of poetry, prose, and song lyrics informed indirectly by the "The Event", but the following are directly inspired. I offer them below as an appendix to "The Bluffs."]

A Man Drowns

When the struggle ends
And the urge to reach the lighter blue—
Above, below, beside—
Is gulp-bellied and quiet,
He is utterly sure,
Positive for the first time in his life,
That he will survive
With that comes the calm.
Fish swim in gelatin, in wiggling arms
Of refracted light.  The water
Is air, is life liquefied, is cleaner
than the breath of mountains,
is filling his lungs.
A bubble floats from the darker blue
Encompassing a world.
Strange continents
Like an amniotic fetus
Globulate within.
Guts and muscles relax.  He quits,
Simply stops, and surrenders,
Suspended between gravity and buoyancy.
He sees the candles lit for him,
The wreaths, and hears
The hoarse roar of the furnace,
Feels it.  He swallows
Then is swallowed by
The gathered spectrum--gone from here
In search of his survival.


To Get the Sense of Drowning


Some Spring mornings feel like Autumn, some

Autumn ones like Spring, and for a moment

I get dizzy—

Days spent confusing them with others. 

And once, in a vortex,  I felt myself slipping into


A preposterous mathematics. Once revived, still barely alive

I mistook myself

For everyone.  Now huddled over my direful chest—all lungs

And barely life—now praying to God, now god Himself,

Now the pretty paramedic.


June always sneaks impertinently in when I’m not quite

Done with May.  December too with its ticking bomb

Of shopping days and ball-drops, my own pallid birthday

Compared to Christ’s impending one. 

And middle-Alabama knows its shocks of heat and rain on any

Random square of the calendar.


Of the jillion cigarettes I’ve smoked, I remember

Two in particular.  One—I snuck past the nurses and into

My convalescent lungs.

Two—mother caught me with my head out the window, her

Disappointment matching mine at all possible

Points in time. Singularly.




Disabused in Ambulance 

An angel hovers above you
Backlit by glory.
Supplying air, fastening her gaze,
Her silver eyes, your failing ones.
Breathe.  Not a command,
A suggestion.  If you want to live.
Only if you want to.
You do.  If only for her. 
You breathe. Her wings
Detach. The siren moans,
You recollect your death,
Assume your revival.
Your resuscitation.  Breathe.
You lie, half-naked,
On  shale.  Her open mouth,
Sour breath, your pummeled chest.
Breathe!  A command.
You obey.  For her.
The siren moans.  You moan.


Sunday, February 9, 2014

the bluffs, pt.2: veteran folds

"It's go time, boys."

In some order, we enter the river. Four pale Scott boys breach the ford in slow motion, all billowing manes and negligible hips.  The water doesn't part.  It wants to, you can tell. It shudders, oscillates. Sees no Pharaoh, settles.  We push farther from the shore, further from our good senses. A darksome hawk descends, disappears without a splash, rises bedraggled, dripping a platinum rain, a gruesome catfish writhing in its golden grasp. Or could have.

In some order, we begin to swim. Probably from youngest to oldest. In some order, we begin to doggie-paddle. Maybe from oldest to youngest. Before long, though, who first, next and so on, what's birth order amongst four brothers out of which group I was born first, we reach the mossy  rocks.  And they are yucky. All slimy and all.  An aquatic orb-spider swims across my shin then the other on its next lap.

The boys start to scale the bluffs, unspoken rotten egg incantation on a trailing breeze, and I follow as closely behind as I can, searching out their hand- and foot- holds as quickly as I can.  Have they detected my dwindling braggadocio and quickened their climb? No matter, down there, there be aquatic orb-spiders.  I climb at their heels.

The air loses warmth as the sun passes intermittently behind gathering clouds and regains less warmth each time the sun reappears. I think tornado. Middle Alabama knows its twisters well, but east Oklahoma knows them by rote. I lose pace with the heels.  Egg-wise, I am spoiling. A brother, I guess the brunette berzerker among us, reaches the top and instantly shoves off; he woo-hoos in a gust going by. The next one peaks, cool and steady, middle among us when we are rightfully five; with no perceptible concern, he briefly situates just long enough to bother facing the water below and jumps. The forever-five brother pulls himself the final few feet, sits calmly, replenishes his lungs, and takes time to appreciate the new perspective. 

Carefully standing, he squats broad-jumper-esque and hurls himself over the edge--offering with markedly less ado than the berzerker (already halfway up a second ascent) his own woo-hoo as he passes me by.  I smile goofily and almost wave with one free hand--a politically incorrect joke in the offing.

The brunette jostles me on his way back up.  Cool and steady, the middle of the birth order is on his way back with a lit smoke bobbing between his lips.

My legs tremble. I make no pretense of moving. I look down against all well known advice. The Baby is on his way up. Go time has made a full revolution. But ready or not, the sky is purpling. And I'm not too far from Kansas anymore. Or is it bright and breezeless. Or pouring pink pearls. I consider the rookiest move of all: stopping short, letting go, feigning slippage. Rookie for being bush-league, rookiest for being the best way to crack your skull for lacking trajectory to clear the jutting rocks.

The dutiful youngster encourages me to make the last little distance with one last little effort.  I do, scramble to the top, and sit in the butt-worn indention of bygone fellow veterans. For thirty minutes. Remarking on the phantom inclemency. Did he see that hawk snag that fish?

"There's a trail along the ridge," he says, no hint of calling me out for a punk, dutifully informative, "it's a little steep but takes you back down."

It's true. I'm a punk.

"I'm gonna jump, the trick is distract yourself . . ."

"Want me count you down?"

"No!" I respond more vehemently than I intend. "That doesn't work for me.  My trick is to distract myself . . . did ever tell y'all about the time . . ."

"Twice as high?"


"Whiplash for a week?"

"Yeah, that was the time I taught myself this trick. Which is to distract yourself, think about something like double cheeseburgers like you're not about fling yourself into thin air, then out of nowhere, thinking about double cheeses, just fling yourself like it's not even . . ."

I fling myself. I mew the pitifulest "woo-hoo" humanity has ever known. Off script. Not a part of the trick. Toothpick! Toothpick! I feel myself tipping. Not somersault! Untipping. Relief. Toothpick. Over-untipping. No, no, not the gainer! Anything but the . . . I'm flailing, a flailing rotten-egg punk of a flailer . . . I look down, never mind the gainer, anything but . . . because I have looked down . . . ohhellanythingbutthechurchpew!

Was it my backward little prayer there at the last? The breeze finally mustering? Some even humbler nudge, say, from a child's splash below, as mere as a Bud's fizzle or as slight as the dust trailing the VW, leaving the lot, heading for home?

Irregardless of how.  As we say in Alabama, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and beyond, wherever our cyclones set us down; and irrespective of which as we say in ivory towers, so crisply you can make out the semicolon.

Anyway, toothpick! A daggum toothpick! A propitious toothpick, if I may. In the vernacular of Veterans, because I may, the toothpick.

I flinch. Yet the water parts. Toes on-pointe. Arms spired. God and I reaching for each other across tempera on fresco.

Down, down, down. Through refracted light and bubbles. Down, down. Through blue and bluer. Down. Cold. Down. Bottomless? Up, up, up, up. Frantic. Up, up, up, through warming water, warming blues. Up, up. Through bubbles and refracted light. Up. Toothpick.

Andrew, that's the baby, having dutifully awaited my emergence, claps. I spit like a gargoyle fountain and laugh, giddy with triumph.  Thumbs up, perfect.  I remember the other two. Michael, that's the middle one when we are rightfully five, and Joshua the Impetuous are smoking by the SUV--despite not having my glasses on, the water in my eyes, the distance to shore, I know it's them. Could not not.  They clap. My thumbs, only just now down, up. Perfect. While orienting myself to swim toward the lot, I am taken back under.

In the over fifteen years of dealing with my brain tumor, I've had scores of seizures. Some severe, most moderate. Some memorable, most and increasingly-so forgettable.  Fatigue-triggered, anxiety-unleashed, insomnia-paved. From being startled by noise, scrambled by lights, approached unaware.  Frequently from out of pleasant dreams (rude) now and then from out of bad ones (still rude) and more often than you'd think (maybe rudest) from out of the idyllic twilight between pillow's first fluff and its first darkening from drool.  Some minding my own business, some minding someone else's too intently. In a car after a wreck. In a walk-in refrigerator at Cracker Barrel. During a round of golf in the heat.  During tackle football in the cold. Once on a toilet, indecorously. Once eating barbecue, wastefully.

Out of scores, these instances and sorts are memorable. Out of countless, really, at this point, one truly remarkable--one for the record books and one truly indelible--one for the book of record.
Two years ago I was eating with Joshua's young family at a Tex-Mex restaurant in Mobile, Alabama.  Happily about my belly's business, delving deeply into a guacamole salad, I went into a seizure. And continued to seize and the paramedics were called and I was taken via ambulance, still seizing, to a nearby ER where I was treated for seizure relief, despite which none came.  The rest is hearsay to me.

My neuro-oncologist in Birmingham, Alabama, about four hours from Mobile, was called. He wanted me transferred. To my usual hospital. In Birmingham. About four hours from Mobile, depending on traffic and the civility of other travelers. I was told that Joshua rode along. He reported that I continued to suffer seizures to the tune of every five minutes or so.  What's 4 times 60 divided by 5? Another two and a half score? Irregardless, on account of I kept right on havin’ fits after I got to my usual hospital.  Irrespective of number, none of these convulsive episodes count toward the grand tally.  These were not episodes--a term we had been using for yearr; no, this was an event-- a term instituted afterward to more adequately state the case.   Event--monolithic and stark.  After time though, The Event-- still epic yet now endearing. Remarkable, really.

So, there was that one.  And there is this one. . .

Seventeen years ago, I am taken back under.