Sunday, June 29, 2014

interlude: cabbages and kings

Interlude: Cabbages and Kings

6/ 25/ 14

Purple is my favorite color. I'll go ahead and make it official. It's not mandatory to have a favorite color or make it official unless you're pushing five and have yet to, you might as well have one ready for the girls who will pester you until you relent or "choose" one they have chosen for you and that will be your official color irrespective of the fact that your favorite color is red.

My first favorite color was red.  I am pretty sure this was a side-effect of trickle down fandom. I was born in Virginia. My grandfather's easy chair reclined in Virginia. My father attended UVA. For regional reasons, we were Redskins fans; and the girls at J. B. Watkins Elementary were licking their chops; notorious for doling out dookie browns and, worse than that, pinks, I offered them red. Red stood fast for years. Out fandom or habit or just to have a color loaded if required in the spur of the moment, it stood until high school.

There may have been trendy lapses along the way . . . a black, ensued by discussion on whether or not black was a even a color, with your pigmentists on one side and your fourth-grade physicists on the other . . .  something neon tangerine or pastel lymon maybe. But my third favorite color was blue. A virtual heresy. The color of the Dallas Cowboys. An attempted usurpation. The color had already been claimed my brother. But the the most egregious apostasy of all was admitting the input of girls. Known to grow-up faster than boys, by the time I got to high school the girls I knew had matured beyond the bathroom and their Barbie pinks and into a penchant for bringing boys into a fashionable light or palette,depending on your faction. It turns out my eyes are blue, almost preternaturally so, when matched with blue shirts; they bring out the color of my eyes -- a desirable effect, as it turns out. With no ado, my color was blue.

Next, naturally, given my teen Romanticism and subsequent brush with naturalism, my colors took their cues from our variegated earth. Mud red as of Alabama creek beds. Forest green as seen along  I-540 from Ft. Smith to Fayetteville. Fire-orange sunset streaking the Pacific between Lanai and Maui. And, closest to my heart, any autumn amalgam, but preferably on snaky routes between Cades Cove and the Peaks of Otter.

In the earth tone group, I should probably acknowledge the influence of grunge flannel as witnessed knotted around my waist, draped over the shoulders of a campfire damsel, or worn in defiance of Boy Band Cerulean.

But now purple. How, why, or when, I don't know and I can't afford a psychologist to not particularly know alongside of me. It certainly doesn't bring out my eyes, or flatter my skin tone.

I had probably always admired purple deep down. Perhaps for being braver than me. Perhaps for being richer than me. For being lovelier? More bathed in the milk of majesty? I certainly cannot remember ever being directly opposed to it. I had never been probed by purple aliens nor hurried-off a stage by juicily rotting eggplants. I don't think I ever noticed purple on my six as a tidal-wave of clover at my heels or suffered betel nut loogies jettisoned in ambush from a cabbage patch.

I think it was out of the blue. From thin air, let's say, to avoid confusion. A couple of years ago, I was in the market for a new suit of clothes -- specifically for my son's band banquet, consequentially to fluff-up my wardrobe.

Round and round Kohl's . . . nothing catches my eye, round and round JCP . . .  nothing jumps off the rack . . . until purple does . . . from a carousel of ugly ties. It was like at first sight, beyond admiration.
Leery of my grin, my wife tries to cauterize this fresh wound at first blood and leads on.  A purple shirt materializes in the clearance aisle. Do I have any fancy pants to go with this? We'll look when we get home. Home . . . away from my hideous tie, my out-of-style shirt. Too risky.

I arrived at the banquet proud in purple. Back then my sudden inspiration; meanwhile an incubating intrigue; now my favorite color.

Everything's coming up purple these days. It's as if my have eyes have gone Terminator, scanning the red-gray, the yellow-gray, the fireburst-gray, locking-in on purple. It seems that Kohl's and JCP stock it exclusively. If there are pansies, they are violets. I had never seen a purple car that wasn't trying too hard or being ironic until recently . . . these days every third or fourth one is rocking it amethyst or cruising on magenta.

It's bizarre but true. You'll just have to believe me. I wouldn't call it mystical, but I'd allow mysterious. You would think there is some reason why I point and call out "purple" whenever I see purple like a toddling talker from a grocery cart when helping to choose grapes or at a picnic when a dragonfly alights on the basket's handle. As fortune would have it, I currently talk like a toddler -- a blurting exultancy, ecstatically not-quite sure.

Not mystical but indeed mysterious why the auroras behind my eyelids morph from mustard to lavender.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

orca to fry

Orca to Fry

6/ 18/ 14

"Ah'm born but Ah ain't dead. No tellin' whut Ah'm liable do to yet." Zora Neale Hurston --Their Eyes Were Watching God

This time around, respecting chemotherapy, steroids, and the tumor(s), I decided to monitor my condition more diligently than last time. I have done well. In the beginning, I devised a system by which to keep track of my symptoms.  "Devised a system" is probably too impressive sounding. I can't even manage a spreadsheet. The system I devised was to keep a running log.

 > Symptom name [severity scale: 1 = worst to 10 = no sweat]. Of course I had to create a random baseline for the scale at the outset to leave wiggle room between Apocalypse Now and Toy Story 3. (3 because it's plenty frightening in its own right.)

For instance (an abridged excerpt):


Baseline @ 4mg  set 4 / 3/ 14
Cognition [6.5] > Confusion [6.5] > Memory [6] > Frustration/ Anger [6] > Frustration/ Depression [6] > Fatigue [6] > Speech [6.5] > Faintness [7] > Headache [6.5] > Ache right eye/ temple [6.5] > Nausea [7] > Faintness [7] > Vision [4] > Sleepy [6] > Bowels [7] > Vision [4] > Gait [4.5] > Balance [4] > Headache [7] > Nausea [6.5] > Short Breath [7] > Appetite [6] > Numbness (left mouth/ tongue^[4.5]^, left hand ^[4]^, left leg/ foot ^[6])

[Bracketed numbers are adjusted when I set a new baseline with [x!] if worse [y+] if better. If no change, then no change. Altogether new complaints are underlined. Eg, Cataracts [5!]

There you have it . . . Excel for troglodytes.


I saw my optometrist of 26 years on Monday to see if there was anything to be done to improve my vision. I wasn't holding out much hope; I had been just assuming it was irreparable as long as the cause was chemotherapy, steroids, or the tumor(s) -- as given as they are to skip down the lane holding hands, swapping bubble gums.

But I was wrong.

In the waiting room in my wheelchair, skinny legs and all, another roadside attraction, I fomented my doubts and ticked off the reasons why my eyes would just have get in line. When the optician came to take me back for preliminary tests, I could see it in his face, "This guy has bigger fish to fry."

Try orca, buddy.

After running all of the usual tests, the optometrist was beginning to think that nothing was wrong, that my new vision is actually better than current lenses, maybe just an updated prescription was all I needed. We were excited. He was excited.

He was wrong.

Cataracts in right eye, left eye to follow sooner or later. But I was wrong about there being nothing to do about it. There's eyeball surgery. That's surgery on the eyeball. Awake. I'm picturing, vividly, Kubrick's Alex in rehab. (I said, Ah, no, no, no.) In truth, I'm rather eager to get it done. I want some serviceable peepers again . . . almost more than anything, even more than the rectification of my dratted, mostly ineffectual, voice.


"De lake is coming!" Tea Cake gasped. It's comin behind us!" Janie shuddered. "Us can't fly."
Zora Neale Hurston --Their Eyes Were Watching God

I take research as part of diligence. Also as part of self-affliction. Not necessarily as fuel for any mild form of hypochondria -- which I own up to -- but it is important to heed something like: just because you're hypochondriacal doesn't mean your maladies are not compounding by the moment; perhaps in ways analogous to one of these:

Tether ball.

Push . . . good push . . . game face on . . . slap . . . bonk opponent's face, slap . . . opponent bonks back, smack . . . oh OK this is how it's going to be, smack . . . alright then, so be it . . . punch . . . dodge, punch     . . . dodge, dodge, dodge, punch at, fingertip, fingertip, swat air, swat, swat . . . whiff mightily, fall.

Roller coaster.

Enter the maze, join the shuffle. Hear the screams, consider retreat. Buck-up, there are six year olds behind you. Fate has it, be alone in your car. Buckle frayed belt, test restraining bar for your own self. Lurch, gasp. Hear teen recite, hands and legs inside. Be off, don't scream. Ascend, ignore clacks, the clacks the ratcheting clacks, descend, FAST, scream, let your breath rejoin you, continue because you must, you're tied, barred, you doubled checked.

This is the sense I'm getting.


I take combing the World Wide Web as part of research, on account of I'm a fool. Here's as foolish a method as any. I enter the malady plus the suspected perpetrator. For instance: cataracts + (tumor/
steroid/ chemo). I scroll through Google's suggested surgeons or a certain Robert Southey poem. Then I proceed to that behemoth compendium, Wikipedia, because if everybody doesn't know then who does, really?

Next, I find a forum of the likewise tormented and nod and empathize -- because now I know I'm not alone; then I shake my head and eke a whimper -- despondent now that I've had my doom pronounced in black and white and certified by no less a personage than Vickie's uncle Bruce who died back in '04 from a case precisely mirroring my own (I guess Bruce was left handed),and if Vickie doesn't know then who does, really? Bruce now in Abraham's bosom frying minnows? I doubt it. McribsBback234? That fool? No way.

Then it's back to my search results where I should have scrolled down farther in first place. At least to that well-organized lodestar, WebMd, under the auspices of which I have had great success with self-diagnosis. There was the common cold, the tummy ache, the neck crick, the dog tick-- to name only four.

Of course, I always cross-reference my pile of complaints with those of Peggy Ann McKay. I'm gaining on her. 

Sure, my prospects for play on Saturday are not quite as sunny; yet I don't begrudge Peggy her sudden remission. It gives one hope come Saturday next.

A man is up against a hard game when he must die to beat it. 
Zora Neale Hurston, --Their Eyes Were Watching God

Sunday, June 15, 2014

arkansas, one more look back

Your Mom's Insistence Disregarded

6/ 9/ 14

If you're lucky there will be a rest area beyond the next rise because you've fooling yourself about "mind over matter" ever since you crossed the point of no return, which is to say the end of your driveway as you we're leaving; and now you've been in a horn- locked battle of bladders with fellow passengers, which is to say wannabe Wan Kenobis as you pass exit after exit not wanting to be the one to cry "uncle" by leaning dash-ward to wonder aloud if the gas-supply situation had been properly monitored . . . Well, now that you mention it . . . So and so could use a smoke, some other and whom wouldn't mind a Slim Jim and a Mellow Yello, one and all might as well stretch their legs. Whatever on planet earth you do next, do not be the one to suggest the next the rise, getting a few more miles behind you before you stop. Scornful and chagrined, your fellow travelers will  call your bluff and there you'll sit all a'squirm with collective minds zeroing-in on your matter.

If you're really lucky there will be a state welcome center beyond the next rise. They have pamphlets and brochures . . . Here's a presidential library, there's the Spinach Capital of the World. Behold the Christ of the Ozarks. Witness healing springs. Visit Old Town Van Buren. Be sure to pick up your dog tick on the way out. They're complimentary. Very much like refreshing cups of OJ going into Florida. Except mandatory . . . Welcome to . . .


The Natural State. Like the state in which my very own dog tick will soon make camp for the night. Boy-howdy, could you be an unluckier dog tick than mine? At first, rejoice, I'm a chemo induced bleeder, sit back and sip to bursting.

Same token: I'm a chemical assassin, poison to suckers, come taste death.

It did. Yet it left its little red bump and had me fretting the tell-tale bullseye bite mark; but a couple days in, I felt comfortable that after all this cancer hullabaloo it would not be some pimply punk parasite to take me down.

Super Stores and Uncle Scores 

6/10/ 14

A few more highlights from my trip.

> One day at Walmart (to pay less and to appease the Ghost of Northwest Arkansas), Elena Jane of the triune boyfriend offered to assist in the pushing of my wheelchair. A roll or two into the feat, she resigned, citing as main reasons: I am too fat and too bald.

> Elena and Walmart continued: What the goldilocked scamp won't tell you is what brought us there that day. I won't either. It would be insensitive. Stooping. Altogether too undignified of me. Well, I suppose I could say this much . . . the pharmacy brought us, an unfortunate condition, an unfortunater bodily operating system.

> The Prescription--hail the liquid form! At least for any family that fit the contagion profile. Per the baby's nurse, I was in the clear. Sad sight. Three grumbling grown men, three far from eager little girls, in single file, pleading for amnesty, envying Jonathan's immunity. Hail the liquid form, at least, my dear family, hail and appease Lord Inoculation.

> Later, Bella the Tall, apprehends an injustice, "Heyyy, why doesn't Uncle Jonathan have to take the medicine?" Now mostly engaged, Abrianna the Furtive, would also like to know as much. Jonathan the Jester pounces, "Because Uncle Jah-ah-on-athan is too fat and too bald to take the medicine." Elena the Culprit laughs. And laughs. And laughs.

> I only fell twice and for convenience sake it was on the same occasion. Sometimes Rome is your brother's house where they sit in extra comfortable chairs and you, as you must when in Rome, do as they do. One such chair was in the guest room. I certainly don't require extra comfort as an excuse for falling, but here I blame it roundly, saving back just a smidgen of blame for my spindly legs and an inconsistent center of gravity. First fall: forgetting to factor in cushiness, my initial surge to rise from the chair lacked thrust enough to stand; after a half-second of hope for recovery, I fell, rump first, back to the chair. Second fall: I missed the chair proper, landed on the chair's arm and after a hopeless half-second, I fell again. Fortunately, Rome's guest rooms are carpeted.

>  I spent most of week with Chris and the girls so tales of other Arkansan relatives are few. Limited visiting means conversation and catching up takes the fore. But every evening there was some contingent of Scott's or another milling about the kitchen, paper plates variously laden, Solo cups mismatched -- original drinker's initials sweating in the hands of drinkers-come-lately.Contingents potentially comprising Mother of Many -- the Pasta Salad Refurbisher, Father of Just As Many -- the Grand-baby Bouncer, Brother Michael -- the Blond Tower, Brother Andrew -- the Quietly Attending; and the Most Honorably Mentioned, the Ones and Onlies nieces and nephews: Geoffrey Jonathan, Brandon Michael, Isabella Clarene, Abrianna Lynn, Elena Jane, Marylia Felicity, and Johnny Robert.

Thus, I survived my first full week away from home since the new diagnosis, only a vanishing tick-bite worse for the wear.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

with shakespearean gristle

The Drive There . . . But First, the Arrival

6/ 4/ 14

I took my show on the road last week. Three nieces awaited my arrival with what I take to be in retrospect the last of their bated breaths. They're a vociferous trio, these, but more delightfully distinct personalities among sisters you'd be unlikely  to find.

The youngest feigns shyness until she's certain I'm a decent enough uncle. Meanwhile, she hides behind my big brother's leg like one being sought in a child's game, unwittingly unconcealed. When she's certain that I'm an uncle to be trusted with her imagination, she tests my worthiness with an over-the-shoulder anecdote. I prove myself with silence, an adult with all ears. Then she unfurls her saga. One that involves a boyfriend and a boyfriend and a boyfriend.

The next niece I will not call a "middle child". In general, it's a disrespectful phrase; and in her case, it's a porous encapsulation.  Her "middleness", if anything, is an enviable "otherness". Her mind does not seem to be distressed by "lonesomeness" but seems to relish being left alone in hiatus-- a sibling ready to play on the trampoline, a little girl just as ready to disappear. Where she goes when she goes, I don't know, but I'd like to tiptoe behind; I'd bet it's a wondrous place with kites of purple chiffon riding silver drafts; I'd bet it’s a terrifying place circled and swooped upon by impatient condors.    

The oldest is tall.

Which is to say nothing of her personality.

Unless to note how she occasionally climbs into the sapling boughs of herself to observe in her sisters the shortness she's been molting all the while. Except to mention the way in which she still looks up to find candy on on top of the refrigerator but now must learn to look down to find scraps of treasure on an ever-receding floor.

Or to say, she is broaching her beauty on the awkward side of grace.

These kids have parents.

A mother whose beauty is a brooch worn meekly on the other side of the jacket she wears to teach other mother's children, an emblem of kindness and patience. Their mother is my sister-in-law by whose friendship I've been graced even before serendipity steered her my brother's way. She let me help cook despite my being more suited to eat; more satisfyingly still, she let me retain my status of glad dish doer despite my being more apt as dish breaker.

A father breaching his beauty on the could-not-give-a-spoonful-of- oatmeal side of gray. The good side, reader. Not the Just For Men side. Their father is my brother of the nick-of-time branch that time I was swinging like a horse thief from a rope swing over a gulch of jagged train track ballast and teen-tossed bottles.  

My brother of the time he met my wife and I that time in Memphis . . . last week to make the exchange. My corporeal being for a week without bedmate snoring. Don't believe her if says she didn't make the trade underwritten by enthusiasm.  All other possibilities aside, she was reluctant to agree to the trip, what with me being fresh off a round of chemo and a face acquaintance with a bathroom sink.  Notwithstanding recent events the drop-off/ pick-up was made in Memphis. Actually, in agreement of one of terms of the trip, the traditional rendezvous was rerouted to circumnavigate the perennial construction constrictions of I-40/ I-55. And to eat at Fuddruckers, naturally, a collective hour out of
the way according to Google Maps and in accord with my inability to comprehend the caprice Google Maps, let's call it a buck-thirty.

Now With Shakespearean Gristle to Beef Things Up

6/ 5/ 14

Why such a travel-time-busting locale? Reader, do you enjoy burgers? Prize deliciousness? Have you ever been to a Fuddruckers? If no then to this hamburgery go, and quickly too. Farewell.

Anybody left?

Let's the Rest [sing] Hey non nonny nonny, hey nonny, ask needless questions, expect needless answers.

If still nonplussed and/ or now offended, let me try a different angle.

There was a time my brother and I worked at the Fuddruckers in Birmingham. He in the kitchen helping me flip meats and shake Buffalo wings and expedite orders when slammed, me on the floor helping him run food and buss tables and sweep stations when in the weeds. We joining forces at closing time against the inch-deep grease under the grills and the filthy-shoe marred and tarred white tiles in the dining room. We expertly constructing our signature burgers and rendezvousing on the patio under the awning sweating in full view of disillusioned  guests and disappointed managers. Break-time considerations and an ill-advised location for me and my brother even way back when.

There's proprietary mustard, that's for remembrance. Pray you, love,
remember. And there is a fixins bar, that's for thoughts.

Why? Reminiscence and nostalgia, Reading Friends.

And so, an hour and fifteen minutes (on average) south of Memphis, TN, my brother from Mountainburg, AR and I (and my wife in reluctant cahoots) from Alabaster, AL, meet in Southhaven, MS to eat at a restaurant stashed away in the corner of a sketchy Harrah's Casino, itself stashed away just beyond the babiest babbling inlet of the Mighty Mississip'. 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

gator from the deli

"Lumber like the wind"-- Alex, Walking With Dinosaurs

People literately come up to me none of the time and ask me, “Considering your acute and chronic sedentary lifestyle, how do you maintain your weight such that when they ask you at the clinics if your weight is still the same you can say "yes"?”

And so I have never been compelled to answer but gladly would to emphasize my achievement:
“Consider, also, I am in a satiety battle with my steroids literally all the time-- give or take a few figurative times.”

Asked, compelled, or gladly, I will share anyway, of course.  Exercise.

As it turns out, I am somewhat aided by my disability, not as much as I am impeded, but not entirely without effect, lightening-the-load-wise.

My legs being of opposing minds and different skill sets with respect to forward movement and balance, there are certain counter-measures required for safety and desired for fruitful activity. Taking these precautions in many ways exerts more energy. There are no easy ambles. No distance-efficient strides. Each small step is a plant and push.

My right parietal lobe being no strict landlord and neither temporal lobes being opposed to subletting or partying, my spatial recognition seems to be getting crowded-out by the trans-lobal interlopers or gypsy-sacked and absconded with to foreign glials.

One the most discombobulating occurrences of these conjunction malfunctions is what I'll call the widening gyre of a routine function. For instance, doing dishes is kind of my jam. My chore tous les jours. [I will not say pardon my French, I will not say it in a pinch, I will not, I swill not, nor shall I flinch.] Exkyoose my Seuss.

Dish-doing is easy. Especially for a long time food service guy. Doing domestic dishes is almost laughable by comparison, it’s almost fun. When I plug in the usefulness factor, the onus is often a pleasure. If you know I’m stopping by, leave a little stack. I’ll stay for dinner, don’t even bother to protest. Even if we had casserole. No . . . especially if.

But in these multiform days, the cakewalk chore is becoming a cakewalk of the church fundraising sort. Because surely the cabinets are moving. The last time the plates were ninety degrees and three steps away relative to the dishwasher. And this time—eighty-five and four, just enough deviation to need to

They seem to be small degrees, and they are, but when confusion is combined with effort, there are circles to be done. Circles to be done on disparate legs. Therefore, circles made wider by a push exceeding the plant. The pivot cannot hold. The plates will fall.

For the time being, this pitiable orbit is only contained by the open door of the dishwasher and the stone counter beneath the plate cabinet; but as I carom off the sink then by incidence into the stove, this wobbly sphere could form a weebly cytoplasm, could paisley itself between the bar and the fridge, then slip all sci-fi into a glioblastomic infinity, through all which eternity I am damned to vaguely remember where the steak knives go.

At any rate, doing circles burns calories.

As usual, there are dietary concerns. And here, in lieu of putting this example into practice, I'll put it in the second person. You won't mind, will you? I won't.

A diet high in salty foods will reveal itself about the chin, cheeks, and jowls. Too conspicuous for your liking. Here are some options for reducing sodium intake: 1] Quit substituting  pork fatback for lean ground beef in your Double Cheese Chili Mac Hamburger Helper. 2] Eat a carrot (not an option). 3] Here’s my go-to alternative: grow a big fat beard on your big fat face. Low to no testosterone? Not a problem. Raid your church’s living nativity storage closet, shoo the goat, and borrow a magi beard or three; or your University of Liberal and Suspect Arts Theatre Department’s prop closet, shoo the coeds, and co-opt a Tevye; or your uncle’s Uncle Chik’s secret closet, shoo the goat, and nab his late wife’s bearded lady get-up.

If diet and exercise aren’t cutting it, try an aesthetic technique—a little trompe l’oeil (beg pardon). For example: since black is famously slimming and orange is the new black, go to a Bass Pros Shop, get you some gator from the deli, and bag yourself a hunter’s vest.