It's difficult to write, sometimes. Our missing and now silent friends could remind us of that. When things bit hard, they got quiet. I think mostly of grundoon and dannye, both of whom I had the chance to meet and entertain - before I joined the club nobody wants to belong to.
Though with me it's not a terminal diagnosis - at least not yet. It's just an elevation of the background pain level all humans learn to deal with as they age. The mental anguish of maturing, and experiencing, is replaced by the human body refusing to function in a nominal mode (I say, stealing a term from NASA). That's what it is.
I had chemo brain. I know this because I could measure my mental acuity nearly daily. I saw myself lose untold I.Q. points and then regain most of them. Most. When I asked my oncologist about it (chemo brain) he just shrugged. Seems that "chemo brain" is something everyone knows exists, but science hasn't yet taken the time to quantify. Medical science needs stuff to be quantifiable numerically before it can be determined to be real. All science needs repeatibility. That's what science is - instructions on how results are achieved given in a way so that you can prove it to yourself (provided you have the right equipment, etc...nobody's going to go measure their own higgs boson in their garage.)
So when I complained to my representative of medical science that I couldn't remember numbers or even what I had for breakfast (usually, nothing), he had no answer. The techs in the infusion room all knew it existed. They see their clients deteriorating daily. But how much deterioration? And will it "go away"? - are not questions they have answers to. And docs aren't going to feed you a whole bunch of speculation for which there are no statistics. That's how people wind up with claims on their malpractice insurance.
I can think of little else these days than having cancer and having to go through chemo again. Actually - it turns out they don't call it chemo anymore. They call it "immunotherapy," because what the technology is attempting is to train your own immune system to kill cancer (which is very difficult to do because cancer doesn't differ genetically very much from the rest of you).
But my wife, whom in my past life I called the blonde haired girl, insists I write things. She is convinced this will keep me from spiraling into suicidal depression.
I assure her I know the cure for suicidal depression, and it's drugs. I have no shame about this. If the docs suggest they pump me full of opiates - I'm in. Psychedelics. THC in any form. I'm in. Call me Hunter Thompson. The only thing that soothes me these days - with my lungs still aching from two bouts of COVID in the last 3 years plus chemo, plus cancer coming on again- the only things that seem to offer any easing of this life I live now are chemicals. I have no use for gentle, organic, or natural methods, unless they involve severe alteration to my reality.
Don't get me wrong. I love reality. I love my family. My new grandson. My children. My home in the forest. I wound up in a good spot after all these decades. I worked my ass off for 45 years and it paid.
Then I got cancer. C'est la vie. If I could blame myself, or someone else I'd figure out how to do that. But it's just nature. Nobody in medical science has the faintest clue where my cancer came from. The best guess so far is, "exposure to radiation."
Well, if it's exposure to radiation then I'm putting my money on alien abduction, because there's no radiation I know of that I was exposed to. Though radiation can be sneaky that way.
Cancer causes pain and pain makes one cranky. It makes one weak. Nobody wants to be around a highly dependent cranky person.
Thank ye gods weed is legal here. I'd probably be addicted to something awful without it. My wife says it makes me tolerable.
So be it. For the good of the marriage, I get stoned nightly. Bob Dylan would be proud.
I don't remember if I had eaten a THC gummy or not, but damn, things seemed pretty ridiculously funny at the Arts Council meeting I attended with the blonde haired girl after I got back from NJ.
More later about excessive paranoia and how going to New Jersey is sort of like being high - from the point of view of pure distilled 100% virgin paranoia. Weed doesn't make me paranoid. It makes everything seem really familiar and stupid.
The wife said, "You don't have to come to this, but I have to go, and I want you with me."
So I figured it was a karmic debt I have to pay off having dragged her from Eastern Europe to China and lots of places between playing the role of the duitiful spouse attending business occasions with me. Not only was she jetlagged in places like Yerevan, Armenia but she had no language skills or geographic knowledge of the place. So when she got bored at the hotel and hitchhiked to the Iranian border, it was because I dragged her to that city.
(When the Armenians found out where she had gone, they were beside themselves with terror - as if she was still there about to be kidnapped by the Iranians...thats how significant her jaunt was...not to mention being brought in by bedoin shepherds and fed lunch - all while I assessed the readyness of my Armenian team to release the commercial software they were developing for the western market.)
How bad could it be, going to the Arts Council festival?
Well, as I mentioned several nodes ago, I re-read Breakfast of Champions where the climax takes place at an arts council festival. If I had any weed in my brain I would have reminded myself that at any moment someone may run amok. But I wasn't thinking of that. I was, however, thinking of running amok as a way to relieve the tedium.
Some of the exhibitions at this "invitation only" event we were at were riveting. By "riveting" I mean: absolutely ludicrous. At least to me.
What went through my mind was this: "I hope no Arizona conservatives see this or they will yank all funding for the arts in the northern part of the state."
The reason I thought this is because I am a liberal and I wondered how taxpayer money could be spent in these ways.
Now - I must admit that I don't understand most art. I appreciate the importance of art, and I think that it should be encouraged.
"A Rock Opera About One Man's Obscession with Ferrets"
Ok. That was a title. And it was what it said. And it was pretty funny.
I had to ask the wife: "Should I be laughing now? I can't remember if I ate a gummy or not before coming to this so it may just be me."
She said, "Yes, this is funny. You can laugh." Though the guy who did the rock opera is a colleague of my wife, and so she was laughing to support him. Either that or it was actually funny. I laughed every time he sang the word, "ferret."
I guess I had eaten a gummy. One thing about THC gummies - it's easy to forget when you already had one. Which can lead to complete immobilization. (These days, if I wonder to myself, "did I just have a gummy?" I presume I did. It's safest that way.)
This was not that.
Another bit of art was : "Growth from the Ashes"
There were two artists on that one.
One rule of art should be: "If you want to get a point across, try for just one point, not seven."
They had seven points to make about regrowth and rebirth after the terrible forest fires we had here last year. Thirty homes were destroyed. Hundreds of millions in damage.
Their art consisted of performance in seven "acts" - each act highlighting a different part of the aftermath of the fires and subsequent floods.
Ok, you say - this is going to be a difficult topic, especially if it's seen by someone whose home burned to cinders less than a year before.
I can only presume the difficulty in making whichever point they had in mind is why they had seven acts. Each "act" consisted of a performance.
Each performance had four components:
First component: plants. To show that the plants would regrow.
The artists had made a variety of plant and flower arrangements and had them on stage. They would hold a flower pot holding these nicely arranged botanical entities while peforming component number two:
Poetry. Of course. Why not speak about the plants being shown and say why that little flower arrangement could be indicative of the vile, indiscriminant destruction wrought by God upon our people? Poetry is cheaper than plants. It can be dense to some. Or upbeat. Or dour. Or just plain self-indulgent.
This poetry was somewhat self-indulgent to my ears, and humorous. Because the poetess was holding a potted flower arrangement while speaking the poem to a backround of
Music - component number three. Why not have music to express the depraved emotions that arise when we think of our neighbors suffereing such great loss? The performance was in seven acts, but we who were invited to the "artists preview" only got to see 2 of the seven. And the song they picked for act 1 was one that I do enjoy on occasion. It was Prison Sex by Tool.
I may have been on drugs, or not. I can't tell anymore.
Did they just play Tool while reciting a poem about the burning forest while holding aloft a topiary?
I so wish THC had made me think that. Then I would have more faith in life itself. But no. Other people saw the same things which brings us to performance component number four.
Oh ye gods, how I wish I had hallucinated that. How I wish it was a weed-dream. But alas, it wasn't.
So one woman held up a topiary while reciting her poem on top of Maynard whining about buggery - while another woman gyrated around a shiny stainless steel pole. Same kind of poles you see in strip clubs. Same kind of strip club moves. Only no clothing removed.
One thing I'll say - those women have some good core strength.
As we were walking back to our car I had to ask my wife what we had just seen, and was it what she expected, and was I not supposed to laugh at the pole dancer?
She told me that the ferret guy was a laugh. Pole dancer, maybe not.
I have to admit that in my debilitated state I sat in the car wondering if that arts council money couldn't have been better spent buying telescopes for grammar schools, but that seemed too right wing for me, so I just prayed silently that my giggling didn't get my wife in trouble.
Well, as fortune would have it, we had parked our car right next to my wife's boss and her husband, who were also invited to the event. We saw each other and hopped out of our respective vehicles onto the sidewalk.
First thing she said to us, "Did you find any of that weird or inappropriate?"
I piped up - "Oh, it was absolutely surreal. Was it supposed to be?"
"And that guest speaker - what was that all about?" the husband asked, rhetorically.
I answered anyway, "I think the guest speaker was giving us a multi-media resume of her skills, and not any sort of art or advice about art."
"I didn't get it," said the blonde haired girl. "What were they trying to say?"
Nobody had an answer. None of us arty liberals could figure out any of it, except that the ferret guy was funny and he was trying to be.
Because I was sure I knew what everyone was thinking I gave voice to the thoughts: "Now I know for certain that we live in Green Acres. This is Petticoat Junction."
But nobody got the allusion because my wife's boss and her husband are British and never saw those old American sitcoms. To quote Willy Wonka - "Never be sure of what nobody knows."
I wish they had known Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor and Arnold Ziffel the pig.
Then they would know how true it is.
The reason my wife was invited to the artists only evening was because of the Poetry Omnibus.
My wife likes poetry. She hangs around with poets. Some are apparently famous, but as the only poets I know of are T.S. Eliot, etouffee, and Ogden Nash I'm left in the dust on their conversations. (One of my wife's poet friends went back to Oxford (university) where she was schooled in literature to read from her latest book of poems. So, that's something. )
My wife invented Poetry Omnibus when we lived in Juneau, Alaska. I think I wrote about it back in 2006. She got locals to submit and judge poems. When they got the right number of poems, of the correct length, the city bus line put the poems inside the busses in those spaces where advertisements usually go. I guess in Juneau you don't need much advertisement because everybody knows where everything is and what they have. So the busses had unused ad space, and the wife got them to donate it. And apparently the bus riding tourists and locals like the poems and they've been doing it ever since.
So now we have Poetry Omnibus here in Northern Arizona. Only as this is Arizona and as Arizona does things seriously - they screen painted the poems on the outsides of the busses. So if you come here and see the local busses running, you will note that they are all powered either by propane or batteries, and they have poems on them.
I am not a poet, so I submitted no poems. Also, there is fear of rejection.
So, ok. I have written an occasional poem. Yes, I was the poet laureate of Antarctica for the year 2004.
That was before chemo brain. And before I knew I could spice up everything by getting some of the local women to pretend they were deep in the forest with nothing around but lodge-pole pines and Tool playing on the smartphone.