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Posts Tagged ‘Prometheus’

 

A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THE BIG ENDIVE BY THE BAY:
On Tuesday morning, Naida, Boo-boo and I left the Enchanted Forest for the Big Endive by the Bay and my meeting with the surgeon. Upon crossing the Bay Bridge, we drove directly to Peter and Barrie’s house where we unloaded and dropped off Boo-boo. We then proceeded to Mission Bay and my appointment. The night before, we had received a call informing us that the appointment time had been changed from 2:15 PM to 2 PM and insisting we be on time. We waited in the waiting area for over an hour before we were admitted into the examining room where we waited another hour before the surgeon showed up. During that second hour, we were first visited by a young woman who introduced herself as a “swallowing technician.” Yes, she did.

Interspersed between the happy talk and questioning me about the state of my swallowing, I was asked to make funny faces such as blowing out my cheeks while sticking out my tongue. I was also asked to make growling noises for some reason. Finally, a balloon was placed in my mouth and I was directed to press it with my tongue against the roof of my mouth three times. The only reason I could come up with for why I was subject to this silly but not particularly unpleasant activity was that I surmised it allowed the hospital to submit additional charges to Medicare. On the other hand, it could have been intended as entertainment in an effort to cheer me up for what was to come later.

The swallowing technician was followed by another young woman who introduced herself as the doctor’s assistant. Strangely, her first question was to ask me why I was there today. I responded, “Because I wanted to know whether I was a dead man walking or not.”  She seemed confused and stuttered a bit. She then busied herself looking up my records on the computer and informed us that there was a growth on both sides of my throat that had been there since my first CT scan way back in September. “O,” I said, “that’s interesting, no-one ever mentioned that before. Why is that?” She did not know and became even more confused and said she would have to ask the doctor. She then busied herself with administering me a sonogram on my neck and left.

Eventually, the surgeon arrived and his message sounded far less encouraging than I had hoped. Basically, he said that in his opinion it would be unsafe to operate at this time, and implied that at my age it would always be dangerous because my arteries were brittle from age and the effects of my radiation treatment. After musing about altering my chemotherapy regime, he advised me that I should enjoy myself as much as possible now. I did not take that advice as a positive comment on the state of my health. He then said, “I will see you in three months.” That seemed a bit more positive. At least he seemed to expect I would still be around three months from now.

That evening we had dinner back at Peter and Barrie’s. Barrie had cooked a very nice spaghetti carbonara for us. We were joined by a delightful friend of theirs from across the street who also happens to be my most responsive Facebook friend although I had never met her until that evening. She told us she was the daughter of a wealthy family in Orange County and that she had been kicked out of every college she attended until she ended up at some college in Mexico City before migrating to San Francisco at the height of its reign as the capital of hippiedom. There she was involved with people like Chet Helms and other leaders of the movement during those brief but wonderfully bizarre times.

The following morning we returned to the Enchanted Forest.

 

B. BACK IN THE ENCHANTED FOREST:
As I age, like many Vecchi, my short term memory seems to be…. well, a vague memory. If I do not write here every day, I often forget what has happened.

It is Friday evening. We returned on Wednesday. I recall little of what occurred in between. We walked the dog several times. I visited EDH a few times and drove HRM and Jake to Dick’s house. Susan McCabe called to see how I was doing. That made me happy. So did the Good/Bad David today. He was calling from the doctor’s office. It seems he is having blood-clot problems. That did not make me happy.

Today, I picked up Hayden, Jake, Caleb, and Hamza and drove them all to Dick’s house. I asked them how they were doing in school. Jake said his marks were improving because he was studying more. Hayden said his were also. I asked him why that was. He said that Dick promised he would be allowed to move from his small bedroom to the large family room downstairs if he gets certain grades on his final report.

I left them off at the house. There would be no adult supervision there (Hayden is a latch key kid now) because I was returning directly to the Enchanted Forest. I made them promise they would get into only a little bit of trouble. I worry about him. I know how distressing loneliness can be for an adolescent.

On Saturday, Naida and I exercised in the gym at the Nepenthe club-house. On Sunday, we sat in the studio, Naida editing her memoir in hopes of having it published before the State Fair opens in July while I passed the time writing this and trying to find something interesting enough on the internet to banish the pit of ennui into which I seem have fallen. I am not unhappy, in fact, I am as happy as I have ever been. It is just that I find this much sedentary living unsettling. Usually, whenever I have had this little to do, I take a nap. For some strange reason, I am both napping less and doing less. I will think more about this tomorrow, or the next day and perhaps understand it better.

It is now Tuesday afternoon. Tomorrow I leave for The Big Endive by the Bay and my infusion appointment. As usual, I will stay at Peter and Barrie’s house for two evenings before returning here on Friday.

 

C. OFF FOR TWO DAYS IN THE BIG ENDIVE WITH QUESTIONS OF MORTALITY.
So, three weeks have passed since my last Chemotherapy infusion and we are off again to San Francisco for what may be my final Chemo infusion and hopefully to find out more about my prognosis. As usual, we spent the night a Peter and Barrie’s home. My grandson Anthony arrived and joined us for dinner along with a friend of Peter and Barrie. She, suffering from incurable ovarian cancer, has lived for four years so far on immunotherapy alone. She has spent those four years happily traveling around the world. Hiromi and my granddaughter Amanda joined us a little later but Amanda was suffering from a bad cold and since I was told by my doctors to avoid such contacts they left after a brief meet and greet.

Barrie prepared a great meal that featured excellent polenta. During the meal, we told stories and played “small world.” You know, recalling the famous and near famous we may have run into in our long lives. Sometimes, I feel a bit like Zelig that mysterious character played by Woody Allen in the film of the same name who appears in the background of photographs of significant historical events. If I can be excused for name dropping and I can (this is my Journal after all) let me list the US president’s I have met and known — Reagan, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter — and presidential candidates, Fred Harris, Mike Dukakis, and Hillary Clinton. I assume most of us as we age have brushed shoulders with the so-called great and near great and experienced at least a passing contact with significant events. I guess we are all Zeligs to some extent.

The next morning I met with my oncologist, he told us that this was to be my last chemotherapy treatment and that surgery to remove the tumor was off the table because of my age and the fragility of my carotid artery. This opinion was devastating to me since it was essentially a death sentence. However, he also told us that the chemo has stabilized the tumor and it appears to have been effective in preventing cancer from spreading to other parts of my body. He informed us he was putting me on a two-year immunotherapy regime and advised me to enjoy life to the fullest. He appears quite confident that an early onset of death would be delayed to sometime beyond the two years and perhaps held in check long after that. This cheered me up — but only a bit.

That evening back at Peter and Barrie’s during dinner we had to break up a contretemps between Ramsey and Boo-boo over possession of a well-chewed tennis ball.
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Boo-boo Hiding Out at Peter and Barrie’s House after Misbehaving.

 

The next morning we returned to Sacramento.

 

D. BACK IN THE ENCHANTED FOREST AND A BRIEF TRIP INTO THE FOOTHILLS.
After dropping Naida and Boo-boo off at our house in the Enchanted Forest, I drove up to the Golden Hills and Picked up HRM and the gang and drove them to Dick’s house. H and I discussed the possibility of making a trip to Portland, Idaho, and Montana during his spring break. I then returned home and wrote this while watching Ray Milland and Grace Kelly in Dial M for Murder. We then walked the dog. I feel good.

It is now Sunday. Spring seems to have slipped into the Great Valley and taken hold, bringing with it sunny days, warm weather, flowers of every color and hay fever (It’s always something —Rosanna Rosannadanna.) It being such a beautiful day, I decided to walk the dog along the meandering pathways of the Enchanted Forest. The new leaves of the ground cover ivy were a bright almost iridescent green in the bright sun.

On Tuesday at about 2PM, I went to bed. Not for a nap, I knew I would not get up until the following morning. The side-effects of the Chemo infusion, depression, and general fatigue had exhausted me. I woke up periodically during that afternoon and evening. During those brief periods, I would read a chapter of Elena Ferrante’s Novel, “My Brilliant Friend,” or check up on Facebook and then return to sleep.

Ferrante’s book is marvelous and its translation extraordinary. The translation often preserves the Italian language’s ability to express itself in long (at times a page or more) complex sentences encompassing vast emotions and multiple events that in English must be broken up into many separate sentences.

At some point during the evening, I finally came to terms with the fact that I was going to die, sooner rather than later. It is clear that an operation is infeasible and any potential chemical cure has run its course unsuccessfully. I recalled when Bill Yeates’ wife in a similar situation had had enough of the suffering from attempts to prolong her life and the courage to chose to take advantage of the new law to end it humanely. I do not believe I will choose that approach. Primarily because I am, in fact, happier than I have ever been in my life. At night, every night, I lie entwined in Naida’s arms ( sometimes so entwined we giggle over our inability to easily identify whose arms and legs belong to whom). There is a peace and happiness I never experienced before. Yes, I always had hoped I would find that, but there was always something else to do, something more to explore. Perhaps happiness needed accomplishment and experience. And, it did — but only for the stories with which to pass the time and perhaps a bit of justification for one’s life. But enough of this. I woke up on Tuesday. It is another day. When I awoke she was in my arms and that is all that matters now.

Damn, I cannot connect to the internet today. I cannot figure out how to fix the problem. Naida’s computer is connected. My smart-phone after a brief problem connected, but my computer remains— stubbornly unresponsive. What to do? What to do? Is interruption of internet service a modern form of Death? I sit in my chair typing this and feeling a strange form of fear. What happens should I not be able to re-connect here, am I doomed to trundling off to Starbucks every day to access the internet and confirm my existence? Is my life so bereft of meaning that I am reduced to depending on the friendship of people on Facebook many of whom I have never met? Is social media simply an updated version of those two-way radios long-distance truck drivers used to use to avoid the boredom and loneliness of their working lives? Have we become the physical and emotional slaves of our machines? Are we needed for anything beyond self-indulgence? Am I so bored that I need to ask these questions even in jest? Is anyone laughing? If I were connected to the internet I could find out.

Ha, one of our medical student borders just came downstairs and said her internet connection was down also. She promptly marched over to the modem that I had fiddled with for a very frustrating hour or so, pressed a button on top and the internet connection popped right up again. I feel like an idiot. Now if she can do the same with my failed medical treatments I would call today a very good day.

This morning, Hayden called to ask me to pick him up after school. It was unusual for him to call like that, so despite not being completely over with the side-effects of the infusion, I drove into the Golden Hills. I met HRM and Caleb at the skatepark. They were planning to go to the Wednesday church youth get together. He said that his mom appears to have relaxed her opposition to him attending. She had wanted him to become a Buddhist and not a Christian. He felt Buddhism was a way of life and not a religion. “Besides,” he said, “it’s boring for teenagers.” She seemed to concede by responding “Whatever makes you happy.” So I dropped them off at Caleb’s home where they would spend the afternoon until it was time to go to the teenage get-together. I left them with my advice that they should be kind to all as much as they can but to be fair to everyone and drove back to the Enchanted Forest where I was met by a happily yapping little dog and a hug from Naida.

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I am at that point in my life where, I suppose like many people, I begin to contemplate that ineffable question, “Who am I?” — Or perhaps “Why?”— then again maybe not. Who cares?

Lets cut to the chase. I have always thought of myself as… Well, in a quantum world “always” does not exist or matter. So let me instead begin with — As I write this, I think of myself as an ascetic hedonist. That makes no sense you may say. How can one be both ascetic and a hedonist at the same time? (I guess, a person who gets pleasure out of self-flagellation can be described that way. But, that is beyond what I can handle right now.)

Anyway, let me explain the image I have about myself by using an analogy. I picture myself as a hermit living in a remote cave in the middle of a great desert somewhere. Every morning I get up just before sunrise, go out to some miserable rocky place, contort myself into an unpleasant and uncomfortable pose and contemplate or hum or something else all day.

I would contemplate life’s meaning, real meaning like, “Why was I doing this in the first place?” “Am I just a sick human being?” “What happens after this, whatever this is ?”

If I may digress from my digression, let me discuss my problem with what some large groups of people say comes after this, whatever this is?

There are, for example, a large group of people who believe that if you are male and an efficient killer after you die you get to be locked up forever with a bunch of young virgin women who probably will not remain virgins for long. Everyone else, other than other killers locked up like you, gets to sit on the outside doing nothing apparently except wondering what you guys are doing inside. I think I would prefer to be with the outsiders, at least we probably get to shrug our shoulders and roll our eyes now and then.

Another large group seems to believe that if in your life you get to avoid people who disagree with you, or force them to agree with you, or kill them if they don’t or they get too close to you, you then get to spend all eternity staring at some self-important serial killer surrounded by armed hermaphrodite thugs and listening to Gregorian Chant. Those not so lucky get to spend their time boiled in flaming vats of sulfur and oil. Now I have nothing against Gregorian Chant, but I think I prefer being boiled in sulfur and oil if I could not hear something else now and then — even country and western. Well, maybe not that.

Then, there are those that believe if you do nothing but not hard enough or if you do something during life, after you die you return as a maggot. If you’re lucky, you get eaten by a crow before you do anything and if you come back again, say a thousand times, doing nothing you may get to be good enough at doing nothing other than thinking about yourself so that after you die you then get to come back as… well, nothing, forever. What’s the point?

There are also those who believe that, if you spend your life running around killing people and you get to be so good at it that other people make up songs about how efficient you were at mayhem, or they erect statues to you, you then get to spend all eternity with homicidal maniacs like yourself in a sunny place with a lot of grass playing something like football and drinking warm beer. Everyone else gets to live in a cold dreary place weeping and crying forever, except for one or two who get to push rocks up hills or have their liver torn out every day by hawks. Given the choice of eternal football and warm beer or weeping and crying in a cold dreary place, I’ll take the latter. It seems more like life, doesn’t it?

Well, enough of that. Let’s get back on topic, “Who am I?”

On the Hedonist side, I would want my cave to have a nice bed, internet connection, food delivery, maid service, a sauna and of course hot water. Even at a minimum, I could tolerate a well-padded sleeping bag as long as all the other things were included especially hot water preferably in a tub or a pool and in my espresso.

Once a week, I would travel to nearby podunk town, go to a loud crowded bar (if loud and crowded were unavailable any bar would do) order a beer, take it to a table in a far corner or the far edge of the bar and sit quietly nursing my beer and watching everything or if there is no one but an old drunk sitting at the other end of the bar then staring at my beer wishing I were back in my cave tucked warmly in my bed. Later, I would return to my cave and, after a warm bath and a joint, crawl into bed, spend a few moments of what is euphemistically called self-love and then drift off to sleep contemplating the pleasures of crouching on the stony ground pondering “what’s it all about?”

What’s it all about? Well, it’s not existentialism. After all, I think I have meaning even if you don’t. It’s not about, oh,… say solipsism. When you think about it, when you’re deaf dumb and blind crawling face down through a sea of mud and you strike something else, it is not just you alone, is it? There are other isms too, a lot of them, but I think they all end up in more or less the same place— usually not someplace I want to end up. As for a Supreme Being who actually cares for you, I think we’ve disposed of that above.

So what is there? There’s you and there’s me. We may never meet or be the same, but I think that’s the way it should be, don’t you?

And that is who I think I am —then again, maybe not.

 

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I spent the morning – during my walk to breakfast, at breakfast, while swimming and at lunch – running through my mind various self-justifying stories about what that particular day means to me. I was going to write them down here because I thought some of them were pretty good. But, I’ll save you that pleasure. What really interests me today is Samuel Beckett. You know Andre the Giant’s friend who was so obsessed with cricket, – that Sam Beckett. (Samuel Beckett used to drive André the Giant to school. All they talked about was cricket.)

Andre the Giant was a professional wrestler and actor who appeared in what is, in my opinion, the greatest movie ever made, “The Princess Bride.”

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Contemplating the mystery and significance of Andre would take me more than one day so, instead, I concentrated on Sam.

Well, Sam wrote a lot of books and plays when he was not driving Andre around or watching cricket matches. One novel in particular always fascinated me. It was about someone deaf, dumb and blind, without arms and legs lying face down in a puddle of mud slowly slithering along until he bumps into something. This was all that the novel was about, all three hundred or so pages of it. I do not remember the name of the book. You can look it up.

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Now, I know Beckett intended his story to explore solipsism (you can look that up too), a philosophy or view of life that fascinated him. But he was a storyteller and as I have pointed out previously one can never trust a storyteller, they always lie. The lies aside, what always interested me was that he was also wrong.

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You see, even someone deaf, dumb and blind, without arms and legs lying face down in a puddle of mud slowly slithering along when he bumps into something is still a blood sack with a bunch of electrons floating around between neurons that have gathered from the environment various electrical and other forces, formed them into an image and then tells the blood sack what it is he is experiencing. Now, the deaf, dumb and blind someone without arms and legs lying face down in a puddle of mud slowly slithering along has no idea whether what he is being told is the truth or not. He may, actually, be floating through the air above a beautiful verdant landscape for all he knows. Something may be amiss among the neurons or they may just be playing with him. In fact, if he believes he is deaf, dumb and blind, without arms and legs lying face down in a puddle of mud slowly slithering along when he bumps into something, something is probably very wrong with his neurological machinery. Even if, in fact, he is deaf dumb and blind and slithering face down through a puddle of mud he may either panic and despair or laugh at the absurdity of it all. And, if the latter, he could then utter Reilly’s famous observation, “what a revolting development this is.”

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Which brings me back to what this all means to me on this particular day. What it means to me and to you is that, if you know who Reilly is, then you are probably at least as old as I am, and you know, as I do, that our “Use by” date is rapidly approaching.

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It is interesting that in the iconography of the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) death is most often imagined as a demon; “Lucifer Light Bringer” being the arch-demon.

Lucifer Light Bringer was a demigod (angel) who like Prometheus (another demigod) committed the universally unforgivable sin of gods everywhere for bringing knowledge to the human race. For this they were to be punished for all eternity; Prometheus by being chained to a rock and having his liver clawed out daily by an eagle; and Lucifer by having his light put out and being forced to live with that monstrous big boobed bitch Lilith while spending the rest eternity dipping the souls of the damned, head down into barrels of boiling piss.

It seems that what the gods intend us to learn is that on earth as it is in heaven, no good deed goes unpunished.

This is probably why so many of our Abrahamic brethren suffer so:

The Jews with their unreasonable sense of guilt, probably for inventing the insane god that they did. But cheer up my circumcised brethren, the pagan gods were no better, except that they were superior at multi-tasking; being able to drink wine and laugh, while roasting humanity on the rotisseries of life.

The Christians with their utter terror of their totally insane and vindictive god

Muslims with their hatred of anyone not forced to suffer like them under the not so benevolent hand of Allah.

The history of the Catholic Church and Christianity can be summed up as the battle between those who believe that god intended the spoils of life to go to those whose lives most demonstrate a willingness to do almost anything to achieve success in this life (e.g. Augustine and Jerome who believed, it is not the good you do that makes one blessed but the strength of your blind fervor.) and those who now and then actually do a good deed or two. Unfortunately, that dank cesspool referred to as the Catholic hierarchy all too often gave lip-service to the latter but idolized the former.

The Gnostics understood the truth behind the symbolism when they maintained that the Abrahamic god was the prince of evil and that Lucifer Light Bringer and Prometheus were the avatars of the God of Light destined to ultimately end the dread reign of this spawn of Loki.

Of course there are always exceptions, Maimonides, Hillel, Francis of Assisi, Rumi are some. I would like to add one of my favorites Omar Khayyam to the list. After all he did say that the primary goal of life is “…a loaf of bread, a glass of wine and thou beneath the bough…” but that is going too far I think.

By the way, what is it about Islam and alcohol (they invented the word for god’s sake)? After all, their history is filled with alcoholic poets and drunken califs and sultans.

Did you know, that there once was an Ottoman sultan so distressed that his supply of favorite wine in his cellar was running out, he allowed himself to be persuaded to begin a war to conquer the country (Cyprus) that made his beloved vintage, after the Cypriots, egged on by the Pope (of course), threatened to sell no more of their wine to the islamic heathens.

The good Christian nations, fearing that these vines would be lost to the true church should the sultan achieve his goal, united, as they had almost never been able to before in history for anything, and kicked the Sultan’s ass at the battle of Lepanto, beginning the slow steady decline of the Ottoman Empire and of Islamic civilization that continues today.

It was just about at this same time, back in old Europe, recently recovered from the plague, that a few priests, among them Luther, Calvin and Wycliffe, decided to take the lunatic god at his word. Recognizing that the fruits of life seemed to inure to those most willing to climb over the corpses of anyone who stood in their way, these divines declared that since that is what usually happens in life anyway, it therefore must be the will of God.They also maintained that such success must be some indication of favor from the Most High and therefore as long as he (and it most assuredly must be a he) took the psychotic god into his heart, he would also be first among the elect when he, to the relief of his victims, finally died.

After all, God must be displeased (as he was displeased with the children of Israel once they stopped winning their wars of extermination) with the miserable of the earth and the poor as he was with the Southern Eastern European migrants to the US during the last century and the South American and Africans of the past few decades, since he made their lives so unbearably wretched.

Our fundamentalist brethren,( and if truth be known, the Catholic hierarchy) cheer this insight to this day.

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