Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Only The Shadow Knows (Nostalgia Ahead)

My dad had a small house and when my sisters and I would stay with him I had to sleep in my dads bed with him.  Other than the snoring I did not mind and we would listen to the radio as we would fade into the static of sleep.  On Sunday nights we would listen to replays of old time radio shows like The Shadow, Boston Blackie, Rocky Jordan, X Minus One, Johnny Dollar, Duffy's Tavern and I could keep listing and listing but I won't.

They would play two episodes from two different shows and they would follow along from week to week until the storyline had finished, there were some stand alone episodes but most were shows of that time were serial in nature.  Even before the TV it was still about ads and they wanted everyone to tune in each week to hear the ads.  Before Orson Wells had the Mercury Theater Playhouse it was the Campbell's soup Playhouse.  The preceding has been a side-note brought to you by my wandering mind, thank you and remember to tune in next week and remember to buy blue coal, it is colored a harmless blue color at the mine so you know you are getting the finest in Pennsylvanian Anthracite.  That Last bit is from memory, but I think it is pretty close, Blue Coal sponsored The Shadow which was one of my favorite shows.

In a lot of ways my dad was a hard man, he was a child of depression for better and worse.  When I was a child, my dad didn't say he loved me and we did not hug or kiss, but me and my dad would go to sleep listening to old time radio and it was good and it was warm and fuzzy and Norman Rockwell could have painted it for the over of the Saturday Evening Post.

My dad bought an old trailer home and put it out on some property he had in Skull Valley Utah.  There was no electricity or running water, but it was a significant upgrade from a tent.  The whole family would go out there from time to time, but as me and my siblings got older that time to time became less and less for everyone but my dad and I.  We did not initially have a TV, but my dad had an old short wave radio we would listen to the radio and play cribbage by the light of some camping flashlight and I am sure that Norman could have found some inspiration there.

My childhood was pretty shitty.  It was shitty enough that even with pseudo-anonymity that this forum provides I will probably not document the shit of it for the world.  I may put shit to paper in twenty years or so but not now.

Why the juxtaposition between the Norman Rockwell moments and the ambiguous shit moments that I speak of?  I am aging and I think I am aging at a pace that is faster than most.  The sick are quick to age, not quick at much else but definitely quick to age and as I speed away from the day my dad died I remember everything about his life as it wrapped around mine.  There was good and there was bad, I have to be careful here because I think I am slowly writing a bad Paul McCartney song, but as I age, I find myself missing my father and looking back at the good times with my father with nostalgia and the bad times are there but they are in the background like a poorly lit scrim with some out of focus gobos.

I see people focus on the bad and become bitter and unhappy, I see people deny the bad exists and live in constant fear that they will be forced to remove their heads from the sand and then there is what I have done.  Is my way the best?  Only The Shadow Knows.

I thought about ending it there, but it seemed like a cop out so here is a couple more lines...

I have denied and I have been bitter and I have focused on the good and become nostalgic about my father and I am happiest being nostalgic.  I am still saying prayers for my father in purgatory because I have not forgotten the bad, but hell he is dead and nostalgia is fun (as long as it is not some hipster being ironic, I still wish I was well some days just so I could punch me a hipster or two).  I have nostalgia for a bit of the ultra-violence as well, but that does not belong here, so remember nostalgia is mostly good, especially about people from your past.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Rip Van Winkle Could Have Used Some Meth And Other Fairy Tales (I Have Missed Many Nows)

I did not post a post last week, I know that my three regular readers noticed.  I have been ill and not like the ill from the Beastie Boys album Ill Communication.  I am not the sickest I have ever been (I know no one is tired of hearing that!) but I am pretty sick.

Over the last two weeks I managed to start two blog posts, but made little progress on both.  The cause of this is not going to be a surprise, it is the sarcoidosis and the flare there of.  Specifically, I have been doing some sleeping, Rip Van Winkle style.

I started having trouble with severe fatigue shortly after being diagnosed.  At the beginning my body still had some resiliency, but after five years it is not just my mind that is being worn down, the body has followed along for the ride.

Over the last two weeks I was awake eight hours or less each day.  It has been hard on me, my wife and my cat.  That is bad, but unfortunately it gets worse, those eight hours were not quality hours.  There have been days where I have not left the bedroom.  My hygiene has gone out the window (some out the door). 

I hate being dirty and the only thing I hate more than being dirty is being smelly and over the last two weeks I was dirty and smelly more days than not.  My joints and muscles have been uncooperative in my quest to be clean, on one occasion my wife had to bring me my toothbrush and a couple of cups because I was unable to brush at the sink let alone shower.

I have a doctors appointment next week, I am going in with no expectations.  Back in the day when I had full control over my faculties I read studies and traveled out of state to see specialties and blah, blah, blah.  The upshot is I have a rare disease and there are no new treatments.  I wake up each morning, take an inventory of my body and I try to make a plan to have some joy that day. 

I do have one expectation for the doc, maybe some symptom relief, maybe...

All right bringing it back around to Rip Van Winkle, he slept and the world passed him by.  Time does not exist and only the now is real, that being said I prefer to be awake for the nows.  Now take a step back with me and I will say that being sick for the past five years I feel like Rip Van Winkle because the world does pass you by when you can not get out of the house or interact with it.

The past couple of weeks this has become really apparent, like watching an ant through a microscope, that is right not a magnifying glass a microscope.  I feel like I have missed many nows.  I have been going through a sick phase since Christmas and for my Catholic posse the worst part of this is that I have been unable to attend mass since I left early on Christmas.  Being sick sucks, being sick and asleep sucks, being sick and not being able to go to church sucks, being sick and missing time with your wife sucks.

Being sick sucks. 

This post is not as fleshed out as I would like because I am sick and that sucks too.

PS

The cat is not getting enough attention and she has let me know, no sympathy from the cat and I think that might be a good thing.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Ozzy (How I learned to love tinnitus)

January 22nd, 1988 I saw Ozzy Osbourne in concert.  Anthrax was the opening act, now Anthrax was certainly a good band, but I had not particular affinity for the band and had not purchased any records or cassettes so I could listen to their music at will.  Napster would not be around for another ten years or so and if you wanted to pirate music you had to know someone with a record or cassette that was willing to let you put some wear on their media to produce a copy.

That being said I was looking forward to seeing Anthrax because word on the street was they put on a Hell of a live show.  My best friend and I were obsessed with Black Sabbath (Band not movie) and we showed up several hours before the doors were to open.  We were both wearing unlined Levi jackets and it was cold, but we were planning ahead because it was going to be hot once everyone started mashing together.

This concert was held at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City and was a couple of years before the deaths at the AC\DC concert so the whole floor was GA.

Well there was a lot of crap that happened that we are going to do a verbal montage for, lots of hairspray, many bangs were close to God, many shirts with sleeves and sides cut out, men only,  the women wore mid riff shirts often adorned with fringe of their own making, there were weapons, booze, and bullets (we used to put 22 bullets in the Levi tag on our Levi jackets, I am not sure why this was cool but trust me it was), the wealthy among us groundlings wore leather, tight leather, the kind of leather that was so tight that when it was being removed the person would have a paste made of sweat and baby powder (not sexy) but it looked amazing why it was on, power tripping security guards pushing us around (picture minority women not angry young men who could not get on the police force, I am not sure why this was but it was), everyone smelled like cigarettes and there were some pre-gamers that ended up adding the aroma of vomit to the arena.  Montage over (scene).

Then, like some lyrics from a Pink Floyd song they sent along a surrogate band for Anthrax, after all these years I cannot remember why but I think Scott Ian was sick or injured or something along those lines, but the point is we were all shocked to see Kip Winger and his band Winger come out on stage.  Winger... Instead of Anthrax....

I have been to quite a few concerts and shows and this is the only one I have personally witnessed a crowd, not all of the crowd, but enough of the crowd you could hear it in the stadium, boo.

As time went on and Winger continued to perform, the crowd increasingly gave Winger the bird.

It was bad and worse than bad they were loud and bad.  They left the stage and an intermission began as they prepared for Ozzy.  My ears were ringing and it seemed as though dulcet tones of Kip Winger kept dancing around my skull much like evil sugar plumb fairies left over from a bad Christmas party.  There was an unhappy malaise had settled over the crowd and the setup for Ozzy was taking a long time which left us alone with our tinnitus.

Then Ozzy took the stage and the world became electric.  It was the No Rest For The Wicked tour, but Ozzy did not disappoint, Black Sabbath was well represented.  The beginning notes of Iron Man began to play and the whole arena began to shake their fists to the beat, it was a wild sea of people but a unity of arms marching to the beat of Iron Man.  A was a fat young man and I had taken off my Levi jacket because of the heat and during that song you could see the bass waves traveling through my arm.  At the time it was the closest I had been to religious ecstasy.At the end of the show he came on to tell us how sick, he was but he hoped we enjoyed the show (I had not noticed he was ill) and then he played his last song.

At this point many people began to filter out of the arena, but we knew the show was not over, Ozzy ends every show with the song Paranoid and he had not done any encores yet.  I am not sure why everyone left, but with him being sick and half the crowd having left, he came on and gave us Paranoid and it was the end of a fine show.

As my friend I walked home from the show we were unwittingly shouting at each other because we had become slightly deaf from the volume of the music and that was okay and the evening that had started in the depths with Winger had been redeemed by Ozzy.

The moral to this story is perseverance and patience and Ozzy always puts on a good show even when he is sick.  Every time I hear the ringing in my ears, I think of Iron Man and leather.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Midnight Mass (A Morality Tale In Several Paragraphs)

My wife had to work on Christmas Eve until 11:00 pm so she would not have time to come and get after work and get me to the Cathedral in time for me to find a seat.  I need a seat because my poor, disabled bones cannot even stand for the parts of Mass that you are normally supposed to stand for let alone the entire thing.  Under those circumstances my sister was generous enough to haul my crippled butt and the rest of me up to the Cathedral in time for me to find a seat.

Warning details of the limitations of the sick man traveling from his sick room to the Cathedral:

My body has been not as cooperative as I would like as of late.  I wake up four or five hours after going to bed.  It is the pain that rouses me from my sleep and sometimes after a little writhing about I can get back to a couple hours of sleep and sometimes I cannot.  I keep what I call my morning MEDs by the bedside so once it has been established that sleep is actively evading me, I can wolf those MEDs down and wait to begin my day.

My morning MEDs consist of about fourteen different pills and capsules, this does not include inhalers, eye drops, and that like.  The important drugs for getting my morning started and hence getting me the ability to move are some steroids, nuerotrophins, and pain pills.  The steroids reduce inflammation, the nuerotrophic to get the old brain firing and hopefully keep me awake and the pain pills I take for pain.  Usually within one to two hours everything has kicked in and I can start moving towards the bathroom.

There are days that I do not leave the bed, sometime my morning cocktail is not enough to lift the weight of the illness (the weight of my illness is 97% Pb and Au) and the bed is where I stay on those days.  Thoughts spin and refuse to take solid form, the fever of pain (not a real fever, but a fever like state brought on by pain) spins the old merry go round in my head.  There is some time spent gnashing my teeth and although I usually don't tear my clothes and when I do tear my clothes it is usually by accident and not from passion.

I have a small holy water font on the wall right outside my bedroom and above that there is a prayer of morning offering.  The font has a small plaque showing Saint Bernadette witnessing the appearance of our Lady of Lourdes at the grotto in France.  I have an affinity for Saint Bernadette that I will endeavor to explain in a later post, this one already feels as though it is long and heavy with words piling up on each other.  I stop there and offer up my suffering and begin my day with God.

Some days the offering up of the pain goes better than others.

That was a lot of exposition, but now to Christmas Eve!  If you read this blog on a regular basis, you know I am converting to Roman Catholicism.  On Christmas Eve or more accurately 12:01 am on Christmas Day there is a Mass to celebrate the incarnation of the word (it is Christ-Mass or Christmas) or otherwise known as the birth of Jesus!

I can no longer legally drive and my wife was working until right before the Mass was to begin so she could get herself there, but did not have time to retrieve me and get me to the Cathedral.  I put out the call on social media for a ride and my sister stepped up to give me a ride.  She arrived at my house in the early evening and we watched a movie, tried to order some Chinese food (they never answered, either too busy or closed), we did order some pizza and had some lovely conversation and as the time approached, I rounded up some oxygen tanks had my sister help me with my shoes (a little awkward for both of us) and away we went.

My walker would not fit in my sister's car, but I was not worried I figured for a once a year event I could gut it out.  We arrived early and were able to park quite close.  The air was cold and full of pollution and I traveled only across a street and before I was huffing and puffing and it became apparent that my supplemental oxygen was not supplemental enough.  By the time I had traversed the half block to the Cathedral (I did have to rest twice and probably would have rested more had there been other spots to rest) my joints and nerves had begun their dance of pain.

A rector (one who likes me, the others do not know me, but there is no telling whether they would like me or not) seeing that I was in great distress whisked me in a side door so that I would not have to stand in line.  We then made our way to my pew (not really my pew, but the pew I was always like to sit at, it is in the back so I do not have to go that far) and I sat down and began to gather my wits back around me.

My wits did return to me, but resting in my favorite pew did not bring any relief to the nerves and joints felt a little better, but when I am not being Pollyanna the joints did not really recover much.  As time went on my lovely wife joined us my nerves had moved from the slow waltz of pain to more of the Mike Flatly Lord of the Dance dance kind of pain.  In true Dude fashion I told my nerves that this aggression would not stand, especially on Christmas (it really ties the year together, not like Easter but it does tie the year together).

About twenty minutes into the Mass it felt as though my feet were being boiled like cheap hot dogs and that was punctuated with the feeling of hat pins being run through my legs at various points, maybe more accurately hat pins attached to jack hammers because I would feel the stab and then before I could catch my breath from gasping at the first stab I would be stabbed again.  There were invisible knives inserted into my ankles and my knees and my hips.  Which does not feel good, but then it felt like some invisible being was beating my joints with an invisible ball peen hammer.  At this point I was moving around a lot, my wife has informed me that most people would call it "writhing in pain", my wife is fancy.

I leaned over and told my wife that I was not going to make it through the service and we gathered my oxygen tank and a purse and such and embarked towards the exit.  I did not realize that this was to require a Herculean effort on par with the travels of Marco Polo down the silk road.  First, let me say that walking with a cane or walker and with oxygen has spoiled me.  In a crowd of people they will part like the Red Sea when Moses is coming to let the disabled folk through, but that was not the case at the Cathedral (I am not sure if it is ironic or not that people would not part like the Red Sea at a Cathedral but I think it is).

The Cathedral was packed, but there was room to part, but nobody would at least until I physically touched them on the shoulder and said excuse me.  Now that sounds normal until I mention one detail, everyone was facing me, they could see me coming but would not move.  I am not sure what I think about that, but it is not the thrust of this post so I will let that sleeping dog lie or I will not beat that dead horse or something else like that.

I came to the Roman Catholic faith for many reasons, chief among those reasons was their understanding of suffering.  I knew it would not be easy and I knew there would be moments of doubt, but I guess I did not know "know" it.  I was disappointed that I was not able to become free through embracing the pain, that is me paraphrasing a quote from the Blessed Chiara Luce Badano, but on further contemplation I am disappointed that I was disappointed.  Looking back over the time I have been ill, I was disappointed the disease did not go away on its own, I was disappointed that none of the drugs worked to treat the symptoms of the disease, I was disappointed I could no longer work, I was really disappointed when I could no longer drive.

The new year is soon upon us and this year my resolution is to accept with joy everything that each day brings.  Expectations of things "should" be has been the cause of disappoint and unhappiness for me.  On Christmas Eve, I had a sister that was willing to come give me a ride to the Cathedral and I have a wife that has stuck with me in spite of my illness and shows me kindness greater than I deserve.  I have a rector that likes me a beautiful cathedral to attend and many in the congregation that know and care about me and make me feel the community of the Church.  I am a rich man and everyday I will do what I can and let God take the rest.

Loves to all and a happy new year!

PS

I have been trying to learn this lesson for a long time so....but I have faith....