25 March 2012

vaguely-amphibian rectangle-dodgers

[New visuals here and here.]

March 24, 2012

This past week, my older brother and his family (wife and three daughters), braved the mind-numbing hours between Northwest Arkansas and Middle Alabama. No small feat— the daughters representing those bastion ages of patience and bladder size: 7, 5, and 1.

We had good times around the house mostly. On Tuesday, we went to Treetop Family Adventure—a mini-golf, arcade, go-cart, laser-tag, inordinately-salty-stale-outsized-pretzel-with- a-side-of-viscous-orange-dipping-stuff sort of place.

Indulge me a moment for a commentary on the modern day “arcade” situation. First . . . a bit of time-travel. When I was a kid and early teen, the arcade room, eleven times out of ten, was a seedy, smoldering-tobacco, adolescent-angst, jukebox-blare sort of place. One entered with trepidation and thrill.

One pounded a fistful of quarters saved from allowances and swiped from parental chests-of-drawers into the token machine. One cased the joint for coveted games—triangles shooting mouse turds at descending heptagons, Silversteinian missing-piece pie-shapes eating mouse turds whilst chased by serrated gumdrops, vaguely-amphibian rectangle-dodgers, etcetera. One admired the perm-mullet-twenty-somethings who slapped pinball flippers in full fury and feared for one’s immortal soul at such proximate profanities. One spent hours playing games and still went home with a pocket half-full of tokens to be used next time or discovered years later in one’s underwear drawer—hidden from siblings, forgotten by one.

Back to the future. Nowadays, to use the curmudgeon vernacular, the arcade room is a festival of strobing lights and a cacophony of synthetic sounds. The photosensitive seizure-prone are not a targeted demographic, you’ll find, and if nostalgia has you hankering for some Zeppelin or Floyd, keep your cigarette lit and get back in your car. At best you’ll hear The Black-Eyed Peas in the concessions ward featuring Fergie who once sang “Sweet Child o’ Mine”—a live vocal performance only rivaled in unlistenability by those of W. Axl Rose himself. [re: concessions in the olden days. BYO Funyuns.]

It used to be that the arcade experience was an athletic event, a contact sport. If you didn’t come home with symptoms of carpal tunnel or whiplash or tennis elbow, you hadn’t been to the arcade. You came home with a chafed face from Duck Hunt shotguns. You came home with pinched palms from Centipede roller balls. You came with war stories: the bully who shoved you off of the Pole Position seat, the cheater who threw actual elbows to secure his ill-gained triumph at Kung Fu Master, the exotic red-headed girl who loved you at Galaga and then left you to lean on the arm of a perm-mullet pinball guy.

And don’t even get me started on the Silicon Valley, prize-ticket inflation effect. Fine, I’ll get started. Used to be, when I was coming up, you had to play thirty-four rounds of Skee-Ball to get about eleven of those red, perforated tickets which you could redeem for a tiny plastic frog that minimally hopped when you mashed an unnatural flap at the frog’s rump. Or, if you were more diligent and patient, you could sweat it out on the Hoop Shoots for another hour and seventy-eleven minutes, tear off your thirty-one and three-quarters tickets (the last one invariably sticks in the slot and rips and you may or may not get full credit at the prize counter), and redeem them for a netted-sack of marbles to clack in your sibling’s face as he or she putters about floor with his or her ridiculous plastic frog.

Back to the future, nowadays the kids push one of two buttons and then the other of the two after a mindless, random interval and wait (impatiently, mind you) for their machines to vomit anywhere from ten to sixty-seven hundred yards of prize tickets which they will redeem (after their epileptic fits subside) for candy, noisemakers, and noisemakers made of candy.

My distaste for present day gaming aside, it was very nice spending time with my darling nieces. A benefit of being handicapped, by the by, is that my astronomical mini-golf handicap is less frustrating. Whereas in reasonable health I am fully capable of slinging my putter over the fence and kicking my ball into the creek, in my hobbled state I am perfectly content with my quintuple bogeys as long as I can stay on my feet.

Which brings me, desultorily, to today’s intended topic: neurology for kids. Someone should write a book. I have a niece and a nephew in Mobile for whom my zombified gait has been explained away as a hurt leg. For them, this is a shame but worlds better than if I was just too lazy to play freeze tag--which would be an avuncular faux pas. (After witnessing a seizure, my oldest niece came to me later and asked, “So you have a hurt leg that sometimes makes your body shake?” Seriously, someone should write a book. I smiled and said, “Yes.”)

This week I had two nieces who wondered why Uncle Jonathan wore a brace on his leg and walked with a cane when they went to Treetop Family Adventure. Um . . . because . . . you see . . . I have this hurt leg . . . and er der duh . . . yeah.

Tell kids you have a brain tumor and they imagine themselves dressed up as you for Halloween. Tell them you have a neurological impediment to your motor functions and they imagine you’re a jerk for using words too big for them. Tell them you have a hurt leg and at worst they’ll examine the area for boo boos and look at you skeptically before resuming their game of freeze tag.

The good thing, the great thing rather, is that kids know you will be just fine. You’re big, you’re strong, you’re an Uncle, by golly, and best of all, you’re silly . . . just so silly.

19 March 2012

bearing that in mind

March 17, 2012

Mid-month crisis: Here as well as last month around this time, I experienced something of a septic cleanse accompanied by dizziness and heavy-headedness. By septic cleanse, I mean what you probably think I mean, so I’ll leave it at that. By dizziness, I mean the sensation that most everyone is familiar with, so I’ll leave it at that.

Heavy –headedness, however, I guess is a more peculiar phenomenon so I’ll try to explain. I associate the feeling with my tumor—a literal association, not psychosomatic. That is, I know the region of my tumor to be more massive, cellularly, than other regions of my brain of equal area, geometrically; and I know this by sensation as well as I know it by MRI pictures and by concomitant symptoms. Bearing that in mind . . . I said bearing that in mind . . .

Is this thing on? [virtual microphone taptaptap] Tough crowd. Anyway . . .

Bearing that in mind, the mass of the tumor actually weighs on my brain such that I can detect the additional fullness of my skull. Don’t misconstrue: I don’t walk around doubled over like a toddler with a five-foot pageant tiara on her head. It’s a slight sensation. A creepy, alien-movie-body-snatching-snaky-creature-gestation sensation. But slight. Even so, the brain’s got a hair-trigger action and slight’s enough to kill you soon as weigh on you and don’t even dream of beating its quick-draw, Huckleberry.

Add the septic cleanse and the dizziness and the dullardizing anticonvulsants to your big-boned glial cells and there you have your heavy-headedness.

While I’m making note of things lest I forget to mention them later on, I would like to report another alien sensation occurring in the opposite hemi-form of my body. No, not there or there—I’m talking about my left leg.

March 18, 2012

[I got distracted yesterday. Maybe by March Madness, maybe by my . . .

[. . .

[ . . . sorry, maybe by my propensity to become distracted. Whatever it was moved on to something else and so on. At any rate, back to my left leg . . .]

Sporadically throughout any given day, alternating muscles along my tibia and into my foot will tick and wince. While I prefer my involuntary bodily functions to be of the cardiopulmonary and metabolic ilk, these spasms are not particularly alien—I understand the physiology of musculature enough to not be alarmed. Beyond that, the following groups of people can attest to the relative wimpiness of ticks and winces: the ill-advised storm-golfers, the fork-to-socket young scientists, the cow-fence hooligan-urinators, the electro-shocked-depressed-and/or-crazies of the beat generation as bemoaned by Allen Ginsberg and portrayed by Jack Nicholson, and, more relevantly I’ll presume to my readers, the epileptic, the palsied, and the tonic and/ or clonic spastic (<----my team), et. al.

But there’s another left leg aberration to report. Allow me to return to the alien movie analogy. You know the ones. A small, maggoty, preternatural life-form slinks into the human host via some unguarded orifice and wriggles its pernicious way along the human’s winding entrails until it settles in for its hyper-gestation after which period the uncanny creature bubbles beneath the host’s skin like a bunny down a python’s throat preparing for its vicious birth.

Kind of like that but in my lower leg. Off-putting. Self-diagnosis: The retaliation of a rudely awakened limb from its sedentary slumber. That is, physical therapy. After varying degrees of uselessness and trauma over the past ten years, my poor left leg has been called into action. Far-flung diagnosis: My tumor is shrinking by small degrees and the portside of my body is slowly, not rudely as above, awakening proportionately. Knock on whatever this IKEA desk is actually made of.

More briefly, 2 additional notes: I have reason to believe that my sense of taste is being affected by the chemotherapy; I’ll keep this journal and its sparse readership apprised. Nextly, I have lost 6 pounds since my last weigh-in. And this with a full beard and my glasses on. Attribute to a diminished appetite and more consciously getting off my duff now and then.

14 March 2012


[Before proceeding, it might be useful to visit my new visuals page . . . "the view from here" which shall be a 1st person photo gallery of the many sights and experiences you too can enjoy for the low, low price of nothing.]


Pertinent Information:

On Thursday night of last week, as I lay dying (I add this clause, not for its accuracy but for its being the title of my favorite Faulkner novel and even if it were not my favorite Faulkner novel, it would still be my favorite of his novels' titles . . . but this is not pertinent information unless I add that, accuracy notwithstanding, I felt like I was dying) on the guest bed where I had retired for the relative coolness of the room (fahrenheit-wise not George Clinton-wise), clutching a stuffed dog which in turn was clutching a stuffed heart with the word "HUGS" stitched into it, I asked the stuffed dog (because that seemed more sane than asking the four walls . . . at the time) how much longer it thought I might be, if not dying altogether, so far under the weather, upon which the stuffed animal supplied no reply. Let it be said to my credit that this came as no surprise. That a stuffed dog should speak is an absurd notion let alone that it should possess the level of sentience required to even compute the question.

So I asked the four walls. Did any of them know how much longer the chemo's nauseating effects would last? It had been 2 nights since my last dose, didn't they know? They did not know. At least, I gathered as much from their silence.

Being done with dumb objects, I simply told them instead, "I need to make note of how long it takes before the sickness wears down. For next time. So I'll know."

Then I pulled the dog into my chest and watched the four walls until sleep came. On Friday morning, I felt better. On Friday night, not so great but no longer dying in my imagination. On Saturday, I went to the zoo.

So a week. This time, at least. Probably next month it'll take little longer but it helps to have a ball park figure--a focal point for woozy eyes, an horizon for storm-battered bows.

Interesting Information:

Car ride from Mobile to Birmingham [fuel, slim jims, mountain dew]: $40.

Bus ride from Mobile to Birmingham [fare, paperback novel, pepper-spray] : $60.

Train ride from Mobile to Birmingham: No longer available.

Airplane ride from Mobile to Birmingham [ticket, fees, replacing disallowed carry-ons]: $500.

Ambulance ride from Mobile to Birmingham [fuel, IV fluids, tapering encouragement]: $3700

Factual Information:

Temodar might cause constipation.

Too Much Information:


06 March 2012

my gooey little head

March 3, 2012

Is it odd to not feel sick enough? It’s like this: with decidedly less ado than February’s batch, my chemo pills arrived yesterday and I started my third round last night; this morning I am icky but not enough for my liking. It’s odd, right? But it’s like this: everybody wants to feel like they’ve gotten their money’s worth. Whether they actually have or not is a question for the Marxists and the Capitalists; most folks rely on the much less complicated system of value analysis—feeling. And I don’t feel as if I have gotten my money’s worth of chemo today because I don’t feel sick enough.

I want my chemicals to make haste. Get to the front-lines, join ranks with the bad guys, and assault by reckless salvo. Strike willy-nilly, slash slapdashily. In short, make me sick.

Tomorrow, I’ll regret this bravado. Today, this trifling nausea is a waste of my time.

March 5, 2012

Last night’s pills were hard to take. Probably because last night was hard to take. You should have seen me. Watching TV balled like a baby in his binkie. Eating saltines and sipping Powerade. Pining for bedtime because, as yet, or ever really, I do not get nauseated in my dreams.

And, I get to smoke cigarettes in my dreams—moderately this time around, mostly in a social setting, always cool and never unhealthy. Talking about it now is making me sick. Wide is the gulf between dreams and reality; and I say this with a reasonable understanding of Psychology (with a capital P, that is, which is to say in the scholarly sense in that it has been granted sanctuary in the cloisters of modern curriculum where it becomes fast friends with Creative Writing, with a capital C and a capital W). In olden times, I would need a cigarette break after so taxing a syntactical parenthetical; today, though, the thought is yarky.

March 6, 2012


It’s not a bad word. Shit, it doesn’t even meet the four-letter standard. It’s the part of us that is not a part of anyone else and everyone else has its counterpart; and those counterparts, those other egos, are not necessarily antagonistic toward our own. Even grammatically, the third person expression of the previous concept does not feel incompatible with the concept’s implication. In other words, one of the great commonalities across our species (and a host of others, arguably) is the innateness of individuality.

[Go back to the beginning of this entry and add the following preface: In my humble opinion. Then come back here where I’ll reiterate that preface and acknowledge the array of differing philosophies of mind and soul which have a legitimate, though largely incomprehensible to we laypersons, claim on the subject of ego.]

My ego.

While not necessarily in direct opposition to yours, it does suffer from a sort of blindness with respect to yours. A blindness that can be semi-corrected by a variety of lenses but for which no Lasik precision exists in the phenomenal world. In my humble opinion.

Where am I going with this we all want to know? (OK, you two are excused. You there rolling your eyes and you there tennis-texting with your secret lover. Hit the bricks. I thank the rest of you for your kind attention—you are a credit to yourselves and our species.)

My ego on chemo.

Last night as I was watching a movie, I became sad. The movie saddened me. Not a scene in particular but the movie as a whole. Usually, I am able to consider my emotions in the context of the moment as well as in a larger context—a novel-sized context that involves many characters, subplots, and exotic vistas. Last night though, I could not wrap my mind around the sadness. I tried. I lost track of the movie at times, distracted by empty efforts.

In the context of the moment, explication of an emotion is moot no matter how desirable—it can be explained but only after the immediate fact. Because we don’t lob an emotion out in front of us that we may come upon it intentionally. (If you do then you too are excused.) We stumble on or crash against or fall into an instance that evokes X emotion.

As for that larger context, however, I was flummoxed. Why couldn’t I crack my egg and poke my gooey little head into the wide world? For all my pecking, my whole world was goo.

The movie ended and the credits rolled. The score’s refrain gathered layers and grew its gravid mass of pathos. The sadness lingered and I was sick.

I was sick. Balled in my binkie. Bedtime reprieve hours away. A clue! I revisited my sadness armed with this clever clue of mine. Hold there, you sadness, explain yourself . . .

but . . .

I was sick. Balled in my binkie. Bedtime reprieve hours away. A clue! I revisited my sadness armed with this clever clue of mine. Hold there, you sadness, explain yourself . . .

but . . .

I was sick. Balled in my binkie. Bedtime reprieve hours away. A clue! I revisited my sadness armed with this clever clue of mine. Hold there, you sadness, explain yourself . . .

Finally, when the music stopped—all gaffers duly acknowledged—I sat up. Another clue—my head swam and nausea threatened my giblets with vomit. And this was my brief conclusion at the moment: my body’s sickness had infected my ego (yes, figuratively, of course . . . say, who let the eye-roller back in?) which aggravated my ego’s chronic blindness.

So today, in these morning hours of relative unqueasiness, I crack my egg and see what lies beyond my goo. Beyond my goo, I see you. You with your tower of unpaid bills. You beneath the overpass, starving and cold. You in the shower, your ablution for rape, for a false shame. You serving life for the crimes of a free man. As far as I can see, I can see you.

Especially you, today. You, one mention of guacamole away from up-chuck, watching your movie, sick and unspeakably sad. I see you and in the morning you’ll feel a little better and next week much better, and the following even more so.

Then you’ll go through it all over again—all of you. All of us. Trading in our minor peeves for crippling tumors now and then and sometimes swapping our fathomless pain for hilarious mirth.

It's tough luck being sick, no doubt. Sick--four letters, smack on the nose. A once healthy self-awareness becomes self-obsession--the ego awash with egotism and sinking into blindness. And then comes the bad news . . . there ain't much you can do about it. Get your binkie and your saltines and your Powerade, and brace yourself for a sense of solitude.

Your ego on chemo.

02 March 2012

as if into your wormy grave

March 1, 2012

At some point last weekend (I am so frequently obnoxious the exact point is impossible to nail down), I was doing some of my physical therapy homework which in a couple of cases involves a ball. Volleyball-size-ish. Instead of diligence, I tried to interest Adrienne in a game of catch. I cajoled, but no can interest. Fast forward to last Tuesday’s PT session. My therapist had me awkwardly balancing on some foamy things—one foot in front of the other. The next step in the exercise involved catching a ball, volleyball-size-ish, while maintaining aforementioned balance. Then a mechanical problem arose. Who would throw me the ball? Well, I could throw the ball to myself but then I would know in advance the speed and direction of the ball. Well, my therapist could throw the ball to me, of course, that’s what she gets paid to do. But no, as usual, she has holt of my breeches. That left Adrienne. Victory. Let’s play ball! (Sorry to say, this left my photographer otherwise occupied, else we’d have a nice picture of Adrienne in full athletic form. I hope we get to play again today.) [another new exercise here, however]


Yesterday was doomsday. Not the implied end-of-the-world scenario, nothing so benign as that. I’m talking real doom here, brothers and sisters. Inescapable, inevitable, indigestible doom. It impends, looms, ratchets nearer and nearer—a mark on the calendar reeled toward you like a pissed-off shark—until . . . BAM! Doomsday.

For the uninitiated, allow me to describe the head-foremost MRI experience with absolutely no exaggeration.

You are ushered into a cold room. They ask you for the final time if you have anything metal in your body or your pockets. Whereas before you were certain of your metallessness, panic seizes you. You check yourself again, patting shirt-pockets without having shirt-pockets, checking your wrist for the watch you don’t own, back-flashing to the war you never fought in to itemize what shrapnel could possibly still be lodged in your flesh.

But it’s too late anyway. You are already being goaded toward the machine; it is gleeful at your arrival and acts surprised—its mouth in an “O” as if you are an unexpected delight. Do not be deceived by its seeming good nature. Look past its amiable mouth into the maw of doom. Behold how cinched the esophageal circumference. You reckon your chances of running for freedom. There are too many of them and you are a cripple. Onward and inward little soldier.

You lay yourself down, as if into your own wormy grave, adjusting yourself by the terse instructions of an underpaid scrub-wearer. You feel like a fool, like you feel at Jiffy Lube while being guided into the garage—this way, no, that way, no never mind, you are a fool, just turn off your engine. Once properly positioned, they pull a mask over your head—your suffocation begins. To prevent cranial movement, nefarious wedges of doom are inserted between the mask and your ears. The last thing you hear clearly is “Don’t move!” And the machine draws you in before you hear the “Or what.” Or trigger the collapsing walls? Or initiate the launch sequence? Or what?!

Now you’re in. Want to shift your elbow? OK, no problem, how’s a centimeter suit you? Unless you want to shift both elbows, then you can split the distance however you please. Want to shift your legs, anxiety attack got you feeling a little squirmy? Go ahead . . . “Don’t move, you restless coward, or we’ll have to start all over.” Then again, better stay put.

Your doom begins in earnest: click click click click . . . click click click click . . . YADADADADADADADADADADADADADADADADADADA! [reapeat 10 times] ka-clunk ka-clunk ka-clunk ka-clunk . . . WARWARWARWARWARWARWARWARWARWARWAR! [reapeat 1000 times] tch tch tch tch tch tch . . .[“Don’t move, you impertinent weasel!” and this from nowhere, quite off your guard.] tch tch tch tch tch tch tch . . . NUNU-NANA NUNU-NANA NUNU-NANA NUNU-NANA NUNU-NANA NUNU-NANA! [repeat 100,000]

Your doom, like most dooms, is interminable. You are writing this and yet your doom exists in timeless infinity. You are still there, breathing your own hot breath, suffering the unscratchable, holding the unpeeable, waiting, half-fearful half-willing, to be sucked into the vortex beyond your head. Whether into another universe or a more tolerable hell, you’d settle for either but shall never be so lucky. You are doomed. Have been. Will be. So don’t even think about moving.

With that being said, the MRI wasn’t so bad. I survived. Again. Despite all doubts to the contrary, I am here to tell my tale.

I should also mention that the scans looked pretty good—definitely no growth and my doctor even dared to say the tumor looked slightly diminished. So far, so poisoned to the better. Sally forth, little soldier.


At therapy today, I had to do some big boy exercises. Shelby Baptist has a PT branch at the Greystone YMCA. In other words, from where I usually perform my piddly feats of basic motor function, I can watch through large, glass doors as sleekly toned Adonises touch-up their chiseled features and lumbering, lumber-armed Beowulfs hoist, heave, and growl. Today, I stepped through those glass doors.

As I limped through the neat rows of equipment, I thought to myself, “Well, I have never.” As in never had I been in “the gym.” As in, “Yo, Chad, I’m gonna hit up the gym today, comin with?” “Aw, no, Brad, I hit it up yesterday with Thad. Sorry, Bro.” “No worries, Bro.” That kind of gym.

It was fun, though. A change of pace. More strenuous which can only mean improvement. And improvement’s the name of the game. Let’s play ball!