Sunday, August 25, 2013

Nothing Worse

As every truly indoctrinated, authentic, born-to-be-a-parent knows, there's nothing worse than having a sick kid. From that first ear infection to the projectile vomiting to the pants full o' siena shit and the sore throat runny nose green snotted boogie monster blues to the coal mine whooping cough and sizzling fever babies, up to the broken bones, twisted ankles, torn tendons, then further and further to the edge of leukemia, hodgkins, lymphoma, MS, and the bad blood gone criminal until it's The Cancer of not just of the little loved one no matter how old or big but of the entire family needing family-sized chemo and family-sized radiation just to deal with the pain and suffering of your one sick little buddy.  It is the sickness devil come to torture the souls he knows he'll never get - the pure and simple souls of the children who will always be children no matter how old and lonely they become, the children in their unconscious chaotic joy on bright yellow days can make the devil very, very angry until he lets the little buggers have it with both barrels of bad cells and cancers of the blood, the lymph, the bone, the brain, the lung and the pancreas, the liver, the vagina, the kidneys, the breasts, the ovaries and the uterus, the prostate and the tiny innocent unassuming testicles of your only son.  
Nothing makes a parent quite so instantly bloodlustingly schizophrenic as some douchebag asshole pointing at your young man's testicle and pontificating platitudes like "remember Lance Armstrong", "testicular cancer has a 95% cure rate", "you can still make babies with one nut", "I know 10 guys that have had testicular cancer and they're fine now," and on and on. Either these fuckers are not parents or at least not real parents or they're typically ignorant Americans whose primary source of self-validation is statistical accuracy leaving them completely crippled in affairs of the heart. Where else will we find the power to cast off the devil if not the heart? Not the Hallmark heart of the sentimental gratitude grifters who would make your cancer something to be grateful for, like some profound and powerful teacher who has come to inhabit your scrotum, or your breasts, or your brain to show you how life is beautiful, a treasure, a font of plenty, an earthful of elves just propping you up wherever you go. But what these stupid fucks don't understand is that when you're one nut down, the cosmic balance has the potential to become deeply disturbed. You've still got two ears, eyes, nostrils, tonsils, collarbones, shoulders, arms, hands, buttocks, breasts, ovaries, fallopian tubes, legs, knees, feet, kidneys, lungs etc. etc. balancing things out as you travel through the universe and when one is unnaturally removed everything gets cattywumpus. That delicate balance is subtly, almost imperceptibly upset; the footfall on the right becomes a little heavier than the left; the right brain becomes the more insistent, urgent activities director; left handers are suddenly ambidextrous. 
          All because of one little rotten testicle, probably poisoned by shark shit in the waves and the detritus of backcountry meth labs in the steelhead rivers, two places where a Norcal guy might spend the majority of his waking hours, his crotch awash in carcinogens; just one of a pair now plucked from it's package, an English golf ball popped out of the penalty box to knock an entire family completely off its moorings and starting a chain of furrowed brows as the "C" word travels outward and around the circles of friends, followers and relations, coming to rest in the hearts of our loose network of parents. 
There isn’t supposed to be cancer in your family any more than there is supposed to be cancer in our family, even IF my Dad had to have a few feet of his colon lopped off that should have been the end of it, because it’s common knowledge that bad things don’t happen in our family. But the last few years I have begun to wonder; it’s almost as if God has put us on probation and the devil is slipping in through the cracks. I mean, the nerve of God to let the fucking devil get the upper hand in MY family! I thought we had a deal: we agreed to let Jesus be the only “real” son of God instead of Mohammed or Vishnu or Haile Selassie or Joe Smith and in return He keeps the devil from fucking with our shit! Right? There was nothing in the contract about us bringing on new recruits or any public evangelism whatsoever so long as we played by the rules. And we do play by the rules for the most part, though I’ll admit to saying “Godammit” a lot. Is that it? The “name in vain” business? That’s not even a mortal sin, is it? I always thought it was just a misdemeanor. 
Still, if you look at the last few years you might get the impression that this circus act has been messing around on the highwire far too long: a parent dies, the stock splits and the inheritance doubles; I spend 3 months slowly and painfully being relieved of my job only to land a contracting gig that pays more and allows me to do more of what I like to do (yep, I finally got that singing gigolo gig); two back surgeries fix my back beautifully but destroy my feet; Pie spends a year going to film school in Prague but gets a little collateral heartbreak in the process; Beamish Boy wins the fishing lottery and spends 10 days ripping steelhead lips on the Dean in B.C. then comes home with cancer. Hard times all around, eh?
          I was informed recently that I should stop writing about myself and start writing about the world around me, and that in the process I'll begin to see the world as a joyous and supportive place. Perhaps this means I should start keeping secrets about what is really going on in my world and simply report the news - the joyous and supportive news. Hey...if that's what it's going to take to send my son's big C packin', I'm down. In fact, why not start now with all the joyous and supportive news that is goin' on right here, right now, on this joyous and supportive world. Ready? Here goes...

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Great Unbecoming Part. I

Of the several dozen epiphanies I had today, one was so disturbingly profound as to be downright epiphanous.

No it wasn't the ephiphany y'all have been so patiently waiting for: the realization that chronic cleverness will be the ultimate undoing of civilization as we know it. I've been patiently waiting for that one too, as it will be major relief to be freed from the compulsion to be the clever one, the one who must continually disguise simple, straightforward information in an inscrutable coat of arcane language and overworked metaphor. No, I've yet to come to such a realization, but I sincerely hope that soon the clever cloak will fall and simple naked honesty will prevail. Meanwhile I guess we'll just have to settle for the usual unabashed and tasteless silliness. Oh well. 

Some of you may recall a Limboland loony toon entitled "@ Fifty Seven" where I faithfully listed my various failing factory parts and the efforts made at installing replacement equipment. There's the successful and unsuccessful surgeries, the arthritic joints, the irreparable brain damage, failing eyesight, sleepy pee pee and on and on it goes, clear evidence that I am not, nor will I ever be who I once was. In other words much of what I had become was now becoming undone, or unbecoming. Physical and mental capabilities have not simply evolved into a different state. Instead, it's all unraveling into a state certain uncertainty, coming apart bit by bit until my atoms will ultimately be dispersed into the cosmic soup to perhaps become rearranged in some other form. A lemur, perhaps. 

I received an instant message from Cosmic Headquarters the other day that warned me against fighting this great unbecoming. "Resistance is futile" it said. "You will unbecome like a flower drops its petals, one brain cell and body part at a time. But don't despair, as you unbecome who you were so shall you become who you are." And I'm thinkin' what? I don't get to keep anything just the way it is? If not a flower then what? A weed?

Seeing that Cosmic Headquarters offers a "live chat" feature, I posed my questions to the resident subject matter expert. 

"What about the skiing, the body surfing and boogie boarding?" I asked. "What about the golf, the backpack trips, the frisky marathon sex, the wild tequila dancing, the loud rock and roll, the devastating effect my gap toothed smile has on the opposite sex? And what about the supreme confidence of knowing I am indeed a chosen master of the universe and can solve any problem no matter its size or importance, and the knowledge that I can beat Larry Ellison in a spelling bee if not a sailboat race? I don't get to keep any of these things in a state of Billy Joel-ness; that is, just the way they are?"

The chat reply was instantaneous, so I figured it must have been a cut and paste from the Cosmic Headquarters knowledge-base. "Not exactly," the chat box read. "Think of it as adjective adjustment: you were once an aggressive, expert skiier who hiked into the out-of-bounds for the deepest powder, sought out the Volkswagen-sized bumps on the steepest runs, and avoided turning in traffic. You are now a conservative, mature skiier who likes to cruise the groomers from approximately 11:30 to 3:00. Even this will cause you great pain."

After a few more answers from the chat support desk I decide I am not liking the sound of the great unbecoming, but at least it is not the complete cessation of physical activity. I googled around for snow-walkers and other aids, prosthetics and potentially useful drugs. Discovering there is a abundant cornucopia of such aids to the great unbecoming, I now look forward to the possibilities of the new becoming: the softer, mellower perhaps even acoustic renditions of "Let it Bleed", "Not Fade Away" and "Midnight Hour"; the afternoons picking blackberries and pedaling our bicycle made for two down to the wine bar/art gallery; the hours spent directing the gardeners in their care of the sensitive succulents and fruit trees that adorn Coon Hollow, our coastal home; the long and tender bowel movements and parallel literary explorations; the bemused expressions of young women and their soft, sensitive requests "you're cute but would you please stop smiling at me like that?"

I can accept the idea that in the face of the great unbecoming one must be open to considering all likes of revisions, some foreseeable and some lying in wait. Reality may appear fleeting between middle age and post-middle age, sometimes willing to negotiate and sometimes not. Perhaps, in ponderment, it is possible to unbecome without entirely becoming unbecoming, at least to those that have either officially or unofficially agreed to stick it out through thick and thicker. We can only take this one fallen petal at a time. 

Perhaps it is impudent to share such uncooked thoughts, such silly word play in the greater, grander scheme of things. But, this is Limboland me hearties, and anything goes!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Litpalooza in Luteland, Year 2

Greetings from Parkland, WA  and the campus of Pacific Lutheran University, home of the Rainier Writing Workshop, PLU's answer to the explosion of low-residency MFA programs springing up around the country. If you want to know what goes on during this 10-day total immersion in the literary arts, start with the Litpalooza posts from 2012. Not that the characteristics of the RWW program don't bear repeating, but I have other things on my mind right now. 


PLU is where they live. That's right. Rhymes with boots, shoots, toots, snoots, and yours truly the Old Coot. Why a venerable institution of higher education would want to use an obsolete medieval stringed instrument as their mascot is indeed mysterious, and, as you all know, is the type of oddity that, here in LImboland, generally warrants further investigation. One might assume that "Lute" is simply an abbreviation for "Lutheran", or perhaps for old Martin Luther himself. I think that's a stretch. I've never heard any Lutherans refer to themselves as "Lutes", though I did hear an interesting conversation on campus today...

 A "GO" team from the neighboring College of the Puget Sound was here for a tournament along with "GO" players from around the world, (another oddity that warrants further investigation in another Litpalooza installment). I saw several young fellas gathered around a game board with the familiar black and white "GO" game pieces. Curious, I sidled up for a little eavesdropping..

CPS player: Hey, stringface, it's your move!
Lute: Hey, not so fast there Puget lips. 
CPS player: You're the Lute, dumbass. 

...and so on. This led me to believe that the Lutes of PLU are perceived to be about as relevant as obsolete medieval strings instruments. But it's not as obvious as it might be. I couldn't find one T-shirt, hoodie, seatpad, coffee mug, trucker's cap, warmup outfit or any other Lute logo merchandise with a picture or even an artsy illustration of an obsolete medieval stringed instrument. OR a mason's trowel (a little known definition of "lute"). 

On second thought, maybe Martin Luther's nickname was Lute. Or perhaps Lute-Daddy. Or the Big Lute? Super Lute? Lutey Booty? I guess further investigation is still warranted, or perhaps I should bring it up during our writing workshop? Get the opinions of my fellow students, who as far as I can tell have nothing but the deepest, most profound respect for limping old man with the beads of sweat dripping down his forehead from the waves of silver grain atop his head.  I get the impression that my colleagues would find it perfectly normal for the Old Coot to ask about the Lutes. As long as they don't think I've got Lutey Cooties.