Thursday, March 29, 2012

Dear Friends of Robert Miller
Thank you for all the support and caring words (and humor) you gave to Robert during his experience with cancer.
He so enjoyed hearing from you and you lifted his soul at a very dark time.
Robert passed away March 27th shortly after midnight.
Dawn (Linda)

Saturday, March 10, 2012

No Title is Better Than a Morbid One

I wrote what follows the other day and couldn't finish. Lack of energy, depression, pick one of a hundred reasons.  Thanks to okjimm and his last post, "If you you can't write, dance," I am inspired enough to throw this one on the table and maybe have a go on finishing it.   Geez, jimm but you're my lifeasver.

Seeing that I have no one to talk to during the day, save for endless phone calls to medical people, my conversation is limited to the two pictured above.

"How 'bout a kiss?" I ask Mandy who just trotted into the living room.  Her mother raised no fool, but I still fall for the routine where she'll put her paws on the recliner and lean forward toward my face to give me a great big slurp across my whiskery face.  Not knowing if she's been recently dining in the litter box, I'll pull back and avoid the slurp.  Must be the drugs I'm taking because, I'll stick my face back down close to hers as if I really want a kiss.

Like I said, Mandy's no fool and hip to the routine.  In dog-speak "Gimmeakiss" means ,"Hey, he's going to let me smell his breath."  Having been foiled at the dog trick of licking something in order to intensify the smell and include her saliva in the olfactory mix, she'll be smug satisfied in knowing that I just ate that fortune cookie lying atop the microwave.  I don't read the fortune to her because they're really lame comments on life. I wanna know how long this suffering is going to continue, whether Dawn will win the lottery and I can buy the hospital or in the very least, buy my own doctor with advanced degrees and plenty o' smarts. The last part is my fondest wish.

Remember the last post? The hour long visit with the nurse and a bout on my part of terminal complaining?

After two days, I ask Dawn to call the oncology doctor about some of the questions I raised in the aforesaid meeting.  The doctor ignores any immediate concerns like when will the torture by nausea end and responds by having an underling make an appointment for a PETSCAN on Monday of this week.  I thought it odd that I wasn't given the usual instruction about no food after midnite, etc. etc.  I did ask if they were going to do do the radioactive flouride injection.  "Oh no," the nurse says.

You see, if I have one more poison floating around my head I'll flip out.

We go through all the hoops, blow all the whistles and Dawn says she must have a friendly looking face when people in the hospital parking lot start gabbing at her about the weather and a lady in the waiting room from Decorah won't stop with the chin music about yada, yad, yada.  The PETSCAN machine is located in a trailer off to the side of the hospital.  To get in, the burly guy who escorts me hits an auto open switch on the hospital wall forcing two large doors to open.  Then he has to lift a garage type overhead door on the trailer.  This forces a blast of cold air into the trailer.  The lab tech is wearing a T-shirt and was trained in Nome, so it doesn't affect him.  I'm escorted to a two seat theater at the rear where, you guessed it, they inject the radioactive fluoride and tell me I'll have to wait about an hour for the "sugar water" to course through my veins.

That's it. End of story?  No sirree Bob.

The doctor calls the next day to say the PETSCAN reveals something unusual about my liver. Boy o boy. Just what I needed to hear.  "It could be a false/positive. We need to have a CT scan. Can you make it here by noon?"  (It's 10:30 am).

This is Tuesday.  By Friday of the same week and speaking to five different people, Dawn is able to get a reasonable appointment for the CT scan.  Labs at 9:30 am ff. by the CT scan.  Previously, because the CT dept. is short staffed, they wanted me to show up at 8:00 am.  That means getting up at 6 am, skip feeding the dog, drive for an hour on a two lane highway over ridgetops, coulees and three major 20% grades with slow traffic lanes.

I spend hours on the phone with my angel of a primary care doctor who weaves me in and out of the up hill battle of figuring out, what, why and how. 

The hospital and oncology department I am currently tied to was once called Franciscan/Skemp. It is now part of the Mayo clinic system.

When the tree trimmers return we discuss specific plans for my 40 foot Norway pines. I apologize to the the aborist guy who walked off in a huff the last time for  being as asshole.  Cancer will make one cranky, I explain.  "Yeah, so how's that going? "he asks.

"I think their reputation precedes them."  I say.

'"Funny, but I had a buddy who was treated there.  Seems that they're going down hill." 

Other than saying I wouldn't recommend anyone to the Mayo Clinic, I avoid specifics.  The breezy 30 degree weather is too cold for me to spend any amount of time outside with details.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

No Regrets

Been pretty lonely of late.No visitors. No phone calls from the kids. Just me n' dog and katt.  Mandy doesn't leave my side.What a dog!

 Two weeks into chemo and I can't take no more nausea, gut ache, everything smelling like a cat litter box, shooting pains up and down my back.  So I decide to take control of this wildly floundering ship.  When I mention the aches especially around the area of a "port"  surgically implanted to facilitate with in-house cancer infusions, the nurse gets paranoid.  Yeah, I think I mentioned this.  After some wrangling, it's determined the port is not infected. I'm cleared of that worry, but the pain continues.

I'm scheduled for another treatment on a Friday.  Instead, I'm lucky to secure Jorge as a driver.  He, my wife and I go to oncology in Lacrosse.  I ask them to disconnect any left over tubes in the shoulder area.  Then for about an hour, Dawn and I sit with a nurse assigned to the overworked doctor and explain the problem. 

I'm good at anecdotal examples.

The reason I don't have a desire to drive a Harley anymore  ( a life goal along with flying an airplane)  is a friend's description of the sensation of sliding down a concrete highway after a gravel spill and watching the skin get peeled off of any exposed area. Chemo therapy has become like a gravel spill at 45 mph

I rather watch someone kill my blue heeler puppy in front of my face that undergo any more chemo.

I had a French teacher in college.  At the beginning of one lecture, she explained that she worked for the underground in WWII for the French.  It wasn't the danger, seeing the Nazis shoot your neighbor but the cold, she told the class.  The cold , permeating every part of your life, relentless, winter hard shell cold.  After chemo I cannot stand the feel of the wind on my face. The dog doesn't get walked, I wear three layers all the time and sit on a heated throw watching mindless TV. The nurse starts to well up.

They promise to do better.  Dawn speaks with the doctor for an idea of the scope of the treatment.  New medication is ordered and a PETSCAN is scheduled this coming Monday to see where we're at.  I've been off chemo for two weeks and this is the first time I've had the energy to write.  Mostly because when most of your life involves sleeping and trying to keep eating above a nausea  level so severe, a Sierra Mist and a saltine become a treat and are hardly writing home about.  If anything I want this to be a learning lesson for me and others.  I've haven't made promises to God yet or decided to become a priest if I survive, but believe me, there'll be changes.Big ones.

I've cried a few times lately. I've stuffed emotion for so long, especially as a ghetto fighter for 18 years, I actually don't know how to cry.  But when Dawn brings home a card from the folks she works with, and $75 of their hard earned dollars to take Dawn out for dinner when I'm cured, my shoulders heave and tears flow. I vow that they and us'n will all have a pizza party together.

When I go to the comment section on okjimmseggrolemporium ( see blog list) and read a few thoughts about me in the comments, I well up, knowing that there are a few angels out there. 

God knows, when I see my neighbor at the grocery store for the first time in the month since one disturbed resident in the group home they run wandered down here complaining of being held hostage, I get a grunt and a nod. Not a peep outa the rummy bunch of kids we call ours, but plenty of Facebook updates. No nice neighborly visits from my liberry friends.

So when the electric co-operative sends out a follow-up arborist after the tree trimmers noted a certain resistance on my part to their hacking or sawing on my mature Norway pines, he retreats quickly mumbling stuff about me putting words in his mouth . Note; try to get out more Gavrillo

Arborist:  The electric company is mandated by federal law to maintain a three to four foot distance between trees and wires.

Gavrillo( Jorge the former cop/politician agreeing) pure unadulterated bull shit.

Aborist: Most home owners aren't aware of the dangers to wires by trees.

Gavrillo: That's why I noticed a dangerous,dead white pine along the south fence line and your trimmers have ignored it for ten years .

I think he was offended when I offered to put his name on the list of defendants when I begin litigation.

A quick phone call to Hazel at the 'lectric company, a few names of people in high places dropped and yeah, I resorted to, "You know I don't need this. I've got throat cancer."  Hazel gasps.  A representative calls Dawn profuse with apologies and a big red "crazy" flag is placed next to my name.

What I learned about doing absolutely nothing  most of the time. 

Get a smaller dog.  The 50 lb lug that licks my face in the morning is difficult to hug with deep felt emotion. Appreciate a woman in a soft beige cashmere sweater. Hug her softly and often.  Hug all women softly and often (with permission).  Whew, I used up all my energy and have no reserve for the good stuff.  Better get out the note book.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Low News

It's a slow news day here in Kickapoo Center. The electric company tree trimmers came through. I  brave the cold winds and exposure to remind them that our place is special.

Last time they came through I made sure it that all property lines were noted as no-spray zones.  What that means is that they are not allowed to napalm the area under their power lines that affect our organic property.  The watch word here is "selected cutting". The special designation I use refers to the idea that all trees planted around our five acres are part of a mature landscape plan when our house was the school.  It and a post office, church, rumored general store and Carol Hansen's grandparents house across the road were part of a community which extended into the floodplain where Kickapoo Center still exists as a plotted town.

They avoid the service line that runs through a Norway pine to a pole in the front yard.A few perfunctory cuts on weed trees on the other side of the fence and they retreat to a single phase line running through the corn field at the end of the town road.

 I think the principal of the high school who purchased the field at auction a year ago has pipe dreams of something more than raising soybeans. The 2008 flood is more than a memory when the Viola Fire Department comes to check on a us.  A volunteer for the fire department and I chat about a harrowing rescue via boat in a river whose current strong enough to deposit a six foot high sand bar at the edge of the former bridge across the river.

Mandy is fascinated by the TV which out of desperation dominates the living room. I'm thankful that Dawn took her along for some errands and a visit to her mother's (Mandy's) place.  I long for the day of watching a movie from beginning to end without someone hawking term life insurance, Flo the Progressive zombie, " act now and you'll receive not just two wonder-bras but four. Just pay an additional shipping handling charge of 59.95 or my favorite, the slimy long hair who steps across the international date line with Eskimo glasses to remind lucky viewers that they'll get a $200 credit today.

We made a mistake thinking that having TV would mean we'd watch fewer movies.  Cutting back, it takes a week to complete the cycle.  Redbox or the local grocery store are a better alternative.

Sorry. Winding down. Gotta rest. Peace and love to y'all.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


Take an 8/12X11 sheet of clean white paper. Draw a line through the middle, demarcating an upper and lower half.  On the top half write pretty much what you feel like when you'e normal. Reserve the lower half for below normal.  Low normal would be close the the middle line. High normal would be somewhere in the upper half.  If I were to do this frivolous exercise I wouldn't even hit the paper on the lower half.  I'd be dribbling a line somewhere on my desk top near the the handerchief I frequently use to blot my runny nose.

No idea how long I can keep up the energy to write this.  If I had to, I couldn't even write a decent good-bye note. I'd be a sad and sorry stateent for someone who spend his life with a pen in hand living the unfolding scene in front of him with pen and ball point ink.

Coffee was and is my muse.  I savored a good cup of coffee and the high that went with it.  Yesterday I had a cup of fine ground dark roast brewed as espresso.  I was hoping it'd unlock some inner world of low residue, lack of fiber, food that has to minimally pas through a stent implanted in my throat.  The inner world stood blocked.  Door tight. Jammed shut  No means of unsticking the door without a regimen of  MirLax in 6 ounces of water every 15 minutes waiting for the the flood.

The last time I wrote I'd been treated with chemical and left the hospital feeling renewed.  It lasted two days.  By the end of the week, I'd shut off the power to the portable battery pack pump that administers about a half teaspoon of poison into my system 24/7.  I called the duty nurse to report an assortment of shooting pains, aches, lackawanna.  They reacted with the usual.  "How soon can you come up here?"  I replied, " I can't."  No ride, wife's at work, no energy to drive.  They react with predictability and ass-covering.Pandering to the stuff they can answer, offering useless empty platitudes.   I'm so cold I wear long thermal underwear, covered with sweats, wood socks and a hooded black fleece over shirt.  A wool scarf keeps my neck warm.Having previously contracted pneumonia, I was well aware of the dangers of extreme chills and fever.  I had no fever.  They didn't ask and I was so gone into suffering from shooting, sharp pains in my abdomen, seeking relief, I never caught their gaffe. 

The wonderful people at the local hospital come to my aid.  Mother's, daughters and good people like you and me with compassion and feeling disconnect the f!@# pump and flush to port surgically implanted into my upper left shoulder. We talk nonsense and good sense.  Like the fact that you can leave your keys in the car, engine idling while you run into the quick-stop for a banana. Your car will still be there as well as slow Eddie who hangs around the gas station and waves to everyone. I get a chest ex-ray. All is checked so that Mayo Clinic in Lacrosse can rest easy that they haven't screwed up.  Unfortunately, I miss lunch.  By the end of the day I've lost my appetitite, and usually eat something fast, quick and minimally nutritious.

The Mayo clinic is overworked and understaffed.  They lost a doctor to cancer. I never get answers to the chipped beef pond scum feeling of being left on the counter to develop a yellow crust and thrown summarily away.  I resort to narcotics and nausea meds.  Legal ones.  Following the prescription dosage to the letter, I take one tab every four hours waiting for the pain to move on to my neighbor-the Ron Paul supporter.  By 11 pm I bail any idea of sleep and take to my trusty recliner downstairs.  We have so many LED lights scattered on various electronics that I walk into my office in an adjacent room and turn on a closet light . That way I can maneuver in the dark around the LED lights that mark the contours of hard edged furniture. Mandy takes up her post on the chair opposite me.  She buries her nose in the soft, knit cover and sighs.  When will it be over.  I am so worried about him.Her eyes open frequently to slits, checking that I haven't died or disappeared.  She's starting to back off from her food. Not a good sign.  I take time to sit on the stairs to hold her, console her that Dad's all right, we'll chase squirrels in the back yard soon. You'll be able to nip at my heels telling me how much you love this guy who took you with him everywhere. Loved you like a person.

The last straw.  Another heavier duty pain pill. I know I will be sorry.  By 3:45 pm, over four hours later, I shuffle off to bed, climb into flannel sheets where I can lay on my side without pain and doze off.

My primary care physician, working until 8pm in the evening calls to reassure me that the reults of the CBC and x-rays are all positive signs.  She forwards the information to Lacrosse.  A day later and there's no contact from Lacrosse/Mayo.  I'm due back on Friday.   

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Simple Twist of Fate

 Zounds.  It's late afternoon.I went to the Post Office and the library around the corner.BFD, huh. Yes, huh, it is.

Yesterday, I drove to Mayo-Lacrosse to begin the second round of Chemotherapy.  Without scrolling back to see if I previously mentioned being called into the principals office at Franciscan/Skemp/Mayo for loud, consistent whining, I'm going to briefly recount my experience then and yesterday.

 I think I set them off at FSM last week when I told them the therapy was worse than if I would shoot myself in the head.  Sort of  like yelling sexual harassment at Wal-Mart if you're an employee ( one of my co-workers told me an overnight stocker was coming on to her in a creepy way). I got called in then. I also got called in for calling the department head a doofus when she consistently ordered 44 quarts of one kind of milk for average sales of 8/day.  Not important here.

FSM says I have to come immediately to speak to the Dr.  I do. We talk. I'm given 5 days to psych myself for endless nausea, depression, chills, lackawanna in general.

Dawn accompanies me. It's Valentine's . We share a romantic lunch amid the blue unifroms in the cafeteria after the blood test and before 4 hours of multiple drip bag hydration..  Dawn goes shopping while I'm treated by Kim a new person whose care is competent and attentive.  I'm able to drink Sierra Mist from tiny cans, eat animal crackers, cheese and crackers and scan the cable channels for stock info.(not that I have any).

Dawn drives me home. I don't fall asleep.  I'm thinking about dinner. Mmm. Shrimp and pasta in a white sauce would be nice with a dash of Parmesan.  Some frozen green peas.  My appetite seems to have returned. I've gained six pounds after losing 28.  If I had dropped to 190 pounds, I'd be at the weight I quit teaching 24 years ago.  Back then, for exercise, I run the stairs 9 times a day.  Knock on wood, twice.

I take a bunch of anti-nausea meds and sink into my recliner . When bedtime rolls around, I'm warm-2 layers plus a sweater- so I decide to stay downstairs.  Dog and cat in a genuine show of affection stay the whole night at my side.  I love you guys.Happy Birthday Pooch.

Evidently they got the formulas right.  "The practice of medicine," as Mitch one of the RN's says.  I have energy and appetite back. Whooee. Now, my inspiration is back in full form. Get those beads out of storage.

Antique trade beads, bone discs, pewter corn, white hear glass beads
Dawn makes wonderful jewelry in addition to her skill as an artist.  In the twelve years we operated an American Indian art, crafts, jewelry business, we also sold beads and crafts supplies. We went from retailer to wholesaler to jobber.  Our suppliers were from New York, The Czech Republic, India and from large markets in the west.

This is a photo from my web page, Seven Roads Gallery. It's representative sample of what we carry.  All glass, natural materials, no plastic-no junk.Tomorrow's post will highlight details.  I'll be offering discounts and prices comparable to when we closed the store in 1998.  I'll do a little back ground too of the corporation, it's inception as a catalog, then gallery in Milwaukee's Third Ward, the Trading post across the street, the one in Flagstaff and now the one without a bricks and mortar building in Kickapoo Center.

I am so stoked to be a peddler again.
turquoise and heishi
rare red branch coral
Antique African Trade Beads ceramic tube, Lewis & Clark beads (repro) silver pendant

Sunday, February 12, 2012

For Goodness Sake

I've avoided certain topics in this still life biopic of my life in the country.

One, if it wasn't at least a bit entertaining, in the trash bin.  Two, if it didn't keep to my  theme of Seven Roads To Home*-trash bin.
*Seven Roads To Home has a double meaning.  On the basic level,  it is the journey that led me to Kickapoo Center after years of wandering.  I can count seven roads that brought us here.  Subtext-the Ojibwa believe that one's life is like a tree with many side branches.  If after six or seven side trips, one should realize the the truth path/center road, to what the Anishnabe believe to be enlightenment " enhancing balance in this lifetime". The previous is poorly summarized.  Blame it on a cancer addled constitution. I'm struggling to keep my balance.
Politics in all it's craziness (except for the grassroots level), nope. Avoid politics and cliches, like the plague. I never wanted to join the circus, but it sure is a hoot to watch all the clowns.

Three, if what I'd written turned out to be just another mundane description of one old man's mindless musings about a smart dog and a mixed up cat,  a wife who's sole passion now is knitting socks, yet  scored number 4 (in the nation) in the kick boxing finals in MNLPS in 1988 , I would take up wood carving instead. Maybe I will finish that santo I started six years ago.

I've experienced enough craziness for three lifetimes. It gets old. Craziness sometimes involved a bottle of Wild Turkey, a tall, willowy blond woman, a tiny two room apartment off Brady Street, gossiping school aides, a double helping of street violence on a daily level and enough warnings from a munificent God that even I could see the writing on the wall...The day after you can't remember where you left your truck. Perhaps NOW would be a good time to give up drinking expensive bourbon whiskey.

Yesterday I am am dismayed to read about One Million Moms anti-gay campaign.  It targeted Ellen DeGeneres and JC Penny hiring her to be their spokesperson.  I watch a video clip of an affable young man, the CEO of JCP,  speak about their decision to employ DeGeneres. It never occurred to him that she being gay would be an issue.  One Million Moms is an adjunct of an organization called American Family Association

Try the link if you need to find out more. Even more, do something to speak out loudly against bigotry in all forms.

To save us all from a mind numbing diatribe from me, I'd suggest that the AFA learn how to turn off a remote or how to depress the off button on the TV.  I do it all the time.  The most damning thing one could say about TV content in this era, is that the major networks have been supplanted by such YouTube upstarts like Ray William Johnson whose crass, profane, informative, funny video shows outshine any mind numbing episode of Two And A Half Men.  The video clip of sheep circling a car and Ray's allusion to Ron Paul's supporters (does he really wear a supporter?) makes me guffaw.

Dig further and you, too, will be concerned about a group formerly headed by an evangelical minister from Tupelo, Mississippi ( birthplace of Elvis ) labeled by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a"Hate Group" and compared by Bill O'Reilly to Wisconsin's infamous Joe McCarthy.

"With every mistake, we surely must be learning."  George Harrison. 

One Million Moms and The American Family Association and their so called conservative Christian family values are just another perversion of Christian values being foisted on us. A true Christian does not partake in violence of any form toward living things.There's no difference between them and the Orthodox Russian carpet layers who in addition to installing the carpet on our second floor hand me cassette tapes spewing fear, making snarky side comments about accepting Jesus as my true savior or the young kid getting out of the late model car in a three piece, Brooks Brothers suit asking me if I read the bible.  Yes, I read the Bible. I also read the gnostic gospels, James Herriot and St.Augustine. Jesus along with Jack Kerouac, Denzel Washington, Babe Ruth, Gertie Sennett, Frank McCourt, Clint Eastwood, my real mother, Joe Graczyk, Ok Jimm is a short list of people I'll drink coffee with in this life or the next.  

Learn to turn off the F---ing boob tube you idiots, tell your kids the truth about pornography as if they don't already know what's real, and what's not, turn up your lamp so it gives off less smoke and more light, assume people are smarter than you give them credit, advocate love and the notion as repeated weekly by Jeff Smith on the Red Green show,

"We're all in this together. Remember I'm pulling for ya." Thanks Red. I'm pulling for ya too. Hope your tour in Madison and Lacrosse is a success.

My Amish friends know it.  They don't proselytize, yet their numbers in community keep increasing as well as their influence and immersion in our culture.  They keep extremely conservative values within their community and have successfully defended their lives from being negatively changed by technology.

In the interest of balance, I'd suggest picking up a bottle of Lifeway Kefir. My friend at Wal-Mart-Bulldog- must have had something to do with stocking it in the yogurt section.  There's a side panel description of Christy Turlington Burn's documentary , No Woman , No CryLifeway donates a portion of every sale of Probiotic Blueberry Kefir, supporting maternal and child health. Every Mother Counts

Every human life counts.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Chin Music

Mandy and I are singing a duo.She howls while I just piss and moan.
The weather outside is frightful, 
while the fire inside is delightful...

Wind chills  at -20. Getting the mail results in brain freeze.  Horizontal driven snow flurries. I let Salvatore Pucci the cat outside and set the stove timer for 10 minutes. Any longer and he's a corpse.  Toss another log on the fire and pray to the God of Fire and Thunder that I won't have to empty the ash pan again today. 

It's that time of year I look back and  fondly remember living in Arizona.  Next to the computer tower on my work table is a pile of manuscripts.To keep in touch with friends back East, I'd dash off a tongue in cheek commentary of life in Arizona around the turn of the century (the year 2000) . The postage was nasty and generally the lazy shits never wrote back, but I continued writing because I loved the fun.  Pictures were often stolen, but who cared? An example.
Chapter headings included Chin Music ( subtitled Run While You Can) ,Chortling and Loud Farting.  
I chose to include some of my own scanned photography of curious places on the road between Phoenix and home. Sign over this stone cottage says ,
Health and wealth
learn how.
I wish I'd gone inside. I figured it was an Amway pitch.
I stitched in commentaries about the Phoenix nightly news reports of helicopter chases of stolen vehicles with this racy guy speeding along 77th street. Notice the foot ( not horse) power. I still wear that hat.
I waited all day at an auction to bid on this Howdy Doody marionette. It was worth the wait.  Just don't ask me how it fit in the story. 

Wait. I remember. Most of the stories I wrote were of the neighbor Gary at the end of the cul-de-sac who was dumber than dirt.  He was from Illinois.  My next door neighbor and I tortured the fellow constantly.  Chuck, the next door neighbor, calls from New York. He's attending the New York marathon in support of a daughter in the race.  He asks, "Can you run next door and get Wendy's attention".  He needed to speak to her and she was on the phone.  I ask, "I'm in my pajamas. Is it all right if I don't change?"  "He warns me, "Don't do a Gary now, please." The reference is a now famous episode of Gary walking his dog down merry Go Round Road, barn door wide and gaping with an exposed member.

Being slow witted, I promised to check that all orifices are closed for the day.

Lineman Bob circa 2010

Thursday, February 9, 2012

For Hansi

I mentioned to a fellow blogger that the next time I drove through Coon Valley, I take some shots.  As I am want to do, I don't think about the dirty car window.  I am too lazy to get out of the vehicle because I've been given a a short time frame to get to Lacrosse.  As they say, better than nuthin'. 

Speed trap coming into Coon Valley.
Tiny home adjacent to farm in 1sy picture.
Main Street ( Silicoon Valley on right)
Fiord Bar thru dirty windows (ART SHOT)
Coon Creek Watershed (top right)
More Coon Creek

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

For You I Pine and Balsam

Jonathon Pyne
I'd promised some folks that in lieu of a phone call, I'd keep in touch via this format.  Push came to shove(and a loss of some feeling in my fingertips) I've gotten pretty rusty in wordsmithing.  Oh yeah, every once an awhile I even astound myself with a three syllable word rolling out of cheek and jowl which sounds darn impressive, but, but...That same medication which causes a permanent loss of feeling can also cause hearing loss.  What's left?  Loss of vocabulary? Stunted phrases.  Adjectives like good and nice? Writing for Reader's Digest: Ten tips for better sex in your garden?

I thought I'd get away with throwing in a picture of a beer on Superbowl Sunday. We're out in the country, yet I couldn't help the nagging feeling that ten of millions of people watching live in the city. What if they all flush at once? Was anybody watching the borders when the the Great Dane buried the cat collar and bribed his owner with Doritos? 

The tree picture will hold Gary's interest for a while. With raised eyebrows he asks, "People really spend hours on the net reading each other's blogs?" In a late afternoon visit to the library, I find that the 80+ year old library angel has been out for a week with a bad back. Sleeping becomes a chore. Bad sign. One obvious tip of her absence is the immaculate front counter.  Mandy my blue heeler goes directly to the carpeted reading area for a vicious bout of back itching complete with grunts, groans and animated ruffs. Ruff.

There's no spozed to be here in Kickapoo Center right now, but I'm thinking I might get away from having to toss firewood slabs down into the basement, if I find enough fodder here for procrastination.  Jorge, shit that he is, decides to lay low.  That means he calls 1/2 hour before I'm spozed to leave for a 3rd day of hydration and blood tests in LAX asking if I got coffee. I give three short "no" answers to his questions. I can hear him slinking away on the phone.  When I call today I get his answer machine.  Jorge and Houdini have things in common in that they both disappear quickly.  Only Jorge will reappear across the state.  I figure it's too much work to actually find out if he's a friend or just an acquaintance.

Just about used up my allowance of surplus-energy starting a fire in the wood furnace this morning in preparation for an intended line-dry wash never accomplished.  The open dryer door was too much of an invitation.After the three no answers to Jorge's half-assed attempts to be personable the previous day, which I know from experience is a 70+ year old lonesome retired bachelor's attempt to order an otherwise lack luster day in which TV, nap, lunch and letting the dog's out are primary activities along with secondary affirmations of hoping for free coffee, a visit from one of the B's* in Richland Center which may also include some vicarious sex or maybe a short run to town for bananas at the Kwik Trip, I repeat Jorge's follies save for the TV and sex which lately drives me totally bonkers( TV that is). 

I try to avoid dissing the medical establishment despite a wealth of topics. All that negative clank ends up littering my dreams, despoiling my mental landscape with empty pop cans of medicalese jargon, "I'm sorry I can't tell you that because if I'm wrong you might sue me"  and a discarded candy wrapped cauchemar about a derelict woman pushing a baby carriage with a disguised doll whose head unscrews so she can pour another shot of whiskey.  

A bright spot is the spunky, staff nutritionist who spends hours listening to me vent of ex-wives and rubber band-like excursions in my life, surgically inserting suggestions here n' there to keep myself hydrated and properly fed without thumbing a nose at Mayo Clinic's low residue diet which is so wrong yet technically correct because it absolves them of any litigious ambiguity. Our discussion asides  take us to a deep space nine in the stratosphere where I'm pontificating about male machismo attitudes of objecting women at the same time I'm enjoying the company of an attractive middle aged woman.  I tell her I wonder if she's just used to hearing males ramble on about themselves.  "I wouldn't be here if I didn't care."  Truly an angel

In the dark voided absence of any personal visit to my Amish friends, Wilma writes me an eight page letter of inspiring thoughts and life on the farm.  If I could, I'd kiss her. Instead I give her an angel pin one of the nurses in LAX gifted me.  I hope she's not taken aback by something strange to her culture. In the letter she describes making cheese(nothing to write home about), hoping for colder weather to make ice for the ice-house in summer, a snowball fight at the schoolhouse and a coyote hunt.  In the background members of the family are enjoying a card game called rage. 

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Meaning of Life

After all the chemo, IV drips, trips back and forth to Lacrosse, endless consultations, anti-nausea medications  and I discover one thing I needed all along.
Pearl Street Brewery from Lacrosse and pale ale.

Never, ever, underestimate the beauty of the simple joys of life.  My dog, my wife ( not necessarily in order of importance), my friends especially my Amish friends who taught me in simplicity there is beauty, and last of all, write this somewhere where you can see it every day, every bitching day when the sun don't shine when you think all is lost or buried under a carpet of human indifference to the true meaning of life. never take anything for granted. Never. 

Hey. yeah, phew, must've gone over the speed limit of human kindness and an appreciation of malt beverages. 'Scuse me. 

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sunday Report

Laid back, stretched out. Feelin' Better at Last. Been laying around a lot.  My furry kids are getting into the slow, winter lifestyle of eat, sleep and repeat.  The cat, while I write, is curled up on the cedar shavings dog bed sans faux fleece cover, while Dawn attempts to remove grease stains from multiple beef bone treats the blue-heeler likes to eat between meals. They taste better when consumed in bed.  In terms of peeves, I think eating in bed rates up there with drinking coffee near the computer. One good spill could wipe out all this. Be nice now.

Think old schoolhouse.  Second floor, large open space.  Great place for kids to dream of running around outside on spacious lawn, walking down to the river to poke in mud banks or just go for a hike in the woods.  Teachers wiped out any nonsensical mind wanderings by threatening to burn kid-stuff.  "Glenda, stop day-dreaming and pay attention or I'll throw your dolly on the burn pile."   Think I'm kidding?

First year we lived here, I'm curious about a burn pile on the south fence line.  With a garden rake I probe the contents and find porcelain doll parts, you know the old fashioned dolls with cloth or leather bodies.  Arms, legs, partial heads, hands.  Sad.  In tribute I create a grapevine wreath. I attach a few arms, legs and hands. I toss in a rusted, burnt out lock I found in the same pile, add some silk flowers. At the bottom I hang an old sheep bell salvaged from a junk box.  I ain't bragging, but the over-all effect is what I wanted.  "For whom the bell tolls..."  My teachers could have ridden with Jesse James for all the time they stole from me. The actual title of the wreath construction was-After The Fire.

Are you listening?  Large open space.  Second floor.  Seven years later, after building a new school, the old school is turned into a residence.  Bedrooms in the large open space need closets.  Yeah, adding closets will make the room smaller, but think cozy.  The master bedroom on the south end has two closets.  The east bedroom-one closet that abuts the bathroom.  A bathroom literally turned into a throne because all the plumbing is laid on the floor.  The ball and claw tub had to be raised on a pedestal.  West bedroom, one closet that hangs over the stairwell, hence, a sloped ceiling that makes for little storage space, save for a narrow top shelf over a pipe rack for clothing. All have access doors consisting of a turnbuckle and a piece of paneling.

Still listening?  The carpenters with farmer wisdom not only create a closet but put a narrow crawl space behind the closet.  Clever vermin find it a nice place to chew insulation and hang out on long winter nights.  Eating in bed in this house would be an invitation to a mice critter sharing your comforter.  The lazy lump on the couch keeps 'em at bay.  Before Salvatore Pucci arrived on our back step on a frozen February night, we'd hear snap traps go off in the middle of the night.  We found out that bait traps caused the mice to horde piles of green pellets, saving them for a treat in front of their own version of Disney's Mouseketeers.  Dead mouse in the wall is worse than snap traps going off in the middle of the night.

Grab a flashlight. Open the access door, find the trap and remove twitching body. . Since the Pooch took residence, he scouts 24/7 basement, back hall, first floor and every available nook and cranny upstairs.  Good boy.  Anybody raises an eyebrow about a pampered cat getting raw chicken liver for dinner with an occasional 90/10 raw ground beef snack thrown in gets my scorn. Outside, he find all sorts of mousie variations from field mice to shrews to moles to cute furry cartoon mice. Even I feel sorry for those guys .

For every one you see, there's a hundred more behind the door.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Sheep, Sheep

Camp Verde Sheep Copyright 2012  Seven Roads Gallery
I love music.Let me reword that. I love good music.  Good is my opinion.  Nuances in individual tastes toward food, wine, beer, film and art, are as wide-spread as cowboy hats in Texas or assholes wearing cowboy hats in Texas.  Like Tommy at the monthly town meeting who unjustly accused the town board of favoritism and then held up his right paw and forestalled any further discourse with, "I ain't gonna argue,"  I will add ditto to Tommy's spurl ( my own word-a combination of spurt and hurl). I ain't gonna argue.

When I taught in the inner city, as a respite from stress, I'd retreat to a greenhouse I salvaged from demolition.  A neighbor and I drove it from it's defunct business location in the inner city  to my lower east side home along the Milarky River. We managed it without much damage to the glass windows.  I replaced a few rotted frames and hand dug a narrow footing four foot below the ground level. Each window was a separately constructed piece which bolted to it's neighbor and was braced to a free standing roof.  Total dimensions I think were less than 20 feet long and wide enough for two four foot benches with a three foot walkway.  I'd stick a disc in my Walkman and tend to a variety of house plants, orchids and vegetable plants I raised for myself and for sale. It kept me sane. Surround yourself with a hundred plants and you'll know why.

Besieged by technical glitches in the writing of this post, I slip a music disc in the tower. It's an old friend, Music For The Spiritual Tourist compiled by Mick Brown.  I never intended to write about sheep. One of the cuts, the same title as the post, sung by the Georgia Sea Island Singers is an accapella  gospel song. In the liner notes Mick writes that gospel music is the first music "that truly moved me, a sanctified chorus..."

Dawn's painting of sheep sold at Amish auction for a ridiculously low price.  Under ten dollars.  Had I been there at the moment it went up for sale, I would have removed it from bidding in an illegal, but common way at Amish auctions which would have been to bid on the piece myself. Then if the price didn't rise or I wasn't satisfied with the price, I'd buy it and keep the painting, not before giving my Amish friends their meager commission.  I sincerely hope the buyer of Dawn painting enjoys the bargain or the painting drops off the wall and damages their furniture or both. 

 The Camp Verde Sheep acrylic is my title.  Dawn didn't add a title since it originally was planned as a inexpensive donation to help the Amish School fund. Cheap frame, quickly executed commission in which Dawn excels.  My mind's eye sees that sheep in the field across from a friend's place in Camp Verde, Arizona on a dark night when Holly escorted me and Dawn to look at a piece of property up for sale.  The house is pleasant enough, with some acreage.  Holly takes her flashlight to scan the field in front of the house.  Thirty glowing eyes shine back at us.  Memorable. 

The music in the background is wistful and melancholic.  With a black and white landscape outside and the threat of more snow this afternoon, I'm comforted by the presence of Salvatore Pucci, the cat, on my desk and Mandy Mae lying behind my chair. 

The week has been long and stressful.  One reason for technical glitches here is that I tried to find web images for a man stuck in a doughnut.  Use your imagination to see me up in Rochester having a biopsy of my pancreas while the Russian doctor tries to find the exact spot to insert a needle slide past bowel, liver, stomach with the aid of a CT scanner- a machine that looks like a four foot high plastic beige doughnut

Wednesday was a relatively innocuous electrocardiogram ( sonic imaging of my heart) to determine if my heart can withstand the chemotherapy.  Thursday, we drove through dense fog, possible black ice just after dawn to arrive for outpatient surgery to install a port for the chemo, more tests, lots of down time, consultations, medicalese, and 4+ hours of chemotherapy. A Pakistani doctor wearing  a skullcap with really bad breath reminds me to tell him when my fingers go numb or if I can't button my shirt because that's bad, really bad. It can't be reversed.  More worst case scenario.  I'd like to take all the worst case scenarios and...

We left home at 7:15 am and return 12 hours later. Thanks to Jorge, the animals were well kept.

I never mention kind, number and species when talking to the medical folks about my "animals" because they will immediately down play my abrasive reactions to their scheduling process, which seems to be for the benefit of the medical people.  Let them assume I have 300 chickens, ten ducks, forty sheep and dairy cows because all I get anyway is sympathetic looks.  Not much else.  "I'm sorry but that's the procedure."  The most they'll give is  push back arrival time 30 minutes because I'm not 80 years old and don't need twenty minutes to untie my shoes.

The admitting nurse turns white when I tell her to get me a number for the scheduling person so I can inform them what it's like driving in dense fog for 70 minutes on possible glare ice.
I leave Skemp/Mayo with a portable pump attached to the newly inserted port.The pump serves to deliver chemo 24/7 for a week.  The pump hangs on my belt in a fanny pack.  On the drive home we have a laugh up the first hill to the ridge-tops surrounding Lacrosse when Dawn asks why there a flashing green light in the car.  It is in the same area ( outside) she reported lightning ( strobe flashes on cell towers). "Oh come on. I'm wearing that pump."  

If I sit, a line gets kinked and a red light starts flashing. After this happens twice, I make sure that all tubing is exposed for ready inspection.The sleeping dog starts whimpering.  I immediately look down at the pump device to see what warning signal is going off.  At night, it sleeps on the bookcase next to the bed. Nurses warning me of excessive thrashing in my sleep. Of course, they always give a worst case scenario in which a man ripped off the connection, chemo leaked all over the bed in his sleep.  Then, one has to open a box labeled SPILL KIT.  Yup you guessed it.  Full scale haz-mat operation with mask, gown, rubber gloves. Oh jayzus.

Cut to the chase.  I am better. Optimistic even. There are no more trips for at least a week.  Maybe then I'll have more time to be able to comment on trolls, dieting, concrete dishware and singing in the shower ( see blog list).

  Stay away from bridges 'cause that's where trolls wait for fat billy goats.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Dazed Doughnuts

" If we cannot trust the cleanliness of the hand that offers rice, how can we eat?"

The Pearl Diver
Sujata Massey

It's why I stay away from comment on politics except for the grassroots level. Newt Gingrich?

Snakes have gotten a bad rap because of a few vipers in the nest.  

I walked away from the computer. After ten minutes, it goes into a screen save feature and shows pictures at random from my files.  When I go back, this shot is on the screen.  It brings back memories.

I'm stacking firewood.  The quality of the wood is getting worse as the price goes up.  Leo wants cash in hand which is a minor inconvenience, but the real problem is that he doesn't question his sources. "Is it fresh cut wood?" I ask. Dunno, he answers.

When he finally unloads the dumpster, I find much of the so called firewood is slab wood-the outer edges of logs trimmed at the sawmill in preparation for cabin building.  Too much bark, which in return creates more work. A frequent need to empty the ash pan.

This guy pictured above is savoring a cool spot as I removed a few outer levels at the top of the row.  After I got over the "holy shit", I was fortunate enough to have enough time to grab the camera. The snake must have been Amish as it didn't want a picture of its face.

Writing in my blog is therapy for me. I need the distraction. I'm depressed to the point of trembling from the stress.

Pooch the cat is so bored he's taken to hiding behind furniture and leaping out at the dog in mock combat.  He teases the dog to wrestle by stealing the dog's blankie.

In two days Dawn and I will travel, again, to Rochester for another test.  After wrestling with the Mayo doctors in Lacrosse, it is agreed that I will have a needle biopsy to settle a question about the esophageal cancer and an area adjacent to my pancreas. The journey up and back is arduous.  The weather unpredictable. Tuesday's 8 am test forces us to leave home no later than 5:30 am.  We won't even bother feeding the dog, because it's way too early for her morning feeding.  The cat will have to suffer being cooped up another day.  Jorge who has been the zookeeper,of late, is across the state on another errand of mercy which somewhat overshadows our needs.  His sister had a botched hernia operation in which the incision never healed properly.  She needs treatment.

If I get the biopsy, the wheels start moving.  Wednesday I'll have a echo cardiogram to determine if my heart is healthy enough to stand up to chemotherapy.  On Thursday, a device will be attached to my chest for the chemo medication.  Then, I can look forward to repeated chemo, nausea and weakness.  I won't be writing here.  Right now my appetite is waning because of pressure from the esophageal mass extending into my stomach.  We'll borrow Jorge's juicer so I can maintain proper levels of nutrition.  Dawn looked online for juicers and found a reasonable model from Waring that number one son swears by.  If we like Jorge's, we'll buy our own.

I love the taste of organic carrot juice.  Our favorite grocery store in Lacrosse has loads of quality vegetables.  And it's on the fast way home via Interstate 90 through Cashton back down highway 14.

The doctor in charge of my chemo is a clone of Amy Fowler Farrah(sp?) Sheldon's girlfriend on Big Bang Theory.  We have to stifle guffaws when she gruffly asks questions and bristles at pointed responses.

It's just one big sitcom without the canned laughter.

Photo montage below. I ran out of words.

Oh Lord won't ya buy me a Mercedes Benz.
Peace Out.
Green Bay Quacker from Seven Roads Gallery  

Saturday, January 21, 2012


More bucolic shots to ease the pain of a -15 degree morning.  In the days when I couldn't download a large photo, I took lots of 640X480 pixel pictures. This is one. The quality is minimal.  At the top of the frame is a telephone pole at left.  If I enlarge the shot, blogger will crop too much.  Note the heavy cover across the highway.
Back in 2005, I rushed in the house to get this picture of a commemorative ride locals make every year.  With home-made wagons and lots of riders they honor a journey pioneers made way back when. What I'm trying to point out is the area across the road behind the riders. With the first picture, it  shows a dense wooded area along the winding river.

What's the point?  This wooded spot affords a nice view of the river banks, a grassy strip along the highway and a pine woods off to the left.  The habitat is prime for birds of prey and good cover for the rest of the gang.  Today my wife, Dawn,  spots three crows perched high atop the tallest tree in the top picture-the one next to the pole.  Mid-way below in a smaller tree is a Great Horned Owl.  In the lowest branch of the same tree as the owl, a puffed up hawk watches the white snow cover for mouse and rodent activity.  Better than TV which I loathe say, I've been watching way too much.  On the south end of energy from what Dawn says is stress catching up on me, I read a bit, fall asleep in my recliner and watch the free cable channels that will be cut off after our free month's trail. 

Entertainment used to be watching a parade of birds at as many as six feeders around the place.  Tube feeders, platform feeders, little houses, a Droll Yankee and two squirrel proof feeders as well as several store bought and homemade suet feeders which brought loads of species.  Then seed prices at the local hardware store went sky high.  I couldn't afford a decent seed blend without all the filler seeds common to cheaper varieties. It only encourages mice and rabbits.  Even oil sunflower got expensive, so I stopped feeding the birds. 

One feeder was located next to a lilac bush near the deck outside of a large picture window in the living room..  One day I looked out to see a falcon "spread-eagled" (no pun intended) on the top of the leafless bush. Inside under the cover of a dense thicket juncos and sparrows were safe from the hungry bird.  Never have I been privy to such a sight.

The struggle I have with a decision to feed the birds is that once one begins feeding wild birds, you can't quit until there's sufficient food available or when the snow cover melts.  Biologists claim that birds don't' need our help, but my feeling is that if I save one chickadee from starvation, I've done well. A friend who was an ornithologist claimed that chickadees have to eat their body weight daily to because of a high metabolism.  Fifty per cent mortality is common over the winter. Besides, I like the friendly little critters.   

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Seeds for Thought

I swivel my office chair around to glimpse at my blue heeler sprawled in front of the bookcase behind me.  She raises her head briefly in anticipation, decides, "He ain't going anywhere," and flops back down on her side.  Yeah. Sun's out. " If Hell is hot, what do we have outside right now?" I wonder.  Early morning color has receded from that lovely golden hue that makes you want to photograph the dumbest things because everything looks wonderful, warm and glows in the early morning light.  Truth be told, even psycho cat came in from the cold after a brief tour de grounds this morning. He's upstairs stretched out on the bed.  Remember, he was raised outdoors, slept under a porch for the first nine months of his life until I rescued him trying to eat a frozen pan of leftovers in the dark of a 10 below zero February night.

See that leafy stuff behind Mandy Mae?  Them's carrots.  I'm eating Wal-Mart canned carrots right now because I screwed up on the garden plan.  The carrots I did grow either went into my vegan friend Jorge's mouth or into home canned, pickled,dilled carrots n' veggies. Then there was the year I grew sweet, really sweet carrots so delicious I gave most of them away in a fit of , "You won't believe how good these carrots taste!"  WTF is wrong with me? Yes, there's always next season.

California Dreaming

Shut-in by two days of frightful below zero temperatures, I only let the dog out long enough to poop and pee. She does a few practice runs along the east fence line and comes back to the house limping from the cold. Today I'll put on three layers and the warmest parka I have to fill the wood bin once the thermometer reaches 10 degrees. That and lunch are long range goals. 

For every negative there is a positive. Something I hold to be a basic fact of life.

Quincley Tharpes, a therapist who helped me over my mental speed bumps of dreams of being in combat in a previous life as a inner city educator when the "free" counseling provided by an educational system now so defunct and bankrupt that it is unable to staff basic needs for students  tells me my blue eyes match my shirt.  I smile at the compliment but do not respond.  Then she says, "You got one rubber band life style,"  cutting me to the quick.  Whatchamean rubber band?

You live in the city, move to a farm, move back to the inner city, move lock stock and barrel into a tent for a year in the sticks across from a commune, then you move back to the city, bounce around the city and teaching jobs (52 different schools)- big fat red rubber band boy.

She pops another hard candy into her chubby little mouth and smiles. She has a Smurf statute on her desk.

Every trip I take, every plane ride across the country each and every foray outside the womb is a comparison, for the file folder that goes into a mental cabinet labeled " potential places to live". Some trips last for years.  One learns that 103 degrees in the shade on your birthday in May, when the soil is so hot it burns your wrists pulling what tortuous few weeds grow in the red iron oxide sandstone in the lower yard isn't much different than trying to pull a frozen spade out of the compost pile in January.  You worry for the red worms buried under all the shredded leaves.
Nine inches of rain in a three day period makes even the most sane person wonder about apocalyptic prophesies. Standing in water up to your ankles, I wash mud off  potatoes leaves and hope the crop isn't destroyed.  At the library yesterday I point out to the assistant director that in today's weather I don't go out with a net tucked under my straw hat so biting fleas don't fly up my nose and into my eyes.  Look at the bright side.

I think I'll go read seed catalogs.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


OK. Let's see where this goes. Has it driven you nuts yet?  Don't ask me how it became animated. 'Praps it'll go poof, let out a une petite poot of white smoke and crap on your desk top.  I hope not. 

This morning ,wind driven light snow blows off the roof creating an illusion of a blizzard. It only makes me more depressed.  The weather guys are off a bit, predicting light snow after midnight Monday night. Yesterday, I religiously check the radar and weather forecast for two states before another run to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester for a 1:00 pm appointment. Rochester. My derelict father's name was Chester.  Mom referred to him as Chet.  Can I turn it into a word play. Naw. I wouldn't do that to you. 

Never have 51 miles(Lacrosse to Rochester exit) seemed so interminable.  Flat, Minnesota farmland of indescribable sameness. You know I'd find a way to describe it accurately, if I could.  Maybe it's the billboard-20 miles out from the Rochester turn off- highway 52.  XITT 209. That's all it said. Black letters with no serifs against a snow white background.  Not even an icon, or two, or three.

 Yeah, I'm at the computer, terminally bored from fright and a feast of unpretentious repetition. I even went so far as to ingest some coffee laced with a healthy dose of local honey ( not her). Fooling with downloads, again.

I lay there for 90 minutes staring up at  ceiling tiles.  Remind myself to cancel any Mayo appointment when they call, mid-trip asking, "Can you get here by noon?"  Obviously they have no idea how far away we live.  "No, way, "I repeat.They shove me to the end of the line behind dog-bites, bed wetters and people with small fractures . Adding an additional bit of trauma, the consulting physician drags my wife back in recovery to report that the Dr.L__ couldn't perform the endoscopic ultrasound.  "The stent was in the way."  I'm still under the influence of an unknown narcotic used in anesthesia to cram a tube down my throat. A narcotic, the nurse says, when she tells me "Do not even attempt to drive after the procedure."  Screwing with her mind, I  make no promises. She tells me that if were stopped, it's a felony. I make note to let Dawn drive the whole way, knowing that Nurse Ratchitt will turn in our license plate to the state patrol.  Remember this.  Before being threatened with the police for driving under the influence, the!@#$'s  ask me to make life threatening decisions about my care.


I look up at Dawn for a signal that, yes, she'll help me throttle the F-R when one choice is to stay overnight, have them remove the stent in my throat the next morning and repeat the procedure. Choice behind door number two, is to take a biopsy with a needle. "There's no guarantee that the biopsy procedure won't contaminate areas on it's exit.Number three is so onerous, I don't remember. Perhaps it was the narcotic that made me woozy. You don't need any more details.

On the way home, I don't say more than three words.  "Stop slowing down," were the 3 words.  We get back to frantically hungry critters, happy to see we're not dead.  I make myself breakfast, the one I'd missed 12 hours before. What? Why didn't we stop?  There aren't a whole lot of places where I can feast on a low residue diet.  Even then, it grosses Dawn out when I throw up in a napkin at the table because I forgot to chew slowly.  Sorry for that image, but somethings can't be tamed.

We watch a tribute to Betty White on the tube just to calm down with goodness.

I'm better now that I've vented.      


Sunday, January 15, 2012

It Is Winter

There was a Canadian TV show on PBS I'd watch religiously,before I moved to Arizona.  It was called the Red Green Show.  Farcical, stupid, dumb and dumber-such as one featured segment that focused on 1001 uses for duct tape. The creator of the show and the star did a black and white segment  demonizing the Canadian winter with humor.  I remember one part where Red would sit out in a snowstorm playing guitar.  Falling through holes in ice became a slapstick artform.  I even found DVD's of the show on Netflix.  To watch with enthuisam, one should be drunk or impaired. In all honesty, I may have been drinking.

Today, I played my own version of -It Is Winter.  The dog wouldn't let me sleep in. Dawn kicked the cat outside at 7am for howling, but I worried that my cat buddy would freeze his business off in 10 degree temperatures.  Coughing prodigiously from a virulent form of laryngitis, I amble downstairs to let the cat inside.  He was super glad to see me.  I made a couple of real vanilla flavored waffles, brewed some strong coffee and a cup of miso soup.  I threw tofu cubes in the boiling soup water before I mixed in the measured amount of mellow yellow miso dissolved in water.  Then I slathered the hot waffle with creamy peanut butter ( my low residue diet because of throat cancer doesn't allow crunchy peanut butter).  For fun we went to Wal-Mart.  The high point came when a parent escorted a howling kid out of the store.  I avoided friends I knew when I worked there, because I didn't want to go through the C routine.

I stared at the white blanket outside through car windows and kitchen windows.  I read some and fell asleep in my recliner for a few hours.  Poor dog isn't getting any exercise.  I dreamed of naked pirate girls.   The above photo is 30 minutes of error messages in my attempts to load a pirate girl photo.  If the net police are looking for me, I'll say the same thing my santero friend said with a twinkle in his eye as I passed him in the Village Crossing grocery store in Sedona.

"Pardon us, we're old."   

Saturday, January 14, 2012


When I was a freshman in high school, this duck got me into trouble. Actually, not this particular one.
This one.

See the crudely repaired head.  My skills as an art restorer in 1960's were limited.  It sat in the basement of the suburban home I'd just moved into after my grandfather died of a heart attack.  Long story, short, is that my mother created this duck when she was a little tyke.  My grandmother prized the art piece, but not enough to move it out of the basement laundry room. In the laundry room there was a wooden table, an old copper boiler, shelves under the east  window, two cement tubs for the washer and hand washing of clothes and a clothes chute. I still have both washboards. Back then it was a half century old.  Now, it's over 100 years old.

I wanted to examine it more closely, so I climbed on the creaky wooden wash table to grab it from the high shelf under the basement window.  When I did,  the beak fell off the aging wooden duck.Crap.  Basically, I was an honest kid, so I showed it to Grandma. She went ballistic. Grandma, I would learn a few years later was in a pre-dementia stage.  She was full blown by the time I became a senior in high school.  She could curse like a sailor.  Really foul mouthed.  So bad, the neighbors would call the police. The summer of my senior year, I took a brief trip to northern Minnesota.  While I'm in Minnesota, I get a visit from the Sheriff of St.Louis County saying, " Go home immediately." No explanation. I found out later Grandma was hanging on a tree in my old neighborhood across from my foster folks' home.  My mother must have driven her there to assuage her fears that her grandson hadn't flown the coop. It was a eleven hour drive back in the days before the expressways.

Remember a recent post about irony?  I created a copy of the duck for my granddaughter.  The copy was pasted onto a blackboard I made.  In 2007, it was a teaching tool for the kid.  No mention was ever made of the history of the duck.  I cringe every time I see the duck.  It makes me think of times I was dumb enough to drive home with a girlfriend in my 1960 Ford Sunliner convertible, run inside the house to get condoms or whatever hugely important thing I'd forgotten only to find Grandma berating Susie or Bonnie, calling her a beaaach who should leave her grandson alone.  Every time I see the effing thing I remember her shouting at the TV, or cursing Harry Truman because, "He had a foul mouth."  Ha. 

Poor soul.  She was an incredible old-time German cook.  As I grew older and had my own family, my children lived in fear of her because she had only one front tooth.  When I was a kid and she accompanied my mother on weekly visits to the foster home, she always slipped me a half dollar. Later ,when she was still fairly under control of her faculties, she'd slip me a twenty.  Inflationary times.  It never scarred my psyche or turned me into a closet weirdo.  Mostly, it made me sad about getting old.  I should have been more tolerant, instead of holding beer parties in the basement rec room when I graduated from high school.  Bringing home drunken friends from the beer bars outside of town sure didn't help.

Sorry Grandma.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Peace like a prayer.

We are in winter's icy thrall.  All the snow bunnies out there are ecstatic save for real rabbits who stand out against a white backdrop, like a whore in a church pew.  Plowmen, snowmobilers and birds of prey, pleased as punch. I'll explain..  Hang on a moment. Please.

I'm getting lazy, I grab the snow shovel next to the breezeway entrance and shovel a path to the driveway apron.  Then I can stand there in my cozy, warm slippers while watching the dog take a dump.  This critter is worse than her owner. Looking out of the breezeway at four measly inches of snow, she hesitates.  "I ain't walking in that stuff."  In a fit of pique, she'll pee directly in front of the door. She's born to run, She loves to explore, but only if I'm along with her.  If I say ,"Let's go for a walk," she'll fly off her chair and race to the back door.  If I'm not getting my coat on, she turns her head to one side as if saying, wait just a moment, "You said "Let's go for a walk. I'm not going." 

This is the same dog, who will knowingly walk into a flying shovelful of snow as I clear the garage apron. In her estimation, her face, ears and muzzle are delightfully covered in white.  It's some kind of game, I dumbly reinforced from the puppy days.  For this person, shoveling has become a onerous task.   I split the short approach to the garage into two halves pretending I'm the equivalent of a human snowplow.   I toss a full shovel of snow to the left. Mandy races left hoping to be buried under the flying snow drift.  Alternate to the right, she races to the other side of the driveway.  Finally, I lose patience. "Get back," I tell her.  Then, as if considering the alternative, getting shut in the house, she'll run to the fence line and pretend chase cars and trucks on the highway.

As a pretense of going for a walk  I slip on the cardigan Dawn knitted me.  Satisfied that I'm not going to bail on a promised walk-a-thon, the dog waits for me by garage edge. I walk out to the end of the hedge lined  sidewalk. She ambles out into the snow covered potato/corn patch.
Potato/corn patch at lower left.
One year in a anal-retentive fit , I marked all the front field gardens with a stick with a number in red latex paint.  There are eight now.  At one time the number was closer to thirteen.  In winter I dump ashes on the plots. Under a snow cover, I can't tell where garden plot begins and ends. Although wood ashes don't harm the grass it creates a mess and complications.  I have to remember where the potato plots are located because potatoes don't like wood ashes in the same year.

Mandy finally does her business.  As she inspects the deposit, a bald eagle flies not more than ten feet over her head.  Whoa. That's unusual. Leave my dog alone, please.  With a new snow cover, hunting for mice and rodents is exceptional for owls and raptors.  Quite often in the past, Mandy and I would discover furry remains of an owl dinner scattered over the berm or in the back yard.  Hoot and Great Horned owls roost in the pine woods above the corn field across the road.  Bald eagles sit on tree perches over the river.  The river meanders across the highway, loops to the east, takes a hard right to the south creating an unusual geographical picture of twisted river-north, east and south within a short distance distance of our place.  It's wonderful habitat for all birds as well as wildlife.  In the top picture, beaver have currently created a swath six feet wide, where they have deftly chewed small willows off at the base and drug the trees to homes along the river bank.
The road to the outside.