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.