Wednesday, July 19, 2017

it was all "A FIB"

once a hypochondriac, always a hypochondriac, they say. CG Jung maintains it's the result of being a mother's boy. alas, plenty of truth in that. i've never separated from the umbilical chord, an oedipus complexee for life. sometimes when feeling down and out, i yearn for the safety of the womb. except, it wasn't safe. my mother had an appendectomy even as i was growing ears and penis. yes, interrupted development, no doubt. 

so when i developed a pain in my throat, 1979, i traipsed around california to nine doctors. one finally said, 'oh yes, i read about that recently in the literature. acid coming up from the stomach.' i used antacids and psychic healing techniques. the ulcer disappeared in no time. now they call it GERD and everybody knows about it. 

my faith in doctors shaken once again recently. i'd developed what are called 'trigger fingers', once that catch at the joint and may get so bad the fingers won't open at all. first i consulted a plastic surgeon. this big mistake led to another one. he said i needed the whole arm tourniqueted and i'd have to be knocked out. EKG check of the heart needed first. and with that, the administering nurse said i had A FIB, short for an uneven heartbeat. 

oh boy, something bigger to worry about: a bad heart. a month later visited the cardiologist, took a tress test where they shot me up with adrenalin and took 3d pics. an echo-cardiogram. both showed i need help. a cardio-conversion scheduled, an electric-shock to put my proper rhythm back. in the meantime i consulted friends and the web. half my friends have the condition, some worse than others. beware of getting over seventy. 

the day came. i drove down from the lookout and arranged with a friend to drive me to the hospital. the nurses most kind. the main lady said, 'we'll do another EKG.' o come on, i'd already had five of them. they all showed the danger of clots and i'd been taking a blood thinner. she stuck the electrodes all over my body. once again i felt like frankenstein. only this time, she said, 'your heartbeat is normal. forget the IV and come back to the doctor in two weeks."

this is getting to be, i thought, a shaggy dog story. i told the doctor i thought i might be going in and out of A FIB. he said i could take another medicine to steady my heart. i said i didn't want to unless i knew it a problem for sure. (yes, it can give you strokes.) so they taped a monitor over my heart. i wore it for two weeks and sent it back. i haven't heard the result. who was it said, 'sometimes there's a good reason for paranoia?'

okay, what about the trigger fingers. my brother told me on him they used a local anaesthetic and nipped the tendon without more ado. i visited the expert hand orthopedic surgeon. sure enough, that's all i needed. no knocking me out. i'll be damned, the plastic surgeon will never know if he saved my life by going overboard. without him i'd never known about my jumpy heart, or i would have had a very painful unnecessary procedure. 

yes, back at the lookout, trying not to check my pulse  to see if it's skipping beats. so far when i have, everything's been normal. i cut way back on caffeine and suger. and i realized i'd been starving myself of water for years, not wanting to pee more than five times a night. evidently, that could have been the cause of A FIB. now i drink water everytime i get up under the stars. so far so good. i no longer feel listless and without energy when i get up. 

for me the body is way to complicated! 

Monday, July 3, 2017

making excuses for envy

after reading an essay by dennis palumbo on writers and their struggles with envy, i thought to myself, "Not my problem." yes, i don't envy shakespeare or rilke, jackson pollock or matisse, not even the great photographers: brandt and brassai. smugly, i said to myself, "i've done something as well as they." not in total, rather with my shotgun, hit and miss method. somewhere hidden in my mass of material lies a shakespearean phrase, a rembrandt portrait. true, i'd have to dig a bit.  

unfortunately, the endless processions of pride didn't last. i started watching lectures on classical composers, and listening to my old modern favorites: phillip glass, steve reich, and terry riley. i could feel something like pain, nausea, a feeling of lack, of failure. not because the sonata by scriabin not wildly inventive, the seascape of debussey not swooning and magical. no, rather due to their overwhelming sonorities, the fact they surrounded me, pouring music and feeling into every pore of my body, not just into my ears.

i remember a rehearsal of the new york philarmonic, shostakovitch's 5th symphony, the chills running up and down my spine. or many years ago as an advanced teen-ager, sitting in hthe living room and watching the darkening sky as tchaikovsky's symphony pathetique carried me on a magic carpet into an ethereal rhealm with no name. yes, i did listen to lots of other 78's: porgy and bess, oklahoma, brigadoon. the delights of broadway musicals were not beneath me.

that said, it was the monumental sounds of the great composers which turned me into a lightning rod. they took me over totally as the clouds flew by outside. and when i listen to their biographies, despite some pretty miserable lives, say the end of prokofiev's life or the struggles of a deaf  and love distraught beethoven, i still envy them, probably due to the fact i'd have to have started a musical career at age five. no, i tried piano lessons and couldn't stand practicing. the same with the trumpet. maybe if i'd have had a guitar. 

in the end i like to improvise too much. i noodle now with a ukelele and a recorder, i dream of mastering a digital program and making my own symphonies. even then i don't have the confidence i could rival a scriabin piano sonata, or a chopin prelude. the task feels too monumental, like climbing everest buck naked. 

ah, i assumed i'd escaped the green-eyed monster, reading books of wise sayings, toning myself down - no puns please - restraining myself to poetry, travel, theater, photography. hadn't i tried to cover all the creative bases and not think too highly of myself, willing to laugh when i tripped and fell? when i visited the apartments of beethoven, schubert, and rimsky-korsakov, did it cross my mind they might be greater than i? even in the rooms of strindberg and dostoyevsky, this didn't occur to me. 

Saturday, April 22, 2017

performer in the hot seat

ah, it all makes sense to me now. and it's rather embarrassing. years ago i read a book on character types, and americans came out as 'performers'. guess this pretty obvious. i'm in the soup of movies, tv, news, singers, etc. like everyone else, addicted to drama. i'm easily bored. imagine that kid sitting in the front pew as his father gave sermons. gad, no wonder he squirmed, made faces, tried to draw the attention to himself. i even went through a phase of being the class clown, hard to imagine now. 

and at six, i'd gather people on the block, wrap myself in a sheet like an old roman and give a speech. whatever did i say? i have no idea now. all of it was instinctual. at five i told my mother i wanted to be an actor. "okay," she said, "we'll begin by memorizing the poems of winnie the pooh." wow, that immediately cooled me off. i didn't want to copy other people's lines. 

much later, since i wanted to be a writer, my mother suggested theater. "it's much rarer to do." a hundred plays and forty years later, i had to admit i didn't have the social skills for the occupation. i simply wasn't enough a smoozer, or big enough drinker.

oh, i did a few poetry readings, gave a few academic talks: 'the anthropology of love,' 'spaceship earth,' always over the top, performing some kind of character. alas, i'm a lousy rehearser. very lazy. and this undermined my endeavors. maybe now, watching a lot of ted talks and reading a book on how the speakers prepare, i might get better. no, drive and desire are everything. i read a book on how steve jobs organized his presentations. the whole logic of it went in one ear and out the other. 

i did finally learn to direct plays, and then lost interest. it boggles my mind even now. i turned to photography and shot a million pictures a year: parades, dance concerts, theater rehearsals, travels, private walks around town, circuses, fairs, and posted them on line.  at first i tracked the number of clicks on my site. eventually i got over three million and wondered once again, what was the point?

so, have i had a career as an actor? i  realize the answer is YES. everything i've done has been a performance of one kind or another. i've been reading writers talking of writing as performing, and being on a fire lookout for 54 years, i've had a platform on top of a mountain. when i report a fire, at least 500 get the message. terribly dramatic. and even travelling an adventure on the great stage of the world. love affairs, college classes, drinking coffee in a cafe. yes, it adds up. 

as for purpose, meaning, accomplishment, i have to rely on my own applause. bob dylan said, "if you've spent the day as you wish, you've succeeded." those moments when i have had hand-claps rather unreal. accepting a prize, i strutted like a peacock. a few times i mastered the moment. otherwise, out of restlessness, i moved on to another venue. 

Sunday, March 19, 2017

can i catch up with myself?

that' s always been my problem. racing ahead to avoid falling behind. alas, the poor turtle is back there, panting for breath, while the hare zooms ahead to the frying pan. 

to translate: my heart suddenly fluttering and fibrillating. what a drag. i'm all set to have a tendon sliced in my right hand so the middle finger can move freely again. one small problem, i have to have an ekg to measure my heart rhythms, necessary cause they have to completely knock me out and put a tourniquet on my arm, stopping the blood flow. the electrical chart discovers problem. no operation till i see a cardiologist.

a month, i have to wait a month? blood could pool, clots form, and my brain go into underdrive. quickly, i'm able to consult a second opinion. alas, the doctor comes up with the same conclusion. she tells me 'not to panic'. that's going to be a wicked fight.  hanged tomorrow, what a judgment!

now it's a matter of calming down, or speeding up. have i done everything i wanted to do? three weeks in australia livened me up. true, at first i hated traveling. the first night i slept in a chinese airport, one of those hotel tubes. okay, i thought, this is an adventure. finally in sydney, the first night in a youth hostel next to the train station awful. what was i doing giving up my comfortable bed? why that guy in the bunk above me shaking? you can imagine what i did. 

after a better night at bondi beach, thousands of people on the cliffs, awaiting the rise of a supermoon, i felt more comfortable. in general i could understand the language, though fast-taking kids might as well be speaking chinese. very dramatic evening. alas, clouds hid the moon till it rose high in the sky. ah, a bit of japanese m00n-viewing. 

i took the train canberra. the lady next to me, a grey-haired grandmother, fascinating. she'd taken care of her kids' kids while the parent were in india, on her way to visit a new grandchild. she had to get back quick for church work, for voluteering with the demented. i felt like a black swan who'd never done anything for anybody. an inspiring person. 

downtown in the australian capitol i began getting my feet on the ground, falling in love with its museums. true, the whole town new and many designed with buildings resembling a shopping mall. that said, i gained an over-view of australian history and art. one bookstore owner, originally from denmark, told me the NRA originally did not want everybody to have guns and then THE BLACK PANTHERS got them. and of course, all hell has broken since. 

off to the blue mountains, only a couple of hours by train from sydney. gorgeous place, fantastic youth hostel. stayed a week and watched all kinds of groups come and go, a hot spot for chinese tourists, busload after busload. i loved the town, katoomba, and ache to go back. i've pictured the whole trip here:   true, a lot of the pictures boring in themselves, but if you watch it as a slide-show and let it flow past.

okay, i did chicken out and skipped melbourne and the coral reefs, grabbed a plane back sooner than i had to. i had a couple of panic attacks, my heart jumping out of my chest. maybe that's where the trouble all started. and when i got back, everything seemed to go out of whack. i'd walked six hours a day with no problem. in Berkley my hands, right knee, and left foot crippled up. 

fortuitously, perhaps, i cancelled a trip to Paris and lost big (for me) money. evidently i need to know about the heart bit. guess i'll chew my nails for awhile
and ask myself: have you done everything you wanted to do? actually, i have no regrets and enjoy classes in the history of photography and the cinema of the cohen brothers. if only the political scene were different! maybe i won't survive to see the mess. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

a sure cure for envy

used to be i'd want a famous name, a beautiful wife, a mansion in the poconos, and i'd feel bad. where was my drive? my ambition? my workaholic ethic? no good, i never got past the first attempt at immortality, the leap where i fell between shadows. and now what? older i am a little wiser.

that famous name, having to hide out on a desert island to get a bit of privacy. damn, another photographer drops out of a palm tree. and the beautiful wife, what a bathroom of bottles and bars of soaps she needs. and as she grows old, she knows it. she complains, men always get to look handsome. as for the mansion in the mountains, well, i think of roofs gone leaky, pipes rusted, the window glass slowly slipping downward.

and so, when this item floated up from my possessions as i packed for winter, closing up the lookout, i had to smile at myself. better to remember what i've enjoyed than dwell on what i never did. written on a mechanical typewriter, it bears a day but no age. at least i had the pizzaz to praise. click on a page to enlarge it. 

Friday, September 23, 2016

Old tricks for a new dog: Can traveling be learned?

“The moon and sun are travelers through eternity. Even the years wander on. Whether drifting through life on a boat or climbing toward old age leading a horse, each day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.” 
― Matsuo Bashō

I am desperately timid. Fifteen years chained to my desk and computer, browsing the world from the comfort of my armchair, this has drained me of a certain pizaz. Long ago i'd simply decide to go somewhere and be off with nary a thought. Has the world become more dangerous? Or am i into saving my own skin, even at the price of depression and boredom?

Greece, Italy, England, i remember days when they worked. Travel mainly a desire for awareness: new smells, bird-sounds, insect-bites, it all awakens my senses. the eyes see more clearly and fear of missing a bus puts energy into the legs. exercise, that's what it's partly about. walking ten hours a day, carrying a backpack, sleeping in odd beds, jumping at the sight of a tarantula in the jungle, all of it brings the body back on board.

of course, the older person can overdo it and never quite recover. sleeping in the back of a bus across canada would probably not  be a good idea. i'm sure this time i'd turn into a preztel. in fact, i have no idea how i did it before. I keep telling myself: don't bite off more than you can chew. Be more focused. Realize you have to be able to swim fast to escape sharks in the great barrier reef.

So far i've merely been shopping: a pack with wheels, a sewing kit, earbuds, a stretchable close-line, small and cheap stuff. I've a year of travel insurance. They promise to send my body back! And i've applied for an austalian visa. Actually, i didn't enjoy sydney thirty years ago. Instant coffee! The shame of it. I read now the place has become a caffeine heaven. Up in the blue mountains, not to far away, i heard the strangest birds.

Must be those birds calling me back. I like trains ever since my father took me to watch them in montana when i was six. And passes took me all over europe, i lived to ride. Australia has some good deals. At the moment i'd like landscape more than culture. The latter a strain, ie. Tickets, cars, hustle and bustle. Last time in florence the banging of the motor-scooters echoed off the buldings and left me half deaf.

My dream: swinging on a hammock in the bush, the temperature perfect (74 degrees), a koala for a pillow, and kangaroos playing badmitten for my pleasure. Other times i body surf in sea, ignoring the hole in the ozone. Maybe i'll take up the digiridoo and blow my heart out. You see why i didn't leave home for fifteen years! All this easier to manage in a california cottage.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

the demands my possessions make on me

Suddenly dumped from my domicile, i've been thrown into a tizzy. Yes, life slipping by, and being such a homebody the last few years, i've hardly noticed. This is an opportunity to re-evaluate. Shall i take a new room, sleep on the boxes of diaries, letters, and photos from my past, as i have been doing? It's not as though they're eggs which will hatch!

And my body, how much longer can i trust it? This past winter i worried i wouldn't be able to climb the tower, carry up groceries and ukuleles. I did make it and gradually regained my step-upping power. Yet, a knee, a foot, a leg, it wouldn't take much to make working impossible. Yes, the lack of cataracts has help, and a slow fire season so far. Alas, eyes can't do the work of hands.

So, here i am with a shorter future, still able to motate. And i'm working up the travel fever in my blood. Better do it while i can! And i can't think of any more poems to write, plays to produce, pictures to take. In fact, all those would simply add to my load. Yesterday i felt completely free, contemplating putting the whole lot in storage and going on the road.

First, i realized my huge laptop demanding to be warmed up in the morning, the moment my eyelids parted. And i'd jump into email, and with this election year the news parasite invaded my brain. I kept thinking, what can i do to keep a certain lout fromn being elected and starting a race war? Thank goodness huge numbers of intelligent people working toward that goal. I don't have to do it alone.

Last week i buttoned up the laptop and set it at the end of the bed. I switched to using phone and tablet. They take up a lot less space on my desk and i have a better view of the fire-threatened landscape. True, i'm having to learn how to do a lot of things in this smaller way, exercising the weak underbelly of my brain. 

And i have already gotten rid of two hundred boxes of books, maybe five remaining. I even downloaded a lonely planet guide to australia to read on my screen. Yes, i've learned to read by the light of the moon, and i can carry two hundred boxes of books on my phone. All this contributes to welfare of the nomad. Not to mention it works as a tv, a time traveler and flashlight. 

I do have a problem: as a taurus i'm doomed to love having a home. Yes, it can be temporary, seasonal, and i can find garbage cans in which to hibernate. Unfortunately, i remember bleak times in beautiful places, where the stones of greece turned to skulls and the streets of berlin wove swastikas through my brain. 

Used to be, i'd meet a lot of people in my perigrinations, mostly do to a fiery libido. Now that i fear love like death, i'm less likely to make servile approachs. I would like to be more social, and i try to believe throwing myself on the flowing waters would make me bump into people and yelp, thus starting a conversation.

I just read a fine quote: "Everything you could ever want is just outside your comfort zone." Comfort, yes, i've fallen for it. And as soon as i'm in my igloo of pots and pans, bookshelves and clothes-closets, i sink into a stupor. Maybe i can escape them for awhile. This is my chance, easy to contemplate on this warm summer's day in the mountains. Do it before your blood and the weather turn cold, i tell myself. Stay tuned.