Tuesday, June 28, 2005

So much to say and I'm not sure where to begin. Today my port-a-cath was removed, officially ending my chemotherapy. They will keep monitoring me over the next two years. If I can make it past the five year mark without the cancer coming back then I will be good. My oncologist and my gastrointerologist were both worried (but still positive) because the cancer had progressed so much and due to the size of the tumor (a golf ball in my intestines) they are keen to keep an eye on me. Which of course, I have no trouble with. Now I can focus on all the other health problems.

The procedure itself, the removal of the port, was rather fast. I was, however, awake for the whole thing. It is rather strange, I must say, to be talking to your doctor as he is cut a small hole in you. My friend Jon says they had called me in to de-cyborg me. I like that. They only did topical anesthesia. It hurts like hell right now but it's out. I have been to the surgery wing three times now in the past nine months and again, I recognize everyone and everyone remembers me. Last week when I went to the chemo ward one of my friends chided me for not wearing my livestrong bracelet anymore. She gave me the half closed eye and said just because things are looking up you can't stop wearing it. If anything, wear it for me. God bless her. I have searched stores and they are harder to find. Anyone know where I can find one seeing as I don't have my old one anymore?

So seeing as I had to rest (a bit) post surgery I watched a movie at home. I saw a lovely, beautiful and nuanced film called Clean. I've heard complaints that it is slow moving and the lead character wasn't likable but in relation to the story I saw those as good things. Maggie Cheung and Nick Nolte and Beatrice Dalle are in it and there is a brief appearance by Tricky. The plot line is relatively simple and reflects the title. I won't say more.

This past weekend I went to my student's funeral. I don't know why but as soon as I wrote those words I find myself unable to continue. It was an open casket and looking at his face I didn't realize how much older he had gotten. I mean, he was 22. I taught him for three years until he graduated but still, he was a boy not yet a man. And now he is a man. With a child. And now he is gone. Over bullshit. He was shot over bullshit. Is there ever any other reason? I remember the first time I met him. That day I caught him and another student out front throwing snowballs at passing cars. A co-worker from one of our sister schools implied to me, after I had busted the two, that these were beginning signs of bad behavior. Really? I just saw it as a kid being punky. It struck me as funny (obviously not funny to those getting hit). Looking back at it now, he was just being a kid. I talked to him over the course of his high school time, talking about anger and fathers. In the end they are all kids. A hand can hold a gun. Any hand. Anytime. Anywhere. Am I making sense? Maybe I'm still high from the surgery. Rest in peace my friend. All I can do is keep teaching. That is what I will do to honor you.

Friday, June 24, 2005

The actor Bernard Hill, who played King Theoden in the Lord of the Rings, says in The Two Towers: "No parent should have to bury their child." I think about that scene a lot, not being a Lord of the Rings fanatic but just admiring the movies and loving Tolkien.

Before the trilogy, Hill, who is an excellent British stage actor, was in England when a woman came up to him and told him about how her child had died recently. She said that parents shouldn't have to bury their children. This event so moved him that he asked to include that line in the dialogue of The Two Towers.

I found out yesterday that an old student of mine was shot this past weekend. Gang-related, as they say. He was 22. I taught him for three years. I don't know what else to say.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

I have been making cut outs and stencils recently and I can't believe I forgot how much I love Banksy. Props to Senor Doug Abram for the memory jog. For all of you that don't know, Senor Abram is the mastermind behind the best gypsy brass band in Chicago.

Monday, June 20, 2005

So Friday I went to the doctor (my primary care) and I hesitate saying this in such a public space lest I ever get in trouble but he's seriously crazy. They should require social skills and empathy as two required classes before and after residency training. Anyway, so far so good. I have a severe vitamin B deficiency which could, in some part, be the cause of my numbness and some of the neuropathy. The neurologist called and discussed my options. I will need to undergo an EMG (nerve test) but initially I will have to get some Vitamin infusions. I guess the levels were so low she was worried about subsequent cardiac problems. So again, one step at a time.

I am waiting on a another set of blood tests so we'll see if there are any diabetic concerns. Right now my blood pressure is at a strange (not dangerous) level and my iron is still low, but time. It needs time.

I saw (one of my) oncologist(s) today and it was sad to go back to the cancer unit, seeing all the people I have become friends with over the course of my stay. People who are becoming less and less themselves and are paler, thinner and less sturdy. I was talking to my friend Gloria and seeing her broke my heart and made me cry. Chemo is bad but radiation is worse. To me at least. I have many arguments with the other patients over which is worse. Many say the drugs are worse because of the subsequent nausea. I won't dish out a lecture about how lucky we all are. Not in these pages. I don't feel like lecturing at all anyway. I feel like hugging my friend and telling her good luck. I walk out into the sun and realize I am crying and wiping away my tears. Gloria was a Chicago policewoman forever. She is now semi-retired. A few moments after retiring she finds out the lump in her throat is actually cancer. I can't tell more of her story. It's not my place. I feel disrespectful. She is thinner and her hair is thinner. I was talking to my close friend today and he is getting ready to jump into a possible treatment as well. I never really lost my head hair. It just thinned out. I lost most of my body hair though and now that I am now in chemo hair has grown back in places it never existed before. I mean, I have chest hair. Irene tells me, finally, it took 31 years for you to become a man.

I wish I knew some Chicago police. Gloria used to work Wrigley field. I'd love for them to come and escort her to the park, get her a box seat. Maybe it would make her day. Maybe it wouldn't. I can write her a card so she knows she isn't all alone.

I was thinking today as I was sitting and waiting for my turn at the oncology unit about writing before I went in and saw my old friends and nurses. Before they all came to say hi like I was a relative they hadn't seen in ages. How is your baby? How is your health? How is that mass inside your brain? I began thinking that writing already exists. It's like footage, miles and miles of footage, maybe it's a documentary, maybe it's a feature film. The footage exists. It's not the writing that we do. It's just editing. Editing down the footage and words into something we like or something we need to comprehend. I like that. I have dreams of lying down and falling asleep on a bed of words like they were stuffed animals. I sink into them and hold them, waiting to fall asleep and begin.

I often find myself in a mad panic search for art (writing, painting, graffiti, etc) but it usually happens that the art I stumble across, in a doctor's office, spray painted on a billboard across the Chicago river, playing on the radio, is the art that resonates with me stronger and longer. I found a wonderful Aleksandr Hemon essay in the New Yorker from 2001 (all new magazines on the table in the doctor's office and one from four years ago) called Door to Door that has as one of it's concluding lines "I am someone else" and a Louise Erdrich story in the same issue that begins, "Here's an odd and paradoxical truth: a man's experience of happiness can later kill him."

And it goes and goes.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

First and foremost, I want to send a shout out and congratulations to my sister on getting a new job in consulting company in Washington DC. Congratulations.

Well I said first and foremost alluding to the idea that there would be more to follow and there will be as I went to the doctor yesterday. But I'll let Seema's news stand alone right now. She deserves it.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

A few Thursday thoughts.

I love the new Spoon, Gimme Fiction. My sister hipped me to this new show called Veronica Mars and yes, now I am hooked. I bounced a check. I saw a security guard hopping up and down to the amusement of his two companions on Clybourn. My throat hurts. This Sunday will be my first Father's Day.

I ordered a Hong Kong copy of the movie Clean with Maggie Cheung for only a couple of bucks and I am eager to watch. It looks quite depressing.

Does anyone know where I can find stencils in other languages?

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

My sister sent me this quote to help with my inspiration. It is, of course, from Rilke.

"... Ah, poems amount to so little when you write them too early in your
life. You ought to wait and gather sense and sweetness for a whole lifetime,
and a long one if possible, and then, at the very end, you might perhaps be
able to write ten good lines. For poems are not, as people think, simply
emotions (one has emotions early enough)--they are experiences. For the sake
of a single poem, you must see many cities, many people and Things, you must
understand animals, must feel how birds fly, and know the gesture which
small flowers make when they open in the morning. You must be able to think
back to streets in unknown neighbourhoods, to unexpected encounters, and to
partings you had long seen coming; to days of childhood whose mystery is
still unexplained, to parents whom you had to hurt when they brought in a
joy and you didn't pick it up (it was a joy meant for somebody else--); to
childhood illnesses that began so strangely with so many profound and
difficult transformations, to days in quiet, restrained rooms and to
mornings by the sea, to the sea itself, to seas, to nights of travel that
rushed along overhead and went flying with all the stars,--and it is still
not enough to be able to think of all that. You must have memories of many
nights of love, each one different from all the others, memories of women
screaming in labor, and of light, pale, sleeping girls who have just given
birth and are closing again. But you must also have been beside the dying,
must have sat beside the dead in the room with the open window and scattered
noises. And it is not yet enough to have memories. You must be able to
forget them when they are many, and you must have the immense patience to
wait until they return. For the memories themselves are not important. Only
when they have changed into our very blood, into glance and gesture, and are
nameless, no longer to be distinguished from ourselves-- only then can it
happen that in some very rare hour the first word of a poem arises in their
midst and goes forth from them."

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

I find it harder and harder to keep my eyes open nowadays. There are certain moments during the day when it is more difficult than others, usually after noon. I don't drink coffee anymore (on occasion) so I flutter through the hours hesitantly. It doesn't help that my body feels very old and out of shape. Side effects or whatever have left me with a limited capacity to do things terribly long. For example, I usually last a good few hours before I have to sit down because it feels like I am going to pass out.

Me and Irene got married two Wednesdays ago downtown at the Cook County Clerk's Office. It was a short (5 minutes) ceremony and it was performed by Judge Haddad. He gave us a speech about the seriousness of marriage then asked us what we both do. He said we would do great together. I agree. We headed out to millennium park for our semi honeymoon, walked around, ate at the fancy millennium park restaurant, had an extremely charming waiter who himself was a cook (southern and creole) and he seduced us with a crazy chocolate desert and two glasses of port. Then we walked barefoot in between the spouting fountains. Watched the kids. It was fun. I must admit there was a tiny part of me that held some sadness. I want more but I do know that someday we will do something semi fancy. It was fun though. After the restaurant I didn't last too long before I had to sit down. It took awhile to make it to the train.

Friday we went to a graduation party (Congrats Patty!!). We took Atticus with us and Moe (and Patty and Nina and everyone) finally got to see him. He charmed the socks off of everybody as he was passed around the whole night. I had a wonderful conversation with two people I met, Amber and Jess, about music and dancing and more and the night as beautiful. It is always good to see people, good people, hangin out and talking and drinking and eating. It felt like I hadn't been out in ages. Maybe it is because I am getting older but a really good time to me is gathering good people together, your friends, new people-and talking, eating, drinking. I looked at Atticus as he was being passed around with such love that I nearly cried. Don't forget this, I wanted to tell him, this is one of those moments like catching fireflies or jumping into the ocean naked that pulls the weight of the harder things off your eyes and heart.

There are so many more harder things there. I have fears of being in a hospital bed, of being sick and having Atticus only know me that way. I have fears of him getting hurt. Of someone hurting him or Gabrielle. Of Gabrielle carrying unnecessary baggage with her into adulthood. And yet, in the actual moments I don't know how to pull the anger and sadness away from here like I could pull a fallen leaf out of her hair.

I am rambling. And getting serious again. Apologies.

I will tell you more. That Saturday I took Atticus down to pick up Irene and we strolled through the Wells Street Art Fair and it as the first year I didn't work it. Lisa was there selling her (amazing) jewelry and we visited her. I smoked a cigar for perhaps the first time in years. I might make it a summer ritual. Sunday we went and visited Irene's brother who had his appendix burst and was (is) recovering at their mom's house. Stella got sick at 4:00 in the morning Monday. I have an art deadline, I need to come up with a lot of art pieces in a short amount of time and as is always the case, when the art needs to be made, inspiration and imagination go off drinking, returning god knows when.

For Amber and Jess, and anyone else reading this, here is a link to the African band Konono. And here is a link to to their crazy video.

From an interview with Frank Black

Are there any classic Pixies songs that you wrote drunk, fucked up, baked or on pills?

I can't think of any. I don't put a lot of stock in doing creative things under the influence - it certainly doesn't work for me. I used to be a marijuana smoker, and the only thing I ever did creatively while smoking marijuana is parallel-park.

Monday, June 06, 2005

I get this feeling sometimes when I am balancing my checkbook that I am playing with fire. No. Wait. Let me restate that. I say that out loud. I think about waiting for the next paycheck and cutting it close by writing a check early for bills or daycare and out loud I say, "Oh no, playing with fire." It's like a David Lynch movie for the thrift store set.

I went to CVS Pharmacy tonight doing a very dad thing, getting formula for the baby, for my little man. Doing the late night run is actually rather comforting, I can't quite explain it. I am walking through CVS which is surprisingly crowded for a late Monday night and two teenage boys ask an employee, "Hey, do you have birth control pills." They caught her a little off guard. Hell, they caught me a little off guard. "Why don't you try the pharmacy" she said. I felt extremely dad-ish in thinking, "wow, it's come to the point where kids think you can just go in and grab birth control pills like it was candy, or condoms. But then I bought an ice cream bar, perished the thought and was suddenly cool again and not old and cynical.

I keep saying in these pages that I'll explain what's been going on, what happened over Memorial Day weekend, what happened here and there. Well, I'm having a little difficult time doing that. I haven't even returned phone calls to close friends yet. I am watching movies and mentally writing poems about how the city is embracing me with pastel skies and tattoo clouds and the el drops me off like loose change and I still get frightened in the evening but now the ghosts steal me away. They take little things I need: breath, the consistent heart beat, remission. I fear them more now.

I have, in no particular order, have these thoughts in my head: sugar makes my throat hurt, coffee is ruining my body, winning the lottery would be nice, I can't listen to news reports where people abuse and kill their kids anymore not even in the background, I am eagerly waiting to read The History of Love and Bangkok Tattoo and reread Leaves of Grass. My man, Walt, you crazy fucking wild eyed man, I will sail with you. I want to teach again or at least work in the social work, teaching world. Maybe a case manager, an IOEP intaker, a crisis counselor. I want to learn how to fix a car. I am talking to a girl I haven't talked to in years and she is doing well and I am looking at my younger self shaking my head in disbelief. How strangely we grow. Human earthworms. I like Iron and Wine. I miss playing music live. The political life of Hamid Kharzai. Buying a knife set, cutting vegetables, cooking. Me and Irene on a rented sailboat looking at an old compass. The feel of water and my body adrift finally being carried by someone other than the people who love me.