A Long Time Comin’

18 02 2013

It has been many moons since my last post. There have been changes. Good things have happened.

TerrierOver the past three years illness has pursued me. I feared it had become ineluctable. From constant sinus infections to chronic bronchitis to pneumonia, I rode a roller coaster with more downs than ups until despair grabbed me by the throat and shook me as a terrier would a  rat.

demonrumAt last I faced my doom when drunkenly I cracked a rib in an hotel room last October, followed immediately by a diagnosis of diabetes. I was fat. I was obese. I was and am an alcoholic. Addicted to the demon wine which drove me farther and farther down the road of self-destruction.

But, like a phoenix, I have turned my life around and am rising from my own ashes, my self-immolation, to soar above my injuries. I stopped drinking October 23, 2012 and began a diabetic’s diet. To this date, February 18, 2013, I have lost 46 pounds and most of my ailments are a thing of the past.

It has not been easy. Just as I stopped drinking and foreswore carbohydrates, I was struck with mononucleosis. Thanksgiving 2012 I attempted to cook a turkey dinner for a good friend. The dinner was a disaster and I could barely sit up to eat. Shortly, I staggered toward my couch, reclined, and could not rise. My friend, my understanding friend, stayed a bit and talked, then left, poorly served. But he is kindness personified. He left me to my sickbed. In kindness, he left me to rest.

“I did not then know what new ailment assailed me. “I think you have mono,” my doctor said. “Impossible,” said I. I have exchanged no body fluids. I have done nothing to deserve this new assault on my well being.” The doctor took my blood and confirmed the active presence of the kissing disease. He wrote, “I hate it when I’m right…”

ShadrachAs I followed my diet, the weight melted away, yet the mono refused to relinquish its awful hold. Then when my feet and hands began to burn as if they had been thrust into the flames of Hell, I was beginning to feel like Job. I was Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, all rolled into one.

This was during the holidays so all of my doctors were on vacation. I considered a walk-in clinic but they would not know my history. I came very close to checking myself into a hospital and begging for pain killers. On a scale of one to ten, my pain WAS a ten.

The pain was so intense I felt as if I were wearing gloves and boots of fire. In my semi-delirium (Sleep deprivation was my constant companion.), I saw medieval boots used for torture. Made of iron or copper, the boots, in days of old, were tightened, or heated over flames, or filled with boiling water. My pain was all of those. Other boots were lined with nails. I wore these every day…and matching gloves.

torture boot

Medieval Torture Boot

From afar, my doctor prescribed mild anesthetics, but nothing helped. The pain ebbed and flowed but was worst when I lay down, hence the deprivation of sleep.

Came the new year and my doctors returned one by one from sunnier climes. Seems one of my medications, prescribed to help me stop drinking, could also cause peripheral neuropathy (As does diabetes.). I stopped taking the med. Mononucleosis, being a virus, could do anything. The mono persisted full blown well past the usual two weeks, and that virus might be causing my pain.

My neurologist prescribed a narcotic (a very low dose), and slowly the pain diminished. I began stretching again, which also seemed to help. I went to my chiropractor. I went to my Chinese doctor for herbs and acupuncture (“You have chi deprivation,” said Dr. Wang.).

I lost more weight. I did not drink despite losing the crutch of medication. My liver returned to normal and, I suppose, began to filter other poisons from my body, now that it did not have to deal with alcohol. I walked for exercise. I broke old habits…”Get out of the house!” My brain screamed…and I did.

I got better. Some pain remains, still coming and going unpredictably. But the raging fire has not come again. I lost more weight. I was not drinking. My body healed itself and many of my worst ailments disappeared or reduced to mere nuisances.

ClothingI am not done. My body was never physically addicted to alcohol…at least there were no withdrawal symptoms. But my brain missed that self-medication, still does. I persist. My clothes became so big I had to buy new. Even though I am not done losing weight, I just could not continue to wear what a friend now called, “Giant’s clothing.” At a library convention I browsed an American Eagle Outfitters store and a large shirt fit me. Ha, ha! It fit. And my self-confidence soared.

During this time I also began seeing a psychologist. He helped a great deal. He still does. And my friends, my goodness, what would I have done without my friends? They encouraged me and praised my progress and helped me up when I fell. But, I guess, that is what friends do, neh?

As of late, I have even had a few days when I was happy. I had forgotten what that was like. It does not come every day, but it comes more often. And I continue to lose weight, and my blood sugar is dropping, just from diet. And my counselor listens. I have been saved from the fire…but it is still there. I will never forget. It is still there.

Drinkin’ wine no mo’…

Oh The Air Goes Round and Round and It Comes Out Here…

18 02 2012

After a month’s treatment, this reporter is feeling approximately 10,000 times better. However, the sinuses are still draining and bleeding. Another visit to the ENT occurs Monday. There is the possibility surgery will be required to stop the bleeding.

Yours truly had sinus surgery in December of 2000. It was one of the more bizarre nights of my life. The surgery was considered out patient treatment because of the always-benevolent insurance company. So they put me under, the doctors not the insurance company, drilled out my sinus passages, straightened a slightly deviated septum, packed said sinuses with giant kidney-shaped…I suppose they were sponges but I always thought of them as sort of tampons for the head.

I awoke in a hospital bed which I would be required to vacate early the next morning to qualify as an out patient. I had a roommate. Let’s call him Ed. He was an old geezer who had had some sort of surgery and in the aftermath they had equipped him with a morphine pump. Ed was in pain and played that pump for all it was worth. And he chatted quite often with his dead wife.

So, I was lying in bed with giant thingees up my nose which forced me to breathe through my mouth. This caused my palate to dry up and eventually the skin began to peel. So I drank a lot of water. They also had me on an IV due to dehydration. A television was mounted on the ceiling above me. There was no sound. I drank water, breathed, watched old sitcoms, and listened to Ed talk to his wife.

Ed also moaned a lot. He was in great pain and the pump did not seem to help. An intern came in to talk to Ed. The pain was in Ed’s foot. The intern questioned Ed extensively about the pain and then left. I drifted in and out of consciousness. Ed’s chatting would wake me and several times I thought Ed was addressing me and I answered, which scared the hell out of poor Ed who thought his beloved and still-dead wife had returned from the grave. Ed yelled. A nurse came in, and Ed tried to explain about his wife. I felt it best to say nothing.

Some time later in a night that seemed eternal, Ed’s pain increased and he buzzed the nurse. She summoned a different intern who questioned Ed extensively about his foot, then left, never to return. Ed and I resumed our dozing. He continued his conversation with his wife, and I snapped out of my doze and answered. Ed yelled. Rinse and repeat.

As the sun was coming up, a third intern entered and began questioning Ed about his foot. This was too much. I had developed a sort of speech impediment from my shredded palate, but I nevertheless shouted at the intern, “He has gout, damn it! Treat him for gout!” Surprisingly they listened to me, gave Ed some sort of injection and he went completely to sleep for the first time.

I became nauseous. I had been swallowing my own blood all night and my stomach had had enough. Simultaneously, I began to cough. I coughed and coughed and something huge came into my throat. And I had to throw up. I leapt from my bed pulling the IV bottle behind me, and made a dash for the toilet. I made it to the bathroom but not to the porcelain receptacle. I coughed and something enormous filled my mouth and I could not breath. And I threw up great gouts of blood all over the bathroom…plus one giant tampon. Needless to say, the hospital staff were not pleased.

Soon after, the doctor appeared. He thought it was hilarious that I had coughed up one of the sponges. He removed the other and pronounced me ready to depart. I dressed, and shortly after, my friend Jesse came to take me home. He looked at me the way Ed must have looked when he thought his wife had spoken. And then Ed emerged from morphine land just long enough to say farewell.

Jesse got me home. I went into the bathroom, and now understood his expression. My face was speckled with dried blood. Evidently the peevish hospital staff had left me that way as payment for my unfortunate regurgitation. The doctor had said nothing and only God knows what Jesse thought. So I washed off the blood, crawled into my very own little bed, closed my mouth, breathed through my nose, and slept.

The Origins of Healing or “What a Difference a Doc Makes”

31 01 2012

“Me used to be sickly old man, me hiding me head in the sand…he gave me the word, I finally heard, I’m doing the best that I can…I got to admit I’m getting better, getting better all the time…YES! I admit I’m getting better…”  Apologies to Lennon and McCartney

“You thought the leaden winter would bring you down forever,

But you rode upon a steamer to the violence of the sun.

And the colours of the sea bind your eyes with trembling mermaids,

And touch the distance beaches with tales of brave Ulysses,

How his naked ears were tortured by the sirens sweetly singing,

For the sparkling waves are calling you to kiss their white laced lips…”

 Tales of Brave Ulysses Cream

“Sing, O goddess, the anger of Achilles son of Peleus, that brought countless ills upon the Achaeans. Many a brave soul did it send hurrying down to Hades, and many a hero did it yield a prey to dogs and vultures, for so were the counsels of Jove fulfilled from the day on which the son of Atreus, king of men, and great Achilles, first fell out with one another.”  The Iliad Homer (Samuel Butler Trans.)

Although it began too many years ago to remember, three years back I was brought low by pneumonia and thus began my odyssey from doctor to doctor seeking safe passage to health, Ithaca, and fair Penelope.

My pulmonary and sinus health has swung wildly like an out of control pendulum from yin to yang and back again. Various specialists have attributed these swings to myriad conditions and treated them singly and in bunches, sometimes bringing temporary relief, and other times bringing chaos.

The only certainty was that sooner or later I would be ill again, and each illness seemed to be more severe and my little ship of health swung slowly toward Charybdis. Come the maelstrom.

In 2011 I was ill to some extent most of the year. It began in the spring when upon returning from a trip, having outwitted Polyphemus in his cave, I discovered in mine own cave, my bedroom to be exact, mushrooms growing in the carpet. I reported this to appropriate management and in their attempt to remedy the situation they blew black spores into my bedroom causing immediate allergic and asthmatic reactions. For the next three months I suffered severely. One evening I coughed so uncontrollably I was near to passing out being unable to draw an untroubled breath.

For the rest of last year, alone or with my trusty crew, I sailed lost, battling and defeating the enemies of sales, though often breathless and weak. Come the fall my injuries brought me low and in November bronchitis dealt what seemed a mortal blow. And so I sought new heroes, a brave pulmonologist, who unwittingly led me into the arms of a Circe of an ENT.

I did not drink entirely of her cup but she led me to believe my problem was unsolvable except by using the most archane of measures…treating a sinus problem by reducing stomach acid. But much as I like pork, I did not fall for Circe’s evil ruse.

Without a guide I grew weaker and stumbled into the nest of sirens at the local ER. I did sup and their offerings brought me close to death. One siren, kinder and wiser than the others gave me the antidote, epiphedrine, and I escaped once again.

Returning to the intrepid if somewhat misled pulmonologist, I asked again and this time like Eurylochus, his advice was right and I came to the feet of Hermes, the new ENT. “Fair Circe,” says he, “cannot read a CT scan for shit, though loathe am I to speak ill of a sorceress. And so you suffer still.” Then he plunged his lance into my sinuses and withdrew the ‘virgin” snot. “With this, brave warrior, I shall cast a mighty spell to see you home once more to Ithaca and your beloved, Penelope.”

So here I stand, awaiting the potion but with new hope and ready to unleash the hounds on the suitors for my lost health. Penelope baby, I’m coming!


20 11 2011

When I was a kid hanging around the drugstore, reading comics off of the wire spinner rack, the old men there, at the fountain, would give anyone a hard time who asked for mayonnaise on their hamburger. “Sissyburger” one of them would declare in mock disgust. Well, I wasn’t a sissy, “Put mustard on mine! Please. Ma’am. Thank you.”

Of course, home alone, as a child, were I to suddenly be seized about the throat by hunger and no nearby emergency mom present with a remedy, I made a simple sandwich. Mayo…well, not really, pseudo-mayo plus sugar means Miracle Whip. Miracle Whip…in Texas we pronounced it more like “murkul”…Murkul Whip on white bread. I would always eat the crust off first, and no one was around to see me eating some kind of sissy sandwich.

As I grew older and my palate matured, “Why of course I will have aioli with my sprouts, toma-a-a-to and avo-ca-a-a-do on whole wheat, old egg. What else?” Then tragedy struck, I was pronounced allergic to dairy and to…EGGS? No way man, no effing way am I NOT eating eggs. But I stopped. And now I travel.

Maoynnaise, that classy old French dressing, is ubiquitous. I travel, a lot. And, in a non-scientific poll of myself…”Hey, Chadao! How often do you encounter sandwiches, in your extensive travels, old bean…how often do you find mayo on a sandwich? Or aioli in the classier joints?”

Chadao: “Nine out of ten times.” So, there you have it folks, in modern America (Murka in Texan) nine out of every ten sandwiches are dressed with mayonnaise or some variation thereof. And me with my allergies. You know, having food allergies is kind of sissy-like…but, for me, make mine mustard. And not that old French’s yaller (yellow), but good old backwoods Texas Dijon. Ha, none of those sissyburgers for me, no siree, and yes, I would like the sweet potato fries, thank you, ma’am.

Come the Singularity

2 11 2011


Robert X. Cringely

Some interesting thoughts from Robert X. Cringely:

“How do you educate yourself to deal with the changes in your business knowing that whatever you do is going to be replaced by a computer sometime in the future?  First concentrate on the structural parts of any enterprise that are likely to never go away, computers or no: 1) finance; 2) marketing; 3) production or service…

“Jaron Lanier once told me that you can have enough money, enough power, but you can never have enough experience, so I plan to give my kids as much experience as they can handle, keeping in mind the fact that even post-Singularity it may still matter more who you know than what you know.

“Live in the coolest place, I tell Cole [Cringely’s son] and his brothers. Have the coolest friends. Do the coolest things. Learn from everything you do. Be open to new opportunities. And do something your father hasn’t yet figured how to do, which is every few years take off 138 days and just walk the Earth.”


I thoroughly enjoy Cringely’s blog:



What is the Singularity?


I Don’t Care If I Never Get Back…

14 07 2011

“…Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt;
Five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped them on his shirt.
Then while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip,
Defiance gleamed in Casey’s eye, a sneer curled Casey’s lip….”

 from “Casey at the Bat” by Ernest Lawrence Thayer

 I travel…on business, a lot. So how did I spend my Fourth of July holiday? I traveled. Off to Chicago, or rather, to the village of Glen Ellyn, specifically, a former place of residence. I spent the Fourth with long-time good friends and the next generation.

 It was a swell trip, with barbecues and great conversation mixed with good food and wine. The weather was hot and muggy, but what should one expect in the dead of summer in Illinois?

 The fireflies were delightful, or would have been were the Chicago mosquitoes a tad less aggressive and blood-thirsty.

 There was an old-timey Fourth of July parade in Glen Ellyn including ancient fire trucks, horses, bag pipers, tumblers, twirlers, and cheerleaders. Ha, and a drachma of politicians.

 I saw the interior of a Frank Lloyd Wright house for the first time…built in 1911, where we held a potluck on Fourth-night, just before the fireworks began.

 And, with my pal George, now Uncle George, I went to watch the Cubbies play. We brought along two of George’s nephews: Alex and Dexter. The younger of the two had only attended a baseball game or three in his entire life.

 Uncle George had the brilliant idea of teaching the youths (youts?) how to score a game.

 We hopped on the Chicago Northwestern train and headed east toward Lake Michigan and Wrigley Field. The train was jam-packed on the day before the Fourth and our party was separated.

 Now, I’m not saying George is gregarious, but he could make friends in a graveyard. By the time we reached Ogilvie Station, George had met an octogenarian headed for A Taste of Chicago. This fellow provided us with explicit instructions for getting to Wrigley Field.

 We boarded the underground, and as it steamed toward Wrigley, each stop brought more and more passengers festooned in baseball finery. This was not just any old game, it was an intra-city rivalry, the Cubs against the White Sox, and feelings ran high.

 The last couple of stops, the train became so packed that the heat and lack of air brought on a momentary hallucination…I was in Tokyo at rush hour and white-gloved workers packed us in tighter and tighter until we could not breathe…pant, pant, pant, and then the doors opened and the train expelled us into the street where we joined the thronging thousands treading toward one of the finest baseball stadiums in the world.

 Wrigley is famous for its ivy-covered outfield walls. And beyond sat small apartments. When I had lived in Chicago in the 1970’s, folks used to watch the game from the apartments, holding small baseball parties. Now, bleachers sat atop each apartment and spectators paid for the privilege.

 Our seats were terrific, just behind the White Sox dugout on the first base line. . Low clouds blocked the sun and made the weather nicely warm.

 An ancient couple sat in front of us, regular Cubs fans for many, many years. Several rows in front of them sat three rowdies, White Sox fans in enemy territory, daring the Cubbies to try something. The ushers spent much time keeping these fellows in hand.

 After a fine rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner and America the Beautiful, the game began. The pitching was excellent. It was a tight game, one hit here, another there. Cubs fans and White Sox lovers jeered at one another and the game rose to a fever pitch.

 Finally, the Cubbies strung several hits together and pulled ahead 3 to nil. The Sox fans were silent, and sullen. A low muttering ran counterpoint to the cheering Cubs fans.

 Then came a signal moment. The Cubs starter was removed, having only given up two hits and zero runs. In came the beloved and much-injured fireball-hurling reliever…Kerry Woods. Oh ho, the tumult rose.

 But Woods was not the Woods of old, and a White Sox batter was on base. Next up was the aging Sox star, Paul Konerko, who was injured. Konerko in to pinch hit, fought off pitch after pitch and drove Woods out of the game.

 Tension rose…3-1 with the tying runs on base. Everyone stood. The rowdies were raucous and the din shook old Wrigley Field. But the new Cubs’ reliever held his ground and erased the threat.

 The Cubs had won, salvaging one single win from their cross-town rivals. The sun was shining and there WAS joy in Mudville on this very day.

 Baseball’s Sad Lexicon: Tinker to Evers to Chance

 These are the saddest of possible words:
“Tinker to Evers to Chance.”
Trio of bear cubs, and fleeter than birds,
Tinker and Evers and Chance.
Ruthlessly pricking our gonfalon bubble,
Making a Giant hit into a double –
Words that are heavy with nothing but trouble:
“Tinker to Evers to Chance.”

By Franklin Pierce Adams
New York Evening Mail July 10, 1910

Aloft withToots and a Kindle

25 02 2011

Xavier Cugat far Left

“Cuanto Le Gusta le gusta le gusta le gusta le gusta …Someone said they just came back from somewhere, a friend of mine that I don’t even know. He said there’s lots of fun if we can get there, if that’s the case… that’s the place, the place we want to go. We got to get going, where’re we going, what are we going to do, we’re on our way to somewhere, the three of us and you…”


As the snows reluctantly recedes—although the Midwest is once more beset and it is also snowing, albeit lightly, at my destination—I board an aeroplane again and become an harbinger of spring. The robins fly north every spring and I fly to the east coast.
New York City beckons in the east as Toots Thielemans performs “La Vie En Rose” on the mouth organ via my iPod. For lovers of science fiction, modern travel lends itself to the joys of high tech toys. Music from said iPod, blog posts written on a Lenovo Ideapad netbook (I mention the brand because it is so far superior to my two previous travel-computers—first was an Asus EEE which I still hate although it is long out of my life. The second was an Acer which performed well enough but whose death was only slightly preceded by the expiration of its warranty. The Lenovo functions wonderfully for having the slow Intel Atom processor. I upgraded the RAM to the allowable max of 2 gig, upgraded the execrable Windows 7 Basic to the very nice Home Premium, mais voila—a nice, light-weight travel companion for a small output of spondulicks.).
Now Toots is hitting it with “Hymne á l’amour” whilst visions of Kindles dance in my head. The Kindle III (WiFi only) came into my life late in the year of 2010. As with many unions, especially those involving extra-species (I promised my Martian son I would not speak of his mother, the Shenga joint bar maid in old Jekkara.) the beginning was not smooth.
My Kindle misbehaved on a regular basis, finally rebooting every five minutes on the last air excursion of the previous year. So I turned it in for another, but the bad behavior continued and I began to wonder what sort of relationship I had gotten myself into. Late one evening just after my Kindle had rebooted yet again, in despair, I began to yearn for a Nook and I dreamt of holding it near. Then, I remembered a technician asking about the Kindle cover which I had purchased. It actually inserted two prongs into the Kindle body. I disconnected my device from the cover and it began to function perfectly! A call to Amazon—they would not say there were cover problems, but they did not argue and allowed me to acquire a lighted cover at no cost.


Kindle III

Since, my Kindle and I are inseparable. We go everywhere together. She…I mean IT, reads to me as I drive to and from work. She It is not very musical, but the light works quite well and we cuddle in bed late at night and read books.
Now, airborne, I have listened to a book—Sten Book 1 by Cole and Bunch, a rousing science fiction adventure, I sold the book when it first came out. I was working for Warner Communications in those days and we distributed Del Rey. I used to bug Owen Lock constantly, “When’s the next Sten book coming?

Judy-Lynn & Lester Del Rey

Judy-Lynn used to send me photocopies of manuscripts of my favorite authors…” Owen was so nice and I loved the Chinese books he produced for Ballantine.—Today I have read bits of three books: Pathfinder by O.S. Card, several Clovis stories from H.H. Munro (Saki), “Fenimore Cooper’s Literary Offences” by one Samuel Clemens; I have used the OED which comes loaded on the Kindle, and I read a manuscript from a friend of a friend so that I might critique it. Glorioski but I do love my little burnt-orange-clad darling. Kindle, this blog’s for you.

Ha, couldn’t find Xavier but here’s his protege, Charo:


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