Monday, July 31, 2006


My friend Paul called this morning. Paul says he’s a dead man walking, and he’s right. He should have died 8 or 9 years ago when he was diagnosed with Stage 4 non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Well, I guess if he shoulda died we woulda died so let’s just say he has defied the odds. Thing is, those odds are put in place by others, so I’m not sure he has defied his own odds. In his world he has lived, that’s all, stayed alive.

Paul rejects labels. Which is appropriate since he is impossible to describe. Even so I’ll put some labels on the guy – for y’all whose minds reject unlabeled things. He’s a wild man. He’s an artist and poet. He was a druggie. He was born in Scotland. He was a devoted husband to Debbie. Her cancer came after Paul’s. It was very aggressive and she died last year. Paul basically forgot about his illness and cared for her full-time during her last years.

I thought when Debbie died Paul would follow soon after. You know, give up. Say fuck it, I’ve had enough. I’ve known him for almost 30 years and should have known better. Quite the contrary, his commitment to living and further demonstrating that his life matters grew stronger.

Over the years Sandra has heard me talk with Paul on the phone. She is shocked that I tell him I figured he’s still alive because I haven’t seen his obituary in the Atlanta Constitution. (Which was true by the way; I would go online and look when I didn’t hear from him in a while.) Our talk about death and dying, while macabre to some, is just our way of being straight with each other. Why pussy foot around the truth?

I have many of Paul’s paintings on my walls, so he’s never far away. He’s still recovering from a recent near-death hospital stay, so he’s not strong enough to paint at the moment. But he is strong enough to write, which he’s been doing. I tell him I don’t understand his poetry. He tells me it is not to be understood; it is to be felt or gotten. I do feel it and get it. Check it out at:

I’m happy to share my friend Paul with you. He’s a special man who I dearly love.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Our Car

We’ve had our car, an ’85 Porsche 944, for 21 years. We’re emotionally attached to it. We don’t drive that much (it only has about 134,000 miles on it) but when we do drive, in our Porsche we feel like we’re in a classy machine. They only made the 944 for about 5 years so people often see it and ooh and aah about it. It’s on the way to being a valuable antique, but at this point even though it looks in near-pristine condition in reality it’s just an old car and not worth much.

We’ve never given a thought to getting rid of even though in the past couple of years we’ve had some expensive repair bills. I mean really expensive. Since we just assumed we’d fix it if something went wrong we didn’t stop to figure out how much it was costing us until it was too late. And then we were shocked. The total in the past two years has been $11K. That’s ridiculous! We should have stopped and realized what was going on. But we didn’t.

I have a sense that more repairs are in the offing, although I don’t know that for sure. Just a feeling. As I contemplated this possibility I began to reach a conclusion: no way am I willing spend more on our antique. Turns out Sandra has come to same conclusion even though we hadn’t discussed it. I knew when she gave me an article on buying new cars on the Internet yesterday.

I’m pretty clear that if we get a new car I want to buy a hybrid, probably a Prius, but maybe a Honda. I went online to check them out. Both look and sound really hot. We’ve agreed that if we get a new car it’ll need to be not too expensive, on the small side, and economical. These hybrids fit our thinking.

I’m not sure where this is going to lead. I do wonder though, should we pay cash or finance it?

Thursday, July 27, 2006


I went in for my quarterly cystoscopy yesterday. A cysto, to put it most succinctly, is an examination wherein a urologist sticks a tube up your dick so that he can look at the inside of your bladder. It’s a charming process I’ve been undergoing for the past 2½ years since I was first diagnosed with bladder cancer.

Blood in my urine discovered during a routine annual physical near the end of 2003 alerted me to the problem and led to my first cystoscopy, which showed a malignant tumor which needed to be cut out, which led to my first transurethral resection, which means they stick a different kind of tube up your dick to cut out and cauterize the offending mass.

Without going into a play-by-play I’ll only say that I was told what I had wasn’t particularly dangerous because it was on the surface and could be easily removed. No post-operative chemo or radiation was necessary. But still and all I had to go into the hospital, be anesthetized and get surgically violated. Then I could go home. Not surprisingly I was left with a sore dick and it hurt to pee for a while.

That was it for more than a year. Quarterly cystos and everything was fine. Then they found another one. Another trip to the hospital. Another surgery. Same pathology – not a dangerous tumor (some people like to call tumors polyps – sounds nicer. I’ve learned that any growth is, in fact, a tumor) and no problem. Just an uncomfortable annoyance.

Then beginning late last year I started to hit the jackpot. Every cysto revealed a new growth or growths, all small, all on the surface, all not to worry about. One new wrinkle has been a help; now this surgery can be done in the doctor’s office, with a local, takes about a half hour, and go home.

Yesterday’s exam was the third in a row that revealed a growth. So on Aug. 15 I’ll go in and have it cut out. Bummer!
So this’ll be my fifth bladder operation. I haven’t been able to find a way to prevent them from recurring. Double Bummer!!

Monday, July 24, 2006

Faith & Reason

I’ve been watching a Bill Moyers program called “Faith & Reason.” It is a series of conversations with people, some of whom I know something about, like Salman Rushdie and Mary Gordon, and others who I’m embarrassed to admit are new to me, like Anne Provoost, Colin McGinn and Jeanette Winterson. So far I’ve watched four hours out of the seven that will be presented.

“Faith & Reason” is quite extraordinary. Before it began I was resistant to even checking it out. As an atheist who holds the view that religion is just about the most destructive scam with which humankind has been burdened, I wasn’t interested in wasting time with a group of intellectuals who would try to convince me there was more to see on this subject than I was seeing. Certainly consistent with my view of myself as an open-minded person, yes?

In her own effective way, Sandra persisted and I agreed to give it a try. If I hated it I didn’t have to watch. Surprise! I’ve totally enjoyed it. It’s not at all what I thought it would be. It approaches faith and reason as mutually inclusive, not as enemies. Each interviewee, some believers, some not, brings a unique perspective to the subject based on his/her life and work. And as usual, Bill Moyers brings out the best in them.

I’ve been enlightened without needing to change my views on religion. I still think the Freedom From Religion Foundation is a charity worth supporting. And again I’ve been taught the value of ideas and the cost to us when we close our minds to them.

If you don’t see it when it airs on PBS you can catch up with it at the following website:

Saturday, July 22, 2006

To Be Happy About

Enough negativism. Let’s look on the bright side. What can we be happy about today?

Well, Barry Bonds didn’t get indicted this week. That’s a plus – at least temporarily.

The Giants won the game I attended on Thursday night. I’m 4-0 for the season. The good guys hit four home runs, including three in a row in one inning. Totally enjoyable evening.

The weather was beautiful this week, albeit a bit hot for the City by the Bay.

I got a haircut and look beautiful.

Had a wonderful outing with the Marsh on Thursday. Went to the Asian to see the exhibit, “Elephants on Parade,” items from India. Followed by lunch at a new (for us) Italian place on Union St. Really good.

Had, as usual, good food and wine at home every night, ‘cept Thursday when I had my traditional Hot Link and Beer at the ball yard.

Watched the Nagoya Basho and will see Day 11 today. We’re three days behind, but it doesn’t matter since no newspaper I see carries the results anyway. (For you uninitiated, I’m talking about Sumo.)

No one I know died this week. Nor did we have an earthquake. Nor did anything around me get blown up by suicide bombers.

The 6-7 year project on my block to take down overhead wires and put them underground finally, finally, finally, neared an end. The trucks were around to finish cutting down the now-dead overhead wires. About the only thing left to do is remove the poles. My local utility company at work in its usual timely fashion.

I could find more to talk about. But I’ve done enough to provide useful therapy. And now – back to the dark side.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Transparent Cynicism

The US is guilty once again of speaking with a forked tongue, speaking out of both sides of its mouth, saying one thing and meaning another.

We say there should be a cease-fire in Lebanon. And then we take action, or to be more accurate, pursue non-action, to lessen the possibilities that there will be a cease-fire.

The US Ambassador to the UN tries to make it seem obvious: “How do you get a cease-fire between one entity which is the government of a democratically elected state and another entity which is a terrorist gang, no one has yet explained.”

Hey, jerk off, if you have the means you lead, that’s what you do. You don’t sit around bemoaning the fact that you can’t do anything. Geez!

At the risk of sounding anti-Israel or an Hezbollah apologist, which I’m not, it’s totally clear that the US position is a stall to give the Israelis more time to damage Hezbollah. Which they won’t be able to do successfully. Why? Because Hezbollah has thousands of weapons in thousands of places and unless Israel levels and depopulates all of Southern Lebanon they can’t get at them.

In the meantime, hundreds and soon thousands of innocents will die for no reason. So what else is new, right? It’s just our policy of Transparent Cynicism on display one more time.


This was a good day.

When I checked the obituaries (or at least the ones that got headlines), I saw that more people died who were older than I am rather than younger. If they’re younger it must mean that I’m somehow closer to the end. Some days it is that way. I call that a bad day.

I can’t remember when I started paying attention to obituaries. I mean really paying attention, not just noticing they were there. My guess is that it happened when I was about 60, 13 years ago.

And I noticed that something perverse was happening. This is one of those things you don’t like to admit, let alone write down, but here it is: I get a kind of satisfaction when I see that someone died before I did, especially someone I might have known or known about. It’s not that I’m happy they died. I’m not that perverse. Just a kind of feeling of superiority that I outlived him or her.
I’ll bet I’m not the only one who feels this way

Ho Hum

The morning papers reassure me that all is in order in the world:

The Israelis are bombing Lebanon
The Hezbollah are rocketing Israelis

The Israelis are bombing Hamas in Gaza
Hamas is rocketing the Israelis

Ho Hum

The Sunnis are killing the Shiites
The Shiites are killing the Sunnis

In Sri Lanka the Tamils are killing government soldiers
Government soldiers are killing Tamils

Ho Hum

In Pakistan someone blew up a Shiia cleric
In Brooklyn they indicted a multiple killer

In two states yesterday they waggled their collective fingers at gay marriage and said, “Bad, bad, bad.”

Ho Hum

The market was down – again
Oil prices are up – again

All is in order in the world. Ho Hum.

Bucky has become a folk hero in upper NY State after killing a policeman.
Two serial killers are scaring people – somewhere (I forget where.)
The government is doing a ‘get him whatever it takes’ number on Barry Bonds and will surely indict him next week. That’s a variation on the ‘get her whatever it takes’ job they did on Martha Stewart.

Ho Hum

No need to go on. It’s like the man said: Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. Or was it a woman who said that?

Old Drivers

There was an op-ed piece in this morning’s NY Times written by a guy who was almost killed a year ago when a car driven by a 75-year-old incompetent smashed into him. He – the guy almost killed – is still recovering. He didn’t report on the condition of the 75-year-old driver, whom I guess is 76 now. And probably still driving.

The guy’s point is that when people get into their ‘golden years,’ say older than 65, their driving skills (or lack of them) should be tested regularly to confirm that they are not a danger to themselves or others when behind the wheel. And these days, almost everywhere, proving you are a competent driver isn’t required.

I’m 73. I think the last time I had a driving test was about 30 years ago when I moved back to California. They did ask me to prove I could see after I turned 65. But that’s it. Oh, I forgot, and I think I also had to pass a written test after I turned 65. I can see and I did pass the test, so I’m a happy guy behind the wheel of my manual shift ’85 Porsche 944. Like most everyone my age, I am SURE I’m still a good driver. Maybe I am. Maybe I’m not.

I can tell you one thing. I am terrified when I see some doddering old man (sorry, I mean white haired gentleman,) hands gripping the steering wheel like a steel vise, eyes peering intently straight ahead, on the road next to me. Or some little old lady, barely able to see over the dashboard, tooling down the highway. “You old fart,” I think or say, get back to your rocking chair.

So I’m all for testing old people regularly before allowing them to drive a car. Including me. The hell with the notion that I have a ‘right’ to drive. It’s not a right. It’s a responsibility. I have no patience with old people who think that their advanced age makes them special. They’re just like the rest of us. Well, maybe not just like us; after all, they could be infirm.

Just kidding. I love my Dear Old Mum, who is 95. I really do. But I don’t want to see her in the driver’s seat.

Competitive Eating

I was thinking about this thing I saw on TV a couple of weeks ago – the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest on the 4th of July – or thereabouts.

I’d heard about the thing they do and I’d heard that some Japanese guy was the world champion, but I’d never witnessed the competition before. I was flipping around the TV dial and ran into it and was mesmerized (and disgusted) as I watched the 12-minute process.

The two main competitors were an American and the Japanese guy, Kobayashi. This is now a fucking recognized sport called Competitive Eating. They train to expand their stomach to take in incredible amounts of food and to allow their gullets to ingest the food in a short amount of time. They train for this! Well, when I think about it, I guess they’d have to.

So the contest began. And these people, all in a row on a stage in front of hundreds of cheering maniacs began stuffing dogs and buns and liquid down their throats. They rocked back and forth like a young version of a group of old Jews praying – davening – in the synagogue. The more they rocked and stuffed and stuffed and rocked the more disgusting it was. How, I asked myself, could they do this without choking and dying. I still don’t have an answer to that question.

The world record held by Kobayashi was 53½ hot dogs in 12 minutes. He and the American were neck and neck for a while. Then Kobayashi pulled away. Then the American resurged and caught him. Then Kobayashi pulled away again and won. In the process he broke the record by eating 54 (or 54½ - I forget) and then when it was over spent several minutes coughing and choking (maybe now he’ll die I thought) before getting back to normal – or whatever passes for normal for this guy.

Am I out of touch or what? Or are they? Jesus!!