Friday, August 25, 2006

Past and Future Memories

I stopped a couple of days ago on my way home from work to browse around in the Glastonbury Barnes & Noble. That's usually a mistake, of course, since I buy books I could get cheaper elsewhere, or even (God forbid) borrow from the library. But it feels so good to do it, sometimes I just can't resist.

I love memoirs. I suppose they're a kind of autobiography, but they usually emphasize the intimate details that make up our emotional lives and bind us together as travelers on the same journey. Everyone has a story, and if you listen hard enough, you'll find most of them fascinating.

That being said, I have to add that there are "trends" in memoir-writing that, I suppose, sell better because it's reasonable to expect a few salacious moments in the pages that comprise them. One of these is incest.

Don't get me wrong. I would not for a moment minimize the pain of those who've been through the experience of being victimized by an older relative who ought to be able to be trusted. In fact, I've been through that experience myself. I'm an "incest survivor". However, I'd never imagine that my story, if confined mostly to that experience, would be very interesting or even useful to other survivors. There are such books. I don't believe there's a need to add more to their number.

So, I ignored the three--or was it four--new books by incest survivors and looked for something more interesting to buy. There were several books by African-Americans concerning their experiences dealing with the white culture. Some are probably quite good, but since I couldn't guess which ones, I passed that category by. I've read many memoirs on mental illness and addictions, and some are excellent, notably "Darkness Visible" by William Styron, "The Beast: A Journey Through Depression" by Tracy Thompson, "An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness" by Kay Redfield Jamison, and "Drinking: A Love Story" by Caroline Knapp. I find these books fascinating, but like some books on incest, some of them sensationalize or romanticize the subject. There's no need to add anything to such profound experiences as serious mental illness or substance addiction.

Some are just amazing, like "The Liars' Club: A Memoir" by Mary Karr, and "The Glass Castle: A Memoir" by Jeannette Walls. They make you wonder how some children survive their childhoods. I'm reluctant to spend money on this type of memoir, however, unless I can be sure they're reasonably good. In the end, I settled on a book called "After Long Silence", by Helen Fremont, who was raised in the Midwest as a Catholic, and learned in adulthood that her parents were Polish Jews who had narrowly escaped extermination in Nazi Germany. It got 4 out of 5 stars in 63 reviews on Amazon. So we'll see.

I also picked up a book called "DMT: The Spirit Molecule: A Doctor's Revolutionary Research into the Biology of Near-Death and Mystical Experiences" by Rick Strassman, M.D. DMT is dimethyltriptamine (if I remember correctly), an endogenous psychedelic compound similar or identical to those in ayahuasca, peyote, etc. Strassman does not, however, dismiss the genuine spiritual, transcendent nature of such things as out-of-body experiences, mystical states, near-death experiences simply because they can be tied to--"explained by"--a chemical. He feels that such experiences are a eye to things we can't perceive with ordinary sensation and perception. I'm finding his discussion very interesting, and beginning to think that an experience with a psychedelic drug, or entheogen, as some call them, may be something I'd like to have before I die.

I'll keep you posted.

Three Eyes: a digital ACEO

Monday, August 21, 2006

A Collaborative Effort

One of the eBay groups I belong to is called Independent Writers Artists & Musicians (IWAM). As you might imagine, it's mostly visual artists, since many fewer writers and musicians have anything that's actually hawkable on an auction site, or in a store of any type.
The site moderator was trying to think of ways to encourage more participation by writers and musicians, and I came up with an idea of writing a haiku and asking if anyone would like to illustrate it. Here's my fluffy haiku:

It is time to draw
the battle lines; I fear the
cats have declared war.
An artist who calls herself Faethe responded, and agreed to give it a whirl. She sent me a copy of the final product, which you see here, and which she'll put up on eBay. When I created the haiku, I was thinking of the cats declaring war on us; I love her interpretation, though. Do a search on her stuff on eBay sometime. It's really good.

COUNTENANCE: a digital collage

Friday, August 04, 2006

Okay. I'll stop after this one.

You Are 60% Weird
You're so weird, you think you're *totally* normal. Right? But you wig out even the biggest of circus freaks!
How Weird Are You?

The toilet paper rolls are cute, don't you think? You know, as is usual, it was very easy to tell which answers would increase your weirdness quotient, and which would decrease it. Many of the "non-weird" answers I gave are very different from what they used to be. I've learned how to behave in public, and to get along with all kinds of people (though most of them think I'm somewhat weird), because in the long run it makes it easier for me to do so. The inner extreme weirdness, however, cannot be stamped out.

Only 84%? I'm hurt.

You Are 84% Open Minded
You are so open minded that your brain may have fallen out! Well, not really. But you may be confused on where you stand. You don't have a judgmental bone in your body, and you're very accepting. You enjoy the best of every life philosophy, even if you sometimes contradict yourself.
How Open Minded Are You?

Thought upon awakening...

I have not done a tenth of what I could have done for my fellow human beings.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

A Little Collage: "Being...blooming...becoming"

Remember me?

Wow! It's been over a month since I posted last. It's been a busy month, and one full of struggles.

My son had an unpleasant encounter with a "counselor" at Lebanon Pines, the long-term rehab facility he had been paroled to. Adam was pushing his limits, as he is wont to do, and the counselor decided to make it a power struggle. She lost her temper and told him to get out. He did.

This actually happened just before I left on my vacation to Provincetown--I just haven't had the heart to write about it yet. In the past six weeks, Adam has managed to get involved with some sort of "spiritual", cultish group, which made him mumble more or less incoherent things about true freedom and drink a lot. Somewhere in there he also shot heroin. Then he entered the detox program at Natchaug in Mansfield, and left rather earlier than he should have. Several days later, he regretted doing that, so he got himself committed to the psych section of Natchaug, on a 15-day "PEC" (physician's emergency certificate). He resisted the urge to ask for a probate hearing so he could get out before the 15 days were up, but then they let him go, saying his insurance (SAGA, CT's "general assistance" or welfare) wouldn't pay for him to stay any longer. The last time I talked to him, he was depressed and angry. Apparently something happened between him and his girlfriend. And so it goes.

I try not to let this stuff make me want to swallow rat poison, but sometimes it's hard.

The other thing that happened is that my CT/PET scan results seem to indicate that there's clearly an area of active cancer in my sternum. Both my oncologist and the radiologist think that perhaps I never really was in remission--that the "intense uptake" they've seen on the last three scans has always been cancer, rather than healing bone, as they initially thought. The good news is that the CT part of the scan indicates that the area hasn't grown at all in the past year.

And that is good news...but the whole thing was a shock, and then I was pretty bummed out for several days. I'm back to feeling like I have to hurry, hurry, hurry, to get everything done I hope to do before I die. It's like the goddamn sword of Damocles hanging over my head.

But I don't mean to whine. I know I'm lucky that the treatment is holding the cancer in check. Dr. Schauer, my oncologist, spoke to the radiologist about possible radiation to the sternum, but they agreed that since the cancer's stable, there's no good reason to subject me to a treatment that would almost surely damage my heart and lungs, since they're right behind the malignant area. So at this point my treatment isn't going to change at all.

Well, that's the update. I'm going to upload some of the art I've been doing over the past month, and then start writing my cute/acerbic/philosophical/chatty posts again. So if you've managed to slog all the way through this post, take heart; we'll soon be back to our regularly scheduled programming.