Word began to break on Thursday afternoon, with news that Hope Hicks, a close member of Trump’s inner circle, was positive for The ‘Rona. There have been other ‘near misses’ before—Herman (“Aww, shucky-ducky”) Cain comes to mind. But Hicks was close enough to know what everybody had for breakfast. So many among us began to speculate (with and without a licentious twist, depending on our personal inclinations).
And thus, when word came a little after ten Thursday night, Pacific time, I don’t think anyone was deeply surprised. For some (okay, many) of us, there was a certain schadenfreude at the prospect of this brutal bastard finally seeing some of it come home to roost. That night, the words from Orson Welles’ narrator in “The Magnificent Ambersons” kept running through my mind. “George Amberson Minafer had got his comeuppance. He got it three times filled, and running over.”
But I truly do want to “be the better man.” I want to practice love and kindness. I want to lead with an open heart. So I went to bed, knowing I was about to have my best night’s sleep in many months, holding the intention that I would rise to the moment on the morrow.
Well, I rose to the kittens instead. I took care of them, and got down to work pulling the pieces together for Jerilyn’s memorial celebration this Sunday. Every time I’d pause and raise me head up looking for updates, that delight would NOT be denied.
More of his henchmen testing positive? Hey, you people chose to hitch your wagons to this bull, now enjoy your ride. He’s running a fever? Well, he’s not going to get away with being asymptomatic so he can brag about “beating the ‘fake virus.’” They’re airlifting him to Walter Reed? Yes, I admit. I did watch ghoulishly to see if he’d make it to the chopper under his own power.
Now, all of this is kinda disturbing to me. What keeps crossing my mind is that Lennie James character from back when I still watched “The Walking Dead.” The poor bastard who had been so immersed in slaughter and mayhem, and the loss of all those he loved, that he had committed himself to adopting the aikido philosophy that “all life is precious.”
And I kept chiding myself. “If all life is precious, how can you continue to delight in his illness?” I truly was a little disappointed in myself.
Until I remembered a codicil I developed a long time ago that is supposed to ride alongside my commitment to doing my best to foster and nurture love among us all.
There is a point at which some people, by their actions and attitudes, elect to remove themselves from that circle of love and connection I strive to live in service to advancing. And after they declare themselves apart from it, I no longer owe them my kindness and service.
A sad spot in my heart, perhaps. Something akin to pity, for it must be a dark and lonely way to live. But they are beyond my reach. And they do often manage to hurt those who are within my circle of love and compassion. And my desire to love and harmonize does not obligate me to tolerate the intolerable.
So no, I won’t spend my time obsessing about every moment of his illness and treatment, actively wishing for his discomfort and ultimate demise. Because that costs me too much. Brings too much darkness into my heart.
But you know? I will not deny my truth. The fucker is the worst President in the checkered history of our Republic, and has done lasting damage to it. He is a selfish, self-aggrandizing, profiteering and petty man who is undeserving of my respect, loyalty, or compassion. May he get all he deserves.
[A note to my international friends: For you, today is Thursday (unless it’s already Friday where you are), an ordinary week day. Here in the United States, today is the designated national holiday known as “Thanksgiving”. Thank you for your patience.]
For many of my Native American and First Nations friends, the fourth Thursday in November is observed as a day to remember the dark legacy of colonialism, conquest, subjugation and genocide that lies across the face of this continent.
Aside: If you’re not as familiar with the actual origin story of our modern Thanksgiving customs, won’t you join me over here for a quick review? Go ahead. I’ll wait here.
OK, we’re back.
Those of you who gathered at dawn today on Alcatraz, or elsewhere, to honor ancestors, build solidarity, support each other, and find renewed strength, I acknowledge you with respect and love. I also acknowledge the almost certain fact that some of my ancestors were at least complicit, if not active participants in some of that sad legacy. I wish it were not so, but it is. I can only do my best to be better.
My privilege though, has brought me to this moment by a different path, thus my practices on this day are different as well.
One last thought though, before I move on from this part of discussion the day. As a sympathetic observer, and one who has aspired to be a good “ally” since long before the term was coined, I’d like to note that I’ve seen an evolution in the tone, tenor, and presentation of Indian activism in recent years and, to my eyes, that represents positive development in several ways.
I’ve been around since the days of the Alcatraz Occupation, and before. It has been my privilege to watch, at least in the Bay Area, the birth and early coalescing of the Red Power movement. In later decades, it seemed the focus turned more inward, with an emphasis on the urgent work of relearning language, core cultural activities, and spiritual/religious practices before they were lost forever as elders, often the last holders of these memories, left this life.
And along with that work came the task of developing alliances and interconnection between Nations who may have, at times not always seen each other as friends.
Now, in researching this piece on line, I’ve come to realize that the impatient young people with their urgency and sense that they were often, quite literally, fighting for their lives have become today’s elders. And there is a new generation of leaders emerging with the heart and skills to take the movement to the next level, and present it in the context of today’s media environment in a fashion that strives to address continuing issues of oppression while leveraging a new type of academic interest in tribal history, an ingrained understanding of the peril to human survival the excesses of the dominant culture have created, and a level of dignity, pride, and self-worth which had been almost drained away from earlier generations by over a century of systematic oppression, exploitation, and cultural colonialism.
Today’s emerging leaders begin their work from a place much further along than that which was available to their parents and grandparents. Thus we can hope the work of their lives will have impacts we can’t even foresee from here.
All of which is by way of acknowledging the fact that, for certain folks, this day is informally known as Unthanksgiving, and the last thing they have in mind is gathering around a dinner table to eat overcooked poultry in commemoration of what, in many ways, was no more and no less than the time-released invasion, theft and, in many respects, destruction of their land by a hostile and aggressive foreign horde. I honor and respect that, and would not be so arrogant as to offer counsel on whether that best serves. I can’t know what I don’t know.
By accident of birth, however, my experience is different.
Like many Americans, I grew up spoon fed the post-war idealization of “the good life” which included an expectation of warm and fuzzy gathering of loving family to give thanks for our privilege and bounty. And this was somehow all wrapped up in a blanket of patriotism, entitlement, and expectation of the manifestation of some fictional, misty, satisfied gathering rooted in a shared appreciation of fine home cookin’ (somehow magically manifested in the kitchen by the womenfolk while the men did manly things like watch football and chat about plans and expectations for the upcoming holiday season).
Of course, like so many of my generation, things never quite played out that way in our alcohol soaked home. Bonnie (wife and mother) was not a terribly talented “natural-born cook” at the best of times; for her the work was all about finding recipes that either looked good, or appeared to match someone’s fond childhood recollections, and trying to follow them to the letter with regard to ingredients, timing, and presentation.
Not the most relaxed way to approach the kitchen under any circumstances, and when overlain with the crushing weight of holiday expectations (and recreational alcohol consumption that began earlier and ran heavier than it did on “normal” days) the ballet of timing multiple dishes to reach their prime simultaneously, her stress level and performance anxiety would rise exponentially. Which virtually guaranteed an unfortunate outcome.
I’m coming the long way ’round here to get to: I don’t have terribly fond memories of Holiday Feasting from my childhood. And thus, I’ve felt no compunction to try to duplicate those painful afternoons and evenings in my adult life. Imagine my delight when I discovered I had managed to join up with a life partner of similar bent.
However it has also been true for quite a long time that my feeling of connectedness with fellow humans, and the nexus of love we share, is central to how I understand myself and my proper place in the world; in my life.
Thus, over the years, Yoshimi and I have found ourselves establishing a “family tradition” of a different sort, around this holiday in particular.
Neither of us adhere to a formal faith tradition, so we’re not committed to any of the various celebrations of various deities that dot the calendar (I saw an assertion somewhere the other day that December and January actually contain a grand total of at least 52 different observances focused on different reputed “birthdays,” holy days, or astronomical events such as solstice—so much for your “War on Christmas).
So, a day that’s set aside to gather with loved ones (we like to think of them as our “family of choice,” thus differentiated from our “family of origin”—though there certainly is overlap) to contemplate and celebrate the many, many things for which we are grateful emerged as the natural holiday for us.
Over the years, we have mounted gatherings with as many as a couple dozen people; as we have aged the effort grew more daunting, and many of the folks who had previously filled seats at the table moved on to other commitments. But there is always “Thanksgiving with Ace and Yoshimi” as a known thing.
This year, circumstances have lead to a further evolution. Not sure I’m completely happy about it, but it is what it is and I embrace it. In getting ready to put these thoughts together, I went back, as best as the architecture of the site allows, and retrieved some things I’ve written for Facebook in previous years.
I found this “day after” rumination from last year, and thought it worth revisiting here. I’ll explain why on the other side.
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 24, 2017
Notes from the wreckage:
~ I realize we say this every year, but I believe this truly was, in many ways, our finest holiday gathering ever.
~ As always, I look forward warmly to a succession of comfort meal favorites on the menu in coming days. Hot turkey sandwiches with gravy. Turkey soup. Ham and scalloped potatoes. (Side note: Christ, there’s a lot of left over mashed potatoes this year for some reason. Recipes incorporating same glady accepted.)
~ I thought my “no politics today” rule worked out reasonably well as a tool for setting our anxieties aside for the day. And who came closest to violating it as the evening wore on? Yup. Moi.
~ I’m not sure what possessed Yoshimi to elect to bring out the Good China and crystal glassware for the first time in a number of years but, even though it meant more handwashing after, it was a nice, luxuriant touch, and I’m glad we did it.
~ Good mix of old friends and new this year. That was a joy. And thanks, by the way, to everyone who pitched in side dishes for the feasting. Damn, but we do get to live well.
~ It is so VERY much worth it, but I gotta admit there’s a lot of physical work involved in mounting this kind of feast, especially for us old farts. Man, I’m beat up this morning (and “ma in her kerchief” is still sleeping soundly). I wouldn’t have missed it for the world, but I do have to own the costs. Which leads me, finally, to…
~Damn, but I’m grateful I don’t drink any more. It struck me a little bit ago as I stumbled through brewing the cats and feeding the coffee that I’m pretty sure if I laid a hangover in on top of this I’d be praying for a swift and merciful death about now.
Happy Day After, all. If you’re going out among ’em (or, gods love ya, if you have to work retail) today, be careful out there.
I had no idea when I wrote that, that 2017 would be the final year we hosted Thanksgiving Dinner in our home of 16 years.
But, for a number of reasons, it’s time to move on from here. We’ll be setting up housekeeping in a new location in January. Initially, we considered “one last farewell feast” here. This home has meant a lot. I’ve realized as we’ve contemplated and planned this transition, that I have lived here longer than any other place in my life. And the same is true for Yoshimi. Ultimately though, it just felt too overwhelming to take that route.
Once again though, we are drenched in gifts beyond all deserving. A dear friend has invited us to combine our dinner with hers. We’re sharing the cooking, and an abbreviated guest list. Yoshimi and I have done significant pre-baking here (our friend is wrangling side dishes) and we will load up the turkey, the dressing, and the ham in a few minutes and head over there. It will, I am sure, be a different but still filling (in so many ways) afternoon.
Know that, as always, I carry you in my heart and you’ll be right next to me at the table.
Wherever you are, and whatever your dance card features this day, you are wrapped in Love. And ultimately, I am convinced to my core, this is all about the Love.
So, the new European GDPR privacy protection law took effect today.
I support the aim of it, and don’t really know enough to have an opinion on the specifics (Barlow, where are you when I need you?).
The law mandates it be significantly more “user friendly” than the 87 page long lawyer language stuff we’ve all grown accustomed to clicking as “read and accepted” in order to do damned near anything on line, though I confess I still find the available boilerplate to be pretty snooze inducing.
And you can rest assured that if/when I elect to add any new bells and whistles on this site that impact the data I collect on you, how long I keep it, and what other entities I may share it with, you will be advised and have the ability to opt out.
NOTE for regular readers: As you know, I avoid the overtly political here, reserving that sort of traffic for my Twitter and Facebook accounts. The avowed purpose of this blog is to honor my medical diagnosis and do what I can to “download” whatever experience and—dare I say?—wisdom I’ve accumulated before my run here is finished.
But here’s what happened. A young man from Rockford, illinois who calls himself Jimmy B.O.A. posted the following Tweet, which sparked an exceptionally interesting comment thread (Jimmy clearly has high quality followers). I wanted to join in, but quickly realized my remarks would extend too far beyond the 240 character limit to even build a thread. Thus, a post here which I can link in the comments.
And besides (he adds in his best self-justifying voice), this isn’t about a “news of the day” political issue. It does speak to a piece of who I am which, I submit, gets it past my self-imposed “no politics” rule.
First, Jimmy’s Tweet:
POC can fight against racism until the death of them. Shit will never change, until the minute good “White Folks” speak up, and condemn each and every person that commits “Racial acts” against people that doesn’t look like them.
You. Must. Not. Spare. A. Racists. Feelings.
Let’s set context first, OK? I’m an old white dude, a bleeding edge boomer specifically. And I’ve been speaking up and speaking out my entire life. Attended my first civil rights march when I was, not sure now, either 12 or 13 years old. Was involved in anti-war activities and efforts to support UFWOC (later UFW) by the time I was a freshman in high school. Et cetera, et cetera. So, I’ve “been to the barricades” many times, and I’ve never stopped advocating for what seems right to me.
And I’m grateful to Jimmy for launching this thread. It has kicked off some interesting and useful conversation (something that seems a rarity rather than the rule much of the time on Twitter).
I absolutely concur. Nothing changes unless and until those standing in the way of change are challenged and called out. One of the advantages of being my age is that I have seen this play out time and time again on any number of specific issues over the decades. Barack Obama and Dr. King were right about the arc bending toward justice, but it’s a long arc and it needs our help along the way.
Need to say though, that as I have continued to “do the right thing” as best I can, I have had to learn a lot of new stuff over the years. And a lot of that has to do with privilege. There was a time it all seemed pretty simple to me (if a little risky at times). When I saw something that seemed wrong, my job was to stand up and speak out. That remains my guiding policy, but in recent years something began to happen that confused and disturbed me at first.
And I’ve seen some folks post up about it in this thread. Other white folks whose feels got bruised when they tried to speak out and someone challenged them (sometimes caustically) on their standing to discuss the issue.
See, I’ve come to believe that confliction (a lot of it anyway) is all about privilege. And I’m realizing one of the most pernicious things about privilege is how difficult it can be to recognize when you’ve enjoyed it your entire life.
In today’s context, now that someone has invented and defined the term “ally,” it just won’t work any more for me to roll up and start white mansplaining to folks who are marginalized and disempowered in one way or another howIthink they “should” act to be most effective (let alone how they should feel).
Because I don’t know what I don’t know. Oh, yeah. I’ve spent periods of my life impoverished. I have more than a passing acquaintance with alcoholism and drug addiction. I’ve seen the inside of jail cells for less than noble reasons, lived in “the inner city,” and on and on. But when all is said and done, I remain a white male and therefore, by default, less vulnerable and exposed than many others.
When in discussions—especially discussions about “resistance” of one sort or another, but really discussions of any sort with POC, women, LGBTQ+, and other friends and associates I love, respect, and want to support, I’ve learned I have to listen before I speak. To stay open and receptive. To stop and carefully consider when someone tells me to “check my privilege.” Then, if I still can’t see it, to ask for help.
Yes, it can be uncomfortable at times. Especially when those challenges land in a way that feels like my intentions, motives, or sincerity are being questioned. But I’m finding that beyond the discomfort there is important stuff for me to learn and understand. About myself, and about the people I want to support.
Also, I believe it’s damned important that the conversation has been elevated to the place where privilege is on the table. The fact that certain members of that dwindling dominant white male culture feel so threatened and put-upon by voices for change (and are completely blind to the absurdity of claiming they are somehow “victims of discrimination”) speaks to that importance.
So, yeah. I will continue to speak up and call out my cis male white brethren whenever and wherever necessary. I’ll also participate and, if it seems appropriate, offer my input and opinions to my sisters and brothers in the struggle; but I will do my best to do so with humility, an open heart and mind, and the understanding that it’s not my job to be the lead sled dog.
Because several folks have asked recently (and I thank you for your interest and concern), it appears it’s time for a progress report / update.
I had bloodwork done last week, and got an email from the oncologist on Tuesday advising that my “PSA remains stable .”
So apparently the assumption, based on my numbers, is that the cancer has not significantly metastasized yet, and is still getting its little cellular brain wrapped around the fact that we added Casadex to the mix (I’m also on a schedule of injections of Lupron, which is time-released into my body — how much detail on this stuff do you really want?).
That’s reassuring because I’ve noticed something about myself, and how I’m processing all this. Despite the fact that, as we’ve discussed before, I feel like I’m “in a pretty good place” about the fact we’re working our way through the late innings here, there is a part of me that remains pretty emotionally invested in just how things are going, and is rooting pretty hard at this point for this to take a while to play out.
And, as a result of that, I’m a little “over-vigilant” about relatively subtle shifts in things like when and how I fatigue, my overall pain level — and any new or unexpected spikes in same, along with other new manifestations of aspects of how I am in the world that might be indicative of something.*
At any rate, things remain dandy (all things considered) for now.
Working on some exciting projects with Yoshimi that I don’t have permission to talk about yet, but I think it’s going to be very cool.
We’re still in the process of getting ready for what I’m calling “The Last Great Road Trip” this Fall. At some point I expect I’ll get all self-indulgent and bore you with extensive details of the plans. We’ve been saving up for this since long before I got my diagnosis upgrade last summer. And yes, if you have spare change you’d like to toss in the pot, all support is welcome. Here’s the GoFundMe for that.
One other thing I should make note of, since we’re here talking about prostate cancer. If you’ve been keeping score at home (or, perhaps you actually read the “set up” backgrounder the first time you came here) you know I’ve been living with prostate cancer for 18 years now, and only recently have the medicos finally stood me up against the wall and declared me “advanced,” and therefore a short-timer.
Well, as a result of that I’m always interested in who else is a member of our large, and involuntary “Big C Club.” I count myself lucky, indeed, that I’m able to play the role of Trail Guide from time to time when somebody I know has that initial diagnosis dropped on their head.
No matter who you are, or what the specifics of your diagnosis and prognosis, my observation is that it always seems to rattle us when “The C Word” gets tossed into our lives. It’s a different country out here, and it can be damned helpful to have somebody to hang with, especially early days, who knows the lay of the land a bit.
In that regard, I rode along with a friend and his wife last week to be the “extra set of ears” and, if necessary, advocate at his initial consult with the radiology oncology Doc (he was still in the process of learning about his options and deciding if getting sliced and diced or nuked looked better for him).
A couple cool things happened on that trip. First, while we sat in the waiting room before being called in for our appointment, an old and dear friend and her husband emerged from down the hall. I recognized that “I’m keeping a good front up but my world just imploded and I’m scared as shit” look on her face. As he went to the desk to take care of whatever business was needed with the front office staff she hurried over and asked “what are you doing here?”
I quickly gestured to Ed and replied “I’m just a ride-along buddy today, what’s up with you guys?” This radiology oncology clinic treats all sorts of cancers, not just prostate, so I knew it might be any number of things.
She quickly gave me the bare bones of her husbands situation, which sounds like it’s gonna be no fun, but survivable, and I let her know I’m glad to be available to either or both of ’em to be “that guy” you talk it out with.
It’s such a privilege to be able to offer that unquestioning support. I find these days that the “connectedness” to my fellow humans has become one of the things I’ve come to value the most in this season of my life. So grateful when chances to live out that conviction present themselves.
Now here’s the other interesting thing: This is the same practice where I turned up every freaking morning for two months to get zapped with targeted external beam radiation 18 years ago. And when we were called back for our consult the Doctor looked at me for a minute or two and said “I know you!”
Yup. He swore up and down that, nearly two decades (and god nose how many patients later) he still remembered treating me. Of course, where I go in my head is that “must have been even more of a PITA than I realized” place. But I could see our quick exchange did a lot to boost the comfort and confidence of my friend and his wife, who are still in those early stages when the rational part of your brain is trying to settle down the emotional side, which is seriously freaked out.
So, nice piece of serendipity. Well played, Universe.
One final point about my membership in our huge Involuntary Club. I’m always interested when another New Member arrives at our clubhouse. Thus, I found this video that posted on the internet today of note. Perhaps you will as well.
And that’s about it from here for tonight. As you know, it is not my intention here to wallow in matters medical, but I reckon the occasional update for the interested is a reasonable use of the forum.
*For instance: I am, at the moment, in the midst of a persistent bout with vertigo. Now that’s something I have never experienced in my life, but which has presented itself several times over the last year or so for periods ranging from a couple hours to a day and a half or so. It’s not a big deal. I Googled a couple times ago when, for the first time, it lingered for more than 24 hours. The consensus from a number of mainstream medical sources was “not to worry — odds are, like 99% that it’s not significant. But the fact that I even bothered to look it up speaks to a level of concern that my body may be betraying me that I’ve never had before.
I’ve vowed to essentially keep this space free from my seemingly boundless obsession with political junkiedom — there are plenty of folks in the blogosphere doing the commentary thing much better than I can (and, if you really want it, it’s pretty much unavoidable in my Facebook and Twitter feeds).
But my friend Claudia Lamb was struck with a bit of inspiration this morning on the Facebook machine, and it looked like something that might be fun to try here. It’s gonna require a little audience participation from you.
Unless you’re stationed in Antarctica, you pretty much couldn’t avoid the news the last day or two about Michael Wolff’s new “tell all” from inside the White House. The presale marketing runup to this thing is without equal since the Harry Potter series ended. So, here’s the game.
You know damned well, the pitches are already well underway for the film rights and the jockeying has begun for the juiciest roles (hmmm…script by Aaron Sorkin?).
Now we get to be the collective Casting Director. In the comments, please offer your nominations to play the parts in the picture.
The ground rules (which I just made up): Any actor, living or dead will be considered. Non-actors MAY be accepted on a case by case basis.