Had/ Has | Happy Monday – December 5th, 2016

“Are you okay?” I ask.

“I’m fine, I just don’t want to do this.”

“I wish I could go with you. I still can,” I tell her, “You know, I can at least just go down there with you.”

“One of us has to pick up Kate.” She replied.

“I know. I’m sorry” I say.

“I’ll be fine.”

This was part of the conversation my wife and I had last week, before she left for her oncology appointment.

My wife had/ has cancer.

We found out about it in June, and she had surgery in July to have the tumor, and half of her large intestine removed. Thing we soon learned about cancer surgery isn’t like other kinds of surgery, it’s not really over with right away.

For instance, I had to have surgery on my knee when I fractured my patella in three places while coming home drunk one evening. I got taken to the ER, had to wait a day, then they operated on my knee. A couple of screws got thrown in there, and four months later I was able to walk around and go back to work. A few aches and pains aside, I was able to just move on with my life.

After cancer surgery, even though they are very sure they got the whole tumor, she still isn’t considered cancer free. Not until after five years have passed without a recurrence. This means that my wife doesn’t really get to move on with her life for five more years. For the next five years it’s a game of Schrodinger’s Tumor; it’s neither there, nor gone until it’s observed, and she has to live in a state of has/ had cancer. These five long years are supposed to involve several trips to the oncology unit for CT scans. Those CT scans are the first line of defense when it comes to detecting if the cancer is really gone or not. They are also priced in a range that I’d classify as unreasonably expensive for someone in my particular income bracket, at least without insurance.

That’s where the ACA becomes important to our lives.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is, quite frankly imperfect. I only enrolled to avoid a penalty imposed by the individual mandate. The policy I can afford, even with subsidies, offers relatively little coverage. It has however one thing going for it.

At least it is something.

I am not going to get into the mire of financial details explaining how expensive everything actually is in my particular case except to say that without that minimal amount of coverage we would not have been able to afford my wife’s surgery, or her post surgical medications. We would not have had the money for her recent CT scan. Going forward, without the ACA we will not be able to get her the rest of the follow up treatments and scans that the medical professionals have deemed as necessary.

Her next scan will be scheduled for sometime next year. After the new administration of the American government is in place. One of the things on the chopping block is the ACA.

2016 is coming to a close, and my insurance policy with it. I am tasked with spending the next few days reviewing coverage options and re-enrolling with healthcare.gov. I have to, not just to avoid a tax penalty this time. I have to enroll in a policy, that I won’t be able to afford without a subsidy, to be able to pay for the CT scans that might detect if my wife’s cancer comes back early enough to save her life again.

And it’s all a giant gamble because I don’t know if that policy will be valid, or affordable if the ACA get’s gutted, or defunded, or replaced. The words, high-risk pool  have been bandied about as well as, voucher system. Those are frightening terms to people who are in the had/ has category.

So that’s what I’ve been thinking about.

What’s on your mind?

Happy Monday.

The Big Idea

I have noticed a quirkiness about my handwriting in the weeks since I returned to keeping a journal, and using cursive once again. I mean other than slowly relearning how important it is to have a proper grip on your pen, or how seldom I need to write the letter “L” at the beginning of a sentence on a day-to-day basis.The thing the oddest I find is that I tend to capitalize the word “idea” regardless of where it falls in a sentence. As I look back across the many pages I have scribbled since the middle of October, this would seem to be the only word I have this problem with. I don’t have tbigidea2his problem when typing or writing any formal correspondence.

It’s as if the word itself referenced some higher concept deserving of a proper noun. Perhaps a dignitary from some foreign land requiring some formal address; some oddly dressed ambassador from the forgotten recesses of my thought process. Or maybe some Napoleonic abstraction puffing out it’s chest to make up for it’s otherwise small stature.

When I first noticed it I would angrily scratch out chunks of text, often rewriting entire sentences just to obscure this slight offense to proper style. Lately though, I have been embracing this little errant piece of capitalization. Regarding it as if it were some old friend. Waving at me from across the room, trying to draw my attention. Jumping up and down shouting “Hey! Look at me!” in some flailing attempt to point out the very thing I’ve been looking for all along.

Or maybe I’m thinking too much about it and just need to slow down and pay more attention to what I am doing as jot down my random thoughts, before I’ve even finished my first cup of coffee.

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I Never Meant to Sleep

I never meant to fall asleep,
Before my work was done.

I felt so weary,
I just laid my head down,
Only for a bit.

The room was cold,
I draped the blanket about me.

My eyes burned,
My head throbbed,
I drew down the blind.

I dozed for that perfect moment,
In the warmth,
Soft and dark.
I dreamt of abundance,
A world of peace.

You threw the blinds open,
I was awake once again.

Jagged rays of midday declared,
Here still is toil,
A place full of strife.

I never meant to dream,
Before our work was done.

Happy Monday – November 28th, 2016

After several false starts this morning, I found myself alone on a park  bench near my home. I arrived well before any children would be out of school, and just as the current shift of homeless men were finishing up their day drinking. Feeling a bit down I was already on my third lollipop of the day. I watched the men from across the empty playground, as they lumbered out of the park and off towards the nearby shelter for the afternoons feeding. From there, feeling refueled they would be about town mustering the coinage for their evening dosage. Which would most likely be consumed after dinner at The Salvation Army on the other side of downtown.

I recalled the schedule well, thinking about my own wilderness years as a vagrant. Living day-to-day by the good graces, and gullibility of others. For the time being it seemed so much easier than pushing headlong against the very daunting task of recovering my old life; then finally accepting the reality that I would never have it back. Not that life, but eventually a life.

In many ways it was a happy existence. Full of mornings spent loitering in parks like this one, with little on my mind outside a buzz. Every day was a social event, if only because no one could avoid true privacy. My own troupe of vagabonds would sit around various benches and picnic tables of the city. Prerolling our tobacco, talking road side philosophy and pseudo-mysticism. Then spend the late hours chatting up locals, who had much less experience with inebriation than we did, talking them into buying us booze or sharing their drugs. As the bars closed and the marks thinned we’d slink off to whatever semi-safe little bolt holes we had prepared for ourselves.

The problem with being a bum is that it’s migratory work. Trick is to leave town before someone realizes they’ve been taken advantage of, while everyone still remembers the good times they had with you around. It’s either that or dig in and put down roots for the long angles of at least appearing to be a respectable member of society. When my exit window came up I was tired of traveling, and weary of the constant hustle. I began dabbling in the real world menace of holding down an actual job and paying my own way. I began having actual relationships with people again.

Nothing serious at first. A friend or two, people I liked talking to instead of convenient acquaintanceships built on mutual self-interest. A series of mindless jobs that didn’t pay shit, ones to pay some bills but, I could slough off whenever they annoyed me. I girlfriend here or there, nothing romantic, just some occasional intimacy. Building blocks, baby steps. A toe in the pool of society just to test the waters. I’d been burned on this deal before.

It took forever it seems, maybe it really did. I don’t have everything I want, but I do have a lot. A decent job, despite a few things. A great wife. A wonderful daughter. Semi-permanent housing and a few material niceties. If I keep working at it one day I might even become financially stable. All in all things are good, at least better than they used to be. I have my life again, maybe not my old one, but it’s still mine

Yet on my darker days I still think about giving it all up and walking off towards the sunset. Disappear out of everyone’s life again, for the third or fourth time. Can’t really keep track anymore. Just some times it gets to be too much. To be honest I really do miss the adventurous uncertainty of it all. Plus there’s a certain comfort in being no one in particular.

But, I’m too old, and too sober, and I let myself get in too deep. It’s my life, but it’s not just mine anymore.

That’s a good thing, just in case you were wondering.

Anyway that’s what’s on my mind.

Happy Monday.

Thank You Appendix

“What are you thankful for?” The unavoidable question that will come out of my child’s mouth this year as our small family sits around the dinner table this year. She’ll ask it out of genuine curiosity, out of a sense of tradition, and out of a desire to deflect my attention when I tell her she needs to eat something other than cornbread. I’ve known the question is coming for weeks and I’ve been trying to think of what I am actually thankful for. It’s been kind of a crap year I suppose. It started right off the bat with my wife losing her job and well it just kind of gets harder to pick out good news from there. So I guess I’ll settle for being grateful for bad news.

This year I am thankful for appendicitis. Specifically my wife needing to be taken to the ER with severe abdominal cramps early this summer. She had emergency surgery to have the offending vestigial organ removed. It was then that they found the tumor.

A carcinoid tumor. It’s a slow-growing type of cancer. It often goes undetected for years. If her appendix hadn’t gone then quite frankly the chances of it getting noticed before it was extremely advanced was slim. She was scheduled for another surgery quickly and the rest of the tumor, along with about two feet of intestine was removed.

This little disaster resulted in an out pouring of sympathy and support from friends and family.  Some of this support came in the form of a care package, that included two gift cards, one for a restaurant, and one for amazon. They were just enough to let us shuffle expenses around and kept us from making a hard decision between her post-op medications, groceries and other household needs in the following months.

That package also included a journal and a pen, that after letting it stare at me accusingly for a while I took up and have now been using daily to unclutter my brain every morning. This in turn, has caused me to start blogging again. Because why write it down if you don’t intend it to be read? Doing this has caused me to recently go back and examine some of my earlier work and I am thankful for the realization that it doesn’t entirely suck.

I mean don’t get me wrong there’s some real turds there, but I am happy to have found quite a few I’m somewhat pleased with. Especially the 100 word posts I’ve made but then I have always been a fan of brevity.

So yeah, thanks to my wife’s appendix that no longer is.

Oh yeah. I am thankful for my family and friends, my pets (even the emotionally needy rat terrier), lollipops, indoor plumbing, and all the rest of that stuff.

Now if you’ll excuse me I have turnips to peel.

Thursday’s Plans

“What are your plans for Thursday?”, the same phone call every year.

As if  he might not remember what day it was or forgotten their conversation about priorities, he clearly wasn’t one of hers. He had been cast aside. Left in need to satisfy the wants of other people.

Now those wretches surround her.

Each year feeling guilty, alone, and used, she called with the expectation, he would come sit at their table for scraps of feigned affection for the sake of tradition, and her absolution.

Once again he declined the invitation.

The phone would remain silent for another year.

Moving

Moving, again.

I despise moving.

I have done it far too many time in too few years. In the past I found myself compelled to move by the economic forces that occur when a paycheck to paycheck lifestyle, such as mine meets an unexpected financial disaster. Alcoholics do tend to make such poor decisions when it comes to money after all, especially when it is already in such short supply. With this move, however this is not the case.

This time the move seems to be on more amicable, and complex terms. There is no need to hastily make decisions about which facets of my life are important and sweep just those bits into poorly labeled boxes. We aren’t trying to load it all up at the eleventh hour, and hurry away like thieves in the night. We aren’t running to the refuge of a house of a relative or a sympathetic acquaintance. No, on this particular venture I get to enjoy the picking apart of my personal life. Examining the minutiae of my life’s contents as I sort through years of “saved” belongings.

Paperwork is the bulk of it. Notices from my child’s school, unopened bills that are usually paid online anyway, pay stubs from two years ago filed away for those many times I seem need to provide proof of income, bank statements that alternately full of either fanciful lies or depressing accuracies. Then there is fine detritus that tends to fill drawers. Loose batteries of indeterminate lifespan, key long divorced from their locks, broken toys , along with fragmented bits of jewelry, pins and other baubles abandoned long ago all awaiting unceremonious burial come this trash day.

Of course there is my extensive collection of notebooks and pads are strewn throughout the apartment in desks, on shelves and sometimes laying on the floor. All of them half-full of scratch sheets for homework,  grocery lists, abandoned journals and false starts for stories long forgotten, along with random thoughts and quotes that seemed important at the time. I marvel at the sheer acreage of deforestation these all represent.

Inevitably I find myself on my hands and knees picking up piece by piece every paper clip, forgotten Lego, and scrap of paper that has been deemed too large or hazardous for the vacuum to pick up. Stopping occasionally to place a handful of collected pennies into the appropriate jar. The whole experience seems so arduous considering that we’re only carting everything about a thousand feet to the house next door.

As I begin to think about the complicated series of events that caused this particular move it is with much dread that my eyes fall to the couch. That beautifully gaudy, orange, polka dot, swinging seventies style convertible love seat that my wife admired so much in the shop. It was such a wonderful couch up until we had to move it up the rickety wooden stairs to find out that our door frame was just slightly too narrow. We were able to barely squeeze it through only after getting it partially stuck and then removing its stubby, square legs. Now I find myself sitting cross-legged on the floor, eyeing this heavy carrot colored monstrosity like it was a body that I needed to dispose of.

In the old days of booze fueled evictions I’d just abandon it or maybe pitch it off the top landing of the stairs.

I despise moving.

Anyway, that’s been what I’ve been doing this past week.

Happy Monday.

Percolated

I find myself at the time worn coffe shop once again. I had to lock my bike up a block a way this morning. The racks out front were a boneyard of derelict frames, hanging limply by their u-locks, rusting away, picked over by thieves and scrap men; with fresh corpses abandoned by the previous night’s bar patrons too inebriated to remember where they left them. I’m just rubbing my eyes and wondering why I still come here. Maybe it’s nostalgia, maybe the ambiance.

The roaring, hammering sound of the motor on the boom lift that is being used to do maintenance work on the upper stories of the plaza’s buildings isn’t adding much to the atmosphere, nor is the hairy-backed sweat troll operating it to get around the courtyard. The high whining of his power tools add to the engine noises of the passing cars, their exhaust enriching the total experience. It’s still early, but any minute I can expect the panhandlers to start cruising through, or the free loaders trying to occupy a nearby table on the patio while they try to drink their smuggled in tall-boys of Natural Light. I should be able to empathize with them. I was homeless once, after all, and a drunk to boot. Those two things do pair so nicely. Still that might as well be worlds away from where I’m sitting now.

The old crowd is gone. The troupe of miscreants and ruffians that I ran with hung out here. Eventually most of them took jobs here, before growing up and either moving away to chase a dream, or just plain got a straight job that occupies most of the day. We knew everyone here and they knew us. Now the place is staffed by an unnamed succession of faceless hipsters, and the customers don’t seem to talk to one another much anymore. The whole world’s been built up around the place.

So why do I still come here? Maybe I’m just keeping up appearances. Sitting at an outdoor cafe, a steaming mug of hot coffee in front of me with a lollipop hanging out of my mouth (I gave up smoking  a few years ago) and scrawling secret notes in my journal. It all serves quite well in maintaining the bullshit, arrogant, intellectual ideal that I hold of myself. The coffee isn’t really that good today, I don’t think it ever was. Thin stuff, not enough bitterness to promote proper thinking. Weak coffee percolates weak ideas.

Still I suppose it does me good to get out of the house.

Percolated

New Kids

Some things are different on the avenue.

Big Tattoo got out a changed man. Eyes sunken and hollow, he’s thinner now too. His skin yellowed from jaundice, just hanging in bags from his frame. I don’t know what happened in there, but he hasn’t fared much better on the streets. The old, white house they operated from got sold. New owners evicted the old man and painted the damned thing sea-foam green. No one’s seen hide nor hair of Mr. Squeaky-voice since. Sounds like he ran off with the product. Someone new set up shop in a house across the street. And everyone’s mad at Big Tattoo, he was supposed to keep them all in line. You can see it in his walk. The exhaustion of an old man still playing a kid’s game, just cause they never thought to get good at anything else. It almost hurts to watch it happen.

And the new kids are learning the ropes. They’ll skip school to  stand in shifts out front of that old abandoned house the corner. The one with the plates missing from it’s jalousies, wild grape vines overrunning the yard and pulling at the fence, peeling red trim around the windows. There’s one boy there now I’ve been watching grow up for the better part of a decade. You can tell he’s there on business cause he’s sporting two phones. The business line’s a flip phone burner. I guess the other line, a low rent smart phone, is for snapchat, and for telling lies to his mother. He’s on lookout, checking for the cops.

It’s not like they don’t know why he’s out there, or who he’s working for. They look him up and down as they cruise on by with slow intimidation. They’re too busy to roust him, he ain’t bleeding in the street. Not yet at any rate. They’re all still busy looking for who that shot the baby girl four months back. She lived, but they were aiming for her dad. He wasn’t so lucky though. Inquiries are ongoing.

Down the block the neighbor’s little girl is learning to ride her bike, while her brother hands out dead leaves  to passersby from the bouquet of them he’s collected from the parking lot of the funeral home.

The autumn air is growing cold and crisp, and I’ve taken to just sleeping in most days.

Happy Monday – November 14, 2016

Hell of a week, huh?

Since the election I have seen the blame (if such a term can be applied to an open election), for the outcome of the election, placed on several groups. Various sources in the media and socially have mentioned third-party voters, frivolous protest votes (Mickey Mouse, and Deez Nutz are not viable candidates), African-american voters, white women voters, so on and so on. I would have been inclined to just shrug and nod and go on shaking my head at all the finger-pointing.

Then it happened.

I got into an argument. With a complete stranger. Over the internet. About politics

Which is something I never do. Which is something I should have been doing all along.

In this case I called out a man who claimed that he voted for Trump as president, and did not cast his vote for VP. That his vote was not motivated by hate for the LGBT community and therefore should still be considered an ally of that community. I felt suddenly compelled to call bullshit on that. I am not going into the details, because the other people involved are not here to speak for themselves. But, when I made the decision to buzz in on that thread it was because I realized I had not been doing enough.

I guess what I am saying is that I am willing to shoulder my fair share of the blame, if it really is a matter of blame.

I voted, I voted against the Trump ticket. I voted for Clinton, but I voted in silence.

For years I decided to stay out of the fray. I liked to think “I was above it”.  I had taken an attitude over the years that people need to sort out their own screaming matches. I adopted a facade of general disinterest, “because it’s all going to hell in a bucket anyway.” I cowardly disentangled myself from the broader discussions, believing that I should only talk about those things with people who know me and have context for my thinking. I convinced myself that everything would be fine, so long I threw my ballot into the box marked “Human Decency”. That was a bullshit position to take, because over the years I wound up not jumping in when I encounter people spouting of in a hateful, bigoted manner. I’ve kept scrolling when I see a meme, possibly posted in jest, that spreads false, or misleading information about another class of people.

In short I have consistently failed to step in and stand up for the things that I tell myself I believe in.

I’m not saying that there’s about to be a shitstorm of preachy, political posts coming to this space. I am just saying my friends, family, and society at large deserved better than my apathy, pseudo-nihilism, and smug sense of intellectual superiority.

I need to do better, and I know I’m not the only one.

Anyway that’s what’s been on my mind this past week.

Happy Monday.