Christmastime Thanks for Spit and Other Things

It has been a year, hasn’t it?

For me I realize how thankful I am for so many things.

Mostly, I am thankful for even being around for another Christmas. As I reflect back, this was not assured in February when I was diagnosed with tongue cancer for the second time in less than 6 months. But I survived both cancers, and the loss of the starboard half of my tongue (replaced by skin from my port-side arm). This summer, a PetScan confirmed that I no longer have any cancer from my nose to my toes, but also flagged a brain tumor. It’s just a little guy on my pituitary gland. You may have one too. They are not all that uncommon, and are almost always non-cancerous. The doctor will follow it every 6 months for the rest of my life, but unless it starts growing or causing other symptoms (none so far), we will call that a win and be thankful for not having cancer anywhere. 

While recovering in the hospital in early March, the world shut down. Between the surgery and radiation that followed, I was in a condition where catching Covid would likely have been a death sentence. But so far so good, and I am stronger and would likely survive a Covid infection now. To avoid finding out, we have left the cramped elevators, congested hallways, and busy sidewalks of high rise living in downtown Portland for the laid back world of a small town at the Oregon coast, at least until we can get the vaccine.  I am thankful that we were able to do that. With all the people who are homeless and in poverty, I am thankful for having a home, food to eat, and the ability to eat it.

And medical care! I am thankful for my medical team, and all the resources that were devoted to getting me through this year.

And I am thankful for spit. Yes, saliva. Like so many things, you know its value when you don’t have it anymore. Radiation therapy obliterated my salivary glands, and caused so many things I loved to eat to quickly turn to wallpaper paste in my mouth. A New York Times article recently reported that people normally produce a quart of spit a day, so when you have a juicy steak it’s not the steak that is producing most of the juice. Just this past week, however, I have noticed that I can now produce a small amount of saliva. We celebrate these little victories!

I am also thankful for not being run over by my Jeep two weeks ago today. The circumstances are too embarrassing to relate here, but if you have ever read about someone being run over by their own vehicle I am here to tell you it can happen. But the good news is that I am HERE to tell you that. The fates rewarded me with a severely bruised and sprained ankle to help me remember NEVER TO LEAVE A RUNNING CAR EVEN IF YOU SHIFT TO PARK AND PULL THE HANDBRAKE. There, now you have been told too. My job here is done.

Two Wasted Minutes has always tried to remain non-political, though an amusing anecdote occasionally slips through. Is it political to be thankful that democracy in this country has survived?

Most of all, I am thankful for family and friends. I am in awe of the love and caring I experienced during this last year. My family without exception not only did what was needed, but also what would make life easier for Carol and me. My sister Shirley left her home in California to live with us and tend to my every whim. Hey Shirl – where were you when I was a bratty kid? Actually, she was there for me then, too. During the worst days following surgery, each of my kids took a turn staying with me through the night in the hospital, coaching me to breathe through that detestable tracheotomy and calming me to help get me through the worst nights of my life. Painful memories, but lessons of love that I can never forget.

And most of all, I am thankful for Carol, my wife of 46 years. Carol shows her love by letting me do things for myself but helping me when I need it, indulging my innumerable flights of fancy, providing the yin of calmness to my yang of restlessness. We are different people, and this was confirmed when we tested for personality types. Her type is shared by around 3% of the population, mine by about 1%. When reading about our respective types, we were not astonished to find that the single most compatible type to hers is mine, and mine, hers. She is still here. I am still here. There is a reason. I love you Carol. And happy anniversary!

Well, I am thankful for one more thing. You, my avid readers! Your likes and comments have goaded me to travel and write about it for almost 5 years now. Cancer and Covid brought that to a screeching halt of course, but the vaccine is at hand, and within months opportunities for travel will return. 

Stay safe everyone, and Christmas-time wishes of love and happiness to all of you!

RIP Johnny Nash (and another stupid health update)

I Can See Clearly Now' Singer Johnny Nash Has Died : NPR

I have proposed, and at least one of my cancer buddies (CB’s) has agreed, that Johnny Nash wrote the perfect song for those of us who got cancer and came out on the other side. “I Can See Clearly Now” has always been one of my very favorite songs, and in light of the latest developments in my health, it seems ever more appropriate now.

Avid readers will recall that a little over a year ago, this travel blog was hijacked by cancer, not once but twice. Then, while recovering from cancer surgery numero dos, they found at least one errant cancer cell in a lymph node that was removed. My body was then subjected to the indignity of radiation therapy from which I am still healing. Thereafter, in the process of confirming by PetScan the absence of any lingering cancer, a tumor was found on my pituitary gland, risking the possibility of having to go through puberty again or maybe reversing it, neither option being appealing. Oh, and the possibility of brain cancer.

Over the weekend, the test results came back and they were all normal. The neurosurgeon is 99% sure that the growth in the pituitary area is non-cancerous. It is not causing problems now, and is not likely to cause any in the future. They’ll probably give me another brain MRI in a year to confirm that it is not growing. Other than that, my earlier PetScan showed no cancer from stem to stern, so for now I’ve got a clean bill. 

It is a sad coincidence that at the same time my outlook has cleared up, Johnny Nash has died. He lived to age 80 and produced many great songs. None were more successful than Clearly, which was released in November of 1972 and spent 4 weeks atop the Billboard Top 100.

Rest in peace, Johnny Nash.

(Song written and performed by Johnny Nash. Video by sherrylynn70 aka Sentimental Journey Productions)

Dispatch (cough) from Portland (cough, cough).

Many avid readers and dear friends have inquired as to the situation here (mine and Portland’s), so here is a quick update:

Fires and Smoke.

Much of Oregon is suffering greatly from wildfires caused by a confluence of factors:

First, the table was set with summers that have become increasingly hot and dry. Our humidity level earlier in the week was down to 11% – unheard of in this area.

Second, an unusually strong wind from very hot and very dry central Oregon came barreling east over the Cascades, plunging down the mountainsides into the Willamette Valley, and continuing all the way to the coast. This is rare and occurs with this strength (60 mph or more) only every 20 or 30 years.

Third, add to the mix sources of ignition including lightning, accidents, and at least one case of arson that triggered the devastating fires in Southern Oregon that wiped out the towns of Talent and Phoenix. In fact, one major fire east of Salem had been burning quietly for weeks, and had been left to extinguish itself over time – until the winds came. Over the last few days, that fire combined with another and the commingled conflagration has threatened even some exurbs of Portland.

Fourth, the air circulation pattern shifted from easterly winds to southerly winds, which brought in smoke from Southern Oregon and California.

Fifth, after smoke from Oregon and California fires had covered much of the Pacific Northwest, the winds ceased, leaving virtually the entire Pacific Coast, from B.C. south to California, obliterated by smoke for days now.

The result was tragic loss of life and property from the fires, and horrendous air quality throughout the region. In fact, for four days running the contenders for the worst air quality on the planet have been Portland, Seattle, Vancouver BC, and San Francisco. That unsavory honor has gone to Portland more than one of those days.

Aficionados of conspiracy theories may inquire whether it is true that antifa is setting the fires so they can go in after people evacuate and rob their homes. It is not. And to the Russian internet agencies that no doubt initiated this rubbish: Utikhnut!

A Personal Perspective.

The normal view from our condo in the heart of Portland, looking south and east:

The view as the fires were being whipped up by severe winds pouring in over the Cascade mountains from eastern and central Oregon:

Our view for the last four days:

Protests, Violence, and Riots.

These events have been well-covered in the national and international media so no reason to cover what you already know. Here, though, is a personal perspective from my own observations:

First, protests have continued every day, to some degree or another. By “protests” I use the Biden definition: “Violence is not protest. Setting fires is not protest. Destroying property is not protest.” Protests usually start during daylight hours and end by evening. They are peaceful.

Second, violent demonstrations have occurred virtually every night as well, beginning after (usually well after) the protestors have gone home.

Third, the violent demonstrations consist of a small number of people, with only an even smaller number of them actually engaged in violent behavior.

Fourth, the violent demonstrations take place within a 2 or 3 block area of wherever they have decided to focus their activities that particular night. When violence begins, the police declare a “riot,” arrest some of the perpetrators and sometimes others, and the crowd ultimately disperses. Our newly elected District Attorney has decided not to prosecute unless they can show violence resulting in serious damage or injury, so after arrest most everyone is released. Next day, repeat.

In my view the term “riot” hardly applies. Watts in 1965 was a riot. South Central LA after the Rodney King verdict was a riot. What is happening in Portland is localized, predictable, and contained.

As a result, these activities still do not affect day to day (and even night to night) life in Portland unless the demonstrators happen to have chosen your neighborhood on a particular night. This happened twice in my area, home to the local ICE facility. The first was the subject of my recent post: “Surrounded.” The second took place last week before the air turned toxic, and this one was a dud. Around 11pm I heard someone leading chants with a megaphone, but otherwise heard nothing more, and the next day there was – thankfully – no further vandalism that I could find.

Now, with the air quality having turned hazardous for everyone, the streets have largely become the domain solely of the homeless living downtown and in other pockets of Portland. Today I drove the streets of downtown, including the hotbed area outside the Justice Center and the Federal Building. Nothing looked different, just the same graffiti and vandalism I saw a month ago. The only sign of human occupation was the homeless tent community in the park across the street.

Me.

For the interested few: I continue to be wary of the growth that has taken up residence in the pituitary area of my brain, although I remain greatly relieved that the effort to rid my body of cancer has otherwise succeeded. Knowledgable people suspect that the brain tumor is benign and harmless, and will bother me less than being served lukewarm coffee. The medical team at OHSU will weigh in, no doubt after extensive testing, come October. Otherwise, I continue to be frustrated that healing from my two tongue cancer surgeries and radiation is neither linear nor rapid. In context, however, the fact that I CAN eat, CAN swallow, and CAN talk at all speaks volumes about the miraculous hands of my surgeons, the healing touch of the medical and nursing staff who have taken care of me, and the prayers and good wishes of the squadrons of people whose kindness and love I do not deserve but deeply appreciate.

Surrounded

Another protest took place last night in my neighborhood, at the edge of which lies the unfortunate home of the local ICE facility.

Around 11pm we heard a siren, then more sirens. Stepping out onto our 19th floor balcony, I noticed one squad car after another circling our building, sirens blaring, lights flashing. I counted at least 4 squad cars and 4 motor cops. By midnight, around 100 to 200 people congregated in the middle of the main intersection adjacent to our condo. Amoeba-like, the crowd first moved one way, then with no apparent motivating cause, switched course, then after awhile, switched direction again. A picnic table once again was dragged into the center of the street. I kept waiting for this one to be lit on fire like the one last week, but the crowd ultimately left without any incendiary activities. A couple of people even moved the picnic table back onto the sidewalk. By 1am, we were able to head back to bed. A walk around the neighborhood this morning revealed no apparent vandalism.

Nonetheless, there is a certain vulnerability that you feel when you are surrounded by events – potentially violent – outside your control. Our safety was never at risk, and yet I had a dim sense what it would be like to feel vulnerable to violence.

I am not sure what these midnight romps accomplish. Organized and peaceful marches have gained the support and participation of millions of people across the country. Those marches have changed minds, and have brought to the fore the need for racial justice and changes in policing. That is how you change society. A midnight march through a residential neighborhood? Sorry, it just pisses people off.

Having observed over 50 years of protests, beginning with the student riots of the late 1960’s, I have some suggestions for the people who organize (if one can use the term) the protests in Portland:

  1. Peaceful protests are more powerful engines of change than violence or destruction. Over 70% of the populace support peaceful protests for racial justice; well over 70% actively oppose violent or destructive protests regardless of the cause.
  2. Protests are more powerful the more people who attend. Thus, they should be scheduled when more people can attend, and they should be publicized for maximum participation.
  3. Accordingly, secretly planned protests that start at 11pm or later on a weeknight will not be as effective as ones that happen during the day on a weekend. (Note: there is a reason why the crossing of the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, in 1965 took place on a Sunday during the afternoon, not at 11pm at night. Actually, there are a lot of reasons.)
  4. Disrupting neighborhoods at night, even though populated by a good measure of progressives who share the goal of racial justice, does not serve your cause.
  5. More to the point: if violence and destruction, regardless of the animating cause, becomes the dominating issue in the upcoming election, Trump will win. Is there really anything more that needs to be said?

[Well, maybe one more thing, this regarding a health update from your author. It seems he now has a brain tumor. It’s just a little guy, only about 5 silly millimeters long, that has found purchase on his pituitary gland. It is almost assuredly benign, but it does require some further investigation that will begin in early October. Allowed to grow, it can have an impact on vision, and nothing is more important to me than my sight so surgery is possible. I have already become a frequent flyer in the O.R., so if I do need to go in again, I am hoping I’ve accumulated enough points at least to get upgraded to high-speed internet.]

Update from the Portland War Zone

My neighborhood (South Waterfront) is populated by a number of high rise condo and apartment towers, some small, family owned businesses, a charter school, and the Portland location of ICE (the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency). The neighbors, in total NIMBY fashion, objected to putting ICE here a few years ago, but under federal supremacy the Feds do not need local approval and went ahead and put it here anyway. It was hardly noticed until the Trump administration started separating children from their parents with no plan or program for re-uniting them. Indeed, many children remain separated from their families to this day. This was nothing less than a war crime (since the President characterized the immigrants as an invaders, that is an appropriate appellation and not polemic), and the Portland Protest Class rose to the occasion and protested that for weeks and months. At some point, between the protestors needing to go back to school or their jobs, and the patience of the police class wearing thin, that protest ended.

George Floyd’s murder in May led to justifiable protests across the country. Over 70% of the country supports the movement for racial justice. While there is a struggle to determine how to convert the goal of racial justice to specific policies to achieve that, the groundwork is being laid.

Now, Portland is famous for three things. First our airport, routinely rated the best in the country. Second, our bike-friendliness. Third, our protestors. And when there is something to protest, our world-class protestors will not be out-lasted or out-done by any other group anywhere.

True to form, our George Floyd protests started early and often. We have now had almost three months of continuous daily protests. Sadly, the protests are becoming as notable for their violence as for the cause which inspired them. Even the head of the local NAACP has pleaded “As the demonstrations continue every night in Portland, many people with their own agendas are co-opting, and distracting attention from, what should be our central concern: the Black Lives Matter movement.”

So I can imagine the conversation that might have occurred last week among the protest dis-organizers (since there is no avowed organization):

“What do you want to do tonight, Marty?”

“I dunno. What do you want to do?”

“You wanna to go protest downtown again?”

“Nahh, we’ve done that the last 84 days.”

“Go try to burn down the Police Bureau?”

“Nahh, we did that last night.”

“I know. Let’s go protest ICE!”

“Yeah, that’s the ticket!”

I get the sense that it has become a protest in search of something to protest. It certainly isn’t about seeking racial justice. That train switched tracks from protest to working affirmatively for improvement months ago. The Portland Protest Class apparently did not get the memo.

So last week, while my wife and I headed to the Oregon Wine Country for some long-overdue R&R (and W), the protest transformed from a George Floyd/Racial Injustice protest, to a child-separation/ICE/Immigration protest.

OK, fine. 

On my return, I took a walk around the neighborhood. ICE is now boarded up.

ICE

No problem, no one ever noticed they were there anyway. And what do they need windows for?

The charter school next door has engaged in their own protest for months now, and their signs no doubt provided a defensive measure against vandalism (though I do not mean to demean their efforts which were genuine and pre-dated all protests in the neighborhood).

Cottonwood School

Local business owners, out of sincerity or self-protection or both, did the same.

Little Big

One business across the street from ICE, a vintage decor store, did not get the memo, and this was the result:

Vintage Decor

At one point the protest must have ambled over to my building three or four blocks from ICE because this graffiti was on the road in front of it:

MLK graffiti

abolition

and I am told that this it what is left of a picnic table, swiped from a Vietnamese restaurant in our building, and burned to chards (the entire meaning of which vandalism completely escapes me):

picnic fire

By now, Trump is thrilled. The Portland Protest Class, rather than advancing the interest of racial justice, has has distracted from it and provided all the footage that Trump’s campaign could have dreamed of.

A letter to the editor in the Portland Oregonian Sunday from a writer in Kentucky beseeched the protestors to back off. The Republicans there are now running ads non-stop of the Portland protests with warnings that this will befall Kentucky too if Biden wins. You can call BS all day long, but the damage is being done, and being done by the same protestors who absolutely hate Trump.

To everything there is a season. The season for violent protest is over. The season for rolling up your sleeves to actually do the work of restoring justice to all, has begun. So protestors with a proclivity toward doing violence and causing destruction, please go home, clean your rooms, and start doing the work.

[Health update: to those avid readers who have suffered reading along this far solely to know the latest on my health: The PetScan determined that I no longer have cancer anywhere south of my eyeballs. Unfortunately, something lit up on the PetScan in the area of my brain, so I will be having a brain MRI this Thursday. No one on the medical team is particularly worried, since it’s not their brain after all, and also since PetScans are notorious for giving false positives in the brain area. A further update will follow after the MRI results are in.]

Dispatch from the Portland War Zone.

Portland: City Under Siege

A number of friends from outside Oregon have asked “what the *** is going on in Portland” and have asked for my thoughts. One wrote “I’d be interested in your personal observations knowing that most news sources are biased one way or another.” My response 10 days ago:

“Well, there have been a LOT of peaceful protests. Like 50+ days of them. People march, there are speeches, there are chants, and then they mostly go home. A small number hang around, and more show up after the peaceful protesters go home (since peaceful is not their thing), and some of them are avowed anarchists and actual vandals. These people are out to do bad things. It may have originally been triggered by the death of George Floyd but for these small number, they come out to raise havoc. It had slowly been subsiding, and things were slowing down, police were finally catching a break, and fewer people were showing up and doing bad things. We were almost back to normal.


“And then the President decided he needed a photo op – this time of a city in flames, out of control, under siege, and to demonstrate how he sent troops in to restore order and take back the streets. Of course, none of this was true but sending in federal troops nevertheless resulted in a major flare-up – exactly what Trump wanted for his new pivot to a ‘law and order’ campaign.

“The city was not in flames.  And the city has never been under siege. In fact, before I even heard what the President and his media channels were saying about Portland, I was walking around downtown and everything was Covid normal – yes, some graffiti and boarded up windows from the first nights of the Floyd protests, but not much since then. Violence (with rare exceptions) is uncommon and confined to an area within a block from the police/justice/federal buildings.

“This is not about violent protesters roaming the streets striking out at people and businesses. It is about (a) a ton of people demonstrating peacefully by day and doing NO violence to people or property, and (b) a small number of people dedicated to violence who square off against the cops and try to provoke them. Idiots. Selfish idiots. And they are doing so much harm to the cause of racial justice. And they are giving Trump his campaign commercial.”

Not much has changed since I penned that 10 days ago, except that my comment that “they are doing so much harm to the cause of racial justice” was amplified last week by the head of the Portland chapter of the NAACP in a Washington Post editorial:

“As the demonstrations continue every night in Portland, many people with their own agendas are co-opting, and distracting attention from, what should be our central concern: the Black Lives Matter movement.”

It has been boringly predictable. Late at night, the hard-core few start tossing firecrackers at the federal building, and try to tear down the chain link fence surrounding it. The feds then come out from behind the doors, and they respond in kind, and being laughably ill-trained for this task, they frequently over-react. Violence begets violence. Blame begets blame. The two groups feed off each other, and the people who despise Trump lose all sense of how this is playing out on a national stage, and play right into the false Trump narrative.

There are 30,207 city blocks in Portland. The protests you see on TV involve only a few blocks, meaning that over 30,200 city blocks are untouched by the nightly theatrics. Most days I go to my office downtown, and yes it is safe to walk all over downtown including the area around the federal courthouse and the justice center – just stay a couple of blocks away after 9 or 10pm.

This past Sunday afternoon, between the “riots, violence, and pandemonium” on Saturday night, and the “riots, violence, and pandemonium” on Sunday night, I decided to go for a walk in downtown Portland:

Portland: City in Flames. Actually trash bin fires happen now and then downtown regardless of protests.
The Justice Center used to be the center of protest activity until the feds arrived. Now it is pretty quiet, guarded by cuddly plush toys, and the action has shifted next door to the federal courthouse.
Art in the Park: this is the heart of the park where the protesters gather. It reminded me of Berkeley’s Free Speech area in the mid-1960’s.
The park across the street from the federal courthouse is now largely populated by homeless and those serving the homeless, at least during the daytime. I noticed something caustic in the air as I walked through the area. It was leftovers from the last night’s tear gas. Even 12 hours later, it was very uncomfortable and I left quickly.
Late at night, those intent on provoking a federal response try to tear down this fence surrounding the federal courthouse. During the day, workers repair it. The cycle continues the next night. And the next day. During the day, no one is around except the workers and the mostly homeless in the park across the street, and a lot of people like me wandering around taking pictures.
I wasn’t clear what the political significance was of tearing down the Walk/Don’t Walk sign. In the background is the park across from the federal courthouse, filled with homeless tents.
Mom’s here.
Across the street from the park, life continues without obvious impact from the protests.
Two blocks from the courthouse, Starbucks remains open.

A quick health update for those interested (and the rest of you please feel free to bail now): I’m doing much better. Most of the radiation burns are gone. I am mostly pain-free. My tongue remains swollen and my speech somewhat garbled, but those who listen to me say it’s better than they expected. It will get even better as the swelling goes down. And if it doesn’t, they’ll go in and snip the excess away. My taste buds are coming back slowly. The fact that I have any taste at all is better than what I was prepared for. I have a PetScan coming up next week to confirm that all the cancer is gone. Thanks everyone who is still reading for thinking of me during the last 4+ months.

Road Trip!

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This started out as a travel blog. Not the kind where I tell you what I ate and where I slept. This blog had a different purpose: to seek out the quirky, the odd, the unusual. More than anything, it sought to show that no matter where you go in North America, you can find interesting things to see and do, and fascinating people to meet. Even in Podunk, North Dakota.

Since last summer, however, this journal – and I – have been hijacked by a cancer diagnosis, and since that time it has mostly covered a different sort of journey – my cancer journey.  It is now time to return this journal to its original purpose.

Today is a landmark day. After two tongue cancers, two cancer surgeries, plastic surgery to replace the part of my tongue that was removed, and 5 1/2 weeks of radiation, my last radiation treatment was today. Let the healing begin.

When you finish radiation, they have you ring a big bell on your way out, signifying that you have now “graduated:”

In my left hand is the Mask of Terror that secured my head to the table on which my body was offered in sacrifice to the Death-Ray Gods.

My medical team has emphasized that healing will be imperceptible for the next two weeks, and slow and non-linear thereafter. But the cancer is gone, and in some number of months, I will be able to say goodbye to the Ensures and milk shakes on which I have been subsisting, and once again enjoy seafood from the Pacific Northwest, Mexican food from the Southwest, Cajun cooking and BBQ from the South, butter tarts and poutine from Canada, and yes, maybe even walleye and meat loaf from the mid-west. It is not clear whether I will ever again be able to fully appreciate a fine Willamette Valley pinot noir or a lusty California cabernet, but my fingers are crossed.

In the meantime, I have pulled out the maps and travel guides again. It’s time to start planning the next road trip. I’m thinking maybe the Blues Highway from Nashville to New Orleans this Fall. Yeah, that sounds about right.

Road Trip!

https://maps.roadtrippers.com/trips/10427768?utm_campaign=trip_guide&utm_medium=share&utm_source=copy

I Miss Baseball

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I miss the smell of the grass. The whiteness of the uniforms at the beginning of the games. The traditions. Booing the ump. Cheering the hits. Arching your body to help the ball make it over the fence on a long fly. Sharing in the joys and sorrows of your team with thousands of people around you. The hot dogs. The beer.

I’ve been thinking a lot about baseball. By now we should be figuring out how our teams are doing, whether the new players are really helping, and whether the ones we lost will matter. Not this year.

We had tickets for Spring Training in Phoenix this year. As it turned out, the first game fell on the day I ended up in surgery. Now I’m in the late innings of radiation, and I keep thinking of baseball.

The first week or two of radiation is like single A ball. The Hillsboro Hops. The Hickory Crawdads. The Lansing Lugnuts. No big deal. Hardly noticeable.

Then by the second or third week you’ve moved up to Triple A. Skin starts to burn inside and out, it starts getting painful, everything south of your eyes and north of your collarbone gets red and swollen. It becomes hard to eat, and some end up needing a feeding tube snaking out of their stomach. Taste changes. In my case everything tasted like it was basted in sea water.

Just when you think it can’t get worse, you get called up to the Majors, the Big Leagues, the Show. I got my notice last week.  Like Crash Davis said in the movie Bull Durham, “everything is different when you get to the Show.” My surgeon looked in my mouth a couple of days ago and said “Wow, you’re on fire in there.” My radiologist said “Man, we’re really beating you up.”

I can no longer chew so I’m under orders to take in 3,000+ calories a day using liquids only.  So far, I can still swallow, I haven’t lost weight, I walk a mile or two a day, and though some would argue the contrary, I haven’t lost my sense of humor. This will continue for the last two weeks of treatment, and incomprehensibly, for the two weeks thereafter.

Avid reader Dave – a renowned writer, and life-long friend – just wrote:

“You are so much on my heart since your last blog. The honesty and insight combined to just, well, sit me down. — to ponder and try from distance, and fail, to imagine any small fraction of your present circumstance.

“I’ve probably read your paragraph about “Hope” 20 times. [see Carcinoma Blues] I’ve written it in my journal with long handed scribble. I’d never felt the connection between “my plans”—whatever they may be— and their role in producing a sense of hope: an expectation of future good.

“Against all of that an old old verse hit me on the head. So, this week, I offer it to you, my friend.

“ ‘May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.’

“Ancient wisdom from St. Paul to the Romans, and to me.

“And now from me to you.

“Love you, buddy. Dave”

My response:

“So true. When your world is on fire, hope is all you have. And love. Always love.”

Hope is why there is baseball. Your team may not have made it to the playoffs, but you hope they will do better this year. The hitter fanned on his last three trips to the plate, but there is always hope that he gets on base this time. Your team might be the worst in the league, but tonight, this night, there is at least a one in three chance they might eke out a win. And you are there because of your hope that they will.

A couple of weeks after radiation treatments end, down you go back to Triple A. The burns begin to fade, the pain begins to subside, swelling starts to get smaller.  After a time, you’re back in Single A, and months later you’ll be transitioning to your (new) normal. New normal is not normal. Some things will last the rest of your life: dry mouth, crappy mucus, taste changes. Some people never get their taste back but most do. Mostly. The big unanswered question: will I ever be able to tell a 2 Buck Chuck from a Silver Oak? That’s a question for next season. I just hope I’ll be able enjoy a hot dog and a beer at the ballpark.

Play ball!

(And it is worth your time to watch following clip to its end)

Carcinoma Blues

One by one, so many concerts, festivals, and events I had been looking forward to are being cancelled. The latest is the Oshkosh AirVenture this July. Oshkosh is Woodstock for people who love aviation, minus the mud, nudity, and weed – pilots get their high from altitude. Now shamelessly inserting a photo of my son Tim and son-in-law Marc on another Oshkosh trip:

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Of course, not going to Oshkosh also means not having to ingest Wisconsin food. I’ve been many times before and every time I look for that killer place with great food, and every time I come up wanting.

Once I asked what’s the best place around and was pointed to a giant dinner house off the freeway in Fond du Lac (home of the Fond du Lac Free Family Walleye Festival!). But I love meat loaf and there you had your choice: bland or tasteless. I chose bland. The mashed potatoes were instant, the vegetable was canned peas. Another time I went to a german restaurant figuring they must know how to make good german sausage, but it was forgettable, meaning I can’t remember a thing about it.

So last time, I decided I needed to go to the best place I could find for Walleye, which is the Wisconsin State Fish. Note that fish are so important in Wisconsin, you are required to capitalize the first letter. I mean of Fish. Actually the Muskie is the State Fish, but no one can catch one, and I doubt anyone has ever eaten one since the rare ones that are caught end up hanging on a wall somewhere. So after the ‘green salad out of a bag’ course, sitting right next to the instant potatoes and canned peas, there it was – Walleye. It was okay. No one goes to Oshkosh for the cuisine.

I do appreciate the fact that while I’m stuck here close to the radiology clinic I’m not missing much, but I’d be happier if Covid had not shut down the world. These days you can’t even plan, and a plan at least gives hope. I can plan a trip to New Orleans; I might not actually be able to go but a plan at least gives me hope that I might, a target, something to work and save for. And live for. Right now, how can you plan? Everything’s been cancelled.

This may be the first year in memory I won’t be able to go to a Blues Festival. These are so important to me that I capitalize the B and the F. The Waterfront Blues Festival – always the 4 days surrounding the 4th of July – is so close to my home I can walk to it. IMG_0652 It is the largest Blues Festival west of the Father of Waters (you know it as the Mississippi but I can’t spell that so I’ll go with the Native Americans on this one). Cancelled.

Fortunately, my friend Rich just clued me in to Roomful of Blues, a group of bluesmen I’d never heard of but who have been around for 50 years. They all look just like me. You put a bunch of grey hairs in a recording studio and something good has to come out.

When I was a bluesman for Legal Tender in the 80’s, we played a lot of songs about love: love sought, love lost, love regained. My how things have changed. The song that grabbed me from Roomful’s latest album was about something entirely different but of great interest to me right now. Here’s a version by Sam Bush – another grey haired bluesman:

We’ll get through this – and I mean ALL of this: Covid, cancer, canned peas. And when we do, off we will all go on family vacations, and visit our grandparents or our grandkids, and head to Disneyland, to the coast, to the mountains – heck, to the store!

And I will go to Oshkosh for airplanes and hot turkey sandwiches, to New Orleans for everything that is New Orleans, and to every Blues Festival I can find. Maybe I’ll even get to hear Sam Bush or Roomful of Blues, and tip my hat when they start playing the Carcinoma Blues.