Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Monday, November 20, 2017

"Photographs and Memories ..."

The Kid, 2nd from left
Garrett, far right
Old photographs have been in the news lately. Someone lucked out and bought for $10 a tintype of a picture that shows both Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett, the man who would shoot the kid dead in 1881. (Link to New York Times story.) Another one that hit the news was, of course, of Sen. Al Franken, feigning a groping move on a sleeping woman. (That went over well ...) (Link to Atlantic story about it.)

Old photographs have played a recent role in our lives, too. We've been cleaning out our basement (due to our waterproofing project down there), and in a box of assorted things, we found this photo of our son, Steve (about one year old), with my late father, Edward Dyer (who was about sixty at the time). They are out on the back porch of my parents' home, 3500 Wakonda Court; Des Moines, Iowa. Both my parents were teaching at Drake University at the time. I took the picture with a 35mm camera--summer of 1973.

I love this picture; I don't know why it was in a box. But it ain't no longer: In a frame, on a shelf where I can see it every day.

Just one more now. The other day a friend from high school, Ralph Green, published on FB some photos he'd found of our class' tenth reunion--1972. There's a picture of Joyce and me at a table with some others. I'm talking with my former basketball coach (and driver ed teacher!), Bob Barnhart (RIP). Priceless. (I'm the guy with the mustache and white sweater, to the right-center.)

Okay, we're almost there--almost to the point I want to make. But one more thing first. On Saturday night I saw Daddy's Home 2, and there's a scene at a school production, and when the thing begins, every parent in the audience whips out his or her phone or tablet and begins photographing/videoing (?) the action on the stage. Lots of laughs in the audience.

And then it was I began to think about how in these days--when virtually everyone is walking around with a camera--photographs are so abundant that I wonder if they can any way be as--what?--precious(?) as they once were--when a few photographs lived in few photo albums.

I have so few photographs of the people I knew and loved in childhood--in fact, I have none of some relatives I knew well. So different from today ... My iCloud holds so many pictures now--yet it's really holding no pictures at all. Just digital information. Fragile digital information. I don't print any of them very often. Store them anywhere. They are literally molecules in a cloud.

I saw a video ad the other day for a new smart phone-camera that responds to voice commands. A woman is out floating in the water saying "Selfie! Selfie! Selfie!" and you can hear the camera's sound--click! click! click!

Another precious moment captured.

Link to video/song: Jim Croce, "Photographs and Memories" (1972)

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Sunday Sundries, 166

1. AOTW: I actually thought I would get through the week without having a winner. Then ... a gift from ... from wherever. Yesterday (Saturday), driving home from the health club (north on Ohio 91), I was approaching a side street (with a stop sign) on my right. I saw a car approaching its stop sign. But the car did not stop but pulled out right in front of me. Brakes. Bad words. I didn't recognize the driver at first--and then I did! It was the AOTW!

2. Joyce and I finished streaming the recent Netflix documentary about Joan Didion (Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold)--and we both loved it (although some of the reviews have been less than flattering). A writer's life--right there for you to look at. One thing I really enjoyed (and which really touched me): Didion's very active use of her hands and arms as she talks--almost as if she trying to grab her words from the air. (Link to film trailer.)

3. Last night I went to Kent to see Daddy's Home 2 (I know, I know)--principally because of a popcorn-craving. (If you eat it in the dark, as everyone knows, there are no calories.) I was surprised, on a lousy rainy night, how crowded the lines were, and even my theater was pretty much full (not to mention the enormous lines for the new superhero movies). Anyway, the film was absolutely As Expected. More of the same. (Now, an unkind comment: Isn't Will Ferrell getting a bit long in the tooth to play the daddy role?) (Link to film trailer.) And as for Mel Gibson ... can't stand him anymore.

4. I finished two books this week ...

     - The first was one I've been reading at my in-bed pace of 10 pp/night--Robert Sapolsky's Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst (2017). There are nearly 700 pages of principal text (not counting Appendix, notes, etc.) ... so you can figure out how long it took me to read it!

But I loved it. Learned something new on just about every page (and, of course, promptly forgot most of it ... still). Sapolsky--a MacArthur Fellow and a prof at Stanford--is an excellent writer, mixing the dense with the light (like a good bartender!). He's interested in explaining why we are like we are--why do we demonize others? Why are we capable of such despicable--and praiseworthy--behavior? And here's  a little nugget from p. 602: "The biology of the behaviors that interest us is, in all cases, multifunctional--that is the thesis of this book." In other words, no simple, one-cause thinking about behavior is allowed! Not in these wonderful pages ...

I might read this one again. I enjoyed it that much.

     - The second was the second novel by Jennifer Egan (I'm reading her novels in the order that she wrote them). I'd known about Egan for a long time but had not read anything by her, until I saw the reviews for her new one (Manhattan Beach, 2017--link to New York Times review), I figured it was about time--no, past time. (Besides, she won a Pulitzer a few years ago, 2011, for A Visit from the Goon Squad.) So, off I galloped!

Look at Me is a very prescient novel. Written in 2001, it forecasts the incredible extent of the Internet--of social media. Charlotte (often, not always, our narrator here) is a fashion model (a very successful one), and the novel begins with a car crash, with the damage to her face, damage that surgeons repair, and she looks good, but not as she used to. Her career crumbles. Later on, an Internet guy convinces her (as her funds are running out) to let him tell her story on a new website he's setting up, and near the end of the book we return to the crash site to re-enact it for video cameras so that it can appear with her story. (It becomes--surprise! surprise!--wildly popular.)

In between all of this, we get the story of Charlotte's youth, of her niece (also Charlotte), of her involvement with all sorts of people--including a mysterious guy named Z., who seems to be some kind of foreign agent--including a private eye. Some of the connections did not dawn on me until near the end when I realized (duh) that Charlotte 1 and 2 were not the exact same story. (Stories within stories ...)

The model and her niece--two young women who want to be noticed (see the title) and who sacrifice much to see that this happens.

A dark look at us.

5. Decided this week that it was time to learn Hamlet's little speech to the skull of Yorick. And now ... I've got it!

(from Arden edition)

HAMLET : Let me see.
Takes the skull
Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio: a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy: he hath
bore me on his back a thousand times; and now, how abhorred in my imagination it is! my gorge rises at it. Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know not how oft. Where be your gibes now? your
gambols? your songs? your flashes of merriment, that were wont to set the table on a roar? Not one
to mock your own grinning? quite chap-fallen? Now get you to my lady's chamber, and tell her, let
her paint an inch thick, to this favour she must come; make her laugh at that.

6. Final word: A word I liked this week from my various online word-of-the-day providers:

      - from dictionary.com--one of those words that seem as if they ought to mean something else--something to do, in this case, with pasta!

macaronic [mak-uh-ron-ik] adjective
1. composed of a mixture of languages.
2. composed of or characterized by Latin words mixed with vernacular words or non-Latin words given Latin endings.
His wife and daughters understood only English but together they rocked in unison on the settle and sang macaronic songs in a mixture of both languages.
-- Benedict Kiely, "The Heroes in the Dark House," A Journey to the Seven Streams and Other Stories, 1963

Macaronic verse—it can scarcely be called poetry—is associated especially with medieval universities, in which the various “nations” of students, e.g., English, Welsh, Scots, Picards, Normans, Paduans, Milanese, etc., all listened to lectures delivered in Latin and asked and answered questions in Latin. Such bilingualism, more or less fluent, invites bilingual puns and, sad to say, scurrilous verse. Perhaps the most popular macaronic verse in the contemporary United States is the Carmina Burana, a collection of 254 mostly bawdy and irreverent poems dating from the 11th or 12th century, from Benediktbeuern in Bavaria. The carmina were written in Medieval Latin, Middle High German, Old French, or a mélange of Latin and the vernacular languages. The German composer and conductor Carl Orff (1895–1982), who was born in Munich, about 45 miles away from Benediktbeuern, set 24 of the carmina to music in 1936. Macaronic entered English in the early 17th century.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Is This Really Happening?

Some of you know I got some darker medical news this week--news that will involve my participation in a new procedure that involves removing portions of my blood, sending them to Atlanta for transformation (making them, we hope, into better cancer fighters), returning them here to be returned to my body. (This will happen three times over five weeks.)

Okay. Are you guessing this will be expensive? (Duh!)

My insurance company has not yet approved the expense, but I do know this: If the approval does not come, there is no way we can afford it.

And so we come to the relentless GOP determination to attenuate or--even better, in their view--destroy the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare).  Now, I will acknowledge--and quickly, too--that the AFC has some problems--problems that could be fixed if you-know-who would agree to it.

But, no. Obama did it. So, ipso facto, it must go!

The latest tactic is to eliminate the individual mandate--the requirement that you have health insurance. This kind of mandate seems not to bother us at all (and even qualifies as a "no-brainer") when we apply it to auto and home insurance, right?

Ask yourself: How much would car insurance--would home insurance--cost you if other owners of cars and homes were not legally required to buy it--if they (or you) could, well, opt out?

The cost would rocket out beyond our Milky Way.

The case is even more compelling with health insurance. There are people who will never make a claim on their auto insurance, their home insurance. They just pay premiums, year after year after year.

But the chances of your one day needing medical insurance? One hundred percent. (Unless a UFO whisks you away for some ... experimentation.)

I don't even want to mention the patent cruelty of arguing that some people "deserve" health care and others do not. (I just did--mention it, that is; it's a rhetorical device called apophasis*.) (Sneaky, eh?) Such "only-the-deserving" thinking is, I think, in violation of every religious and moral code I learned in childhood--and beyond. As Hamlet said about the skull: "My gorge rises at it."

I would happily pay higher taxes to help people who need it. (Talk about a "no-brainer"!).

We need to act as if we truly believe those things we profess to believe--that do unto others stuff, you know?

We need to treat all people with the same kindness and empathy we would if we knew that they were dying.

But, wait ... we all are dying ... right?

* apophasis (from Merriam-Webster): the raising of an issue by claiming not to mention it (as in “we won’t discuss his past crimes”)

Friday, November 17, 2017

On This Day ...

Facebook has a feature called "On This Day"--a feature that enables you to look back at the things you posted on "this day" in previous years--and perhaps share them again. That way your loyal FB friends can scroll past the post a second time--or third--or whatever.

I am guilty of two things: (1) sharing things from previous years, (2) not examining with much, uh, thoroughness the on-this-day posts of my FB friends (the definition of hypocrisy, eh?).

In my defense (Your Honor): Most of the on-this-day posts I share are items about literary birthdays and events. I mean, Robert Frost will always have been born on March 26. Do I really have to create a novel post to share about him on every damn March 26 from here on out? I think not!

Anyway, to get to the point (something at which I am not very good): Today on my "On This Day" list appeared a photograph I'd taken through the coffee shop window, 7:15 a.m., November 17, 2014. (That's three years ago, for those of you who were absent the day your teacher taught subtraction.)

And here it is ...

A perfect mixture of the lovely and the depressing, eh? We had a few flurries around here the other day, but nothing has stuck. And the temperatures are not really all that cold (40s, upper 30s), but we here in northeastern Ohio are skilled at complaining about the weather--even when it hasn't happened yet. Even when we feel only a hint of it in our bones. (A toss-up: Do we moan more about the Browns or the weather?)

For some reason this year it's just felt colder to me--colder than it actually is. Perhaps that's because I'm older. Perhaps that's because I know what will be coming (I've lived in the area since 1956).

Or maybe I'm just turning into "a whiney who bores people so" (a line from an old children's record we had when I was growing up--Manners Can Be Fun; has there ever been a title more laughable?).

Or, worse: I'm turning into one of those people who post on Facebook a bunch of unpleasant junk that they posted years ago? (The tacit message: I'm smart. It's going to get cold and yucky around here very soon. Aren't you glad you're my friend so that you can know such things? Otherwise, of course, you would not/could not know them!)

In my defense, I did not share that photo on FB today ... well, not directly. I mean, I will be sharing it, sort of, when I link this post to FB.

Sue me.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Brown Leaves Blowing

image from the Internet

The last few mornings as I've walked along Main Street in Hudson, on my way to the coffee shop, I've noticed myriads of large brown leaves tumbling from north to south along the sidewalk. There are no large trees on the west side of Main (where I walk), so, of course, these leaves have blown across the street from the Village Green--and from nearby Aurora Street--where large, older trees do live and display their various incarnations to us as each year progresses: buds-leaves-turning, leaves-dropping, bareness for Old Man Winter, who gets just what he deserves.

I confess I'm not much of a naturalist, so I'm not sure what variety of tree dropped them. Around here, though, it's pretty safe to bet they're from a maple or an oak. Maybe a black walnut. (Ignorance is never bliss, by the way, as I'm rediscovering by typing these sentences.) I went to elementary school in a day before leaf collections became a staple assignment in science class--either that or I just neglected to do mine, a failure of which I was eminently capable in my boyhood. Why run around collecting leaves when there are baseballs to be thrown, basketballs to be dribbled and shot, Alamos to be saved?

In high school, our son had a biology collection to assemble--and, one day, going up the on-ramp to I-480, westbound, in Twinsburg, Joyce and I spotted a dead black snake alongside the road. We stopped (endearing ourselves to those who followed us), found a stick, picked up the snake, tossed him/her in the trunk, thereby earning our son a bio-class bonus. (If you're wondering, dead snakes do smell bad.) Oh, parents-doing-homework-for-their-kid! Shameful!

Pause while I think like a former English teacher.  The lead sentence in the previous paragraph could have been a wonderful example of a dangling participle if I had just written the sentence a little differently: ... going up the on-ramp to I-480 westbound, in Twinsburg, a dead black snake .... I kind of like that image: a dead black snake going up the on-ramp ... Sounds like a possible horror movie? I'll pitch it to Hollywood ... We've already had Black Snake Moan (2006) ... it's time for Black Snake up the On-Ramp!

So about those blowing leaves ... Those of us in the autumn of our lives see such things with different eyes. The leaves cause us to think about the homogeneity of the dead. Though people dear to us will moan (like a black snake!), perhaps, when we die, it won't be long--another generation? two?--before, to the living, we will become no more than brown leaves blowing down the sidewalk.

In 1809, William Godwin (Mary Shelley's father) published a little pamphlet/booklet called Essay on Sepulchres. In it, he proposed that England should establish markers for the graves of their notable dead. And publish the locations. (Has Find-a-Grave done all that for us?) And that the men and women of England should visit those places, often.

The former has surely been accomplished (England also has the "blue plaque" project--markers placed on buildings of historical or biographical note); the latter--the visits? I'm not so sure.

Joyce and I have often traveled to the graves of American literary figures--Hawthorne, Melville, Hemingway, O'Connor, Faulkner, Ellison, Irving, Fitzgerald, Poe, and on and on. We sometimes see a few other people there--but usually no one else. I'm pretty sure, though, that many fans of those writers do make the pilgrimage ... but maybe not. Probably not.

I think I've been to the grave of one of my maternal great-grandfathers a couple of times (near Youngstown)--and a few other relatives, now and then. But not too often. I tell myself, They aren't there; they are here (indicating my mind, my heart).

True, but ...

Fame, influence, notoriety, infamy--most of it is evanescent. There are exceptions: Homer, Shakespeare, George Washington, Adolf Hitler. We could compile very similar lists, I'm sure. But even they will one day disappear. Assuming we don't destroy ourselves in the next thousand years, do you think we will still be reading Shakespeare? Two thousand years? Five? A hundred?

Probably not. Those notables will by then have become like the rest of us--leaves on Main Street. Lovely and evocative, maybe--but pretty much indistinguishable.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

On a brighter note ...

So ... on a brighter note ... I made cornbread this morning. ('Tis the season, no?)  I don't use any fancy-schmanzy recipe--just the one from the old Better Homes & Gardens Cook Book that I inherited from my mother. Pretty basic stuff. (See recipe at the bottom of this post.)

Okay, I did pop in a little whole-wheat flour instead of all-white. Sue me.

It always takes longer to bake than the 12-15 minutes the (lying) recipe calls for--sometimes five minutes more. Pull it out of the oven too soon and you have some cornbread--and some cornmeal hot cereal.

But it's a quickie--about a half-hour from I think I'll make cornbread to That looks great--when can we cut it?

Minimal clean-up, too.

And a lingering aroma--all throughout the day.

My mom used to make this recipe during the holidays, though cornmeal was not otherwise a part of my boyhood diet--except for cornmeal pancakes that my maternal Osborn men would make (my grandfather, my uncle (Mom's brother)). Those were awesome and one of the great benefits of a visit to or from the Osborns. I've never really matched the quality of what they did, but maybe boyhood memory prefers perfection, and adult consciousness recognizes that pretty much everything is a little screwed up, you know?

During the November and December holidays, we ate chunks of cornbread, and Mom would often (always? can't be sure) make a cornbread stuffing for the turkey. We've been doing the same in recent years.

Taste and texture, of course, are freeways to the past. A single bite, and it's 1954 again. And I'm in Enid, Oklahoma; I'm just ten years old. And the cornbread--swabbed with butter (no more for me in these cholesterol-awareness days)--goes down easily--much more easily, say, than the green beans (or hated Lima beans) that lie, ignored, on my plate. I must confront them later, I know: Family Rule #327 (Clean Your Plate). But Later is not Now. And Now is for cornbread swabbed with butter, all to celebrate the holiday--and the endless life that lies ahead of me ...

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Back to Seidman Cancer Center

Seidman Cancer Center
Beachwood, Ohio
Yesterday was my quarterly visit with my oncologist up at Seidman. Readers here know that I was diagnosed with prostate cancer late in 2004, had a prostatectomy (removal of the gland) in June 2005. When the cancer returned, I had a month of radiation treatments at Cleveland Clinic in January 2009. And when the cancer returned a few years ago--moving into my bones--I commenced hormone therapy, which slows but does not cure. I am now on two testosterone-suppressants (prostate cancer loves testosterone!): Lupron (quarterly injection) and Casodex (daily pill)--and I also get a monthly shot of Xgeva  for bone strength.

Yesterday, after talking with my oncologist I got a nice dessert: both injections: one in left triceps, one in left butt cheek! Ouch and Ouch!

I'll also be returning in about a month for a CAT scan and bone scan--to see the dimensions of the metastasis. ("And we'll have fun, fun, fun, till my daddy takes the T-bird away!" Thank you, Beach Boys!) (Link to song!)

But there was news a little darker--with perhaps some faint glimmer of light about it. My doctor thinks it's time to add another treatment. My PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen), stable for a few months, is moving upward again (indicating the cancer's increased activity), so I will soon undergo a process called "Sipuleucel-T" or "Provenge." It's immunotherapy.

What will happen in this: Three times (separated by a week's rest) I will go to the Red Cross in Akron and have the T-cells* in my blood withdrawn and then sent to Atlanta for renovation (they will be "programmed" to resist the specific cancer I have); a few days later, I will go to the main campus of University Hospitals (University Circle in Cleveland) and have them reintroduced through another infusion.

This will be a Tuesday-Friday cycle: Tuesday (Akron Red Cross), Friday (UH). Three times, each time with a week's rest intervening. Five weeks in all. (Here's a link that explains it more clearly than I just did!)

The literature on Provenge suggests I may live a bit longer because of these treatments (link to a site). Though let's not get too excited: It seems the average is only about four months longer. But my oncologist is hopeful, and you'd better believe I am! (Hopeful? Wishful? Is there a difference?)

Meanwhile, I'm enjoying the health I do have, loving the time I do have. Family. Family. Family.

And Joyce--who was beside me every second yesterday, holding my hand, embodying my hope--how can I even imagine losing her ...

As the Bard says in one of my favorite sonnets, #64 (entire text below**):

This thought is as a death which cannot choose
But weep to have that which it fears to lose.

*T-cell = a lymphocyte of a type produced or processed by the thymus gland and actively participating in the immune response.

**Sonnet 64

When I have seen by Time's fell hand defaced
The rich proud cost of outworn buried age;
When sometime lofty towers I see down-razed
And brass eternal slave to mortal rage;
When I have seen the hungry ocean gain
Advantage on the kingdom of the shore,
And the firm soil win of the watery main,
Increasing store with loss and loss with store;
When I have seen such interchange of state,
Or state itself confounded to decay;
Ruin hath taught me thus to ruminate,
That Time will come and take my love away.
This thought is as a death, which cannot choose
But weep to have that which it fears to lose.