Dawn Reader

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

Friday, August 31, 2018


Seidman Cancer Center
University Hospitals
Beachwood, Ohio
11:30 a.m.

Joyce and I are sitting in the Starbucks at Legacy Village, sipping drinks, reading, relaxing, waiting until about 12:15 when we’ll head back to Seidman for my scheduled bone scan. What a gift—sitting across tables from her for nearly a half-century, watching her read, hearing her tell me something on the page that has moved her, thinking about her words, wishing that Time were only a rumor, that she and I would sit across tables from each other until there are no more books to read, no more thoughts to share.

Right now, I am radioactive (look out, Peter Parker!). At 10 a.m. I received an injection (in the back of my left hand—my elbow veins were hiding: they’ve had enough!) of the spider-bite stuff that will enable my bones to glow a bit when they scan them at 12:30.

I’ve had more than a few of these scans before. Time on a slab. A Star-Wars-y machine moving over me, humming. I’ll probably spend most of that time in my head, silently reciting poems I’ve memorized over the years. Maybe I should learn one about being a septuagenarian Spider-Man-wannabe? (Surely, Frost has one like this? Or Yeats?)

Right after I got that injection, I headed down to the radiation oncology area and had my daily radiation treatment (only three more of the spine-zapping!). And when I emerged from that into the waiting room, I had a surprise. An old friend from Hiram College days (learning via Facebook that I would be at Seidman) had showed up with some cookies (they will not last long!) and a kind note. I don’t believe I’ve seen her in, oh, a half-century or so. But there she was, wishing Joyce and me well. My understanding of the dimensions and capacity of the human heart keeps expanding the more I proceed through this darkness. And I did a masterful job of controlling the tears that gathered in my eyes, demanding egress.

And after that bone scan? We will head for home, where we will have a quick, light lunch, and I will then climb the stairs to our bedroom and pass out (I hope) for a couple of hours.

I’ve got a few days off now to recover. Saturday-Sunday-Monday (no zappery on Labor Day). And I hope to regain some strength. And I will continue to marvel at our species and at the kindnesses of which we are capable.

4:15 p.m.

The bone scan took longer than I recalled (about a half-hour). Several views: head, entire body, side of head, ribs, pelvis--during all of which I had to remain immobile. And I did, indeed, run through a bunch of poems in my head while it was going on.

We were nearly late, returning to Seidman from Legacy Village (only a few miles away). Richmond Road is torn up, and there were myriads of cars competing for the few lanes available. It took us a half-hour. I handled the stress. Sort of. Fortunately, we'd left at noon instead of the planned 12:15.

Afterward, we joined the flood-tide of traffic on I-271 and I-480, got home safely, had a little lunch (as I'd planned). And upstairs I went and slept a little.

I told Joyce afterward about a difference I've noticed between these radiation sessions and the ones I had in January 2009: "Back then," I said, "I was resolutely telling myself There's nothing wrong ... there's nothing wrong."

But this time? There is something wrong. And I can feel it.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Halfway Through Radiation

Seidman Cancer Center
Beachwood, Ohio
Yesterday—August 29—I underwent the fifth of my ten radiation sessions up at Seidman Cancer Center (University Hospitals) in Beachwood. As I’ve written here before, this is not my first experience with radiation. Back in January 2009, I enjoyed thirty sessions down at Taussig Cancer Center (Cleveland Clinic); they were zapping the area where my cancerous prostate gland had been (removed in June 2005). It seems some cancer cells had escaped the surgeon's knife and were merrily reproducing somewhere in me. They’re not visible, of course, so the radiation oncologist makes an educated guess.

Which, in my case, apparently was a tad wrong. The cancer—restrained for a bit—came back.

Now, it seems, it has settled in one of my vertebrae—#T-9—at least, that’s what the scans seem to indicate.

And so the zapping sessions commenced late last week.

There is no pain involved in the sessions—it’s a bit like getting a dental X-ray, somewhat more elaborate but ultimately very similar. But, of course, Fear and Worry are in the room with me, unlike the technicians, who conceal themselves behind a barrier to prevent their own exposure. By the way, I really like the three technicians who work with me each day—friendly, competent, encouraging, warm. You can’t beat that!

Fear and Worry. Worry and Fear. A dire duo indeed. They are in the room with every person enduring medical procedures and illness. Fear that Death is close, Worry that he is figuring that this might as well be the day.

One of the things I learned from my 2009 sessions: Weariness and exhaustion increase as time advances. Yesterday, I began to feel it for the first time with this procedure. As the day wore down, so did I—and quickly so. I am sleeping very hard at night, finding it difficult to get up in the morning—not just because I’m tired but because I know what is coming ... another drive to Seidman, another session on that slab with a machine zapping my spine.

I think I’d like to end with this. One of the wonders at Seidman is watching other people help one another. Providing an arm. A kind word. Offering help. Gender, race, age—none of it matters.

Oh, if we only treated one another with such compassion and empathy outside our cancer waiting rooms! Oh, if we only realized that no matter how healthy we appear to be—or feel—we are all fragile passengers on the same train, heading to the same terminal.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Daniel, the Red-Nosed ReinDyer

Rudolph's jealous, and, believe me, there's nothing more dangerous than a jealous reindeer. I'll tell you why ... but first ... I just thought of something ...

When I was a student at Hiram College (1962-66), we undergraduate wags came up with a term--reindeer--to refer to someone who was, you know, kind of silly, lightweight (in other words, unlike us--wise, sophisticated, men-and-women-of-the-world). You didn't dare date a reindeer for fear of retribution back in the dorm when you'd returned him/her to the stabl--uh, other-sex dorm. That image of a reindeer--happy, prancing around, blissfully unaware--has stuck with me, and I feel equal parts amusement and pride and shame at its creation.

Okay, so why is Rudolph jealous? Of me?

Yesterday afternoon I drove over to West Akron to see my dermatologist, to show him a bit of Something that was growing near the tip of my nose. He took one look at it, said, "You need help!"


So ... out came the can of freezing spray. I closed my eyes. He zapped my nose. (If you haven't ever had this done, it hurts for a few minutes, then goes away, and about a week later a lovely scab forms, and, if you're patient (which I manifestly am not), it will soon just drop away. Or you can pick at it and have parts of it return to re-heal those portions that Impatient You picked away.)

Outside, phoning Joyce to let her know I was on the way home, I looked in the car mirror ... and saw ... Daniel, the Red-Nosed ReinDyer.

And far away in frigid North--in the eternal brumal boundaries of the North Pole--I heard a wild (reindeer?) cry, and, later, I realized the voice was Rudolph's. And he was telling me didn't like my competitive move (turning my nose red), and he'd see me on Christmas Eve ... something about some kind of antler battle out in the front yard. Around midnight. Some fat guy in a red suit would be the referee ...

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

In the Night with Jesse James

I have no idea why I woke up in the middle of the night with that old song "The Ballad of Jesse James" ricocheting through my head. (See lyrics below--courtesy of Wikipedia.) I think I first heard this song back in the 1960s--the folk era--and I even learned to play it on my guitar. (I thank the Gods of Music that there is no recording of that!)

So, last night, here came that song, unbidden, and I lost sleep trying to remember all of the lyrics. (Thank you, brain.)

Jesse James was a prominent figure in my childhood--at least on TV and at the movies. I knew his name far before--and long after--I knew the names of prominent literary and cultural figures. I wasn't a big Jesse fan--I kind of preferred Billy the Kid and other killers. (In fact, years later, I would write with some of my students a middle school play, cleverly called Billy the Kid--a musical!--that we performed twice at Harmon Middle School. Two different productions. A decade or so apart.)

So ... the "real" Jesse James? Jesse Woodsen James (1847-82). Missouri. Pro-slavery. Bank and train robber. The James-Younger Gang (starring Jesse, his brother Frank, and the Younger brothers).

He had, in pop culture, a sort of "Robin Hood" image--but he was really just more of a robbin' hood. One of his most famous raids was in Northfield, Minnesota (Sept. 7, 1876), a raid that produced books and some pretty good films, including The Great Northfield, Minnesota Raid, 1972, a film by Philip Kaufman, starring Cliff Robertson, Robert Duvall, and other notables. (Link to film trailer.) The entire film is now on YouTube.

There was also another good book and film about Jesse: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, 2007; Casey Affleck played Ford. It was based on the Ron Hansen novel of the same title (1983). (Link to film trailer.)

Ford murdered Jesse on April 3, 1882, gunning him down in his own house while James was straightening a picture on the wall.

So it goes in Outlaw World.

A world that swirled into my memory last night and will not let me alone!


Link to a moment in a film when some of the song is sung.

Jesse James was a lad that killed many a man,
He robbed the Glendale train,
He stole from the rich and he gave to the poor,
He'd a hand and a heart and a brain.

Well it was Robert Ford, that dirty little coward,
I wonder how he feels,
For he ate of Jesse's bread and he slept in Jesse's bed,
And he laid poor Jesse in his grave.


Well Jesse had a wife to mourn for his life,
Three children, [now] they were brave,
Well that dirty little coward that shot Mr. [Mister] Howard,
He laid poor Jesse [Has laid Jesse James] in his grave.

Jesse was a man, a friend to the poor,
He'd never rob a mother or a child,
There never was a man with the law in his hand,
That could take Jesse James alive.

Jesse was a man, a friend to the poor,
He'd never see a man suffer pain,
And with his brother Frank he robbed the Chicago bank,
And stopped the Glendale train.

It was on a Saturday night and the moon was shining bright,
They robbed the Glendale train,
And people they did say o'er many miles away
It was those outlaws, they're Frank and Jesse James


Now the people held their breath when they heard of Jesse's death,
And wondered how he ever came to fall
Robert Ford, it was a fact, he shot Jesse in the back
While Jesse hung a picture on the wall

Now Jesse went to rest with his hand on his breast,
The devil will be upon his knee.
He was born one day in the County Clay,
And he came from a solitary race.


Monday, August 27, 2018

A License-Plate Prompt

This morning. Sitting at the bottom of an off-ramp. I-480 onto Ohio 91. Truck in front of us. Oklahoma license plate. And that's all it took ...

Waiting for the light to change, I whirl back into the 1940s and 50s when I was living with my family in Enid, Oklahoma (with some stints in Norman--and in Amarillo, Tex.). Because my dad's family lived in Oregon, we made several long car drives out there--pre-AC, pre-Interstates: Mom, Dad, three little boys (births in 1941, 1944, 1948).

We would read books and what-not on those trips, but Boredom was also along for the ride, and he, now and then, held sway. I would often spend my time staring out the window, seeing that Western landscape, imagining myself as the Range Rider or Hopalong Cassidy or Wild Bill Hickok or ... So many of them had TV shows then--and "B" movies that played in the local theaters on Saturday morning. I loved them all.

That diversion would work for a while. But soon my little brother and I would get ... restless. Some fraternal violence would inevitably ensue. Boys, my father's voice would boom, don't make me pull over and stop this car ... That usually sufficed.

Mom would try to distract us with travel games. One (surely of her invention?) she called "Cowpoker." Who would get to 100 cows first? The left rear window? The right? The game was always kind of fun--until I started losing. Then it sucked.

My older brother was a Reader back then and always had his face buried in a Fat Novel and barely tolerated the boisterous presence of his two younger siblings. So ... when we tired of Cowpoker, we would turn to a more exciting version—what I now call Brotherpoker. It had but one rule: Punch and see what happens.

Lots happened. Yelps of pain (usually grotesquely exaggerated). Dire parental warnings. (Whispered vows of revenge.)

A famous one: My younger brother clocked my older brother in the face while he was reading Warlock (a Western novel, 1958, by Oakley Hall). My older brother flailed back, earning a dressing-down from Dad, who talked about a college sophomore punching a sixth grader. I thought the whole thing was ... delicious.

Whenever we returned from out-of-state trips, we--all five of us--would launch into "Oklahoma!" the moment we crossed the state line: "We know we belong to the land, / And the land we belong to is grand!" Ah, Rodgers and Hammerstein! Uniting the family again!

Now that Oklahoma license plate in front of me is beginning to move, and I realize I miss very much the punching of my siblings. I look over at Joyce. Dare I ...? 

No way!

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Sunday Sundries, 201

1. AOTW: Nothing too egregious this week, and the following qualifies, perhaps, for a new award, the Infancy of an AOTW. At the grocery store--both this week and last--a husband and wife (not the same pair each week) stood in front of the yogurt cooler and debated endlessly about which variety they should buy. Meanwhile, their cart and their ample bodies were denying yogurt-access to everyone else in the store. I know, I know: This hardly seems significant--and, in fact, it suggests that the AOTW was not those Yogurt People inspecting the yogurt options but the person inspecting the inspectors of the yogurt options. Close call ...

2. I finished three books this week, two of which were among those I pick at each night in bed (a chapter here, a chapter there). They are the first two I mention below ...

     - As readers here know, I am slowly making my way through the Jack Taylor novels by Irish writer Ken Bruen. I first heard of Taylor via the eponymous TV series we streamed, then began reading (and enjoying) the books, books which are darker and bloodier than the TV series. Taylor is an ex-cop (booted off the force in Galway, Ireland, for alcoholism, an issue that dogs him throughout the books); now he's a sort of unofficial P.I., and throughout the novels he suffers enormous physical damage. In a recent one I read, the Bad Guys cut off two of his fingers.

Okay, the one I finished this week was Headstone (2011), a novel about a bunch of creep-os in Galway who are going around murdering people for the fun of it. Taylor is on their list. Mistake.

Taylor is a big reader (that's fun to see/read about!), has issues with the officials in the Catholic Church, hangs with some pretty rough company, is on the outs with the cops, has few (no?) friends. Not above behaving like a vigilante.

I've started his next one--Purgatory--and am already in its clutches.

     - The second book I finished was What Is Real? The Unfinished Quest for the Meaning of Quantum Physics, 2018, by Adam Becker. Okay, I am not a scientist; I never took a physics course. But I try. I always have some kind of science book "going" in my pile. And this one was great, outlining the history of--and the personalities involved in--quantum physics, that odd realm we (well, not I) are still trying to figure out. (Those of you who saw the two Ant-Man films know that "quantum" has entered the common vocabulary--at least in some small degree--at least in superhero films.)

I understood a lot of the book (a tribute to the author!), and other parts? Well, maybe I could lie and say I'm saving them to re-read later? Anyway, want to know what's going on? This is a very good book to read--a good start on a long and twisting path through a tangled wood.

     - The third book--Behind the Scenes at the Museum, 1995, by Kate Atkinson--her first novel. Here's a confession: I'd never heard of her until I read a little notice in the New York Times not all that long ago (July 31--link to it), a notice about a scheduled series of readings by significant authors. I'd heard of all the others. Decided, in shame, I'd read her first book, ordered it, read it, fell in love with it. And so I know I'm going to be reading all of her books in the upcoming months.

This is a multi-generational story--but nothing about it is ordinary. It does not begin in the past and advance to the present. It begins, in fact, in such a cool way: an early narrator is a fertilized human egg. (Think about that for a while!) The chimes sound at midnight, and the narrator says

I'm begun on the first stroke and finished on the last when my father rolls off my mother and is plunged into a dreamless sleep, thanks to the five pints of John Smith's Better Bitter he has drunk in the Punch Bowl with his friends, Walter and Bernard Belling. At the moment at which I am moved from nothingness into being my mother was pretending to be asleep--as she often does at such moments (11).

How can you not continue reading such a story?

This is a family that--like all other families--experiences moments of horror: unexpected deaths, failures of various sorts, betrayals.

And the great thing for me? I was surprised on virtually every page, and Surprise rates very highly on my Reader Meter--very highly. Can't wait to read her later novels ... I've ordered the next ...

3. We were sad this week to finish the most recent available-to-stream season of Death in Paradise, a very formulaic U.K. cop show--but the delight is in the formula: an "impossible" murder (who could have done it? how could it have been done?), detecting, and then the lead cop (played by three different actors now as the seasons have progressed) gets The Insight, so he sends the others to "round up the suspects," and we learn how it was done--and by whom. I never get tired of it. Can't say why. It's just, I don't know, ... fun?

4. We're still chugging along with Elementary and have been streaming the latest season via CBS-All Access. Still enjoying it (some form of Sherlock Holmes is better than no form of him).

5. Final Word--A word I liked this week from one of my various online word-of-the-day providers ...

     - from dictionary.com  I knew what this word meant (duh)--but nice to see where it came from--and when ...

dreamboat [DREEM-boht] noun
1. Slang. a highly attractive or desirable person.
2. Slang. anything considered as highly desirable of its kind: His new car is a dreamboat.
QUOTES: Hunter was a studio player at Warner Brothers: a blond, blue-eyed dreamboat, whom the studio was selling—quite successfully—as the quintessential boy next door.
-- Michael Schulman, "Tab Hunter's Secrets," The New Yorker, October 16, 2015
ORIGIN: If you associate dreamboat, a.k.a. heartthrob, with the movies that Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney made in the late ‘30s and early ‘40s, you are correct on the date of origin and datedness of the word. Guy Lombardo, the Canadian-American bandleader (1902-1977), popularized dreamboat in his song “When My Dream Boat Comes Home” (1936).

Saturday, August 25, 2018

It remains weird ...

... seeing the school buses rolling by "my" coffee shop window again. Another school year is beginning--another year without me in the classroom.

It's been a bit of a while ... the last year I taught in public school (8th grade English in Aurora, Ohio--Harmon Middle School) was 1996-97. And I did not complete that year. Eligible for retirement in January 1997, I leapt at it like a crocodile at a careless tourist. I still loved teaching--always have, always will--but Ohio was going insane about what were then called "proficiency tests," and scores were suddenly what everyone (well, most everyone) seemed to care about. I saw the future--the narrowing curriculum, the elimination of things that weren't "on the test"--and I didn't like what I saw.

So I retired the first day I was eligible. And headed off down a road of reading and writing and travel and ... believing it was endless.

A few years later, having coffee with old friend and colleague Tom Davis down at the old Saywell's Drug Store in Hudson (RIP), I heard him say that there were some openings in the English Department at Western Reserve Academy (just about two blocks from my house). He was the department chair--and I had taught there a couple of years in the late 70s, early 80s. So ... I thought I'd give it a whirl for a year or two.

It turned out to be ten: 2001-2011. And I retired a second time, not because of standardized tests or boredom or burn-out or anything else like that. I was ill. Cancer was in me, and I could no longer rely on ... well, on myself. I'd already had to take some time off for various medical reasons--from Bell's palsy to cancer radiation therapy. I didn't want to do that again.

And so ... June 2011 ... I retired for the second (and final) time.

It's weird now, sitting in the coffee shop, seeing kids who go to WRA in there, kids who have no idea who I am, kids who are cruising along in their lives, quite happy and content and only mildly concerned about that Old Dude in the chair reading books all the time. He looks harmless ...

Anyway, I miss teaching a lot--miss the students, the classes, the interactions, my colleagues, etc. I manifestly do not miss the mountains of essays to grade--the whole idea of grading itself grew more and more odious to me as the years rolled along ...

I have hundreds of Facebook friends now--and the vast majority of them are "kids" I taught here and there. The first 7th graders I taught in my first year (1966-67) are now in their early 60s, and that is weird. And I have a grandson beginning 8th grade this year--and that is surpassingly weird. (I taught our own son when he was in 8th grade--and he's now older than I was the year I taught him, 1985-86.)

Oh well. Enough Old Man Self-Pity.

It's just this: a passing school bus, to me, is more than it appears to be. It is history--my history--rolling by me, then beyond me, disappearing into the distance.

Friday, August 24, 2018

"And we'll have fun, fun, fun ...."

A "special" day yesterday. It began at 7:30, over in Stow, where I had a visit with an oral surgeon, who removed a Bad Tooth (a lower left molar), crown and all (regicide!), the first step in a long journey to an implant. (I've had one done before, so I know the process.)

So ... shots in the mouth, tugging and prying, a splitting of the double root of the tooth ... success!

My jaw and face numb as a moon rock, I then headed up to Seidman Cancer Center in Beachwood for Radiation Session #1 (of 10), Joyce my chauffeur. (And don't get me started on I-271 construction, a project which has taken longer to complete than the pyramids.)

It was actually fairly swift up there at Seidman. They'd done all the measuring-and-marking the day before, so all they had to do was place me, shirtless, on the slab (ominous word), insert me in the Zapping Machine, where, quickly I was zapped, first through the chest (around the breastbone), then, after a rotation, through the back, all zappings aimed at vertebrae T-8, T-9 (the most Evil of them), T-10.

All the zapping actually took only a couple of minutes.

Then I was done and chatting with the radiation oncologist, who just reminded me of some of the potential side-effects (e.g., a feeling in my esophagus--through which the front zapping zooms--of a kind of acid reflux). So far ... none of that.

Meanwhile, my spittle was red, then pink as the clotting took hold. Some pain, which Advil handled pretty well. (I did not even fill the Rx for a more ... powerful ... painkiller.) This morning, I've got a bit of swelling ... I don't quite look as if Mike Tyson punched me ... but close. But I know things are improving.

So, in about twenty minutes, it's back up to Seidman for my 10:30 appointment with the Zapping Machine.

Earlier this morning, I made my way to the coffee shop, where I did my Usual. And felt proud of myself. I know I must keep doing things, or I won't be able to do things. Nature's Most Fell Law.

Anyway, just a bit of an update. I'm hanging in there ... which is better than, you know, hanging.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Seidman Cancer Center, cont'd.

Seidman Cancer Center
Beachwood, Ohio
9:15 a.m.

I've got another appointment up at Seidman at noon today--another meeting with the radiation oncology team who will be working with me to zap the cancer that's moved into one of my vertebrae (#T-9). They will zap, as well, #s T-8 & -10, just in case ...

I'm not sure yet of the daily schedule (it will occur five days a week for two weeks, commencing ...?), but I'm relieved that it will not be the six weeks I experienced down at the Cleveland Clinic in the winter of 2009 (when they zapped my pelvic area, trying, fruitlessly, it turned out, to kill the Evil Cells that had avoided the surgeon's knife in June 2005).

Driving to University Circle every day in a northeastern Ohio winter was not the most ... relaxing ... thing I've ever done. Fortunately, that January was not all that odious (cold, not all that snowy), so I managed ... I'm here ...

I will add to this post when Joyce and I return from my noon appointment ...

1:30 p.m.

Back after a hectic morning/early afternoon. Before going to Seidman, I had a follow-up visit with my local optometrist re: the cataract surgeries I recently had. (All is well--very well.) That appointment was at 11, and we had to be at Seidman at noon ... but Dr. Keller is always very prompt, so we made it easily.

At Seidman they put me in a huge scanner (which rotated around me), taking final pix to pinpoint the parts of my spine they're going to start zapping--tomorrow. They also used a Magic Marker to mark (!) up my chest so that I now look like an outlaw-biker-wannabe. It's going to be fun--in the men's locker room at the health club--seeing the looks on the other naked men--and, probably, having to explain what's going on. Or maybe they'll just be, you know, afraid because of the biker thing?

The radiation sessions will go on for ten weekdays (not counting Labor Day: no labor at Seidman that day), beginning tomorrow, as I said. All sessions at 10:30 a.m.

I did not know about this schedule until today, so it did cause some ... adjustments ... in the calendars of both Joyce and me.

Perhaps the weirdest: I am scheduled at 7:30 tomorrow morning to have a tooth extracted (Step One in an implant process); at Seidman, they said not to worry about it; go ahead;  they said, "We'll work you in if you're a little late." Comforting.


Oh, and on Monday, Sept. 27, I see a cardiologist re: my persistent dizziness these days. My theory: I'm dizzy because of all the medical procedures I'm undergoing! (Actually, I think it's my BP med; we'll see what the Expert thinks.)

Oh, and on Tuesday, Sept. 28, I see my dermatologist to have some naughty skin frozen (on my nose, of course--since there's really nowhere else more prominent).

Thank you, Medicare. Thank you, Aetna (supplementary policy). Thank you, Joyce (no room to list all the reasons--for they are myriad). Thank you, all you professionals who are doing your best to give this Old Man a few more sunsets ... more time to romp with my grandsons ... more time to be dazzled by my son and daughter-in-law ... more time to be so grateful for all that I have experienced ... more time to read and write and think and see Shakespeare and watch bad movies and stream dark detective shows from the UK and drink coffee and bake bread and laugh with friends and rage, rage against the dying of the light ...

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Two Things I Learned in the Drive-Thru Last Week

Normally, in a fast-food drive-thru, the only thing I really learn (or the only thing I already know that is confirmed) is this: People can be jerks. But ... I've also learned patience (sort of) and a more comprehensive (and deep) appreciation for the folks who work the microphones and the service window(s): What they endure ...!

Anyway, last week, at two different establishments (both supplying us with our evening fix of Diet Coke), I learned two different things--one sort of trivial, the other sort of not trivial.
  • Volkswagen makes an SUV. The first Volkswagens I ever saw (back in the late 1950s) were all, of course, the classic Beetle--and they were marketed for their efficiency and economy. I remember my dad sighing with admiration: They get twenty miles to the gallon!  (Time for some Prius Arrogance: We get 60 mpg in the summer, 50 in the winter.)
    • The first car I ever owned (1966--I was not yet 22) was a 1965 VW, a special model they made back then called a Karmann-Ghia (kar-muhn gee-uh; the g is a hard g). It was a sort of a sports-car-looking thing--but it had the Beetle engine in it, so it didn't pass much on the road but pedestrians and slow bicyclists. Mine was dark blue, a little like the one in the pic you see.
    • Anyway, in the drive-thru line the other night, we were right behind a big black fat VW SUV, and all I could do was sound like an Old Guy, so I said to Joyce, "Back when I was young ..." Such sentences, of course, are her signal to Tune Out.
  • The second thing I learned was a little more complicated. At the payment window, the young woman working told us her name was Ariel. And I said, thinking of The Tempest (my favorite play by the Bard), "Ah, a Shakespearean name!"
    • She looked at me as if I were daft, said, "No, it's Biblical."
    • Now that--as they used to say--brought me up short. I didn't remember Ariel from the Bible, and when I got home, I hustled upstairs and consulted a volume of my grandfather's copy of The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible. (Pic shows his copy.) And, of course, I discovered a fairly lengthy entry that mentions the name (or versions of it) in 2 Samuel, 1 Corinthians, Genesis, Numbers, and elsewhere. (So much for my attentiveness in church, Sunday School, church camp, and VBS.)
    • I just this moment checked two scholarly editions of The Tempest to see what they say about Ariel (who, by the way, in both the Bible and Shakespeare, is male--though directors often cast a woman in the role because, women, as you know, don't have lots of parts in plays by the Bard, who wrote in a day when the law prohibited women from performing onstage).
      • The Arden edition of the play has no footnote on Ariel--just the identification of him in the original text: an airy spirit.
      • The Royal Shakespeare Company's edition--The Complete Works--does provide a note--and here's what it says: "Ariel, as well as having connotations of 'airness,' the name is Hebrew for 'lion of God'; also the name of a magical spirit in various occult texts; perhaps evocative of the archangel Uriel" (12).
So ... last week we sat behind a car-that-made-no-sense (to me) and received our Diet Cokes from the Lion of God. Only in an American drive-thru ...

Monday, August 20, 2018

"Final Dwarf"--final time (I promise ... sort of ...)

Henry Roth
The last few days I've written here about "Final Dwarf," a 1969 short story by Henry Roth, a story that appeared in The Atlantic that July. I recalled the story because until I read it, I'd not heard of the source of that title--Wallace Stevens' poem "The Dwarf," a poem I posted here late last week. It's a poem I now think I'm going to memorize ...

Henry Roth (1906-95). I first heard about him back at Hiram College in a course with Dr. Ravitz. He told us about Roth's novel--Call It Sleep (1934)--a powerful story about coming-of-age in NYC. After Roth published that novel, he pulled a kind of disappearing act, occasioned, say some, by a writer's block. He finally shook it off not long before his death when he wrote a four-volume novel called Mercy of a Rude Stream (volumes published in 1994, 1995, 1996, 1998). I own them. Haven't read them. And could not for the life of me tell you why.

Call It Sleep was re-published in 1964, and the book you see pictured here is the one I read--the very copy; its printing date is 1968, but I must have read it a little later because I've written DYERS inside the cover, and in 1968 I was not yet married--had not yet even met Joyce.

Okay. July 1969. I had recently finished my third year of teaching at the Aurora Middle School in Aurora, Ohio, and was taking my 2nd and 3rd courses toward my master's degree at Kent State University. Summer school.

That was the month that "Final Dwarf" appeared in The Atlantic, a magazine I was taking (and still take in digital form). I read the story, and, as I discovered last week (to my surprise), I'd torn it out of the magazine and filed it.

The story has been resting in that file since the summer of 1969. It has browned with age as this image shows. It was the summer that men first walked on the moon.

In one of those summer school classes--a course on American Transcendentalism--I met a young woman named Joyce who had just graduated from Wittenberg University.

That was late July; we married on December 20; we will celebrate anniversary #49 in four months.

Sometime in the flurry of our early relationship I read both Call It Sleep and "Final Dwarf," and last night, up in bed, I read "Dwarf" again--taking great care with the pages: They are as frangible as I am these days.

It is a story about a middle-aged man (the story is from his point of view) who is taking his aging father around on some quotidian errands. There is tension between them--never really articulated, but it boils beneath the surface like lava.

Roth quotes Wallace Stevens in the epigraph: "... the final dwarf of you / That is woven and woven and waiting to be worn ..."

And, later in the story, the son, musing, thinks in this short paragraph about his father, who is in a store looking for something while the son, Kestrel, waits outside in the car:

Oh, hell, Kestrel thought as he waited. He never could do anything to please his father. Ever since childhood it had been that way. Still, he had to get over it. It was ridiculous to bear a grudge against the old guy. There was nothing left of him. A little old dwarf in a baggy pair of pants. The final dwarf, Kestrel smiled (59).

All of this "final dwarf" stuff returned to me the other day because I was thinking of myself at the time. Thinking about what time and health do to all of us, if we live long enough.

I've lived long enough. I feel it. Sorrows are in my heart, cancer in my bones, but I still grip fiercely the hand of that young woman who went to Wittenberg, who smiled at me in July 1969, who is upstairs, right now, and who will smile again when I read this to her ...

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Sunday Sundries, 200

How can this possibly be the 200th edition of "Sundries"? Didn't I start this just a month or so ago?

1. AOTW: We are driving east on Aurora-Hudson Rd.; we arrive at the stoplight at the Stow Rd. intersection; we are signalling to go left; there is a line of cars facing us, also signalling to turn left; I see there is no one in the approaching right/thru lane, so I (cautiously!) begin our left turn onto Stow Rd. (north); at that moment the AOTW veers out of the left-turners approaching us, deciding (as AOTWs often do) to change his mind in traffic, endangering others; I see him at the last second, stop in the intersection as the AOTW zooms by, daffily on his way to the ceremony to receive his well-earned AOTW Award.

2. We saw two movies this week.

     - The first was via a Netflix DVD--the original Ant-Man with Paul Rudd. We'd seen Ant-Man and the Wasp and had (surprise! surprise!) liked it, so we thought we'd check out the original. Glad we did. It explained some of the things in the second film. We loved the technique--on display in Ant-Man and the Wasp: When Michael Peña tells a story, we cut to the story, and all the characters in that story are speaking in his voice (funny).

We saw the 2nd film principally to be able to communicate with our young grandsons (!)--but had such a good time. Link to trailer.

     - The 2nd film was far more disturbing--Spike Lee's latest--BLACKkKLANSMAN--a film based on a true story (from the early 1970s) about a black cop in Colorado Springs passing himself off (on the phone) as a white racist, endearing himself to the local Klan--and even to David Duke (an actor portrays him in the film, but near the end? ... check it out). Link to trailer.

A cop colleague (played by Adam Driver--who is very good) impersonates the other cop (played wonderfully well by John David Washington) when there must be a live encounter with the Klan. And there are more than a few.

Some truly powerful moments--some moving moments (I still can't get out of my head the song "It's Too Late To Turn Back Now," which formed the soundtrack for a dance party among the black protesters in the film--link to song; Cornelius Bros. & Sister Rose, 1971). I think this song choice, by the way, was a brilliant one: It's not a song of anger, of protest, of violence; it's a song of love, of hope.

Sure, there were some things I wish Lee hadn't included (like a revelation to David Duke near the end), but I cavil.

Some concluding scenes--actual footage--from Charlottesville, 2017, are wrenching.

Joyce and I have seen pretty much all of Lee's films--and this one, I think, affected me emotionally more than any of the others--and that's saying something.

3. I finished only one book this week, the last (as I sadly discovered) in Craig Johnson's series about a contemporary Wyoming sheriff,Walt Longmire. This one, The Western Star, 2017, has, I think, the most complex--and surprising--plot of all of them. There are two stories going on. The first takes place at the beginning of Longmire's career, when he is still a deputy. A bunch of Wyoming sheriffs are on a train (the eponymous Western Star), and ... murder.

The other story is contemporary. A man Longmire had arrested for murder (he was subsequently convicted and sentenced to life) is now deathly ill, and there is pressure to release him. Longmire opposes this.

Johnson takes us back and forth between the stories all through the novel, and I will not tell you how each resolves itself.

Let me just say this: For the first time (I think) Johnson ends with a cliffhanger ...

As I posted on Facebook the other day, when I finished The Western Star, I hopped online to buy the next one (I've read them all, in sequence, on Kindle)--and was discouraged to discover that THERE ARE NO MORE. This is the last.

Sort of. There's a new one coming on September 4--Depth of Winter. And, yes, I've ordered it already.

Oh, and as I've written here before, the TV series and the novels are quite a bit different, each from the other. The TV shows (which I liked) veered off into some complicated conspiracies (as long-running shows are wont to do); the novels are more ... self contained. At least until The Western Star.

4. I can't get a song out of my head this week--and I have no idea what resurrected it from my memory: ""Cielito lindo." I see on the web that it's a song going back to the late 19th century (in Spanish, obviously), but I remember an English version--popular when I was an adolescent (I think)--and I can't remember who recorded it--or what year it was. (The Internet has not helped much, though I realize I've been a bit ... impatient.) All kinds of singers have covered it--including Luciano Pavarotti and the Three Tenors! (Link to Spanish version by Trini Lopez.)

5. Last Word--a word I liked this week from one of my online word-of-the-day providers:

     - from dictionary.com

marplot [mahr-plot] noun
1. a person who mars or defeats a plot, design, or project by meddling.
QUOTES: ... Time is unalterable; he swings his merry bomb through centuries, nor feels a jot the mental agony of us sublunary mortals; therefore is he, to our thinking, a Marplot. -- , "New Music," The Metropolitan, April 1843
ORIGIN: The noun marplot is a combination of the verb mar “to damage, spoil” and its direct object, the noun plot, formed like the noun pickpocket. Marplot is a character in a farce, The Busie Body, written by Susanna Centlivre, c1667-1723, an English actress, poet, and playwright, and produced in 1709. In the play Marplot is a well-meaning busybody who meddles in and ruins the romantic affairs of his friends.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

"Final Dwarf"--addendum

Wallace Stevens
Yesterday in this space I mentioned a poem by Wallace Stevens, "The Dwarf," which offers an image of an old, old person--as you age, you gradually become that "final dwarf."

I couldn't find a copy of the poem right away, but looking online for a book of Stevens' poetry to buy, I realized that we already had one--the Library of America volume, Collected Poetry and Prose, 1997. Since the inception of the LOA, we've been buying each volume as it appears (about a dozen a year), so we have quite a stack now (jamming the shelves we set aside for them--shelves we never thought we'd fill).

Anyway, here's the poem as it appears in that volume (189-90). Oh, it first appeared in a collection called Parts of a World (1942).

The Dwarf

Now it is September and the web is woven.
The web is woven and you have to wear it.

The winter is made and you have to bear it,
The winter web, the winter woven, wind and wind,

For all the thoughts of summer that go with it
In the mind, pupa of straw, moppet of rags.

It is the mind that is woven, the mind that was jerked
And tufted in a straggling thunder and shattered sun.

It is all that you are, the final dwarf of you,
That is woven and woven and waiting to be worn,

Neither as mask nor as garment but as a being,
Torn from insipid summer, for the mirror of cold,

Sitting beside your lamp,s there's citron to nibble
And coffee dribble ... Frost is in the stubble.

Stevens (1879-1947) is not the easiest of poets to read, but the meaning is pretty clear here, isn't it? The final versions of ourselves ...

I also indicated in that post yesterday that I'd first encountered Stevens' idea of "final dwarf" in a story by Henry Roth (1906-95), whose novels I've admired. Can't forget that first one: Call It Sleep (1934). After that novel he virtually vanished--for decades.

Anyway, Roth published his story "Final Dwarf" in The Atlantic--July 1969--and it later appeared in the collection Shifting Landscape (1987).

Just now I went to one of our (too many) file cabinets, located my "Roth, Henry" folder, and saw that I'd torn the story from The Atlantic nearly a half-century ago ... see below.

So ... there you go ...

Friday, August 17, 2018

"You look like ...."

It used to annoy me (in boyhood) when people would tell me I looked like my mom. How could that even be?! She's a woman! And I am--patently!--Macho Man!

As I got older (wiser, wiser!), I realized what people were talking about. They were not (I firmly believe) looking at ... those ... parts but at certain facial features. Our noses, I realize, are very similar. Our eyes. I'm definitely her son.

Throughout my life I very consciously tried at times to look like certain people--or affect manners and other behavior that (I hoped) would cause people to say:"You look a lot like Superman." Or "Yogi Berra." Or "Bob Cousy." Or "Jim Bowie." I remember, when I was in my late 30s, that someone told me I somewhat resembled Burt Reynolds. I resolutely decided there was no irony in the voice that spoke those blessed words.

As we get older, of course, we all start to kind of implode--our bodies establishing for a certainty that entropy is a fact. Was it poet Wallace Stevens who coined the phrase "final dwarf" to characterize old age.

[Pause while I Google.]

Yep, it's in his poem "The Dwarf," a poem about the exact thing I'm talking about. As I recall, I learned about this poem in a late story by Henry Roth, "Final Dwarf." It's about an old guy.

Anyway, I'm writing about this today because of what happened yesterday. Up at Seidman Cancer Center, following a CT scan, the technician marked my chest and ribs with a marker (duh) to indicate where the radiation treatments will focus. Now, there are several little crosses on my chest, and I realized this morning, as I examined them in the mirror (a household adornment I've tried to avoid in my later years), that the marks made me look a little like some kind of satanist--or cult figure of some sort.

That's not really a look I've ever tried to cultivate. But here I am in my latter years--no longer resembling Superman or Jim Bowie--looking like the final dwarf of a satanist. That's comforting.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Seidman, cont'd.

Seidman Cancer Center
Beachwood, Ohio
I'm back from a long morning up at Seidman Cancer Center in Beachwood--my third trip this week! Today, I met with the radiation oncology team who will be zapping me over the next few weeks--zapping the naughty vertebra (just one) where my cancer seems to be hanging out and issuing higher and higher PSA numbers with impunity. Time for some punishment--Star Wars-light-saber stuff.

Sort of.

I met first with a nurse, who interviewed me thoroughly, went over my medical history (which is far more involved that I ever dreamed it would be--far more involved that I certainly want it to be). Then the oncologist came in, went over my recent scans with me, and said that he doesn't think the rib (at this point) is worth going after--but the vertebra (#T-9)? Now that guy is hosting some uninvited guests, and it looks as if it must be prostate cancer cells that think they have found a hideout where they can reproduce and send their young ones off to invade other areas of my body. And, of course, kill me.

He then examined me (listening, prodding) and sent me off to get another CT scan, one that more precisely pinpoints the area they will start zapping soon. (Wednesday noon I will return to Seidman, where they will do a final chart on me and give me the Zap Schedule.)

I arrived up there about 9:30 this morning, walked out of the building a little before noon, weary, and was soon home having lunch with Joyce--and thereby feeling far more fortunate than I had, oh, an hour earlier.

I'm not really too concerned about the procedure itself. As I've written here before, in January 2009 I underwent thirty radiation sessions down at the Taussig Cancer Center (Cleveland Clinic), focusing on the  pelvis (where my naughty prostate had misbehaved), and this new process will consume only ten sessions. He did warn me that because, zapping from the front, they will necessarily penetrate my esophagus, I will probably experience some burning and "unpleasantness" there; it should be temporary, though. Some skin discomfort likely, as well.

So it goes. And, oh: This is not a cure, just another delaying tactic to deal with this most relentless foe.

I'm grateful for all the new technology, grateful for the immense competence of the people I've dealt with at UH, annoyed with my body for being, you know, a body!

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Back to Seidman Cancer Center

Seidman Cancer Center
Beachwood, OH

Wednesday, 9:15 a.m.

In about forty-five minutes, Joyce and I will head up to Seidman Cancer Center (visible on I-271, just before the Chagrin Blvd exit; east side), where I will have one of my scheduled sessions with my oncologist. This is actually our second trip there this week. We were there early on Monday morning when I underwent a couple of CT scans (checking to see if my cancer has moved elsewhere--besides my bones).

I also had a PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) test last week--and the results of that were not encouraging. Because a Cleveland Clinic surgeon removed my prostate gland in June 2005, I shouldn't really have any PSA--but prostate cancer cells reveal it, as well. I'm now on monthly tests. Last month it was 16.95; this month it was 20.13. That's not good. But we'll see what the doctor says later this morning.

Just a quick refresher: I was diagnosed with prostate cancer late in 2004; prostatectomy in June 2005; the cancer came back; radiation therapy (30 sessions) in the winter of 2009; cancer came back; the past few years I've been on hormone-deprivation therapy (two drugs that kill testosterone, one "food" of the cancer), and I'm also taking heavy-duty meds to protect my bones (the other drugs I'm on weaken bones). This past winter I underwent immunotherapy--a process to empower my own T-cells to fight the cancer. And here we are ... what next? That's what we'll find out later this morning, and I will add to this when I get home ...

2:00 p.m.

Finally back from a long, complicated morning. My CT scans showed stability, but he's concerned about my rising PSA and suggests the next thing to do is to radiate the two areas that seem to be principally affected: a spot on a rib, a spot on my spine. So ... tomorrow I go back to Seidman to meet with the radiation team that will be dealing with me. (Three times to Seidman in one week--that's a record I don't ever want to break!) And I'm scheduled for a nuclear bone scan in a couple of weeks to give the team a more accurate assessment of where to zap.

Also, he's taking me off one drug (Casodex) and will soon put me on another--one whose base price is about $8000/month. Needless to say, we'll see what the insurance coverage will be before that proceeds!

I also had the pleasure of my quarterly Lupron injection (in a place I cannot see).

Again--the waiting room at Seidman is a workshop in humility. So many suffering people--all ages, races, economic status, ...

And this moment that almost dissolved me. We were in the waiting area, not long after we arrived. Emerging from the exam/treatment rooms came a family: a grandmother, a mother, a child (3? 4?). The grandmother had a cane, was moving very slowly, in evident pain, shuffling off to the parking lot. The little girl left her mother's side, moved up beside her grandmother, took her hand ...

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Time to Read

I envy those folks who had time to read everything--you know, back when there weren't yet any books, just lists of harvests, lists written in a language that looked like the doodles of a bored kid in second grade.

Time went on. Books. Printing Press. Kindle. I remember reading somewhere that Erasmus, 1456-1536 (maybe someone else?), was the last person to read every book. I doubt it. Even then--without Facebook and binge-watching and ESPN--I don't think someone could have done it.

I read a bit as a boy, then paused for adolescence (you know), then accelerated again--slowly, slowly at first--until now, accelerating in a different way (toward dotage) I'm reading like ... well, like Erasmus. Multiple books going all the time--some "real," some Kindle-ized.

I realized a long time ago that I wasn't going to get to read all the books I want to--not by a long shot. Lots (!) of celebrated ones are never going to pass through my eyeballs, my brain (and bypass my memory). I'm ashamed to list them here--and so I won't. (Don't want you thinking less of me than you already do.)

And lots of writers others have recommended to me? I just haven't gotten to them. And probably won't.

I try not to think of such things too much--especially in public, where, as you know, the sight of a lachrymose old man in a coffee shop is a signal to hit 9-1-1 on your cell. And wait for the white-coat crew to arrive ...

Still ... more time to read at the Funny Farm?

Monday, August 13, 2018

"One of those weeks ..."

This is "one of those weeks"--the sort of week I could not have imagined (or: could not have dared imagine?) when I was younger. A week full of visits to doctors and clinics.

As I type this (a little before 7 a.m.), I'm soon to drive with Joyce up to Seidman Cancer Center, where I'll "enjoy" some bone scans. My prostate cancer, as I've written here before, has metastasized--has been sneaking into my bones. These scans will chart its recent progress.

Tomorrow, I have a follow-up visit with my optometrist, who will check on the progress of the cataract surgeries I had on both eyes in recent weeks. I'll also meet with my family physician, who's a little concerned about my cholesterol levels. I'm hoping to avoid yet another med ... but we'll see.

Wednesday--it's back to Seidman Cancer Center to meet with my oncologist, who will talk with me about my recent blood tests--and the bone scans. That will be fun--almost as much fun as what will happen when the talk is over: my quarterly injection of Lupron (in the butt!), a drug which kills testosterone (prostate cancer loves testosterone--junk food for a killer)--but only temporarily--until those sneaky cancer cells figure out a workaround (which they always do--little buggers!).

In many ways, I am very grateful: I have some very competent professionals keeping an eye on me and (so far) I've not really been "knocked down" by any of this. It does, of course, wear on the the mind: Worry is a most abrasive cloth with which we rub ourselves.

And today--this week--the ensuing weeks--as long as I breathe, I will have Joyce with me. Among her many gifts and assets: she knows ...

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Sunday Sundries, 199

1. AOTW: The other night--driving back from Aurora to Hudson via Old Mill Road (which, for those of you who don't know, courses through Tinker's Creek State Park)--lovely, but narrow roads, some hills that make passing dangerous--thus, double-yellow lines most of the way. The speed limit is 35 mph. (We were going 39.) I don't like to go too fast on Old Mill--lots of wildlife (we hit a deer there last spring), cyclists, etc. But the AOTW, roaring up behind me, had no such ... reservations. Around me he went--double-yellow line be damned!--lots of noise from his car. I smiled to see him still waiting at the stoplight on Ravenna Rd. when we arrived there. If I'd had the AOTW Award with me, I would have knocked on his window and presented it right then and there. But, alas, I didn't, so here it is, AOTW--and well-deserved it is!

2. Last night (Saturday), Joyce and I drove over to the Kent Cinema to see Christopher Robin, a film that had me in tears the first ten minutes or so (as they visually rehearsed portions of the books): Joyce and I had read them to our son decades ago, but the memories are fresh. (To be fair: Joyce read them more often than I did.)

It was fun to watch the film--and I especially loved Pooh himself and Eeyore (the donkey). There was no real plot surprise--I mean, you know how it must resolve itself (C. Robin is not going to reject his childhood, his wife, his daughter, and snarf opiods the rest of his life). But ... still ... very affecting ... (Link to film trailer.)

3. As I posted on Facebook yesterday, I have (finally!) uploaded Frankenstein Sundae, my memoir about chasing Mary Shelley around for decades. I serialized it on this site over a three-year period, but when I finished that, it was not in any kind of shape to publish separately. Too much repetition, etc. So ... I spent the last year trying to get it all sorted out and am going to have to settle for what I uploaded yesterday. Time has marched on (hell, it's raced on), and I'm finding less and less energy to do any big sort of writing project. I'm afraid that Frankenstein Sundae is the last. I hope I'll be able to do some shorter, less physically demanding projects in the future, but Father Time and Mr. G. Reaper? I think I just saw them down the street. Sniffing. Looking. Sneaking. I'm hiding for the nonce, but they are a determined couple of hunters. Merciless, too. Anyway, Here's a link to the book on Amazon/Kindle.

4. I finished reading one book this week, Rachel Kushner's 2013 novel, The Flame Throwers.

I'd not read any Kushner until recently--not until her new novel, The Mars Room (2018), got such great reviews. So I read it ... really liked it ... then, as is my wont, went back and began reading her other books (there are only four so far): Telex from Cuba (2008--I've already posted about it here) and Flamethrowers. Remaining is a story collection, The Strange Case of Rachel K. (2015), which I hope to order/read soon.

What so much impresses me about Kushner: Each book deals with an entirely different world. Telex was about Americans living in Cuba in the 1950s; Mars was about a girl working in a night club; Flamethrowers is ... geez ... so much: World War I, motorcycles, the New York art scene (a few decades ago), men, women, relationships, identity, status, revolution (of all sorts--including street violence), Italian history, flamethrowers (of all sorts). I was just stunned by the research she had to do to write such a volume.

The final sentence is a dazzler: "Leave, with no answer. Move on to the next question" (383). The narrator--a young woman nicknamed Reno (she's from Nevada)--rides motorcycles, hangs out with new artists in NYC, gets involved with an Italian art-star, has several BFs. At the end, she is in Chamonix, France (where is set one of the key scenes in Frankenstein), where she's waiting at the bottom of the ski lift for the return of her BF from his run ... but ...

5. Thanks to Joyce for this cool discovery: daylights (as in, It scared the daylights out of me). Joyce discovered via the OED that the term dates back to the 18th century--and means ... eyes, which, are, come to think of it, our "daylights." I love it ...

6. Last Word--a word I liked this week from one of my online word-of-the-day providers ...

     - couch potato (COUCH puh-tay-to)
noun: A person who leads a sedentary life, usually watching television.
ETYMOLOGY: Why a couch potato? Why not a couch tomato or a couch pumpkin? The term was coined after boob tube, slang for television. One who watches a boob tube is a boob tuber and a tuber is a potato. According to the Bon Appétit magazine, the term was coined by Tom Lacino. Yesterday’s couch potato is today’s mouse potato, spending time in front of a computer screen, surfing the web. Earliest documented use: 1970s.
USAGE: “Brooks Koepka went from US Open hero to a depressed overweight couch potato last year.”
Euan McLean; "Koepka so Happy to Shape up"; Daily Record (Glasgow, UK); Jun 13, 2018.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

FRANKENSTEIN SUNDAE--finally uploaded!

I have finally uploaded to Kindle Direct my memoir about chasing Mary Shelley for decades; I serialized it here (for more than three years!) as Frankenstein Sundae, and that is how it appears now. It will soon be available on Kindle Direct on Amazon's site ($4.99)--and you do not need a Kindle device to purchase/read the book. Kindle apps are free for your tablet and/or smart phone.

Here's the Preface ...


This is not a biography of Mary Shelley—except when it is. It is, principally, a memoir about my decades-long obsession with her, an obsession that commenced in the early to mid-1990s. A lot of biographical material is here, of course, because I can’t assume that readers will know much about her (though some surely will), and one of a writer’s most essential jobs is to dispel, not summon, confusion. (I’m sure I’ve done a lot of both here. Oh well.)

As you will read, the fire of my obsession was hottest in the mid-1990s and on into the early 2000s. It cooled a bit after I published a YA biography of Mary in 2012 (Kindle Direct). Then, a few years later, I decided to write this memoir, which began as a series of blog posts (dawnreader.blogspot.com), then blossomed (?) into thrice-weekly installments—a process that greatly increased my admiration for those Victorians (Dickens, Trollope, Collins, et al.) who serialized entire novels (in some cases—more than one at a time!). Readers can Google those posts to see the many pictures I included. The serialization consumed more than three years of my life—from April 28, 2014August 23, 2017.

By the time I finished, I had a draft so rough that Rough objected and said it would not allow its name to be associated with such a work. (Something about damaging its reputation.) And so began a long, slow, sometimes tedious revision. One of the biggest problems? Repetition. Because the serialization had continued for so long, I had to keep reminding readers who characters were, reminding them about what the key events had been. I’ve tried to remove all/most of this, but I’ve no doubt that some redundancy remains here and there.

Complicating my task? So much scholarly work had appeared about Mary and her circle since I had (temporarily) abandoned them. Not to mention the novels, the movies, and other cultural contributions. Complicating it more? This year—2018—is the two-hundredth anniversary of the original publication of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. And so all sorts of other tributes and publications have appeared.

In recent months, I’ve read Kathryn Harkup’s Making the Monster: The Science Behind Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (2018), Ahmed Saadawi’s novel Frankenstein in Baghdad (2018), and an older novel (recommended by a friend), Peter Lovesey’s The Vault (1999), a mystery/thriller which involves the city of Bath, where Mary wrote much of the novel, the novel that plays a key role in the mystery.  And there’s a wonderful book—chockablock with pictures and illustrations—Christopher Frayling’s Frankenstein: The First Two Hundred Years (2017).

Oh, and then SP Books published this year a replica of the Frankenstein manuscript, a publication I had to have (of course). It cost a … bit. But it is wonderful, looking through those pages, seeing the notes of Mary, the notes and suggestions of her husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley.

And, of course, I realized all of this was impossible. Purely impossible. There was no way I could keep up with it. (As I type these words—May 31, 2018—there is about to be published a new biography of Mary, In Search of Mary Shelley: The Girl Who Wrote Frankenstein, by Fiona Samson. Which I’ve ordered. And will read. But I’m not sure how much of it—if any—will find its way into this text.)

And so … here we go.

I enjoyed this journey about as much as anything I’ve ever done in my life. And I hope you will find the trip pleasant, as well, despite the many detours I take down by-ways that sometimes lead to stunning vistas, sometimes to culs-de-sac, sometimes to dead ends.

And as I type this, I realize: I have assembled this publication by borrowing pieces of history, of memoir, of biography, of … whatever. Attaching them. And now I wonder: Can I bring this creature to life? And if I do, will it turn out to be a monster?

A final word (before many more words ensue): I have been as careful as I can be, proofreading, but I know in such a complicated work that typos and other goofs will inevitably escape even a most assiduous eye. Forgive me. I will fix all that I subsequently learn about—and trust that you, dear reader, will be … understanding.