Dawn Reader

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

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Sunday Sundries, 202

1. AOTW: A shared award this week. Now ... pay attention closely. We were driving west from Hudson on Ohio 303, near the Rt. 8 interchange. Two westbound lanes. In the left lane (where we were--the lane that allows for Rt. 8 access) a vehicle was broken down--just sitting there. I checked the mirrors, then pulled over to the right to go around, and roaring up behind us--two separate AOTW cars that blew by us, horns blaring, seemingly incapable of assessing what was going on in front of them and intent merely on their own desire to get somewhere as fast as they could, other motorists be damned. Joint award for a couple of joints.

2. Last night, Joyce and I drove over to the Kent Plaza Cinemas to see Michael Moore's new film, Fahrenheit 11/9, a film that left us both deeply affected. Sure, it's anti-Trump (duh--it is Michael Moore)!, but he also goes after both Clintons and Obama (the latter because of his egregious failure to do anything about the Flint water situation + some other ill choices).

No one, really, comes off well--except Bernie Sanders and some of the new young faces (many female) who are running for public office--and the Parkland survivors who are seeking to advance the cause of sensible gun control. It's no surprise, Moore's conviction that power corrupts--on both sides of the aisle. Time, really, to truly drain the swamp ... (Link to film trailer.)

3. I finished a play and a book this week ...

     - Earlier in the week I read a review in the NYT of a play I'd never heard of by Tennessee Williams--A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur (link to the review.) I discovered that the play--from 1979--is in a Library of America volume we have of Williams' work, so I read it one afternoon this week--and was surprisingly moved by it.

First of all--Creve Coeur (French for broken heart) is an actual geographic location (and lake) about 14 miles west of downtown St. Louis, setting for Williams' play. (See map. The Missouri R is on the left, the community of Creve Coeur is in the lower right; the lake, upper center.)

The play, set in St. Louis some decades ago, takes place in a lowly apartment inhabited by two sort of middle-aged women, one of whom (the principal character), is a local school teacher. No one has any money. We learn that she has had a fling with the school principal--though she considers it far more than a fling. She thinks LOVE is in the air. Throughout the play's two scenes she's expecting a (promised) phone call from him. Her apartment mate wants her to get interested in her brother (the mate's brother); they are planning a picnic out at Creve Coeur Lake ... won't she join them? No ... the phone will be ringing any moment.

Well--no surprise in a Williams play--things don't exactly work out the way the teacher expects, and at the end she must make a choice--a choice most of us must make in our lives in one way or another: to settle for less or to continue to pursue the impossible. The teacher says at one point, "My life must include romance"; it is a claim that the events will sorely test (Lib of Amer ed., 915).

     - I also finished Now a Major Motion Picture (2018) the latest YA novel from Cori McCarthy, former Harmon Middle School Jaguar and graduate of Aurora High School. (I'm really sorry that I never got to have her in class.)

Cori has long had a fascination with Tolkien, Middle Earth, and their kin, and she employs this deep affection in this novel about the granddaughter of a woman who once wrote a wildly popular fantasy series, Elementia, which, as the book begins, is filming in Ireland. Iris Thorne (the young woman) goes to Ireland with her little brother, Ryder, while her widowed father (also a writer) stays home to work on his latest. There is--to say the least--some father/daughter tension in the novel, tension that time and circumstance must attenuate, or ...

Iris is figuring out who she is--what she wants to do with herself. She plays guitar, loves music--loves writing music--and this talent/interest finds its way into the plot--and the film.

She also is discovering love and gets involved with one of the actors in the film.

Well, things grow more complicated; it looks as if the film will shut down (the producers are worried); the family dynamic with Iris, Ryder, Dad becomes ever more intense, even explosive.

Ain't gonna tell you no more!

Loved this comment to Iris by one of the characters, the film's director: "Say that the book is a sculpture. You can walk around the story. You can touch it. You can view it up close or far away. That is why people love books. The stories interact with your memories, your experiences. They're personalized. Movies? Movies are a picture of that same statue. The parameters are set. The characters have defined faces. The scenes artistically rendered to one person's vision" (290-1).

I enjoyed reading this--and not just because a former Jaguar wrote it (reason enough!) but because it deals with a world I've always enjoyed, too. I'm not a mega-Middle-Earth freak, but I've read The Lord of the Rings several times, have seen the films (more than once), have read lots of other fantasy, and so the novel rang quite a few of my bells. Oh, and our son (and his sons) are Tolkien-o-philes as well, even more obsessed than I. Joyce first read the books aloud to son Steve (at nighty-night time) when he was a pre-schooler. He's now 46 and still an addict.

Anyway, congratulations to Cori! And now I want to go see Elementia!

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

     - from dictionary.com

gnathonic [na-THON-ik] adjective
1. sycophantic; fawning.
That Jack's is somewhat of a gnathonic and parasitic soul, or stomach, all Bideford apple-women know ...
-- Charles Kingsley, Westward Ho!, 1855

ORIGIN: The English adjective gnathonic comes from Latin gnathōnicus, an adjective derivative of Gnathō (inflectional stem Gnathōn-), the name of a sycophant and parasite in Eunuchus, a comedy by the Latin playwright Terence (Publius Terentius Afer, c190–c159 b.c.). Terence also coined the derivative plural noun Gnathōnicī “disciples of Gnatho” as a comic general term for sycophants and parasites. Gnathonic entered English in the 17th century.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Friday Night Lights

For many years throughout our marriage, one of our true lights on Friday night was heading out to a bookstore. When I was still teaching at Harmon Middle School, my post-prandial Friday evening routine was this: (1) grade the vocabulary quizzes I’d administered a couple of days earlier; (2) head out to a bookstore with Joyce.

For years, our favorite was called Booksellers, up on Rt. 422 just west of the I-271 interchange near Chagrin Falls. They had a huge inventory (which we generally diminished somewhat on Friday evenings), and—a different kind of nourishment—great apricot scones in the little coffee shop they operated on the premises. Joyce and I would buy books, consume scones, feel as if we were the luckiest two people on the planet.

But Booksellers couldn’t make it. Nearby were a Barnes & Noble and a Border’s. And so—in 1997—Booksellers closed, and our new favorite became Border’s up in Beachwood. They, too, had a great inventory—and a coffee shop (though, sigh, I still missed those great apricot scones).

There was also a Border’s in Solon (we went frequently), near Chapel Hill (Akron),  and out in West Akron (ditto). These three didn’t have the inventory of the Beachwood store, but it was sometimes more convenient for us. Oh, and Border’s owned a remainder shop in the Stow-Kent Plaza; we hit that place occasionally, too.

But then—in 2011—the Border’s stores all went under, and that left Barnes & Noble out in West Akron—a bit of a drive. But we still went. Often.

A Books-a-Million opened up in the old Border’s site at Chapel Hill, and we went there occasionally, but their inventory was/is not impressive. Still ... some shop was/is better than none.

We have a local favorite, too—the Learned Owl in Hudson, where we live. It’s been in business a long time (I actually clerked there part-time in 1981-82). A small store but very friendly, and both Joyce and I stop in there fairly often. Our grandson Carson loves it to death.

But—sadly—our bookstore days are mostly done. As we sail toward the sunset, we are now selling our large library online (via ABE—our site is called D. J. Doodlebug Books). And, sure, we still buy books now and then—online and in physical stores; we both still read—a lot. But I have a Kindle, and we buy far fewer books than we used to.

Our Friday nights are much, much different now. We used to go to a movie, hit a bookstore afterward. Now ... my energy is much diminished, and we often don’t do much on a Friday night but run an errand after supper—maybe get a Diet Coke at Mickey D’s or a decaf at a coffee shop. In the summer we like to go down to Szalay's Farm Market in the Cuyahoga Valley. Buy some fresh corn and other goodies. (We'll probably go this evening--it's a gorgeous day here.)

If we go to a movie, it’s usually on Saturday night (following a long nap!). Or we lie in bed and stream something.

Excitin’, eh?

But I still feel that ... urge on Friday night. The feel of a new book in my hands ... the taste of an apricot scone in my mouth ... the earnest nerdy talk with the woman I love on the drive home ... the Friday Night Lights of literature and love in my eyes ...

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Back at the Health Club: Hating It, Loving It ...

Summa Health Wellness Center
Hudson, Ohio
The past two weeks I've been able to return to the health club to resume my (mild) workout routine. During the weeks I was undergoing radiation therapy--and in the ensuing week or so--I just couldn't do it. Zero energy. All the energy I had I consumed by dragging my feeling-sorry-for-myself-butt upstairs to flop in bed for a few hours.

I had actually gone out there during the time I was undergoing the first few radiation sessions, but my energy quickly dissipated--and I felt a little ... conspicuous in the locker room. As I noted here a few weeks ago, I quite literally had a target drawn on my chest--markings to help the radiation technicians to aim properly the Zapping Machine. No one really said anything in the locker room, but I did get some curious looks. (More than I usually do!)

But ... last week I returned, deciding to give it a whirl. I was still feeling a little ... rocky. My esophagus still burned a bit (the radiation had passed through it to zap the cancer cells they'd identified in my spine), but I was feeling some returning energy ... and I knew that if I just quit going out to the club, I would soon be Back to Square One. I've been working out regularly for years, but all of the good effects of that, I knew, would quickly dissipate if I stopped. And so ...

I was not in the best of psychological health, either. I was weary of this cancer battle, a battle that commenced back in late 2004 when the biopsy on my prostate gland came back positive. Surgery, radiation, heavy medication, more radiation ...

And then in recent months my mother died, one of the best friends of my life died, one of the finest students I ever had died ...

So ... I'd not been exactly ebullient, you know?

But ... back I went.

I knew I had to take it easy for a bit, and my routine is not all that strenuous, anyway--well, not all that strenuous for the Younger/Healthier Me. But for the Me of Now? Enervating.

Twenty-five minutes on an exercise bikes (with two "breathers" inserted), a mile of fairly brisk laps around the indoor track, 200 pulls on the rowing machine, 2 sets of curls with some hand weights. And ... SHOWER! (Because of some foul sweating genes shared by Dyer men, I actually kind of look as if I've been in the shower even before I get back to the locker room!)

My first few days back I slowed down, considerably. Taking it easy. Not wanting to hurt myself by ... pushing it.

And I did okay.

I actually enjoyed being back there the first few days: There had been times when I was not certain I would ever be able to do even such a mild workout again. So I was grateful.

I went out five days last week. And this week I've been out both Monday and Tuesday. Planning on it today.

But ... I'm back to hating it again. Every dripping second of it.

And I know I will continue to hate it--until, for some reason, I can't continue. And then I will miss it, desperately.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Frantically looking ...

This one's a little X-rated for some language that John Updike used ... certainly not a word I would ever use!

Some years ago--working on a memoir (Turning Pages, Kindle Direct, 2012), a book about, among other things, the rise and fall of the Carnegie Library back in Enid, Okla., where I grew up: The city razed the building in 1972--I was trying to remember a scene I'd once read in a novel.

Well, to be more precise, I remembered the scene, but I couldn't remember where I'd read it. It was about someone in a school, who, seeing the word fuck on the boys' restroom wall, had altered it to book.

I thought that was cool. But was it in Catcher in the Rye? No ... I looked. Then I remembered John Updike's The Centaur, his 1963 novel about a teacher. I paged through the novel--and found the moment! And here it is, word for word ...

     In the lavatory Caldwell is puzzled by the word BOOK gouged in square capitals in the wall above the urinal. Close examination reveals that this word has been laid over another; the F had been extended and closed to make a B, the U and C closed into O's, the K left as it was. Willing to learn, even before the last flash of light before annihilation, he absorbs the fact, totally new to him, that every FUCK could be made into a BOOK. But who would do such a thing? ... (247).

The paragraph goes on a little, but you get the idea.

And I think about all the men's room graffiti that I've seen over the years--much of it edited by subsequent wags, altered to become something more silly, funny, damning. (I'll not repeat any of them: I've already damaged my pristine reputation!)

In Turning Pages, I allude to this near the end when I am riffing on the destruction of the building. I'm imagining the old walls--imagining what graffiti might have been there as the wrecking ball arrived. And I allude to Updike ...

I first read John Updike back in college--an American Thought class with Dr. Abe C. Ravitz, a great teacher who has had a lifelong effect on me (a good effect!). And as the years went on, when an Updike book came out--fiction, poetry, nonfiction--I bought it, consumed it quickly.

And The Centaur was about a teacher--and I would become a teacher for 45 years. But not by 1963 when the novel arrived. Still, I knew a little: Both my parents were teachers--my mom, at the time, in a local high school. So ... a bit of second-hand knowledge ...

Later, I would read The Centaur again and would feel in its pages some haunting knowledge about school life, about a life I'd come to know very well.

Even later, a freelance book reviewer, I would review a couple of Updike's novels for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. I didn't love all of his books, but I admired them all for different reasons. And I always thought he would/should win the Nobel Prize. Such a talent. But he didn't ...

Updike died in 2009 at the age of 76. Cancer. On his death bed he was writing poems about his illness.

And that, my friends, is the Way to Go!

Monday, September 24, 2018

The Summer Fled ...

I don't like seeing leaves on the ground--alongside the road. In the air. It was only a few days ago, you know, that we had the A-C running pretty much every day (and night). And now? Our furnace is running today. No more shorts-and-sandals (good news for people who have to look at me in the coffee shop) and hello, blue jeans and sneakers and jackets.

Sneakers--a word I never used growing up. Real Boys (Oklahoma boys, like me) called them "tennis shoes." And they were black. With high tops.

Anyway, as you get older, it becomes increasingly hard not to see metaphor in the changing of seasons. Autumn: leaves falling, flowers fading, colder temperatures, more darkness ... hmmm: I wonder what that could symbolize? (If I think of a happy answer, I'll tell you later.)

Changing seasons had a much different significance when I was a boy. The end of the summer meant: no more bicycle, no more baseball, no more run-around-with-my-friends-and-do-what-I want.

But autumn did mean ... school. Which I pretty much dreaded back then. We didn't have a lot of homework when I was in elementary school (or maybe I just never bothered to do it?), but we did have a lot of what was called "seat work": worksheets, workbooks--stuff to do while the teacher caught a breather. It was dreary and deadly--repetitive. But--unlike our two grandsons today--I did not have a bunch of state-mandated standardized tests looming ahead of me. Just the thought of more dreariness the next day ... endless ...

I remember in 7th grade having the stunning thought that my public school life was only half over. It seemed as if I'd been in school forever, and now more forever lay before me like an unbending desert highway ...

Oklahoma winters were not that bad--and not that good. Not a lot of snow (I didn't even know what a Snow Day was until we moved to Ohio as I was about to begin 7th grade). Just colder and unpleasant.

But spring--even then--was HOPE! The end of school! Warmer weather! Bikes and baseball!

And ahead lay the prospect of an Endless Summer--and surely this year the fall will never come, and warmth and light will go on and on and on and on ... And surely no one I love will ever die ...

(PS--I did not think of a "happy answer.")

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Sunday Sundries, 202

 I've not had the energy to do a Sundries in the past month or so ... but I'm going to give one a whirl today though it will probably be a bit ... abbreviated. (I'm already feeling the insistent urgency of Mr. Nap.) So ... here goes ...

1. AOTW: Okay, this happened a couple of weeks ago in a coffee shop. A guy was on Face Time (or Skype or whatever). He had a booming baritone (he should audition for the Met), and his conversation was audible throughout the entire shop. It went on and on and on and on and ... I won't say what he was talking about (don't want to reveal any clues to his identity), but he seemed blithely unaware (or maybe just flat didn't care) that there were many other people in the shop trying to read, talk, think, whatever--all occupations that his AOTWery prohibited.

2. I've read a handful of books since I last posted here, but I don't have the energy to do my usual paragraph on each, so I'll just talk about a couple I've read recently, a few that have had an ... effect ... on me.

     - George S. Schuyler's Black No More (1931--but recently reissued by Penguin Classics) is a work that remains shockingly (and depressingly) relevant. It's kind of a what-if story about a man who invents a process to turn black people white (Schuyler, 1895-1977, was an African American). And it's not just the color: all "traditional" features are also altered--hair, etc. When the process is complete, no one can tell ...

Soon, virtually all have undergone the process, and the befuddled whites don't know what to do ... Whom should we hate?

The novel takes some surprising twists and dives and accelerations and ascents ... fun to read. And also profoundly depressing at times. 1931, for pity's sake!

     - Also entertaining and depressing is Julie Schumacher's 2018 academic satire, The Shakespeare Requirement, about a university that's abandoning the liberal arts in favor of econ, entrepreneurship, etc. The Econ Dept has recently gotten a huge grant to renovate the building they occupy--and share with the English Department. But they renovate only the Econ floors; the Eng Dept is on the lower floors and has to deal with no A/C, insufficient electrical power, grotesque restrooms, etc.

So ... the conflicts are set. The university is pressuring the Eng Department to alter the curriculum--including eliminating the Shakespeare requirement (see title!)

Sure, there were times when I laughed aloud as I read, but there were numerous other times when I groaned and grieved. What I was reading, you see, was not always fiction.

     - Finally, I finished the last book by Rachel Kushner I'd not read--a very small and slender volume of stories called The Strange Case of Rachel K.(2015).

The stories are short, odd, and provocative. Well, the final story (the title story) is long--about 35 pages--and deals with an exotic dancer in Cuba. Rachel "makes a life out of twilight," we read (55). And near the end comes this from Rachel: "And so here I am, in a burlesque club below the Tropic of Cancer, in this damp city where dreams are marbled with nothingness" (80).

Kushner can write, eh?

     - Oh, I should say that I'm now reading the most recent of the Longmire novels by Craig Johnson, just out in the last couple of weeks--Depth of Winter.

It picks up where the previous novel left off (The Western Star): a Bad Guy has kidnapped his daughter, Cady, and taken her to Mexico, into the wilderness, into land controlled by Very, Very, Very Bad Guys. And Longmire is going after her ...  I'm about 1/3 of the way through ...

3. We've found some new episodes of The Doctor Blake Mysteries to stream and are devouring them greedily. Link to some video.

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

     - from the Oxford English Dictionary--and I had never seen this word before!

phynnodderee, n. [fin-AW-dree]
Frequency (in current use): 
Origin: A borrowing from Manx. Etymon: Manx phynnodderee.
Etymology: < Manx phynnodderee, fynnodderee (1812 or earlier), of uncertain origin,

 In the folklore of the Isle of Man: a supernatural being characterized as having a thick coat of hair and said to assist farmers whose lands he lives near, typically by performing tasks requiring superhuman strength or abilities.
The phynnodderee is sometimes considered to be a composite of elements from the folklore of cultures with which the Manx have historically come into contact, combining, for instance, some aspects of the Scandinavian troll with those of the Scottish brownie.

1847   Mona's Herald 8 Sept.   Like the big Buggane, and all other finite creatures, the Phynnodderee had a spice of mischief in him.
1874   W. I. Jenkinson Pract. Guide Isle of Man 91   At Baldwin we had often been informed that the Phynnodderee used to thrash the corn and gather the sheep for the owners of the Lanjaghan farm.
1891   Folk-lore 2 287   It is to Glen Rushen, then, that the Fenodyree is supposed to be gone.
1967   Jrnl. Manx Mus. 7 59/1   Charles Roeder has called the fynnoderee ‘the puzzle and despair of Folklorists’.

2015   @manxhills 5 June in twitter.com (O.E.D. Archive)    Of all the fairy folk in the Isle of Man, I think my heart goes out most to the Phynnodderee.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Cuckoo's Back!

Clock came home from rehab about 2 pm today! All is right with the world ....

The Cuckoo’s Back

The cuckoo’s back! Oh, what a bird!
(Though he owns but a single word.)

I miss that word throughout the day—
Throughout the night—in every way.

He kind of comments on my world—
When I’m awake—or lie there curled

In sleep. He listens well to me—
And gives assessments—all for free.

The cuckoo will not change his mind—
He’ll just cry, “Cuckoo!” That’s his kind

Of comment through the day and night—
I wish he weren’t so often right!

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Losing Shakespeare Last Week ...

I lost the Bard last week. Well, not really. I knew where he was: at Mickey's Barber Shop. I had driven down there last week for my monthly cut; it was raining; I covered myself (slightly) with an old Shakespeare umbrella we keep in the car for such ... inconveniences.

I love that old (broken) umbrella. We bought it up in Stratford, Ont., one summer when we were up there for the Stratford Theatre Festival, a trip we'd taken each August (usually the first week) between 2001-2017. We'd see (usually) eleven plays in six days. Most of those years I was still teaching (and teaching Shakespeare, too), so I would buy things I could flash around at school. Like the umbrella you see pictured above. Love the version of Shakespeare's upper body that decorates it.

I had to wait a little last week (Mickey, the best barber in the world, takes no appointments: first come, first serve), and by the time he was finished with me, the rain had stopped, the sun was out, and I'd forgotten I'd even brought an umbrella with me.

A few days later ... I noticed it was missing. And I knew where it was, too.

That umbrella is one that lives in our car; that way we always have some protection when, guessing wrong, we find the rain is falling when we didn't think it would. It has rescued us countless times.

It is also broken. One of the ribs has cracked; the Velcro fastener has fallen off. But, you know, I see it as kind of an objective correlative for ... me. Broken, falling apart, still useful now and then.

The weather's been fine since last week, but today, out on another errand, I remembered it. I drove down to Mickey's, looked at the hook where I'd hung it ... not there.

I asked Mickey, "Did you find an old raggedy-ass umbrella here last week?"

He looked at me. Smiled. "Sure did. And I saved it for you." He went to his closet, retrieved it. My heart swelled.

So ... now it's back in the car, waiting again for a Lear- or Tempest-like tempest when it can spread itself, missing rib and all, and save us from the sort of thing Lear raged about ...

Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!
You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout
Till you have drench'd our steeples, drown'd the cocks! (3.2)

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Back to Seidman Cancer Center

Seidman Cancer Center
University Hospitals
Beachwood, Ohio
9 a.m.

In a couple of hours, Joyce and I will (once again) head north, navigate the endless constructive wonders of I-271, and pull into the parking lot at Seidman. It's time for my bi-monthly visit with my oncologist.

Since I saw him last, I've undergone quite a bit: 10 sessions of radiation, zapping three Evil Vertebrae (T-8, T-9 (the most evil), and T-10), where some clusters of cancer cells had gone to hide--and multiply. Those sessions knocked the hell out of me. All I could do was sleep and feel sorry for myself. Even worse: the radiation passed through my chest and esophagus; the latter has spent the last two weeks (when the sessions ended) recovering. For most of the time, my old Food Tube burned so much so that it was "unpleasant" even to swallow saliva. My appetite, understandably, ceased, and I had to force myself to eat a little something. One day I managed only about a half-cup of yogurt--the entire day.

It's better now. Though my appetite has not completely returned, the thought of food no longer makes me gag.

So ... all of that was fun ...

I also had some CT scans + a full bone scan. They appear (to my untrained eye--and the radiologist's report) to indicate no evident spread of the cancer. But I'll wait to hear what my oncologist says before I get too excited about that.

I also had my monthly blood test--to measure my PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen). As I've written here before, I should really have NO measurable PSA (a Cleveland Clinic surgeon removed my cancerous prostate gland in June 2005).

But ... prostate cancer cells also produce PSA, and my score has been rising. Last month it was about 20; this time ... only about 12. So the radiation appears to be working ... for the nonce. It is temporary, you see ... a delay, not a cure.

Meanwhile, I'm whupped. In the past month or so I've had radiation treatments, bone and CT scans, cataract surgery, periodontal surgery (an implant is in process), some dermatological treatments (the doctor froze a grim site ... on my nose--got to be highly visible, you know?), and some sessions with my cardiologist, who's trying to find a blood-pressure med that (a) works and (b) doesn't make me sick. (We're on Drug #3 right now.)

So ... I'm hoping that my oncologist will be able to give me a bit of a break for the next few months. ("Hope is the thing with feathers," wrote a poet whom I love.) Joyce and I want to drive down to Staunton, VA, to the American Shakespeare Center to see a couple of plays ...

When we get back from Seidman later this afternoon, I'll do an update here ... unless I disappear immediately into a NAP ...

To be continued ...

1:20 p.m.

We'll, we're back, have ingested a light lunch, and there's really not a lot of news to share. My oncologist was pleased with my PSA, pleased with the scan results. I will have subsequent PSA tests, one per month, and will see him again in mid-November.

So ... we're grateful for a little relief from what had seemed to be endless rounds of testing and treatment. And we will enjoy this lovely fall weather and try not to think about the winter that roars right behind it.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

And then the cuckoo flew away ...

the spot where the cuckoo clock lives
Hanging on our wall since 1978 has been a cuckoo clock that once belonged to my great-grandfather Warren A. Lanterman (1866-1963), who for 90 years lived on a farm on Four Mile Run Rd. in Austintown, Ohio (he's buried in a cemetery near there).

He passed the clock along to my grandmother Osborn (his daughter), who gave it to my mom back in the 1950s. It hung and cuckooed on our wall in Hiram, Ohio.

In 1966, my mom and dad moved out to Des Moines to teach at Drake University, and the clock hung on their wall at 3500 Wakonda Court until 1978 when my grandmother died and my parents had decided to retire out on the Oregon coast (Cannon Beach). Downsizing, they gave the clock to us then, and our son, Steve (he turned six that year), loved the clock.

His sons now love it, and when they're here visiting, and they hear the clock cuckooing in the other room, they sometimes sprint out there to watch it.

It has hung and cuckooed for us ever since 1978. Our homes in Kent, Lake Forest (IL), Hudson and Aurora (OH). We've had it repaired a couple of times, but, otherwise, it's been very reliable.

In the last couple of weeks, though, it has ... slowed ... then stopped ... (reminds me of myself) ...

So ... I called our repairman, and he was just here to pick it up. A quick look told him it didn't need much. Some cleaning, lubrication. We'll have it back next week, he thinks. $100 or so.

That's the best news.

As he was leaving the house with it, I told him that our grandsons would thank him.

As they will, I'm sure.

And I'll thank him right now. As I've written here before, the sound of that clock is the heartbeat of our house. And things around here will be very wrong until we hear it again ...

boxed and ready to go to  rehab

Monday, September 17, 2018

A Doggerel of a Surprise

Some of you know that I have another blog spot here on Blogspot: Daily Doggerel (link), where, daily (duh), I post silly verse about this and that--words, animals, words and animals, animals and words.

Anyway, I was surprised this morning to see that tomorrow's post on Daily Doggerel will be Number 1400.

How did that happen? Do I really have so much drivel in me that it just keeps ... leaking out? (Is there no variety of Depends for that?)

I do feel myself sort of winding down, though--like an antique cuckoo clock that is tired of cuckooing. Part of it is age; part is ill health; part is, I suppose, the shock of realizing that I've posted 1400 of these things! Have I no self-respect!?!?!

So ... when I finish the current series--all based on heteronyms (words that are spelled the same but pronounced differently--e.g., wind (it blows) and wind (a cuckoo clock)), I think I'll take a break. Go on hiatus, as they say.

Maybe I'll recover the urge to do some more; maybe I won't. I can't really say--and I don't even know how I feel about it. Relief? Resignation? Shame? Whatever?

Anyway, I will finish the last of the heteronyms this week--will collect them in a little volume to post on Amazon's Kindle Direct (as I have done with their predecessors)--will settle back and see what the wind blows my way--maybe wind the cuckoo clock ...?

Friday, September 14, 2018

The Damnedest Thoughts at 3:30 a.m. ...

Last night I awoke at 3:30 a.m., and Morpheus, seeing a flicker of a chance to escape, cast me from his arms and flew into the night. (Thanks, buddy.) And for the next 2+ hours (I usually get up around 5:45) my mind whirled around like a rotary lawnmower blade--and somehow--some way--ended up spending way too much time on a popular song from my youth, a song I've not thought about in decades and whose return in today's pre-dawn I cannot for the life of me explain.

The song was "Norman," sung by Sue Thompson (I had to check Wikipedia for her name, which I never could have recovered without ... cheating) and released in 1961. I can't (easily) find the precise date--but 1960-61 was my junior year in high school, 61-62 (you figure it out). (Oh, lyrics and music by John D. Loudermilk. See lyrics at the bottom of this post ...) It soared to #3 that year. A gold record.

Link to a recording/video of the song. Link to some info about Thompson, born in 1925.

It's a catchy if simple thing--a bouncy bubble of a song. (I picture a little kid blowing a bubble from one of those bottles of bubble-stuff--then chasing it around the room.)

And just adhesive enough, it seems, to find a remote little room in my brain, where the song has stuck around for more than a half-century, though rarely exiting that room.

Until last night.

For a reason I cannot comprehend. I've hardly been in a bouncy, "Norman"-y mood lately, but maybe Morpheus, plotting his escape, thought of something fluffy from my past that would distract me while he winged off. If so, I'm not sure whether to thank or condemn him. It was kind of nice to think about Days of Youth and foolishness early today, but now--and for who knows how long?--that weightless piece of fuzz is floating around in my brain ...

I hope it soon finds an exit ...

Norman , ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh
Norman, hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm
Norman, Norman, my love
Jimmy called me on the phone but I was gone, not at home
Cuz I was out parked all alone with darlin' Norman
Bill invited me to a show but I said no, cannot go
There's a dress that I've got to sew and wear for Norman
Norman holds me close to him, Norman kisses me and then
Norman knows my heart belongs to him and him and only him, oh
Norman, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh ohh, ooh, ooh, ooh
Norman, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh ohh, ooh, ooh, ooh
Norman, Norman, my love
Joey asked me for a date, he wanted to take me out to skate
But I told Joey he would have to make 'rangements with Norman
Norman is my only love, Norman's all I'm thinking of
Norman gives me all his lovin', kissin', huggin', lovey-dovin'
Norman, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh
Norman, hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm
Norman, Norman, my love

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Mortality Whispers

I've been lucky in this life. For decades I was healthy, physically able to do just about anything I wanted to do--except, sadly, be the Tribe's catcher ... Their loss.

Mortality was a flaw possessed only by others. I experienced the deaths of two great-grandparents, three grandparents. My father lived until November 1999. And my mother didn't pass away until this past March; she was 98. And as long as my mother was still alive, mortality, I foolishly, arrogantly believed, had nothing to do with me. Not directly. I mean, I may be ... older ... now, but my mom is still alive.

But Mortality has a way of casting his shadow on all of us. As I've said, I've been lucky. But others I've known--cousins, aunts and uncles, friends, former students, so many others--have felt that Dark Presence long before I've had to.

Even when I got my first cancer diagnosis in late 2004, I didn't really think Mortality was all that involved. Just a bit of bad luck. I'd win the battle.

And for nearly fourteen years I've kept Mortality away, ignored his knocks on the door, his shadow in the window, his breathy whispers in my ear.

But he is one insistent fellow, Mortality. Like a robo- or spam-caller. You block one number; he'll try another--and another--until you, sort of recognizing the Caller ID, pick up the phone and hear his voice--and know his voice. Such a familiar sound, though if you've been lucky (as I've been), you've never really heard it before. Rather--you didn't know what it was when you heard it. You thought the voice was talking to someone else ...

But now, Mortality is a regular visitor. I open the door. I pick up the phone. We chat ... a lot.

But--so far--after our friendly little encounters, he will leave. And I close the door, but I no longer bother locking it. Pointless.

I've realized (as I should have long ago) that I am just a part of a long, long, long procession. Some of you know that I've been long interested in the Klondike Gold Rush (1896-99); my own great-grandfather went up there (found a little--bought a farm with it, a farm the family would later lose in the Great Depression).

And as I look at those famous pictures of the Chilkoot Pass--over the mountains separating Alaska from the Canadian Yukon Territory--I realize, of course, that every single person in that procession is now gone. Some found gold; some found heartache; some did not survive the journey itself. But now ... they are all one.

Their children are all gone. Their grandchildren are (probably) all gone. And their great-grandchildren are next. It's just ... the way it is ... It just takes some of us (like me) a long time to realize we are in that procession ...

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Back in the Saddle ... Sort of ...

As a boy in Oklahoma--a devoted fan of Western TV shows (there were a lot in the early 1950s) and movies (ditto)--I was never all that crazy about Gene Autry. He was one of the "singing cowboys"--guys who, mysteriously, stopped ropin' and shootin' and savin' the town to, well, sing. I just could not understand it. Singing when you could be blastin' those Bad Buys in Black Hats?!?

But his song "Back in the Saddle Again" was a big hit for Autry--link to video of Autry singing in a decidedly unWestern environment.

I think I've posted this info before? Too bad. Write it off to my galloping dotage.

But the song's a little relevant to me today. For the first time since last Saturday I was "back in the saddle"--back at "my" table at the Open Door Coffee Co. here in Hudson. The last few days have been a tad ... difficult.

Last Thursday, I received the 10th of 10 radiation treatments to deal with an apparent cancer site* in my spine--vertebra #T-9. My old enemy, my prostate cancer (first diagnosed almost fourteen years ago), has metastasized, moving into my bones, and recent scans have shown what appears to be one of its hiding places--that aforementioned vertebra. Thus ... the radiation treatments.

As I've written here before, the zapping went through my chest (thus passing through my esophagus); then the machine rotated, zapping me from below as well. No pain, just ... terror?

My esophagus has not been ... pleased. Though it will repair itself (and is doing so), I have experienced some very unpleasant days when it has been painful to swallow anything--from food to water to saliva to my pride.

Radiation also makes you weary (the body devotes much energy to repair--though cancer cells cannot, which is why radiation can work).**

So ... I was weary ...  and raw in the esophagus ... but hanging in there.

And then ... the floor fell out from under me.

I'm not sure what happened? Was it the new blood pressure med I'd just begun? Was it the cumulative effect of the radiation? Was it some vengeful god, annoyed at a slight of some sort? Was it a revolt by my 70-something-year-old body?

Whatever ...

Beginning on Sunday, I couldn't do anything but sleep. I mean 20 hours a day or more. The whole idea of eating nauseated me. I was so dizzy I could barely walk across the room.

I called my cardiologist, and he immediately got me off the new med, substituted another, which I will start today.

Yesterday (Tues.) I felt moderately better--but still slept for hours and ate only a small supper. No breakfast, no lunch. Food had become a synonym for evil. Or poison. Or evil poison.

Through the night I could tell I was improving. And this morning, feeling a bit more frisky, I loaded my backpack and headed over to Open Door (slowly, slowly) to do my morning's reading--started a new book to review for Kirkus Reviews.

I climbed onto my stool ... looked out the window ... was back in the saddle again ...

And now I'm taking it easy, trying to make sure my horse called Hope does not buck me off ...

*I say "apparent" because the scans are a highly educated guess, not a biopsy.
**But not in my case. This is a delaying tactic only; there is no cure for me ... not yet.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

The End in View ...

Seidman Cancer Center
University Hospitals
Beachwood, Ohio
September 5, 2018; 8 a.m.

In a couple of hours we will drive up to Seidman Cancer Center in Beachwood where I will enjoy my penultimate radiation treatment: number 9 of 10.

Pause a moment.

I loved it when I learned the word penultimate. As your life goes along, you know, you discover that there really is a word for just about any damn thing! So ... imagine my boundless joy when—not all that long ago, I confess—I learned the word antepenultimate (the one before the next-to-last). I now find every occasion I can find to use that word!


Initially, I didn’t seem to be having many side-effects from the treatments. I went in; I lay down; they zapped me (takes a matter of minutes); I went home.

But—as my oncologist had warned me—the nature of my treatment—the path of the radiation—would eventually cause some problems. And problems have indeed emerged.

As you may recall, the treatments are focused on three of my vertebrae, #s T-8, T-9, T-10. T-9 is the one that, based on scans, the cancer now inhabits visibly. (Or so it seems—educated guessing.) But they are zapping the two adjacent ones, as well—just to make sure.

Anyway, to zap the vertebrae from the front, the Magic Ray must pass through my esophagus. Although it will soon enough repair itself (a couple of weeks, the oncologist told me), the radiation will soon enough cause some ... discomfort (Doctor Speak for HURT). But ... at first ... I didn’t really feel much. But as the sessions have advanced, I have felt an increased burning in the old food tube—so much so at times that merely eating is unpleasant. My appetite has diminished considerably as a result—which is probably a good thing: I have no energy to exercise, and my Dyer Body loves little more than adding weight, willy-nilly.


Had to go look up willy-nilly. Goes back to 1608 (the Bard was alive and writing!) and is a variation of will-I-nill-I (or will-he-nill-he) (will he or won’t he).


Another side-effect: stomach gas. Which requires, of course, some judicious (and, we hope) silent evacuation of the gas through my mouth. (I’m getting to be quite good at it, actually. Sadly, though, I’m acquiring a skill I don’t really want to have—swallowing cubic feet of air in an unobtrusive way.)

And, as I’ve sort of mentioned, declining energy. I remember back in 2009 (when I underwent 30 radiation sessions down at Cleveland Clinic's Taussig Cancer Center) that I was exhausted by the end of it and could do little but sleep and feel sorry for myself. I’ve really been sleeping very well since these new treatments commenced (a few exceptions), but it’s not a remedy I would recommend to insomniacs.

They don’t zap me just through the front. They rotate the machine and zap me again from below. Spinal cord is there, of course, but the oncologist told me I shouldn't notice anything. And I haven’t—so far.

So—today—soon, soon—we will head again to Seidman (navigating the joys of I-271), and I, shirtless (my chest marked with X's and O's for the techs to aim the machine), will lie on the table, hear some buzzing, watch the machine rotate until it is beneath me, buzz some more .... then head home with that glorious knowledge that there will be just one more session!

My inflamed esophagus and gassy stomach will celebrate with me ...