Wednesday, December 30, 2009

And Portland's Top Blunderer Award Goes To ...

News of the day: Providence Health Systems shoots itself in the foot. Again. Having in 2006 lost private information on some 365,000 plan members from a car trunk, they have once again bungled into the release of the private details of some 6500 State members. The printer got stuck, they say.

Note of interest: I work for Providence Health Systems, and have for some 18 years.

Good time to retire. Which is exactly what I've been planning anyway.

An official spokesperson commented "We feel very badly."

I'll bet.

And here's the kicker: All this happens just as Providence takes over administration for the Oregon Public Employees Benefit Board--enrolling more than 100,000 workers and dependents.

Imagine the magnitude of possible screw ups in the future (i.e., stuck printers).

Now here, as everywhere, trickle down is the key phrase--for this betrayal at the hands of batch printing will surely, somehow, become the fault of lowly transcriptionists such as I.

Like ... I ... said ....

Time to retire.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

What Is So Happy About New Years?

Well that's over. Christmas, I mean. I suppose if I had to compare this Christmas to the last 55, I'd have to say it runs about dead last, though in a neck to neck race with the one I spent alone (save for the dog) in my transitional sort of apartment, pining over lost love, hobnobbing with the ghosts of Christmases past, becoming at last deathly ill on rum and eggnog. (Honestly, a wave of nausea passes through me even as I remember. Gak).

Time to change the subject.

How about New Years Eve. Actually I've always pretty much hated New Years. To me it seems somehow endemically depressing--not just this year, but every year. To rate the last 55 New Years on a comparative scale would be very difficult indeed, for the graph would depict a fairly perfect flat line.

This may have started at a very early age. What I remember now is my parents, stable, reliable, Cleaver-like 364 days of the year, turning suddenly into complete idiots, along with all of the friends who had been invited to the house. We--my brother and I, and whichever hapless other children had been compelled to attend--would be quarantined to a second story bedroom, tied to a television set (and believe me, folks, in the late 1950s there wasn't a hell of a lot on late night TV), and the expectation was that we would remain fairly quiet, preferably invisible, whilst the raucous celebrants on the ground floor cavorted. Roars of laughter climbed up and down the staircase, the sound of something shattering, the sound of someone falling, followed by another chorus of roars. Always, at some point, one of us would quite accidentally cause a disturbance of some sort--decide to wrestle, for instance; or break something, or knock over the TV, or suddenly vomit 7-Up and Summer Sausage--and my father, in his hard soled dress shoes, all rubber mixed with iron, would pound up the staircase, thumping between banister and wall, and demand in an outraged though bleary, slurry sort of way what the Goddamn son-of-a-bitching hell had happened.

Fun stuff.

I think now that the whole thing frightened me. My young life was one of security, predictability, sobriety, and so this once yearly departure from all that was safe and familiar was disconcerting at the deepest level. Always, deep down, despite the general mirth that seemed to be expected, I just wanted the thing to be over--to close my eyes, to sleep, and to return next morning to the status quo.

By the time I had grown old enough to be a complete idiot myself, the damage had already been done--such that complete idiocy, though freely, even eagerly sought on many of an evening throughout the year, retained a particularly distasteful quality on New Years. Most often I would just stay at home, and watch the big ball descend, you know?

Descending. What's that all about anyway? Does it not strike you as peculiarly depressing?

Once I went to a party at a club. The girl I was with busted out the back of her dress (apparently a bit too tight), and then later started crying because she was in the midst of separating from her live-in boyfriend, and then got angry at me because . . . well, because it was all my fault.

Later I married that girl and she became my second wife.

New Years is expensive, overly hyped, generally cold, and cannot live up to its own expectations. Rather, to ours. To mine, that is.

So Happy New Years! I shall hope it passes quickly.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Twas the Night

Oh holy night ... the stars are shytely bryning.

Sound like something out of Chaucer, don't it?

Anyway, it's a good example of the way in which my tongue has begun to twist simple phrases. But of course it's not really my tongue that is at fault, but my brain. Poor tongue, I apologize.

Nonetheless, linguistics remain intact, so we're safe, it's all good.

So this is Christmas. Well, Christmas Eve anyway. As it has happened, we (by which I mean my wife and I) didn't really do Christmas this year--if one takes being done to mean the whole thing with glass bulbs and lights, trees and bells, flock and tinsel. There is some talk in the air of putting up our Christmas tree tonight, and I think the talk is probably reliable--but other than that, Christmas will have come and gone without the customary fanfare. Nor do we have much in the way of presents, for we shall soon be traveling to the other side of the world and must do our best to travel light. A fly by night sort of business is this.

So this is Christmas, and what have we done? Well, not a whole hell of a lot. The usual, you know? But that won't be lasting much longer (there! you see, I just typed longing much laster, and then corrected it). So we've been just about to do something for some time now. We as a family, we as a couple, and then also I as an individual. I've been just about to really seriously write a second book now for about the past 6 months. What's keeping me from it? Maybe waiting for the first one to find a home? Maybe waiting for my mind to clear? Maybe waiting for my energy to revive. Or maybe just waiting to retire, to sail, to settle, to soak up the sun. Maybe something is waiting for nothing so that something itself can ensue.

Merry Christmas to the few yet well loved. Merry Christmas, cousin David. Merry Christmas to my best friend Marc, together again after so many years. Merry Christmas beloved Hasan, and salute--I wish you all the best, along with a full bottle of Black Label. Merry Christmas Roy, wherever you are--and may many baskets of food fall from heaven to your lap. Merry Christmas dear readers of all these poor scribbles--your visits are my daily bread. Merry Christmas lovely Manitobians. Merry Christmas Enero, Valeria, Susan, Becky, Jamie. Merry Christmas Abdul and Saiid. And to you also, Neil, saddled with so many hopes--may your energy never fail.

Merry Christmas to all ... and to all a nood gyte.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Skating Into the Holidays

Learned a rule of thumb yesterday. If you have MS, and can't walk very well to begin with, don't take up ice skating.

Now, I am not new to ice skating. I used to ice skate quite often. When I was 12. My wife thought this would be a fun sort of holiday thing to do. And I figured it this way (always inclined toward the positive viewpoint): Even if you have trouble walking, ice skating ought actually to be easier, because the ice itself will move your feet--you will be sliding along rather than walking. Kind of like swimming--wherein, of course, you simply float.

Well, it's not so, folks. That's the honest truth. I was in fact surprised at how very weak my legs and ankles have become. All that wobbled to begin with now shook and shimmied, and all the while ached in protestation. I'm sure I must have looked like Elvis in the Ice Capades. Oh yeahhhh, I'm all shook up.

But it was fun, I'll have to admit. And my wife certainly enjoyed the show.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

This Is The End

More and more often I feel like I am in a race, and though the destination is near, I must drag my body and mind along--the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak, and has in fact become dead weight. The legs of determination grow wobbly, vision clouds and my whole spirit squints to keep fixed on the goal.

I bear an expiration date, like a common bottle of milk--and though the numbers are smudged, the milk begins to smell sour. How long? Long enough?

If only I could lie down for a moment. Sleeping beauty. Rip Van Winkle. This is the end, beautiful friend, this is the end, my only friend, the end . . .

I forget the most essential things and find myself captive to worried fantasies, waking dreams which conspire to convince the rightness in my mind that to struggle is fruitless, to sleep is inevitable.

I'll give thee fairies to attend on thee, and they shall fetch thee jewels from the deep, and sing while thou on pressed flowers dost sleep . . .

But I will not, no, not yet.

Friday, December 18, 2009


Funny thing about Pascal's Pensee--no matter how many times you read it, it remains almost wholly unread. This may be partly due to the abbreviated nature of much of the material--a jotting down of notes and reminders, suggestions and hypotheses. One finds himself included in the author's thought process, filling in, groping forward, linking this which is partial to that which is more fully developed. Because of the spaces we become in a certain way more fully involved. The picture takes a more vibrant shape because of the fragmentation itself. Curious experience.

Well, this week, once again, I am sick with the cold. Seems like I just got over one. I guess that's because I did. Great year for colds, 2009. And I am indescribably fatigued.

I have heard it said before that a person with MS is less likely to become sick with common illnesses because the autoimmune system is overactive and thus attacks actual invaders as energetically as it does the healthy systems.

Wouldn't it be pretty to think so.

But as is often the case, what seems neat in theory often fails to play out in practice.

Thus it happens that I have heard it said also that people with MS are more likely to suffer from common illnesses simply because the body is worn out and haywire, and the overactive immune system does its intended job just about as well as a fence made of Tinker Toys.

(my apologies here--because I could not think of a good simile, I used Tinker Toys).

The fact is, those with MS eventually die not because of MS itself, but from some other illness they might otherwise not have succumbed to if not for the MS.

(weird sentence ... like I said, I'm tired ... so shall I desist for now).

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Our beloved student, Hassan, is gone--having left yesterday, along with Prince Fahad, for Spokane, and thence to Saudi Arabia. We shall miss you dearly--your laughter, your songs, your good heart. A presence has left our house, as if by a wind through the chimney, and has left behind the sort of deafening silence that most commonly follows only a death.

Last night we walked together, I and my wife, at the mall, doing nothing, holding mittened hands, and you seemed to walk with us, all the more present for being so absent.

We sat down for soup and salad at Stanfords, and Sant ordered a tall drink, as if in your honor. She changed the subject again and again, only to find herself reinitiating the same. By and by the tears she had been trying to avoid welled above willpower and tipped the edges of her lower lids, glistening like a silver thaw. She excused herself from the table, so that she could return anon and claim to have cried not at all.

Hassan our friend, our gentle giant--this uncommon mix of men great and small--part Falstaff and part Steerforth, part Shrek and part St. Nick, part troubadour and part court jester--a catcher in the rye, the Samaritan who passes by on his mule, the spirit of Christmas present, dispenser of abundance, Pied Piper and St. Peter.

We shall see you again in Paradise.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Thus Sayest Al

Global warming--the scam of the century.

Once upon a time there was a prophet named Al. He spread the news far and wide--repent, for the sky is falling, the ice caps are melting, yon ozone layer growthest thin and weak.

But the people laughed, in as far as they could move their lips, for the weather was colder than ever before--in fact, record cold temperatures had been posted for the last two years, and this winter promised to be colder yet.

Ah, but when all say peace and safety, then comes the cataclysm. Beware, the prophet persisted. Repent. Come to the ark two by two, all ye two legged and four legged peoples and critters, the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth. And the polar bears. Especially the polar bears. Leave thy coats and thy hats. If they be like to die, they had best do so, and decrease the surplus population. Leave thy rubber boots and thy woolly scarves, for there shall be nothing needful save the Hawaiian shirt and the sandal.

Oh come all ye faithful.

People are not good at long term stuff. It seems so . . . well, so far distant. Who knows what might happen in the meantime. The earth may freeze, for instance, before it has a chance to yield to the disaster of warming--what with the snail's pace involved.

And what about 2012, huh? What's the point in preparing for the famine when there is no food for stockpiling? Which is to say that Al's end time will not have sufficient time to mature.

Eat, drink, and be merry?

Why not? It is, after all, the holiday season.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

I Promise

The next morning my wife asked me to help her with a couple of cuff links--small little things that were to be threaded through the eyes on her blouse cuffs and then snapped snug at the wrists.

Try as I might, I could not accomplish the task. Every possible conspirator conspired against me--my fading vision, my shaking hands, the numbness in my fingers. She may as well have asked a camel or a giraffe to do the job.

Frustrated, she dismissed me, saying that she would do it herself, as usual.

I was feeling kind of low after that, and so by and by I returned to the bedroom to see if I could try again. I found her sitting on the bed, shoulders shaking, a teardrop rolling down either cheek.

And so I knelt by the bed and hugged her. I just stayed there and hugged her.

Why do you have to be the one with MS?" she said, catching her breath, forcing back tears. Why couldn't it have been your crappy ex-wife, or one of her kids, or . . . just someone else?

Well, it's okay. It's okay. It could have been worse. It could have been cancer, it could have been heart disease. It's not so bad.

For you, she says, for you. But I don't want to be alone, I can't be, I can't stand it.

Her shoulders are shaking again, she can't catch her breath, she's holding on tight as if I will soon slip through her arms like a scarf or a cloud.

I did not know she felt this way. Somehow, I did not know.

And so I told her that I would never leave. I told her that I would live forever if need be. I promised her so, and a promise is a promise, an oath is an oath.

The rest is up to He who collects and cares for such things.

Two Cognitive Hiccoughs to Start the Holidays

Yesterday afternoon I shaved, which is something I do every three or four days (the pain heightens the general sense of being alive), and then afterwards went looking for some sort of lotion for my skin. Quite naturally the search took me to my wife's bathroom, which is the best place to find lotions of every brand and flavor. I'm not particular when it comes to this sort of thing, and so I laid hand upon the first lotion handy.

Now, my eyesight is not what it used to be and tends to pick up key words rather than comprehensive descriptions. What I saw, therefore, were the words Coach, moisturizing, and lotion.

Perfect. I poured out a large dollop and applied it to my tender cheeks.

Sensation as it seems, for one in my position anyway, is often more immediately informative than visualization--for the immediate olfactory and tactile message received was that this stuff I had just applied to my face was not right at all. This was certainly like no lotion I had ever smelled, and definitely not like anything I had ever smelled on my wife.

Well, those familiar with the brand name Coach will know straightaway that this is a purse, not a body lotion, and that this particular Coach lotion is meant for softening leather, not the soothing of faces.

For the rest of the day I smelled like a saddle bag.

It's quite chilly in Portland this week. Temperatures in the 20s, dropping in the evening to the teens. So I decided to make a fire in our wood burning stove. This would be the first fire of the winter, and therefore necessitated some work in preparation--specifically the removal of all sort of things that had piled up against the stove during warmer days, so as to avoid setting these (and the house) on fire.

This was accomplished (to the best of my knowledge at the time), the wood was cut into thin pieces of kindling, and then the larger hunks that would follow, and the fire was successfully ignited, and soon burning like a furnace.

I went about other chores, happy for the growing warmth in the house.

This is where, once again, sensation kicked in, for no matter how foggy my brain becomes, my nose remains as clear-minded as ever. In much the same way as had happened with the purse lotion mistaken for aftershave balm, this fire in the stove simply did not smell right. It didn't smell like a wood fire at all, but rather like I would imagine napalm to smell, or an uncontrolled blaze in a tire factory.

A focused investigation revealed the problem. I had not after all moved all the aforementioned things from the vicinity of the stove, but had neglected one. This was (or used to be) a large green plastic armored vehicle belonging to my son which had previously made itself obscure directly upon the iron top of the stove--not a tank now, of course, but a puddle, a spreading, oozing, sizzling little lake of piping hot slime.

It was my son himself who made the positive identification. I grabbed what was immediately available from the kitchen--a metal spatula, two or three dish towels, and as I ladled the smoking goo into the towels, Sasha danced nervously back and forth, holding a sweater to his nose, shrieking Don't breathe, don't breathe, it's TOXIC!

During the holiday season, some peoples houses smell of pine and cider, some of cinnamon and cookie dough.

Mine smells of freshly fried plastic, with just a hint of five canisters of Ocean Breeze air freshener.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Jolly Old Me

I was today, for the first time ever, a Santa Claus. I suppose the timing is right--having gone old and gray, and self-sufficiently jolly (i.e. without having to be under the influence).

Who doesn't balk at the idea of being Santa? Of course I balked, made feeble excuses, voted in favor of anyone and everyone else, insisted that they would surely make better Santas. But to no avail. Anyone and everyone had already had his turn, and so balked with equal energy, though had also the justification of duty already done to fall back on.

I was therefore escorted upstairs by several female elves and deposited into my costume--the whole nine yards, for these folks were serious about Santa Claus--the red suit, the white wig and beard, the boots and the hat. A cumbersome bag of gifts was affixed to my back and I was told to say Ho, ho, ho--and to say it not that way, but the right way. I was told I must be louder. Much, much louder.

Who is equal to Santa Claus? Who can duplicate his joy? We find ourselves called upon, summoned moreover for the express sake of the children, bundled moreover into such a merry and inescapable straitjacket, that we have at last no other choice but to simply do our best.

Ho, ho, ho, ho--Now all you children sit down and shut yer yaps--Santa has gifts for each and all.

And so on.

Wonderfully, some of these children (the smaller ones naturally) actually believed me to be St. Nick. One dashed forth to hug me (and would not let go). Another started to cry. Still another froze in place, able to move nothing, no part of her person, but for her eyes, and those in the m9st careful sort of watchfulness, as if I must at any moment either give her all her heart's desire or suddenly explode into blinding light and smoke, shooting up through the roof while I was at it.

There were many children. Countless children, perhaps. And there were many gifts. And, truth be known, I soon found myself somehow believing that I had in fact brought each gift, specially intended for each individual child--and had come a long way to boot, through the wind and cold and the driving snow.

On Dasher, on Dancer . . .

Well, it wasn't so bad. As it turned out, it wasn't so bad at all.

Just don't ask me to do it next year.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Royal Feast

Yes, Lady, here I was at last;
Here found I all I had forecast . . .
--"To An Island Princess," Robert Louis Stevenson

My wife is an Island Princess. Really. In Sulawesi Indonesia she is royalty, although this is, in our time, traditional rather than particularly applicable. Nonetheless, it does explain a few things about her character. Royalty, in other words, is in the blood, and no more extractable than the red.

A princess by any other name, no matter the locale, is a princess still, and forever. You can take a way the tiera, but not the title. You can subtract the ceremony, but the celebrant remains.

Now I wonder am I a prince as well--or will I be when I take my throne? Is the title automatically conferred upon the spouse, as is the Western custom, or do they eat their princes in that faraway land?

I shall soon find out.

One way or the other, it's all good--whether a royal figure or a royal feast, I shall end up quite consumed in the time that remains.

Here I was at last, as RLS has said. And also this:

"For nearly ten years my health had been declining; and for some while before I set forth upon this voyage, I believed I was come to the afterpiece of life, and had only the nurse and the undertaker to expect."

I know what you mean, Bob. May I call you Bob? For I feel a kinship in circumstance, a companionship in and out of time. We shall both attend and be the feast before we are full.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Ordered South

I have discovered, quite suddenly, not only the most efficacious treatment for MS, but perhaps even the cure--

Just say no.

It sounds simple, I know. Too simple? Well, it's like one of these things that's right under your nose, hiding in plain site--although given the size of my nose, and the ample darkness cast thereby, it is perhaps not so very surprising that something so close has remained so elusive.

Yes, just say no, just say fuck it--draw the line, set your boundaries--and then move to Bali. The tropics, after all, come with a well known history of being curative for pretty much any and every sort of malady (except for leprosy). We follow, therefore, in the footsteps of Robert Louis Stevenson, of Paul Gauguin, not to mention a lot of other people whose names I cannot think of.

Place is the key, not medicine. They have no medicine in Bali (that I know of anyway). They do have a witch doctor, who charges, I think, beads rather than bucks--whose office is the last palm tree on the right, and has no waiting line.

The promise is so great, and we are all so easily led away when hope and memory are both in one story, that I dare say the sick man is not very inconsolable when he receives sentence of banishment, and is inclined to regard his ill-health as not the least fortunate accident of his life. Nor is he immediately undeceived.

"Ordered South"
Robert Louis Stevenson

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Brain Buzz

One of the most unpleasant of the myriad unpleasantries associated with multiple sclerosis, for me anyway, is what I will call the brain buzz, if only for the sake of alliteration, and at the expense moreover of descriptive accuracy--for you see the phenomenon experienced is really more of a hiss than a buzz, though yet again not so much of a hiss as a hiccough tucked somewhere within the electrical pulsations at work within the gray blob otherwise known as my brain (itself more blob-like I think than most).

This, happily enough, is not a common nor an ongoing symptom, but one which arises at its own pleasure, whenever it will; and is, I believe, something that accompanies an active state of MS--a warning whisper, a rumor of war. It has become according to past experience my own diagnostic tool for identifying a relapse, just as reliable as the MRI, though much cheaper.

This buzz/hiss/pulse--this heavy breathing in my brain--comes along also with a sense of light-headedness and disorientation above the norm, and also vague nausea. Whenever this hits, I wonder first off what I can do about it, then remember that there is nothing to be done but to wait. It does finally go away on its own. So far, anyway.

I wonder if anyone else has this. It does seem that MS makes its attempt in each person to present an original character--so as to make each of us feel special, I think; and also to confuse doctors and frustrate timely diagnosis--and yet there are some common threads to be agreed upon--numbness and tingling in the extremities, for instance; fatigue; imbalance.

But how about the brain buzz in particular? Anyone out there feel me?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Many Mansions

Day by day Saaid is prepared to move out. The latest news is always that tomorrow he will be leaving--but tomorrow, in this narrowly defined, special sort of case, never arrives. It simply persists in being on its way.

At first Saiid was afraid of the dogs. Or anyway this was the official story. However, as the dogs fell into the habit of ignoring him, it became convenient to transition to another reason for discontent. His room, now, was too small, providing not enough room to pray.

So what's he saying? That God, the all powerful Creator and sustainer of the universe, He who knows no bounds nor limits, yet cannot find a way to fit into Saaid's bedroom?

But my wife shuts me up. She shooshes me. Through negotiation, and in the interest of reasonable accommodation, for both Allah and Saaid, it is decided that we should dismantle the desk and remove it from the bedroom. There is nothing in these arrangements, moreover, that presumes nor suggests in any way any need for Saaid to lift a finger.

But hold on . . . I thought he was moving tomorrow. Didn't he say he was moving tomorrow? And if he is moving tomorrow, why are we bothering with this desk tonight?

But of course the point is moot. The desk is dismantled, the desk is moved. Now there is a little more room for God in the corner, just as long as He doesn't gain weight or shift around too much.

Now it is only fair to say, in Saaid's defense, that at home he has 17 brothers (and I don't know how many sisters--they don't count 'em), and a house with 17 bedrooms, each bedroom being, as I assume anyway, large enough to accommodate both its human occupant and God Almighty, no doubt with room to spare. We are therefore humbled in the face of such circumstances, this kingdom with many mansions indeed.

How's that, we ask, better?

We are told that it is in fact No problem.

The next morning--the morning after the dismantling and removing of the desk--Saaid tells Hassan (our other student) that he feels he needs a change of scenery. He feels bored and depressed. For this reason he will book a room at the Marriott for the weekend. He wishes to be with his friends. He wishes to meet some girls. He wishes to go to some night clubs.

Although Hassan explains to Saaid that since he is only 18, he will not be allowed to visit the night clubs, Saaid is unconvinced. This is, as he says, no problem.

This soon becomes Hassan's favorite expression. No problem. No problem. He teaches us to utter the words with an Arabian accent.

And so it goes. Saaid has retained his suite at the Marriott for the weekend. He may return, he may not return. For all we know, the Marriott may also prove disappointing, who knows.

In any case, as far as we are concerned, it is No problem.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

New Student

Today we have a new exchange student, Saaid from United Arab Emirates. Saaid, as becomes instantly obvious, is terrified of dogs. I wonder if the agency told him we have two? Hassan is trying to reassure him, but so far to no avail.

Hassan is the only Arab we have hosted thus far (among four now) who is not afraid of dogs. In fact, he seems to like them. He seems even to like Coco, the Chihuahua, who makes himself generally pretty unlikable to all races, sexes, and cultures. But Hassan is different. He is, as he says, an "American Saudi." Which is getting to be about the same thing as a breath of fresh air.

Roy, the Japanese student, having eaten all the available food stores in the house, left some weeks ago for bigger, better refrigerators. And Abdul went back to Saudi Arabia.

Mamdouh, as elusive as ever, may or may not still be in the US. May or may not still be maintaining his vampiric hours and habits. We simply don't know. And although he does continue to receive mail at our house in the form of overdraft statements from the bank. These continue, as ever, to be of no concern to him.

Next time around I wouldn't mind having a student from southern Alabama or Mississippi--still foreign countries, but English speaking to some extent and sharing a culture with our own--including a love of football and of pork in any form.

I also wouldn't mind a female for a change, for members of that particular sex tend by and large to be familiar with such habits as the washing of dishes, clearing off the table, cleaning of bathroom counters, and such like.

They are also inclined to like dogs, thanks to an innate maternal proclivity.

Also they are easier on the eye. By and large, I mean.

Friday, November 13, 2009

My Newly Discovered Potentially Healthy Diet

Another thing I decided after my MS diagnosis was that I should pay more attention to my diet. I should become conscious of what I eat. This is not to say that I have changed the diet itself, but only that I take more definite note of the things that go into my mouth and down my gullet. It has actually heightened the pleasure to be had in partaking.

We should all be more conscious of the simple things. After all, you don't eat when you're in the grave, but rather are eaten--which are two totally different things. In addition, one does not have the opportunity to be conscious of the latter (or hopefully so, anyway).

Whereas a hunk of ice cream covered with chocolate syrup seemed once nothing more than an indistinct blob, a matter of little purport on its own, the same has now become a miniature universe of untold wonders, such that I spend more time admiring the thing on its way to my mouth than I do with actually clamping down my jaws and imbibing. For this reason, I have begun to lose weight--what with the time spent on scrutinizing rather than swallowing--but that is all in all a good thing, as I could stand to lose a few 10 or 15 pounds.

When was the last time you truly watched as a butter horn, skewered just so upon your fork, arose from its plate to make its journey to your tongue--this elegant dance of cause and effect, intention and target, beginning and end (for the butter horn, that is).

Have you ever just stopped to purely observe what a pork chop will do when left to its own devices?

Food for its own sake--the very foundation of diet. To begin at the beginning is my maxim nowadays. Be the buttermilk cruller, be the buffalo wing. All the rest (by which I mean the dietary particulars as they pertain to good health) will fall into place by and by.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

My Newly Discovered Active Lifestyle

The first thing I decided to do after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis was to climb a mountain. Why? I don't know. I guess because it was there, and it just seemed like the natural response to being essentially crippled.

Curiously, as I flipped through the pages of various MS magazines, I found that almost everyone else having MS had already decided to do the same thing, and moreover had for the most part already done it. (I know this because there were pictures).

I determined therefore to not only climb a mountain, but to do so in the dead of winter, preferably in the midst of a blizzard. A blizzard of unprecedented proportions. And a hurricane on top of that, if at all possible.

Just now I'm still waiting for the proper weather conditions, and in the meantime collecting the needful supplies in anticipation of the day. Ropes, for instance, grappling hooks, a decent pair of boots, a stocking cap and ear muffs, mittens (naturally), a loaf of bread for a crumb trail, and of course my various medications, as well as candy bars and cigarettes. I figure the Copaxone will stay cold enough in the expected climate (which is good, because I certainly do not intend on lugging a refrigerator up the side of a mountain--not in my condition).

In preparation for the big day--by way of toning up, I mean--I have begun to look into the idea of marathon running, as I see (also from the magazines) that this form of endurance exercise, though seemingly quite out of the question, is actually quite common among MS sufferers--preferred, though only slightly so, above hang gliding and minor league baseball.

Who knew that a disease would turn me into a sporting fanatic? God works in strange ways indeed.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Best Parts

"It would be nice to talk to the Bud we knew growing up, not the Richard guy whose wife and disease have taken the best parts of him."

So said my younger stepdaughter from my second marriage within the course of an e-mail exchange-- this among other gems of a like nature.

By wife she means my third wife, the woman I am married to now. By disease she means MS.

I hardly know what to make of this--only that it has rankled ever since. What is meant in saying that my disease has taken the best parts of me? And what would the solution be? To suddenly, by choice, simply not have the disease anymore?

But of course, to ruminate along these lines is to add complexity to something that is really quite simple. We have all been here before. What we hope to convey by way of explanation, by way of education, is seen as mere excuse. The struggle we maintain day by day to function despite the comprising process we have to live with is seen by others as a cowardly sort of convenience, a sham, a ruse, essentially a lie. It is a lie employed to gain leverage by way of sympathy so that we do not have to face the real truth.

We have learned this nearly from the start--we have learned it as one of the very first things--People do not want to hear about it. It seems to make an unfair demand upon their stores of compassion. It is something that would require a sort carefulness and charity beyond the scope of their own convenience.

Again and again I have learned the hard way to just not mention MS at all. It tries the patience of healthy people beyond all endurance. Are the effects that this disease has had upon our abilities, upon our emotions, upon our energy, upon our minds, upon our capacity to bear stress mere inventions? No, of course not. Do these people have any idea how maddening it is for them to suggest that we choose to live this way, that we enjoy these limitations? No, of course they don't. Nor do they want to.

We are painfully aware of our weaknesses, of our deficits, and so we attempt to explain in the interest of what is factual in order that continuing relationship may take account of the situation as it is and proceed accordingly.

But my friends, it is a waste of breath, ending only in an extravagant expenditure of energy that is in short supply to begin with.

Perhaps it is best after all to simply agree--Yes, you're right, my disease and my wife have taken the best parts of me. So sad.

And then change the subject.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Glad To Meet You . . . Again

Last night I had a dream. A variation on a theme. I had just gotten up in the morning (in the dream, that is), had walked down the hall toward the kitchen, and was startled at the sight of my brother coming down the stairs from the top floor. My brother, you see is dead. Has been since 1982. And yet he persists. In my dreams he is never dead, and in fact seems never to have so much as heard of death.

But anyway I was startled, shaken.

What the hell? I said. What are you doing here?

He seems always to have patience with me.

I've been here all along, he says.

This makes me feel oddly sheepish. I feel confused, vaguely uneasy. I keep waiting for him to share, or at least to acknowledge by bewilderment.

But he does not. And never will.

Gone Fishing

Through meadow tracks
beside the stream
which winds
from where the forest burned
my father's boot soles
yet persist
as common as the silty springs
and confident
they lead the way
to all the places
trout have been
It is as if he left his print
upon my heart
to serve as sight

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Stuck In Old Lodi Again

If I could somehow predict the arrival of these intermittent days of heightened confusion, I would just stay home and do something less demanding--wash the dishes, or do the laundry, or vacuum the rug. Or sleep.

But their arrival is quite unpredictable, and moreover you don't even know your having one until you find yourself right in the middle of it. Suddenly you hear that familiar music. No point in adjusting your TV set--for you have entered the Twilight Zone.

It was my day off work, and my wife had given me a simple list of things to do, the accomplishment of which should have taken perhaps an hour, certainly less than two.

But folks, it took me the entire day, such that I finished the last chore no sooner than ten minutes before she came home from her own full day of work.

Much of this time was spent driving back and forth between my house and one location or another in order to retrieve whatever I had forgotten--the same item being crucial for the specific task at hand. This means arriving at the bank to buy money orders without remembering to bring the money. It means arriving at the postbox without the letters to be posted. It means taking three trips to the store in order to buy three items--0ne item at a time.

What have you been doing all day? she asks. I have heard this question so many times that they are far beyond counting at this point. She imagines perhaps that I have been sleeping, or maybe just sitting, or maybe watching TV. It seems quite clear to her that I cannot account for six or seven hours of my time.

And the truth is, I can't. Not in any reasonable way, not in a form of accounting that would seem even remotely believable.

So maybe I've been having an affair. Affairs take time, right? And they're much more fun than driving back and forth, over and over, within a radius of three square miles or so.

It is an answer that would fill in the blanks, that would seem to make sense, that would seem more satisfactory even to me. It's not the truth, and yet seems kinder somehow to the reasonable parameters of credulity.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Dim Sum Driver

Every time Albert has stayed with us, and then leaves, my car ends up smelling like a mixture of reheated Chinese food and cigarette smoke, all mixed together like the end result of some sort of conflagration at a dim sum restaurant. Of course this may be partly because of actual bits of food that have hidden under the seats or in the glove compartment. To go out and sit in the driver's seat for the first time after a week's absence comes with a curious sort of mental and olfactory mnemonic, bringing to life some past experience of being barely conscious, in a drunken haze, slumped in a booth seat at Hung Far Low, prostitutes taking a break nearby, cooks playing poker with a greasy deck of cards, feeling almost yet never quite sick enough to puke.

Ya know?

But I don't mean to complain, just to describe. Albert is tops in my book, a prince among men. Everyone leaves their mark in one way or another. His simply has a Chinese flavor.

Besides that, Smokey absolutely loves Albert--so much so that he longs also to be a truck driver, or at least a faithful copilot. I have no doubt that this particular dog would be faithless to his master in the wink of an eye, preferring the open road and far foreign fields to the same old yard and the same old squirrels and the same old annoying Chihuahua companion.

I don't begrudge him this affection, and in fact admit that he and Albert make a perfect pair. Sometimes we just end up with the wrong partner, victims of an unfair, inequitable turn of fate. It's life, and as such there is nothing to be done but to make the best of ones lot.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Where have they gone--
so many,
so beloved--
gone to keep council
with the lonelier planets--
and all their secrets
kept henceforth silent--
I will not hear so much as a whisper
My heart is the loneliest
planet of all,
colder yet for my distant sun,
for flicker sharp
yet never warm--
a word devoid of once said love

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Rest In Peace

So okay, I went back on the Copaxone. My wife made me. I suppose it's a good thing overall. For all I know, I had a relapse in the last couple months, what with all these various illnesses I've gone through, one after another--the kidney stones, the screwed up back, the weird abdominal pain, followed by the even weirder stinging skin. So much crap going on is bound to shake up the MS and have it bite back one way or another.

As it happened, my wife was paying the bills a few days back, and in doing so, it occurred to her that we were still paying for the Copaxone, even though I had quit the shots some weeks ago. She objected to this, predictably enough.

Well, I explained, I had already called the home infusion pharmacy with the question. What they said was that I needed to look at it this way: Say you bought a bottle of Tylenol, but you did not take all the pills in the bottle. You would still have to pay for the whole bottle, right?

The example did not impress my wife.

"That's BS," she said.

In any case, it was therefore concluded that if we were going to pay for the damn shots, I had better be taking the damn shots.

My wife is thrifty, you see, and cannot abide by waste of any kind. Money don't grow on trees, be those trees here or in Indonesia or anywhere else.

The familiar maxim is reasonable enough, of course. My own father used to say the very same thing. It does occur to me, however, that this is something, as are most things, that could be taken to a deadly extreme. It is for this reason that I will refuse as long as I live to purchase anything in advance toward application at the time of my death--a coffin, for instance, or a burial plot--for it might be decided that such investment of otherwise usable funds ought to be put to more immediate use.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

How About This?

How does this sound to you:

Retire at 55, give your dogs to a friend, hold an everything must go furniture sale, sell your cars back to the dealer, give your house back to the bank, and move to Bali.

Absolutely crazy, or just crazy enough?

How about turning in your cripple card, giving your MS back to the docs and the charts and the MRI machines? And moving to one of the hottest climates in the world.

How about living happily ever after on an island where every US dollar miraculously turns into 10?

Tune in, turn on, drop out.

How about seeing a witch doctor for your next relapse? Surrounded by Muslims. A speck of dandruff on the back of one lonely infidel pig.

How about having nothing in particular to do other than kick back on a chaise lounge by a table under an umbrella, scotch and water on ice, a good book to read, an afternoon dip in the aqua sea.

How will I speak without knowing the language? How will I understand what I hear?

Is this crazy? Or is it just me?

Moving Mountains

My wife is able to move mountains.

Mountain moving itself is more a matter of will than of any sort of miraculous gift, save that the gift be a miraculously resolute will. Though she stands in height at but 5 feet even, and towers therefore over only the smaller things in the world, which are used to being towered over anyway, she nonetheless casts the shadow of a Goliath, stretching from tiny toe to far horizon as if the sunlight were ever inclined to slant in her favor.

Part of the trick with displacing large mountains from from one locale to another is in not worrying about the mess that may result in the process, for there is, after all, bound to be a big hole in the one spot from which the mountain has been lifted, and then an over abundant pile of rubble where the thing is set down again.

But, you see, the main point in moving a mountain is for the mountain to be moved. One must let nature itself take care of at least some of the ensuing tremors and landslides and other earth altering manifestations. The point is to get the main thing done. Much of the rest has its own way of falling into place. Soon enough the land will give back to itself, and become just as permanent as it had seemed before--changed, different now, but permanent still (until the next 5 foot Goliath comes along).

You sweep up the edges, put some plaster in the cracks, plant some roses, add water, and the rest is already there. Before long, you don't even remember the beginning. This is simply where you live.

Monday, October 19, 2009

What's the Difference, Really?

A close look at the differences between one person and another is apt to show that we have much more in common than we might have thought. I find it to be so again and again in life, and for a multitude of peoples and beliefs. Black and white, man and woman, rich and poor, old and young.

And also for the Arab and the American. What we do not know could fill a book with a thousand blank pages, while what we learn through individual acquaintance, within the dispassionate milieu of day to day life, begins to fill in the blanks with an ink that cannot come from conflict but only from mutual experience, a shared quality of perception that dwells naturally in the soul.

Each of us alike knows the world, knows what it means to live, and so we are known to one another on the level of essence alone, that medium by which we have been made to exist--skin, breath, mind, heart, veins and toes and fingers and souls.

I talk to Hassan about Islam, and find that we are talking about Christianity as well, and Judaism; of Catholics and Shiites, the Sunni and the Protestant; of schisms and wars; of those who are religious, and those who just believe. We speak of Abraham and Lot, of Isaac and Ishmael, of Jacob and Esau and Noah and Jesus, and find that we are not talking about an isolated tradition but a comprehensive history--that which includes all, from Adam and Eve to me and Hassan.

We are not the products of division, but the children of the pristine unity by which life itself has always depended, no matter how far flung and confused by time. Here we are, a world apart, and yet quite the same after all.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Killed Instantly

He/She was killed instantly.

One often finds this phrase used, in newspaper articles, television news, or in simple conversation--a phrase that is punctuated somehow with a sense of deeper implication. It has a certain ring, something that demands a bit more air. Killed instantly.

Why is this significant? Did the deceased have insufficient time to enjoy his demise? Or perhaps it is the survivors who have been short changed by brevity--no time to weep or bring flowers, no time to devote to the passage, and then deposit for later use in fable, in autobiography--all the stuff that constitutes self image.

I should have thought that being killed instantly would be pretty easily preferable to being killed slowly and painfully, with plenty of time to appreciate the process.

Then again, perhaps deep down--I mean really deep down--the truly regretable thing about the instantaneous nature of this sort of departure is that it robs the stricken of one last chance for self-examination, of viewing life for once with an objective eye even as the light of the eye dims, to think of things unthought since the silence of the womb--life, spirit, soul, God.

I find at least the latter possibility appropriately touching.

Rituximab, most often associated with the (generally unsuccessful) treatment of cancer is now being talked about more and more in connection with the treatment of MS (as well as a handful of other innocent diseases). It is, they say, exciting news. The good news about this particular drug is that it is not very likely to kill instantly (although it is certainly possible). The thing about chemotherapy (i.e. the use of toxic chemicals on the vital systems that sustain human life) is that it's a process, as is made apparent in the therapy part of chemotherapy.

These things take time.

I read this in an online description of Rituximab, which may or may not be pertinent:


Hm. Kind of gives a guy pause to think.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

My Skin Hurts

I finally figured things out yesterday. Yes, a word of wisdom came to me from on high, like a dead bird falling on my head, waking me from the slumber of self-diagnosis, snatching me from the labyrinthine avenues or organ systems, the circulatory maze of physiology.

What is MS and what is not?

And the survey says . . .

If the thing is weird, if it defies reason, if it will not choose an organ or a bone or any other malady known to man, then it is definitely MS.

I had been suffering a sharp pain that seemed to be deep, and quite focal, just under the left side of my ribcage. Yet, before I could really begin to properly enjoy this, it began to bounce like an echo back and forth between abdomen and back--hello, hello, hello, and so on.

Hm, that's kind of like a kidney stone, I think.

Ah, but the thing will not be pinned to any such determination. As if fearing discovery and capture, it flees yet again, leaping dolphin-like from the deep to the surface, exploding there and spreading, from sternum to backbone, from hip joint to nipple. Now it is not a fish, but a fog. It is nowhere in particular, it is everywhere in general.

And it hurts when I touch my skin. It hurts even when my shirt touches my skin. Which, of course, is always.

Stupid? Yes, of course it's stupid. It's MS!

Now MS, as most of my particular fellows will agree, does not like to be lonely, and must therefore bring along a companion. In this case, my case, this time around, it has brought along fatigue. Profound fatigue. You know what I mean. The kind that makes you feel like a puppet without a hand. I continue to work my eight hours, and yet they seem like eight days. I plod along at my desk practically forever, and yet only ten minutes have passed. Something strange has happened to time. It has been stretched like taffy, long enough to circle the house several times. I sit for a moment on the futon with the chihuahua and wake up a half hour later wondering what happened.

This is MS, no more questions, no more mystery. It is the illness without a medicine, the organ without a name, the secret bodily system that has no palpable presence and yet is completely and comprehensively there.

Shall I call the doctor? And then what shall I say? My skin hurts? And it's exhausting me?

Shall I take a pill? What pill? Arsenic? Cyanide?

Well . . .

The good thing, as always, is that this is hilarious. And laughter is the one thing that does not make it hurt. It is, in fact, the only medicine so far known to soothe.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


I guess maybe there comes a point in time where one has to acknowledge that he is fucked up in a general, irredeemable, intractable sort of way and just leave it at that.

In astronomical terms we may compare this particular sort of event horizon in life to that point at which matter--the earth, for instance--falls into a black hole, from whence nothing, not even light can escape. It makes no difference what effort is expended, no difference what means are used, nor by what thrust or twist escape is attempted, there is simply no way out, for the sheer gravity of the hole is nonnegotiable, supreme above all.

Most of us as we grow older yet persist in the strange notion that everything still is just as it has always been. I am still myself, for instance, just as I am and have always been, despite what the latest photograph depicts. How curious that I should appear otherwise. Perhaps the next picture will better capture the true essence. More probably, we simply pose for photos less often, knowing that the resultant image will be yet another unsettling lie, an unkind warping of light and feature. Obviously your camera lens needs to be cleaned, because that, my friend, is not me.

We are used to the idea that maladies are merely temporary things, exacting a period of discomfort, but then passing on their way. We recuperate, maybe go to the doctor, get this or that fixed, take this or that pill, and then live again, like a boxer down for three or four counts, then on his feet again.

But what I'm talking about now is the pain that comes and stays, the broken thing that stays that way, This is the black hole that swallows light, the prognosis in place of the cure.

I remember when my father was suffering with cancer. It was a cancer that started in the gallbladder and spread out from there, like spilled ink, oozing and saturating all, to bladder, to stomach, to intestine. He had in his lifetime suffered as many troubles as most--nor more or less afflicted than the next guy--the flu, a bout of pneumonia, a problem with his spine, a stomach ulcer, a fall from a ladder. I believe that he thought this was no different. One must simply take the necessary steps toward cure and recovery. He would see the doctor, he would undergo a surgery--and if that didn't work, he would see another. And all the while--and a short while it was--we observed the obvious process of death, parading through his body, his face, his eyes, with all of its black flags flying.

How could he not know, I wondered? How could he possibly imagine that one more visit to the clinic would turn the tide?

This is the terrible gravity of finality that beckons from the maw of the black hole in time. This it it, the last word, the last dot. This is the sentence that has come to its end.

And we cannot bear to look.

I am no different than my father, and we are no different than any other man, old or young. The time is never now, and the cause is never lost. We go on. There may come a day, but the day is not now. It will never at the present moment be now, but will ever remain beyond the border of the lens, outside the edge of the print, not yet part of the picture.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

See me now
all declawed
sharp teeth filed smooth
as ivory keys
A lion among kittens
now become
You’d like me best
this way
with marrow sucked
from every bone
and all the blood
and gristle drained
You might have waited
after all
for sickness
to slay the prey
Or might have known
that passion lives
but briefly and for torment’s sake
yet must have tired
and finally set
fierce one last time
where sky meets plain—
Or was there one last chance
to quench
the madness that had captured me
A final leap
from hopeless den
to force and part
your bitter lips
and bare the claw
that wounded hope
one final time to ravish fear
And drag you
warm and moist and limp
beyond all jealous sympathy
back to passion's final clutch
and breathless cry
of victory

Saturday, October 10, 2009

What Is and Is Not

What is MS and what is not? I know, I've asked the question 100 times already, and I presume that I'll ask it 100 more.

Take my recent back troubles, for instance, and the consequent difficulties with walking--caused by a compromised nerve complex, or a thing that is just simply itself, a bad back, a sudden movement positioning a particular disk such that it happens to sit on top of a nerve when I rise? Which was the actual cause?

Consider moreover the totally unreasonable amount of pain I have suffered since. Has the severity of the pain been exaggerated by MS as the already rickety central nervous system seeks to address the problem, or did I just really mess up my back this time around, without any contribution from MS whatsoever?

Why is this keeping me down twice as long as it had ever done before? Is it because the central nervous system has become less able, or is it because I am 10 years older?

And now there comes this strange pain in my abdomen. It is in the right upper quadrant and it is quite localized to one spot, as if a knife had been stuck up under my ribs. It is constant, and it wakes me at night (and yet it is bearable, unlike the pain that accompanies the passage of a kidney stone). I wake to find the pain bouncing rhythmically between my abdomen and my back, as if the devil was playing a game of ping pong with one of his demons.

What can this be?

Looking at my copy of Grey's anatomy, I find a big purple organ called the liver crouching lump-like in this very spot. So is this a liver problem? Then again, I am aware that right upper quadrant pain is often associated with gallbladder disease. So maybe that's it. Then again, maybe this is referred pain from the preexisting back injury.

Or . . . well, maybe it's MS.

How to sort the thing out? How to find the culprit's secret cove?

As I have generally done in the past, I decide once again that it may be more accurate to envision MS not as the causation for most problems and pains, but as an underlying predisposition toward trouble, the fatal crack in the foundation that has weakened every element of the dependent structure. It is, perhaps, that which potentially compromises every other function.

And it is MS which in the end makes its mark of finalization on the death certificate. Whatever the fatal process was, we find almost without fail that MS had its finger in the pie.

Complicated by, is the phrase. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, complicated by multiple sclerosis. Myocardial infarction, congestive heart failure, pneumonia, endstage kidney disease, cirrhosis of the liver, and so on and so forth, name your favorite, but don't forget to add that final punch line--complicated by multiple sclerosis.

If multiple sclerosis is found to complicate even death, is it not perfectly reasonable to presume that it has complicated everything else leading up to death?

Friday, October 9, 2009

Life Insurance, No Platonics Allowed

Surprisingly enough, I was actually surprised when my wife told me that the company to which she applied--for which, in fact, she works part time--would not cover me for life insurance. Yes, because of my preexisting condition, multiple sclerosis.

Why was I surprised? I mean, everyone has heard of this kind of thing before, right? And yet it had somehow remained a rumor, the sort of conspiracy theory that circulates through society in a casual sort of way, the bit of gossip that cannot really be true.

After all, it is those who have a health problem who need insurance most, is it not? It just seems like a no brainer. The very purpose of the thing should have chosen its own most likely clientele. Surely it is not set up so that the person who is perfectly healthy is the same who may get lucky by dying, and therefore collecting for the benefit of his family. What, after all, does the deceased collect other than his own investment, and the investments of others having the same interest? Or did the insurance company put up its own money from the outset? No, of course not.

Here, as it seems, is the perfect example of a society completely untethered from the notion of community. It is a practice of greed, gainful for the few--a premeditated insult to the rationale behind its own existence--the notion of man's responsibility to man, the moral acknowledgement of interdependence.

Plato, in The Republic, imagined a society in which each member was called in his own natural way toward the ultimate logic of coherence and mutual benefit, so that the society itself would thrive, becoming intention in action.

As it happened, Plato never visited America. Can you tell?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Brand New Disease (Come as You Are)

I think I am suffering from RWB. The disease is so new that they haven't named it yet. other than to apply a few random initials (signifying nothing in particular at this point). In fact, so new is my disease that it has yet to develop any identifying symptoms. But they're out there somewhere, believe you me.

Is the disease fatal? Dunno. Is there a cure? Dunno. Will I be able to continue living a full and happy life, to climb mountains, to sky dive, to have grandchildren while I'm apparently yet too young to make it realistically possible? Most likely. Although frankly that doesn't do much for me in the way of consolation.

Yes, I am inconsolable--and I don't know if that is a symptom (the first) of the ailment, or merely a reaction to the same. Where does the illness end and what is merely ill temper begin?

Although it may seem a bit hasty of me, given the lack of knowledge concerning RWB (both general knowledge and any other sort of knowledge there might be), I have determined to start a foundation in my own name, being after all both the first to suffer and the first to speak out. In doing so, I hope not only to collect funds for research and treatment (and other peripheral expenditures, see small print below), but to encourage others, those who silently endure, to come forth, to own their disorder, and to buy a tee-shirt or a hat or both.

How does it feel to be stricken by an unknown source, to struggle with an unnamed bodily system gone bad--to endure, at least in potential, every unspecified pain known to man? To suffer, perchance to die, from God knows what?

Well it don't feel good, I can tell you that much.

MS used to be enough for me, but no more, no more. It is, for one thing, at least one letter short, and we all know that tragedy comes in 3's. Why stop at MS? Does anyone honestly imagine that he will get off that easy? No, the very notion is a delusion. But batten down the hatches, folks, make fast the gates, gird thy loins, for there is much, much more to come (although, on a happy note, this proves eventually no more than is required).

RWB is the cutting edge, bound to be as rampant in our century as consumption was in Frederick Chopin's time. And I'm getting on the wagon now, while there's still room to breathe,

Oh Brave new world. Oh brand new disease. Get yours while supplies last.

the small print: all funds gathered, collected, stolen, or otherwise extorted under the auspices of the RWB foundation for the cure of Christ knows what will be wholly subject to the whim of the founder and utilized in whatever way is seen to be fit by the same, who will remain, in addition, perfectly irresponsible and unimpeachable)

Is It, Or Is It Not?

How does one know whether a problem he is currently experiencing is MS or not MS? Moreover, how does he know whether MS has combined with the problem with the result of making the problem worse, or indeed whether the present problem is making the MS worse?

Shall we see multiple sclerosis as something which consistently invades and infects all other parts and processes of the body--and of the mind too, for that matter--or does it sometimes stand aloof, disinterested in, say, the broken bone, the torn muscle, or what have you?

As recently mentioned here, I happened to hurt my back the other day. All it took was rising suddenly from a chair. The same thing has happened 2 or 3 times in the past, and so I wasn't surprised to find myself groaning with pain on the dining room floor. I remember this happening somewhere in my 20s, and then again at about the age of 40. It's not pleasant, but it goes away in due time.

Nonetheless, I find myself wondering this time around, The pain seems more persistent, more severe, and has begun to radiate to my ribcage and my upper thighs. Was it like this before? Well, had I been blogging back then, I guess I'd know. But on the other hand, I guess there was no such thing as blogging back then.

In short, I begin to connect all things to MS. Was it MS, for instance, that had caused me to fall in the first place? The truth is, it happened so fast that I cannot now remember the mechanics of the thing. Did I fall first, and then feel pain; or did I feel pain first, then fall?

This is why we should all have camera crews to follow us around, kind of like Bear Grylis, only not so entertaining. Actually more like America's Funniest Videos.

Come to think, along those lines, it would likely be beneficial for each of us to have his own MRI scanner. That way we could take a look for any events that may have happened in the brain or spinal cord and therefore be able to say with some certainty whether MS had something to do with our latest mishap or not. Not that we could do anything about it one way or the other--but still, it would cut some corners, and some costs, and would be certainly more convenient than lining up at the hospital. Right? And when not in use, the thing could be easily enough disguised as a couch or a sparring bag.

Just a thought.

But for now I am left to merely wonder whether this problem with my back is the same old slipped disk that I've suffered in the past, or whether I'm feeling the effect of raw nerves newly stripped of their myelin sheath.

Time will tell. And that, in itself, is about the only sure thing there is with MS.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Radar Scam Continued

The photo radar saga continues. More lives than a black cat.

Having sent my "excuse" for why I had not paid the ticket I had never received, this was promptly returned along with a note saying that I would need to have the document notarized. The judge could not possibly look it it without a notarization.

I therefore visited the bank yesterday morning and presented my excuse to a notary for his signature. As it turns out, I'm glad this was required, as I learned from the notary that he had seen this sort of thing many times, and that, in his opinion, it is a scam.

Ah, sympathy at last! Commiseration! Validation!

Yes, a legal scam.

Write to your congressman, he said.

And so I did. And to the State Attorney General as well.

They've pushed me too far. This is war!


In other news, it is found that if an asteroid, a meteor, or a comet were found to be in a collision course with the earth at this general point in time, there would be no way to divert total destruction. It is found also that space objects such as these would be inclined to simply absorb the impact of a nuclear weapon and continue on their way unimpressed. So back to the drawing board on that one. Maybe if we notarized the rocket first?

Another Fatal MS Cure

Yet another miracle MS drug is upon us. Don't blink now.

This one is called FTY720 (although they will surely come up with something more catchy before the drug hits the market). It is said that this drug in the experimental stages is reducing MS relapses with an efficacy significantly far beyond the present showings of the old favorites--the interferons and Copaxone.

It is also said, and in the usual spirit of passing mention, that FTY720 has been associated with potentially fatal infections, skin cancer, and (yes, last but not least) a case of haemorrhaging focal encephalitis, which I guess is something like a sudden explosion of the brain and head.

Novartis, the company responsible for the drug (and yes that may be a double entendre), hopes to press for the drug's availability within the shortest time possible.

Well, a few will have to fall for the benefit the many, right? Just so I'm not one of the few.

It's sort of like the My Lai massacre. Anyone remember that? We had to destroy the village to save it. Something along those lines.

Look at it this way--It probably won't happen to you; and even if it does, you probably won't have time to appreciate it.

Monday, October 5, 2009

What a Friend I Have in MS

All ye MS sufferers, please don't fail to appreciate the honorable character of your disease, for there are some diseases, some misfortunes that seem downright stupid in comparison.

Take E. coli poisoning, for instance. I happened to read this morning in the New York Times about a young woman who had been paralyzed by a hamburger. Seriously, it is so. The hamburger she ate one carefree sunny summer's day was tainted by E. coli, which not only made her sick as a dog, but paralyzed her for the rest of her life.

Just imagine trying to convey that to the person who asks after your sad condition. Was it a car wreck? A fall from a cliff? A cancer, a neurological disorder?

No, it was a hamburger.

Not only is it a stupid sounding illness, an embarrassing sounding condition, but it also could have been avoided.

If only I had not eaten that hamburger on that carefree sunny summer's day.

Such a result--paralysis--seems wildly unfair, ridiculously harsh. How much better, how immeasurably more honorable to say that you were struck down by an autoimmune disorder, and to point to the culprit, multiple sclerosis, as if it were a well known fire breathing dragon.

Ours is a disease with a clean reputation. It starts on the inside and needs not first to be consumed. It does not crawl or wiggle or worm. It is mysterious, elusive, ever partially unknown, like the Lone Ranger or the Phantom of the Opera. It can stand with the best of them, and hold its head high. And by it the sufferer is faultless, a victim in the purest sense.

Therefore, honor your disease, and be proud, for the testimony of innocence testifies in our favor.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Space Cadet

Totally spaced out today--a condition which for me is a deviation from baseline spaciness. It's something that just jumps you, like a sudden dog, or a mugger. It is just there, and you find yourself realizing it rather than experiencing its arrival. It is rather like reaching for your wallet only to find you have left it behind.

This morning I left my brain behind and did not know it--which is actually not surprising, for if one leaves his brain behind, then he does not presently have a brain to know with.

There is a sort of process to brainlessness that has a character of its own--something like the laws that govern dark space and black holes. The first I knew of the absence of my brain was when I called the bank on my cell phone. My paycheck should have been deposited last night, and yet I find only $300 in my account. What the hell? What now? Have my wages been garnished by a photo radar machine? Has there been a mix up in the automatic deposit? Did my wife take my card whilst I slept?

So I set about figuring out what I'm going to do. And I instantly realize that figuring is presently unavailable. The function has been left back at home with the rest of my brain. I head for Starbucks instead. Usually I can substitute caffeine for the unavailable portions of cognition, or at least to some degree. It's better than nothing.

Next, however, after five or ten minutes, I realize that I have taken a road to Starbucks that is quite entirely the wrong road. Why? Where am I headed? The bank? I don't know.

This throws a switch, like the ones used on railroad tracks, conveying the train left or right. Clattering along the wrong road, I suddenly realize that the bank did not show the deposit of my paycheck because I had called the wrong bank.

Ultimately I end up at Hollywood Video instead of Starbucks. Obviously I have stopped here to return a movie, though a quick search of my person and my car reveals that I have no movie to return.

I start to think about the last movie I saw, and yet discover that I know nothing whatsoever about it, not even the name.

The last movie I watched was last night, about 8 or 9 hours ago.

Caffeine, they say, is good for quite a number of ailments. It is good for heart disease, and for headaches. It has even been found to be good for MS. So here I am at Starbucks, sucking the life from my cappuccino. See now much better I'm thinking now?

Friday, October 2, 2009

Broken Back and Other Trauma, Thanks to Satan, the God of this World

My life of late is a chronology of troubles. First off you have the baseline MS, which causes its own troubles every day. Then I get the kidney stone, then the kidney stone surgery. Then I receive a $250 traffic ticket which I never actually received. The next day I find that my driver's license has been suspended. In the meantime Capital One is suing me for a debt I had not known existed. And now, yesterday, I somehow totally screw up my back just by rising from a chair.

Yes, I was sitting at the dining room table, working on a letter to the circuit court (yet another letter, I mean), and the CD in the stereo, some 6 feet away, was skipping and crackling through Edvard Grieg's piano concerto (for the disk apparently had a scratch). Rising quickly to put a stop to this insult to a great work of musical artistry, I went down just as quickly, like the proverbial sack of potatoes (which I actually physically resemble, if you want to know the truth).

Upon rising, my back just stopped. It simply quit on me. As did my legs. So I'm worming across the floor, propelling myself with my feet, saying "Ow, ow, ow, ow, shit, ow," working my way toward my cane, which is about 500 miles away on the stairway banister. Both of the dogs, comfortable on the sofa, are staring at me. I have disturbed their sleep. My son is upstairs, inextricably tied to his X-Box. He pays even less attention to my trauma than the dogs.

Today I must somehow get my son's SSI money to him. I make it as far as the Wamu and then halfway back to my car when I go down again. Crawling to a sitting position against the wall, I light up a cigarette, just like everyone else, and I call my first ex-wife for help. Then I call my son.

He tells me that the devil is very active these days. He is attacking people right and left, leaving them with wounds and diseases and every kind of trouble in between. He tells me that he passed out the other day in a heavily wooded area in his neighborhood. He does not know how long he laid there. He just remembers somebody finding him--a transient, a derelict, a hobo--you know, one of those sorts of outcasts from decent society. The man helped him, fed him something, saw him back home.

My son, you see, has type 1 diabetes mellitus. Has had it ever since he was 4 years old. He takes several shots of insulin a day, and sometimes this sort of artificial measure does not work out so well--more and more of the time, quite frankly--which, in itself, is attributable to other problems, which I will not go into here. At least at the present time.

Yes, the devil is very active, and focusing particularly on me. And my son. Damn you, Lucifer! Damn you to hell!

Or . . . hm . . . wait a minute now . . . Oh well, never mind.

Now those with MS are those who understand that MS makes every difficulty just a little more difficult, every pain just a little more painful--the way a good friend makes all things funner, only the opposite. Pain in the back, therefore, is not enough. My legs must also go numb, my crotch must also ache, other parts of varying name and nature must fail to respond appropriately to my desires. A body in rebellion. So it is. So it has been for just about as long as I can remember now (the good news is that that is not very long).

Poor old grampa, my young wife says.

Sure. Poor grampa indeed.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


Fire is what you found
my love
and in the most unlikely place--
fire from a cool well,
fire from a sleeping coal--
You came for clay
still damp and lax
You came with hands
to sooth and save--
And yet I burst
to seething flame
and broke the vessel
in the kiln

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Disorder Called Childhood

The problem with seeing whether something is "wrong" with a child is that children are all so weird to begin with. We allow a wide range of behaviors that are unusual or excessive or peculiar or just downright irritating because they strike us as being due to growing pains, temporary glitches in the development of mentation, an eccentric mix of hormones and adrenaline and whatever additional chemicals might be bouncing and colliding about in the small body--ever tending, we believe, toward balance and stability.

Terms that become meaningful in maturity--autism, Tourette syndrome, obsessive-compulsive disorder, along with a hundred others--are not so defined in the child, because the child is a walking, talking, bouncing, ricocheting, blabbering, unpredictable quirk at baseline.

We wait for life and experience to mold and make adjustments--like setting the mix of fuel and air in a carburetor. We wait for socialization to smooth the edges and file down the splinters. We add our own two cents, the parental salt of instruction and boundaries.

It is a process. It is the process.

What then when the child grows, enters puberty and adolescence, and brings along his old bag of quirks. They become no longer the elements of a growing process, but complexes now, disorders, suddenly set hard in the psyche, and sometimes quite crippling.

It is then that we think back and see the harm in what seemed harmless, the problem in what seemed merely a natural progression.

I observe my young stepson, 9 years old, and from the standpoint of one who is privileged (which is to say that I have already been on the painful side of watching the quirk become the complex with my own son), and I cannot help but wonder.

I note that he constantly talks, and that when he runs out of words he simply blabbers. I note that he will sometimes repeat phrases over and over, a section of dialog from a cartoon for instance, or just a single word. Sometimes when he seems to be silent, I will glance in the rear view mirror to find that he is sort of whispering to himself.

Is this odd for a child? No. Would it be odd in later years? Yes.

On the other hand, my step son from my second marriage was rather like this as well. I remember worrying then that there might be something wrong. And yet at 21 years of age now, he has become his own flip side--quiet, sedate, a man of few words--in short, perfectly "normal."

I guess we are just left to wait and see. Hope and pray. Listen and advise.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Change of Seasons

I have this recurring dream of finding windows open, usually in my mother's house, and making a point of closing and locking them. No doubt it is significant that my mother passed away 9 years ago. In last night's dream I felt particularly worried about her, and a bit frustrated that she couldn't seem to remember to close her windows.

What does this mean? Any armchair Jungians out there?

Another dream I have on a recurring basis is one wherein my mother is cogent again and able-minded (having died in real life of Alzheimer's disease). This, in the dream, is always disconcerting to me. It seems vaguely silly, even wrong--jarring in the face of the scenario I had been accustomed to.

What are these dreams trying to say to me?

. . . .

Our new exchange student is Hassan, from Saudi Arabia. (Roy and Abdul have gone the way of all exchange students; i.e. to an apartment and back home respectively). Hassan is a prince among men. We love him. For one thing, he can actually speak English rather well, which in turn means that we can actually converse with him! Secondly, he is not just polite, but genuinely friendly. Thirdly, he does not run from, fend off, or otherwise freak out when confronted by our dogs (although he does draw the line at sleeping with them, which is reasonable enough).

. . . .

I feel so free now after having been freed at last from the evil powers of the Oregon DMV. This is not to say that the matter has been concluded--oh, no. I must still file with the circuit court in order to secure the return of their ill-gotten treasure, but at least I have my license back and I need no longer try to hide from police cruisers, informants, snitches, and such like.

. . . .

Now the season is turning. Our patio begins to shiver a bit, and to pull the fallen leaves about its shoulders. The wind has pushed the umbrella post skilly-whompas, and the chairs increasingly reserve themselves for puddles and pine needles. The customers at Starbucks come inside, stand coveting the occupied chairs, caught between lurking in the corners or returning to the chill outside.

One more turn, one more winter of wood smoke and thick sweaters, of wet shoes, coats set to dry on chair backs. One more, the same, again, and still no word from my long lost love, still no breaking of the broken heart, still no relaxing of the past's grim hold. And yet I am happy.

Go figure.

Sunday, September 27, 2009


When we were young
things were different then
how we used to live forever?
Your hair was red
having faded now
but then like a fire engine
and caught the wind
a living thing,
like a gull, or a hawk--
but not just one--
it was always sunrise then--
Remember that day
you ran so fast
and were sure it was because of new shoes?
Oh my love
if I could see you now
just once in the common light of life
I would hold you close
and not let go,
I would not let go again

Friday, September 25, 2009

The End of Reason

For the bureaucrat, the world is a mere object to be manipulated by him.
Karl Marx

I am livid.

This is actually funny, but you would have to know me to get the proper picture. People who know me would have already laughed. People who know me know also that I almost never get angry, and certainly not livid. Either it is not in my character, or it would simply be too much effort, I'm not sure which. If I were any more laid back, as more than one friend has observed, I would be pulse-less, a corpse.

Why am I livid?

Here is my story. I have told it more than once already, and I'm certain that I will tell it many more times during my remaining years. It's catharsis. Moreover, I do believe that it will ring a bell with many a reader, many a one who has found himself in my place, trapped between bureaucracy and common sense, pressed to the point of impotent frustration by authority placed in the hands of the mindless machine. Therefore join me, and let us echo together our pointless cry, muffled as it is beneath bundles of red tape and paperwork:

"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door."

Here's the scoop:

It seems that last March, 2009, I was caught by photo radar exceeding the speed limit in a school zone. Whether I did not see the sign, or did not note my speedometer, or simply blanked out for a moment, does not matter. I make no excuse whatsoever for the infraction, and make no plea other than guilty. The infraction, in fact, is the only proper thing about the story to follow. It is crystal clear, reasonable, pristine (i.e., it is the one thing in all that follows that makes sense).

I was caught candidly, you see, in the purest sense of the word (candid: photographed or filmed without the subject knowing or having the opportunity to prepare or pose).

So candid, however, was this photograph that it remained perfectly so for the next six months--far beyond the point where stealth had served its intended purpose--for after all, no matter how perfectly candid these photos are initially intended to be, the ultimate objective is for them to show up in the offender's mailbox along with a fine to be paid by check or MasterCard.

But I never received the photo and the fine. Never. Ever. Instead, it went to an address at which I had lived some three years ago. The first I knew of the matter, surreptitiously set in motion back in March, was when I received a Notice and Demand for Payment in late September. Still no photo, mind you.

The thing had been through court, adjudicated, the initial fine doubled, and then all had been passed on to the Oregon Department of Revenue for collection.

Two days later I received notice from the DMV that my driver's license had been suspended. I would need to reinstate this to the tune of $75, after, of course, paying the doubled traffic fine of $242.00.

But of course this was silly. It was a situation arrived upon through a series of errors, and so all the thing needed was undoing, like the knots my son used to tie in his shoelaces.

My first call was to the Oregon Department of Revenue, to whom the traffic fine and punitive additions had been assigned by the circuit court, after the court had assessed judgment in my absence (I was still candid, you see), which itself had happened after the original crime had been committed and reported to all concerned except me, which itself had come from . . . well, from the photo radar machine, I guess.

Hello, Cindy. Good morning. My name is Richard Boughton and I have a bit of a tangle here that I'm hoping you can help me with.

This is what I honestly believed at the time of my first call. Now, I am not so callow to have missed the fact that matters such as this are a bit difficult to sort out--no, it's not that simple, I'll admit--yet and still the scenario seemed really pretty manageable, providing that you looked at it from the aspect of inception rather than conclusion, for the conclusion quite clearly was the product of errors arising directly after the inception.

My explanation, which in due time was to be repeated so many times that it has now ended up stuck in my head like an irritating song, went like this:

I. I exceeded the speed limit.
A. As assessed by a photo radar device.
II. A traffic ticket was sent to an old address of mine.
A. I never received the traffic ticket.
III. The fine, applied in March, was not paid.
A. Because I never received the traffic ticket.
B. Because it was sent to the wrong address.
C. Because my records at DMV had not been updated.
IV. The matter went to court.
A. At which I was delinquent.
B. Because I still knew nothing of the matter.
C. And because I had made no answer to the fine, nor appeared in court, nor paid the fine.
D. The fine was doubled.
E. And sent to the Department of Revenue for collection.
V. My driver's license was suspended.

As you can see, this necessitates a fairly large number of words, considering the actual simplicity of the matter, but my responsibility at this point, or so it seemed to me, was to be concise and thorough so that everyone might do his job with integrity and efficiency. Red tape can be sticky, that's for certain, but surely not immune to undoing through care and patience.

Well, perhaps I am callow after all--a dreamer, an idealist, naive, obtuse.

I said, What can I do about this?

And Cindy said I could pay by personal check, Visa, or MasterCard.

But no, don't you see, I never received the ticket. If I had received the ticket, I would have promptly paid it. But I never got the ticket, and now they've doubled the fine, and suspended my license.

Cindy said that she could have the photo radar picture sent to my correct address if I so wished.

If the driver in the picture is not you, she said, you don't have to pay the fine.

But it was me. I had no argument with that. I broke the law. I shot the sheriff. But I did not shoot the deputy.

You'll have to go to the court for that, she said. All we do here is collect what you owe.

But what about my license? My license has been suspended. I didn't do it, I didn't do it!

Clearly things were disintegrating. The fine point of simplicity had exploded into parts and particles, dispersing in all directions, become now a perfect confusion.

Oh, and by the way, you are required by law to provide current information to the DMV. It may be that the ticket was sent to an old address, but the fault there is yours.

Oh Cindy, Cindy, how can you be so cold, so like a machine?

I end up paying the fine, using my debit card. It was all the money I had until next payday.

Folks, don't forget to update your address with the DMV. Otherwise you may find yourself cuffed and carted away.

My next call was to the circuit court. I was told there that the matter was out of their hands. As far as they are concerned the case is closed (though of course I may personally appear and file a pink and a blue form, which will eventually be submitted to a judge, who will eventually make a decision regarding my complaint). In the meantime, they refer me back to the Department of Revenue regarding the matter of the delinquent fine, and to the DMV regarding the suspension of my license.

Allow me to insert at this point as a matter of trivial interest and peripheral applicability, that I suffer from multiple sclerosis. This is an autoimmune disease that attacks the central nervous system, causing, in my case, numbness of the legs, spasticity of gait, and a certain proclivity toward confusion and disorientation in thought process. Increased stress tends to exacerbate all these underlying deficits.

Therefore, I am becoming at this point in my traffic ticket struggles increasingly legless and mindless.

Back to the old corral. My next stop is the DMV. But do I walk the mile to get there--I and my cane--or do I drive, breaking the law once again, compounding my criminality, running the risk of incurring who knows what sort of penalty?

I drive. Twenty miles an hour all the way. Halfway there, a fellow driver rolls down his window to tell me that my left brake light is out. Just then a State Trooper passes on my right. Happily, however, he is pursuing some other felon.

I hide my car under an oak tree down the block, enter the DMV building, take a ticket, get in line. I'm number 77. Right now they are helping number 49.

This gave me a chance to practice my story for a full hour and a half.

I slap my suspension on the counter, in what is hopefully a significant manner. I tap the paper three times for good measure.

There's been a mistake, I begin, a silly mistake. I'm hoping you can help me sort it out.

The clerk brings up my account. He studies his computer screen. He tells me that the fine has not been recorded as paid. He tells me that it must first be recorded at the court, regardless of whether it has been satisfied at the Department of Revenue. He tells me that I may then, and only then, apply for reinstatement of my driver's license, and pay the associated fee of $75.

I run through my story again (please see the outline above). I am hopeless yet determined, determined because I am livid. I am looking at the phone which is sitting on the desktop, perhaps a quarter inch from the clerk's left elbow. I actually think about asking the question--Could you maybe make a call?

But the clerk gets there first. I suppose I could call the court, he says. That's about all we're left with.

I am astounded. I am thankful, relieved, hopeful again. I am suddenly a little less livid.

But my euphoria is short-lived. No payment has been recorded at the court. It all takes time.

I ask to talk to a manger. He has none. A supervisor? None. The clerk is becoming irritated, rather like myself, and so I leave this line of inquiry, afraid of what I might ultimately discover--that the robotic photo radar machine itself is the boss.

Surprisingly, however, I have somehow inspired the clerk to impart more thorough information about the process (a charity far beyond the requirements of the job description) I am told that the DMV actually has nothing to do with the photo radar machines themselves. No one really knows who does. It is suggested that I might call The City.

The City. Yes, that's simple enough. Just dial 411. City and State? Portland, Oregon. And your listing, sir? Uh . . . the City?

I trudge through once again--mindless, legless, exhausted.

I never received the ticket. I never received any correspondence regarding the ticket. The first I knew of this was six months later when I received a bill from the Department of Revenue.

Well that is because you failed to update your address with DMV, the clerk says. You are required by law to keep your information current.

So here is what is being said. In essence I am to pay a doubling of the initial fine, plus the fee for reinstatement of my license, not because I exceeded the speed limit in the now distant past, but because I failed long ago to update my address with the DMV. The penalty for this, minus the initial fine, which I do indeed owe, is one hundred ninety-six dollars.

That is correct, the clerk says.

I am suddenly reminded of an old Star Trek episode, wherein a zombie-like population blindly follows the orders of Landru, a holographic figure of smoke and mirrors which is actually projected by a computer hidden behind a wall, left there long ago by a civilization now extinct, or otherwise departed to better parts of the cosmos.

Is it me? Am I mad? Confused? Obtuse? Stupid?

How has it happened that we have come to the point in our society where the intent of the law is lost to automation, where an administrative oversight can supersede and replace the very meaning of its original conception?

How is it that we have lost the ability to communicate by means of common reason, one to one as individual human beings, rather than mere victims and paper-pushers.

Minus the machines, the papers, the system, the trance-like stupor of bureaucracy, it's really very simple.

Isn't it?