Monday, June 29, 2009

Thou Shalt Not . . .

What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?
--Mark 8:36

The Ten Commandments are good. I mean it's obvious. Who can argue against them? But when you take the Ten Commandments and render them into a model of superstitious obedience through which one may gain worldly success--well, that's not only silly, but seems oddly blasphemous to boot.

What do the commandments warn against? Stealing, lying, murdering, adultery, and such-like. The avoidance of such things is well advised (good job, God!), yet seemingly clear enough from the outset, without even needing to be carved in stone.

The power of each commandment is found not in word, but in transgression. Herein lies the irony--the knowledge that is applicable to personal growth lies not in faithfulness but in disobedience.

This all goes a bit deeper than the latest (which is the same) 'How to live a successful and happy life' seminar.

Yet this is what I sat through this morning--for 2-1/2 LONG hours--listening to a husband and wife pastoring team coddle and berate the congregation about how bad things happen to people because they have failed to obey the 4th or the 5th or the 7th commandment.

Yes, they told of their journeys in the world, how they stayed at the Hilton in Tokyo, traveled in America, toured Europe, garnered invitations and honors.

What is the message? That possession of the riches of the world, all those things that are so commonly craved, is the goal life after all? What is it that we are looking for in church--a new Mercedes, a gold banded wristwatch, a suite at the Hilton in Jakarta while the people on the street scrape the gutters for food?

My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

Saturday, June 27, 2009

It's A Wonderful Life

This morning my wife demanded to know where I had put the deposit slip for church funds she had had me deposit last week.

"On the kitchen counter," I said. "I always put it on the counter."

Obviously it was not there, yet and still I was certain I had put it there. Where else would I have put it? I always put it on the counter. I figure if actual memory no longer serves me, habit on its own is certain to do so (creature of habit that I am).

"Will you keep looking for it? she said, then gave me the deposit for the current week.

I had of course no intention of continuing to look for what I already knew had been placed on the counter, just as it always is. Normal people can forget stuff too, right? Normal people can misplace things, lose things, accidentally discard important documents, even money.

I know what I know. I said what I said.

Well, it turned out that the reason the receipt was missing was that there was no receipt, for you see the money had never been deposited. Rather, I found it, along with the deposits slips, in my glove compartment. This was predictable enough, given my recent history--and yet still managed to be absolutely surprising to me.

How could this money have been sitting in my car for a week? Other people's money, church money, God's money! Why had I been so certain that the errand had been accomplished? What was it that had convinced me not only that the money been deposited, but that the deposit slip had been placed on the kitchen counter?

My life becomes a pattern of seemingly reliable assumptions--a theory, an hypothesis. Guesswork and habit have replaced actual knowledge and deliberation. No longer able to call upon the surety of recollection, I turn to mere likelihood and the fidelity of habit.

Yesterday when I went to deposit funds of my own, I filled out the deposit slip, put my cash on the bank counter, swiped my card, punched in the pin, then returned the cash to my wallet.

"Um . . . I'm going to need that money," the teller said.

More and more, I depend on the kindness of strangers.

Remember the old film It's a Wonderful Life? Remember uncle Billy, who almost ruined George Bailey's building and loan institution? Right, that endearing though bumbling old fool with a crow on his shoulder and a squirrel in his pocket. People can put up with that kind of idiocy until it actually causes big problems, at which point exasperation becomes anger, and then anger becomes disregard and derision.

Now I am uncle Billy.

And though facts are facts, and though the verdict is in, I am still having a hard time accepting it. I do not see myself this way, and yet it begins to become clear that everyone else does. My objections are founded in a past aptitude and functionality that no longer exists, yet which continues to encompass my own sense of identity.

The rich man suddenly divested of his riches will yet for some time labor under the persistent illusion of wealth and the dignity it had endowed upon his life. So it is that I by the same token persist in the idea that I am still the man I was

Infallibility was a difficult enough standard to live up to, but constant failure is immeasurably more difficult to live down.

Friday, June 26, 2009

MS Nutrition 101

The Son of Man came eating and drinking
--Matt 11:19

  • Eat three or four balanced meals every day
  • Limit your fast food intake to two meals per week
  • Eliminate all sugary drinks (especially soda)
  • Limit your alcohol beverages to one a day
  • Drink at least 48 ounces of water each day
  • Exercise at least 45 minutes five days a week
  • Get seven to nine hours of sleep each night
Oh dear, I'm flunking MS nutrition 101.

Three or four balanced meals? Whatdaya mean balanced? You mean that the weight of the chips and salsa should not overbalance that of the ice cream?

Three or four meals? What, are you kidding me? I'm contending here with two dogs and two foreign exchange students! How much food do you think is left? Lately I've been skipping all but the bedtime snack.

Now where avoidance of fast food is concerned, I come through with flying colors. This is because I type ER reports for a living. Nuff said.

Eliminate all sugary drinks? What else is there to drink though? (Oh wait, I just remembered what my dad used to say: There's plenty of water in the Goddamn faucet!).

Now the alcohol intake is a toss up, for whereas I never drink nowadays (and for the last four years or so), I did come reasonably close to drowning in the stuff during earlier years. So what to make of this? I figure the way things add up, I've already had my lifetime quota, along with a couple other people's too.

Drink at least 48 ounces of water a day. (Regarding this, I think my dad would have said Turn off the Goddamn water before you run it all empty!).


Now sleep is good, and, again, I have that one nailed. Unless it is meant that one is not supposed to sleep more than 9 hours.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Boy Hit By Meteorite

I have this way of bookmarking things that I see on the Internet which catch my attention at the moment, intending to return to them later when I have time--but then of course when later comes around, I most often have forgotten why they seemed important or somehow connected to anything in particular.

Such is the case with the story of the boy hit by the meteorite. It happened very recently in Germany. The boy was hit in the hand by a pea-sized object from outer space (which upon scientific inspection proved to be a meteorite), and when the little supersonic rock hit him, it sent him "flying," as he put it, and then proceeded upon its final trajectory to bury itself in the road.

It's one of those struck by lightening sort of stories I guess, and must have at least conferred upon the unsuspecting boy a certain sense of personal notoriety. How many of ones friends, after all, will be able to say that they too have been the target of a meteorite? It is something one would tell his children and his grandchildren. It is something that singles a person out from the otherwise madding crowd.

Perhaps it is the greatest thing this boy will ever achieve, all his life long.

I wonder how many of us are dignified by accidents just such as this one?

Another space object, Halley's comet, has long been considered to possess a portentous character, dumb hunk of metal and stone that it would otherwise seem to be. Much is made of its presence astrologically, such that its visits often become connected with either the end of the world or the age of Aquarius, and everything in between.

Of the comet, and of himself, Mark Twain said this:

'Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together.'

But what about all those other people who came in and went out during roughly the same period of time, and yet made nothing of the same sort of splash.


Cosmic recognition is a great thing indeed--it is the inscrutable sign which nonetheless explains all, and for which all of us wait and hope.

Hit by a meteorite? How curious that we were both in the same place at the same time. What are the chances, right?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Blob At The End Of Time?

I guess I should have been following this 2012-slash-end of the world business more closely, keeping up with the Mayan calendar and such-like. I have been shamefully remiss in my attention to fantastical developments in the cosmos (except where the mysterious blob near the dawn of time is concerned).

To tell the truth, I was not even aware of this Mayan calendar theory until just recently, when my second ex-wife mentioned it. She has long had an eager interest in keeping up with catastrophic end of the world scenarios-slash-return of Christ-slash-rise of the anti-Christ-slash-reversal of polar icecaps sorts of things. Some things never change, right? It's comforting.

In any case, as it stands I find myself suddenly with only 3 years to catch up with the news, let alone live. The exact date (I believe) is to be December 21, 2012. The year without a Christmas, fer shure!

(I can't help but wonder whether this too has something to do with the mysterious blob).

More than this I cannot presently say, for, as I have already mentioned, I remain quite ignorant. I must study it first (as I certainly cannot read about it the day after, now can I?).

Cloudy Vision

A couple days ago I had another one of these episodes where it seemed suddenly that I was going blind. The last time this happened was at night when I was in bed and was cured by emergent copulation.*

This time however my wife was in California and the episode happened in the afternoon just as I had logged in for work. The first thing that I noted was that I could hardly see the computer screen, let alone characters in type thereon. No matter how close I got to the screen, the letters would not come into focus. Since I work as a medical transcriptionist, not being able to see what I am typing is definitely a problem--for me, for the doctors, and for whatever poor hospital patient happens to be in my cue.

After perhaps 45 minutes had passed with no resolution of the problem, I finally called my neurologist--for although problems with my eyes have been ongoing for the past year, this was definitely much worse than what I've become accustomed to.

After another half hour the doctor returned my call. Ironically, as so often happens, my problems with vision were by then improving, just as suddenly as they had begun. It appeared also that my main fear, that this was a result of MS--was unfounded, for the difficulties that I described did not sound to the neurologist like anything that would be associated with optic neuritis. Nor did it sound like the problems one would have with cataracts.

More likely, he said, it is a migrainous symptom.

Hm. Well, it was true that I had a bit of a headache--I have one most every day--but I had always supposed that headaches termed as migrainous would be more severe.

So what do I do? Take an aspirin?


My vision since then has returned to completely normal--which is to say in essence that I simply cannot see very well.

In an odd way I would have felt better if it had been determined that this progressive loss of vision is caused by MS. I mean what the hell--You mean to say that I'm going blind for no particular reason? What kind of quackery is that!

* Applicants for my private and confidential research study on the curative effects of sexual intercourse on multiple sclerosis are still being (eagerly) sought and accepted by the Author (come on folks, a database can hardly be erected without willing subjects).

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Come Back Here With My Life!

For the first time in more than 3 years I am separated from my wife, who has gone to California for 4 days. She is still a fairly new wife, being the third of who knows how many to come, and so the pangs of separation seem new as well, though experienced already in the dim past of other marriages.

When the woman leaves, it seems like she removes more than just herself. It seems that somehow she takes along a great portion of what makes the days special. The lion's share of the marriage seems to fall away like an unevenly cut loaf of bread, leaving the man with the crumbs which make him crave the slice.

Drive, purpose, initiative, not to mention a sort of tender tyranny, fly away with her, divesting the hours of any particular point.

And suddenly the floor, the tables, the sofa and chairs, the beds and the stairways are magically populated by all sort of things that should not be there--dishes, crayons, papers, bits of mail, dust balls in the corners, chunks of earth, broken toys, cups, cups, cups, and spiders; grocery bags, potato chips, hats and shirts and shoes--and the whole mess together altogether defies comprehension. I know not how this happened, but only that it must somehow be rectified by Tuesday.

Which is still three days away. No rush. By some unusual circumstance they may go away on their own.

In the meantime, I find that either the visit counter on this blog has gone kerplooey, or actually no one has visited here in three days. Can it be? It's a lonely feeling under the circumstances. And so if you really are there, please say something for heaven's sake. I feel like I've offended everyone at the same time--as if I possessed any such power to come up with such a perfectly comprehensive offense.

Paranoia sets in, you see--loneliness, silence, doubt, ennui--and the man is left to commune with the near empty vessel that he really is. Either that or talk to the boring-ass Chihuahua.

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Curse is Spreading

Another confusing day. Is it Tuesday? No, it's Thursday. OMG the curse is spreading!

One key to the problem seems to be interruption of routine. Summer, therefore, is a problem, for the first familiar routine of the day hinges on the task of taking my son to school, dropping him off (at the right school, one hopes, though this is certainly not guaranteed), and then driving over to the nearby Starbucks for the morning stint at blogging.

The removal of school from the daily schedule proves highly perplexing. It is a destabilizing element.

There are of course other unpredictable interruptions that also destabilize. Say, for instance, my wife has an errand for me to do--go to the bank, buy something at the store, or what have you. Or perhaps I myself have an appointment--doctor, dentist, a meeting for work. Peripheral demands such as these require the application of attention to detail, to time, to location, to the specific nature of the tasks to be accomplished.

The effort of attention instantly taxes the MS brain. It calls upon reserves that do not exist. Confusion sets in, and things begin to go wrong. You show up at the bank without the money. You show up at the store with a pocket full of deposit slips. You forget the dentist.

You stop at Starbucks and sit with your cappuccino, trying to gather yourself together, trying to remember what you're supposed to be doing. You remember an errand, and yet now you cannot find the car.

It used to be that my dog, Norman (God rest his soul) would follow me wherever I went, even if it was just from one room to another. I guess he was confident that I knew what I was doing, and so he followed.

Now it is Smoky who leads me. When I get up in the morning he goes before me down the hallway to the bathroom. He stops by the door and pokes his nose in. After that he leads me to the kitchen, where I will put on water for coffee.

It seems that my cognitive problems are obvious even to a dog.

Coco the Chihuahua, on the other hand, would just as soon lick me as bite me, and does not care a fig about my well being. Coco follows my wife, his mother--apparently perceptive enough to know a fully functioning person when he sees one.

I don't blame him. Nothing wrong with good reasoning.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

My Latest Questions for the Neurologist

Getting the customary list together for my upcoming neurology appointment. I always have new questions, which rarely have answers. Actually, there is one answer to all, which is Dude, you got MS.

Anyway, first on my list will be the trouble I'm having with my eyes. The ophthalmologist said it is cataracts, the neurologist said it's not. So:

1. What is it, and is there anything at all that can be done about it?

It's becoming pretty damn difficult to read, for example; and reading just happens to be something I both like and need to do--for my own pleasure as well as for my job. I have considered purchasing a seeing eye dog, but most of them can't read above the 2nd grade level, so this probably would be of no real benefit.

2. Why am I so fatigued, despite taking Provigil, and what can I do about it? I know that medical marijuana is available for those who qualify, but what about medical speed or cocaine? Just for getting through the valleys, you know? As it is, I end up taking a nap almost every day, and feel lousy if I don't. These naps are something the dogs enjoy, but are otherwise a waste of time.

3. Confusion, disorientation, memory loss: All becoming worse. I have already tried Aricept, which did nothing. What else is there? I saw a television show, an old Three Stooges episode, where Moe hit Curly on the head with a hammer, and it did Curly a world of good. Is there any medical basis at all for this? Is it FDA approved?

4. Lastly, I just recently read an article stating that research had shown positive, though early, results in treating gray matter loss in MS with the diabetes drug Actos. Moreover, the drug appears to have cured mice with MS. Whether the subjects lived or died afterwards is not stated in the article. Nor am I certain how the scientists determined that the mice were cured. Perhaps they were given verbal grocery lists and all succeeded in returning from the store with every item.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Unholy Smokes

I know and am perfectly sure on the authority of the Lord Jesus that no food, in and of itself, is wrong to eat. But if someone believes it is wrong, then for that person it is wrong.
--Romans 14:4

This last Sunday, the young assistant pastor at our church, in the course of delivering an otherwise excellent sermon, yet got stuck, as so often happens, on cigarettes. I am always amazed at this recurring confusion about tobacco and the linkage of the same to anything having to do with the Lord or with the Christian life.

Where does this come from? We are talking, after all, about love, peace, and joy in the holy spirit--that and nothing else, as so explicitly and patiently put down by Paul in the Book of Romans, chapter 14 in particular.

How has tobacco smoking sneaked into the mix? Isn't Paul saying to keep such things out of the mix? The people to whom he is speaking are worried about various foods, whether they should be consumed or not. They are worried about the preparation of foods, whether meat has been sacrificed to an idol, whether this day or that day ought or ought not be observed.

And Paul, to paraphrase, is saying Wake up, for Christ's sake! None of these things make a damn bit of difference! Is this what you make of the glorious freedom to which you've been called? More rules?

And so here we are, still stuck on the same non-pertinent nonsense. Frankly it irritates me, which I guess you can see. One longs to fellowship in the love and tolerance of the Lord, and yet suddenly finds himself shunned and judged on the grounds not of his relationship with Christ, but because he put a freakin' cigarette in his mouth.

Good grief.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Writing in the Dirt

There is a story in the gospel that describes what happened when Jesus came upon a crowd of people about to stone a woman caught in the act of adultery. This was a punishment not only prescribed by the law, but also yet another opportunity for the religious leaders to use the law as a trap for Jesus, for if he could be shown to be in defiance of the law, he might thereby be discredited.

Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?"

Now here's the interesting part, the part wherein Jesus applies his customary gift for the uncommon response, leaving the accusers, the manipulators, even the hapless woman in silence, perplexed.

Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear.

Well, the outcome of the meeting is well enough known. He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.

The accusers did not continue to argue their case then, nor do we (hopefully) argue it now. The woman went free, for there were suddenly no accusers remaining.

Yet the fascination that persists, for me anyway, is contained in the Lord's strange act of kneeling to write with his finger in the dirt.

What did he write?

It is of course an age old question, with just about as many theories attached as a porcupine has quills--and for all this, curiously, stubbornly impenetrable. What is clear, though, is that whatever was written, it was the accusers who ended up convicted and not their target the woman, nor their prey the Lord.

Some say that he wrote down the sins of the stone throwers, one by one. Some say that he was merely doodling while he thought up his answer. Some say that he wrote verses from the Torah. Some say that he was simply bored with such pig-headed questions and lost interest for a minute.

But whatever he wrote, what seems ultimately clear is that it was the simple truth.

Now I do a certain amount of doodling of my own. I do not have, as the Lord had, access to the truth--receiving, as he said, every word from above--and so what I write is my own sorts of truths instead, my own questions. I write of my own struggles to understand, applying experience and theory, book knowledge and human compassion as poor substitutes for the Word from above.

Jesus knew his answers before he posed his questions (to the woman, Where are those accusers of yours?). For my own part, I am unclear about the propriety of my questions, let alone what answers might be had. I endeavor, in any case, to be honest, firstly with myself, and so also with others. I endeavor to strike at the core and to avoid the impedance of politics or diplomacy, of the undue carefulness that can mollycoddle a monster and the timidity that bows so readily to the fear of recrimination.

I will say to he who reads this and does not like it that perhaps I have touched on the truth after all. Each person will need to examine himself.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Fried Myelin With Anemone

. . . a wise man's heart discerns both time and judgment,
Because for every matter there is a time and judgment,
Though the misery of man increases greatly.
For he does not know what will happen;
So who can tell him when it will occur?
No one has power over the spirit to retain the spirit,
And no one has power in the day of death.
--Eccl 8:5-7

Wake up calls.

I have already written of my recent hour-long brain fart fiasco with forgetting my user name and password. That happened the day before yesterday.

Remembering one thing, however, does not lead to remembering another. Remembering one thing does not restart nor restore the brain--it simply sits in your head waiting to forget the next thing.

Yesterday, having left the Winco store along with Albert with our bags of goodies for a barbecue, it happened that I could not make the car move out of its parking spot. Perplexed, I checked the brake, I adjusted the gear shift--drive, neutral, reverse--right. Everything seemed to be in order.

"Uh, Dude, you need to start the engine first," Albert observed.

I begin to see, slow as I am, that there is no respite now, there is no delay, there is no recovery as from a common illness. Broken bones will mend, and be stronger moreover in the broken places, but the brain just lies there in the head, curiously unaware, as defenseless as a sea anemone.

"Fried myelin, anyone?"

"Umm, what else is on the menu?"

"Sorry, that's all we have."

Honestly. Has a strip of bacon ever unfried itself? Has an egg ever returned to its shell?

And so this is it. My lot from here on out. This, and more of the same.

Redeem the time becomes therefore the phrase of the hour, and of every hour remaining. It is the only reasonable approach to the reality that is upon us.

Will my spirit eventually hide itself as well in the same sorts of dim corners and crannies to which my memory has already fled?

O banish the thought, for it is too harsh for the morning to bear.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Please Enter User Name and Password

Yesterday afternoon I had one of the most frightening MS moments (or rather, hours) in my illustrious MS career thus far.

At about 2:25 I sat down at my desk to start work, powered up the computer, waited for the login screen, took a couple sips of coffee while waiting. The user name and password came up, I lifted by hands, and then . . . nothing!

I could not remember my user name to save my life! I had no idea whatsoever. I have been doing this job for 17 years, I have been using this particular system, and user name, and password, for at least 4 years. And yet suddenly I had no idea in the world what to type into the field.

At first it was a Wow, that's weird sort of moment, but as the moments passed and nothing clicked, as the moments passed and became minutes and then a quarter hour and then a half hour, as the moments passed and every stab in the dark I took at typing in a likely user name failed, weird became frustrating, then maddening, then terrifying.

I suppose this is difficult to convey to anyone who has not experienced it. I suppose we have all had these moments where we just suddenly draw a blank--a name, a date, a memory--but of course such information temporarily misplaced soon pops back, and we chuckle and proceed.

Here there was no resumption, no revival, no retrieval, but only a quickening of the heart, a rising heat on the brow, a growing stuffiness in the brain, a dawning sense of panic.

The minutes marched on, ever away from revelation. The blank slate became if anything blanker. I began to search next for someone I could call, a coworker who might provide some sort of mnemonic, a phrase, a hint.

Now I had learned long ago that sharing ones troubles with MS among managers or supervisors in ones workplace is not the best idea. The sympathy that one somehow automatically anticipates does not in fact generally exist. There is, however, a friend and coworker who has been helpful in the past, who moreover will keep my terrible secret of incompetence, and so I sought now to locate her telephone number.

The idea that my current state of distraction could be further compounded had not occurred to me--until, that is, I found that I had not the slightest notion of where this person's phone number might be. Most certainly I had it. Somewhere. But where? I have, in fact, a printout of every phone number of every coworker in my department. Somewhere.

Knowledge, of course, is not presence. Two thorough searches of the desk drawers produced nothing--or rather, it produced everything conceivable other than that list of phone numbers.

By now a full hour had passed, and still I had not started work. My user name, my password, had fallen quite off the face of the earth, along with my brain.

Well, there is no amazing or edifying end to this. I wish there were. As it happens, the missing information simply popped back into my mind as abruptly as it had popped out. Sixty-five minutes later. I typed it in and began work. Later on I wrote the information on a strip of masking tape and stuck it on the side of the CPU.

What is left now is just a simmering sense of dread, a sense of just how bad things could become. And the knowledge that there's not a damn thing that I can do about it.

Not a Blob, But a Trout

Well this morning my laptop refuses to connect to the Internet, or perhaps the Internet is refusing to connect to my laptop. In either case, this may mean that I am not meant to write anything.

I, however, am seeking to frustrate destiny by typing in Word with the intent to later revisit the Internet, and thus my blog, when cyberspace is in a better mood, and post at that time.

I wonder if this is irreverent—or worse yet, a direct disobedience?

Oh well, never mind. Inventiveness is man's unavoidable curse.

I am thinking again about the mysterious blob near the beginning of time; or rather, I was thinking about it last night before I fell asleep. It is the last thing I remember, that blob. I did not, however, dream of the blob, but dreamed of catching an enormous fish and pulling it to the shore—a fish as large as my Labrador. I was showing the fish to some children and petting it as if it were a Labrador; and I was wondering whether to kill the fish and keep it, or release it back to the water.

The way one usually kills a fish—a trout, anyway—is by inserting ones thumb in its mouth and snapping the head back, thus breaking the neck. But in the case of this very large fish, it was clear that this method would be unfeasible.

Should I shoot the fish then? But of course I had no gun.

Even were I to somehow manage to kill the fish, how would I carry it back home to the frying pan? It was certainly not going to fit in my fishing bag, any more than my Labrador would. How then to get the fish home? And where to find a frying pan nearly as big as the kitchen itself?

Now what was the meaning of this dream—a very real dream, a very vivid dream, and yet distant and obscure, perplexing, not to mention ridiculous.

And so maybe I dreamed of the mysterious blob after all. What to make of the thing? How to contain it? How to comprehend it? How to digest it?

All I know is that I woke up with my arm around the dog, patting his stomach, wondering how he had gotten there, sleeping next to me like a spoon, and why it had occurred to him that I might appreciate it.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Strike Up the Band

"Arise, and do not be afraid."
--Matt 17:7

Today in Portland the world famous Rose Festival Parade takes place. Sant Louis has gone downtown with Roy. I myself am content to experience the thing secondhand.

It is raining, as usual. In 55 years, I think the day of the parade has never been sunny. It's some sort of jinx. All these Oregonians standing on the sidewalks in the rain, unwittingly starving for vitamin D, growing MS in our central nervous systems like dry rot in wet kitchen corners.

Gee, that was an unpleasant sort of thought, yes?

Yesterday I happened to be sitting quite a while in a hard sort of chair, a chair with a wooden seat, reading Jojimbo, a comic book in the Indonesian language, when I noticed that my legs had by and by gone all but dead, but for a sort of thrumming feeling, if you know what I mean.

Now I don't know if this was related to MS, or to sitting in a hard chair, or to sitting in an awkward position, or to sitting too long, but whatever it was from, it afforded an opportunity to experience in a purely physical sense what it would be like to lose ones ability to walk.

Feeling (or rather not feeling) is much more complete than imagination when it comes to things like this. This loss of proper sensation and function is not paralysis, but it is the next closest thing, and I suddenly understood what it is about MS that puts people into wheelchairs.

It is not that you cannot walk at all, it is just that doing so, even from one end of the house to the other, would take hours and eventually result in multiple injuries.

Well, eventually my legs returned to normal--normal for me, that is--more of a low level, manageable sort of thrumming, and I was glad to be stumbling about at my baseline. It was almost like being perfectly healthy. It is all relative, you see.

And I had learned something, experientially, such that my appreciation in real time had deepened.

MS, after all, is all about learning, right?

Yeah right. Sure it is.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Loading In Progress . . .

Mornings are sometimes like this for me--where tying ones own shoes is a challenging enough task in and of itself. Functioning on a level any more demanding than this is initially out of the question. It takes time--time for the system to restart itself, for all the tripping, rattling programs to reboot and load. In this sense, my old Compaq and I are perfect partners in a common ineptitude.

There are things to do. I am to take my son to school, I am to go to one bank and deposit money and to another to withdrawal money, I am to pick up something at the store (I know not what anymore), and then later I will need to work.

So far I have managed only the application of my shoes and a stop at Starbucks, where I sit at this moment wondering why it is taking so damn long for anything to show up on the blank screen, otherwise known as my brain. It's like staring at that little revolving wheel--program loading--and ending up mesmerized by the same, turning, turning, turning, without reason or result.

Now my wife has called with another errand, and the dial-up part of my brain that is now working, more or less, has become fixated on these errands, so that I can think of nothing else, knowing that I will soon forget what I am supposed to be remembering.

The other day I got an I-Phone. You can write messages to yourself, set reminder alarms, and even send yourself e-mails. I could even send myself an e-mail here at Starbucks and pick it up on my laptop before I finish my coffee.

The only trouble is, I can't figure out how to work the damn thing.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

And Then My Heart Stood Still

Having gotten character assassination out of my system, I will now return to a more pleasant disposition, begging the reader's pardon in the meantime for what may appear to have been a less than kind attitude toward my father-in-law.

For there is this to be considered: Without Nico there would have been no Sant Louis, and without Sant Louis there would have been no life left to me for the duration of this ever contracting time in the world that remains.

To this I was resigned, back in the old year, 2005. Two marriages had turned hard, like bread left too long in the air, and finally crumbled. The hungry abundance of unearned comfort had swallowed itself, knowing not what else to do with pain, for the effort of love seemed unlikely to provide an equal satiety.

My life simply disappeared.

And I found myself in a two room apartment overlooking the transit center, leaning hard toward the tracks. I and my dog.

There was nothing in me, for it had all slipped away in the vacuum that had taken everything else, and I found myself profoundly displaced, in body, in heart, in soul, in time. Grasping for some kind of mnemonic, I returned to drinking vodka. It was at least familiar. Maybe that was me, for I remembered it. After ten years of exotic travel, and then shipwreck, here was something which at least had remembered me.

Sometimes I would walk to the Fred Meyer store. Sometimes I would take the train downtown. For dinner I ate Asian food that came dry in small packages, a meal in one box. I would rent movies. I remembered being scared after watching The Grudge, and holding the dog close all night long.

What is frightening in and of itself grows huge, unspeakably terrifying, on a diet of ghosts and silence, alienation, regret.

I drank instead--for alcohol is the only substance that is consumable by the soul.

And then all of a sudden she was there. Just there. I know now, of course, that she came from somewhere--it seems that everyone does--and yet that one night, that first night, she was simply there, just as if she had peeked out from my own inner emptiness, a single surviving smile, and winked at me.

I took one look at you,

that's all I meant to do,
and then my heart stood still!

So goes the old Rogers and Hart song. And so it was. I might have thought that my heart had already been standing still, and yet it had not been still at all. It was my life that had been still, or maybe my hope or my faith.

One enchanted evening.

Another song.

Why did she look at me in the first place? Why did she smile. What was it that activated the effort in her to cross the room in order to talk to me?

In any case, I was from that moment lost, and therefore found.

My feet could step and walk,
my lips could move and talk,
and yet my heart stood still!

And I love you, Louis. More than anything in the world.