Friday, September 30, 2016

My New Friends

The nose surgery thing was a whole different animal than the back surgery thing.

Atmosphere-wise, that is.

When I had the back done they dialed da blues up on Pandora for me. We talked about the blues as Dr. Feelgood was cutting on me. Joked around a bit.

The atmosphere was light. I was in and out in an hour.

The waiting room for the nose thing was a bit darker. The walking wounded.

When Carol and I got there, there were three people who had already been dealt with. One guy had a bandage on his nose, another on his ear and an older woman had a bandage on her ear, and her head wrapped from top to bottom, exactly like Jacob Marley in the 1984 George C.Scott version of "A Christmas Carol."

The way MOHS surgery works is the doc shaves a bit of the cancerous area off and sends it to the on-site lab to see if they got it all. Meanwhile, the patient gets wrapped up and returned to the waiting room to wait.

They tell you the wait can be up to forty minutes. I waited an hour. But they got it all on the first pass.

Anyway, if you are lucky they get it all on the first pass. If not, you go back under the knife and a little more is shaved off. And you return to the reception area. Rinse and repeat.

There are three doctors in that office all doing the same thing so victims rotate from the waiting room to surgery and back like clockwork.

It is exactly like an assembly line.

Very, very odd.

When I first arrived there were some awkward hellos.

When I walked back into the room, bandaged up after Pass #1 there was instantaneous camaraderie.

And it was genuine.

Typical comments - "If you think I look bad you should see the other guy." But the emotion was real.

We sat there looking like mutant freaks on display, which I'm sure is how we looked to our handlers - the people who drove us there.

But between us there was an honest connection; even unspoken, you could feel it. It was palpable.

After an hour wait, they called me back in to tell me the doc had gotten all the cancer and that I was done.

The feeling of relief that washed over me buckled my knees.

Checked out at the reception area and walked back into the waiting area. My friends asked how it went and I told them I was done. One and done.

They congratulated me. Sincerely.

Carol and I were there for 2 and 1/2 hours that morning. In that time frame there were five of us getting sliced up. Two of us were one and done; the other three were repeat performers - I'll never know how many more indignities they had to endure.

I felt guilty as I was leaving. Genuinely guilty. The other one and done had already left.

I said good bye and good luck to each of the remaining three, they did the same to me. A little conversation. Smiles all around.

Smiles. Shared between people diagnosed with and operated on because of cancer. Smiles between people bandaged up like we had been to war or in a fight.


I will never forget that experience. To make such an intense connection with complete strangers, vulnerable humans all, in such a short time.

I wish them all well.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Incredible Lightness of Being

Had my nosed hacked up on Tuesday by a Doctor Dude in Manchester.

Had a follow up check up yesterday in Concord with the Dr. Feelgood who sliced up my back. Did not know what to expect.

I was lucky. They got all the cancer out of my nose on the first pass. But they left the wound open, bandaged it up like crazy so my man in Concord could decide what was next.

I was expecting that he would have to close it up somehow. Maybe talk about or perform plastic surgery, which he told me was possible at the beginning of all this. I was expecting pain and discomfort.

The doc carefully unwrapped the massive bandage on my nose with great seriousness - he did not know how much damage had been done and I think the size of the bandage freaked him out. I made a couple of wise ass comments and he did not even respond.

He looked at the wound, laughed a little bit and then said "Did you piss somebody off in Manchester?" I love this guy. Then he really started laughing, grabbed a mirror as he laughed and told me to look at the relatively small wound that had been wrapped in a super sized bandage.

We laughed together.

It was a funny moment. He figured that the woman who wrapped me up was so afraid of infection that she engaged in overkill.

He gave me three options.

One - put a band aid and a little Vaseline on it and let it heal. This would leave a scar; an indentation. Two - undergo low level surgery that would partially repair my look. Three - undergo extensive surgery that would make my nose as beautiful as it was originally.

I chose option #1. I don't give a shit what I look like. I am done with slicing and dicing.

All that is left with the nose is for me to go back in two weeks to check the healing progress and two weeks after that again.

I begin the extended love affair with a dermatologist in November.

I walked out of that office with a small band aid on my nose and my head in a psychedelic haze. Did not expect to be done yesterday. I was blown away. I was floating.

I felt light. I felt relieved. I felt reprieved. I felt so good, so happy that I did not know what to do about it.

This is a kind of happiness no one should ever have to experience given what it was a reaction to, but it just felt so goddamn good.

Had myself a crazy celebration. Bought a sub on the way home - large Italian, tomato, onions, pickles, mayo. When I got home I ate it, drank a beer and had a short whiskey to toast myself.

Sat down in my recliner watched a movie - "Inside Llewyn Davis" - with Maka in my lap. Part way through the movie Lakota joined us and I had them both in my lap.

I am a real wild man these days.

For the past month I have been afraid. Stressed. Exhausted. In pain and uncomfortable. My body has been sliced up and stitched up and bandaged up; I have gobbled pills and gritted my teeth.

The news came out of nowhere and turned my life and my mind upside down.

Just as suddenly, it was over. Relatively.

I am sitting here absorbing this new reality.

My mind has been scrambled and it is busily rearranging itself.

With a weight and seriousness and depth of meaning like never before, today is truly the first day of the rest of my life.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Local Boy Makes Good

I have a massive bandage on my nose.

Reminds me of Jack Nicholson in "Chinatown".

I am cool.

A Lesson I Need To Learn Immediately

"Worry robs us of our faith and our joy and gives us nothing in return."

From "Feast Day of Fools" by James Lee Burke

Reality Check

"Maybe this wasn't a good way to think, he told himself, but when you heard the clock ticking in your life, there was no worse disservice you could do to yourself than to entertain a lie. Death was bad only when you had to face it knowing that you had failed to live during the time allowed to you, or that you had lied to yourself about the realities of the world or willingly listened to the lies of others."

From "Feast Day of Fools" by James Lee Burke

Monday, September 26, 2016

Incidental Occurrences That Rip Your Mind Apart

Late in August I came home after a simple, enjoyable night spent in the company of my son and my brother, to be informed by my wife that I had cancer.


A short time afterwards we were watching an episode of "Vice Principals." Bill Murray plays the principal of a high school whose wife is dying from cancer.

There is a scene where she and Bill are sitting on a stage at a school function. She is in a wheelchair and does not look very good. One character asks another what she is dying from.

The character replies "melanoma."

Carol and I laughed it off at the time but it stuck in my head. Way back deep in the dark cave of my thoughts.

This morning I was reading "Feast Day of Fools" by James Lee Burke. One character tells another that he is dying. Has three months to live. "I'm terminal. I used to smoke three packs a day. Five years ago I quit and thought I'd gotten a free pass. I went in for a blister on my nose last week, and the doc said it was already in my liver and pancreas and had reached the brain."

I am going to have cancer shaved off my nose tomorrow morning.

These coincidences mean nothing. And they mean everything.

I read another thirty or forty pages. When I quit there was a bit of a meltdown. Rapid breathing, a tear or two.

All indicators are positive for what I am going through. Cancer on training wheels. I keep deferring to people in my family who have waged war against cancer, fought with everything they had or have.

Still, I am frightened. I have had only a short time to deal with this. My body was sliced up on 09/01; it will be sliced up again tomorrow.

I know in my heart that when you come right down to it the medical community knows nothing about the true state of my health. Or anybody else's.

I am talking about the deep down, what is really going on inside type of stuff.

Last week two people close to my brother died. Two. In one week.

The wife of a guy my brother plays baseball with died of a heart attack while walking herself to a close-by hospital to get checked out for an asthma attack she was having.

She was 34 years old. She was an exercise freak and a health food devotee.

A couple of days later, a guy on my brothers baseball team scored a run at the plate, doubled over at the dugout because he couldn't breathe and collapsed and died of a heart attack.

He was 58 or 59. He had recently had a physical. He was a close friend of my brother's.

If I do not react in an appropriate way to the health news I recently received I am a fucking idiot.

I could be alive for thirty more years. I could only have a handful left.

I don't know; the doctors don't know.

I have to change my life.

I am as afraid that I don't have the guts to do that as I am of the cancer.

The strangest things pop into your head at times like this.

Many years ago we were sitting in the parking lot of the NH Motor Speedway prior to a race. I was joking around with Sarge. I don't remember the context but I said something like "Well then, I will have to beat you up."

He replied "You'll have to grow a set of balls first."

It was all said in jest, we both laughed, but there was deep truth in those words.

I regret my life. Deeply. It is not my own. I look at it as if it was a joke. I was an accountant for most of my life.

Are you fucking kidding me?

That is irrelevant. No one to blame but myself. I could have changed things at any point down the road but I did not.

And I still have time.

What I regret more are the meaningful things. Keith lives 30 minutes away from me, Craig 45.

I go weeks, sometimes months without seeing them.

Because I don't make the effort. Their lives are busier than mine; it is on me. Christ, Emily's parents see Keith and Emily much more often than Carol and I do and they live hundreds of miles away.

Because they make the effort.

We get together formally, birthdays, holidays, and I worship those get togethers. But I have always wanted to have a more informal relationship with my sons. And with Emily and Karen, who I love and respect deeply.

Christ, four days a week I work five minutes down the road from Keith and Emily and I never stop in.

Carol and I have been married for thirty eight years. I have hurt her, she has hurt me. We came very close to losing everything at one point in our lives.

We are both 62 and dreaming about full retirement. A very unsettled time in our life.

Still, I believe that we love each other. Love each other in the meaningful sense of the word; love each other in the sharing of entire lives kind of way.

I love and respect my brother. Deeply. I see him as the intelligent one and the one with the wicked wit. I see him as a fighter, I see him as a success.

I don't see him nearly enough and his life has had deep pain in it. The worst.

I am not here to make promises today. My mind has been overwhelmed with thoughts lately. My emotions are running the show.

I had to let it out.

Sunday, September 25, 2016


I hate the word nice.

It is weak. Packs no punch.

However I have no choice, I am forced to use the word to describe the night Carol & I had last night. There is no way around it.

We had a nice night.

I am going down to Manchester Tuesday morning to step back in the ring for Round #2 of the cancer chronicles. Gonna shave some cancer off my nose.

Actually, we are going. It was recommended that I be chauffeured.

Which seems a little strange because I was told I could be on my own with the back thing. Doc Feelgood said I could rise up off the table after surgery like Jesus, walk out to The Big Ride and drive myself home.

That surgery seemed to be a bigger deal than the nose but what the hell do I know. I have been surprised more than once over the past month.

I did not drive that day and in hindsight I am glad I didn't. Carol chauffeured me.

Anyway we had no idea where we are going on Tuesday so we decided to take a reconnaissance drive yesterday.

Decided to slip in a trip to the movies while we were on the road.

Went to see "The Magnificent 7" in IMAX.

Soooooooooooooooo we found the location of Dr. Feelgood #2 and then motored south to the massive cinema complex in Hooksett. Got there around 5:30 and really didn't have time to go to a real restaurant.

So we went to McDonald's.

Like a teenage couple. McDonald's and a movie. Only we are both 62.

We had such a comfortable conversation at McDonald's. Talking about how Carol's parents raised her and how my parents raised me. Talking about how we raised Keith & Craig. Reminiscing over many moments in the life we shared and continue to share with Keith & Craig. Talking about our own siblings.

It was a conversation about life. Our life. And we smiled and laughed a lot.

It felt so good and so real and so natural. Consequence of 38 years living together.

Got to the movie early, which I felt was important. I am a master planner. A real thinker.

The movie opened on Thursday, so I was worried that it might sell out or that we would not be able to sit together.

There were no more than 15 or 20 people in the theater. That is not an exaggeration. The place was empty.

Bear in mind, this is an IMAX theater. Seats about 100,000 people.

Doesn't matter. We dug the hell out of the movie. It was spectacular.

Drove home, watched Law & Order, watched a little Saturday Night Live and the night was over.

The old man in me is tempted to rave on about what the night cost. $53. For McDonald's and a movie and popcorn.

The romantic in me, the sensitive guy, recognizes the night for what it was.

A simple night spent together in love and comfort and fond memories. The perfect realization of a lifetime spent together.

A nice night.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

This Is Not Fiction

"If age brought gifts, he didn't know what they were. It had brought him neither wisdom nor peace of mind. If age had marked a change in him, it lay in his acceptance that loneliness and an abiding sense of loss were the only companions some people would ever have."

I often feel this way.

From "Feast Day of Fools" by James Lee Burke.

Friday, September 23, 2016

The Cancer Chronicles

Dramatic title, no?

I am just playing with you. What I am dealing with is minor compared to what some family members and friends have dealt with.

Some successfully; some not.

Still it is a weird progression; it fractures the mind.

Got the cancer dug out of my back on 09/01. Got the nasty stitches clipped out this week.

When she got a look at my back the nurse said "Wow he put industrial strength stitches in there."

Felt good to get them out. Progress.

However, next Tuesday I gotta go in to get the cancer shaved off my nose. Bing, bang, boom - just like that.

Strange kind of stress dealing with this shit. It is for the good and I am quite pleased it was all caught early on.

Still I am still rebounding from the back thing - still sore, still getting very little sleep - and now the nose comes under attack.

Apparently the nose will be bandaged up for a day or two; should be good for some enjoyable pictures. Not sure what the recovery process is but I'll probably be surprised as I was with my back. I did not realize that the back would still be bothering me a month and more down the road.

I will be glad when this intense part of the ordeal is over with. When I have no more appointments to slice up my body; when I get back to feeling normal.

I am walking a fine line here between making too much of this and not making enough of it.

It is not too frightening at this point but it weighs heavy on my mind. That's why I need to get past the slicing and dicing. Get down to the new normal.

My perspective is being sliced up and re-arranged just as my body is.

Patience with stupid people will from now on be in short supply.

I feel it in my bones, in my heart and in my soul.

You better duck.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Big Papi and The K-Man

Recently finished a biography on Andy Kaufman.

Mind blowing. He was truly one of a kind.

More importantly, he was fiercely committed to being who he was, performing the act and doing the things he did no matter what people thought of him.

And he struggled and took a lot of shit because of that.

He believed in himself, believed even as a child that he would make it in show biz. His way and on his own terms.

He pushed things as far as he could push them, often making his audiences and the people who paid him feel uncomfortable.

He was happiest when he made people squirm because it was proof positive that he was defying show biz cliches and truly performing an original act.

Although there are legitimate questions as to whether or not he even considered it an act.

He was deeply sensitive. This makes me admire him even more for having the strength and the courage to get up on stage and defy convention in order to remain true to himself.

Cancer cut him down at the age of 35. I believe that was the price he paid for struggling as he did. When you fight back as hard as he had to against life itself, against what people expect, what people try to force you to do, you burn out. Life will make you pay when you defy convention.

Segue: Big Papi.

I have been digging on David Ortiz as he kicks ass and spreads his love in his final season of baseball.


This is a man with balls of steel and the biggest heart in sports.

He is the definition of clutch and the definition of tough. If a pitcher messes with his head, if Big Papi gets beat one time at the plate you can be goddamn sure he will have his revenge.

With style and grace and triumph and a sly smile.

Yet he can walk over to the stands and effortlessly connect with a young fan in a genuine way. As a real, down to earth and sensitive human being.

As opposed to many athletes today who cannot avoid coming across as insincere because they are so far removed from the life of an every day human.

You cannot help but love David Ortiz. You cannot help but respect him. A unique man in today's sports world, one that all other athletes should emulate.

But they won't. Because he is unique; because they don't care.

These are two radically different lives. Two very different people.

Each is a blueprint for how to live.

The lesson to me is that you gotta live your life. Every thing you say and do should be an expression of what is unique to your soul.

Strangely enough, this is easier said than done.

We get lost. And our lives have no meaning.

This, sadly, is an eternal dilemma, evident since the beginnings of mankind.

The proof is there in the deepest poetry, a poignant song lyric, the most thoughtful literature. Any and every reflective creative expression ever put forth by the most creative and insightful people on the planet.


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Alone With His Thoughts

Silence, solitude, was always a comfort; people just get in the way.
But things change; now silence brings a hint of fear.
He once romanticized quiet reflection, fancied himself a thinker.
Now quiet creates a vacuum that is quickly flooded with conflicting thoughts
and powerful emotions.
A life can change faster than a mind can comprehend
and catching up is confusing; even frightening.
It will never be the same, being alone with his thoughts.

Monday, September 19, 2016

MOHS For The Nose, Baby

It's pronounced "moze".

Ok, they got all that nasty shit out of my back.

Dr. Feelgood called last week to say they dug all the cancer out. So that is a good thing.

Now I begin an intimate relationship with a dermatologist. Long term.

Gotta see her every three months for the next two years; every six months for three years after that.

I am OK with that. For one thing it will give me peace of mind knowing an expert is checking me thoroughly on a regular basis.

In addition it will inspire me to lose weight.

In the last month so many people inspected my bloated, aged body that it was embarrassing. I vowed that I would lose fifteen pounds when I semi-retired; instead I gained five. I failed to take into consideration the workouts I was getting at the Booze Emporium.

Now I gotta lose 20.

What the hell; we all need inspiration.

My goal is that at the end of five years or hopefully before, the dermatologist will say when I remove my shirt "Oh my, you have the body of a 21 year old."

I don't think that is too unrealistic.

On to phase two. I got some cancer in my nose. Apparently not too scary. Squamous cell carcinoma.

It is a cancer that occurs in the skin's upper layers, hanging around threatening to get more serious if you apathetically ignore it.

I caught it, Dr. Feelgood #2 is gonna shave it off next week. 09/27.

MOHS surgery is a procedure where they shave a small amount of skin off the diseased area and then run down to the lab to see if they got all the cancerous cells. If they did I am done. If not they shave a little more.

It is a slow process. They told me to plan on being there for two to four hours. That is one to three hours longer than it took to hack that shit out of my back.

And apparently I will look goofy when I leave, big bandage on the nose, Nurse Ratched said wearing my glasses will be a challenge.

The reason for the procedure is to cause as little disfigurement as possible. I was told I may require plastic surgery on the nose afterwards.

Personally, I have been living with El Grande Testa family nose all my life. If they chop it down a little bit, maybe make me look more like a movie star than a gangster, I won't mind.

August and September have been fascinating months for me. Been through a lot, learned a lot including a lesson or two, warped around my thinking a little in a positive way.

Turned me into a vampire.

Now when the sun hits my face I shy away.

Life is a bizarre son of a bitch.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

More Than Just Words

Boogeying home on Sunday morning from OOB listening to Brunch By The River on 92.5 The River when this song pops up.

"Corn Liquor" by Southern Culture On The Skids.

Dig this verse:

"Now way back in the woods where I come from, my daddy had a still and my mama had a gun, yonder came the sheriff, tried to make us run, Momma shot him dead now I'm her only son."

Those are some powerful lyrics, baby.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Perfect Logic

I fucking hate waiting on people.

That's why I have been working in retail since 2006.

Monday, September 12, 2016

You're A Whole Different Person...........................

I finished reading the Border trilogy by Cormac McCarthy this morning.

I was close to the end of the book on the day before we left for vacation so I left it behind. Strange, I know, but that's the way I think. I wanted to start something fresh on vacation. Ended up picking up a biography on Andy Kaufman at Old Orchard Beach and got deeply into it.

Finished the third in the trilogy this morning and tried to pick up Kaufman again.

Couldn't do it. I could not make the transition. Because those three books were so deep and so full of life observations.

Honest life observations.

This is what I crave. I have no need to run around pretending that life is all sweetness and light; it is not. It is more disappointment and compromise than transcendent beauty.

When I met with the surgeon who would eventually hack that nasty cancer shit out of my back, his very first words to me were "this is serious." And then he said "But we caught it early which is a very good thing."

He did not sugar coat anything and I love him for that. He explained the very excellent odds that I would have no problems down the road but also went on to say that since I have cancer on my nose as well as my back it could be a sign that I will have other problems down the road.

We actually laughed together; he made me laugh, I made him laugh, which is extraordinary in that situation.

Made me think about a song that Hunter Thompson co-wrote with Warren Zevon called "You're A Whole Different Person When You're Scared."

I have so many hang ups and anxieties that I walk stooped over. But I was scared that day. That fear blasted through all my bullshit and allowed me to handle the situation exactly as I wanted to.

I want honesty in my literature. In my movies, in my music, in everything that touches my emotions.

There is so much depth to the Border trilogy that it often left me breathless.

Hard truths, honest conversation, crushing sadness, uplifting human interactions, disappointments and compromise.

I am really digging the Andy Kaufman biography. Extraordinary man, amazing life. But the end of "Cities of the Plains" left me so contemplative this morning that I read about two sentences of the Kaufman biography and had to put it down.

That is how I want to be moved.

Every day.

Football Is Back (Thank You Jesus)

Vacation is done.

What the hell do you do when vacation is done? What the hell do you say? I'll get back to that.

Got home yesterday around 12:30. Kissed the hell out of the cats, freshened up their water bowl, cleaned the kitty litter box, unpacked, poured myself a short whiskey and sat down to watch football.

I was all about football, switching back and forth between Packers/Jags and Bengals/Jets but Carol gently reminded me that The Sox were playing.

This is mid September baseball, baby and The Sox are up two games; hot damn let insanity rule. So we watched baseball and I flipped between the two football games in between innings.

Jesus Christ - Packers 27, Jags 23; Bengals 23, Jets 22. Are you kidding me? Two exciting games.

When The Sox finished carving another notch in their belt I watched Giants/Cowboys.

Jesus Christ - Giants 20, Cowboys 19. Are you kidding me?

Then I moved on to PATS/Cardinals.

Jesus Christ - PATS 23, Cardinals 21. Are you kidding me?

What an amazing, fulfilling, exciting and stimulating Week 1 of the 2016/2017 NFL season.

I crazy go nuts for football. I gotta have it. It supercharges me every year and reminds me that I am actually alive, not just existing.

And it eases the return from Old Orchard Beach.

Our life is small. Four days at Old Orchard Beach. That is our annual vacation. That's it.

No visit to the French Riviera, Arizona, Hawaii, Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, New Orleans, Italy or Paris.

Not that I wouldn't like to visit those places. I would. I dearly would. Probably won't happen, though.

Still, OOB soothes our souls and our psyches; it brings peace and the ocean is mesmerizing.

Coming home is both jarring and comforting.

So what do you do when you get home?

The ideal would be to take that vacation energy and use it to transform your life and your personality. Blow things up and walk through the debris to a new and exciting reality.

We humans are creatures of habit. Restricted by routine.

You come home, you slip back into that routine and the vacation becomes more of a temporary high from a wonderful drug rather than a transformative experience.

There is something sadly wrong about that.

Pure Wisdom

"In everything that he'd ever thought about the world and about his life in it he'd been wrong."

From "Cities of the Plain" by Cormac McCarthy.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Death On The Beach

Came across a dead seagull in the sand yesterday during our beach walk.

This disturbed me greatly.

You just don't expect to see a dead seagull in the sand. Maybe it had washed up with the waves.

They fly around here like they own the joint. Because they do.

Very cool to watch. Many times when we are standing at the porch railing a gull flies right at the building, you feel like you could reach out and touch it and suddenly it rises up and over the top of the building at the last moment.

Gone on to more fun and adventure.

Did a little research on seagulls. Native American symbolism represents the seagull as a carefree attitude, versatility and freedom.

I read that their lifespan is typically 7 to 10 years although I also read that some believe they can live to be a hundred. Seems a little absurd.

I also read that when their lifespan is up they just fall into the ocean and die. I like that image. It is romantic.

Medical science refers to seagulls as the example of nature that defies the universal aging process. There is no loss of agility as they get older, no breaking down of the body. I should have grabbed me some of that gull's DNA to splice with my own.

Seagulls are intelligent, able to learn, remember and pass on behaviors. They are attentive and caring parents. They can drink both fresh and salt water, which is rare in the animal kingdom - they have a special pair of glands right above their eyes specifically designed to flush the salt from their systems.

This seagull's death seems more significant considering my new found knowledge.

I think it hit me more dramatically because of the contrast between it and the exuberant life I see all around me all day up here.

Kids and parents, people and pets, humans exuding abandon, laughter and love, people contemplating quietly, people acting crazy with no embarrassment at all.

Old Orchard Beach is all about life and the temporary adoption of a carefree lifestyle.

Death has no place here.

But it is inexorable and inevitable, no?

Friday, September 9, 2016

And Now For Something Completely Different

This vacation is a vacation unto itself.

An American original. No precedent.

As I told you previously we slept deliciously late. Then we went out for a leisurely breakfast. And I mean leisurely. We sat around and shot the shit for a while after chowing. Digging on the people pulling in to Old Orchard Beach.

It is like New York City, baby. Things crank up on Friday. Especially because there is a motorcycle rally every year on this weekend and a bicycle race. So you get a great mix of derelicts and health nuts.

Then we took a walk around downtown. Up this way, down that way.

On the way back we stopped in to a bookstore. Every year I check out this store but I never stop in because I am on vacation. Who the hell needs books?

This year is different. Picked up a biography on Andy Kaufman and a book written by James Lee Burke, one of my favorite authors.

Then we did the pier. I have consumed many an alcoholic beverage on that pier. In good company. But not today. We strolled it for the ambiance.

Got back to the hotel and chilled. I started reading the Kaufman biography. That seemed appropriate for some reason.

Carol crocheted.

We sat on this porch each doing what we love most. For quite a while. As the ocean mesmerized us with its sound and beauty.

Decided to walk the beach. Kind of like walking the earth (Pulp Fiction reference) only completely different.

It was a long walk. We were tired when we got back but it was worth it. Walking the beach is always worth it.

I just took a shower. Carol is taking a shower. In a little while we will meet up with Robin and Cathy for dinner, two people that we dig.

Here is my point.

This time around this visit is about as laid back as a visit can get. As different from any other time we have been here as it could possibly be.

And it feels good.

It ties into the way life changes as you perilously negotiate the curves.

Nothing stays the same.

You gotta roll with it.

I miss the insanity. I miss Sarge, I miss Kevin, I miss seeing Cori and John, I miss being with Paula & Bill.

I feel incredibly peaceful right now.

It is what it is.

Woke Up, Got Out of Bed, Dragged a Comb Across My head

Crawled out of bed this morning, checked my phone to find it was 9:10.

Are you fucking kidding me? 9:10?

I usually wake up around 6 or 7 when we are up here. Is this what feeling relaxed is all about?

The ocean is gentle this morning. Last night it was crashing into the surf loudly and beautifully chanting "change of scenery, change of perspective.Think. Think. Think."

This morning the message is "you are only human. Be gentle with yourself. Move slowly. Take it all in. Make change an easy going and natural thing. Do not fight it. But do it. Just do it. I will be here forever.You however, will not."

My relationship with the sun has changed. The sun is a violent and evil enemy now.

At this time of day the sun is right in our faces on the porch. Used to be I would be sitting out there right now, writing, and digging on the sheer beauty and power.

Right now I am sitting on a chair just inside the door looking out at what is around.

Strange feeling. I have always loved the feel of the sun on my skin and in my bones. But that is to be no more, for the most part. Because I cannot stand slathering sunscreen on my body.

Later today I will compromise. We will sit on the beach and I will be covered with the stuff. Also wearing my very cool wide brimmed white hat to protect my fragile eggshell mind. (Hat that I bought up here a few years ago).

Still, I got the ocean. Always the ocean.

Birds, dogs, kids, warmth.

I have Carol. Right here with me in this low rent paradise that we dig so much.

Time for breakfast.

Gotta run.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

This Is The Strangest Life I've Ever Known

Breathing a sigh of relief.

Or something quite like it. Just a settin' here two stories up from the Atlantic Ocean.

Listening to it. Looking at it. Marvelling. At peace.

Old Orchard Beach, baby. Our 203rd annual trip.

Just me & Carol this year. Population is dwindling. Things change.

We first started coming up here to celebrate Paula's birthday, and to get away and get into. Paula was a young chick back then. Fresh out of diapers, full of wonder. Now she is the Grand Dame of Billerica, MA. Living with her old man, Crazy Ass Bill.

Used to be a party back then. Sarges Tailgate Grille was open for business and so were we. Ready to rock.

We would spend one night at the grille, dining in splendor, partying and laughing. With Sarge and Cori and John and Kevin and the many Maine friends we made over the years.

One day over the weekend they would come and visit us at the hotel. Partying. Laughing.

Magnificent times. Magnificent memories. The musical score of each trip was the sound of the ocean. Reminding us of what is important, delivering unto us peace.

Sarge and Kevin are both gone now. Cori sold the house and lives in New York with John and her mom. The grille is long since closed and Paula & Bill are entrenched in Billerica, MA.

Things change, man - life rolls right over you and there is not a fucking thing you can do about it.

2016. Carol and I are here alone. I am OK with it except for the worry that she may kill me in my sleep.

We will be dining out with Robin and Kathy tomorrow night - long time Maine friends that we met through Cori and Sarge. Saturday there is a slim possibility we will be visited by Jason& Karen & ??? but I will not hold my breath - Karen and Jason are derelict losers and alcohol abusers - when they wake up Saturday morning they may not even know what planet they are on.

That's it. No partying, no mass get togethers, a lot of peace, a lot of quiet.

And I am sitting here with a 4" incision in my back. Ugly fucking thing. Won't let me ignore it because it still hurts one week after the surgery.

The Doc hacked some cancer out of my back and changed my perspective instantaneously.

I am sitting here thinking. A lot. About the history of this vacation and how it has changed; how life has changed it against our will. How life works.

You really do need to stay alert. Pay attention. Dig the things that make you happy, consciously and with deep respect and awe. Pursue them vigorously.

Life is paper thin. Fucking fragile, man. It is this thing that we all take for granted that sometimes delivers a knock out punch just to get you back in the game.

Or to take you out.

This vacation is not what it used to be; not even close. But then again neither is life. Our life has changed dramatically in two years.

Sarge, Jonathan, Kevin.

It will be two years in December and March. Two fucking years. That is a lot to deal with in a very short time.

Three weeks ago cancer was a concept. Now it is a reality for me evidenced by a 4" scar on my back.

Three fucking weeks.

I am happy to be here. Happy that Carol is sitting peacefully next to me on this porch. Happy for the memories.

Aware with razor sharp intensity just how unpredictable life is.

The ocean is gorgeous. Waves are rolling in relentlessly and with intensity. Wrestling my fears and anxieties to the ground and making way for peaceful thoughts and calm emotions.

All in all, not a bad day.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Cormac, You're Killing Me, Man

I'm into the third in Cormac McCarthy's "Border" trilogy.

"Cities of the Plain."

Dig this excerpt: "When you're a kid you have these notions about how things are goin to be, Billy said. You get a little older and you pull back some on that. I think you wind up just tryin to minimize the pain."

I am about to propose marriage to Cormac McCarthy.

When The Sacred Gin Mill Closes

What a great name for a book.

I was trolling on line and came across recommendations for detective type books. This one caught my eye.

"When The Sacred Gin Mill Closes" by Lawrence Block. Featuring ex cop Matt Scudder, main character in a series of books by Block.

It is a good story set in NYC in the 70's and 80's. Hard drinking, hard fighting, tough guy stuff. I dug it.

Kind of like my life. I drink a couple bottles of whiskey a day and still manage to kick the ass of anybody and everybody who pisses me off. I let my knuckles do the talking and my victims do the apologizing.

The book opens with a verse by Dave Van Ronk from a song called "Last Call." The words: "And so we've had another night of poetry and poses, and each man knows he'll be alone when the sacred gin mill closes."

Lancing the boil of pretension and pretending, with the harshness of truth.

Dave Van Ronk was Bob Dylan before Bob Dylan was Bob Dylan.

That comment is not entirely accurate but it sounds pretty cool so I'm leaving it in.

He was a major figure in the folk scene in Greenwich Village in the 60's before Dylan got there. When Dylan got there he blew everything up on the sheer power of his words and songs.

Van Ronk was the man on the scene and provided help and inspiration to up and coming artists like Dylan and Joni Mitchell. His nickname was Mayor of MacDougal Street.

I went to YouTube and checked out Van Ronk and "Last Call." Haunting. Sung A capella.

And the lyrics, baby - the goddamn lyrics.

"and so we'll drink the final glass, each to his joy and sorrow, and hope the numbing drink will last 'till opening tomorrow".

"I broke my heart the other day, it will mend again tomorrow, if I'd been drunk when I was born, I'd be ignorant of sorrow".

That line blows me away. It's one of those lines you just have to go with; you can't question it. I mean you would have to stay drunk from birth to death to avoid sorrow. Not a bad life plan, though.

Still, that's a heavy image. "if I'd been drunk when I was born..............."

"and so we'll drink the final toast that never can be spoken: Here's to the heart that's wise enough to know when its better off broken".

The song fits the tone of the book, the book fits the tone of the song, and both creative endeavors chain the reader and listener to a reality they'd rather avoid.

Gritty, hard drinking, drunk/philosopher truths.

Friday, September 2, 2016

That Word (That Fucking Word)

Let's catch up.

I have had a recurring growth on my nose for around six months. Decided to get it checked out. Saw a dermatologist on 08/18.

She decided to biopsy the nose thing. She also found a growth on my back. Biopsied that too.

On Tuesday, 08/23 I spent the night with my son Keith and my brother Ed. Keith and I motored down to Nashua to watch my extraordinary brother, who is 61 years old, play baseball. Real baseball. Hard ball. Fast pitch.

A night does not get much better than that. My brother and my son on a beautiful summer night. The only way it could have been better is if it included Carol, Craig, Karen & Emily.

Got home at 11:30 and Carol was still up. What was this crazy woman doing waiting up?

Waiting to tell me I have cancer.

The dermatologist called while I was out. Told Carol the nose was squamous cell, a form of cancer but not too scary. Told her the back was melanoma. Stage I-A. A little scarier.

We talked. Carol went to bed. I had not had supper so I made myself a sandwich and poured myself a short whiskey.

Ate a little. Thought a lot.

Slept late Wednesday morning. Fifteen minutes after I crawled out of bed the phone rang. It was the plastic surgeon's office calling to tell me he had an opening at 3:30 on Thursday, needed to see me for a consultation.

I told them I work afternoons, how about a morning appointment. The woman said to me:

"This is cancer. We prefer to act immediately."

That, ladies and gentlemen, was a punch to the face.

I had not had a lot of time to think about it but apparently my brain skipped over the cancer part and believed they would dig this shit out of me and then decide what was going on.

They dug it out of me yesterday. It's on its way to California, which pisses me off. This diseased thing that was attacking my body gets to travel to California while I am still stuck in New Hampshire.

Here are my thoughts.

Cancer is a frightening word. It all happened so fast; my brain is still trying to sort it out, trying to decide how I will react. Which way I will go.

Dr. Feelgood told me 95% of people who have what I have at the stage I have it are cancer free in that spot five years down the road; five years being the magic number.

Those are pretty good odds.

Yet my brain keeps wondering if this is the beginning of the end. Maybe my life will be a lot shorter than I want it to be.

I called my brother to give him the news and got through the call all right. I called Keith and Craig and cried like a little girl.

I was so mad at myself. I wanted to tell them they had nothing to worry about and here I was crying. Not very convincing.

Giving in to the fear.

Fuck that.

Carol and I have warriors in our families.

Carol's mother Dolly fought breast cancer for many years. She was a very tough customer. Sarge fought cancer as hard as anyone possibly could and he kept a sense of humor about him. Cori had a chunk taken out of her leg and is still kicking ass. Carol's father was diagnosed with melanoma years ago and is still dancing. My Uncle Carmen was attacked by bladder cancer and is still making the world laugh at the age of 85 or so.

My point is that compared to what these warriors had to deal with, my cancer is like cancer on training wheels.

I am still working on this. Still a bit surprised. A little shaky.

But I know what I need to do.