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Black crowned night heron, Lindo Lake

Friday, January 30, 2009

Balloon Animals

video

From Bleak to Desolate


As if one needed any more confirmation that the end times are fast approaching, I have encountered a previously unknown phenomenon - eighties music stations. Like going to McDonalds for cooking classes.  Would prefer tooth extraction to listening to the Psychedelic Furs. Actually found some really first rate Austin Country stations today - Willie sang a song about having a puff!

I changed my frame of reference today by pulling off the interstate and onto the old road that went through all the little towns, 90.  It was a monochromatic "Last Picture Show" look at Welmar, Flatonia, La Grange and really quite charming. Stood out front of a justice of the peace and constable's office. I took one or two shots and realized that I needed to eat up mileage and to do this properly would take a week so I boogied.  Yeah, Yeah, Big Pussy, but it was a conservation of energy problem and I had to do a quick cost benefit analysis and truth be told I am not feeling all that arty. I have to admit that there was a lot of beauty to be encountered once I got off the 10.

I am in the middle of the god forsaken void now - blogging at a Texas rest stop near Sonora.  I broke down and ate my first beef since June at a Texas Barbecue and it wasn't real good and didn't do my stomach any favors. Good bottle of Texas Frosty root beer, however.

I drove 15 hours yesterday and really feel it today - going to cut it short and stop in Fort Stockton, I think.  Stopped in Boerne to see a few antique shops but the gay guys have left and it was all crap.

Well got to put on another 187 miles or so - thanks for tuning in!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Texas, how I hate thee...



The sun rise, the sun set, we're still in Texas yet...


Texas, I hate you for your miles without end of piss colored scrub
for free 72 ounce steaks
for your shitty interstate with the miles of strangulating concrete barricades beyond count
for Karl Rove and your adopted son from Crawford
for Belching Duellies and prissy Escalades
for your polluted skies and
fetid water
for platinum blondes with big hair
and the compliant husbands
with the packers and the wrangler jeans
that walk like they've all been sodomized
for big oil
and little dicks
that hide behind dinner plate sized beltbuckles
for elvin hayes who stopped alcindor's streak
for 867 miles of boredom in traversing your god forsaken ground
for Ozona and Kent and Katy and the stinking gulf
for Charles Whitman and Ima Hogg and Tom Landry
blow dryers and transams
The bug killer Tom Delay
Anna Nicole and Walker, Texas Ranger
Hormone fed beef
Phil Gramm and Lee Harvey Oswald
Dr Pepper and Armadillos
poor whitetail that run from
your stupid hunters.

You did have Molly Ivins, Janis Joplin, Ralph Yarborough and Bonnie Parker. You still have Hightower and Jimmy Dale Gilmour and Joe Ely and Austin and good brisket. But I rue the day I will have to set foot here again.

Crank Calls

Ring, Ring, Ring. Oh, god not again, do I have to answer it? "Who is it?" 'You know who it is, buster - it's your bladder." "But you just called ten minutes ago - is this really necessary?" I'll show you necessary - do you want me to embarrass you and make you duckwalk in front of all those tourists at the Mississippi Welcome Center again?" Okay, Okay, I'll stop - but this is extortion..."

Well another day on the road - started off in Niceville, Florida - somewhere I swear there is a truth in advertising lawsuit just waiting to happen.  Gobbled up miles and quickly traversed Alabama and Mississippi and just about to enter Louisiana.  Will detour around the big easy - the thoughts of sashaying through quaint southern burgs has been eclipsed by my desire to get home number one, and two the exigent reality that I have close to a half million dollars in paintings and antiques sitting largely unprotected in my van.  I knew some pot dealers in the seventies who said that you never get off the main road and am taking their wise dictum to heart.  I am sitting at the rest area of the John Stennis Nasa Welcome Center and Space Tour memorial and am freezing this morning.  Am on the lookout for boiled crabs and crawfish.

Largely uneventful morning - lots of billboards for bad seventies and eighties bands, 38 Special, Kansas, etc..  Guess they never die, third generation imposters just travel to the red state heartland and whoop it up for eternity.  Saw a Skynyrd billboard at one casino.  As I predicted, the local newsman in Niceville was tearing up talking about Powell's playing on I think call me the breeze.  

Too cold for blogging - packin up. Ciao!


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Stars and Bars


I've just put in about ten hours driving - two or three more before I pull off. Been a good day and I feel good - have spoken to a lot of friends today and it makes it easier. Been through a lot of rain since Gainesville but driving has been surprisingly pleasant. I am stopped at a pit barbecue eating local pulled chicken with a big variety of homemade sweet and smoky bar-b-q sauces. Pretty yummy.

Just heard on the local radio station in Blountsville that Billy Powell, the Lynyrd Skynyrd keyboardist has died so I imagine flags will be at half mast tomorrow throughout the south. i think that means one original member left and I wouldn't give you a plug nickel for his chances. You would not believe me if I told you that the family at the next table is shoeless but it's the god's honest. I gassed up a few miles back and struck up a conversation with a private detective from Georgia who was here to interview a meth head. He said that the litmus test for an attractive woman in the area was one whose two remaining teeth touched. Passed the Cafe Risque nude luncheonette again in Gainesville but never believed in mixin' pleasure with grub. Didn't stop for a picture once again being a respectful man.

Lots of prayer meetings and evangelical calls to faith on the local radio station. Passed one prolife march with grisly signs. Haven't really felt like taking any pictures, no inspiration but did see some beautiful mossy views of the everglades. Maybe I will get a spark tomorrow. Stopped at one large antique mall/old barn and it would have been really great if you collected star wars lunchboxes and dusty old bottles. Somehow don't think it will be a big buying trip. Actually feels real good to be driving alone - getting back in touch with my old road warrior. Been a couple years.

Had a beautiful dream last night. I was in a home that bore a remarkable resemblance to the late Tony Maguire's casa. Except that there were gargantuan black panthers roaming around the grounds. And the backyard was a thousand foot tall waterfall about three hundred feet wide and sixty foot deep that people were plunging off of and safely landing in the pools far below. I have always been agoraphobic so I never got past studying the situation but was prepared to go when I suddenly awoke... Don't know what it means - maybe you can look it up in your book, Nelson?

Peace.

Okahumpka, FL


I am sitting in a dreary rest stop off the Florida Turnpike near Ocala. I have my big jewish Michael Bloomfield hair thing going and I think I am scaring the natives. The Sirius radio stopped working for some reason and I am afraid I will be channel surfing for the next several thousand miles. I caught an interesting mambo/40's show on a christian nation and listened to the Gaylords and Rosemary Clooney. This stuff may soon be lost to the dustbin of time. Lots of Barack haters on the two bit right wing channels, small town hatemongerers honing their talons.

I just heard that it was thirty years ago this hour that the Challenger spacecraft went down and the synchronicity is jarring because I just passed the Kennedy Space Center. Dark storm clouds are brewing in the skies on this cold day. Don't know how far I can travel or exactly what I am traveling into but such is life, no?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Slog Begins...



I start driving back to California tomorrow morning. Looks like Texas is in what the Weather Channel calls a historic ice storm. My hope is that it will have totally cleared the day after tomorrow when I am scheduled to roll through. I am going to try to take it slow but am a little scared because of all the creepy k-rail concrete barricades on the road as well as the ice. If I have to stay a few extra days in Alabama, I will. Or explore Mississippi. I am staying with my sister tonight in West Palm Beach. She wants me to spend an extra night but I feel like I have to keep moving forward and figure out when to schedule the kidney operation. Drove Steve to the airport this afternoon. Lucky guy. If anyone wants to call, I would love to talk while driving. I plan on driving no more than 10 hours a day. My fervent hope, in no particular order is to arrive safely, in a minimal amount of pain and not have a nervous breakdown. If I owe any of you money and don't get back, tough shit. My tailbone feels bruised from all the sitting. Wish me luck!

Monday, January 26, 2009

I've got one word for you - Plastics.



After a little over a week in Florida, the land of Ponce de Leon and the fountain of youth, I think that I am a qualified expert on plastic surgery. No lie, even the store mannequins are sporting 38 double d's. I have been afraid to engage some of the matrons for fear of them trying to force a smile and having half of their face tear off. I am told that blinking is also ill advised. I have learned a whole new vocabulary regarding women and their vanities - did you know that a woman whose fat spills over the top of her much too tight jeans is called a muffin top?


There is a whole Caesar Romero/Heath Ledger look that's in down here right now but unfortunately it has a limited set of emotional tones available. It works good for really, really happy. The long black dyed hair slut look (tube top, large crucifix, fake tits, tattoos, tall boots, painted on glitzy pants) has it's adherents as well. I tend to clinically observe the whole dress thing like Margaret Mead doing field studies in Borneo but I saw one of the latter walking by and a fellow dealer Pat came up to me and in all seriousness said " that's how I want my girlfriends to look, like whores."

Anyway these death cheating dames tend to favor $10,000.00 dollar Gucci handbags and lots of gold and silver lame. It's a richer, more sophisticated crowd than your typical California bunch but perhaps a bit older demographically. I appreciate that I too will soon be grappling with the entropic effects of aging but I don't think you can ever fool mother nature and personally prefer the old fashioned style of aging to the current methods of reconstruction. But I am lucky - since I have a gorgeous unaltered wife who will always be the most beautiful woman in the world to me.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Depression Chic



I was reading an article in the New York Times today about white collar workers retraining in the current economic downturn as welders and truck drivers. Crock pot is the most searched term on the internet. The casserole is evidently back in as well. Suddenly, conspicuous consumption is tres outré.

My sister is an accountant and was telling me a story yesterday about a very wealthy 99 year old client of hers who lost everything in the Madoff scandal. Newly arrived émigrés from the land of opulence and splendor are landing on the shores of the Bush depression every day.

I am sort of a foodie but must admit to be taken slightly aback by the food column in the Los Angeles Times. How long will the public stand for an anachronism like Irene Virbila waxing over the quality of truffles and sweetbreads at the chic west side eateries while the general public goes hungry? I think that patrician gourmands will soon have to go underground or risk the wrath of the angry bourgeoisie.

I heard that Campbell's Soup, mac and cheese and McDonalds are doing really well in the downturn. Suddenly comfort food is back in. Canapes are being quickly replaced by sloppy joes and beanie weenie at the most tony affairs.

In the long run, I think we will look back at this time with some measure of fondness and appreciation. We are all taking our medicine. I grew up poor and know all about it. But the class equalization of the downturn can take the edge off the entitled people's feeling of being a special race and breed. Maybe we can all work together for a while? Poor is in, in, in. Soon we will be competing on street corners for the title of most compelling tale of woe. Like the old game show, Queen for a Day.

My advice is to be very careful and to save any cast off effects and other detritus of this forlorn era. Someday they just might be worth a lot of gelt.

Miami Vices


Another day page has been torn off life's calendar, this one pretty much a waste of time and effort. I awake today to the patter of many feet as a 10k pitters bye.  Yesterday was basically a financial wash out, although I did buy a nice watercolor by Hiroshi Yoshida of Kyoto.  If I return to the Miami Beach Antique Show I will have to concentrate on appealing to the more base desires of rotten humanity.

My sister and her husband drove down for West Palm Beach and walked much of the show until their feet gave out.  We went back to Puerto Sagua, the Cubaño restaurant where we have been spending much of our time and I watched my sister quietly remove first a fly, and then a hair from her fare.  Somebody mentioned yesterday that one should never frequent a restaurant that does not depend on repeat business and I must agree.  Ocean Avenue, in Miami, is teeming with crappy food being aggressively hawked by european temptresses that is largely inedible. But they can count on a steady stream of new suckers waiting to be shucked.  Wonderful to see my sister and her husband!

As I have been largely off television for the past twenty years, the medium is a new window on the deplorable human condition.  I am particularly grossed out by the hunting shows where children  of all ages start dancing around as they run up to the fallen victim/turkey/buck they have just blown out of existence.  They lift the antlers in this desensitized centerfold shot that shows so little respect for the hapless creature that has just tasted their hot lead.  Pound their chest like a pro wrestler.  Maybe they will get a chance one incarnation to come back as a pronghorn and see how fast they can run?

I forgot to take my last pill last night and think that my heart may be out of rhythm again.  Also getting a small cold.  No hot water in the flat.  Can't wait to get out of here and go home. Must Stop Bitching.  Have certainly had enough art deco for a long while.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Send them to Camp Pendleton!


Congressmen Duncan Hunter, Brian Bilbray and Darrel Issa have recently spoken out against relocating Guantanamo Bay inmates to Camp Pendleton, the large United States Marine base in Southern California. These paper tigers should reconsider their nimby like attitudes and welcome the terrorists to the southland.  As a San Diego native who lives at the back gate of Camp Pendleton, I think that I speak for all my fellow right minded citizens in saying that we are ready and willing to do our fair share. Camp Pendleton is huge, and there is ample room for detention rooms and torture chambers, on good old American soil.  

This might even spur a little tourism from relatives in Saudi Arabia and Yemen.  We welcome our friends from the middle east.  Give the local economy a kick in the pants. There are great views of the large buffalo herds on base and the best surf in the country near bye at Trestles.  From surfboarding to waterboarding, let's show them the best of what the region has to offer!  Don't let a few stick in the mud republicans pull the welcome mat out from under our new friends and detainees. Halal available.

Jimmy Buffett - A Pirate Looks at 40

Florida Boogie


I just awoke from a weird dream. I loaded up a Bonanza airplane with bales of marijuana and somehow landed it in my father's backyard (a tall order since I don't know how to fly), and then I had to find a mysterious way to shove it all in a cadillac trunk where I covered it in newspaper. Ended up at the Moose lodge drinking with Michael Johnson, laughing my ass off.

Florida is a strange place.  I know I have a terrible tendency to exaggerate and that I am prone to generalize, but the place is full of gold diggers. I have seen a subspecies of women walking around wearing serious bling that makes your typical Palm Springs matriarch look like some farm marm on Little House on the Prairie.  I have been collecting stories about some of the things these broads will do in hopes of snagging a rich meal ticket.  Lots of mistresses and infidelity and a level of materialism that brings out the anti stuff hippie kid in me. So very venal the kind of deal some will settle for in life. Ostentatious Rolls Royces and Ferraris in tropical shades galloping along on the crowded avenues competing with each other for the title of base grossness.

We ate at a popular sushi bar last night, Toni's, I think.  Interesting menu - started with miso with clams and the place was all right.  But I have noticed that the bigger the city, the skimpier the fish portion.  Yamas, my faithful Fallbrook sushi den's portions are probably three times bigger.  And big city sushi joints try to be so hip that the food can be inedible.  When I was in San Francisco a few months ago with Big Dave, he took me to a place that put slices of pear on the fish and other assorted culinary bastardizations and it was just plain wrong. Wrong!

Several of you have offered to fly out and help me drive back and I appreciate it - think I will just drive slow and look at it as a challenge.  The side pain is dissipating somewhat and I think I can pull it off.  But thanks.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Obama's blackberry question



There is a hue and cry brewing over Obama holding on to his blackberry during his presidency. Now I think that since the past administration generally thumbed its nose at and made mincemeat of the Presidential Records Act, it takes real chutzpah to challenge Obama on this one.  Much of the Bush dirty work was done on RNC blackberry's so Barack has a historical precedent to follow.

I have a Blackberry 8830 world phone and think I know why he doesn't want to give up his crackberry.  He probably plays Brickbreaker. Brickbreaker is a cool little game on the phone that is so intoxicating that I find myself playing on the john, in the middle of the night, driving, etc.  You send a ball hurtling towards various stacks of bricks with an arsenal of tools at your side.  You try to stay away from the bane of the brickbreaker, the dreaded flip. There are various levels and the great players score in the millions.  My best score is a measly 11,625.  When I replaced the phone, an event that causes you to lose your score, the cocky young guy at Verizon looked at my brickbreaker score and sadly shook his head, saying "that's just not good enough, man". 

 I have never been a video game player and I don't know how they get through the more dastardly levels, but some do and my hat is off to the victors.  I meet casual players that score 10 or 15,000 more points than I do and it is hard to hide my shame and envy.  No wonder the economy is in such shit shape, everyone is fooling around on their phones.  To put 100 or 200 thousand points up must require a level of indolence not seen since Maynard G. Krebs. When I see people with Blackberries, I try to subtly check out their scores if I can. My action is a little slow on my roller ball. Don't know if I can oil it up. I hear that it might be easier to play on the new Storm.

I hope that the White House Press Corps can dig in on this issue and see if Numero Uno is a brickbreaker guy - inquiring minds want to know.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Showtime


Here I am at the show with Nathan and Roxanne, my friend and helper. No sales yet and very little action seemingly on the floor, with the dealers apparently suffering the same economic trepidation as the public at large. Leslie, my wife, called this morning and said that I should make sure that I was the charming, happy Robert and not the miserable unpleasant Robert but we all know what a prick of misery I will be if I am still at zero after six days of this.

Have met a lot of nice people and everyone loves my wares, seemingly so that is some small consolation. I have bought a lot of great things including an off the charts Donal Hord sculpture. If I don't sell something maybe the mortgage company will want a sculpture.  Steve sold a high dollar painting.  He told me to bring big glitzy, icart type stuff but unfortunately I am all out of bad taste.  I went for color and quality and have my fingers crossed that it just might work.

Roxanne is a sweet girl from Trinidad. I put her on the phone with Leslie and my wife asked her if she would mind keeping me forever. She politely deferred the request. Really glad I hired her because the medical thing is stressing me out. It is also freezing cold in Florida and there is no bedding in the condo. Or soap, or a broom, or toilet paper. If there is a next time it will be in a hotel. They tell me that the cold weather is highly unusual but I am acting smug at the unusual  frigid conditions.

I called the doctor last night when things got particularly nasty and he told me to take advil, stop drinking alcohol and coffee and to eat bland food. Evidently the long trip, along with the stent, has irritated my system. I forgot and drank half a cup of coffee this morning but am hereby off for the duration of the trip.

I still don't have a cable so I can't upload my photographs but I need to take one of the chinese chap who's set up across from me, the chinese Austin Powers, with swank rectangular glasses and spurs and Carnaby street mod jacket. Classic and priceless. Everything in his booth is set up in pairs, including all the counterfeit pots and horses.

Went out with Nathan to the Redlight restaurant last night - quail in peaches or a torn bread base.  They asked what I thought and I said that although it was very good and adventurous, I said lose the bread. They did ask after all and it unnecessarily complicated the dish which was a tad too sweet.  The marlin salad with grapefruit and cassava chips was killer.  Place was freezing.

Lot of New Yorkers here and I may be getting a little attitude back.  Security guard thought I was.  Lot of unsavory types roaming the streets of South Beach at night.  Show filled with yarmulkes, South Americans and possibly your uncle Irving.

Guess I better get off the computer and work on the charming and engaging part again. C ya. Remember, pray for a big score for me or you're going to have a miserable prick on your hands.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Le grand coronation


Yesterday was a difficult day for me, one of my toughest setup days in memory.  The Miami Beach Antique Show is massive with over one thousand dealers on the floor and I pulled a leg muscle just walking around.  Add that to my new habit of having to use the bathroom every twenty minutes and you get misery.  After several exploratory expeditions, I actually managed to find a toilet without piss on the seat.  Foul humans...

I did manage to buy a really nice protean mythologic painting by an Indiana artist, John Hemming Fry, that I think is fabulous.  But setup is moving along really slowly and it will be a struggle to be ready by showtime.  I have hired a girl to help me (a first in 15 years) who shows up today and hopefully it will make things easier.

Some really great material on the floor, lots of international dealers, fabulous silver, nice jewelry.  I keep my fingers crossed regarding my own success, but seem to have my usual pessimism which has not yet quite been trumped by my countervailing narcissism.  My booth is postage stamped size and I will have to make difficult decisions this morning regarding what gets shown and what gets put back in the van.  Saw some old comrades from the show world who are amazed that I traveled this far east and my intimidation at the new venue and bigshot east coast dealers has slightly abated.

We traveled north to find a home depot about two hundred blocks north and then went to Publix to buy soap and necessities which the condo lacked and then Steve walked and I limped to a nearby Cuban restaurant for a meal of roast chicken, plantains and black beans. Muy delicioso.

I had several calls during the day from family and friends who were watching the inauguration, rather joyfully.  I was too busy to check anything out. My roommate here, an ardent Bush Cheney supporter, is rather defensive about the legacy of the outgoing administration but I'm trying to gracefully steer around the political minefield.  I think Obama is going to have to start healing the sick with the high level of expectations around him. There will be an eventual comedown and maybe then we will actually get something constructive accomplished. The orgy of glee is a little too much for me right now.  People are more giddy than I can ever remember and that's good and I just wish I felt good enough to join the party.  I watched the dance and methinks the prez got his rhythm from his mother's side of the family.

Although the election points to an America that is obviously more mature racially, as a guy quickly approaching old fart status, my thoughts are that the passing of the baton is more indicative of a generational change.  The Vietnam schism, like outdated opinions of gays and hopefully marijuana legalization are ending.  It was a little too Beyonce and not enough Etta James for me. Call me a romantic.

The landlord is supposed to come over with the plumber to see why the ceiling is leaking this morning so of course the leaking has now stopped.  Have yerselves a wonderful day.

Rob

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Miami Ink

We rolled into Miami about 5:00 last night. Three days from Phoenix, not too bad.  If I can return in six days driving by myself without being too beaten up, I will feel pretty good.  We have rented a South Beach condo - a deco affair above a busy restaurant.  Stopped by a real estate office and picked up the key. Hooked up with my buddy Nathan and walked down the crowded street to get dinner. 

Miami is beautiful right now - perfect balmy weather - lots of young girls showing off lots of skin. Many joined by men many years their senior.  There is a mercantile aspect that seems to emanate from their contract - meat for dough, but maybe on a long term basis.  I have never been truly comfortable in Florida, don't know quite why.  There is a schmaltzy, loud Las Vegasy boardwalk cheesiness to the place.  Very multicultural, cuban, israeli, italian voices are all overheard in the din.  I feel old and fat.

The dinner was lousy, my fault for ordering paella in an italian joint. Whatever I received bore no resemblance to the spanish dish that shares it's name. My companions meals similarly sucked.  We were pigeons on a fence and won't make the mistake again.  I knew the old owner but as Dylan says in the song, things have changed.

We have no room to park near the condo with hundreds of thousands of dollars of merch in the van and managed to find a parking garage.  I slipped the security guard a twenty to keep an extra eye out.  I will see if all is copacetic in an hour or see and start the arduous load in with my thousand fellow dealers.

Have stayed clear of most of the inaugural hubbub in the media, preferring to listen to old radio shows on the radio but caught Colin Powell's speech last night and was very impressed.  People are so giddy over the prospect for change and I think that their expectations will ultimately have to be quenched a little bit.  Unless he can do the loaves and fishes bit.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Waffle House

I'm waiting in the parking lot outside Waffle House while my erstwhile comrade does his bidness.  The south may be known for it's fine culinary cuisine but you don't want to eat breakfast here. Waffle House, Shoney's, Cracker Barrel, this place is a ptomaine alley if there ever was one. With a heavy helping of cholesterol, that is.  We saw about 100 Waffle Houses yesterday and over half were missing letters in the sign.  Beware diners, beware.  Had a great grouper dinner in Mobile, Alabama last night - beautiful city - beautiful port, excellent dinner, pretty waitress.  The southern people are friendlier than they are out west, I think.

We found a new motel in Freeville, Florida to stay in and nothing worked yet.  Credit card, key machine, toilet rocked.  They had miniature tableware, tiny bowls, cups and I told Steve that I felt like a giant who had entered Tinytown.  Another great day on a great trip.

Hasta la vista, baby!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

75 miles to mobile

My first mobile laptop blog in the van.  Wow, didn't know it could be done.  We crossed into Mississippi about a half hour ago. Great to finally get out of Texas- Houston went on forever.  Found a great backwoods feed in Sulpher, Louisiana where we dined on fried and really fried foods - hushpuppies, etouffe, catfish and incredible deep fried sweet potatoes with powdered sugar. Large people and questionable dental hygiene.  Delicious but couldn't make a habit out of it.  Bypassed New Orleans and back on the road...

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Kerrville, Texas

Put about 910 miles on the van today  - Over 500 in Texas alone and don't think we are half through.  Unfortunately driving through the beautiful part (bluebonnets and hill country) in the dark but tomorrow is certainly another day.  Lots of mundane miles today - Kent, Ozona, etc.
Van has a cage that prohibits the seat from moving back so we can't really drive in a comfortable position.  We make frequent driving changes.

Steve and I are good traveling companions - we both like country music  and bluegrass - Sirius radio is a big help.  Tuned into Prairie Home Companion from Louisville as well as an early Superman radio show.  Mostly stayed away from politics.

Horrible dinner at filthy Subway prepared by disinterested attendant - half went into the trash. Forgot my usb cable so I can't stick any pictures up at this point but will try to pick one up. Drove through my childhood homes of Las Cruces and Cielo Vista this morning but they have certainly changed.  Will take off early tomorrow and hopefully have another big day on the odometer.  I feel pretty good.  Hope you have a nice weekend.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Jimmy Cliff - Many Rivers To Cross

Greg Criscuolo and I got to party with this fine singer after one of his shows at the Roxy years ago. I think greg even got to play guitar with him. One of the best parties of my life and the spliffs were like corn cobs - this white boy was put to shame!

My favorite Jamaican performer.  Greg - I love you too, it's a shame it's been decades!


Robert Sommers

Thursday, January 15, 2009

T-Bone Walker - Call It Stormy Monday

Good Shepherd

Hot Tuna - circa 1985

Dave Van Ronk - Philadelphia Folk Festival 1981

Reverend Gary Davis - If I had my way

Cortez The Killer -- Neil Young and Crazy Horse Live 2003

pete townshend - north country girl (with eerie bits)

Roy Head-Treat Her Right (Shindig) 1965

Paul Revere and the Raiders

Good Thing - Fine Young Cannibals

Ian Hunter/Mick Ronson Live-All the Young Dudes

Little Feat - All That You Dream

Bonnie Raitt - Angel from Montgomery

See ya around


The blue heron blast world tour starts off tomorrow as I drive to Miami Beach and with fucked up kidney in tow, hit every beaten up urinal on the Interstate 10.  Wish me luck and call if you want to - will try to write occasionally.  Looks like I am driving back by myself, so will try to put myself in the tortured novelist zone and pump out something worthwhile.  Maybe buy some kent filters to complete the costume.

Some have made light of the fact that a lapsed, slacker jew is crossing the united states with a born again conservative but we have been friends for years and have already agreed on the radio rules of engagement.  No weed, no Rush Limbaugh. Besides he drives faster and longer than I can.

Vaya Con Advil,

Roberto


(p.s. - I'm going to load you up with a bunch of music)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

blogspotting


If you want a quick international flight - try the Next Blog button on the top of the page.  I had a little insomnia in the middle of the night and started cruising and it's pretty amazing what's out there!  I found, in no particular order, a Portuguese communist's site about Gaza, a christian homemaker in florida with her pot roast recipe, Oaxacan hookers graphically peddling their wares and a great psychedelic music site called red telephone 66. Fan sites pledging undying love to Britney and Enimem.  Occasionally I will find farm family's in the Dakotas or Utah showing off their waterfowl kill.

Now of course, it's the luck of the draw, but there is some really interesting stuff out there in this blog medium.  Great blog saturation in Indonesia.  I stumbled on a brilliant indian schizophrenic's site talking about his life and struggles.

Cheap entertainment - enjoy the trip, with little carbon footprint!

The late Hamza el Din

Killing Floor


Jennifer G. sent me this cartoon - a bit jingoistic perhaps but?  The title is "A Political cartoon you are not likely to see in the world media."

There was a pretty chilling story in the LAT yesterday about a young palestinian girl and her aspirations of being a nurse, teacher or, oh yah, a suicide bomber, the quick way to heaven. She talks about killing israelis with the sensitivity you would use wiping up ants on the counter and I guess the sentiments get returned the same way and on and on...  

Anne Murray - Snowbird

As decidedly unhip as I can get but my god - she has such a gorgeous voice! Classic. No apologies.

True Grit

          Dr. Bob Breedlove - amazing human being

This is my second year of having the privilege of being a judge for the Fallbrook Film Festival. We judge independent films from around the globe and have a festival screening in the spring. I have sifted, viewed, enjoyed and gritted my teeth through scores of movies this season. Some good, some not so good. Like last year, I find that the documentaries tend to be more compelling. The general quality level of the fictional works this year hasn't been quite up to last years entrants but we have a lot of films to still watch and I am just one judge's voice.

My favorite movie of the submissions so far is called Bicycle Dreams, produced by Stephen Auerbach. It is a documentary of the 2005 Race across America, an event where the most obsessed, determined, committed masochists you have ever witnessed pedal from San Diego to Atlantic City, solo, team and tandem. With very little sleep and a lot of drama and pain. I come away from this movie with a new appreciation and awareness of the breadth of the human will (and a new respect for Slovenians).

Two of the most famous RAM riders live here in Fallbrook and work out at my gym, the Penseyres brothers. I don't know them but will never look at them the same way after seeing this movie. If it plays at festivals near you and you have a chance, check it out.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

It makes no difference

Rick Danko - 1997

booshie boosh


Margaret Spellings has an editorial out today giving the new Secretary of Education advice on what policies to continue in the department.  Last week Homeland Security Mocker Michael Chertoff weighed in and let the world know that they were still ready for any invasion, seemingly disturbed that he never got to show off his wartime moxie.  But he cautioned the new guy not to make any big changes. The V.P. says not so fast on getting rid of Guantanamo and the rough stuff.  He is working on a new book and has a lot of scores to settle.  I can't wait. Admiral Mullen is offering tips for his successors.  The Bush Administration's farewell and redemption tour is getting awfully tired.  Please all of you - just go away.  Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown and all that but pathetic lie the duncecaps of those who can't figure out that they've been time stamped to oblivion and are now yesterday's news.

You had eight years to muck things up, you succeeded beyond anyone's lowest expectations and now guess what - you are out of power.  So what's the old saying, don't let the screen door hit you on the ass on the way out?  But it takes an incredible amount of hubris to lecture Obama on being bipartisan after your stunning run at centrism.  Even more chutzpah to paint yourselves as fiscal conservatives again.  Think people are really stupid enough to buy it?

If Condi and George are right, they will be throwing flowers at your feet in twenty or thirty years for making all those tough decisions.  Like yesterday's little homage to the energy companies, allowing them to thwart clean air rules by not factoring in aggregate sources of pollution at power plants.  You have shown us such bravery.  And I will be the first to say I was wrong.  But you have to leave and shut up until then.  Promise?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Nick Lowe

The Beast in me.

The Israel Rules


















The second synagogue has been bombed in Paris this week. Jewish merchants shot in Denmark. Of course, nary a peep out of the "mainstream media or cognoscenti" in europe. Or the usual suspects in the Human Rights community.  No broadminded jewish students at Berkeley castigating the offending criminals for their use of "collective punishment." A curious lack of opprobrium and outcry.  Just imagine the vitriol if similarly innocent muslims were at the receiving end, the hue and cry would be deafening.  Even a cartoon of the Almighty one having the apparent power and effect of setting these people off in a murderous rage.

Of course, there's always a double standard when jews or Israeli's are involved. Sit back and take the missiles like good lads, there. Feel free to attack jews anywhere in the world.  Why do the global intellectuals out there give muslim youth such a free pass? Fear perhaps...

I was thinking about a conversation I had in Israel many years ago.  I had promised my brother that I would go back to Kibbutz Gesher Haziv, where we both had once lived, in the event of another war.  Western Gallilee, where the Katyushas shine brightly at night.  Ended up costing me a marriage, but that's another story and good riddance. I arrived three days after the war started and spent many nights thereafter in the sealed rooms and the bomb shelter.  During the days when it was possible, I worked in the banana fields, the hardest work I have ever done. Anyway, I was your typical wide eyed liberal, thinking that I could change the world with my unique vision and all and this broad young fellow I worked with said " Don't you see, it's the sun and the earth here that make us all this way.  We are more like them now than you." As if the latitude and dirt underground had an alchemical reaction that caused one to turn into a base animal.  I think they call it the concept of terroir in winemaking.

I think that the Israelis are functioning at the same atavistic primal level as their foes. They had their nose snubbed by Hezbollah those terrible days in Lebanon and now after two years of planning, an opportunity arises to get their warrior mojo back.  Taking a page from George Bush and Don Rumsfield, they have packaged the war to their own citizens with selective media coverage into a very tidy little conquest.  But we know that with the horrendous civilian casualties that have occured, the retribution will be  swift and equally terrible.  As Thomas Friedman once said, "don't play crazy with the Arabs - they are far better at it than you are."  But Israel gets a shot of testosterone at a time of midlife crisis.  I saw it with my own eyes in the fifteen years between residing there, they had lost that macho swagger.  Israel and Palestine also get to engage in a detestable international p.r. war about who wears the title of grand victim in the obscene drama.

I agree with those that recognize that a good neighbor doesn't terrorize their neighbors with missiles on a nightly basis without a possibility of getting their nose pushed in but also lend my voice to those concerned about the disproportionality of the Israeli response.  Will it serve to fix anything in the long run?  I hope that this crisis can give way to real negotiation and an understanding on the part of the Islamic Palestinians that to continue on the path of attempting to annihilate Israel will only lead to catastrophe for all parties involved. All we savage humans.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Black Peter



Pittsburgh - 11-15-90

Go Chargers!

Calling Ron and Lena

















Shawn e-mailed that his messages to you have bounced back (as mine have). He thought you might have a road e-mail address but I don't have it. He says that he hasn't heard from you in a month. Call him. I hope that you are enjoying Thailand and your vacation.

Note to Shawn - if you haven't had a checkup in 30 years and all systems seem to be working, I wouldn't break the streak. Coming from Moldavian hypochondriac stock myself, I would probably be better off not knowing...

Sawadi krap or something like that.

Rob

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Magic Christian Auction Scene

Carrie's Blog

Longtime contributor Segue has started her own blog -  http://booknookblog.blogspot.com/. She is coming off a longtime retail experience in our town, happens to be a great artist and writer and I look forward to checking it out.

Boing Boing


Renee I. turned me on to this great site - Boing Boing.  I found a link there to all the old Whole Earth Catalogues and CoEv Quarterly's as well as lots of other great material.  Where have I been?

Sam and Dave

Oslo 1966

Paradigm Shift



"Rob, if it's any consolation, remember that you're not good enough to die young"
Dave Jacobs


After some consideration, and in the interest of full cyber verité and disclosure, I have decided to give you one more update on my medical condition. I promise that it will be the last one for a while.

I will once again start at the beginning and hopefully come around to the present with a quick flourish and ultimate crescendo. I had kidney cancer in 1985 that spread to my ureter and bladder. A doctor then performed a partial nephrectomy where a portion of the offending kidney was removed and several subsequent surgeries were performed on the other familial organs. A stint was put in place initially so that a new kind of experimental flexible scope could be used but it caused my urine to precess and I underwent excruciating pain. Hot baths made it almost bearable. Finally I couldn't stand it, had the stint removed and we went back to a conventional scope. The kidney operation was arduous and grueling and required three months of recuperation until recovery. Many of you were there and remember.

Flash forward 23 years later - a few months ago, I experienced the same extreme hematuria that initially signaled my cancer. A 15mm tumor like abnormality was found in the remaining portion of the kidney. This week the same physician, now a bit grayer and possibly wiser, tried to use the flexible scope, which is now s.o.p. but found the ureter blocked which caused him to have to use the standard steel ureterscope. Although he couldn't get close enough to the the offending area, he managed to snare a small portion of the abnormality. The pathology report came back in one day and showed evidence of the crushed epithelial cells which suggest a transitional cell carcinoma. I reviewed xrays and pictures of the unusual mass.

Yesterday I had the catheter removed. The physician says that he needs to go in one more time with the linguini like scope, through the stent, which he left in to stretch the ureter passage. If he can corroborate his earlier findings, he will remove the balance of the kidney at that point. People function effectively on one kidney and the good news is that the bladder looks fine at this time. If I can get 23 more years on the new setup it will be peachy. The bad news is that I have been a human pincushion for the last three years and I am sick of all the shit. It's not the physical pain, it's the emotional pain and torment of surrendering all control in the hospital. Getting awoken every four hours and the dreaded stingy lovenox shots in the stomach. Pukey salmon and turquoise walls and sweaty sheets.

I barely have enough money to last three months in bed. I have a painful tube in my side which caused me to throw up yesterday after my first urination. I get in a van thursday and drive across country to Miami for three weeks - something totally crazy but necessary to pay my bills and protect our future. I will be living on advil and prayers, which I don't actually sign on to but accept in these exigent times. I will plan on having the operation sometime after the San Francisco show, maybe in early March, if I can stand the stint pain for that long. He pushed it as high up as possible so that the pain would be more in the back region then the bladder and side. Dr. G. said that he has left them in patients for as long as a year so I am obviously a big pussy.

I am sure that getting a play by play on another person's medical condition is outre´ tacky and beg your apologies. But this blog forum seems like the easiest way to get the message out multiply. Better than Mary Worth, no?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

drink deeply

I was sitting in the bath this afternoon, thinking about Frank Pantangeli, and ancient rome and what a crude place we live in. Parents and their children talking loudly in the library, tailgaters and last minute lane violators, belching smokestacks and continent size mountains of plastic bags floating in the Pacific.  Beer top rings ensnaring fish and turtles.  Who in god's name will mourn our passing?  What has our exalted race ever done that will elicit a fart's breath of sympathy from our cosmic creators or the next to arrive? Dylan? Please... Guernica?  Do they give a prize for the nastiest creature in the sandbox?  I will miss the hot shaves I used to get from the old italian barbers on Mott street.  You had to totally release while they carefully stropped the razor on the old strap and expertly removed the white lather from your cheeks.  The perfect peach and the near perfect plum.  A santa rosa definitely, with the tartness perfectly complimenting the sweet. Making the perfect pass in basketball or kicking the goal in soccer.  What a feeling.  I played chess with my stepfather every day until about the age of 7 or 8 when I somehow beat him.  He was so enraged that we had to go through the whole game once more to chart his error.  Don't know that we ever played again.  What a victory!  I lived in Long Island for a spell and remember a thanksgiving night where we went to a restaurant and had lobster and the snowy night sky was golden from the gorgeous backlighting of the moon.  You steal such moments and put them away for safekeeping - hopefully you can use them in a pinch. Swimming with the dolphins at Kalihiwai or coming upon the giant crustacean in his crevice  on the huge wall in the Caymans at 120 feet.  The many dogs I have loved, Barfy, Duke, Emily, Odin, Max. A newborn foal, a cactus flower.  I remember getting stoned on my girlfriends rooftop one night in New York City, 21 floors up. Many moons ago.  There was a little deck over the parapet wall and it looked like you went all the way over.  I was showing off and swung over and found that I had miscalculated the spot and was literally dangling in space.  Adrenaline squared.  Blowing things up was always fun, too. Mailboxes gave way to toasters and televisions.  We knew a gun nut with the JDL who would bring his arsenal of machine guns over and we would prune the orange trees with them. An orgy of pleasure. Another guy brought these foam stickons over that had an explosive charge.  If you hit them square with the bullet, the doomed object would fly about 30 feet in the air. Books.  Every time a new book by Roger Zelazny was published, my life would stop until it was devoured.  And getting to finally meet him.  Coming back from Winterland with Ricardo and having the dolphins arise to salute our return to Stone Steps. Making didgeridoos in the Kalalau with Ron and playing them in dark sightless caves. Leslie and I using our naked bodies as tableware at the Miyako with the deep fried bananas. Great kisses.

God bless the manics, who reached for the heights and took the falls, nothing ventured, nothing gained, pity the poor flatliners, who never took a decent drink.  Pardon my rambling - blame it on after effects of the anesthesia.

Where's my bail out?


First the banks, then the insurance companies, then big auto, housing, commercial real estate. Homeowners. Cat Lovers. Larry Flint says that the libido of the american citizen needs a lift and wants a porn bail out. The Arts. Manufacturers want to make sure that they can keep getting cheap off shore textiles and I see that they have their collective mitts out.   There is a new NASDAQ index for TARP recipients that is already sinking unfortunately.  But it doesn't take a brain surgeon to see that they are far more takers than we have money to lend - so people might want to tighten their belts and figure another way out.

It is also a little depressing to see that Democrats are behaving like the folks across the aisle in so quickly condemning Obama's picks.  Panetta, Gupta, Brennan, etc.  I think that he will get enough crap from Republicans and that Feinstein and Conyers should give the guy a little break for a while.  These picks seem fine to me.  Jeepers!

Warren Zevon

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Ben Casey meets Dr. Kildaire in WWE Smackdown!


There is really no feeling quite so pleasant as being catheterized in one's easy chair,  feeling like you have to go, but not being able to get any more satisfaction than the piss poor response of the easy turn spout.  I am not good at anesthesia and the wavering effects send me into a nightmare state of dissatisfaction and junkieland.
Looks like a low level malignancy - remaining part of kidney must bid adieu, don't know when.   Looking forward to next week's drive to Florida with dread/terror.


"Send lawyers guns and money, the shit has hit the fan"

Love,

Rob
     The inimitable Doctor Zorba, played by Sam Jaffe.

Steely Dan - Green Earrings

We get mail

After a year of steadily beating up on the conservatives, I decided to alter my tack slightly and see if I could show a little intellectual integrity and go after my own. Being a new year, and with a new power/authority structure assuming the helm and all.

Blast readers are neither "down with me" or amused. Long time reader Fred has excised me from his desktop. "C" says that I have been particularly irritating lately. "K" points out that illegal is an adjective as if using it as a noun or god forbid a dangling participle somehow alters it's root intention. "N" suggests that my holier than thou american citizen diatribe smacks of entitlement. "S" informs me that the man will always win and that I am somehow selling out the little guy.  My long estranged sister has let me know that I am excessively wordy, a stylistic error which might prove more easily correctable than my crappy elitist attitude.

I also received two excellent letters complimenting me on the balance of my Gaza post, thank you. On the question of illegal immigration, may I merely point out that if one wishes to give our uninvited guests access to free education and medical care, that the exercise be purely voluntary on your part and not a compulsory act that involves me. I leave for the hospital in an hour and have been instructed that a large chunk of cash will change hands prior to my ever being strapped on the gurney.

I think that it is important to call balls and strikes from both sides of the plate. Try it, it might prove liberating!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Only in California...


The undocumented students also have long-standing ties to California and have worked hard to make a better life for themselves and their families, often overcoming substantial obstacles, said Nicholas Espiritu, staff attorney for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, also involved in the case.

"They have earned the right to be there," Espiritu said. "These are students who are coming from, oftentimes, very low-income areas and underperforming schools, who are finding ways to really achieve and succeed in education despite almost every roadblock imaginable being put in their path."


The Los Angeles Times yesterday had a story on a lawsuit in state court by out of state students who must evidently pay higher college tuition than illegal immigrants.  I don't know why we are subsidizing the education of illegals anyway, call me a heartless bastard.  I guess in the broadest terms I can see educating young children in elementary school on an occasional basis but that has become a tremendous burden on the taxpayer as well. But no way is it right that an illegal gets subsidized before an American taxpayer.  And a secondary and college education for those who are in this country illegally should never be on the government or my dime.

Have we just given up and said "no more borders"?  Do we really have the financial stability  to function as the world's benevolent godfather? Can you imagine going to Mexico and demanding the same treatment and largesse? Do you think they are ready to open up their educational and welfare system to the Guatemalans or Hondurans?  For free? If a Mexican American or Japanese American or Franco American wants tuition aid, fine.  I think most ethnic american populations would agree as well. There is a privilege granted to those that are here legally and who have spent a lifetime paying into the system.

I am not trying to be a grinch or contrarian here - I just think we have taken leave of our common sense.  The Mexican Legal Defense Fund says that they have earned the right to be there. Who made that decision?

Monday, January 5, 2009

Judy Collins - Someday Soon

c. 1969

Gaza Blues



"Saddam, Saddam
 Ha Habib,
 Edroob, Edroob
 Tel Abib" 
Palestinian chant for the destruction of Israel, 1990

Gaza must be one of the most depressing areas in the world. It has the highest population density on the planet.  The people are starving and are blockaded. They have no hope. Trade is mainly accomplished through tunnels to Egypt from which the Israeli occupation turns a mostly blind eye.

I last visited the area in 1990, during the Gulf War, visiting Ashkelon and some of the surrounding cities but not entering Gaza itself. My father was born in Israel and I still have relatives in the Negev, at Revivim.

Like most human beings, I am conflicted regarding the Palestinian problem.  They seem to be playing a very dangerous game - on the one hand Hamas has a charter that calls for the annihilation of Israel and feels it has the right to lob missiles with impunity into the heart of this very small country, under the guise of legitimate resistance and liberation.  Yet they also seek to cast themselves as martyrs and victims of a sometimes brutal occupier. Israel would like a secure solution and to create a similar relationship to the one they have with the Palestinians on the West Bank, an area that has been pretty quiet for the last year or two.

I read an interesting piece in Tikkun the other day where an Israeli makes a claim that Hamas was actually a creation of the Mossad or Shin Bet.  They officially deny having a hand in the formation but not the fact that the result has proven beneficial in some way by splintering and bifurcating the population into secular and islamic camps.  

I have a love/hate relationship with Israel. I love the people in a general sense but find them to be very calculating and to be masters of the endgame finesse.  The finest chess players in the world have been jews, Lasker, Botvinnick, Kasparov, Tal, Steinitz and Fischer.  And I think that they are in a very dangerous game here. A game for their very existence.

I was hoping that the Israelis would not move ground troops into Gaza but they have.  Maybe they had no choice.  There are certain to be horrible casualties among both sides, with many innocent civilians hurt. And I think that there must be a larger macrocosmic agenda in place in Israeli calculations.  I don't know but here is my guess:  This invasion has nothing to do with Kassam missiles and everything to do with pulling the teeth of an enemy on the southern flank prior to taking on Iran.  Nahash Sefta. Reports have circulated that the range of the Gaza missiles can now almost target the Israeli Nuclear Facilities at Dimona.  Israel can not risk such a move on the chessboard as an unarmed Israel would quickly become mincemeat to it's angry neighbors.

I had many palestinian friends when I lived b'eretz.  They deserve to live a life of dignity as do all human beings.  But as I have said before, if you ask Israel to stop the blockade and then attack the checkpoints, if you cry foul while simultaneously terrorizing the Israelis with rockets, if you choose to adopt a covert war strategy while hiding behind a civilian population, the fruits will be bitter.

I actually brought Israelis and Palestinians together for a small meeting in 1990 under the watchful and nervous eye of a government agent, and was amazed to find that people who had lived next to each other there whole lives yet had never really talked about their feelings and grievances with each other.  They were very nervous. One of the players had walked away from Gaza, a mark of shame in a warrior society. I had been given an invitation to a local palestinian man's home for a feast but he got scared and rescinded the offer.  People forget that there are many Israeli Arabs that have lived in peace with Israel since it's founding. There needs to be less demonizing and more actual talking.

Israel can not continue to build settlements in the occupied areas, they must be true to their word.  They can not let a vocal religious minority define their actions with a biblical roadmap. Palestinians must stop the violence and recognize Israel's right to exist.  Ot the whole world might just go up in a puff of smoke one day.

Ford gets a slap in the face from Uncle Sam


The Wall Street Journal ran an interesting piece Friday, Treasury to Ford, Drop Dead.  Ford didn't crawl and beg for bail out money, figuring that they would be able to suck it up and survive through good management practices.  If my memory serves me, they thought that it was possible that they might need 9b in the future but were going to gut it out.  What does the Treasury Department do? It not only rewards Chrysler and G.M. for their mismanagement, it gives G.M. a credit advantage in making car loans that Ford and the other car makers don't receive.

The stupidity of the government has always bothered me in situations like this.  A big corporation can go bankrupt and get all of it's debt relieved and then unfairly compete with those that have tried to do things the right way.  Eventually the other companies get to go down the tubes as well due to the unequal playing field.

Or in another example lets forgive the mortgage obligations of my neighbor while I grind it out every month. Rewarding stupidity and irresponsibility just seems to go against the grain of what America used to stand for.  What a bunch of saps at Ford, huh?  Should have been down in the trough with the losers.  Another reason to hate Chevy's.

My weekend in India


Leslie, my spouse, is reading Shantaram this weekend - she blew through like 600 pages the first day. If you haven't read it, it's the story of an australian prison escapee who sets up shop in the slums of Mumbai. A little violent for my taste, but very engaging. Word has it that Johnny Depp has optioned the script.

Yesterday we went to see another movie about Mumbai, the critically acclaimed Slumdog Millionaire. I won't give you the story but it is a brilliant flick and you should make time for it. It even ends with the requisite Indian disco dance scene with the whole cast engaged in Travolta era pelvic thrusts.

Last year Leslie was on an Elvis movie jag, this year its Bollywood all the way. She can stay up til two in the morning watching Bollywood and knows all of the actors and actresses.

To put a fitting end to the vedic weekend, we went to The Blue Peacock, a new Indian restaurant in Temecula after the matinee. It has to be my least favorite cuisine and ran pretty much true to form but I was a trooper and pretended to enjoy myself, sort of.

Namaste.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

WAR - Why Can't We Be Friends?

Like cat's sleeping with dogs or lions and lambs giving each other clandestine back rubs, with St. Barack the Magic Negro's reign about to begin, War's aquarian message of love and harmony resonates louder than ever.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Frontier Justice



Apparently news from Canberra that Australia is refusing to resettle Guantanamo detainees at the request of Uncle Sam. My guess is that there will be few if any takers. I wonder if it would have been easier to just shoot these guys on the battlefield - it would certainly be a lot cheaper. We wouldn't have to worry about all these discussions about what does and does not constitute torture and acceptable human and legal rights. And if a bunch of innocent people got whacked because they had foreign sounding names, well we know there's always a certain level of collateral damage on the battlefield and we're really awfully sorry.


Your bad for growing up Muslim. If god gave a shit about you people he would have at least given you an american sounding name.

Just a thought.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Conway Twitty-Hello darlin'

Old Journal

    tornwing©2008 Robert Sommers

I found out in 2006 that my heart wasn't functioning correctly.  Twenty percent blood flow and mitral valve problems.  They opened me up and fixed me and I wrote a journal during the process and recuperation. I sent it out to close friends and associates and it really managed to piss my mother off. It originally came with a christlike picture of me in my briefs with stigmata which I will not share again.  It's very long and very personal but some might want to take a look.   Your life can be going along so swimmingly and maybe suddenly you look up and there's a fucking F -18 barreling in on your living room - or cancer - or Bernie Madeoff with the dough.  La la la la la live for today as the song says. 

They found a 15mm "abnormality" in what is remaining of my left kidney a few weeks ago.  They will go in and put dye on it next week, see how it reacts and maybe get a biopsy. Only the size of a penny, the Doctor says, but I am not comforted and have a pretty good explanation now for the bleeding.

Hello, old friend, it's been over twenty years - thought I'd tricked you, maybe you hung around...


Broken hearted blues – opus 1
Or my summer vacation to La Jolla

Short version – I get sick, they fix me, all is well, thanks!

or if you are in for the plunge

Prologue.

I am in my hotel the night before surgery. Leslie, my wife, loving life partner and sometime antagonist has thoughtfully booked us a hotel room at the Hilton at Del Mar, across from the track. This was necessitated by both the fact that the check in time was 5:00 a.m. and that I needed to repeat my hardcore surgical scrub down in the shower from the night before prior to leaving. Fallbrook’s 1 hour drive to La Jolla would have made this a definite bitch. Being a stubborn male, I am not sure that I would have had the wisdom and foresight to not just endure the gruel but am thankful for her prescience and good sense.

I remove my wedding ring which has basically not left my finger since 1994, such a strange feeling, with just the faintest shameful gleam of male flight and liberation.

Chapter I - When Doris gets her oats

Leslie takes my keys and wallet and puts them in her purse. We have arrived a few minutes early and must wait for the sleepy guard to take the chain off the front door. It is cool and quiet in La Jolla and the early morning light is crisp and sparkling. We relax on the bench looking at the somewhat horrid bronze of Ellen Browning Scripps, early patrician doyenne and matriarch of the hospital, stooping to give a small girl a healing hand.

Why do so many bronze patinas give their subjects this liver/ dog shit look which makes me think of serial killers and clown child molesters?
I think that figurative bronze rarely has looked good since Charlie and Remington and lends itself much better to abstract form in the current 21st century zeitgeist. And I am a classical guy, after all.

Hey at this point I don’t know if my future is going to last the approximately 3 and ½ hours after my 6:45 call to the post. Scripps batting average for this procedure is really decent at 2.7% but even an optimistic, glass three quarters full guy like me wonders if its my turn for my ticket to be punched. I am strangely detached at the prospect of having or not having a future,

Perhaps I gave up my clinging when I went through my longtime cancer battle 20 years prior. I would miss my friends and family dearly but find some of the people I meet in this polarized time very fatiguing as I am sure they (and possibly you at this point in my missive) find me.

(Ed. Note- Feel free to go back to the heading for the short version, which is very succinct if you need to check out.)

The days leading up have been fairly compressed with preop, post concert accounting and jockeying, and legal maneuvering. I finally get Leslie a quitclaim so that she can have an easier time with the ranch if I am to soon leave this earthly firmament. Unfortunately, I am to learn that my actions are somewhat pointless, as nothing short of a living will will keep one’s assets out of probate. Got to pony up the money and get the living will.

I am told by my cardiologist, Dr. ---------, that I have several options if the valve can not be repaired. He recommends a 50 year mechanical valve that will require me to be on Wayfarin for the rest of my life. My Dad takes Coumadin and I don’t want to go that route. Other options are 10 to 15 year porcine or bovine tissue valves. In the coming weeks, I endure every possible iteration of kosher pig joke conceivable. Not that I would really care.

In a testament to divine intervention, the health insurance that we finally get for the 1st time in our married life kicks in a few weeks before the diagnosis and problem occurs. Last year’s New Year’s resolution. This thing will easily hit 200k. (ed. note: actually topped out at 135k - Still don't have living will...)

Mostly I call up the people I love and try to let them know this without getting overly maudlin and depressing. I know that there are so many of you that mean so much to me. For a guy like me there is no one else like your wife, buds and family and I salute and thank you from this slightly busted body.

When I got sick before I perceived an axiom that I think still rings true. Let us call it Robert’s law and it loosely follows like this – every seriously ill person makes 2 lists. One is comprised of the people you expected to be there for you and never showed and the other list if those that you would never expect to be there that came through with flying colors.

Of course there are your solids among you who are there no matter what and also those few who you would sooner gnaw an arm off at the stump then have any contact with.

Now for a vengeful Scorpio with a great memory, I must tell you that at least in my first experience, once you got on the shit list, you never fell off. And the latter group becomes spiritual lifers who you end up loving forever. Perhaps many of you are less vindictive or have worse memories than I.

I luckily only had one asshole in this entire medical /life experience, perhaps he was tweaked by my somewhat political and maybe not very funny tongue and cheek call for liberal blood donors. Hell, maybe he was related to George Lincoln Rockwell or something. You never really know how some people are internally wired and people like me who fire first and think later sometimes get their nose pushed in. But out of all the well wishers I think one dickhead is not such a bad percentage and I don’t really see my behavior changing so much….

I got back from the hospital yesterday afternoon (Thursday) and am doing pretty well but just had a cough that took my knees out from underneath. My sternum will have a wire in it connecting the dual plates for the rest of my life. The incision is filled with superglue. It appears to be healing nicely. This pain is usually low grade unless you are unfortunate enough to have to cough as I just did. Attendant nurses tell me that they are shocked by the physicality of watching the procedure, large tough men cracking you open like a Brazil nut. Think of the pain as somewhat akin to a group of beavers running their large rodent class incisors down your breastplate in fervent hopes of building a new dam out of your spare calcium rods.

But, I digress. My timeline is skipping around like a Sufi on amphetamine. (with a tip of the cap to Kinky Friedman.)

She: What happened to brilliant?
He: Brilliant?
She: In the first draft you said I was brilliant.
He: I didn’t think you read it.
She: I glanced at it.
He: Well, the computer crashed, I lost half my
work product.
She: It was a hell of a lot better before.
He: I can’t exactly summon the genie from the
bottle every time I snap my fingers. Those lost
words will have to float through the infinite
cyberdump until they are recovered by some
future archaeologist. Well what do you think of it?
She: What a load of juvenile prattle – the hot
nurse, she stared at my package. It sounds like
you hate women and your mother. This crap is
only fair, not your best work.
But if you need to write this thing for some
closure, what the hell.

Ow, that stings, the fratboy misogynist rubs his sides that are now withering in pain. I can see that I will have to give a final edit to this puerile mess.

My first memories of the morning are being wheeled in to get shaved. A large super nice black guy from Greensboro who found out that he was a father years after the fact and whose life was now devoted to trying to build a relationship with the son while the spurned paramour does all she can to thwart and obstruct such an occurrence. As a childfree couple I thankful that we will never have to deal with this kind of pain.

Dude was pretty careful with the exception of the one nick in the top of the little head – Hey man, I just said a little off the top. Let me keep all of the shortcomings I may already possess. Nifty little industrial surgical razor, kind of like a safety, light with rpm. A note about shaving – if you are going in for a week, get them to shave your arms as well – rest assured it will all be viciously pulled off by sadistic nurses anyway. I did not take my own advice and feel like a cover boy in a recurrent Nads nightmare. You remember that Australian commercial where honey glue soaked strips are applied to lugubrious female models that never break their pasted on smiles throughout the entire length of the assault. Chest, privates and inner legs and calves are similarly shorn. Remember to shave your arms.

Next, was anesthesia. I had very bizarre reactions at Scripps Encinitas during a surgery years ago and thought it was the Versed. The thoughtful anesthesiologist I met this morning said that since I can take Valium without reaction, it was probably the combo drug phenathiazene that led to the 2-hour teeth grinding episode and autonomic jaw grinding. I had 3 years of chronic active hepatitis in my early teens and am extremely sensitive and horrible with narcotics. He said that he had seen case study for this awful and rare reaction.

And then the lights went out…

Chapter II

A little philosophy

Plato felt that men (and women) were possessed and powered by three main drives. Two of these I was familiar with but just recently became aware of the power of the third.

The first two standby drives are Eros, the need to love and be loved and Thanatos, the death wish. All typical stuff, easy Psych 101. The third drive is Thymos, the need to be recognized. Now the bible tells us to make our offerings in private and the I Ching says to conduct your victories like funerals, but as mortal man, we just got to have that public gravy.

And for Jewish males and probably more so for Jewish females, born into a culture that reveres the give and take of pilpul and cerebral combat, I am afraid that the need to be recognized on a civic and intellectual level as being fair and bright is very great indeed. A tragedy in this life is that those who could not give a shit about anything usually take advantage of this ethnic quirk of ours and fast track the hell out of us, leaving our righteous asses in the dust. Not that I am some big altruist but I hope that you get my drift…The wicked will prosper in this life, the righteous in the world to come or something like that.

Now as a peddler and shmattah salesman I haven’t done so bad, but if I had just kissed a little authority booty, I coulda been a real contender. Never had the algebraic mind, thought I was saving the world.

Now this whole colloquy is the setup to my real fear before surgery. Things were just set up too perfect for this operation as my swan song. My wife and I had just setup, funded and awarded 2 major scholarships for my late sister at the local high school. I produced, funded and organized a large concert for a local environmental matter that was extremely well received.

My surgery was supposed to take place in late June and I push it so that I can do this thing. I am looking way too good in my community, who have generally regarded me over the last 26 years as your basic liberal degenerate ne’er do well. My thymos afterburners are on overdrive. But I made it – now what the hell do I do? Encores are tough. I guess thankfully I am broke now and reinventing my business will have to be my goal for a while. I haven’t worked since late May, am forbidden to lift a picture off a wall and the bills they just don’t stop. Pity the poor art dealer with the monster guitar collection.


Kill your television

I mentioned that I loved my wife but let me repeat, I really love my wife! Besides sharing our mutual disdain for onions and bell peppers, our love for the colors purple and green, our love for dogs and cats, our love of combat, our love for music, we are close to being symmetric beings. Interestingly, she tells me that none of her other 7 major flames were assholes, but she is such a tough fighter that I can’t believe that I created her in my own image in some remote Bavarian laboratory.

Anyway, one thing that we have been adamant about the last 15 years has been our disdain for TV. No TV. We never saw Friends, Seinfield, or any other such popular manifestations of American culture. I would so suck on Jeopardy now. And we are so happy about being modern day luddites or Spartans or what have you.

So in the hospital it was such a shock to see the cable TV nightmare! From exposes on chola prisoners in Utah to deranged schizophrenics in the Wabash, it is a steady putrid diet of the worst underbelly of American culture. Cops, Court TV, Violence, profanity, lewd behavior, sicko tattoos, more violence, promiscuity, gay promiscuity, it is all so sickening. And a lot of Poker. I slept a max of about 4 hours a night. All I can say is thank god for TvLand and the Tour de France. Without Fred Gwynne as Herman Munster I might have really cracked up.

There is apparently a new phenomenon on television of trendy culture shows featuring smarmy kids belittling their parent’s taste in James Taylor and other 60’s icons. You lightweight punks show me something you have created morally and culturally that has the kind of legs and gravitas that we had in the sixties and seventies and you are free to dis James Taylor.

So my second day up I decide to take one of my 4 required 5 minute walks and walk to the little waiting area and sit down and this fat pathetic goober is sitting there watching Springer laughing hysterically. Not ironical laughter, this is a pure wallow in the mud. And I wonder for a minute if It was advisable to wake up from the operation at all.

I have several very dear friends who are either evangelical and/or very conservative. I find that my vulnerability in the hospital is actually an opportunity to ask questions of them that I would normally be too embarrassed or shy to ask. I cut myself a little carte blanche. I must say that for the most part, they are far more sensitive and reticent than I am but they do not flinch at my candor this time. We live in a very polarized world and I think that there are two species of men and women that just think in a different way.

And as a charter member of the unwashed and unsaved who has always bridled at censorship of any kind, I find it curious how the TV diet sickens me so. I could never raise a child with Television. I agree with the religious right on this. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you have to do something. I see a real need for worthwhile content in this hyper digital age.


Chapter III


The Surgery

When I wake up, I am reminded by somebody that I still inhabit the mortal plain. No choral music, no light at the end of the tunnel. Bush is still president, the mideast in flames. 16 years ago I fly to Israel and sit in a bomb shelter for the six week duration of the war. Not this time. My mitral valve has thankfully been repaired and the papillary cords reattached during the long and tedious 4-hour plus surgery. The aperture of the worm like mitral valve has been reduced so that I can have a tight fit with no regurgitation. My first real memory is the horrible air tube being pulled out of my lungs. The accompanying sound resembles liposuction in a walrus den.

However there are dangers and complications. My mitral valve was completely immobilized by a very unusual form of liquid calculi. One of the 3 surgeons who helped perform the operation, Dr. S-----, called it a treacherous toothpaste that is rarely encountered.. Fortunately, it was slightly malleable and could be peeled back. This immobilization did not allow my blood to pump into my heart. I have actually been working out 5 days a week in the gym for the last 5 months with very little blood flow or oxygen. Shows you the incredibly close relationship I have with my body. I am glad I finally listened to my better half and visited a doctor. Dr. S---said that I am going to look at my future life in 5 year increments. Unfortunately this rare condition is very hard or impossible to pick up on a normal angiogram. I asked for a path report on the cultured calculi so that I can start researching it myself. Perhaps someone at Cleveland or Houston has more info? I know that I have a tendency to micromanage and overreact, so I will have to see what happens.

The damage to the valve has apparently caused my heart to slightly enlarge in order to compensate. This may lead to problems down the road. Additionally I am running a low fever for several days.

A more significant problem is that I have an afib rhythm. The heart works in a ventricle rhythm in a certain damage context. It more properly works in what is called a sinus rhythm. I have to take drugs for a few months including the lovable rat poison wayfarin or coumadin in order to bring me to rhythm. Both my father and brother have a fibrillation issues. Damn, Dave Blackburn, my guitar teacher could have told you about my lousy time sense for a whole lot less dough.

The surgical team is tough, incredibly competent and impressive. The Magnificent 7 ride into town and kick ass. El Jefe, Don B------, is all business and just a touch scary. A type a archetype heli skier, this surgeon is known as the best in the business in these parts. I had the temerity to ask the doctor if I got any fancy internal stitchwork and got just the faintest touch of a withering stare, like you idiot. A private man, built with the walls that must be constructed emotionally for a person who is always surrounded by death.

B------’s colleague from Bejing, Dr. W---, is as wet and happy as Don is dry. He filled me in the next morning on the minutia of the procedure. They say that it takes all kinds but I can’t visualize these guys partying.

My buddy and urologist, John G. has operated about 6 times on this tired old body of mine. He said prior to the surgery that you want this kind of workmanlike cardiac team. It should be assembly line stuff for them and I am made aware of the hundreds of similar procedures that these guys do every year. John vouched for B------- and told me to be careful and not listen to those family members who wanted me to go to a fancy chic “name” cardiac center. He said that the Scripps physicians were as good if not better than anyone else in the world and that my aftercare would be superior. I must say that this operation feels much less traumatic then when I lost my left kidney in 1985.

Every member of his staff elicits the highest respect of anyone on the floor, especially his head nurse practitioners, Ann Marie and Bruce. They positively exude intelligence and confidence. Generally speaking all of the nurses and staff are really excellent, the ICU staff a little more together. In prior surgeries I had the feeling that the night nurses were a little less engaged and compassionate than the day crew but that was not borne out in this experience.

There are horses for courses and nurses for purses, I guess – completely illogical but it does rhyme. Nurses and acronyms of all kinds and rank, LVN’s, RN’s, CAN, externs, floor nurses, mentors, case managers, etc. At night I think they traded badges to further confuse. I meet a physical therapist, occupational therapist and a heart educator. These three have somewhat similar function. I am led through minor physical tasks and exercises and cautioned to allow rest intervals in my life. I am showed a method of getting in and out of the awful hospital bed called log rolling. Nevertheless I aggravate an upper bicep injury that I have had for ever and must now deal with the intense pain.

I notice that one of my older Russian nurses has a Jewish last name. She is uncomfortable with her heritage and said that if you wanted to find work in Moscow you had to lose it real quick. This makes me sad.

I am quickly discharged by the physical therapist when she sees how well I can take the stairs and function. Perhaps it is because of my normal workout schedule and my fantastic trainer, Jeanine Columbero or maybe it is because the normal patient is so much older but I am told that I am in the 1% recovery group. I feel like a great part is the absence of pain killers and narcotics. None of the pain for me is ever over 2 on a 1 to 10 scale, so you suck it up and heal. What I lack in native intelligence I make up for with dogged endurance.


Some of the nurses were frankly very hot and I wondered how they stayed single in their environment when so many recovering patients have to be falling in love with them and hitting on them constantly. I was a paragon of chastity and virtue and kept whatever dark and sordid thoughts I had to myself.

A hospital stay is a battle of will and attrition. The toll is taken by the small bite more often than the big whack. Every 4 hours, my vitals are checked, temperature taken, blood pressure monitored, i.v. flushed. I am sporting twin i.v’s in the hands, one in the arm and a gangle of wires coming out of my neck to the one of two pacemaker units. I have a nifty catheter as well as an oxygen tube, 3 suction tubes beneath the incision and the requisite wires still connected to my heart. Any movement is a laborious task not to get tangled in the morass of wires. A nurse comes twice a day to give me pesky shots in my stomach. The morphine has destroyed my bowel function – I will spare you and not even go there…

“Reach for the boundaries of your outer limits” – instructions to photographers assistant.

I.V. placement is critical. You keep a bad placement for 3 days. At times you feel the needle forays into your veins become fishing expeditions and you can chart the history. Other times the apparatus just lays really uncomfortably in the vein. I find that hand placements can be put in a really bad hinge point which further irritates and disturbs.

I am instructed to use the spherometer, the little plastic thing with the hose that you blow into to gauge lung capacity. I pass with flying colors. It is not nearly as hard as it was when the kidney said goodbye. This exercise will help the lungs. Pneumonia is always a danger.

At one point, Mr. Homophobia got a male nurse – I was seriously dreading when he suggested that we shower and very much relieved when he handed me the towels and said that I could do it myself. Handsome guy, but contrary to my internal wiring. I am bothered that I didn’t show a similar reluctance when Jessica wanted to scrub my back.

Fear and loathing in La Jolla

I mentioned that my body can’t tolerate most pain medication or narcotics of any kind and my first nights experience bore this out in spades. I was given some morphine and an Ambien and it was my E ticket to a very dark experience that still makes me shudder.

I had a dream and witnessed my own execution. Specific details are somewhat vague but it evolved thusly:

I am in lower Baja California with a man approximately 10 years my senior. We are both engaged in some semi-criminal larcenous occupation. I am floating in languid azure pools in the ocean when I am either killed or my body deposited in the water. Imagine looking down in a 45-degree angle right to left and you will see him standing in waist deep water. His arms are spread in a loving Christ like pose as his palms barely touch the water. My obituary flows out of my unseen body diagonally in square block red/black letters and floats on the surface of the ocean….

This dream has robbed me of my spirit and my oxygen. It had a certain flat plain religious visual quality like those great covers of the old Don Juan books by Giusti.

Upon awakening I state that there will be no more medications. But the effects are still felt now 10 days later.

Additionally I come to the sudden realization that my hospital room in the ICU looks suspiciously like the room where I saw my little sister Amie Leah Sommers die, April 15, 1983 after her car accident. Although the television has switched positions, I have a feeling it might be the same room. We talk about getting a different room. Two days later, I am transferred to the 6th floor. I ask the nurse for some ventilation and she apologizes and said the windows don’t open any more since that patient decided to jump out a couple years back. A palpable sense of dread hangs about me like a dark heavy cord.

The cumulative effects of these experiences causes me to unravel emotionally to some degree. My pain medication at my request has been reduced to an occasional tylenol. I ask for and am given a marijuana extract for appetite, Marinol, which is essentially worthless. Take away all the positive effects from grass and roll the remainder into a little ball.

Courtesy of Netflix, I have just finished watching the 17th and final episode of The Prisoner, the fantastic 1968 television series where a man is imprisoned in a kafkaesque village in Wales and his identity stolen by the state. This orwellian world has also influenced my frayed psyche to some degree.

Hey, closure is one thing. A bit tawdry to unbutton your shirt and show off your scars at the Sunday dinner, don’t you think?. Or is this a goodbye letter? You were always one for the dramatic exit.

I have a roommate in my room upstairs who has a bloodclot. Edgar is a very cool and intelligent Mexican of Bolivian extraction with a very large family including 3 small children. I may have traumatized the young daughter for life when my gown flew open and my posterior was exposed on a trip to the loo. For the duration with Edgar as my roommate, the young girl would bury her face in her pillow when I had to take a trip to the can.

Edgar’s family is large and loving but his aunt stays for hours and won’t shut up. Our best friends, Jean and Bill, brought some homemade pastries one-day and I offered them some as a friendly gesture. They wolfed the whole plate down like a pack of feral dogs. I finally had to tell them to leave Edgar alone and give him some space. See there is something to be said for not being such a nice person. I can kick people out of my room and they don’t get offended. They expect me to be an asshole.

As a cardiac patient I’m supposed to get a private room and one is finally found. No roommate issues but a psychotic octogenarian next door who insists on talking all night in her German monotone. I am getting about 2 hours sleep tops at this point. Thoughts of self-destruction quickly morph into those of a more homicidal timbre.

Chapter IV

Food and other stuff

The food was basically screwed up every meal. While I wagged my finger at my roommate at Scripps Encinitas the previous month for being excessively picky and ungrateful, now I trump him in spades. I order hard-boiled eggs, they arrive limpid and scrambled, with every gram of flavor mysteriously removed before it reaches my tray. The milk was made in someone’s home chemistry lab. I am on a restricted Vitamin K diet to prevent clotting and I get whole plates of broccoli and salad.

The best things they do are tuna salad and fresh concord grapes. I lose 10 lbs. So maybe it’s a mitzvah. I got really good at sweet talking nurses into bringing me extra graham crackers at night.

One weird sidelight is that my olfactory sense is acute. For the first 2 days up I wonder why the nurses all smell like old tomato soup. I am a 2 bath or shower a day clean freak in my normal condition and my own smell now nauseates me. The stench of my damp sheets under my sweaty neck is horrible and they must be changed often. I am not allowed to shave and the growth puts 10 years on me and adds to the griminess.

Food tastes too salty. The juice is cloyingly sweet.


Family

Leslie is running on empty. I ask her not to come at the end of my hospital run unless necessary since she is so burnt from driving back and forth. She brings me fresh underwear and the newspaper which I have missed terribly. She does such a phenomenal job of keeping, home, work and me together. Thank god she puts up with my stuff.

I have also managed to offend my mother. She doesn’t call me for the duration. 20 years ago I had her kicked out of my hospital room during a cancer surgery. Her morbid vigils suck every ounce of oxygen out of the room. Somehow it’s always about her. Yet I know she cares and that I have hurt her and will be extra nice as soon as I am able. My mother saved my life in 1972-74. I had recurrent episodes of non a, non b chronic active hepatitis, lost 50 lbs. I was lurking around Mr. Death’s front door. My body started the necrotic function where my pancreas emptied out and the feet started itching. The doctors gave me less than 3 days to live. My mother fought for me and succoured me back to life. 28 vitamins a day and lots of love and lecithin. I must always be grateful and not such an asshole.

My brother Buzz and sister Kim call daily. I am very lucky to have them both. Younger brother and sister John and Laurie also call but my relationship with them both is a little distant and it is hard to communicate in an easy way. Sister Liz is in Virginia on her own planet and never calls.

My father is in an early child like state but his love comes through like a warm flame and I appreciate that he and his wife Shela love me so much. They are at the hospital the first two days. My dad keeps apologizing for passing on lousy genetics but I can’t blame him. Rather blame my mother…just kidding.


A friend in need is a pain in the ass.
Proverbs 4:37


Friends

My solids all show up – Richard, Ron, Lena,Tony, Bill, Jean, Dave, Robin. I understand those that couldn’t. I get a million phone calls. Cam calls a lot and is a rock. Big Dave is in New York with family. Melissa calls a couple times. I think about calling my ex best friend Hank in New York but realize that we are over as buddies and that I am groping. The greatest pain for me in this life, not having had kids, is losing a good friend. But there is a time when you have to know that you have done nothing wrong when someone still treats you like crap and that you must cut the other person loose for good. Relationships must be nurtured and reciprocal or they don’t count or exist. And if I am falling short with any of you I want to know.

John Morris calls from Santa Fe and tells me that I am missed at the antique show. The opening night is the night before my operation. It is the first time in 8 years that I am not in New Mexico in July. I am glad to be missed. I have completely put business out of my mind for the last 3 months and hope that I can rebuild. Hey maybe my merchandise is dead and I will become an anachronism. But I believe in myself to the point of extreme narcissism and will lay odds on myself. And there is an equity loan waiting if I have to go that route.

I tell John Fillmore, my best friend and favorite Republican, that I think one of the nurses is checking me out and he insists that I am on serious medication and insane as he erupts with laughter. I laugh too and it hurts. I am an old man and feeling more so every day. Even the nurse at B-------’s office sees fit to remind me that I am no longer a young stallion. Hey lady, believe me, I know….

I have been doing light reading – the early Le Carre Smiley adventures, Simenon, a biography of Lord Nelson by Pinnock. I have been instructed to lift no heavy books. My brother in law Andrew has sent a parcel of magazines. He is very wealthy and I am not. It is hard for me to read such publications as the Robb Report without a touch of class envy but I appreciate his efforts.

My favorite joke of the week, which I think was sent by Ruth, my mother-in-law.

A guy calls his Rabbi and says Rabbi, I think my wife is trying to poison me. The Rabbi, says my god, that’s serious, why don’t I have a talk with her. He calls the Rabbi the next week and asks if he has spoken with her. Rabbi says, yes, I did – take my advice – take the poison.

My mother-in-law is such an extraordinary person. She has been in a wheelchair for practically the entire length of my relationship to her daughter. Down to movement in a single hand, she has handled herself with total dignity. She is brilliant and still very beautiful. I can’t imagine being in her shoes and having to constantly rely on other people. She is one of my greatest role models.


There are a strange but interesting group of people that I call ward walkers that come in to the room every day. Most of these people are elderly and have had similar operations and some of their advice is very good – floss and brush diligently every night and ward off amalytic infections which can screw up your heart. Many of them bring small dogs to visit the bedridden. These people devote a lot of energy to giving something back.

Not to sound too callous or judgmental, but I think that in some ways, many are defining their life by their past disease. I want to help and try to counsel privately but refuse to be cast as a victim. A lthough in some ways cancer was one of the great blessings in my life and in my self awareness. I live for the day and the moment. But I have been very lucky.

Many people told me that they were praying for me – as an agnostic jew I could only thank them and say bring it on – how could it hurt? I never turn one down. One day a pentacostal minister friend wanted to do the whole laying on of hands thing and I had to draw the line so as not to be a hypocrite. I finally pretended to fall asleep so that he would leave. I thought that I had the holy spirit once but it turned out to be stomach cramps.


I have to thank my blood donors, we went far over the projected need but I felt that someone is going to get blood who needed it and we are now in a critical shortage countywide. Donors told me that the Blood Bank was like – who the hell is this Sommers guy? Thank you again.


It is Wednesday – they are talking about releasing me. Begging for a pardon like a man on death row, I have been wooing and manipulating the nurses for discharge and release like the seasoned professional that I am. Then I open up my big mouth and kill the deal. I let the nurse know that I am getting little quasar flashes and shooting stars across my visual field. They send for a neurologist who can’t find a problem but wants to rule out a detached retina. My ophthalmologist will examine my eyes later this week.


One more day until I can taste pizza.

Thursday, I break out of the stir. I plead for each i.v. to be removed in quick succession. Each one is a little psychic weight lifted off of me. I beg Leslie to pick me up ASAP and bless her heart, she does so.

We stop at Rubios on the way home for Fish Tacos. Delicious. I clutch my heart shaped pillow to me like Linus with his blanket. I spontaneously erupt in tears in the back seat of the van on the way home. It is the first time I have cried in a very long time and I feel an emotional release. I have lived to fight another day.

The woman at the pharmacy is friendly to me for the first time. I realize that I have always prejudged her and treated her like wallpaper. She is somehow aware of my condition and I wonder how many other people I might have managed to alienate and have pretended don’t exist.

The home health nurse never shows up Friday – We get a Prothrombin crisis due to a stupid comedy of errors. But things are now stabilized and I am turning it around.



I feel like I have been run over by a truck. Ribs are still not in their proper place. There is a softball size ganglia of nerves constantly throbbing under my right shoulder blade. My upper bicep problem is seriously inflamed. Hopefully an upcoming massage will help. I think that all hospitals should have a massage person on staff. If not for the patients then for the doctors and nurses.

I am putting several hours a day in on my 1897 Washburn Brazilian Rosewood guitar with an orange toned Adirondack Spruce upper deck. It is small and light and perfect for old bluesy stuff. Dave taught me some 2 string pair diatonic runs which are much fun to play around with.



We may break down and get an air conditioner after 15 years. The hundred degree plus heat puts me in a tailspin when I got home. I am wondering if I am having a nervous breakdown.


Leslie is standing innocently half naked in the kitchen in her sarong. She looks like a gorgeous tropical model for Gauguin or Rousseau. The line of her silhouette is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. I am so lucky to be with such a woman. She has cared for me with total love and devotion.

I am seeing no visitors at home. I walk to the plum tree every day to inspect the fruit which is just starting to show color. There will be no driving for 3 weeks. An airbag release will devastate me at this point. Hopefully I will feel good in 6 to 8 more weeks. I am very fortunate to have you all as friends.

I am healing.


Bless you all,


Robert Sommers
7/18/06
Fallbrook, CA