Scaffolding and seasons

Like the finger pointing to the moon

Me: We should have a chat at some point soon.
Him: That sounds serious
Me: (shrugging) It’s not to me, but it might be to you.

In Enter the Dragon, Bruce Lee said, “It is like the finger pointing to the moon…”

He was paraphrasing the Shurangama Sutra, where the Buddha noted that, if someone points to the moon, don’t just look at the finger, because you’ll either:

      1. Miss the moon, or
      2. Think the finger is the moon

Got into an argument with someone recently and I said something in passing over the length of argument.

Found out from someone else that he mistook the passing remark as the crux of the argument. He mistook the finger for the moon.

Me: Wait, what…?! (rolling eyes) Oh for f___’s sake…THAT was his takeaway?

At some point, it’s meaningless trying to communicate to some people because you’re speaking English and they’re speaking Martian.

 

The boy’s birthday is coming up and I’ve been looking at all the people I’ve collected since he was born and everything went to hell.

Some people I’ve met have changed the path of my life, others have merely come and gone from my Venn Diagram, although I’m grateful for the experience, good or ill.

Boy: (in front of Grey’s Papaya on 72nd) The scaffolding. It’s gone. It looks different.
Me: Yes. Scaffolding is only supposed to be there a little while and then you take it down.
Him: Why?
Me: The building needed help for a while. And now it’s ok again.

Some people in your life are permanent while others are only seasons.

Figuring which ones are which, that’s the difficult part, I guess.

Location: earlier this morning, listening to the boy read to his class
Mood: nostalgic
Music: They say people in your life are seasons

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Messrs Everman, Cellini, and Vaźques

Unicorns: Artist, warrior, philosopher, and businessman

Her: Every father wants his son to be something. Do you know what you want him to be?

A buddy of mine named Vaźques stopped by the other day for some Cuban food and we chatted for a bit about the path of his life. He’s younger than me; and with that youth comes an open future.

I asked him if he played a musical instrument and he said no. Told him to consider it cause there was a fella named Cellini once said that a well-rounded man is an artist, warrior, and philosopher.

I’d personally add to that “businessman” but that’s just me.

In any case, I’d read about Cellini in seventh grade in social studies while discussing tank warfare (odd thing to remember, I know). Decided then I wanted to be that and spent the next 34 years trying.

The gold standard, IMHO, is a fella named Everman who was:

      • The guitar player for Nirvana and the base-player for Soundgarden and OLD.
      • A US Army Ranger and Green Beret
      • An Ivy League graduate with a degree in philosophy with Columbia university; he’s currently pursuing his masters degree in Military history.

I meet tons of dangerous people in my personal and professional life. They are clearly dangerous – they wear their lethality clearly and conspicuously, like scorpions. I’m only marginally impressed.

I also meet tons of hyper intelligent people in my personal and professional life. They talk about the latest million-dollar deal they just closed on or their latest cool project. Again, marginally impressed.

Finally, there is a small group of people I know that seek understanding over rote knowledge. A very small group. These people impress me a bit more, but only a bit.

At least they think of the cascading consequences of all their actions.

But there’s this incredible minority of people like Messrs Everman and Cellini that have achieved what I think encompasses what a man – or woman – should strive to be.

A man named Danaher – whom I met when he was a bouncer and I was a club promoter – and the Devil I consider as one of these people as well with both of them fulfilling that fourth requirement of “businessman.”

These are the real unicorns. To be in their presence is humbling because, in my mind, they understand what’s valuable and what’s just a waste of time.

We’re all given 24 hours, every day. It’s what they do with those hours that separates them from everyone else.

Honestly,  my children can be anything they want to be. Doctor, plumber, race car driver, whatever. As long as they are those three four things first.

As long as he’s a unicorn.

Me: Yes.

Location: the basement of my brain…plotting
Mood: ambitious
Music: could have stayed for more.
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Butterfly or man?

Unexpected places

Him: Are you alive, Logan?
Me: Biologically? Yes. I respirate, ambulate, defecate, urinate, and – occasionally – fornicate. But everything’s a copy-of-a-copy-of-a-copy again. (looking at my hand) And my goddamn hands won’t stop shaking.

This fella named Zhuangzi once wrote that he had a dream that he was a butterfly dreaming he was a man.

For the rest of his life, he wondered if he was a man dreaming he was a butterfly, or whether he was a butterfly, dreaming he was a man.

Between that story and the that line about everything being a copy-of-a-copy-of-a-copy is how I’d describe functioning recently.

I use “functioning” loosely. Dunno what real and what’s for sale.

The last two months have been rough but the last week has been absolutely surreal. I’ll tell you about what I can when I can.

However, some things are clearer in my head than they’ve been in a while, which I think is probably a good thing.

I once said that all of your life’s problems can be divided up into health, wealth, and relationships.

If one goes south, you’re a wreck. Two, you need to stop everything and right the ship. Three…you need help.

All three came down on me in the past 10 days in unexpected ways. Very unexpected ways.

But help comes from unexpected places too.

Fiction

Him: Here. (hands me cash)
Me: That’s a lot more than the gig required. Honestly, the kid coulda handled it himself. (thinking) If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were trying give me some pity scratch.
Him: (slight smile)That doesn’t sound like me. But I do think I owe you like $5K.
Me: That you earned. (thinking) Someone’s been breaking into alla my accounts. Is it you?
Him: I’m old school. You know I don’t do tech. (shaking head) I’m a businessman now. For everything you think of me…. Look, we were kids. I’m sorry.
Me: A chick I met at a party once told me that I hurt people and I laughed and said, “If I’m honest, how can I hurt anyone?” But I get it now. Everyone’s sorry for the awful things they do to others. I know I am. (laughing) You know, at this point in time, you may be the only friend that knows who I really am and stuck around?
Him: What’re you saying?
Me: I’m saying I  hope this isn’t a long con, man. I’m rough. I need sleep. I need scratch. I just wanna forget everyone and everything but the boy.
Him: You already got fucked by the world. For what it’s worth, I betrayed you when you were up. You have rules? I have fucking rules too. I don’t kick a man when he’s down. And you – friend – are the most down motherfucker I know. Like you said, it’s all just time and chance. We’re not kids anymore, hustling nickels and dimes. (sighing) Keep the money. Get some sleep, Logan.

/Fiction

Location: nightmareland, still
Mood: so exhausted
Music: It couldn’t be a dream, cause too real it all seems

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It all fades to black, Pt 2

Even though I knew

It all fell apart, two years ago today. I remember writing this, hoping for a miracle that never came.


I was alone but heard a female yell out my name in my apartment the other day.

I ran out of my room and yelled, “Alison?” even though I knew she was gone.

I don’t believe in ghosts or anything like that. I do believe in auditory hallucinations caused by insomnia and copious amounts of self-medication. Yet, it seemed so real.

This is my life these days. Most days are ok. Some actually good, like when the boy and Mouse are here. Some are bad. Some are horrible.

This was a horrible day. I screamed in my blue bathroom, like I always do.

I have no plans to hurt myself. Instead, I plan on just going on a massive bender; apologies to my liver and those that will be running into me this weekend.

Still…I’m tired. I’d like to rest.

But, I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.

The boy: Why do you (imitates a sighing sound)?
Me: I’m sorry. Papa’s just tired.
Him: You need to rest.
Me: (nodding) I will. One day, I’ll rest. But not for a while, ok?
Him: Ok! (looking at me) Are you sad?
Me: (smiles) What do I have to be sad about? I have you. That’s silly.
Him: (laughs) That’s silly. Silly, papa.
Me: (nods, turns away)

Stop all the clocks,
Cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with the juicy bone.
Silence the pianos and, with muffled drum,
Bring out the coffin. Let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling in the sky, the message: “He is dead!”
Put crepe bows around the white necks of the public doves.
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my north, my south, my east and west,
My working week and Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song.
I thought that love would last forever; I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one.
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun.
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

Location: the bottom of my staircase and of a bottle of rum
Mood: hollowed-out
Music: Hoping for the best, but expecting the worst
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Logan’s 46: The Guard dies

…it does not surrender


It’s my birthday today.

I remember for years that I used to say, Wish me a Happy Birthday, alla you bastards that read me and never say anything.

The last time I said that was 2014, before everything went to hell.

This year, I pour out my soul to you with a simple admission: After Alison died, three words kept ringing in my addled head over-and-over again: The Guard dies.

The Guard dies.
The Guard dies.
The Guard dies.

I said those three words to myself hundreds thousands of times after she died. I would fall asleep to those words in my head and wake up to them as well.

I plotted for months on how to do it the right way, if there could ever be such a thing.

Because, I promised her parents and you that I would keep her safe. And I failed.

I failed you. I failed her parents. And, most unbearably of all, I failed her.

Failure has a price and I’ve always been driven to pay my debts.

There’s an apocryphal story about the Old French Guard during the Battle of Waterloo when the Middle Guard turned and ran, a solider from the Old Guard asked the general if they should run as well.

The general replied, La Garde meurt, elle ne se rend pas.

The Guard dies, it does not surrender.

In my drug/alcohol/grief/anger-fueled haze, I only remembered the first part.

Alison was my charge and I failed her so it was only fitting that I follow her. Because, wherever she went, I was always close behind.

It’s remarkably selfish and self-centered, I know. I wasn’t thinking clearly then.

But, due to a number of interesting bureaucratic twists and people like my mother-in-law, my father, Daisy, Gradgirl, and – of course – the Gymgirl, the fog slowly lifted.

And I remembered the boy. I am so ashamed to say that I forgot him in my grief.

Well, more appropriately – in my head – he was better off with people that were functioning, and I was clearly not functioning.

Moreover, I was so focused on Alison needing me that I didn’t really consider that he needed me.

Interestingly, the thing that really pulled me out of this mindset was a conversation with my mother-in-law one day. She said that I needed to raise the boy and that she would help but that he was my responsibility. I suspect she had some idea where my mind was.

In any case, that triggered a memory of a conversation that Alison and I once had: She told me that, if we were ever in an accident and I was given the option to save her or the child, she would never forgive me if I saved her.

And that, in turn, caused me to remember the rest of the quote: … it does not surrender. That’s when I realized that leaving would be surrender, not staying.

I lost my charge. But she had a charge too, one that she cared about more than herself: The boy. So, even if he weren’t my son, he would still be my charge because he was Alison’s.

Because she loved him more than anything, including her own life.

The boy’s given me something as well: A chance for me to redeem myself and my failure.

Essentially, the general was saying that the Guard does not run or surrender to overwhelming odds. It either does its job or dies trying. Like Alison did.

I’m 46 today. If ever there was an Old Guard, it’s me.

And the Old Guard does not surrender.

Him: Will you come get me today? From school?
Me: Of course. What am I gonna do, leave you there? That’d be silly.
Him: (laughs) That’d be silly! You’re silly, papa.
Me: (nodding) Yes.

Location: this afternoon, my blue bathroom, thinking of my possible pasts
Mood: heartbroken
Music: I’ve lost my place. I’m close behind
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Falling to the level of our training

Defining things

Me: Can you pack stuff for a picnic and I’ll meet you in the park? It’s beautiful today.
The Gymgirl: Pier?
Me: Perfect. I was also thinking of getting us half a roast duck.
Her: Woo-hoo!

I had run down to Chinatown for a haircut and some food but the weather was so nice that we made last minute lunch plans.

We’d not been out in a few days because we both got sick with a stomach bug so it was nice getting out.

We’d also not been able to get to the gym, which we both wanted to do.

This fella named Archilochus once said that, We don’t rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.

In a way, at our gym, we’re both training for something that will hopefully never happen. But I thought about that quote for a different reason.

You see, if not for this blog, I’m not really sure how much I would have remembered about our meeting.

Don’t remember much from the last several years. My mother-in-law thinks it’s because I slept so little and sleep is when your memories are set.

This is probably a good thing. There are horrors I experienced with Alison that I don’t wanna remember. But there are things I wish I did remember. About Alison. About the boy. About the Gymgirl.

All I know is that, after Alison died, I could barely function. So I just did that which I trained myself to do – after all, you are what you constantly do and after years of womanizing,* that’s what I defaulted to.

Well, that and drink to excess.

And as the fog of all the alcohol, craziness, and misery slowly faded, the Gymgirl came into focus and what I thought initially as another disposable relationship became anything but.

My life and luck has been – admittedly – complete s__t. But she and the boy are welcome outliers to my otherwise execrable existence.

Me: I wanted to say thank you. For everything. For all the things you do around here. With me, with the kid.
Her: Of course. (laughing) It’s not a big deal. But what brought this on?
Me: (shrugging) No reason. Life. Just…thanks.
Her: You’re welcome, Logan.

*Alison hated when I used that word: Womanizing.

But I don’t know a more appropriate word. I don’t think what I did/do really falls squarely in the realm of dating, or pick-up, or what have you – for reasons that are my own. They’re different things to me.

And once I met Alison, I stopped so I never spent any time thinking of a different word.

And once again, I’ve stopped. So it remains the most appropriate word I have.

Location: noon, yesterday, Pier I in NYC
Mood: grateful
Music: we’ll never know when, when we’ll run out of time
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Happy Birthday, Alison

I would only do this for you

Alison woulda been 39 tomorrow.

A friend of my sister’s dropped by yesterday with gifts for the kid – an owl plush toy, and a children’s book – plus a gift for me: Rum.

Her: I didn’t know her but I wish I did. She sounded like an amazing person. I hope you don’t find it strange that I show up here as a stranger.

And I spoke to an old friend I’ve not spoken to in ages.

Him: I met this girl. I’m selling everything and moving outta the city to be with her. I  wouldn’t have imagined doing something like this before but then I thought of you and Alison.

In their own ways, they apologized for reducing the sum of Alison’s life to a life lesson or story.

But I told them not to apologize and related a quote I like from Margaret Atwood: In the end, we all become stories.

All I have left of her are a handful of pictures, two videos, and these stories in my head. And the boy, of course.

In honor of her birthday, let me tell you a silly story. It’s for me, really. To put it out into the aether and make it real again, if only for a bit.

She disliked beets. But I loved them.

Her: You like beets?
Me: As my buddy would say: Nothing beats beets.
Her: (rolls eyes)

So I came home one day to find her wearing gloves and covered in beet juice. When I saw her, she pretended that I caught her in the middle of a murder (we loved Dexter, you see). She wanted to surprise me with some roasted beets and dried beet chips.

In any case, I asked her if I could take a picture of her and she resisted. She hated having her picture taken. But I insisted. And I asked that she recreate the scream as well. She did.

She disliked all those things: The beets. The pictures. The recreation. But she did them all because I asked. Because she loved me so much.

It’s an amazing thing to be loved so much by someone you love so much.

Dammit, I wish I insisted on more pictures and videos. We never think we’ll need things like pictures and videos until it’s too late.

I f__king hate that I only have two videos of her. It guts me.

For her birthday, do me a favor?

Take a picture – or even better, take a video – of someone you love that loves you as much as she loved me. As much as I loved her.

As for me, I drink. I cry. I drink some more. I’ll be going to a party with friends and drinking myself silly.

And I try to forget that I had someone that loved me so deeply and so much that I loved so deeply and so much.

Her: Why do you want to take a picture?
Me: Because I want to remember it.
Her: I look terrible. I spent this whole time cooking.
Me: You look beautiful. Please?
Her: Fiiiiiine.
Me: Can you recreate that scream?
Her: (laughing) OK. But only for you. I would only do this for you.

Location: in front of pictures and rum
Mood: gutted
Music: you lose something you can’t replace

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Alison Music: Oh, I’d better learn how to face it

The light has gone out

Friend: Sorry to call. We’re all just worried about you. (pause) Ridiculous question but: How are you?
Me: Drunk and heartbroken. You?
Him: It’s 10AM.
Me: I like to get an early start on things.

Teddy Roosevelt made a few appearances in this blog in the past. The entry I wrote about Xenophen wanting to die with his feet facing home, is one of my favourites and that picture is a statue of Roosevelt.

And I wrote another entry with a quote from him about daring greatly.

Always had an affinity for Teddy, but I’m hoping that it’s not because we will share similar fates.

See, Roosevelt was a New Yorker, like me. He lived walking distance to my pad, not too far from where I went to law school.

He was 25 and in Albany when he heard that his wife Alice gave birth to his daughter. So he rushed home – partly to see his daughter, and partly because his mom was sick.

By the time he got home to 6 West 57th Street, it was too late. His mom had died.

But the sick twist is that his wife died just 11 hours later from a completely unforeseen kidney issue. She was only 22.

Teddy kept a diary where he simply wrote a large black X and a single sentence: The light has gone out of my life.

I remember hearing that story as a kid and it affected me enough that I remembered it. But not so much that I truly appreciated what it must have meant to Teddy.

He couldn’t handle it. He gave his daughter to his sister to raise, put away everything that reminded him of Alice, and moved to North Dakota.

And he never spoke of Alice again and wouldn’t allow those around him to mention her name again. She didn’t even appear in his autobiography.

While that’s a bit much, I understand it.

After seeing my dad, spent the last week putting away as much of her things as possible; donating and tossing what I can. There are pictures and reminders of her everywhere.

They’re like constant papercuts over my shattered self.

Soon, everything will have been put away. And at some point, I’ll have to put Alison away.

Partly because, in the back of my mind, I worry that my other atomic bomb will go off. Mainly because my kid and my dad need me. Won’t be able to function if I don’t and they need me to function.

But, unlike Teddy, I’d never put Alison away completely.

Because, she was the best part of me and I need to give Nate the best of me. So that means keeping her here for him.

I just need a little time.

\’ FOR NATE

Location: in front of some rum
Mood: the same
Music: Now I can see love’s taken her toll on me

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Dead reckoning

Fools and fanatics


Going back to my maritime analogy, when the nights were cloudy and sailors didn’t have stars to figure out where they were going, they used deductive reasoning to essentially say:

If I know I was there on Tuesday traveling X knots per hour, and today is Wednesday, then I must be here.

They didn’t call this deductive reasoning, though, they called it deductive reckoning, which was shortened to ded reckoning, which morphed into dead reckoning.

And it’s apt cause the problem with dead reckoning is accumulating error: If I’m wrong about any assumption, that error is magnified the further you travel in time and space. You think you’re heading to safe shores and instead you’re adrift, thousands of miles off course.

We got good news last Monday that was taken away from us on Friday – the doc missed something. Our good news never ends up being good for very long.

So we’re back to trying to figure out what to do next.

Which means that I stay up at night, thinking of all our possible pasts, trying to determine the cascading consequences of my actions. Or inaction.

This fella named Bertrand Russell said that, “The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.”

Not that I’m so wise, but it’s come to this, where I’m envious of fools and their ability to sleep. But that’s for me to deal with.

Her: Are you ok?
Me: Of course. You’re home. The kid is walking. And I had a gyro for lunch. What else could a fella want?
Her: (teasing) Me to be cancer free?
Me: Well, there is that.

 


 

Many thanks again to my friends Ricky and Kathy, who – with their friends and mine – managed to raise $12,000 for Alison with their dinner fundraiser.

Thank goodness for the good souls.

\’

Location: off to the gym to try and forget for a bit
Mood: tired
Music: Thank goodness for the good souls that make life better

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Lovely, dark and deep, but we have promises to keep

There’s no way out but through


We ended up getting our second treatment this last Monday. Took three times longer than we had expected but I was thrilled to be there.

Looks like we’re back on track. For now, at least.

I spoke to a cancer researcher last week too. He said that Alison was the longest lived butterfly glioma patient he’s ever heard of. It’s a dubious distinction, and still not enough for us.

On that note, had numerous friends and relatives ask if she can get a break: Can’t she just have a few months without swallowing 30 pills a day, without having needles stuck in her every week, without wearing a helmet of magnets 24/7, without inhaling an astringent four times a day?

The short answer is no.

Because they don’t become friends with other glioblastoma patients and caregivers. They don’t have to hear: We put David in hospice this week. Jessica had three new tumors on her last scan. Maddie passed away today.

It’s tough to hear because you hope everyone else can pull through. You hope your loved one can pull through.

But the truth is a powerful thing. The truth is, most people are dead from this damn thing within 18 months. And most of those people are people that can walk and use their arms. People that had 100% of their cancer removed. People that went to the best cancer centers in the world.

Most people start off far better than Alison and still died.

If there’s any way at all for her to survive this, it’s because she doesn’t stop until the job is done.

It’s like that old Robert Frost poem:

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

No one goes 12,000 miles if they can go 30 unless they feel they have no other choice.

We don’t have a choice. No one with a glioblastoma really does. There’s no way out but through.


Some college friends of mine are throwing Alison a fundraiser dinner at Nickel & Dinner on March 2nd, 2017.

So if you’re hungry and in the NYC area looking for a bite a eat, hopefully you can stop by. Ask for Kathy or Ricky, two dear friends of mine.

As for us, we’d love to go. But we can’t, cause we have monsters to fight.

 

Location: Home again
Mood: cautiously hopeful
Music: say honestly you won’t give up on me, and I shall believe

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