Well, I've been offline for a while, but I thought you had the news pretty well from Wilson, plus I needed to rest up, frankly, having had a stretch of in the hospital, then out of the hospital, in and then out, in again, and this time out on a Saturday so I could get on a plane on Sunday, have my tests done at the Mayo on Monday, talk with the doctors on Tuesday, then drive to Minneapolis to speak at Mike Ford's Memorial service. Frankly, I got home in some ways stronger than when I left, but in others, well, I was ready to lie down and sleep as long as I could get by without having an ice cube slid down my back. I really needed some rest, in my own bed not a hospital or hotel bed. And every time I've thought about posting here the last week or so, I just couldn't find the energy to do more the most cursory sort of entry, likely dull-witted with weariness at that, and I thought you deserved more than that.
You might find a small interest that I codified a list of things to be done once I have regained (1) over-all strength, (2) hand-eye coordination, and (3) some degree of balance. I am convinced that I will recover these things -- the strength seems the easiest -- and have even agreed, after some urging from Harriet, to submit my hands and feet to acupuncture! Go figure. Me, the Great Skeptic! Well, she's a cousin of sorts, through marriage -- it can get complicated in Charleston -- and she is fully qualified and all of that.
Anyway, the list.
1) Purchase Harley. I already have this picked out, as I think I've told you, and though Harriet SAYS she won't mind riding postillion, I'm figuring a sidecar is my future, too. That's okay. But not quite as soon as I hoped. It won't be under the Christmas tree this year. Maybe next.
2) Sky diving qualification. I'm not talking buddy-jumping strapped to some guy's belly like a kangaroo trying to escape from it's mother's pouch. I mean to take the whole nine yards so that I can walk into any place where such a thing is possible, rent a chute, rent a plane to take me up, and go jump, no questions asked. Wilson says we are too old, and my knees are too bad, for this sort of thing, but the thing is that having achieved that qualification, I doubt that I will every use it. I will have done it, however, and that will be enough. When I was young, before my first tour in the Nam, I volunteered to airborne. I got turned down on account of bad eyes, and that is something I have regretted ever since. That I've held on that regret so long indicated something to me, because I have always operated on Lan's rule, bury your dead and ride on. I don't hold onto regrets. This one remains, however. So I will try to lay it to rest once and for all. Besides, I WANT to jump out of the bloody plane!
3) Take up ball-room dancing lessons with Harriet. Funny, after saying that I don't hold onto regrets, that I should come to this one straight away. You see, before I began having nerve problems with my feet and loss of balance, I was a pretty good dancer. Good enough to have 20-something guys complimenting me on my moves and women of various ages cutting in on Harriet to dance with me. It was also neat to be addressed on the street, sometimes by women I could swear I never met in my life, with cries of "Hello, dancer!" Well, I want that back. And, since I am completely untrained -- I grew up poor; there was no childhood dance class in my background -- I want to take the lessons because I want some dances, the tango, the rumba, the cha-cha, that you just can't fake. And not that Dancing with the Stars baloney, either. That is strangely entertaining, one might saying weirdly entertaining, much like a train wreck involving Borat and Rush Limbaugh in clown makeup, but in most cases, the dances they do have no resemblance whatsoever to the dances they claim to be. Let them take their so-called tango to Argentina. And see if they can get out of the country alive. Anyhow, #3, dance lessons.
And 4) Take up golf. This something I had just begun to get into when things when blooey in general. You need balance to make a good swing, and I found out I have a pretty good natural talent for the game. My drives are straight -- in two rounds with Wilson and his son, Jonathon, both golf fiends -- I lost fewer balls than either of them, and if the length of my drives has been somewhat erratic, I was beginning to get that straightened out. I figure if I can get the occasional but not uncommon 200 yard plus drive without golf shoes, which means no proper swing, I can match and top and that with the shoes and with practice. It only needs the balance back a little. And you know, it's fun reading the greens for puts. I got a few tips from a pro who was earning some extra money by caddying at a club where I'd won a round in charity auction, and he had some wonderful tips for that.
So there you have it. Oh, finishing A Memory of Light, of course, and getting started on Mat and Tuon, and some others, five to ten years after the Last Battle. Those go without saying. Not a bad plan for the coming year, eh? And fishing. I'd like to call Billy Glenn and run up to Cape Romain, where the beaches are so pristine you can walk for miles without seeing a footprint not your own, where the truly big redfish, 40-pound, 50-pound, 60-pound, are cruising down the coast in the surf, too big to keep, of course, but great fun to catch and release, using circle hooks for survival of fish, and if a little time goes by without a redfish, then a 6 or 7-foot blacktip shark is sure to grab hold, leaping like a bloody tarpon. It's a great day's fun, with the wind cutting in directly off the Atlantic and nothing but water between you and Portugal. But Thanksgiving is almost here, and Christmas is acoming in, Lud sing God damn, with lots of house guests for each and also in between. No time for fishing. Unless I sink to trying an ultralight fly rod in the goldfish pond. I don't think that would play well with Harriet. Besides, there's no real way to get a decent backcast. I know. I've checked, and believe me, I can find a backcast in a china closet if one is to be found.
The news from Mayo, for those of you who doubted Wilson: another drop in the Lambda Light Chains! There simply wasn't room for the truly spectacular drop that I had last time, but I still got roughly a 25% decrease. This leaves me in double digits, barely, but closing on the normal range of roughly between 1 and 3. This despite having been pulled off the Revlimid during the second hospital stay because my kidney numbers had gone wonkey. Life is one little adventure after another around here. I asked how the study was going in general, were others getting the same good response that I was; my answer was a shrug and a reply that the other numbers were all over the place. The Luck holds. The Iceman remains asleep -- thank God! -- but Ganesh has wakened, and he's stomping down that path through the paddies again. So, I got the kidney numbers back under control, I am back on the Revlimid, and I don't have to return to the Mayo until January, and at further three-month intervals thereafter. They will send me kits for monthly blood collections here which will then be sent to the May for their own testing, and I will also get my meds by mail. Hot damn! Another round to the Kid over Liston. One more lance passed unbroken in the list.
(These images may seem over-the-top to a lot of you, and I suppose they are, but I find they help me. Having a physical enemy to confront is easier to imagine that the ephemeral image of a disease. I think that is what Armstrong, from whom I first stole the idea, had in mind. And in many of them, I see myself exactly. If I am not exactly Bertran du Guesclin pledging a feat of arms this day as shall ring through the courts of chivalry in order to do honor to my Lady -- though, God knows, I would that I were -- I do see myself as that guy getting up off the stool and stalking out to meet Liston one more time. Keep the hands up. Swallow the blood; they're tight on stopping bouts for bleeding, these days. Ignore the legs; the legs don't matter. Just keep punching. No matter what, take what he gives and keep punching, because sooner or later, you'll crack his head or he'll crack yours. So keep punching, because you know who's going to be left standing when this is over. Just keep punching. And they make attitudes easier to explain, too. It becomes easier to say you'll fight to the last ditch when you can look around and realize that you are already in the last ditch with no line of retreat open, that there is nothing for it but to do a quick leopard crawl down to verify ranges, then back to the ditch to lock and load. And fix bayonets, because surrender isn't an option. Hold until relieved. The hardest order in the book to receive. But that is all there is. That makes it clear, if in a flamboyant way, and makes for a short explanation, if only because the listener is afraid of more floweriness if he enquires further. Which leaves me to ask some lovely who has just brought me yet another plate of goodies whether she really thinks I should leave my hair this length; isn't it a bit short? Much more fun. And it gets LOTS of grins from Harriet.)
Well. That's probably flamboyance enough for a novel or two from some guys. Mike could make three novels and half a volume of poetry, in various styles, on it. Not brief, though. I began my comments at Mike's memorial service by saying that I had worked hard to leave out incidents in the interest of brevity. "I can be brief, you know," I said, getting an unexpected laugh. And another for, "I once told Mike I was going to be brief about something or other, and he laughed so hard he snorted Bass Ale through his nose." Oh, well.
My thanks for Mr. Robert C. Fertig for his donation to the Mayo Hematologic Malignancies Program -- Amyloidosis Research. Every penny is a help toward finding a cure for this condition, which is usually fatal. It looks very like I am dodging the bullet, but then, it seems that I am become Ganesh again, and if you will forgive me mixing metaphors, once again the baraka is with me and rides my shoulder. Most people don't have my luck.
For SSG Travis Kennedy, thank you very much, both for passing your story along to me -- frankly, I never imaged one of my books saving anyone's life, and I have passed your story on to various people under the title DO YOU STILL THINK I SHOULD WRITE SHORTER BOOKS? -- and for the work you are now doing with our wounded undergoing rehab. Thank you doubly, for your service in the Sand, and for your service now.
For Jan Lupton, yes, it is very scary, but you can make it through. The Mayo is the best place in the world for you to be getting treatment. If they offer you a place in the Revlimid study -- that is what I am taking -- grab it. Though of one thing I have been certain since very early on with the Mayo. If one treatment doesn't work, they will always be ready with something else. The keys are two-fold. First, never give up. No matter how bad things seem today, you just don't give up. You don't do it. As long as you believe that things will get better, they will. I don't know why or how that works; it defies logic; but work it does. It is when it begin to believe that there is no hope that things start going bad. So DON'T GIVE UP! And second -- this one puts a burden on you, but based on how my own wife has taken that burden, it seemed to help her -- his job is to keep breathing. Your job is everything else. If someone at the Mayo hasn't told you that yet, I'm sure they soon will. I'm just jumping in ahead.
For Lelon White, getting off the heavy drugs for a month is a dream. Take all the advantage you can. Missing Patrick Stewart in the Tempest is a heavy price. No thoughts of trying to reschedule the doctor? Or doing what I call a ball-pein hammer reschedule? "Gee, doc, I wrote it down, and I could have sworn the appointment was for today, not yesterday." It works. It works. And Stewart, in any Shakespeare, is not to be missed.
For Gary Bucey, hang in there, man. You can make it. I won't try to make it sound easy, because you sure as Hell know it is anything but. Just concentrate on breathing. You keep breathing and leave everything else, including worrying about everything else, to somebody else. You'll be surprised how much taking up some of that burden will help your wife, because she is undergoing her own kind of Hell right now. I know. No matter how she tried to hide it, I could see it in Harriet's eyes, in the days when we didn't know, in the days when it looked like I had no hope, just will power, and as much as she loves me, she wasn't sure my will power by itself was going to be enough. Will power really is a key. When you are sure there's nothing left, then you tell yourself, "I'm not giving up! I won't quit!" And if you have to crawl into the ring, then you by God crawl, man. You make the bell any way you can, and if you have to pull yourself to your feet by holding onto Liston's trunks, you damned well do it. I know the pain. You can beat that. You can. It is surprising how you can make friends with the pain when you have to. Somehow, it doesn't hurt so much then. It just is. But don't you give up. I expect to hear from you again. and again, for ten or twenty years to come at least. Don't disappoint me, man. Hang in, snake,
For Jerry J, you and your wife are in my payers. Once again, a post has manage to humble me. I can hardly image, with your wife undergoing multiple surgeries for malignancies, that you could spare time for a thought for me, much to make a post.
For Kaius, we haven't broken out the champers just yet. I thought when I hit single digits would be a good time, so with luck, it will be in January. Knock wood. I'm glad you liked Harriet's poem. It took me a long time to convince her to begin submitting her work, and she had just gotten publication in half a dozen magazines and poetry journals when I blew up in her face, and she lost energy for writing. I see signs that it is returning, though. For those who might be interested, by the way, the word bard refers not only to the fellow with a harp but also to horse armor. A horse wearing full armor was said to be fully barded. It seems to me that it also references some part of removable castle protection as well, but the memory is vague, and I am too lazy to go browse the proper books and make sure.
For James Schaller, anything anyone wishes to send me can be mailed to:
C/O Sobel Weber Associates
146 East 19th Street
New York, NY 10003-2404
Okay. I've been going on long enough, I think. I haven't looked at my e-mail in about five or six days, so God only knows what it has piled up to. A thousand or so, I imagine, just at the main address, and I run six to keep things separate. I know you'd rather I spent the time answering more questions, or talking about what is going on here, but I really do need to answer the e-mail. And what is going on here is that Harriet is making soupe au pistou for dinner, and though it is about 3 hours till time to sit down, I am beginning to smell it. So I shall have to answer e-mail while drooling. That is what is going on here.
Good-bye until later, guys. I'll try to make it shorter interval this time. My apologies again to everyone for the delay. And my very great thanks to everyone who posts. Whether or not you offer prayers or well-wishes, whether or not you have some personal tragedy of your own to share, every post is a lift to me -- yes; the tragedies, too, because I have a chance to reach out and offer what I can, which doesn't happen often under my present circumstances --and I thank you for them.