Archive for the ‘Illness’ Category

R.I.P., Steve Milligan

December 22, 2020

Our friend Steve went west last night.

We were on the trail past the high side of Comanche, waiting on the Great Conjunction, when I saw the owl.

It was just before sunset as he flew in from the south, spread his wings wide, and coasted to a landing atop a utility pole down the hill from our own perch.

“I bet that’s Steve come to say adios,” I thought.

We had spoken with his wife, Christina, earlier in the day. She told us Steve was near the end of his struggle against an aggressive cancer. And when I saw the owl, well. …

This morning I awakened with Tom Waits in my head, rasping, “Come On Up to the House.”

Come on up to the house

Come on up to the house

The world is not my home

I’m just a-passin’ through

You gotta come on up to the house.

And sure enough, as I creaked out of bed and began dressing to greet the day, Herself gave me the news: “Steve died.”

Steve and Christina were librarians, like Herself, who met Steve sometime in 2005 when they both worked for Pikes Peak Community College in Bibleburg. Christina did her bit at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs. Funny thing was, they lived just a couple blocks around the corner from our place in the Greater Patty Jewett Yacht & Gun Club Neighborhood. So we could’ve met them pretty much any old time. Small world.

Steve and Herself at PPCC.

Herself developed this notion that we might all get along, be “couples friends,” a social wall she has been banging her head against for more than 30 years. I’m a surly old dog wary of strangers at the gate.

In this instance, however, she was correct. Steve picked right up on my suspicions about any plan I had not personally devised and his nickname for me became “Mr. Three Words.” If there was something Christina wanted to do and Steve didn’t, he’d say, “I have three words for you: Patrick O’Grady.”

These are of course two words, and constitute a koan of sorts, I suppose. And no surprise, because Steve was a Zen Buddhist, a member of the Springs Mountain Sangha. We had something in common there; some years earlier I had met Joan Sutherland Roshi, who would go on to become the founding teacher of The Open Source network that includes the SMS.

Joan had worked with John Tarrant Roshi, director of the Pacific Zen Institute and Robert Aitken Roshi’s first dharma heir. And Steve and I both appreciated Tarrant’s book, “Bring Me the Rhinoceros,” a sampler of classic Zen koans and a Western approach to them.

All this is not intended to say that Steve and I were Han Shan and Shih Te. Steve and Christina and Herself and I were not itinerant locos who did a little casual day labor to keep rice in the bowl (well, Steve, Christina and Herself weren’t, anyway). We were simply friends, people of like mind who enjoyed books and movies, food and wine, chin music and a few yuks.

One of many dinners at the Blue Star.

They would cook for us, and we would cook for them. If we weren’t cooking, we were eating, at Blue Star, Springs Orleans, Tapateria, Pizza Rustica, or Vallejos. Taking in movies at Kimball’s Peak Three. Hanging out and shooting the shit.

After we moved down here in 2014 we saw them less often, but both Steve and Christina have relatives in New Mexico, so they’d pop down from time to time and we’d catch up. And whenever we were back in Bibleburg they were at the top of our list of people to see.

Steve was a big fella, like me a bearded baldo, but while I am prone to rant and rave like some stewbum on a sidewalk he was inclined to uncork a dry wit and serve it in a confidential tone, as though the State might be listening in. Whenever he had a bon mot to deliver he would take a step closer, right into your personal space, drop his volume to a conspiratorial level, and let fly.

Christina? More of a Buddha, less entranced by her own sermons, occasionally raising a flower. She speaks in measured tones with quiet amusement and nothing I do or say surprises her because she spent decades with her own bull-goose loony and knew all that honking and flapping was strictly ornamental.

There was less of that sort of thing as Steve’s disease progressed, Christina told me today as we three, once four, shared a long-distance cry. But at least Steve was in the nest, at home, in the care of his wife and son. And that was where he left them, and us, at age 73. Gasshō, bodhisattva.

We can’t say that human lives have a purpose, since a purpose would be smaller than we are. It’s true, though, that the impulse to give freely to the world seems to be at the bottom of the well of human intentions where the purest and cleanest water arises. To be able to offer back what the world has given you, but shaped a little by your touch — that makes a true life. Eventually we find our song and remember it and sing it. And we can never know who else will sing the song, or how the story will turn out in the end; its ripples widen beyond us and there is no end in sight. — John Tarrant, “Bring me the Rhinoceros”

We’re in the soup

March 11, 2020

This soup didn’t come out of a packet.

We were not Jewish. But whenever one of us was sick, Mom would break out the chicken soup.

Well, kinda, sorta.

It was the sort of soup a harried Midwestern Presbyterian considered suitable for ailing children, a saucepan of rehydrated Lipton chicken noodle, with a side of Premium saltines. And if I played my cards right, I could work Mom for the fake soup and a couple of comic books. Winning!

Well, here we are again. The Plague is upon us, we’re shivering under the comforter, and someone is bringing us a plastic bowl of industrial soup with some dried-up old white crackers.

Say, who is that wearing Mom’s apron? It’s … it’s … oh, my God, it’s. …

Yes, it’s another thrilling episode of Radio Free Dogpatch!

P L A Y    R A D I O    F R E E    D O G P A T C H

• Technical notes: It’s another low-and-slow-fi episode this week. I used an Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB mic, and skipped the Zoom H5 Handy Recorder in favor of recording directly to the MacBook Pro using Rogue Amoeba’s nifty little app Piezo. Editing was as usual, in GarageBand. You’ll recognize Babe and the gang from The Firesign Theatre (“How Can You Be In Two Places At Once When You’re Not Anywhere At All”) and the doctor from “Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life.” The background music is by Your Humble Narrator, assembled from bits and pieces in the iOS version of GarageBand on a 9.7-inch iPad Pro.

Bugged

March 11, 2020

Hel-lo, sailor!

Well, there goes the neighborhood.

Meanwhile, what in the actual fuck?

MRE-ow

January 12, 2020

“My compliments to the chef. His cooking tastes
much better than his hand.”

Field Marshal Turkish von Turkenstein (commander, 1st Feline Home Defense Regiment), is a stout fellow and a resolute trencherman.

So when a crook gut puts His Excellency off his feed, as it did Friday evening, it’s a matter of utmost concern for the general staff.

He retired to his quarters, leaving orders not to be disturbed, and stayed abed throughout Saturday, refusing both food and drink.

An expedition to the emergency room was considered, and rejected. He prefers his personal physician, who is unavailable on weekends, and the ER is not a secure facility, especially when His Excellency is being treated. Anything might happen to anyone at anytime. When under stress the grizzled old soldier takes his tactical cues from the late Richard Pryor’s character Mudbone: “If somebody get hurt in here, I ain’t gonna be the last one.”

So we waited.

Finally, come evening, he agreed to take a soupçon of nourishment. An inspection tour of the litter box followed. And after a good night’s sleep, His Excellency greeted the morning with a substantial breakfast and the traditional nip at the hand that feeds him.

What won’t stay down, must come up

November 20, 2019

“Patrick O’Grady to the white courtesy phone. …”

Well, this has been quite the week.

Herself the Elder came to town Saturday with Beth, the eldest daughter, and the next few days were your basic whirlwind of activity: getting her settled in the assisted-living place; acquiring and configuring a TV that was too smart for anyone’s good; rounding up an adjustable bed and all the other bits that make a room a home; doing battle with the medical-industrial complex; and meeting the staff and other residents.

It was going pretty smoothly, all things considered, until Monday evening, when I contracted some variety of nuclear gut-rumbler, and the less you know about that, the better.

Then Herself got it yesterday, which meant she couldn’t go to work this morning or drive Beth to the airport at 3:30 a.m. In the rain. Because it always rains at stupid-thirty when a fella who has spent the last 36 hours cuddling the commode suddenly finds himself drafted to drive to the airport at 3:30 a.m. In the rain.

Anyway, Herself the Elder and Beth seem to have dodged whatever floored me and Herself, so, yay. We are taking light refreshment and shambling around El Rancho Pendejo like the living dead. And I finally got caught up on HBO’s “Watchmen,” if getting caught up means continuing to wonder just what in the sweet holy motherfuck this thing is about.

Now I have to catch up on the news, which likewise. Pray for me.

A nose for noise

November 27, 2016
Life is but a dream, sh-boom, sh-boom.

Life is but a dream, sh-boom, sh-boom.

I’ve been dossing down in the guest bedroom for the past few nights while I try to shake this bug (hack, cough, ptui, repeat) and last night I was dreaming that I was in some concrete condo/apartment house shithole, the prototypical American multifamily dwelling pioneered by the East Germans, a cheerless vertical warehouse with all the charm of a Stasi penitentiary for political offenders.

In the dream, as in “real life,” I couldn’t quite drift off to a proper sleep. I kept hearing this repetitive sound that was driving me batshit: Pok. Pok. Pok. Sounded like someone bouncing a tennis ball off a concrete wall or floor, over and over again.

Pok. Pok. Pok. Etc.

In both planes of consciousness it had been days since I last enjoyed a solid night’s sleep. And in the dream I was starting to get seriously pissed off because for the first time in a good long while I wasn’t enduring any coughing fits and thus nothing should have been keeping me awake.

Pok. Pok. Pok. Etc.

I couldn’t localize the sound — inside my apartment, upstairs, downstairs, in the hallway — and I was on the edge of bounding out of bed to get medieval on someone’s ass, as soon as I got a fix on where the fuck was it that they were.

Pok. Pok. Pok. Etc.

And then I woke up to find that the sound — Pok. Pok. Pok. Etc. — was my own nasal exhalations bouncing off the sheet and blankets, which I had tugged over my head.

Black Lung Friday

November 25, 2016
Welcome to Piedra Lisa, which is Spanish for "Smooth Stone."

Welcome to Piedra Lisa, which is Spanish for “Smooth Stone.”

Gah. I seem to have collected a bug from some’eres. Woke up way too early this morning making sounds like an emphysema ward getting tear-gassed and had to relocate to the guest bedroom unless I wanted to have a heart attack (there was a strong chance that Herself, who enjoys her Zs, might attack it with a nail file).

The guest room was chilly and the bed under-covered, but I figured that if I got back out of it to go hunting a better blankie, I’d either wake all the way up or have a cat sneak in for a nap on my head. So I curled up and endured.

Cycling thus seemed like a real bad idea today so I consulted with my man Hal Walter on his latest book project and went for an hourlong walk instead.

Pretty much everybody in Albuquerque had had the same idea, so I didn’t lack for companionship. I was the only one who sounded like the ghost of Leonard Cohen impersonating Tom Waits from inside an alligator crawling through a culvert, though.

 

Bluesday

January 26, 2016
There's a slight chance of snow this morning. Doesn't matter, I'll be inside cooking chicken soup as a deterrent.

There’s a slight chance of snow this morning. Doesn’t matter, I’ll be inside cooking chicken soup as a deterrent.

The Crud is undefeated and still champeen. It finally got Herself, the last holdout in the Maryland Four, and as I understand it the past couple of days have been as unpleasant as a close working relationship with Ted Cruz.

She’s on her way home as we speak, and I hope she (a) left The Crud back in Maryland, and (2) in her weakened condition doesn’t collect another bug from the pressurized aluminum test tube busy folks use as transportation in these modern times (que viva Air Subaru, baby).

Freelance rumormongers don’t get sick days. We don’t work, we don’t eat. Especially if we’re too busy barfing to cook.

Wild, wild life

September 29, 2015
That's what I call an ex-dove.

That’s what I call an ex-dove.

Between episodes of “Attack of the Booger Monster” it’s been National Fuckin’ Geographical lately around El Rancho Pendejo.

Yesterday afternoon I was slouched in the office, trying feebly to generate some paying copy with a skull full of Claritin-D 12 Hour, when I heard a bass thump! in the living room and assumed another dipshit dove had augured into the picture window by the cat tower.

It was a marvelous night for a moondance.

It was a marvelous night for a moondance.

Well, close. A falcon had chased a dove into the window and was sitting on the lawn, plucking the dumb sonofabitch like a harp, while the cats watched with professional curiosity. No photo of the raptor at work, alas; I went for a camera but he took off with his dinner before I could make a Kodak moment of it.

Then last evening I took a few snaps of the post-eclipse supermoon, having intercoursed the penguin the night before (check those ISO/f-stop settings, kids). We had a few shooting stars to keep Luna company when it was all red in the face, too. Quite the night.

Today I felt capable of a short bike ride for professional purposes — the reviews don’t slow down just ’cause I do — and afterward I treated myself to a second dose of green chile stew. I’m hoping it succeeds where the Irish penicillin failed. It’s a rare bug indeed that can withstand the one-two punch of chicken noodle soup and green chile stew.

 

Sermon on the mountebanks

September 24, 2015
The foothills by the Piedra Lisa parking lot.

The foothills by the Piedra Lisa parking lot.

Swear to God: I’d turn Roman Catholic in a hot Noo Yawk minute if Pope Frankie could get Dorothy Day to roust this capitalist cold the hell out of my atheist carcass.

The bug has been having a high old time with me, plugging my nose-holes with colorful sludge, like a box of Crayolas left in the sun. Too, there is a cough that must have the neighbors wondering if a pride of lions has begun hunting deer in the ‘hood. Sleep is measured in minutes rather than hours, and snark, bark and spark all are at perilously low levels.

Come midmorning, after watching the pope squander his Jesuitical subtlety on our elected representatives, I dragged what remains of Your Humble Narrator out for a Frankensteinian walk along the trails I should be running or riding, this being the second day of fall, and a beauty, too. Just check out the blue in that sky. It’s one of the few colors that hasn’t come out of my nose.