Thursday, September 30, 2004

Natural musings

Today at lunch time I took another toe-stretching walk in the conservation area. The sun was bright and warm, the air was fresh, the clay and loam were moist and cool. Afterwards I sat at a picnic table near the parking lot, soaking up what little sun we have left this year, and I started thinking about Jody, as I tend to in quiet moments.

It occurred to me that the summer that just came and went was the first season that's passed since the winter of 1978 without him in it... the spring of 1977 if you count life from conception. Jody died at the end of the spring... it was summer by the time I was in Dallas. Summer ended in the middle of last week. That whole season came and went, empty of his presence.

Just lately it's started to feel like a long time now. I think of June 4th, the last time I spoke with him (via ICQ). How casual that was. How I just waved and trotted off when the time to go home arrived, never realizing those were the last live words we'd ever share. What would I have done, had I known? Called him up at home? Hopped on a plane to share this last hours? Reminded him again and again how much I'd come to love him over the years, and how empty things were going to feel when it would occur to me to share something with him, and him no longer there? What would I have done, knowing it was his last weekend? I sat on the warm picnic table with my face to the sun and my feet in the cold wet grass and thought about how things had conspired to deny him even a simple pleasure like this, never mind all the other things he was bound to have achieved, given enough time.

Right now I'm kind of waiting to see what his dad will tell me. Right around now, he's talking with his doctors about the growth in his lymph nodes. God only knows what they're saying to him right now. He's already told me that if it's back, he's not going to fight it. He's going to live his life as well as he can, with the time he has left. Visit people. Say his good-byes. I hope to God it doesn't come to that. No, he's not as young as Jody and he's lived a pretty full life, but it's still not time for him yet, it seems to me. I want to hear there are options, ones he's willing to accept. I don't want to say anymore good-byes this soon.

So here we are in autumn. I'm 36. I suppose I'm at the end of my own personal summer, or at least in its closing weeks, speaking in terms of a lifetime. Then again, who knows? A little over two years ago, I would have told you Jody was barely in his summer. None of us knew — how could we know? — that his own winter was already well upon him. He had his own personal Indian summer last year... a few warm months of health and contentment, hope and optimism. At least he had that. I guess some people get cancer and never get a break. Still, would it have ruined something fundamental about the universe if those few months had been a few years instead? Or better yet, a few decades?

Monday, September 27, 2004

Books, beers, and beats

Yesterday, Sunday, was pretty nice. I headed down to meet P-Doug at his place. We were going to take the subway downtown to a book festival called Word On the Street. P-Doug talked me into driving instead since he knew a place that was cheaper to park than taking the subway. Another nail in the coffin of public transit. But anyway...

The festival was pretty busy. I found this one booth that was selling fairly recent Canadian literary magazines at a buck a throw. I bought six of them. At a quick reckoning, I'd say their combined cover price was $40-$50. Felt pretty good about that. My lower back's been kind of sore for the past week or so, so I eventually I drifted off to sit and read by the war memorial. P-Doug caught up with me about half an hour later, and we took off to the Distillery District.

The traffic heading down Bay was awful (score one for the subway; tie game...). Turns out there was a marathon on at the south end of the city. I'm getting pretty sick of this shit every time I turn around. Why is it every time some idiot comes up with some lunacy they want to do in a group, they have to pick the downtown to do it in? Or one of the major arteries in and out of town? When is city council finally going to grow a pair and say, "Look, you want to disrupt traffic, do it in the burbs, like out in York or something." It's not bad enough construction upsets everything all summer; do we really need Joggers for Jesus shutting down half the city every weekend? Not in my bloody books we don't.

Anyway, we finally got out to the Distillery District and had a nice lunch at the sandwich shop there. I had the turkey chili and organic bread (I wish they wouldn't call it that; it's so yuppie), and P-Doug had a shepherd's pie and a couple of currant cookie thingies. I bought a couple of scones and ate one while I waited for them to heat up my chili. Things were pretty good till these two elderly couples showed up and asked to share our picnic table, ugh. Turns out they were from New York. A local theatre chain had hired someone to hand one of the local papers for free, and without even looking at it, they spent half their time sneering at. "Probably full of ads," says one of the old ginks. His wife repeatedly whined that it would be nice if they were handing out free copies of the New York Times. I wanted to turn to her and say, "You're not in New York, lady. You're not even in the United States. Get your head out of your own navel and look around at the rest of the world, or do us all a favour and stay home." When I was in Dallas, I didn't walk around shitting on everything and bitching that I couldn't get the Star or the Globe or the National Post. Yeah, New York is nice and all, but even New York ain't God's penis. It's just one more big town on Planet Earth. So anyway, finally one of the old guys actually deigns to go pick up a copy of the free paper, and is amazed to find it's a substantial newspaper, and says so. The arrogance of these people was truly galling. P-Doug and I barely spoke while they were there; we finished eating and left (Ugly Americans: score 1).

We went over to the sitting area we usually go to and grabbed a couple of beers. There was this jazz band on stage... I don't know much about jazz, but my God, were these guys sharp. Four guys; trumpet-playing lead, keyboard, bass, and drummer. They were tight. Turns out the lead was a guy from New Orleans who ended up moving up here with his wife and kids, and put together another band locally (Cool Americans: score 1; tie game). This is how good they were: P-Doug and I shut up for nearly and hour and just listened. I drank a coffee-flavoured beer slowly and just let the jazz wash over me. Most of the tunes were by the lead guy, whose name was Kevin Clark (the other three guys are his "Jazz Kitchen", I believe... Mr. Clark is also a graduate chef from Lousianna). He seemed to have habit of writing songs based on little snatches of tunes or rhythms around him while on the go. One was called "Ride the Rocket", and was based on the three notes TTC subway cars play as their doors close. Another was about a stopover in Istanbul, where a tall, red-headed member of his previous band, in a shirt decorated with alligators, inspired the tune "Look At the Man In the Alligator Shirt". We ended up buying their CD. Jazz is uncommon these days, but if you're in the right place and the right frame of mind, it's really fantastic music. I didn't like it when I was a kid, but maybe it's something you have to grow into.

Friday, September 24, 2004

A primate in the trees

Not quite two weeks ago, I found a local conservation area. It's not all that far from here and I can get to it from where I work at lunch time fairly quickly and easily. I've been there about a half a dozen times in the past couple weeks. Nice nature paths through the trees.

Yesterday and today I was out there for half hour walks in the forest. It's absolutely lovely. The trees are beginning to shed some leaves, but by and large they're still green. But I got a little daring in the last couple of days and started indulging myself by walking barefoot in the forest. I was a little reluctant because I figured I'd get cut up or something, but I remembered times in the past I'd done it and how pleasant it was, so yesterday and today I struck out right from the car. It's amazing how friendly the paths are. Warm, soft sand; cool, moistclay... pine needle floors, smooth wooden planks over gullies... it really is an experience. If you want to connect with nature in alow-key kind of way, Ihighly recommend it. Don't be shy, give it a try. I'm going to do this sort of thing more often.

Today I thought ahead and brought my camera with me. I took some really great pictures... about 170 of them, I think. Point and shoot, point and shoot, point and shoot. I'm looking forward to reviewing them when I get home.

Monday, September 20, 2004

A little sad again

Another song's sort of come along to speak to me. Of course, they all do. It's a function of the human mind to look for patterns and significances, even if they're not there.

The song is Somewhere Only We Know by Keane. It reminds me of the place that I used to live with RubyOcelot on FM years and years ago. At some point, Jody sort of gave up on FM and let Ruby be idlepurged, and a couple of years ago I did the same with my character. Since my character owned the place they lived, it vanished too. It was a burrow in a forest. Now this song seems to be about going back there, because I'm still here, but she's not, because Jody's gone... and yearning to join him/her, wherever it is Jody/Ruby's gone.

I walked across an empty land
I knew the pathway like the back of my hand
I felt the earth beneath my feet
Sat by the river and it made me complete

Oh simple thing where have you gone
I'm getting old and I need something to rely on
So tell me when you're gonna let me inI'm getting tired and I need somewhere to begin

I came across a fallen tree
I felt the branches of it looking at meIs this the place we used to love?
Is this the place that I've been dreaming of?

Oh simple thing where have you gone
I'm getting old and I need something to rely on
So tell me when you're gonna let me in
I'm getting tired and I need somewhere to begin

So if you have a minute why don't we go
Talk about it somewhere only we know?
This could be the end of everything
So why don't we go
Somewhere only we know?

Oh simple thing where have you gone
I'm getting old and I need something to rely on
So tell me when you're gonna let me in
I'm getting tired and I need somewhere to begin

So if you have a minute why don't we go
Talk about it somewhere only we know?
This could be the end of everything
So why don't we go
So why don't we go

This could be the end of everything
So why don't we go
Somewhere only we know?

Sunday, September 19, 2004

The New Music

I just got back from a little car trip around town. I've been listening to a new (for me) station that plays really solid stuff. And they're one of those stations that plays popular tunes over and over so you've got a chance to hear them again.

I dropped off a couple of movies (late), and when I got back to the car, they were playing Boys of Summer by Don Henley. That's been one of my Jody-button songs since last November when I was standing with P-Doug in a store somewhere and he drew my attention to the beauty of the arpeggios... and I told Jody about it on the Monday. As I turned at the light, I was singing Flea's lyrics to RubyOcelot... I can see you... your brown fur shinin' in the sun... you got a ice cream cone stuck on your tongue. I can tell you my love for you will still be strong after the cookie dough is all gone... Well, the cookie dough's been all gone for a few months now. But yeah, the love is strong. Strong and tempered enough that the song made me feel good instead of bringing me down. Won't always be that way, I'm sure, but today it was.

I stopped to pick up lunch and when I came out and headed home, there was another song, new to me, and the nature of which really should have set me off. It was Not Ready to Go by The Trews. All it made me think of, though, was how brave Jody was hanging on, fighting till the end. How much he loved life and the people around him, how hard he tried to make us all happy instead of milking his own problems for sympathy. And again, the song made me happy. It virtually convinced me that Jody is still around somewhere, somehow. It wasn't quite like he was singing to me, but like he'd sent me a proxy. He wasn't ready to go, but he had to, BUT... he was letting us all know that that fighting spirit is still alive, and everything that propelled it. All those fine things still exist. What a great song. It's the first real sense I've ever had that Jody might have triumphed over death. What I thought of as the war was only the battle; he lost that, but won the war. I don't know. It doesn't make sense the way I'm telling it. Just think Ben Kenobi and Darth Vader. You'll get the idea.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

More cancer.

Jody's dad, Jim, just came on ICQ and told me that his cancer is back. It's in the right lymph node. The lymph nodes are essentially highways through the body, just like the blood. It sounds pretty bad.

I don't know if I'm supposed to say anything here or not, but I don't think he's keeping it a secret or odds are he wouldn't have told me.

He sounds so calm about it. I get the impression that all the research he did when Jody was sick pretty much convinced him that he was going to lose his son, and now that his own chances aren't good. I don't know if he was being completely facetious, but he told me he thought his treatment options were narrowed down to "cremation or burial". I hope it's not that dire, but he seems to believe it is.

I don't know what to think. Why am I always selfish at moments like this? First thing that frosted my heart was "I could lose another friend"... isn't that great? The man tells me his cancer is back and my first instinct is to worry about feeling lonely. Do I deserve to have any friends at all with an attitude like that?

Friday, September 10, 2004

Like time travel

I'm listening to Black Metallic again (brought it to work on my 128MB pen memory). I just got to the really quiet part in the middle, and suddenly I had this sweet, warm feeling that I was back at the computer animation studio I was working at seven or eigtht years ago, in that bright room in the attic of the old house downtown... in my late 20s, after lunch at the pub, surrounded by the other artists, the comradery, the fellowship, the work we bitched about but found so interesting and challenging, the really poor pay (literally less than half of what I earn now)... and the feeling that Jody, my RubyOcelot, would be there online waiting to talk in the evening when I drove back out to the burbs where I was still living with my folks. Wow, what a nice feeling.

The weird thing is, most of the time, you think you hate the place you're in, the time of your life at the moment. And there was a lot to hate about that period. The pay sucked, I couldn't afford my own place, I had an awful commute every day, I weighed about 300 lbs. But I felt free. I liked the guys I worked with. We were part of something just a little bigger than ourselves. I had good friends to go to online when I got home. And the really neat thing is, even though there was so much I hated about my life then, I still knew that I was going to look back at that time as something special. And I was right. I do. :)

Of course, I thought I'd feel that way about the traditional studio I worked at before—and after!—that interlude. I don't. I hardly miss that place at all. I was saddened recently when I learned it closed in 2002... but mostly because it made me feel old.

Wow... just occurred to me. That was my first "real" job (part-time that was really full-time, though the layoffs were frequent). The tenth anniversary of my getting it just passed, right at the end of August. I wonder what day that was? I'm pretty sure I started on a Friday, and it would have been sometime in the 20s of the month... Let's see... The 26th. I couldn't swear to it, but I'm pretty sure that was the day. Well... there you go. Time travel, alright.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Black Metallic

Listen, I'm going to tell you my weird little idea. This is a story that'll never get written, and a movie that'll never get made. But I'd like to be able to remember it someday, so I'm writing it down now.

This came to me, ohhh, a little over a year ago, I think. It's tied in with crossfade version of Black Metallic by Catherine Wheel that I made by mixing the acoustic version of the song with the regular version.

The movie opens on a rainy day, to the strains of the acoustic version of the song. A young man of about thirty is driving on a dirt road with his wife, and two or three of their friends in the back. I imagined they were on their way to a bush party somewhere or something. Anyway, they turn off the road and head into the forest. There's a lot of banter, some of it friendly, some of it a little edgy. It becomes clear there are some issues between our hero and his wife, and that they may have something to do with one of the fellows in the back (at this point, The Circle Is Small by Gordon Lightfoot might be appropriate...).

After a while, it starts to become obvious they're lost. Lots of recriminations, snarlings over maps, that sort of thing, as they pause in a clearing. In the course of things, they come to realize they've entered some other world. They're set upon by strange, vaguely humanoid robots, and one of them is killed. They abandon the car and hide in the forest. There they're met by what look like human beings, except that they're furry and naked and behave like cats... suspicious and nasty, self-interested. Probably non-verbal, but I haven't decided. Very sensual, though.

Now think along the lines of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. This is a world that claims human souls. Unless you are diligent in resisting, you will fall into one of these two camps, and either transform into a cold, logical, powerful, but sexless machine, or else a bestial, consciousless animal person. The other chap our hero's wife is interested in eventually gives in and loses the struggle, and before their eyes, he is transformed. Apparently liberated from all that held him back, he runs off with a pack of others like him, pausing only to look back at our hero's wife. She shakes her head and he disappears.

The other friend eventually goes the other way. Always the sort who was afraid of life, always backing away from risk and pleasure for fear of ridicule, he surrenders to the machines and becomes one of them. This leaves our hero and his wife, clinging to their humanity.

The machines are out to destroy the bestial ones, but they seem to be in a truce with "regular" humans, whom they call "logic beasts". They even let our hero and his wife wander through their facilities and even access their data banks. Our hero discovers there may be a way back, but it will require some help.

Meanwhile, the wife's paramour is never far away, always at the edge of things. Finally, after putting up the good fight, she surrenders in a tearful scene. Her last words are an apology to our hero, before she changes, and rushes into the arms of their friend. Our hero is along, the only one who has not lost his soul.

He sets about trying to create the portal to take himself home. He is stymied and can't quite manage it. Help comes from the friend who became a machine. There's just enough of who he was left to want to help. He gives our hero the last item or information he needs to get home. Our hero makes one last appeal to his wife and two friends to join him. In returning, they would be changed back, he reasons. The machine simply turns and goes. Our hero calls into the forest from the edge of the clearing. His wife and friend are watching from the darkness. She moves, takes a step, but he takes her by the hand, and she nuzzles into his shoulder. They've made their choice. Receiving no reply, our hero can do nothing but tell her he loves her, and he gets into the car.

She emerges from the forest, but stands at the edge.

He gazes at her out the driver's side window, and then, to the opening glides of the regular version of Black Metallic, he starts the car, and heads for the portal. Seen from his perspective, the car is engulfed in darkness. Light appears, and suddenly he emerges from an underpass, in one of the centre lanes of a superhighway, surrounded by other cars on a blazingly bright summer day.

Cut to a shot of his ring finger. No wedding band.

The photo of his wife tucked under the strap of the sun shade is also gone.

The look on his face is unconcerned. Those he has left behind no longer exist. Not even for him.

Cut to the exterior of the car. The wheel, racing. The gleam of chrome. A bridge abuttment. A dump truck. Back to our hero, seen from outside. The camera pulls back, other cars are seen around him. Cut to an aerial shot of his car in amidst dozens of others. Then hundreds. Various shots of the things around him. Back to the shot of traffic from above. The car is utterly lost in the sea of traffic; it is impossible to even say with certainty which flow of traffic he was part of. He has simply vanished back into an ocean of humanity, souls carefully balanced on the razor's edge between animal and machine. The scene fades to black while the song contiues to play. The credits fade up, then roll. The end.

I've never seen you when you're smiling
It really gets under my skin
You say it's easy when it's faster
I still can't guess what you're after

It's the colour of your skin
Your skin is black metallic
It's the colour of your skin
Your skin is black metallic
Your skin is black metallic
Your skin is black metallic

I think of you when you're sleeping
Of all the secrets that you're keeping
You can't stay all day under the covers
'Cause under there you'll discover

It's the colour of your skin
Your skin is black metallic
It's the colour of your skin
Your skin is black metallic
Your skin is black metallic
You're turning black metallic

It's the colour of your skin
It's the colour of your skin

Your skin is black metallic
Your skin is black metallic
Your skin is black metallic
You're turning black metallic

It's the colour of your skin
Your skin is black metallic
Your skin is black metallic
Your skin is black metallic
Your skin is black metallic
Your skin is black metallic
Your skin is black metallic

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

On the lighter side

Yesterday was Labour Day, which makes today the first day of school all over North America. Possibly elsewhere, too, I don't know. But it made getting to work today a little harder. But I came to a realization while I was sitting at an intersection waiting for a light to change. I'm seriously starting to get old. Gone is the sympathy I used to feel on this day in earlier years... the knot in the gut, the wistful looking back over an empty summer (though I admit, the bitter, stale, almost 'fake' sense of summer vacation in the closing days of August is still with me). What I felt this morning was more akin to, well, good, get back to things. Get busy, find your purpose. Not gloating, but almost happiness on their behalf... they weren't losing their freedom, but regaining their focus. Wow... where did that come from? Gettin' old, that's where. Well... older, anyway.

Bill Clinton just had a quad (so, apparently, did Rodney Dangerfield, who's 83! Wow!). That's kind of sobering. Like, isn't Bill only in his 50s? Wasn't he the guy the Secret Service used to jog behind? Cripes, what chance have I got? I sure as hell don't jog. And hey, didn't he get all that exercise in the Oval Office with all those interns (nudge nudge wink wink say n'more)? I sure as hell don't get any of that either, but hey...

My cousin's daughter was nearly a White House intern a few years ago. No kidding. She was in the USMC and got on some kind of list. She didn't make it. I don't remember why now. But I keep thinking of how interesting life might have been for her if she had. Heh.

It's the 7th again

Today is three months.

It's about 10 in the morning now. It was somewhere around this time three months ago that Jody was leaving us. I guess it was also around the time his dad, Jim, was talking with me on ICQ. He had to break off to attend to something, but just before he left, he said he'd hoped to get a chance to talk with me about Jody (which even at the time gave me slight pause), but would get back to it later. Then, of course, I came back from a meeting around noon to the messages from him that told me how the world had split for us. There was the morning with Jody in it. The afternoon and the rest of history without.

Later on when I asked him, he told me that he'd been intending to prepare me for what was coming. I guess it was clear to him, and the people around Jody, that he really wasn't going to get better, and that time was running out for him. Jim told me he thought weeks or a couple of months, at the time, never realizing the moment was actually upon us. Jody's mom was in transit to go and see him when it happened. Last fall they gave him two years, but he got six months. Isn't it supposed to work the other way around?

Sometimes I can't believe it's only been three months. It feels like years now. I don't know why. When someone's an almost daily presence, sharing something special with you, even when it's just conversation, you get so plugged into it that life without that makes you almost believe you never had it in the first place. It's almost like I imagined Jody. Like he was one of the sweet, perfect imaginary friends of my childhood. Timber warned us not to idealize Jody, and he's right... Jody was a human being and he had his flaws too. But they weren't many and they weren't the kind that cause other people real grief. Not all of us can make that claim. So if he was a flawed human being, he was certainly one of the better ones I've ever known. Maybe the best. That's probably why I'm so hung up on losing him. Sure, there's the aspect that I'm only in my 30s yet and haven't really lost many people close to me (yet). But Jody was so young and so kind... all the things that should have made him untouchable in a universe with any justice or sense about it. Why is he gone when people who plot to blow up buildings still walk the Earth and get to eat and sleep without pain, and watch their children and spend time with their friends?

Why do we have a world like this? Would it be so bad if the world made sense, if the way justice and fairness is encoded into our brains were actually the way of things? Or if not, why not at least give us the perception to make sense of things as they are? One or the other. This middle ground of neither isn't much evidence of Your love, God.

Monday, September 06, 2004

Electrons for blood

Right now I'm sitting at the main computer in the living room. Usually I do this on the computer by my bed (yes... I'm that kind of a nerd), but a lot of the pictures I needed to look up are on this machine.

Right now I'm going over a disk Jody's dad gave me when I was in Dallas. The picture I'm looking at is of a mall parking lot there. It's early morning. There's Jody, smirking, in a new shirt, tie, pants, and shoes, striking a superhero pose as he looks off out of the picture towards his new job, his future.

I saw that parking lot. Jim, Jody's dad, pointed it out to me when I was there. He said I'd understand when I saw the pictures. It's a strange thing to have a memory of a place from when someone is already gone, and then to populate it with him afterwards. It's like turning memory inside out.

I don't think I've wept for Jody for a month or so, but right now that's where I'm at. This is a bittersweet chore I've been putting off. What I'm doing is taking everything digital I have of Jody—conversations, e-mail, photographs, drawings, music, even his LiveJournal exported as MHT files—anything that was from him, of him, or reminds me of him, and putting them onto a 210 MB mini disk. I'll make two copies of it. One will go to Jim and his SO Lily. The other will go into the cedar chest over there on the wardrobe shelf above the television, beside the photo of my parents and the ashes of my cat Jenny. The chest already contains a couple of drawings Jody sent me, my plane tickets from the trip, a cheque I sent Jody and he endorsed (which I had to fight to get back from my bank), and of course, about an ounce of Jody's ashes in a little vial inside a cheetah-print pouch. At least, that's what I assume. I've never opened the pouch.

A friend of mine in Connecticut is of the opinion I'm obsessing, and he's right, I am. I've already admitted as much here. It's been kind of bothering me, but I thought about it this morning and I've decided it's okay, because I understand the reasons behind it. These things are all I have left of him; in fact, all I ever had of him. Because of the nature of our relationship, I have about 95% of everything Jody and I said or sent one another in the past couple of years. Probably not many others of his friends are so fortunate. They have murky memories of flesh that shift like sand. But I have the passionless, servile fidelity of machines guarding the integrity of my memories. If I'm careful, I can make them last a lifetime (my lifetime, however long that turns out to be). And just about everything he was to me I can keep alive, in a way.

I was up till three in the morning, finally tackling my FM logs. That's not easy to do. ICQ is one-on-one, but FM is a cacophony of pages, poses, system messages, and other minutiae. Conversations are woven in and out of events. Fortunately, most of the last six months or so we shared time together there, we were alone, it wasn't as difficult as I thought. I didn't actually read them, mind you, just did enough scanning to paste them together in a document. There may come a time when I'll be able to read them... I'm not sure. I'm beginning to think that the more time passes, the more afraid I will be to step back into a world with Jody in it, and be slapped in the face by the realization of just how much he meant to me before time and silence blunted the knowledge. But the memories will be there, if I choose to open my heart and mind to them. I guess we'll see.

I have to edit down some of the bigger scans, and then see if all this will fit on the small disk. I think it will. It's going to take a couple of hours, and then I have this thing I want to do for a co-worker that I promised to tackle over the long weekend. That seemed like a better idea with Friday as my starting point, but less such a peach now that it's acutally 10 in the morning on Labour Day. Well, here goes. Everything.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Today all poems and songs are about Jody...

I was out with P-Doug and G last night (Saturday). We went to the restaurant we call "Larry's Chicken" (because our friend Larry once lived near it, and it serves chicken) and in the course of the evening, P-Doug tossed off a line from Dylan Thomas's Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night (or paraphrased it, actually; he said something about 'going gentle into that good, good night', but I got the reference). I thought of the first three lines, which is all most people really know...

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Immediately they evoked memories of Jody. In the past few days, his uncle Jesse and I have kind of gotten back around to talking about him, after leaving the subject sort of unmentioned for several weeks. Jesse related to me that on the day Jody was called in for his diagnosis last fall, he had his mom, Jesse, Aunt Kim, and his friend Mark from work with him for moral support. What they told him was that he had two years at most, a 2% chance of beating those odds, and he should concentrate on living as well as he could in the meantime.

No way. Jody wanted treatment. He'd fought cancer once and wasn't going to just roll over to it after all that pain and suffering before. Jody was not going gentle into that good night. He raged against it right to the end.

I don't know what I'd do. I guess you can't give up. Life is too dear. It's funny... when he was younger, he was petulant about it. Often alluded to suicide and the cheapness of his own life, the way only teenagers and really young people can, because in the backs of their minds, they know (or believe) that they have decades before them. Life is still an embarrassment of riches. Then one day you're 24 and they tell you have have stage 4 malignant cancer. Life's not cheap anymore. You become a miser with it. Jody did. He came out of himself, embraced his friends and acknowledged the value of his life. That's why I'll always harbour questions for God about the point of showing a young man all that, just to rob him of his life a year later. But the discussions with Jesse last week brought back memories I guess I'd buried in the back of my mind about Jody telling me the same things in late October or early November. I remember him saying to me around the time of our birthdays in April that he couldn't believe six months, a quarter of his alotted remaining time, had already slipped away... As it turned out, nearly all of it had.

I'm no Dylan Thomas, but I do write poems from time to time. Last weekend, I decided to undertake some free-association poetry... something I haven't done since university, well over a decade ago now. I closed my eyes and typed. One poem quickly became about Jody. When the line about cancer was born in my mind, I balked. I thought, I can't write that... But then I realized, this is something inside my mind that needs to be born, spoken, acknowledged. Isn't that what poetry is all about? And so I set it free, and pursued it. This is what I got from it. I don't know if it stands up generally, but it means a lot to me, so I thought I'd share it with any who happen by... and maybe Jody, if somehow he's privy to all this, somewhere, somehow.

Pulls Down the Mighty Sun

My sculptured island
Floats adrift in blood
The hot, salty seas of my heart
The amber gloss
Of all about me
Is sandy shore on which to beach
The pounding surf of my blood

My happy cancer
Invades my seas
Pulls down my forests
Pulls down the mighty sun
That is me

Why is this storm alone with me
No other soul in the world
Can hold one scratch of my pain
This is a universe alone

Protracted seconds seem years
On alert for war
That never ends
Minutemen of minute men advance
Within the foggy valleys of my bones
O mystic fighter, save us!
Bend down thy holy hand
And make peace with all this
Evil inside me, not of me
Why won’t you listen?

Prognosis is time in abeyance
With no soft hope for backwards
This always comes
Peculiar line
Of hopeless reasoning
Learn and it can help you
Well that’s what they always said.

Don't print in the subway, darlin'...

Friday night, I bought a laser printer. Isn't that cool? I'm printing with a LASER. A frickin' LASER. Sci-fi when I was a boy, the thing of Six Million Dollar Man fancy... and now... a laser is slave to me, spitting out my words upon the page. TREMBLE NOW AT MY FEET, MIGHTY LASER!! HAAAA HA HA HA HA HAAAAA!

Okay, well, enough of that. What happened is that a friend of mine commissioned a drawing and sent me two hundred dollars US. That turns into about two fifty Canuck. I noticed at Staples they were selling a Panasonic duplexing laser printer for $249. That's not some tricky deal like you put down $350 and sooner or later we rebate you the rest, no. This was marked down from $419. Nice. I admit, I bit.

But the place where I saw it didn't have any boxed ones, just the display model. So, when I went home, I went to the Staples in my neighbourhood. Same deal. I ended up having to drive about 45 minutes out of town to a branch that had it. I dun grabbed it! That, and a $12 haircut that turns out to be not bad... maybe I'll go back. The drive was nice.

I had a little trouble getting it set up. At first, it didn't interpret drawings properly and spat them out as endless reams of ASCII characters, page after page. After a couple restrarts and an installation using the disk instead of just what Windows thought would fit the bill, it was up and running. Great stuff. I've begun sending my writing to publications, and there was no way I wanted to send them out printed in ink jet. That looks so poor. But the laser prints are sharp even if you print four pages to the page (to read over a draft, say, not to submit).

"Uh, whose laser printer is that on the filing cabinet?"

"Mine. A Panasonic auto-duplexing KX-P7105, the laser printer I've always wanted and now I have it. I rule!!"

(Apologies to Annette Bening and Kevin Spacey...)

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Moscow On the Hudson

Anybody remember this movie? Came out about 1984, I think. Robin Williams, surprisingly believable as a Russian musician, defecting in NYC (the only Anglo guy I've ever seen do a more convincing job is Tom Hulce in The Inner Circle... he was so good, I thought he was a Russian and I didn't even recognize him... though this was before I ever saw Amadeus).

Anyway, I was just saying to a friend how interesting it is to watch movies like that now. They don't just seem like they're from another age, they seem almost like they're from some alternate history. So there we go... when I was in high school, Russians had to risk death and imprisonment to emigrate. Here we a couple decades later, and I'm just entering middle age (yes, yes, I'm beginning to deal with it... slowly...), and the NHL is stuffed to the gills with Russian players, and the office I work in has about two dozen Russians. I passed one just moments ago; the next time I go for coffee, odds are three or four of them will be clustered in the little kitchenette, talking about who knows what. It's hard to believe there was a time when that would have been utterly extraordinary.

My friend mentioned the movie 2010, the sequel to 2001. Also made in the 80s, it features Roy Scheider as Haywood Floyd, flying with two other Americans along with the crew of the Alexi Leonov to rendezvous with Discovery and find out what happened with HAL. There's all this stuff about blockades in Latin America and the risk of war, and the two groups bristling from time to time, talking about Discovery as "US territory" and that kind of thing. What a world we were living in back then.

When I think back to how monolithic the Soviet Union and Communism used to seem to us when I was a kid, man... I still can't get over how it all just came apart. The wheels fell off in '89 and the Berlin Wall came down and one after another, Warsaw Pact countries just dumped their communist governments, and the USSR didn't really lift a finger to stop them. Then the Soviet Union itself just collapsed. Remember? It was like one morning they all woke up, tired of grasping each other's hands for dear life and and just... let go. Republics fell away and became countries. There was that last, abortive, essentially bloodless coup attempt, and that was it. The emporer was naked and everybody said so. And all that just blew away like dust. Now if you'd written a speculative fiction novel to that effect in, say, 1983 or so, you'd have been laughed off the shelves. Less than ten years later, it was history. If I live to be a hundred, I'll probably never really stop being amazed by that.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

I hope you're there

I was talking with Jody’s uncle yesterday and I’m really starting to face the fact that Jody was coming to terms with his mortality in the first few months of the year. Jesse (Jody’s uncle) reminded me that Jody was aware from the outset that his prognosis was only 2% positive. I can remember being chilled when Jody said something like that to me last fall, but at the time, they’d given him at least two years. There was still lots of time, and many different treatments they could try, or so it seemed. I was more concerned with the pain and suffering he would have on the road to recovery than really believing he would die relatively soon. That was the luxury distance afforded me. Jody’s on-site friends and family were afforded little of that. Jody, none at all.

When Jody was first diagnosed with cancer in August of 2002, I had P-Doug come over and help my shave my head. It was in solidarity with Jody. There was a superstitious element to it, too. I guess I thought that if I took on the embarrassment of shaving my head, then... well, it was some sort of an offering to God, you know? I don’t mean to suggest I was doing something entirely noble. Yes, my first concern was for Jody. But it was also for me. I didn’t want him taken out of my life. As God is my witness, I swear, I would have given him ten years of my life if I could have. I bet dozens of his friends and family would have. If only we could have given him just a few years each. But we’re not allowed to make those bargains.

Looking back at my ICQ logs with him, I can see times when he was quietly trying to bring me to terms with what he was facing. I can see how I resisted the knowledge. Party for myself, but partly for him. Deep down, I really believed if I gave up hope, then he really would die. I couldn’t ever have mentally gone there. Not if I’d been standing at his bedside when he died. But the signs were there, nonetheless.

This is from last February, just after a scan. If you go to the “Ailuro” LiveJournal, you can read about how disappointed he was. He largely hid this from me...

LonePrimate 2/25/2004 10:15 AM
So what will they do with the radiation?

RubyOcelot 2/25/2004 10:16 AM
Not sure yet, not actually talked wif radiation doctor, maybe do next week...he outta town, juss took call from my doctor. Sound like probably try to do heavy spot radiation onna big lung tumor.

LonePrimate 2/25/2004 10:17 AM
Flea yeahs! >:)X

RubyOcelot 2/25/2004 10:18 AM
Ruby smiles :) "It biggest tumor (6.5cm sphere) anna most likely to cause pain anna problems first. Though it almost sound like it not really for curative stuff, it juss to make sure I comfortable for as long as possible :("

LonePrimate 2/25/2004 10:21 AM
It'll help kill it, they just need to get a handle on what will arrest the growth. Sounds like they're close if it hasn't grown much...

RubyOcelot 2/25/2004 10:21 AM
Except dat last scans showed dat chemo had arrested growth, so it growing again is ting.

LonePrimate 2/25/2004 10:23 AM
But not much, right?

RubyOcelot 2/25/2004 10:24 AM
Sound like maybe not much, but also not can radiation leg again. Dunno.

I think the most frightened I got was in May. May 7th, a little after ten in the morning. As it turns out, a month almost to the hour before Jody died...

RubyOcelot 5/7/2004 10:52 AM
Ruby pets anna cuddles, sowwies, was telling roommates about chaplin guy dat coming later :)

RubyOcelot 5/7/2004 10:52 AM
Yeah, twice inna week!

LonePrimate 5/7/2004 10:52 AM

LonePrimate 5/7/2004 10:53 AM
Getting religion? :)

So how was work?

RubyOcelot 5/7/2004 10:53 AM
Spell right? From hospice place too. Someone to talk to, it seems.

RubyOcelot 5/7/2004 10:53 AM
No, he not push religion at about wotever you wanna talk about. Seems to be more dere for comfort den anyting.

LonePrimate 5/7/2004 10:53 AM
A chaplin? Seems unusual for you. :)

RubyOcelot 5/7/2004 10:53 AM
Was good, productive :)

LonePrimate 5/7/2004 10:54 AM
Scout licks and nuzzles! :)P

RubyOcelot 5/7/2004 10:54 AM
I kept telling dem I not do religious ting. He not do religious ting though, see, he around I tink more to talk about how I feel about dying.

RubyOcelot 5/7/2004 10:54 AM
Ruby purrrrsls :)

LonePrimate 5/7/2004 10:55 AM
Dying? Why do they want to talk about that? Your pain medication's getting reduced, after all.

RubyOcelot 5/7/2004 10:56 AM
Well, dat not wot he say he for, but is sense I got. I still got very little chance of making it, you know...most people not get hospice care.

LonePrimate 5/7/2004 10:58 AM
I know the prognosis is rough but like I said, must be working... they really only need to keep it from getting bigger... well, that, and shrink it to the size that it doesn't hurt you. So long as it doesn't get bigger, it can't actually harm you.

LonePrimate 5/7/2004 10:59 AM
Don't start giving up hope, because... just don't, alright?

RubyOcelot 5/7/2004 10:59 AM
Ruby not give up hope, she juss telling you wot chaplin guy for :)

LonePrimate 5/7/2004 10:59 AM
Tell him to talk about living. :)

RubyOcelot 5/7/2004 11:00 AM
Actually /dat/ wot he say he here to talk about.

LonePrimate 5/7/2004 11:00 AM
Things are starting to turn around for you, the medication's coming down, you're out working again, you're sitting up talking to me and playing online... don't let anything bring you down.

LonePrimate 5/7/2004 11:00 AM
Good :)

RubyOcelot 5/7/2004 11:01 AM
Ruby try not get down too much :)


As I read this, I’m left wondering if there were things he wanted to tell me... fears he wanted to confess and needed me to acknowledge, but I wouldn’t let him. Was I being cold and selfish in denying him that? I thought I was throwing him a rope, but if he had accepted that he wasn’t going to make it, was that appropriate? Was he asking to talk, really talk, and I blew it?

I don’t know, I honestly don’t know, if I would have handled it any differently, even knowing what I know now.

I met Jody's chaplain at the memorial in Dallas at the end of June. He told us that Jody had come to terms with his impending death... that he had been afraid before, but had asked him what happens when you die. The chaplain told him that he was absolutely certain that someone is there, waiting for us. Someone we love, and someone who loves us. Ready, standing by, right there waiting. He told us that Jody wasn't so frightened anymore after that. He was ready.

I don't know the truth of any of that. I just hope that Jody wasn't afraid when he felt it really happening. Or that he wasn't afraid for long. I really, really hope that he opened his eyes and saw that someone who was supposed to be there, waiting. That friend. So may we all, when it's our turn.

Jody, if I let you down, I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to, honest. I wanted to keep you afloat. If I carried that on too long... I sure hope you understand why.

I sure hope it'll be you standing there when I open my eyes someday.