Hyperbole – over exaggeration — has always been my go-to cheap way to get a laugh, e.g., Marty Feldman was ugly enough to raise a blister on a bulldog’s ass, ugly enough to back a buzzard off a gut-wagon, ugly enough to send Mother Teresa packing.
However, I’ve decided to forego bombast here and merely say the last eighth months have been difficult. Rather than exaggerating, overreacting, getting all melodramatic on you, I’m merely going to tell it, as they used to say, like is.
[cue mournful violins]
The first of the succession of events
that would have driven Job into atheism occurred last May when I offered my resignation twice over a miscarriage of justice that makes a Stalinist show trial seem fair over the administration’s insistence that I apologize to an eighteen-year-old for placing him/her in a non-honors class. The forced apology seemed to me like betrayal like not fully appreciating an employee with three decades of service to an institution he had faithfully supported financially and verbally, an institution that now seemed to him unconscionably unfair to value students’ Kim-Jong-Un bat-shit crazy irrational parents more than its teachers.
of my cowardice of the insistence of wives (actually I only have one), colleagues, and my favorite bartender Steve Smoak, I relented and told the student in front of his/her parents in administrative offices and in front of administrators that I regretted hurting the student’s feelings, which I do, though I continue to maintain I delivered the placement news with compassion. Looking back on it, I wish I had doused myself with kerosene and lit a match in an act of self-immolation expressed resentment to the inquisitors assembled audience. Ha, that would have shown them!
Anyway, the incident has left me disillusioned, which, strictly speaking is a good thing (ain’t no Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, Meaning-to-Life) but nevertheless depressing. However, I now realize that incident pales in comparison to the subsequent shit that was about to go down.
The second and third events happened on the same day, 17 June 2014, when my deck caught on fire and I learned that a childhood friend had died. In the blaze, I lost two surfboards, one a Sunshine shaped by Claude Codgen, the loss of which ordinarily I might lament
by donning sackcloth, smearing myself with ashes, renting my garments as I howled to the Indifference above by feeling sorry for myself, but Paul’s death prevented that indulgence.
Instead, I wrote this bitter poem, which now seems downright prophetic predictive.
Hit arrow for sound.
In memory of Paul Yost 1955-2014
I’m tearing apart paper,
newsprint, the obituary page,
shredding descriptions of lives:
of fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers,
bachelors, partners, husbands, wives,
shredding their black-and-white
faces, their smiles, their stares,
ripping also the memorial verses
loved ones have left,
wadding it all up
to fuel my charcoal chimney.
Yet not enough.
So here comes the sports page,
the World Cup, accounts of pop flies
dropped, ripe for ripping,
ripped, balled, stuffed, ready
for the match’s fiery effacement.
And that poor chicken! hatched, harried,
pecking its food among hordes,
pulled from transport crates,
shocked for the throat cutter’s convenience,
This one’s also been
deboned, yet not sold soon enough,
skewered by butchers along with
aging onions and overly ripe peppers.
After its scraping, red and black,
slightly rusted, the grill stands ready,
top open, at attention.
I place the chimney
upon the barred metal, pour in
the briquettes, and torch the
shredded lives of others,
their wins and losses,
and watch the smoke
rising into the dissipation
of the silent, cloud-shifting sky.
No, something far, far worse was in store – my beloved Judy’s diagnosis of a virulent strain of T-Cell lymphoma, which you can read about HERE.
So, the incidents detailed above that seemed at the time like the end of the universe so vexing declined in the hierarchy of woe to mere inconveniences.
The good news, the very good news, is that Judy’s treatments have been successful, she’s in remission, and as I write this, she’s getting pumped with bone-marrow killing chemo in preparation for a stem cell transplant that offers real hope for a permanent cure. Of course, I might add, that celebrating getting bone-marrow-killing chemo suggests that your life has been a tale-told-by-an-idiot,-full-of-sound-and fury, signifying nothing less than rosy .
If only I could end the story here, but by far the most tragic event of this narrative occurred, appropriately enough, on Halloween, when my good friend Nancy suffered a massive stroke, she, the beloved wife of my better friend Ed, which brings to mind Frost’s bitter lines:
No more to build on there. And they, since they
Were not the one dead, turned to their affairs.
The final three instances of misfortune in this catalogue of woe actually pale in comparison with Judy’s cancer and Nancy’s stroke.
First, my mother is in hospice and suffering mental turmoil in the forms of hallucination and restlessness, but she’s 83, unlike Judy (60) or Nancy (69), and I’ve always thought Ecclesiastics makes the most sense of anything in the Old Testament.
(Imagine the Byrds recording a hit song using Bible verses from Genesis 38, 9-10:
Onan from his brother’s wife
And for practicing birth-control,
Onan Yahweh slew).
As for my falling off a ladder and wrenching my back last Saturday, I attribute that to my idiocy, carelessness.
However, the last thing, the last fucking thing, has shattered the Hemingway mask of stoicism I’ve been sporting.
On the eve of her transplant, Judy found our dog Saisy dead on the living room carpet, lying there as if asleep, save for the frozen mouth.
Fuck, dear readers, I don’t like to think of myself as a whiner, but fuck.
For now is the time for your tears.