Monday, July 28, 2008

Watching my father die...

I wasn't going to say anything.

This weekend was so intensely person, spending awkward, uncomfortable moments with a man who is slowly dying right in front of our eyes. As I drove back from Arizona - as I stood at a rest stop outside of Quartzite - I thought, "Now there's something you're never going to write about. How do you make jokes about your father dying? Cause that's what I do. If I'm not comfortable about something, I joke about it."

But you just can't joke in that situation. My father gave me this look that said, "I hate everything about this." And I nodded. It's just not fair, this situation, this hospital bed he lives in planted in the dead-center of his living room, knowing he's dying, knowing that everybody knows it, which makes it so irritating when someone tries to slip into denial or when people talk about prayer. Excuse me. He's dying! What part of that don't you get?

The only positive thing to come out of this sentence was that my father and I finally spoke directly to each other for the first time in years, since he got sick, at least. It's so easy to slip into plattitudes and denial. Then, after, you realize that could have been your final words and what a schmuck you are.

This weekend, my father told me how awkward it felt to be so sick in front of his son and I told him I understood. Then, when I left, I told him I loved him and that what he's going through does nothing to diminish that. Then, I said goodbye.

I'm glad I had a chance to undo the stupid platitudes of last time, the "Hope you get better" denial of my words. Hopefully, I learned something, because I don't think things get easier from here.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Toe cramps… not the name of my new punk band…

When Vicky and I went to bed last night, I fully expected to go right to sleep. (Way to ruin the suspense there, Mr. Writer Man!) After all, I just had my first full day of – well – awareness since taking the Seroquel. Vicky and I had gone to dance class only to find I was still too weak to handle the strain. (Seriously, the meds kicked my butt.) And, after all, it was after 10pm – Time for sleep!

Ha. I laugh at sleep. Ha!

Kinda wish I didn’t, though.

As the clock slowly dredged its way round the bend to 11pm, I decided I was tired and… I wasn’t going to budge until I got some sleep!

Midnight. Vicky started to snore. I’m not the only sleeping beat box in the house. So, I laid back and thought about the new play. I was trying to explain this process to the doc the other day. It goes something like this: There are an infinite number of possibilities, what your characters can or should do, but the number that makes sense is very finite and the number that works is even more so. The number of possibilities of what works well is teensy weensy, to use the technical term. So, my little exercise involves running possibilities through my head until I narrow it down to the best choices. For instance, you have two characters arguing about their marriage, you should: a) whine more, b) have one get eaten by a T-Rex, or c) make a joke about penis size. If it’s one of my plays, you’re looking at a) or c)… but you’re not ruling out b), you just haven’t figured out a way to make it work.

12:20. Hey! I slept! That was nice.

… But now I’m awake again. And the clock is passing 1am. The plan is to get up at 5am and go for a bike ride. I need to step up the amount of exercise I’m getting… cause I’m not getting any! But it’s going to be awful tough to do that if I don’t sleep.

As 2am approaches… toe cramp! OW! Left foot! It’s horrible! Stop. Stop. Stop.

There… gone. It’s 2:30… and it’s back again! Feels like the whole foot is imploding! Stretch! Stretch! Shit! It’s not working! I slide towards the edge of the bed and try to plant my foot on the floor but this only results in a comical half-slide off the bed. But through endurance and perseverance… and no choice, it slowly – very fucking slowly – goes away.

It’s 3:15. Need to sleep. Vicky’s snoring greedily and with a very satisfied meter. I touch her arm. I rub her skin.

Wait a second, pal. That’s not gonna put you to sleep!

Okay. Leave the wife alone. Need to drift. Drift. Like a boat. Drifting. Drifting. On waves. I just read about Sweden’s first tidal power generator. I start thinking about my solar stock. Maybe I should – shut up, for crying out loud! It’s 3:45! You need to sleep! You need to –

Something bursts my eardrums with demonic glee! It’s my alarm! How do I turn this thing off, again?

… wait a minute…

It’s 5am.

Hey! I got about an hour of sleep!

Yep! It’s gonna be a good day!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The long, dark naptime of the soul…

Where has Ken been? That’s the question that has been on several minds throughout the world… not necessarily about me… but… in general… kinda…

I’ve had a strange couple of days.

I went to see a new doctor on Saturday, still trying to resolve the sleepwalking/hallucinations/potato salad/slaw issues. She asked me to try Seroquel, a low dose, just as a test. The idea was that, though it’s an anti-psychotic, the drowsiness side effect would help me sleep through the night.

And it did.

I slept through Monday!

Now, in all fairness, I did wake up a few times on Sunday – long enough to bite Vicky’s head off a few times. Another side effect, it seems, is irritability. I’d snap at Vicky – Wire Hangars! Wire Hangars! – and then go back to sleep. It was fun. But not enough fun to ever try that again!

But, unlike my last doctor, I liked this one. My symptoms didn’t seem so unusual to her; she seemed used to hearing these things. When I said, “My first wife was at my marriage to my second wife,” I leaned over and added, “But she wasn’t really there.”

She nodded and said, “I understand.”

It’s nice not being completely odd, for a change.

The sad thing was that this new med didn’t even do what it was supposed to do. It knocked me out three ways to Sunday but did it help me sleep? Not really. I can’t say for sure if I awoke Saturday night – but then, I can’t say for sure if I was breathing. But, if I did sleep, I made up for it in a fierce way on Sunday. I had one of those nightmares that has you gasping for air when you wake up – with no recollection of what had scared you. Whatever it was, I was glad I didn’t remember.

Then, on Monday, still feeling the drug, any anti-psychotic claims were laid to rest. It’s bad enough when your sleeping hours are a mess with craziness but when it hits you when you’re awake… it sucks.

But I made it through Monday and went to bed, the feeling of the drug finally gone.

I was welcomed back to normality around 2:30 am, with a dream that shook me out of my sleep. I was partying around the Caribbean, on a sailboat with a captain who knew where all the best parties were and a beautiful, young girl who wouldn’t keep her top on. It was as though my crazy mind was saying, “Isn’t this better than that drug?” And it was. I woke up with the feeling of sand on my back and a cool breeze across my chest… but it was actually the bed and the fan…

Mind you, I’ve learned enough than to trust that to last. I’ll go back and I’ll try something else. I’m not a big fan of playing guessing games with my mental health but I’m not a big fan of the alternative, either.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

New show – first look…

Sherryl, my friend with whom I’ve done several plays, agreed to take a look at Scene One of the new show for me.

I’ve been rather nervous because it’s been years since my last play. My first three – a kind of trilogy – were unapologetically about myself. I think everyone knew that. But this time, I wanted to write a story. Sure, it has some familiar elements to it – it’s easier to joke about things you’ve already laughed at – but I’m not putting my life on display and saying “LOVE ME!” (Listen, I’m just as insecure as the next writer; I don’t want you to get the wrong idea.)

And, to be honest, I wasn’t entirely sure I was ending up with anything good. The jokes just didn’t seem to be there; I wanted them to come faster. I felt I was getting bogged down in dialogue, which is a tough place to be in when you’re writing a play. (They’re all dialogue.) A first look was what I needed, just someone to say “You’re wasting your time, kiddo” and put me out of my misery.

Then, I got the word today. She loves it! I’m stunned! I’m relieved! It could actually be good! That’s great! Now, I only have five more scenes to go! Just 75 pages or so…

… more…

… that I have to write…

… that has to be just as good…

… oh crap.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

This is NOT a product endorsement…

So, I finally had one of those e-gels I bought a few weeks ago. I had read that if you start flat lining after a tough ride, you should have e-gels handy… so I bought some… so I could have one… if I needed it… to have…

Today, I made it home in some pretty icky heat in 52 minutes – and, no, I don’t know how fast that is – and, as I got off my bike, I could feel my body communicating this message: You vile piece of shit! What are you doing?! I wouldn’t even poop you right now, you piece of shit! And I’ve pooped some poop in my day, let me tell you! You remember all that Taco Bell? Huh? And the hot sauce? Huh? Remember? When it almost hurt, it felt so good to finally poop it – well, that’s nothing compared to you! You’re some vile, piece of shit poop!

Basically, I felt spent.

Why not have one of those e-gels, I thought!

So, I popped out a tangerine e-gel, tore it open and… wait, gotta get some water – they say you should take it with some water – okay, half a glass should be fine and… I upended the packet and squeezed some e-gel-ly goodness down my gullet.

… this is what it feels like…

Imagine… if you will…

Remember those movies about tentacled aliens? Imagine one of those tentacles going in your mouth… could be Japanese porn cartoons, I dunno. First thought: Holy shit! What the hell is this in my mouth! Next: Just bite down on it, try and break it up! Breath through your nose! Keep chewing, even though it tastes like you just put down a whole tube of grout in your mouth – what are you? Out of your mind? You can’t chew this! It’s has no texture! It just grips the sides of your mouth!

Where’s the water?! That’s what you need! Water! But how are you going to drink with – it doesn’t matter! Just pour it down your throat! Anything to end this… ewwwww, it’s ickier than anything you could ever imagine! It doesn’t taste like tangerines at all! It taste like tangerine diarrhea… if tangerines could poop, is what I’m saying…

So, you drink the water – but you only have half a glass and it barely washes any of the glop – and that’s what it is, too! It’s glop! It’s some kind of disgusting, slimy thing that kids think is funny because it reminds them of bodily fluids only IT’S IN YOUR MOUTH!

More water! More water! Come on! Drink, damn you! Drink like your life depended on drowning in it – which would, of course, probably kill you so there’s not much argument there – good thing Vicky’s not here, she’d probably point that out, too… best not to tell her. Anyway, think of the fun you’ll have when you slip her some of this shit! Yes! Just wait! We’ll get her out on a hot, sunny day and say, “Are you tired, dear? Getting run down? Here. You can try my packet of –” But she’ll never fall for that! Not if she sees you dying here from this yucky, yucky – eeewww, it’s like eating fresh snot – a collection of snot, given door to door by a bunch of absolutely confused elderly men.

But you choke down the water – glass after glass, pint after pint – you choke it down, you dilute the revitalizing product so reminiscent of your last bad cold and the contents within those Kleenex…

And you realize…

To your horror…

Utter and absolute…

Because you’re too cheap just to throw things away…

That you only took one mouthful… and there’s a whole lot left…

Monday, July 14, 2008

Rough weekend…

It’s at times like these, when I feel I have nothing to say, when it’s probably best just to talk. After all, the reason I’ve been quiet is mostly because things just aren’t great. (I know it seems I’ve posted pretty regularly but I’ve been relying on stories from last weekend.) I prefer to post entries about how I won the lotto, got published, and had stellar sex with a team of college cheerleaders… but that just never seems to happen…

I didn’t sleep much this weekend. Between the sleepwalking and the just plain being drunk (more on that later), I only averaged a few hours each night. That’s put me in rather poor spirits this morning… can you tell? Vicky and I spent most of our Saturday evening at each other’s throats but finally settled in for a late supper and a wonderful Columbia Crest ’06 Shiraz… followed by another bottle of “I was too drunk to remember, really” – I think it was Boarding Pass Shiraz. Yeah, I got a little schnokered but I needed it.

Saturday was supposed to be about my folks. You see, my mom recently got out of the hospital. She wouldn’t tell me why – “woman’s surgery” was all she’d say – but I knew she was recuperating and could use a visit. So, the plan was to see her and call my dad. As some of you may know, my dad’s been ill for… well, a long time.

After seeing my dad last weekend – though he wasn’t really there – he’d really been on my mind. So, I was looking forward to the conversation. It would go something like this. Ken: I’d like to interview you so I can integrate your life story into a book I’m writing on Free Will. Dad: Sounds like crap. I’ll do it. Ken: You won’t regret it, even if I do.

In reality, it went something like this. Ken: Hi Dad. Dad: Hi Son. I heard the new job isn’t that great. Ken: No, sadly. Not really. Dad: I’m sorry to hear that. I hoped blrblrblrblrblrblr….

And then, he was off and Blanche was back on. Simply put, he was too weak. Just too weak to talk.

But if he was too weak to ask about interviewing, so I could write his life story… it was clear he’d be too weak to actually interview. This fact didn’t even occur to me until several hours later, after I’d spent the morning removing the foot from my chest. Hearing my dad so weak, so frail, left it impossible to avoid the reality of the situation. Especially after Blanche told me he’d had worse days. If this was one of his better days…

Listen, I know there’s nothing unique here. Part of being alive includes losing your parents. Parents die. Children die. We all die. But another part of being alive sometimes involves knowing that however horrible they’ve been, you love them. I hate to see my father suffer like this. I hate to see him go so slowly. The pain he experiences dilutes into those who love him and it just hurts to know how much he’s hurting.

Then, I visited my mom. Her “woman’s surgery” has her in some pain, but she left the hospital early, rather than take money from Vicky and I to pay for her to stay longer. Vicky’s a little burned by that and, honestly, my mom was being prideful and stubborn. The joke was kind of on her, though, when I went to visit, because her husband insisted on talking about how they cut her open “from rectum to vagina”. His constant repetition of “rectum to vagina” “rectum to vagina” probably had my mom wishing she hadn’t told him, either.

Later, when she mentioned that her DVD/VCR play had broken, Vicky and I went out and bought them a new one. It’s not the same as a day in the hospital but, as I told Vicky, if I can make things a little more comfortable for one of my parents, I’ll do it. Anyway, it was fun watching my mom and her husband try to figure out what they’d done to deserve the gift. I didn’t buy me any extra sleep, but Vicky and I got a good laugh out of it.

Friday, July 11, 2008

In the Wilds of Cambria… ish…

Odd enough, I still haven’t written about our trip to Cambria. Hey, I’ve been busy… catching up with my video game playing…

But I know what you’re dying to read about: adventure, intrigue, sex… eh… cows… uh… disease… er… slushies…

Last Saturday was our wine day. Vicky whined when it was time to get up. I whined when I had to stop playing video games. And then, we were on our way to wineries.

Our first stop was Scheid. Scheid was once home to the finest merlot anywhere. I know – I know! Sounds like a contradiction! But a few years back, they made a merlot that made your toes curl. I mean curl, baby!

But not this year. We were 90 minutes north of the 46 and we’d gone all that way for my merlot… and I didn’t buy any. But Vicky took it in stride. She had to. I’d just bought her new shoes. Anyway, our next stop was San Marcos – the winery, not the city – home of the best Late Harvest Zin, um, that day. Their Syrah wasn’t bad, either. Neither was their Cab… Oh jeez. After we were ready to buy six bottles we succumbed completely and joined their wine club. Six bottles three times per year – in for a penny, in for a couple of hundred dollars. Yikes.

Our original plan was to drive the 101 through Paso Robles, hitting winery after winery all day long but we eventually spent so much time at San Marcos – the sommelier giving us pour after pour (this was AFTER we’d joined, mind you), Vicky out there taking pictures of peacocks… plenty of pictures of peacocks… plenty of pretty pictures of peacocks posing and preening prettily… until I was feeling nicely buzzed, thank you – we decided to cut our losses, gains, whatever, and head back “home”.

We’d seen a place on the 46 that sold apple slushies and made a point to stop on the way back. It was just a little farm and store, looking like it wanted nothing more than to grow up into a northern version of Tom’s Farm. But that would probably take a while. In the meantime, we pulled up, ready for slushies.

As we pulled up, we saw a sign that read (something like) “Due to tobacco mosaic, no smoking allowed.” Tobacco mosaic? I’d never heard of it. Vicky got the apple. I got the pomegranate. (Because, seriously, how could you NOT?) Fucking delish! Nothing but frozen fruit all slushed up… mmmmm… and on a day that hot, it was perfect. (We still hadn’t topped the ridge that sequestered cool, moist Cambria in its little valley of perfection.) Then, we asked about the tobacco mosaic.

Turns out, it’s a disease tobacco carries that kills all kinds of good, tasty plants – including tomatoes, my fave! When you leave your butts all over the place, the remaining tobacco kills those good, tasty plants. Well, there you go. As if I needed it, there was another reason to not smoke. (Seriously, I didn’t need it – I just ended up feeling guilty.)

The day had been long and hot and I was more than relaxed from the wine but Vicky had a surprise in store for me. As we headed down the 46, she suddenly slowed. “Let’s go down Santa Rosa Creek Road,” she said. I was agreeable enough but surprised when she turned at that moment. One of the things I’ve always like about Vicky was her willingness, nay enthusiasm, for getting lost. I have always loved getting intentionally lost – probably a remnant from when my mom used to take the family on long drives and get lost… even if that wasn’t intentional – so to be with someone who also enjoys it is a lot of fun.

About an hour later, I got the feeling it wasn’t so much fun. But here’s what we knew. We knew that Santa Rosa Creek Road emptied out near Cambria. We knew that cell phone reception was nil. We also knew that the road was not in a state you would call “in repair”. So, we started joking about breaking down out there, finding lodging at some farm, and having to sleep in the basement with the (in-bred) Cyclops child. After a while had passed, and Vicky’s face and turned from enjoying to enraging, I placated her as best I could. “Don’t worry, honey. We’ll find the end of the road – I mean where it ends in Cambria – soon enough. I’m not even that hungry even if it is way past dinnertime. We’ll just stop on the way home, instead of heading home first and changing into clean clothes and going to a nice place. I just want food.” I don’t know if it worked.
But soon we saw familiar sights and came upon Cambria. We went to Lynn’s, had great steaks, and I had pie for dessert. Ah pie. I could spend a whole entry telling you about their pie… but I won’t.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

You can take the really fat guy out of the theater but…. what was I saying?…

It seems like forever since I’ve said this but I get to say it again: I finished Act 1, Scene 1 of the new play. It’s an amazing feeling because I’ve begun to doubt if I’ll ever be back on stage in any capacity. I mean, honestly, school and work and married life – who has the time? (And then, there is the issue of my ever-increasing size. I mean, seriously, I could be in the stage adaptation of Free Willy but where would I find a tank large enough?)

So, what is this new play about, anyway? Those who saw my previous plays probably think they know what to look for: ham-handed drama, bad jokes, and uncomfortable parallels with my own life.

This play should be a little different. Oh, sure. It’s filled with bad jokes.

… and the main story is about a couple who have been trying far too long to have their first child..

… um… but I promise to try and steer far from the ham-handed drama!

In fact, one of the nice things about this show is that rather than being about the “pain of love” it’s more about the “irritation of annoyance”. I’ve decided to write about friends who annoy each other, rather than lovers who hurt each other. Maybe it’ll come across as trite but I’ve had it with the heavy stuff, at least for this show.

In Everything Changes, a lonely man watched his ghosts turn their back on him.

In Atheists, a woman cheated to keep the man she loved away from him.

In Whatever Happened to Me, a father and son fought and bickered because it was easier than telling the truth.

In my new play, one character refuses to go in for all that. Instead, he decides to go on with life as best he can and cut himself a little slack, “because that’s how we heal.” I like that sentiment. There are no miracle cures that end pain; pain is just a part of life

Mind you, I’m only 15 pages in… let’s see how the other 60 or so go…

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Waiter, there’s air in my wine…

And that’s a good thing!

Vicky and I reached Cambria without a bottle of wine to our name. Sad. Truly sad. We hit the wine shops downtown the very next day, though, and found some wonderful bottles to enjoy before we really started hitting the vineyards. As one sommelier poured for us, I saw him pull out an oddly shaped device, place it over the glass, and pour wine through it. It made a great, sucking/spitting sound that interested the nine year-old in me.

Turned out, it was an aerator, a Vinturi to be exact.

This thing is so cool. It pumps air into the wine, softening it up like over an hour in a decanter will do – and it does it without batteries! No power needed! It works on air pressure! I love it.

So, here’s my gift to you. If you don’t have time for a proper decanting, which describes Vicky and I 90% of the time, give yourself one of these babies… and invite me over.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Not just another vague Firesign Theatre reference…

After last night’s class, some may be wondering what type of dancing we’re learning. The answer to that question (as well as “Hey, what are you guys doing in my car?”) is: The Foxtrot.

Do I feel ancient, learning a dance first introduced in 1914?

Do I feel decrepit, learning a dance that made “Rock Around The Clock” by Bill Haley and His Comets the number one Foxtrot record of all time?

You bet.

Except, well… no, not really. Strangely enough there are plenty of people in the class younger than Vicky and I. (Thankfully, there are also plenty of lame people in the class, too, so I don’t look quite so stupid.)

When Vicky and I first walked in, we were at each other’s throats, as usual. One of the reasons for this is to give us something physical to do other than throwing snide remarks at each other. When we were done, we were tired but happy, sore but working as a team, which is what really made this a great idea. The way I look at it, dancing is physical therapy for the heart and it’s coming at a good time.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to practice.

(One, two, three, four…)

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Dancing the night away...

Some of you may remember all the way back to 2005, when Vicky and I took a dance class to help choreograph our wedding dance. The wedding dance went superbly. It was really special and I've been bugging Vic since then to take another class with me. Why? Well, for this chorophobe, it was the first time I saw people who were worse than me! I was the better dancer... for once! It was one of those rare occasions when I knew everyone was looking at me dancing and I didn't feel completely incompetent... because there were others worse off than me!

Three years have passed and I have finally twisted Vicky's arm long enough. Starting tonight, we'll be taking beginning ballroom dance classes. Nerdy? Maybe. But I have always wanted to learn to tango and, if Vicky likes it, maybe we can move on to more advanced classes. We'll take our act on the road. We'll tour Europe! We'll dance for Queens and ...

... or maybe I'll finally know more than just the box step and the waltz...

Anyway, we'll see. Maybe I'll completely suck... and maybe there will be someone else worse than me. That's the one I'm hoping for!