Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Day of the Hangover

By all accounts, via email and blog commentary, "Night of the Sake" played like a horror movie. Most of the elements that contributed to that aesthetic were accidental, like the black void of my bedroom with no candles or lights. And naturally it didn't help that I was shirtless. There is some sort of correlation between dark thoughts, angst and shedding one's shirt. I'm seen enough episodes of cops to know about this phenomenon. For men, anyway. When women get angry with me, or depressed, they never just decide to go topless.

That's the kind of world we live in. Don't look at me, Choochie, you live in it, too.

I apologize for my lack of eloquence, but in fairness I polished off that whole bottle of sake myself. A young lady and friend asked me this morning, via email, if I was depressed. No, I'm not, but I'm fixated on physical and emotional pain. It's no wonder that people need the pleasant fiction of religion to get through the day.

Today I went to my doctor, the man responsible for keeping me healthy. I'm meant to address my B12 and vitamin "D" deficiencies, which is easy enough to do with a syringe and needle. He also felt this and that, we talked, we laughed, and he kissed me full on the lips during the "strip to your underwear" exam. Well, that last part is my attempt at humor. An amusing lie.

What I learned, though, is that there is nerve damage from my second orchiectomy, which is causing frequent low level pain in the place where my balls are supposed to be. This isn't a complaint, as I'm acutely aware of how lucky I am to have had those nuts removed before cancer ate me.

Lou Gehrig, who by coincidence died of Lou Gehrig's disease, once said (in a famous speech) that he was "the luckiest man on the face of the Earth." With all sincerity, I feel that way about myself. I'm the beneficiary of incredible kindness. In the spirit of the holiday bullshit season, I'm going to name five people who have changed my life with a modicum of compassion. Consider it well. In my opinion, compassion is the greatest thing we humans have brought into the world. Nothing compels it but empathy. Religion tries to scare it into us, but that won't work without a threat of action in this world, not the next or the one after.

Here's my list of people who have been compassionate towards me, and should be canonized as far as I'm concerned. In no particular order.

Linda N. - My girlfriend, lover and friend. She is on this list because she is the very picture of kindness, to me and every living thing that crosses her path. She has the tough tenderness of a mother, and grandmother. Before we met, she made the world a better place for three children and one grandson, numerous horses, countless cats and dogs a'plenty. It's in her nature to empathize. His Holiness the Dali Lama once said, "If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion." I've found her easy to love.

Kent L. - My brother. Older brothers have a reputation for being brutes. Through all my electroshock treatments, hospitalizations, suicide attempts and various and sundry tomfoolery over the years, he has always been there. I know I'm in his mind when I'm in pain, and he knows that I'm there for him, too. Helping each other get through life, whatever it is.

Quinn Brisben - I have to mention Quinn, the man is physically incapable of judging someone. Kind and tough. Worked for disability rights via ADAPT in Chicago, the SP, and traveled the world. He once smuggled condoms into the USSR. Kind and tough go together well.

Dr. Michael Gibbons - When I was at UMass Boston, Dr. Gibbons was my degree advisor and frequent lunch companion. He'd take me off campus to a nearby restaurant and we'd just talk and eat. If memory serves, he drank a bit. He was all advice, good humor and rugged affability.

I could go on, about all these people. When I speak of luck, and how lucky I've been, I think of these people, among others. I've certainly tasted enough hardship to know that life can always get much, much worse. But for now, I have my friends, and memories of friends past. At my core I'm grateful. The pernicious schemes of men, the power of money to rob decent people of their principles, and the random visitations of hardship and death. That's life, yes. Partly, anyway. But so is the rest of it.

There you go. As sappy as it may be, enjoy this quote from George Washington Carver, the man who had a thing for peanuts.

"How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in life you will have been all of these."

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