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The Update

Well, it seems as if tomorrow was a long time coming.  I had fully intended to write a little something about my battle with cancer…the truth is, I don’t know how I feel about it yet.  I know that my doctors tell me it’s gone.  I’ve had three clear scans and I don’t need another follow up until nearly summer.  I’m able to eat most anything, though my palate is forever changed.  I lost quite a bit of muscle mass during the process, but I am feeling stronger every day and I plan to play in a few major tournaments this year.

I’m not going to bore my readers (both of them!) with all of the gory details, but good gravy the treatment is a real bitch.  They basically microwave you for 35 days and pump Agent Orange into your bloodstream once a week for six weeks.  It’s rough.  It’s terrifying.  I know there are many people going through this, some of whom do not have the wonderful people I had around me.  The Primary Wife is a rock.  She knows a thing or two about this process and my doctors learned to shut up and do what she says.  She had my back…always does.  My daughter Cricket spent a ton of time with me through this whole ordeal, I will be forever grateful for the love and care she provided while I was down.  She put her plans on hold after college to help me and her mother get through this uncertain time.  Noah was and is away at college but he checked in and helped keep my spirits up.  I also had many friends not only check in, but actually visit and help.

I’m a very lucky man.

Some things they don’t tell you:  There is a mental aspect to this that you are not at all prepared for, and for me at least, this was as hard if not harder to deal with than the physical toll it extracts.  At first, it was rage, but not in the “why me?” sort.  I had 62 years of pretty good health, even though I taxed my body at every opportunity.  No, the rage was a reaction to feeling vulnerable.  I was just not equipped to deal with the feeling that if something required me to be present, strong and confident I would not have been up to it.  I was not accustomed to being dependent on others.  As I got stronger, this mostly passed.  Now, the mental challenge is dealing with the guilt.  I was around some very sick people on a daily basis while undergoing treatment.  Some of them are no longer around.  Others had next to nothing by way of a support system, and I can’t imagine I would have survived had that been my plight.  I had pretty decent insurance.  I received a level of care that others did not.  Yes, we took a big financial hit but thankfully our coverage has limits as to personal liability.  Knowing that other people went through this without similar coverage really bothered me.  Still does.

So, while the worst appears to be in my rear-view mirror, I am mindful that the road ahead is still a bit uncertain.  I feel grateful that I am not alone.

More later.


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Wishing It Had Been a Grapefruit

As soon as I answered the phone and heard the doctor’s voice, I knew what the verdict was before he actually said it.  Blah blah cancer blah blah.  I’m sure they hate these phone calls, so I let him off very easy and said “OK thanks I’ll get back to you”.  I hung up and went to tell The Primary Wife.  Ten minutes later, I’m on the road to Lexington so I could tell my son in person.  She would let Cricket know later when she got home from work.  My plan was to tell no one else.  For awhile, that was okay.

I’m a private person.  I wasn’t always this way, in fact I was in my youth, a sharer.  Possibly an over-sharer, despite not having the Book of Faces to assist.  In those days, long conversations

  1. the informal exchange of ideas by spoken words.

was in person or via the analog telephone, at first moored to a table, later, with 1000 ft cords that after the first use would coil up like starving python, and if you weren’t of firm grip, could rip the phone from your hand.  These days, it seems like any information can be easily weaponized and I for one cannot understand how we got to this place as a species.  Anyway…I haz cancer.

So last Spring I was shaving and noticed a lump on my neck, in my lymph node area.  I immediately sprung into action and began a vigorous “ignore it and it will go away” campaign.  I mean, I felt fine, great even, strong, sleek, wrapped in skin that belied my years…a mini God.  This, despite having a forty year addiction to alcohol and cigarettes.  (there is some irony here I’ll explain later)  The lump did not hurt, nor did it seem inclined to go away like any good guest knows to do.  I finally decided to wander into our local clinic, a drab, dreary and humorless place but they take our co-pay and I can walk there.  They prescribed a round of antibiotics.  Not wild about antibiotics,  after all, they are not to be taken with alcohol (I audibly gasped when I learned this) and they have a tendency to turn your colon into a thousand foot phone cord only filled with cement.  But I was relieved to hear this would fix it.  I dutifully took them while avoiding all   most  some alcohol.  The lump laughed this off and actually began mocking me while I shaved, at first by growing larger, later, when it thought it needed more of my attention, it would ripple gently and turn various pastel shades.  Back to the clinic and another co-pay.  The doctor, serious and stoic, consulted his book of medicine, conferenced with a pricey specialist and came up with a pretty ballsy plan:  ANOTHER round of antibiotics, this time turned to 11.  I didn’t poop for ten days.  Kinda liberating, actually, but I got behind (get it?) a little on my reading.  By this time, my lump became self aware and had a Twitter account.  The second round did nothing at all.  The clinic doctor took my face in his cold yet weirdly soft, attractive hands, looked me in the eye and said ‘I don’t like this, I’m sending you to a ENT. I said ok, and before I left I paid for services rendered and then asked the cashier what an ENT was.  Turns out there is this whole subset of doctors who could only afford to go to the part of medical school that covers the ears, nose and throat.  I mean yes that’s like a third of the body, but still.  So off to Springfield and another copay.

I could write like eleven paragraphs about the process there, but I’ll sum it up by saying that they really like to administer cat scans.  Sometimes they just strap you in and go for it, other times they inject wheel mixed acrylic paint into your bloodstream.  They really like their machines, and at 55,000 dollars a pop, who wouldn’t?  Eventually, a highly trained dedicated scientist made the diagnosis… “Mr. Casares, I’m afraid you have a lump.”

I’m as serious as, well, cancer.

Next on the menu was a biopsy.  Another IV catheter, some sweet drugs to relax me, and I swear to god some Jimmy Buffet music, and then they show you the piece de resistance.  It’s a needle, roughly the size of a school bus.  The radiologist hits the resin bag, grabs it with both hands, dons a pair of welders goggles and plunges it into my neck like he’s killing a White Walker.  When they finished, they thanked me for stopping my screaming and informed me they would notify me of the results in about a week.  A week???!!!  I was unable to grasp the notion that there would be a team of lump specialists in the next room, armed with potions and flasks and microscopes that would know the result before they stopped the bleeding from my neck.   That, it turns out, is not how modern hospitals work.  They actually farm this process out to the lowest bidder.  So, somewhere in West Texas, Armando the tech is processing my beloved lump tissue while playing Fortnight on his desktop.  (His tablet lacks the processing speed)

Then you get the call.

The doctor on the phone explained that I had HPV related cancer.  By now I was getting tired of using the Google or asking cashiers what the hell stuff means, so I pressed him for a better explanation.  It called Human Papillomavirus.  Now, that, for most people would be difficult to pronounce, but since I used to work at a french restaurant called Pamplemousse I immediately knew  I had grapefruit cancer.  So, I promised a a little irony, and here it is…As I admitted to upthread, I have had a long, passionate affair with both alcohol and cigarettes for over forty years.  I’d start my day with a Marlboro and and a cup of Maxwell house coffee.  I mean, Folgers is good and everything, but it costs more and well it’s hot, it’s brown, and deeply satisfying, much like myself.  Anyway, I’ve never been a day drinker, but come five o’clock I’m clutching a martini and cooking enough food for my screaming brats to keep the child services people from showing up.  Pretty much every day.  In my past, I owned a successful bar/restaurant/venue and I believe I drank a bit there.  Now, in my defense, I’ll say that I am a hard worker and I’m in bed by dark:45.  I’m old enough to know that the only people who stay up after midnight are serial killers, vampires and juggalos. (There is a surprising  amount of overlap among those demographics) I also exercise and I play a sport regularly.  I am routinely told I do not look my age.  So, I actually had to stifle a laugh when the doctor told me this particular cancer has nothing to do with my habits, good or bad.

Bottom line?  Death in six months unless I permit them to nuke me for six weeks, as well as inject Agent Orange into my bloodstream on a weekly basis.  It took me a minute to decide. Today I’m about 1/3 of the way through the treatment.  One note, with  little more delicious irony:  I’m in the demographic least likely to get this disease….Hispanics.  Anyway, I will say this, roughly 80 percent of the adult population has been exposed.  A tiny fraction of people will have the virus mutate, and an even smaller amount will have it manifest to cancer.  I KNEW I should have listened to more mariachi music!

More tomorrow.  Or the next day.


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They Decide, and the Shotgun Sings the Song*.

We’ve been had.  All of us.  Every facet of American life has been corrupted.  Even those who took advantage of the holes in the system to acquire wealth and power have discovered that wealth and power do not feed their souls.  So, like cocaine addicts, they keep chasing that first high, and it never comes.  They bought in, and they rage when someone points out the emptiness of their endeavor.

I was a victim of Madison Ave’s influence, early on I thought the acquisition of things was a worthy pursuit during my time here on this rock.  I did not think what I was chasing was unreasonable, I wanted the nice house, the sexy car, maybe a nice suit to wear to work.  It took decades for me to understand that, globally speaking, those were extravagant goals.  I’m not prone to feelings of guilt, at least not to the extent that I will let past personal failures define who I am.  That said, it is difficult sometimes to allow myself to enjoy the finer (material) things in life, especially knowing that roughly twenty percent of the people on the planet lack clean drinking water.  I suppose that makes me a bleeding heart Librul.

Alternatively, perhaps, I am someone who really wants our system to work, both to protect what I have managed to accumulate and to make sure others have the opportunity to do the same.  The American dream is still in it’s infancy, historically speaking, but my fear is that for too many of us, it is the ultimate empty promise, something we chase because we are supposed to, but one that leaves us unsure if we’ve actually achieved it.

It may well be that the post WWII era set the standard too high from the jump.  There was a big push toward infrastructure.  and we got world class dams and highways.  We wanted to provide opportunity to our returning Veterans, so the emphasis was affordable housing and the G.I. Bill.  We were still an industrial economy, and job stability was a given, as was a pension plan that would reward a lifetime of work with some measure of security.  With the exception of the G.I. Bill (which is not the same as it was but still exists) those things are gone.  Let that sink in.  They are gone.  No one is building affordable housing.  Before some of you point out that “affordable” is a relative term….I think we can safely assume that new construction in our little boom town consists primarily of luxury condos and custom homes.  Most working people will not be buying either of them.  Pension plans are few and far between, replaced by a system so corrupt, so rigged, that few Americans will ever be able to count on their participation in one to provide a secure and dignified retirement.  Ask the people who worked at  Enron how stock options worked out for them.  Even Social Security is beginning to look like yet another empty promise, which brings me back to this…..

We’ve been had.  All of us.  To some degree, we have all bought in to some form of tribalism or another.  We are being encouraged to do so by those who want to loot our treasury while we clobber each other for any number of ginned up differences, racial, gender, economic class, the list is way too exhaustive to try and list.  When a large enough group finds some collective mindset and decides to reshape or improve our system of government or the economy, it becomes a target for those with a stake in maintaining the status quo, and they are ruthless about it.

We used to value the journalists among us who’s job it was to shine a light on corruption or ask the questions that needed to be asked for all of us.  What we have now is largely a media consisting of one dimensional shills for one group or another.  Others within it are too worried about protecting their gig to truly report what is being done to us by the rich and powerful.  Sure, there are exceptions, I really admire the people at Vice news for at least taking a stab at reporting real issues and legitimately compelling stories.   There are still old school editors and free-lance journalists among us who look for the truth and report it, sometimes at great personal risk.

Today, I don’t have answers for these problems.  Even if legit answers are offered by people smarter than me, they will likely be drowned out in this sea of noise we’ve paddle around in every day.  All I know is, I do not want to be part of the problem.  I do not want to buy into this tribalism, it is the thing that is being foisted upon us much like leisure suits were in the 70’s.  Yes, I have real trouble with those on the Far Right, but no more than I do with the Purity Posse of the left.  So, I don’t plan to deal with extremists of any kind.  Rather, I intend to engage with anyone who seeks to find common ground with me, as I believe our failure to do that will bring about the end of our once great Nation.  We can hammer out the details after I’ve learned you’re not a Nazi in disguise, and you have learned that I am not a baby killer.  Let’s start there

*And, my beard has indeed grown longer overnight. Bonus points if anyone can tell me where I am in the pic.






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I Guess It Took This

I’m trying very hard to keep from posting photos of dead children.  One reason is that seems emotionally manipulative, and the other more obvious reason is that they are just so hard to look upon.  I may not be able to refrain much longer.  If it takes photos of Syrian children gasping their final breath to jar people, well so be it.  We need to decide who we are as a country…

It’s nearly impossible to put the politics of the region aside.  This war (like all wars) is about resources and who controls them.  The British, France, Germany and America were stoking the fires of radical Islam way back in the 19th century as a way to justify occupation.  It still goes on today.

At this point, I just want to see Bashar al-Assad removed from power and jailed.


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Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag

I will choose to not give out details just yet, but I finally broke the inertia and put my long game plan into motion.  Literally.  There are a lot of moving parts to this plan, each is somewhat independent of the others.  I’ve taken quite an interest in spiritual matters of late, and since I have the time to do it, I believe I will seek out those willing to engage in conversation so that I may learn, or teach.

I am currently reading Neale Donald Walschs’ “Conversation With Humanity” which helped put the last piece in place, and prompted me to begin.

More later.


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Been Away So Long I Hardly Knew The Place

Well.  Two years between posts.  Just to be clear, I was unable to log in here for over a year, I finally had to get the good people at WordPress to work a little magic with my credentials.  I’m not completely sure of the direction I’ll be heading with this, I only know that for a time I didn’t feel like I had much to say, but I think that has changed, and, well, I have this here blog.

Tonight I’ll be heading to Vanderbilt to watch my daughter participate in a debate with the college Republicans (both of them?) on the issues of immigration and foreign policies.  I never encouraged her to join the college Dems but it seems clear she wants to engage, and that makes me proud.

My legion group platoon duo of readers probably want to be brought up to speed on happenings here at Coyote Creek, so, here goes:  The family is happy and healthy, we lost Rocky, MeHa, and Chipper, but gained a Cookie and a Georgia. The horses and goats are fat.  One child is at Vandy, the other is about to be in his last year in high school hell.  Neither of them are fat. Your handsome host finally escaped from a cult that required a daily sacrifice of self-respect and punished any sign of innovation or human-ness.  I am back to wandering in the woods with my arsenal of discs and actually enjoying life as an old person.

Caught up?  Good.  Appreciate ya stopping by.  Do it again.


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We All Get A Pony!

EDITED TO ADD:  I wasn’t going to post this, but now I have to.  Everything in italics was written the day after the election, the rest was written today:

So much low hanging,  schadenfreude dripping fruit to be had, but I’m only going to indulge in it a little because, frankly, as someone who routinely votes for the losing side I feel a tad entitled.  Think of it as combat pay.  So, just let me get this out of the way…

To the nice elected official from South Carolina who felt it is was appropriate to shout “you lie” during a State of the Union speech, and to the Western Governor who wagged her bony ass finger in POTUS’s face, and finally, (mercifully) to The Donald, who treated POTUS like some minor character in the world’s worst reality show:  Please shut the hell up.

I’m past it.

So, boiled down, the The Community Organizer organized the community.  (There have been more than a few who have suggested that this was somehow something to be mocked.  I think that ability is rare and is probably Government at it’s essence.  But that’s for another post).

80% of the African American vote.  70% Latino vote.  50 PERCENT ASIAN vote.  18 point spread for women. Impressive numbers, amirite?  The long game is producing a political infrastructure to be reckoned with.  About damn time.

Let’s make sure we don’t make their mistake and insist on purity tests in the coming years.  We are always a poorly worded phrase away from destructive internecine battles.  Time to enlarge the tent, people.

I really was going to refrain from Mitt bashing.  For a hot minute, I believed this was a good man who just didn’t run a very good race.  But he has flung open the door and invited ridicule with his latest remarks.  Apparently, he was participating in a conference call with a number of his high dollar donors.  He blamed his electoral ass-kicking to be the result of “gifts” the Obama campaign promised to Latinos, (free health care) women, (free contraception) and young people (student loan interest forgiveness).  How rich do you have to be to say stuff like that?  I think this sorry excuse for a person has never been held accountable for anything his entire life.  Until this.  High profile Republicans are rightly calling him out.  I mean, fer crissake, if Bobby Jindal denounces you, just how far have you strayed?

He will never, EVER be able to run for office again.  Thank your personal higher power for that.


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