Friday, March 24, 2023

But the Earth Abideth Forever

I'm having trouble knowing how to continue with the blog.  I don't want it to be a drag or a constant bummer.  Indeed, most often I write about things that might go one way often go another.  I write about my own foibles set against some faux-heroic concept of myself and how the gap between the two things trips me up.  I write about my love longings and love lost, the endless romantic hours of wishing upon the moon, the company of a feral cat for whom affection is merely a gastronomical event.  

Quasimodo Casanova. 

But the Holy Goof in me is struggling right now to turn his plight into an entertainment.  Through the slapstick of life, shit gets real.  

I went for my annual physical yesterday.  I have what the doctor has referred to as "uncontrolled hypertension."  She says she has given me all the BP medicine she can.  I'm on max doses of three meds.  I dread going to see her so much that my anxiety begins weeks before my appointment.  Driving there, I can feel my body tighten up.  I breathe.  I meditate.  I do what you are supposed to do to calm yourself.  Her office is on the second floor.  In an effort to keep my heart rate down, I take the elevator.  

In the office, I was handed a sheaf of forms to fill out about my current health.  You know the drill.  How often do you use fentanyl?  Do you tend to lose your balance when you're drinking?  Do you ever think life is not worth living?  How often do you experience depression?  Do you ever think of suicide? 

I wanted to write questions back.  How often do you consider the absurdity of life?  Do you ever entertain the idea that all human values are simply social constructs?  Do you feel your efforts to make a better world have succeeded?  Do you truly believe that life has significant meaning?

Rather, I just put "no."  I am sure that everyone but emotional cripples lie on these forms.  

My name is called. I'm led into a room.  I am weighed.  Same as last year.  Drats!  I'm asked to take a seat.  The blood pressure cuff is wrapped around my arm.  I need air.  My heart begins to race. I can feel my pulse against the pressure of the cuff.  

I am given a cup and told to pee.  Then I am instructed to strip and put on a gown.  I wait.  The doctor comes in with the usual question.  

"How are you doing?"

"I guess we'll see."  

She shines a light into my eyes, tells me to follow her finger.  She feels my neck I assume for lumps then pulls down my gown and puts the stethoscope against the skin on my back and asks me for deep breathes. Again and again until I am beginning to hyperventilate.  She asks me to lie down.  She pulls my gown down to my waist and raises first one arm and then the other pushing very hard into my sweating underarms.  Then she moves to my tub o' guts, again pushing until I want to pee and fart.  Then into my groin for more aggressive probing.  She hits my knees with the rubber hammer and pushes my feet toward my groin to test my flexibility.  When she grabs my right foot and twists, I involuntarily scream.  I feel myself blacking out.  I tell her about my ortho visits.  She tells me how difficult recovery from knee replacement surgery is.  She asks the nurse to take my blood pressure again.  It is terrible.  I am lying nearly naked on the table, trembling.  I'm stage three or something.  A bit more and she would have me in an ambulance on the way to the hospital.  

"Look.  Do you see that I am quivering involuntarily?  I'm like a feral cat in a cage when I come here.  I hate this.  I hate coming for this physical.  I can't help it."

We talk.  She suggests that I get the implant that electronically controls the nerves in the throat to prevent snoring.  

"It will lower your blood pressure," she says.  

"Yes. . . I am considering it."  

What I don't tell her is that I still want to fall in love, to share my bed with a woman, and that I don't want to be grabbing the instrument that turns on the thing in my body as I slide between the covers.  

"Don't worry.  I don't think you can get shocked or anything.  I think it's safe for you." 

Yes, yes. . . I am all vanity. . . vanity and chasing after the wind.  

They draw my blood.  I must return in two weeks.  

When I leave, I am both relieved and depressed.  The world is bright and unreal.  I no longer inhabit my body.  I barely know where I am.  Everything seems alien.  I had packed my gym clothes thinking to go after my appointment, but it is mid-afternoon and I've forgotten to bring my phone.  I'm in no mood to work out.  Somehow I find my way home.  

First thing, of course, is to go to the computer and Google, "How to lower blood pressure."  

I'm already doing everything that the medical sites suggest.  I don't eat processed foods.  I rarely have desert.  I exercise every day for more than an hour.  I eat fruits and vegetables and not much beef.  I even had a Dry January. I dive deeper.  You can find all kinds of bullshit from idiot sources, but I stick to the medical sites like the Mayo Clinic, the Cleveland Clinic, and  There are things that might help.  Potassium.  Calcium. Vitamin D.  I dive deeper.  CBD has some promise but the research isn't conclusive.  Then some surprises.  DHEA, a natural hormone in the body that is converted into one of the sex hormones depending upon your gender has been shown to lower blood pressure.  And to raise it.  The same with creatine.  

I look for a long time.  I read.  Somehow, though, it seems useless.  It is nearing four.  I pour a drink.  WTF?  Yea. . . if I'm going down. . . . . 

I sit outside and look at the garden.  This is supposed to help me, of course.  I'd read that living alone is deleterious to your overall health.  I'm certain it is the lack of physical contact and laughter.  I've missed those things tremendously.  That and the esteem you feel when a lover smiles your way.  The thing about long relationships, I have reasoned on my own, is that your lover never sees you the way other people might.  They see you, but they also see the very person with whom they fell in love.  That never fades away.  

There are only two people in existence who have ever felt my healthy body before the crash and my broken body after.  One still loves me but is impossible.  The other no longer recognizes my existence.  There are many people, of course, who have known me before and after, but never in the biblical sense. 

Perhaps I've been too selective in my life.  I laugh.  At dinner, my neighbor said those Russian hookers can run into the thousands.  He would know.  

My mind drifts to my dead ex-friend Brando.  He was an improbable character.  He had a certain charisma that attracted specific people to him.  He was hyperbolic and a myth maker.  I learned some of that from him.  He once got the key to Gotham.  They had a Brando day named after him.  Why?  He was screwing the deputy mayor.  She arranged he whole thing.  

He died broke and alone in Greece.  That is all I know as we had already had our falling out.  I realized that I didn't even know where he was buried.  Did they bring him home?  As I sat there pondering this, my neighbor who knew Brando as long as I did came out of his house with his wife and another couple.   The couple were getting into their car and saying their goodbyes.  I stood up and approached keeping a polite distance but indicating that I wished to speak to him.  My neighbor hailed me and said, "You know Philip?"  Of course I did.  He was one of Brando's oldest friends.  They had travelled in the early days when Brando was first transitioning from architect to "Adventure Travel Guide."  He used to call Phillip the "Hunter Thompson of Gotham."  Phillip, he claimed, was politically connected, an insider.  

"Time magazine calls him to find out what's going on in the presidential election," Brando would crow.  I never knew the limits of this truth.  Phillip liked to proclaim, "I've never drawn a paycheck in my life."  He had, however, inherited a realty company from his father.  But anyone who was Brando's friend was "the most," "the hardiest," "the fastest," "the best". . . . .  That was, in large part, his particular charm.  

"When we were camping in the jungle, Philip would wake up every morning and have tequila for breakfast. . . ."  

Sandy had danced barefoot all night drinking Pisco until her feet bled and she had to be carried home.  

Nothing ordinary ever happened.  Brando could make the most bland and timid man sound like a Raider of the Lost Ark.  

I said hello to Phillip as he slipped into the car.  I used to go to his house for parties in the way, way back before both his wife and his son died.  Phillip's health is no longer good.  As the saying goes, "Marx is dead, God is dead, and I ain't feeling so good myself."  

As my neighbor was saying goodbye to Phillip and his wife, I asked his wife if she knew where Brando was buried.  She said loudly, "I think they buried Phillip in Athens."  

Holy shit!  

"Did I just say Phillip?"

"Yea.  Pretty loudly."  

"Oh, crap."  

But the car was pulling out of the driveway and my neighbor walked over.  I got the story as he knew it.  One of our friends, a judge, had a high ranking brother in the military who arranged for Brando to be buried in an American military graveyard in Greece--with honors, they said.  This was unbelievable given that Brando had served a brief stint in the Coast Guard.  But that was Brando.  

"Did anyone go to his funeral?"

They couldn't remember if his ex-girlfriend or his daughter went.  They said that in the last few years, people had been taking up collections of money to send to Brando so he could afford to live.  This was unbelievable.  

"I gave him plenty of money," I said with an obvious bitterness.  

"Well, he was a hell of a character.  Someone should write a book about him."

"Yea.  I think Travis should." 

Travis, like me, was a longtime ex-friend of Brando the Swindler.  That got a chuckle.

I walked back to my deck with the day's last light.  

I don't know what I'm going to do about my blood pressure.  I need to put my stash of narcotics in my bedside table, I thought, in case of a stroke.  If I can reach them, you know. . . . 

Everyone on my father's side of the family died of heart attacks--his mother, his father, his two sisters and his brother, his brother's three sons, all before or just after the age of 60.  His son from another marriage, my hardly known half brother, too.  The rest died young of other causes like AIDS and drug overdoses.  I've already outlived them all.  

I liked Sam Shepard's last novel.  It was a strange thing unlike what had come before it.  Patti Smith, his long ago lover, sat with him in his final days and helped him finish the manuscript.  I remember Christopher Hitchens who was dying of cancer continued to debate his critics in front of live audiences.  He was a clever man.  When asked with sympathy how he was doing, he replied, "Well, I'm dying. . . but so are you."  

I guess I'll drink more water and less alcohol.  I'll add the potassium and calcium and all the rest to my vitamin regimen.  Arnold Schwarzenegger in an article entitled "Schwarzenegger's Last Act" is quoted as saying, "I'm not afraid of death.  It just pisses me off."  

My take is a little bit different.  I just don't want to quit living.  

Flash your smile and face at me
Open your eyes wide at me
Lay down every day with me
Until the long gone days

Speak a native tongue to me
Say some funny things to me
Roll around and laugh with me
Until the long gone days

Take me around the city streets
Find us pretty things to eat
Find us something good to drink
But buy me one more day

One more day to know this place
To kiss your sweet koala face
To love you deep into the night
To feel you underneath me

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