Saturday, April 18, 2009

"A pain stabbed my heart, as it did every time I saw a girl I loved who was going the opposite direction in this too-big world."

I only stopped a few times but the best was when, after watching and being hypnotized by those lines, I pulled the car off the road and into a gas station in Pueblo, Colorado.
It was late then, maybe 9 p.m. or so, but I could still smell the chicken and beef in the air. The smell of other people's dinners always smelled good as I had none. I spent some of my last money on beer and some cigarettes. I needed to keep driving and food would have made me sleepy. Any food. But that smell of family-cooked steak, mom-made salad, dad-brought-beer, it nearly ruined me every time I opened the windows.

So I flat-out left Pueblo for the unmanned hills of America. There is that section there, in the heart of the most powerful place on the planet, where no one knows what is going on. They didn't know I was running, open beer in my lap, they didn't give me the "Johnny 99".

I was alone and I could have slept in the road with flares shooting out of my fucking pants all night and not a goddamned soul would have been able to even mutter the first words of "The Lord's Prayer" for my drunken ass before it was morning and I was sober again. It was just me and the road. Of course, my beautiful car took me there and I owe her everything; not leaving me for another driver nor judging me for cars I had driven before, she just purred on down the road.

When I hit the New Mexico line I knew that shit was going to get beautiful quick. I like the desert and I like being alone. I skirted Albequerque and Santa Fe. I made a line for Llano de San Juan. I had nothing to confess but I just loved being in the presence of greatness and beauty. I wanted to feel that red earth and have it know me, too.

When the sun set on the second day I was already deep into Chihuahua, Mexico.
I stopped the beauty there, too, on the side of the road at Ignacio Zaragoza, and I prayed for you.

I lit a candle for you and I did not declare my love to God; no.
I declared my love not for the Father, nor the Son, nor the Holy Spirit.
I prayed for my loves of you, my car and the open road.

God have mercy on your soul; your 9 to 5, rotting soul.

ps. Escape this all. Come with me.

-Love Sid
xoxoxoxoox

Saturday, April 11, 2009

道德經

It was comedic, even from the start. I remember when I was just 16 and I noticed, when I lay on my back with my shirt off, that the right side of my abdomen was about 3 inches bigger than my left. I asked my aunt about it and she said it was probably abdominal swelling.
For some strange reason I didn't trust that and went to my family doctor. She said, aloud, "Oh God." By That afternoon I was booked into the Royal Alex for a biopsy. I joked with the nurses about the weekend; I was to go with my Uncle and Step-father to hunt Grouse, etc. I told the nurses, "Well, there goes my weekend, eh?". They didn't laugh and instead looked mournful and told me to relax and be happy. They said I should call my parents.

I remember sitting in the doctor's office with my folks and the doctor came in and said, "Jody, you have Cancer. It's lymphatic and your chances of recovery are very low." 11%, he said.
I think my mother cried and my father, too. I can't remember well because I watched the whole scene from above. I was floating. I hovered there, out of body, and watched it play-out like I was watching a sit-com. A sick-com. I didn't understand what he meant.

That weekend I had a biopsy done on my neck and it left a giant scar. I have been shy about being shirt-less ever since.

The strangest thing was that the night before I had to go into the U of A hospital for my first chemotherapy treatment, I had a vivid dream about tigers. In the dream, two tigers were chasing me through the jungle and I knew that making it to the door of some nondescript building would save me. When I awoke I told my mother, maybe it was 5 a.m. I told her about the tigers and how they were snapping at my heels but I beat them to the door, I out-ran them. We talked about it for a while and then it was time to go. I had to go to the hospital.

The nurse told my mother and I about my impending Broviac. A Broviac, or Hickman Line, is a cathater tube into the heart. It went up my neck, turned, and then went back down into my heart.
It stuck out of my chest and I had to keep it very clean and be very careful of it for a long time. I had a tube sticking out of my chest for a year that went directly to my heart.
After the nurse left, my mother and I looked up when she shut the door. I froze and nearly passed-out. On the back of the door was a poster with two tigers. They looked hungry. I knew then that this was some serious shit.

I didn't cry very much, I wanted to be strong and be a man. I wanted to beat cancer and began to have fantastic fantasies. I would imagine that my white cells were fucking severe Lions, ripping through my viens and tearing the life out of any other cells that were producing too much. I was a beast in my mind. I imagined victory and dreamt of fighting death. Late at night, when noone was around, I would get out of bed, shakey-legs and all, and I would challenge death. I would dare it to fight me.
Sometimes I would even fake pain, to get a 7cc morphine shot, then drift into battle. My doctors were beautiful, super-human. They gave me hope and were strong when I couldn't be; when I was too sick to be.

Once I remember getting a marrow-test. That hurt, very much. I had a cute nurse (I wish I could have bedded her) rubbing my back and talking to me while the doctor took a circular bit and pushed it into the muscle and beyond, into my pelvic bone. The end of the tube was serrated and he twisted it when it hit bone. I was braced against the door frame and I am sure I was crying. The nurse rubbed my back and I braced and the tube took 1/8th of my bone, deep and painful. I was just 16 and I was scared and felt like a man at the same time.

The worst was the LP; the Lumbar Puncture. Twice a week I would lay on my side and have a 6 inch needle slip into and between my lumbar. It was horrible and I always cried. It felt so awful, taking spinal fluid and replacing it with chemotherapy. And people wonder why I am alone and without God. Well, it's because I saved me. I did it. I did the work and cried the tears and watched my family fall apart in woe because of my illness; my little sisters asking my mother if I was going to die. A four-year-old girl, asking that, it's not right, man. It ain't right at all.

I was 16 years old and fighting a battle most people would never know. I suppose that is when I began to change. How do you relate after that? I think I went through 10th and 11th grade after that before I just laughed and left. What could they have taught me about life then? What did anyone have to offer me?

Nothing.

I beat that cancer, hard. I kicked it's ass. 11%? Fuck you. Cancer just picked the wrong boy; the right man.
I got sick a ton and chemo is the worst. I spent a year dry-heaving.

I started to see myself as separate from humanity, from society. I couldn't relate to anyone anymore. It wasn't bad or sad or anything like that, it was just natural; it was obvious and true.
And in high school it was hard. "Hi, I just saved my own life and almost died. I am Siddhartha, Frankenstien and Marlow; this is the darkness of my heart." "Oh yeah?", they'd say, "Do you like Nirvana, or The Red Hot Chili Peppers?".
Fuck, I might as well have died.

7 months after I finished my last chemo treatment I had my broviac taken out. It felt so strange, to have this catheter pulled out of my neck and Superior Vena Cava. For the first tine in 16 months I had a shower, naked. Before, my broviac was covered with a Safeway bag, or something. Fear of infection was serious. And the last thing I needed with cancer was a fucking heart-infection.

I showered long that day after the broviac came out. I remember dropping to my knees and crying very loud and hugging myself while the hot water cleansed my body and soul.

I won.

I was a drunk and a drug-fiend and an asshole. I even smoked cigarettes. I provoked death and demanded a rematch. Death ignored me and I continued to explore the freedoms of a man without fear.

Cancer was the best thing to have ever happened to me.
It made me a man; and a human outside of all of this.

I won.





Monday, April 06, 2009

Touchscreen evolution


Of all our culture's instantly recognizable iconography, I have a particular affection for the "Descent of Man" silhouettes... ever since I was a wee nerdling poring through the leatherette-bound wonders of the World Book, I've loved that progression from simian Common Ancestor, up through the goblinoid australopithecine and the spear-toting Neanderthal, to modern Homo sapiens, who sometimes comes complete with fedora and briefcase, a proudly striding Adonis commuting into the Future. I mean, it's all right there, millions of years of Evolution as Nagging Mother: "Stand up straight!"

The reason I'm thinking about that image is that I recently got hold of the new Nintendo DSi and tried to visualize a similar display of the evolution of the DS, and came out of the exercise pretty disappointed; there's just not much that's visually compelling about a parade of slightly different rectangles. Yet the DS has evolved greatly in the last four and a half years, from 2004's clunky prototype in that grody industrial shade of semi-metallic plastic that always reminds me of the grey stuff on lotto scratch tickets to the sleek matte-black machine of today. More importantly, the DS has evolved in full view of the world; rather than hide its product development and refinement away in an R&D lab, Nintendo has made it a lucrative public process, turning each transitional form into a must-have gizmo, racking up unit sales of ninety-seven million worldwide along the way.

Like the DS Lite before it (like, not even three years ago), the DSi is "what the DS was meant to be." All cynicism aside, it is a pretty sweet little piece of hardware. Two VGA-resolution cameras, one on the case for taking snapshots and one inside the hinge for displaying your gross, pasty, dough-necked, eye-bagged, old-man "game face." Slightly bigger screens, improved wi-fi, more RAM, onboard storage an SD card slot and a goddamned volume control that doesn't constantly piss you off, all packed into a 12-per-cent slimmer case, thanks to the elimination of Game Boy Advance compatibility and the chubby little cartridge slot it required. That's a bit of a bittersweet loss. One the one hand, adieu to Pokemon FireRed and Final Fantasy Tactics Advance; on the other, no more wasting time and tears pawing hopefully through the bargain bins at Blockbuster Video only to come up with five copies of Barbie and the Magic of Pegasus and an empty Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3 box.

Not that the DSi isn't going to offer me many, many opportunities to waste my money. With the introduction of downloadable games and applications through the DSi Shop, I'm sure we'll soon see a repeat of what happened with WiiWare and Virtual Console on the Wii: the onboard memory clogging up with impulse-purchased titles I fiddled with for a few minutes each before consigning them to gather digital dust in the virtual closet. Right now, though, in these early-adopter times, its pretty slim pickings in the DSi shop; with my 1000 Nintendo-point "welcoming gift" warming, if not burning a hole through, my pocket, I went shopping only to find myself sorely untempted by yet another WarioWare game and something called "Birds and Beans". The Opera web browser was free, though, and I'm happy to report that the DSi, like its predecessor, offers excellent on-the-go pornography support wherever there's washroom wi-fi. I recommend the Wii-optimized FriiPorn.com.

The coolest -- or maybe "neatest" -- thing about the DSi is its standard suite of multimedia toys. Novelty wears off quickly, we know, but when the novelty is laid down in multiple coats like this you can get a surprisingly hard-wearing and durable finish. The fun little photo editor offers lots of weird filters and lenses and stuff, including a cheesy but cheerful face-blending utility and a touchscreen distortion tool that's way more giggle-inducing than it ought to be -- goodbye, fatneck, hello giant Mexican waif-painting eyes! On audio side, the DSi supports AAC audio (no MP3 [frowny face]) and again there's a whole toybox of gimmicks to play with: loopers, beat machines, voice-changers, that sort of thing. "A momentary diversion on the road to the grave," as the man says, but a playful, enjoyable one.

Nintendo's motives with the DSi aren't all play-based, though; they're explicitly angling the thing toward a position as a sort of light productivity device. Already in Japan the DS is used by millions as a phrase book, subway map, weight-loss coach and cookbook, and the hope is that North Americans and Europeans will start to catch on to the idea and the DSi will hack out a chunk of the iPhone's mojo. Personally, I think I'm sold on the idea; of all the upcoming DSi titles I've seen, it's the non-game products -- 20 Classic Book Collection and Moving Notepad -- that have me most excited. Now that the DS has downloading and storage capacity, it's got a lot of potential as a general-purpose portable platform. I hope it lives up to it; I'd like to be able to step to those showoff iPhone motherfuckers with a taste of touchscreen evolution.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

"You will not be punished for your anger, you will be punished by your anger."

I found the most wonderful level while pulling down the drywall at the house on 3860 West 3rd. At first I had found a bunch of business cards on the cross-joist. They were from the 1930's, at least. They were yellowed and the addresses were now surely condos. A dentist, a paper manufacturer, a lawyer and a dry-goods salesman. None of those places existed anymore but I had extracted them from time and they once again displayed themselves. I almost called one, but I knew what would happen and I kept my phone in my pocket instead.

The level, though, was pristine. It was a short level, cute even, and had three angles with which to measure. It looked like a level that a handy-man from the 1950's would use; not professional but not altogether useless either.

The house on West 3rd was old and I knew it when I began taking it down. I thought I would find some money or a body in those walls when they came down. I expected it. The level was the best because it meant so much to me. I am not a level man and to get a message like that from beyond time and space was magic and even frightening.

The leveler of lives from inner space.

I own it now and am waiting to be straightened.

-Love Sid