When leaving the house this morning. I left with no intentions of checking my camera’s battery or making sure the card inside had been cleared, or for a better word, “formatted” the last time I uploaded a session to my laptop. As of late, my newer camera bag. The one I bought to house a rather large 70-200 lens. Seems to be getting heavier and heavier.
Truth be told, I’ve gotten lazy and though not seeing nearly as many as many photographers and more phones being used to capture the moment makes me cranky. I can’t help think that maybe I should be changing with the times. However, with my stumbling, fumbling, shutting off and often having to remove my thumb from the picture i’m trying to compose. Chances are I’ll be holding on to my film and DSLR’s for years to come. And while there’s no doubting my regret of not taking my camera long with me for such a picturesque trip. I was pretty satisfied with some of the images I managed to capture with my phone.
John was good, very talented soul. A tall red-headed gentleman with a gifted voice that could carry you to the moon and quick sense of humor and that would send even the most cynical asshole into uncontrollable tears of laughter. Like many good souls. John had his demons. One’s he would keep to himself throughout his life. His way of dealing or not dealing with these unresolved issues was drinking. On the occasions where he did hit the bottle. He would often drink to excess and to the point of no return. In the end, it was his addiction and love for guns that would lead to his suicide.
While on many occasions John’s drinking and gun play would end with a few gunshots and random bullet holes in his family’s home. His wife always seemed to perfectly time her departures and calls to the local police. During what would turn out to be John’s last implosion. Instead of firing some shots into the home’s interior. He pointed the gun at his head. Threatening, “You don’t think I’ll do it.” “You don’t think I could.” Pleading for him to put the gun down while gripping their young, screaming child. She reached out to him as he pulled the trigger.
Hearing the news, even years later in a conversation about my Father’s history of drinking sent shock waves, though never intended on my Father’s part through me that would echo for years to come. Less than a year later, I would be hospitalized for panic attacks and anxiety related issues. John was more than a friend to my Father, Mother and myself. He was part of our extended family. I still have the pictures from me and my Dad’s first visit. The pictures of him and Stallone on the movie set. As well as visual memories of the Queens garden apartment he shared with his soon to be wife. Though recalling his suicide was painful. Thinking of him brought back memories, many good ones, I had either buried or forgotten. Little adventures and excursions to the local parks and fields with our dogs. His great big smile, barreling laugh and infectious sense of humor. My fondest memories of John will always go back to when I was a very young child and both he and my Dad had city jobs as bus drivers with Tri-Borough Coach. As a kid growing up in an imperfect world with it’s own problems and imperfections. He was somewhat of a super hero to me. Someone I loved and looked up to. He never revealed that dark side to me. Which, for better or worse. May have been a reason why I took the news of his suicide and underlying issues so hard. News that brought on some pretty intense panic and anxiety attacks. Looking back , I’ve learned from experience, to remember people for all the good they did and the many positive impressions they left on you. Focusing on one negative incident or action will never impact you in a positive way. Though it’s taken me years to fully realize that. I’m happy to recall so many of the good things John and many others added to my life. Acceptance and forgiveness go a long way when it comes to finding peace of mind and closure.
For close to a year now, my doctors, therapists and my wife have urged me to open up about my health issues and the issues that accompany them. Knowing full well that trying to protect myself and loved ones from worrying about me and or thwarting their insistence on helping me, has only hurt me. Hasn’t helped in any way, form or matter. My attempts to hide symptoms and an overall fucked up long term outlook have only made me angrier and wasted much of the time I could have better invested elsewhere.
The hardest part by far has been trying to keep my parents at a safe distance. When I first arrived in Seattle. I had already been experiencing symptoms that my primary doctor of close to ten years had pretty much reduced my mounting issues as post brain tumor, post stroke relate issues. While numerous blood tests were ordered and performed over the years. Little more was ever suggested or done. It wasn’t until I went out on my own and booked an appointment with a nearby neurologist that my issues were properly addressed and tested, that I found out I had a meninigioma brain tumor. Not a threat to my life, but something else to worry about and keep track of.I was angry at my doctor for his lack of action and insight, but I also couldn’t help but blame myself for trusting him for so long.
Fast forward a few months, my symptoms worsened. I made connections with the right doctors and hoped that removing the new brain tumor would right the course. Further tests were including an MRI and CAT-Scan followed. The results were nothing I ever expected or be prepared for. I was told that alarming amounts of calcium had massed on my brain and I had a rare neurological syndrome/disease I had never heard of. One that had no cure and no known treatment. One that was progressively erodes your motor skills while wrecking havoc on your speech.
I was given a referrals to speech, a physical therapist and a social worker, My requests for a drano cocktail and a handgun were turned down and taken as a sign that I might be a suicide risk. (Note. New York humor and Washington State humor are very different.)
Since that October meeting. I found a great physical therapist just a few blocks from me. My social worker (One I really appreciated having.) moved back to her home town of Minnesota. I’m on my second walker, one which I need to get around with and one that keeps me from falling down and injuring myself. And while I’m being mentally prepared for a future in a wheel chair. I am doing everything in my power to remain active and positive. I’m boxing, lifting weights, going to the gym, writing and traveling as much as possible.
In the end, the hardest part has been opening up and struggling not to internalize my feelings or blame myself. I know what my friends and family went through during other life threatening episodes in my life. Because of that, I’ve tried to do everything in my power to shield and protect them from any pain, worry or complicate things any more than possible. I’m already feeling an immense pressure trying to keep my family at bay, while keeping them as informed and updated as possible. Opening up gives me the chance to breath again and say “I’m alright.” “Just give me the space and time I need to deal with things. I’m not writing this to worry anyone or look for sympathy. I won’t be starting any “Go fund me” bullshit. I’m just hoping for some acceptance and understanding. Below are some links that I thought would be helpful.
Web MD Brain Tumors
Virginia Mason Hospital
Renew Physical Therapy
As I arrived at my Tuesday morning physical rehabilitation session. . I felt the warmth and rejuvenated spirits of my therapist and the staff I have become so used to seeing since my first visits back in July. It was rejuvenation one can only get from a much needed vacation, or in this case a three day weekend. While waiting for my session to begin, I asked some of the staffers about their extended weekend and what adventures they might have gotten into. Imagine my surprise when the responses each focused on staying home, relaxing and avoiding traffic. While I was expecting detailed stories of running marathons, camping and climbing the peaks of Kilimanjaro I could easily relate to the idea of staying local and just chilling out. For, not a week goes by when I’m not asked the world’s most important question “What do want to do this weekend?” Though intended or not, and I’m sure it’s not. That question challenges me to come up with the greatest idea ever known to man. A thinly veiled eight hour trip to Baltimore for crabs. An endless drive south to Portland or north to Vancouver. Or in this weekends version an endless drive to the mountains for a runny eggs and oily bacon breakfast. Followed by a tiring ride home and a stop to find out just how bad the food at Chick-fil-A can be. Maybe, one day soon, when the question “What do you want to do this weekend?” comes up. I’ll be able to say, “Absolutely nothing.” Until then, here’s to three hour drives to the country and the mountains. Follow your wanderlust. Wherever it may take you.
When agreeing or planning to attending any type of county or state fair. You have to open yourself to being exposed to some outlandish and outright redneck culture. Outdated and often unsafe carnival rides that feature soundtracks from the earl 80’s. D list cover bands who haven’t updated their sets since the Reagan. Deep fried everything and of course, the occasional Trump supporter or mullet fashioned family. It’s low brow entertainment in the third degree. And like it or not. Once you enter the fairgrounds, you are a consenting, willing participant and member of its subculture. For, it is only with that acceptance and embrace, that you will truly know the pleasure of eating bacon on a stick while crowding near a pen of newborn piglets to coo and look on in awe of their cuteness without even a minute sense of irony.
Over the last two weekends, we traveled to two separate fairs. One a County fair, the other, the mighty State fair. While I avoided the rides, one of which was featured on the news due to it breaking down. I took a bunch of pictures, had the worst BBQ in my entire life and chose not to seek the answer to the question, “WTF are elephant ears, anyway?”
So go, try the bacon wrapped hot dog, mount your five year old on an unwilling sheep and ride the wooden roller coaster and have a blast. Life is short and the rewards often outweigh the risks. Worst case scenario, you end up on the news when the fire department arrives to rescue you from a ride called “Satan’s Revenge”.
After my Father wrecked or sold ever car he owned. He began using his Mother Veronica’s decade old, beat up car to get from A to B and not much further. The trunk was so dirty that your hands would instantly turn black once you unlocked it. The seats were torn and tattered and the floorboards were often covered with debris and weeks worth of empty fast food containers. Regardless, we were able to fit my Father’s 6’4 frame, our dog, myself and up to eight kids piled up in the backseat. The Hawkins brothers Keith, Petey and M.J., Glen, Tommy and whoever else would risk the trip on that day. (Aside from those named. The cast would always change depending on the day and who was willing to brave the back seat.
Once there, we would often disperse into two separate tribes or war parties as my Dad would set up camp and build a fire to roast hot dogs, marsh mellows or whatever supplies we manged to gather before our voyage. In the few hours we’d stay we’d play war, burn tires and grab whatever we could from the abandoned cars and the nearby railroad tracks. In truth, there was no Tarzan or nearby water to be found. For the life of me, I may never learn how or why it came to be called “Tarzan Island.” But as I would come to learn at the time and many years later. It was what everybody called it. Year later, I’m talking decades. I returned to Sunnyside Queens to seek out the area. The train yard itself was still there, but it had been closed off and closely patrolled. Whoever said, “You can’t go back.” was probably speaking from countless heartbreaking attempts.
As I’ve returned to many of my original stomping grounds, I find that most things are best left to memory and the mystique many things and places held when we were young impressionable and somewhat fearless. Things definitely felt a lot bigger back then. Something that helped us grow up and mature. And while there’s no diminishing the risks we took and the element of danger we were always drawn to. I feel very lucky to have taken chances and not letting those fears get the best of me. In the end, I’m happy to be able to recall so many adventures from younger years. Like my wife always says. “Maybe one day you’ll write that book.”
Though most of my friends and family know. I’ve rarely shared my passion for music or vinyl records on this log very often. Having sold all of my original collection of LP’s, EP’s and cassettes on Ebay in the months prior to my initial three week trip to Japan in 2001. I soon learned that my choice to do so, might have been a bad one. Though having just about everything I sold on CD’s or CDR’s. I did not think that the crates of records and boxes of cassettes would be missed. I later found that my decision might have been a hasty one.
Starting only a few years ago. I slowly started to purchase and collect vinyl again. Since that time, I’ve managed to recollect most of the records I originally owned and sold. I’ve also eclipsed the original size of what I once thought of as too many records. I’m at a point now where I’ve become a bit more selective with what I buy, often reminding myself that I’m getting older and will someday have to pack them up and move. Still, my obsession and my wife’s support of my weekly trips to various vinyl record outlets doesn’t look to be slowing down anytime soon.