Category Archives: Personal

Sick of health news?



I had a followup appointment with my surgeons Friday and there was only one piece of news I didn’t want to hear. I had built up a habit of wanting cigarets 200-400 puffs a day over 4 decades and it isn’t going to go away in two weeks just because I would find it convenient.


Other than that, the news was pretty darn good. Chest X rays were clear and so was the blood workup. The head chest cutter, Dr. Peyton, told me he thought I was making a “remarkablly good” recovery and that I should take it easy and not push it so hard.

I have referrals to endocrinology and oncology in a couple weeks to get through their hoops.

While there’s an elevated risk that somewhere in my body there are a few cancer cells in doublets or triplets just looking for a niche, no test is fine enough to track them down and all the tests show me as clear of cancer at this point.

Any day now, I’ll be able to walk around the block by myself and maybe even go to the bathroom regularly and — wonder of wonders — soon, I may be able to shower like a big boy.

As it is, some days are pretty good and I can stay awake most of the day and some days are like last Thursday when I slept 20 of the 24 hours. I’m terribly behind on answering phone calls and emails and such, but I try to do better as much as I can. A special shout out to Rush on the left coast — I’m not ducking you, my friend, just be patient with me please since you know what it’s like to be hospitalized and be sick.

Never before in my life have I ever ever been this sick this long and I want all y’all to know it really really sucks. If you are ever given the choice between being sick and being well, choose well.


Home again, home again …

I’m home.
I have 24/7 care.
I tire very easily, so please give me a little space before you ask to visit. I want to see you and I want to be with you and I won’t be able to say no or goodbye and it won’t be good for me.
I smoked my last cigaret the day before my grand-daughter’s birthday, May 22, so that her birthday would be my sobriety day for every year for the rest of my life. Today is 2 weeks. I feel badly about the relapse between my first night in the ER when I found out I had lung cancer, but it’s hard to call it quits with a lover you’ve had every day for 45 years. Ask Tipper and Al Gore.
Yes, I want a cigaret as I write this. Insane, I know, but I do. After my surgery … think about that, AFTER my surgery … I was finally allowed to get out of bed and do a little walking. I went by a little fountain and pond at NE 13th and Lincoln Blvd and spoke to a woman smoking. She was being treated for MRSA, a drug resistant disease you get in hospitals. It’s screwed up. I wanted a cigaret and moved on. I walked past a gazebo where people in wheelchairs with saline baggs were smoking. I wanted a cigaret and moved on. I was walking through the parking lot between cars, navigating my own bags hanging from a metal hat rack, when I saw a cigaret on the ground. It was like a Rena Parker cigaret, only one or two puffs smoked and then tossed aside. I wanted it. I WANTED IT. I had to stand there for a moment debating. It would hurt like the dickens to bend over and pick it up, but I wanted it. I could smell it. No one could know. Just one puff. I wanted it.
Finally, I walked on. What if it had been the throw away of a MRSA victim?
That’s what stopped me.
I want it right now, if was without the MRSA.
I’m being given pain meds.
Lots of drugs with names that scare the hell out of me. Names like Percoset and Oxycontin. In the hospital, I had other scary drugs like Morphine.
I don’t always think very briskly or in much of a linear fashion when I’m taking these drugs.
Just as I have to live in a world that contains people who can drink alcohol with less damage than I could, I’ll now have to live in a world with people who smoke cigarets. I don’t see the difference in the addictions except that right now, it seems easier to be sober than it does to be nicotine free.
And I’m scared one of these scary pain drugs will sneak up on me. The doctors and nurses and other care givers seem unconcerned and the ones who love me don’t want to see me hurting. I don’t know what to do about it, so I take the drugs when it hurts and I just have to.
I have other things to write to keep people updated, but I just wanted people to read this and know I’m home, I’m OK, and if I’m not in contact it’s not because I don’t love you, it’s because I’ve got a lot on my plate. It’s a big deal to be able to get out of bed and sit up long enough to write just this much.

You've got your troubles, I've got mine

I’ve got lung cancer and I’m a lucky man.
Seems hard to put those two together, I know, but trust me that it’s true. I’m lucky as can be.
My medical diagnosis seems dire, but it might have been a death sentence and it’s not. At home, my house was battered by the hailstorm of the century while I was in the hospital. Did I mention my car was wrecked?
I swear, there’s no way for me to go but up from here, the way I see it.
Let me tell you the good news about all this that makes me say I’m lucky.


I went into the hospital with nausea, a low-grade fever and belly pain. Sounded like gallbladder or appendix or some such. Turns out it was a simple infection plus a little bad milk that took me to Presby/University hospital on a Monday and that was all fixed with some antibiotic. However, because it looked like gallbladder, the docs had me go through a CAT scan to see what condition my condition was in.
Thank God.
Because I went through the scan, they found a couple of tumors that would not otherwise have been found in my normal annual checkup. In fact, they would not likely have shown up for a couple of years and then it would have been too late to save my life.
As it is, there’s a better than even chance I’ll have surgery on Wednesday the 26th and, if I survive the pneumonia risk, I’ll be more well than I’ve been in two years AND I’ll be cancer free with no or minimal chemo as followup.

A gutter guard pounded off by hail

I came THIS close to just going to one of those AM-PM urgent care clinics, but the one near my house wasn’t open, so I went over to my Mom’s for a little TLC and she brought over her next door neighbor, the head of endocrinology at University, Dr. Tim Lyons. He saved my life by making sure I went to the ER and smoothing the way for my medical treatment and recognizing that something serious was going on.
There was some confusion at first about the location of my lung lesion, but now we’re pretty sure it’s in the lower lobe of my right lung.
Each of your lungs has three lobes: top, middle and lower. Each one is contained in a thin sack and they are connected by branches (brachae) off the windpipe. The best I can analogize, my bottom right lobe is like one of those thin plastic sacks you fill with vegetables at the grocery and the working parts inside look somewhat like a bunch of broccoli, with the small sacs at the floret end doing the actual work of oxygen exchange. My tumor is 3.5 cm of smear across the top of one of those broccoli florets, like a bit of cheese across the crown and dripping down into the little sacs.
Meanwhile, on the other side of my diaphram but also on the right side, I also have a 4.2 cm tumor on the adrenal gland, which sits like a triangular hat on top of my right kidney. We won’t really know whether this tumor is independent of my lung cancer or a product of it until after the surgery because the part that “lights up” my PET scans is inside the tumor and it could well be a necrosis (dead part) caused by the growth of the tumor or it could be another cancer. In either event, my prognosis is as good with both being cancer as if there were only the lung cancer and in either event any adrenal tumor more than 4 cm is, as standard practice, removed. The only difference is that my tumor will be removed by incision at the same time as my lung lobe is removed, while, in isolation, they would more likely try to remove the adrenal tumor by a laproscopic procedure.


hail blasted through the bbq grill

Before I blather on anymore about any of this, let me say something about my hospital stay of about 10 days: I have wonderful doctors, surgeons and the staff at Presbyterian treated me like a prince of princes. I met a lot of very professional, smart people.
I also met some patients that make me very grateful. Tony who was across the hall from me is a 34 year old with cancer literally from head to foot and he is very unlikely to survive very long. It’s nothing he did wrong and he is, in fact, a great guy with a wonderful family. It’s just the breaks and not catching it in time. Between his brain lesions and the drugs and the radiological therapy, he was seeing and hearing things he knew weren’t there. He knows he won’t ever get a chance to marry and have children. It makes him both angry and very sad. My heart goes out to him. A couple doors down from him was an Iraq (Desert Storm — the first Iraq war) veteran with pancreatic cancer. It’s inoperable. It’s unrelenting pain, despite massive dosages of medications. He’s terminal and knows it. Soon, he hopes, he’ll be going back to his beloved 5 acres near Ft. Smith to spend his last few days with his wife watching the deer and turkey come out of the woods to feed near their back porch.
Are you starting to understand why I feel lucky?
My cancer was caught extraordinarily early by mere random happenstance and good luck. Or, you may wish to believe (as I do) that someone up there is looking out for me.
Either way, my attitude is optimistic, fearless and resolute. I’m going to beat this. What’s more, for the past couple of years, I’ve suffered fatigue that I couldn’t understand or explain. Looks like that may well be the work of the adrenal gland trying to fight that tumor. With it gone, there a very good chance that a year from now, I’ll be more well than I’ve been in a very long time.

Hitting a parked car will take out a headlight, quarter panel and door

Of course, there’s something more to give up than a couple of tumors. I’ll quit smoking after 45 years of about 2 packs a day. There’s no other way. So far, it’s been pretty easy to get there, but a few milligrams of morphine every four hours seems like a radical way to toss the pack.
I’ll be in ICU on Thursday and Friday, as I understand it, and then spend an unspecified few days in a regular hospital room. My principal task will be to breathe. Sounds funny again, but it’s more than just stay alive breathing, I must breath so deeply it hurts to avoid a potentially deadly bout of pneumonia. I’m told this is going to hurt and hurt a lot and for quite a while and there’s just nothing for it. It’ll hurt even with pain medications. I won’t want to do it, I’m told, but I must. I’ll have to muster all the mental toughness I can.
Which brings me to another way in which I feel lucky.
I quit drinking 15 years ago and despite the end of my 30 year marriage and the death of my father, I didn’t go back to the bottle. I have some mental toughness and some training in facing adversity. That counts for something, as it turns out.
Second, I seem to have a wonderful support system of friends and family. Both my children will be coming into town. My Mom has been there all day every day and has been stalwart and has done those things for me I couldn’t do, like getting the insurance adjuster and roofer started on my house. I’ve received dozens of phone calls, notes and letters as well as emails, etc., from friends, especially my Oklahoma City friends like Gary B, Geo and Deb, Suzanne, Rena and others who actually came up to my room to visit. So many friends the nursing staff forced me to limit my visitors. If that’s not lucky, I don’t know what luck is.
Lots of folks at the hospital were facing their troubles all alone in the world. My heart ached for them when I listened to their stories. I met a bunch of folks like that, people who faced adversity far beyond what troubles I may have.
My surgeons are universally described as the best chest cutters in the country, bar none. Doctors Peyton and Stowell come as a team and the former will work on my lung while the latter takes out the adrenal tumor. Looks like I’ll get to keep my kidney and there’s a second adrenal gland on my left kidney that will compensate completely for the loss of the one on the right. Good on God to give me a failsafe backup gland, don’t you think?
A couple quick notes: my house lost a single, small kitchen window compared to Gary B’s two-story glass that’s out and my roof was only 3-4 years old and isn’t leaking compared to many of my neighbors who are living under blue tarps. My foilage took a beating, but even my heirloom roses will recover.
My car was being hurried home to get it out from under the storm. Too hurried, as it turns out, since the friend driving hit a parked car trying to pull out from the hospital parking lot on NE 13th. The hail at the hospital was pea sized and the car drove into golf ball and larger hail before it got into the garage. So much for human plans when the universe is doing its best to look out for your interests.
Don’t smoke. Quit now if it’s too late for that. It’s a sucker bet just like playing the casino or the lottery. Yeah, your great uncle smoked to the last day of his 93 year old life and someone wins the lottery every few weeks, but anecdote is not data. It’s a loser bet. That is all.


January 5, 2010

As I write this, it’s 10 p.m. in Oklahoma City and there’s not a coffee shop open in town. Oh, I suppose I could go to IHOP or the T/A truck stop on I-40 and get coffee, but I can fix my own, better, fresh ground coffee at home than I’ll get those places.

We’ve got a couple of pretty big colleges in the big town, Oklahoma City Univ. comes to mind, and no coffee shops open late? I seriously want to know why there isn’t a used book store/coffeehouse near NW 23d and Pennsylvania nipped up under the OCU campus. For that matter, why no wi-fi coffee houses along 2d street in Edmond across from UCO?

Don’t college kids read obscure novels and write bad poetry any more?

I suppose not. Nowadays, it’s the boys writing bad poetry and calling it rap and the girls are all reading re-tread Bram Stoker Twilight crap. If they read at all, that is.

Video hasn’t killed the radio star exactly, but reading and writing are as dead as the baby oil heiress (dead and alone at age 30, will baby oil ever feel the same?).

Yeah, I’m back in town and spoiling for a fight. A big fight. I don’t care if I lose the fight, I just want to take a few swings and land a couple punches. I’d be happy for the dust-up no matter what, just to have a little action, just to know I’m not dead, just to smell some sweat and hear the loud voices of men and the squeals of the women and feel the blood pounding in my ears.

I wish I still drank whiskey. I wish I could get loud drunk and obnoxious and get into a fight. I wish I could talk some boozey friends into a road trip to hell. Folks in the back seat waking up to wide skies and Black Mesa on the way to the north rim of the Grand Canyon and Vegas beyond that all for the toss of the dice and a round of extreme juvenile embarrassment at The Chicken Ranch. Better yet, a good split lip outside some local dive here in town and then a ride to El Paso and Mexican Boys Town. Get a tattoo and a florid shirt and fluid excrement stopping the car every few miles.

I know way too many smart people. People too smart to do dumb things. Even though sometimes, the smartest thing you can do is something stupid just because it can be done. Because it’s there and someone has to do it. Like picking a fight. Or going to Mexico on a whim. All the smart people I know, I love ‘em, I really do. I’ve been just like that so much of my life, not doing the dumb shit because I want to be smart and don’t want people to see me doing dumb things. Problem is, you get so invested in being so damn smart, you do the dumbest thing of all: nothing.

We let the perfect become the enemy of the good. We want love but we spurn it because we’re waiting for our “soulmate.” What crap. We can’t enjoy our money and just haul off and spend it because we want to be so smart and have money as if that’s an end to itself. And it is an end to itself to all my smart friends my age because they’re all thinking about retirement and savings and the comfort of their old age. Fuck that. I’ve seen what that means. It means you die with money and no memory of your vapid memories, your vacant life.

I’d honestly and sincerely rather run out of money, have a full life and take myself out without the bother of decline into senility.

But if you never do anything stupid and never have any memories and live a stolid, decent, respectable life, and then just die, well, what good is that, what real good to anyone anywhere is that?

I don’t need to be remembered forever or even for very long. I’m not afraid of God or Hell (maybe I’m afraid of Heaven if the Talking Heads are right and it’s a place where nothing ever happens). I’m not afraid to die, I’m afraid to die without having lived my life. I’m afraid to die without ever having rolled the dice, without jumping out of the plane, or off the bridge into the Illinois River. I’d rather love and lose than live the cold, wan life of never having loved at all. I don’t mind falling in love. I fall in love forever. I like loving as much as I can as brightly as I can as long as I can. And, if it means heartbreak, well, then, let it be — no boy grows into a man without having his heart good and damn broken, and that has nothing to do with the number of years the boy has lived because I know some boys who are 60 years old.

I’d rather be loud, hated and reviled than to be afraid to speak my truth. Fuck all of you if you don’t like it and go ahead and tell my Mom you little squealer.

And, just to make sure you get the point, I’d feel the same way if I knew that my truth was ultimately discovered to be despicable and false.

Western Rationalism and Mindfulness quite aside, there’s a virtue in Passion. There is virtue in all too human strong feelings even if you don’t believe in Virtue, and I’ve spent a lifetime trying to pervert Virtue, in contempt of it, so much that I’m familiar with it … intimately, leeringly, and, of course, obediently.

Go to bed early, children. Get a good night’s sleep. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Exercise will be good for you. Don’t eat sweets. Brush and floss daily. Don’t have sex until marriage and don’t get yourself enmeshed with credit card debt. Save your money. Own a home. Maintain your car and check the oil and tire pressure. Go to college and get an education. Work hard and deserve praise, be the faithful servant who makes five talents with his master’s trust. Raise your children to say yes sir and no ma’am, please and thank you.

What a bunch of claptrap! Yeah, you guys go ahead and do that. Then die so the Neitzschian Superman can evolve from your dormant and boring DNA. And, you go to lots of church suppers and then straight to heaven, you just go ahead and do that, too.

I ain’t gunna do that.

I’m gonna get inna fight.

Where’s Tom Joad when you need him? Hell, I’d settle for Henry Fonda.

November 17, 2009

Self Portrait by J. Aristides

Self Portrait by J. Aristides

I spent the past weekend at Quartz Mountain Lodge, sitting as a portrait model for classes presented by Juliette Aristides, a Seattle painter.
Ms. Aristides was the guest of Oklahoma Arts Institute and this weekend was the fall session attended by teachers from across the state.
An example of Katherine Liontas-Warren's work

An example of Katherine Liontas-Warren's work

Ms. Aristides was ably assisted by Cameron College’s Katherine Liontas-Warren, Faculty Hall of Famer and wonderful painter.
The institute was four days — Thursday through Sunday — and I was treated as a prince by Emily Clinton, director of programs, and her cohorts. It was a completely wonderful experience.
The artists kept telling me my face is “sculptural”. I was hoping they meant that I have chiseled features, but I have a sneaking hunch they meant “deeply lined with wrinkles, you old fart.”
There were more than a dozen artists who did tonal portraits with only black, white and gray as well as follow up formal portraits in colored oils. Not many matched and all were (as one might expect) individual interpretations of my face — some brooding and some hopeful and others bored. In some I have a square chin, others show me with narrowed eyes, and, depending on their vantage point as I sat, full face to full profile.
These were teachers from Stillwater, Tulsa, small towns and, of course, the Oklahoma City metro area. I met and interacted with a lot of interesting people.
There were also classes in folk dancing, creative writing, digital photography and printmaking and those participants mixed freely with me and the painters.
I will say that every evening I looked forward to an hour or so in the hot tub to soothe my aching back.
On one evening drive through the park, just as the sun was setting, I saw six deer in the space of a mile. There were armadillo and skunk on the grounds, fully unawed by the presence of humans — it was your job to get out of their way.
The lake was way down, but still lovely, and it is always a surprise to come through flat western Oklahoma and arrive at a place of towering granite outcroppings and pin oaks. The lodge is about 9 miles south from Lone Wolf or, if you prefer, about halfway between Hobart and Altus. For those of you out of state, about an hour’s drive south to the Red River and about an hour’s drive west to the Texas Panhandle in far southwest Oklahoma. I’m thinking Greer County, but on the border of Kiowa County.

October 19, 2009

mind/no mind

mind/no mind

I’d like to introduce you to The Duty (“…I hope I’m pronouncing that right”), a blogger I met through Twitter friends.
He’s rude and inappropriate and spends far, far too much time on the interweaveswebtubesnet but we get the benefit because his blog is a never-ending stream of diverting images and video, much of it of the hard to find music variety. He’s basically a new rocknroll guy (but you put your own label on his choices and I’m betting he has a hard time describing it in a word or three) and the music is hit or miss with me, but AT LEAST IT’S NOT THE SAME OLD SHIT. Meanwhile, his commentary and odd visual images and ironic/hipster/scatalogical captions are diverting enough and often enough that it’s at least daily for me to check in on him.
I think I actually once saw the guy at the Red Cup, but didn’t recognize him in time to speak to him. He runs around with a bunch of my friends that I don’t see much anymore — Yes, Eric Dawson, we’re all looking at you — and some others I do, like JD Merryweather, who is just f*ing tearing up this town with his new microbrewery — COOP — on his way to New Social Media Maven of the 21st Century AND BEYOND! first runner up.

May 17, 2009 updated!

Many of you know my friend, Rush Riddle. He’s FAMOUS. In all those years, I’ve been to one May Day party, back in 88, I think, and the parties are famous and rightly so. Ellis Island, wow.



I didn’t go out Friday night, I didn’t go out last night, and now I’ve missed church on Sunday morning. I started to go out Friday night, but I was simply tired and a little bent out of shape by something silly that happened at my noon Friday AA meeting, so I made the decision to chill out at home. I turned the lights low, fired up some incense, put on some soothing jazz instrumental music and petted the cat until I “got my mind right”, as Cool Hand Luke’s Strother Martin character might say. Last night, I fully intended to go out and picked out a killer outfit of black and brown, but then I realized: where are you going, John? What do you think you are going to do?
Continue reading

February 19, 2009 (updated)

Vintage RayBans

Vintage RayBans

Today’s LongRydeHome is an evocative note about Spring planting and working in the ground. I admire the sentiment, but can’t join in. I’m having an allergy day from hell. My eyes feel like they are bleeding and not just oozing water. My ears feel not just stopped up, but filled with concrete. My throat is almost closed and is raw from coughing up phlegm and the occasional post nasal drip. I am miserable. I haven’t had a good respiratory breath through my nose since I woke up at 7 this morning, and I’ve filled up half a wastebasket with tissues. It’s midday and I’ve not left the house, although I’ll soon make a foray out to buy more cigarets. You want to know what it’s like to be an addict? That’s what it’s like. No matter how miserable you are and no matter how irrational and self destructive, you do what you have to do to get your next fix.


Proverbs 17:9

One who forgives an affront
fosters friendship,
But one who dwells on disputes
will alienate a friend.

It is easier to know wisdom than to act wisely, I find. Please forgive me if I toddle and stumble while I’m trying to learn how to walk the walk.