Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Chemo, happiness, travel...

This is totally not in chronological order and I don’t what happened when – and also, the photos are not necessarily linked to the text. Just another example of writing to remember (These days, how I treasure what I’ve written about travel in Asia with Leslie!).
David with Jake, CK, Phana - Ocean Beach, 2015
Last week I went with Phana and Kayleen to visit David and Charles. It was a great visit, full to the brim with activities – Golden Gate Park, Neiman’s, Castro, Four Seasons, Ocean Beach – all over the place. I backed out of some parts of the trip as I felt the focus should be on David, Phana, and Kayleen’s relationship.
We came back to Dallas on Monday, back to chemo on Tuesday, massage for Phana on Wednesday, chemo/pump out Thursday, dinner with Debora Thursday evening, rehab on Friday morning, and fly back to San Francisco on Friday. Yikes! In some ways it’s been a hard week for me – lots of sadness and longing. Yet good in many ways.
Some of the parts that were good were spending time with Phana and Kayleen (see below), spending time with Phana, seeing my brother John, finishing early with chemo on Tuesday (I was in kind of a dream-like state and then about 3:30 Phana said it’s done), the whole massage scene (see below), dinner with Debora, a rare dream, and heading back to San Francisco.
Kayleen, Ocean Beach, 2015
Massage – I had a dream about Jessica A. in which I was trying to ask her something, but couldn’t. I contacted her a few days later about who might give Phana a loving massage and she suggested our mutual friend, Kristina. I was so happy that I know someone I can ask about a loving massage AND who would understand what I meant by that term AND that Kristina’s name would come up. Kristina’s apartment was a lovely, high space – even a sacred space, so I was super-happy to be there – so grateful for the whole scene. By the “whole scene” I mean the connections within Atrium Obscurum and the good people who make it beautiful, and more immediately, what was happening that day.
Spending time with Phana was basically the same as always – good. Spending time with Kayleen was an opportunity to discover a rare mix of child and adult. At first, she manifests child, as in totally 17. Then over time, she reveals depth and maturity. She’s dealing with a lot and dealing with it gracefully.
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Phana and I went to a government office to pick up an important document. It was a very busy office with easily a hundred employees and countless clients and in all that, the person who ended up helping, said that she knows who Phana is! And I was thinking that all of us (Phana, from Cambodia; the employee, from Vietnam; and me, a combat veteran of Vietnam) are all children of war, ending up together, momentarily, in that huge office.
Phana, Kayleen, David
This was after 7 phone calls to that office with hold times probably averaging about 5 minutes (so not bad in that respect) and 4 phone calls to other entities such as a Congressman, Phana got a call from the office: yes, they have her passport and she can come in Thursday to pick it up. And, "Do you know a Charles Kemp?" LOL. So they got some little pieces of my ass and a bigger piece of hers, which is profoundly dragging after this 2nd course of max chemo, but still a better choice to go in now vs. them mailing it. 
Onward Through the Fog!
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Today, she's in one of the big chairs in the chemotherapy infusion room and this man comes over, rolling his IV along, and among other things happening, looks at me and asks, "Do you love her?" I really did LOL and said, "I can't believe you're asking me that question." And with clarity said, "Yes." Pinned to the wall by an old man named George, with tears running down his cheeks. We talked about what kind of love - agape and filial I think. He also talked about how we're all one. I thought at first maybe he was an angel - really. Now I think he was a man having a vision. 
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I was at the corner of Duboce and Steiner in San Francisco when one of those long fire trucks with a driver in front and someone else steering the back of the truck. The person steering the rear was waving at children and when I waved, too, he waved at me. Good times in San Francisco! 
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David at Golden Gate
I was some sad the past few days. It began to lift as Phana and I drove on I30 today. I realize now that part of the problem was likely that for several days I had abandoned the practice of each evening writing down three good things that happened that day – because so much good is happening. Ha! So much good, so much sad. Playing a little catch-up now. Good…
I know people who say, “Yes,” when I ask, “Do you know anyone who can give a good, loving massage?”
I’m looking so forward to being with David. Prodigiously forward to that!
I’m happy to be bringing Phana and Kayleen to see David. I’m glad to be with Phana and Kayleen.
It makes me happy that Nora is buying Leslie’s car – and sad, too.
It was a good thing to have dinner with John. He’s a good guy.
It is a good thing to think of Leslie – of how she was so many things (wife, mother, lover, get it done genius, beautiful woman, decent person, and more).
Bible study was good.
Kayleen and Phana - SF,  2015
Looking forward to seeing Kristina.
Glad to be returning to San Francisco.
Grateful for the Grateful Dead.
Grateful for sativa.
Go Cali!
Friday
For walking with David, Phana, and Kayleen and for having coffee with them.
For San Francisco.
For dinner at Italian place on 19th Street upstairs in the Castro.
For sitting here while Phana and Kayleen rest.
Good times at tastings at four Seasons and cake place in the Mission.
Beginning to get to know Kayleen.
Being on Haight Street.
Talking with Charles B.
Saturday
Being in SF.
Going to beach with David, Phana, Kayleen, and Jake.
Lunch with everyone at the Slanted Door.
Haight Street, 2015
Walk with Kayleen, talking with her.
My apartment in San Francisco.
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There was some sourdough starter (levain) dated 2/2014 in the refrigerator. I started the reactivation process and within 4 days, had a fully active levain (doubles in size, forms many bubbles, and has a good sourdough fragrance in ~8 hours).
I then spread the active material on a tray in the dehydrator and dehydrated it at a low temp for about 10 hours yielding crispy, light pieces of levain.
Then I dissolved 5 gm of the dehydrated levain in warm water and started the reactivation process again. Within three days I had a fully active levain! Then I replicated the process to be sure it would work. It did.
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Sourdough, Arizmendi Bakery
I ran into someone I knew today. She was telling me about her son working in psychiatry with veterans and how the smaller women working in that setting were glad of this woman’s son – they feel protected because of his size. I didn’t have a good reaction to what she was saying, but didn’t understand why. I didn’t realize until just a few minutes ago that what this well-credentialed and uber-progressive person was saying about veterans with PTSD was that we’re dangerous, not to be trusted – haha (she was saying it with humor – it was amusing), they like having some muscle with them around the veterans. Hard to know what to say. I didn’t grasp it at the time, so went off on alternatives to the ineffective way PTSD is treated at the VA. But I get it now. I wonder how many shitty, racist or whatever things I’ve said and never even noticed…
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To Phana: You asked if I felt tired after spending the day with you getting chemotherapy. I said something like “a little” – but later I began to understand. I wrote,
What I really feel after here is not tired, but… something. I’m not sure what. Except that I’ve been somewhere of import with someone of great import. I don’t feel at all glad in any way, but I would rather be here, right here, right now – than anywhere else I can think of: The Wind Rivers, San Francisco, anywhere (except, of course, with Leslie).
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Our hotel was on this alley in Saigon, 2013
In the hall outside of the Infusion Area I heard a man say, “I have a tough situation.”
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The last time I played golf was about a month after I returned from the war in 1967. It had been several years, so I wasn’t playing well until I reached a hard par 4 hole going back toward the clubhouse. I hit a perfect tee shot – long and right up the middle. I tossed my driver over by my other clubs and walked off the course. It was a good set of clubs, but that was it for me.
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Now, several days later, sitting with Phana in an office in outpatient oncology, going over Advance Directives and Medical Power of Attorney, talking about how she is likely to pass, serious things.
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Things that help with happiness (from Greater Good in Action Center at UC Berkeley - http://ggia.berkeley.edu/ )
Three good things practice (every night) or gratitude journal
Mental subtraction of positive events
Savoring walk once a week vs. giving something up
Thank yous in word and deed; gratitude letter
Positives
Thursday
New Mexico, July 2015
BP close to normal.
John calls to say, when I’m having a late day, let him know and he’ll fix dinner.
Went to dermatologist who took such good care of Leslie. She was extra sweet and used the word, “adore.”
Messaged with friend I haven’t seen in about 20 years.
Friday
Ran into friend who is police officer. He called about 30 minutes later to say, “You’re one of my heroes.”
Flying to Albuquerque from DFW. Lucked into right terminal and close to right gate.
Parked free with Purple Heart license plates.
Read a good article about Robert Frank (photographer of The Americans)
I wrote this: I’m hopeful! I don’t know what for. It just seems like there is some future out there for me, some potential. I’m fearful. I fear further disconnection.


Thursday, July 16, 2015

Liberation Day, San Francisco Pride 2015, the 1960s fully realized

I started writing this on June 26, 2015 – LOVE WINS DAY! Photos are from San Francisco Pride. What a weekend!!!
Friday on Castro, after Supreme Court announcement
Shut that street DOWN!
Last week was one of the great weeks of my life, even within the grief. Things happened that I never thought would happen.
In classes I taught over the years there would be discussions of “socialized medicine” as a concept, but not as something anyone thought would happen in the U.S. Nobody I ever knew gave a rat’s ass about “socialized” – we just wanted everyone to have access to decent healthcare. And some of us dedicated our lives to providing as much healthcare as we could to as many underserved people as possible, but it was a long, uphill effort. Now, after more than 50 attempts by conservative lawmakers to destroy the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), it’s a reality.
Keeping the peace
Early Friday morning (June 26, 2015 – mark that date!) I got a text from my son: “Marriage Equality is a reality!” Here is what the Court said:
“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”
Love wins! And Gay Liberation rolls on like a mighty river.
Delores Park - the Dyke March
AND, I had the great good fortune to be in San Francisco on Pride weekend! Beautiful – as I type at this moment there are rainbows on my keyboard (from crystal hanging in the window). I danced with more than a million people! Literally!
FREEDOM!
Though not as personally important to me as the previous…
Then there was SC decision about fair housing – disparate impact, i.e., if housing policies result in discrimination, even if discrimination is unintended, it’s discrimination (depend on me for your legal information).
The Supreme Court also stopped Texas’ war on women by blocking the state’s laws blocking access to abortion clinics (depend on me for clarity in writing).
The Supreme Court threw a monkey wrench into the awful gerrymandering that is a crippling part of politics as usual in the U.S.
Oil wrestling in Delores Park at the Dyke March
It’s as if this week is a capstone to what started in the 1960s. Though much is undone or needs more work, still, look at what we did!
  • Equality in Marriage comes 51 years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
  • We stopped the Vietnam War (or as the Vietnamese call it, the American War).
  • We brought the consciousness revolution to the world and despite millions of incarcerations and trillions of dollars spent to stop it and lies without end, it’s alive and very well.
    Cops, keeping the peace
  • WE brought dying and death out of the closet. WE made hospice a reality.
  • Sexual revolution? We’ll take the credit for that, too (with all its side effects).
  • Environmental awareness? That was seriously fringe in the 60s and into the 70s. We are a bunch of unrepentant tree-huggers (Talk about a lot more work needed, though!).
  • And then there’s rock & roll! From the moon-June-spoon pap peddled by record companies to Bob Dylan singing, “Equality,” I spoke the word as if a wedding vow.
  • Free speech – this is a family-oriented journal so I won’t include the photo of me sitting on the steps of Sproul Hall at UC Berkeley (where the Free Speech movement was born), shooting the finger to whomever (think Ted Cruz, Jeb Hensarling, Franklin Graham, all those people).
And much, much more.
At the main stage - what a party!
(Representing Atrium Obscurum)


Equality, I spoke the word as if a wedding vow.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Onward

I try to limit my visits for a pecan roll and
coffee to twice/week
I started writing this on the day marking four months since my beautiful Leslie passed away. Oh, honey, I miss you, I am so sorry. Thank you for our life together.
Last night Charles B took a photo of David and me. Looking at the photo it was the first time I realized that my son is now bigger than I am. Life goes on.
I was thinking yesterday how much I miss lying in bed with you, holding hands or touching one another, sometimes talking, sometimes not. In love.
10/26/2012. We were both sick (GI – nevermind the details) and Leslie was much sicker than I. After a few days we were able to get out of bed to somewhere other than the bathroom… after we could move around there were many hours that we still lay in bed together, one or the other dozing, awake, not talking, holding hands, and even though neither of us felt well, it was a sweet time, together.
The Redwood Lily in Arcata 
Sometimes at night, when you’re asleep I whisper things to you, like, “Leslie, I adore you… My beautiful Leslie… Forever and ever... I love you…” Adore - a perfect word for all of this. Subsonic love-making.
These are the days.
The 6/21/15 NYT Book Review had a review of The Odd Woman and the City (a memoir) by Vivian Gornick. It was as if the reviewer was describing me and my walks and bus/train rides through San Francisco. Samuel Johnson wrote in the 1740s, "When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life." One can substitute San Francisco for London, of course. Sometimes I’m part of what I see, but mostly I just enjoy and appreciate it. It helps. I got the book. 
The day before I read the review, I sent this to my friend, Joy Blacklagoon: I was thinking today that one of the things I do – that makes me happy – is just walking around or sitting or whatever and just digging people. Babies, especially. I was on the train today and there were two people sitting there, one with her head on the other’s shoulder and it was really sweet and I was so happy to be there next to them. Haha! They had no idea what I was thinking. I hope you have a day full of love.
My little cubby in the Redwood Lily
Here is poignancy for you: My front window overlooks the sidewalk. There are trees up and down the street and there is a planter around the one closest to me and right now there is a homeless transgender person sitting on the planter, carefully putting on makeup, nothing spectacular, I think she just wants to look good, her little dog curled up beside her on a coat or something.

Psytrance party in the woods, 7/2015
put on by Follow Your Bliss
I think it would be edifying, interesting, humbling, all kinds of things if everyone would exchange life histories with one another, something like each person taking 30 minutes or however long to say, here is my history, struggles, good things, things going on now, dreams, and so on. Not only would we learn about one another, but we might also learn about ourselves as we tell and retell our story.

Someone said today that I'm really lucky. I know it's true.