Saturday, August 24, 2013

At my desk in the early morning....

Apparently, the evil Twins of MS and BP have decided that tonight would be a great time for me to get no sleep at all, and so I thought maybe if I talked to you for a while the Twins would get bored and I could get some sleep.

Not that sleep is a difficult commodity for me to acquire, and even more so in the last few months, as the exhaustion level has increased.  A fifteen minute doze here and there, and I'm ready for another couple of hours of whatever.  Maybe tonight I can make up for naps going back to early June of this year.

It's not like I am here alone.  My wife is happily dozing away in the next room, but friends are always around.  Take a look:

Actually, you can look at that video and see the things and people (real and not) who have sustained me and guided me through these last 55+ years.  Yep, that's Star Trek, baseball, Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica - I just think the original Cylons were cool, Saturn Five Rocket, my wife, my Buddhist teacher, Mickey Mouse, an exciting scene from Season Six of Star Trek:Enterprise which no one got around to making because they canceled it, and various items such as a penguin with a took and scarf on.

I do not mean to confuse anyone when the name of Mickey Mouse follows "my Buddhist teacher".  My teacher's name is Geshe Kelsang Gyatso (the nice older man smiling in the picture with the gold frame).  Mickey has his own Zen world:

Both of them remind me of the joy of life, and the need to drop as much of the unnecessary crap as possible.  And when (my version of) MS gets me now and then, there is something to the words "Just breathe, just be part of it all."  It's a small world, you're part of it, so enjoy responsibly. Just be a nice guy as much as you can, OK?  That is basically the call of every religion. And be grateful, too.  This ain't hard, folks.

So all these things are part of me, but I am a little concerned about General Grievous waving his light saber  to take out a Smurf.  While not a big Smurfophile, and if I need to look at a blue person, there is the Andorian guy with the feelers on his head over on the the Enterprise side of the desk, I am glad the General's hand has been stayed by the sudden appearance of the Cylon.  That is a writer Smurf, after all. And don't look for help from your robot there, General.  One of the Clone Troopers has the 'bot in his sights, though it looks like now the Trooper may just take out an ankle.  He's been holding that rifle for years.

Darth Maul has been waiting for Jedi Mickey to get into battle for years as well.  Sometimes, the Hallmark ornaments are just too well crafted to keep them away in storage eleven months a year.  Another time we'll take a look at the Trek stuff.

So my wife smiles at me from her picture frame (and she is my teacher), amazed that I'm still up and doing this, but with this type of MS I'm really not supposed to do anything, because the MS will make sure I don't do it, but I keep right on going. I have the best support in my wife that I could ask for as we make our way through the minefield of disease.  My parents did not have the best relationship when this thing hit my father and they never could get away from the people they had become.  So it became more of a battleground with yours truly playing the part of the struggling refugee trying to get away from the incoming fire.  Until I was hit by both sides at the same time a few years back.  I stagger on, rejoicing (W.H. Auden).

There are plenty of other friends, like these:

Ah, the daily dosage of all my favorite drugs, keeping me functional since 2005.  There are a few more things here and there not pictured (I mean, fish oil is fish oil), but the top picture shows breakfast, lunch and dinner bottom to top.  In fact I am now floating around with the help of the top three pills and an add-on guest star one.  They usually help me sleep, except for tonight, of course.  I might give it a try and doze a bit in a little while.

Or maybe I'll write the soon to be famous Darth Maul/Jedi Mickey battle scene that may just happen now that Disney owns the Lucas Ranch.  Might as well cash in on this too.  Seriously, after the last trilogy, how much more silly can it get?

I see I am over 4500 visits. Thank you very much.  Lots of vacation stories to tell yet.  Stay tuned.

Still awake.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Not quite home yet....

Over the last two weeks, I’ve been traveling back to Lansingburgh for some weekend get togethers sponsored by the Lansingburgh Historical Society (proud member) and the Lansingburgh Facebook group.  We look back at the “glory days” of the ‘Burgh, and celebrate what is still pretty gosh darn good about the place.

We’ve also published two books of stories about growing up in semi-small town America from the 1940s-1970s, and I am honored to say I have a couple in each.

All proceeds from the purchase of the book(s) go to Lansingburgh non-profits, including the Historical Society.

We held the first get-together earlier this month when the Historical Society celebrated Herman Melville's 194th Birthday at his home in the Burgh. 

That's Herman's house, and the Historical Society keeps it in good shape.  The day we were there presentations were given on portraits of the author (did I mention he wrote Moby Dick which I am sure many of you tried to get out of reading-not that he wrote that tome here, but some other good sea stories) and the relevance of the time, exchanged by enthusiasts of not just Melville, but American history, which so tired us out we had to have more cake.  I was then so high on sugar that I even read some from the Melville mystery story I'm doing, in the same room where the chapter I read takes place in 1838.  By the way, that's Herman's room on the second floor with the bay window.  And the research continues, which keeps me running on days when Bipolar and MS feel like screwing around with my head.

In fact, because I had such an enjoyable time on Saturday, the evil twins made sure I did not enjoy it at all last week, until about Thursday.  Every drop of energy got sucked away into their vortex, and even some quiet outdoorsy pruning and mowing (trying to get the yard in shape by August 31when I used to have it ready by May 31.  I'll finish in time to start raking leaves which I hope to get done by Christmas 2014).  My writer's group got me back in form for a few days until Saturday again this past weekend.

The two groups noted above (LHS/Facebook Burgh) were having a clam steam fundraiser at a local Veteran's organization.  I would know a few people there, maybe even an ex-sweetheart, but I was looking most forward was seeing my sixth grade teacher, and  And I did, from a distance.  The evil twins found that here was a place they could exploit.  The Veteran's building was not there when I lived in the 'Burgh.  As I got of my car I noticed that I did not recognize anyone, except for a few from the historical society.  I've been away from the village for 30 years.  And my belly does a flip flop and fly every time I go there.  

This time I freaked out.  I did not know most of the people and, after I purchased the most recent book, just stood there by the man who had given my change and said he did not do it correctly. He, of course, did and my brain cued into fight or flight. I walked/ran to my car and got out of there, and missed a chance to say thanks to that sixth grade teacher, and visit with the few folks I do know.

And the nightmares have returned.  Reminding me of the awful times in Lansingburgh. My parents, my sister and the loss of family on that side. Like all that work was a waste of time.  This place was nothing but pain and death.  Yep, it was for many years for me, and apparently it still holds my heart and soul somewhat.  But there's work to do.  If I didn't have the Burgh, I wouldn't have the stories.  I was a lucky American kid growing up in a small town, so much so that when I thought of "Downtown" (Petula Clark's song) I thought of downtown Troy.  Why go anywhere else?

So I'll work this through. And keep writing. The Evil Twins can not stop me...for now.  But I've a huge head start, and maybe they won't catch me. Until all the stories are told.

Thanks for reading.  More soon.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Maine Event, Part I

Sometime in the early 1960’s, in one summer that seemed rather chilly (imagine that – a cool summer in New York) we began the tradition of the summer family vacations.  In previous posts I wrote about the Martins and their years in the sun of Cape Cod. But before we ever found Dennisport, the Pancake Man, and all the little treasures of the South Shore, we needed a few practice runs.

Like New Hampshire and Maine.  We packed up the car – my parents, sister and brother, and headed off to New England, glibly sure that any place would be glad to have us and open their arms to us Flatlanders.

And they would have opened their arms, but they were all a might busy attending to the tourists who actually made reservations.  Learning this, as you may have read earlier, was about a decade long progress and did not really sink in until the first Nixon Administration.  So we traveled on in our 1961 Chevy Impala..

which is a great way to move 4 people around, but slightly harder when there’s five, so the littlest one (me) was shoved in between my parents (no bucket seats, fortunately) or stuck in the back with my older brother and sister and the torture older siblings can inflict on younger ones, such as noogies, or in a more sinister mood, Indian Rope Burn.  We made our way east and up to New Hampshire or Maine, no one is quite sure now and it didn’t matter anyway because everyplace was already rented.  We were about to give up in disgust and start the blame game when we saw a place called the Hollywood Cabins.  Small wooden structures about the size of my garden shed that seemed to be able to house as many as one needed. Each cabin was named after a Hollywood movie star. We were placed in:

Zsa Zsa Gabor, um, so to speak.  I, having no idea what a ZsaZsaGabor was, and merely laughed when everyone else did about it. Then we had to get real, and squish five people in a place meant for three small ones. Cots were borrowed and maneuvered around.  We survived however long we stayed.

The Martins were never a heavy picture taking group, and, now that most of the people who went on these vacations are gone, all I can do is call up in my own memory of some black white pictures.  One is four of the five of us standing in front of the Zsa Zsa, my mother looking harried, my sister perfectly tomboyish, and me, well, I’m just there.  I’m not sure if its my father or brother in the picture as well. The picture fades out before I can tell.

The one shot I do remember was during our big trip to Seashore Trolley Museum in Kennebunkport, Maine.  There was one picture taken, and I’m again not sure where the picture is now, but it had my parents, my sister, and me at the front of the trolley where the conductor stood, my father proudly having hand on brake. Big smiles.

When Jackie and I went up to Maine a few years back, I asked if we could find if the train, let alone the museum, still existed. She did, we did, and it does.  I have a bookmark from the place. And someplace is a slightly blurred picture of me, my hand on the brake, big smile, just like Lou.

One other moment from the first trip to New Hampshire/Maine.  We went to Old Orchard Beach because, well, that’s where you go.  My parents put me on a carousel (in Lansingburgh speak – Merry Go Round) but on one of the seats, as I had my doubts about the fire breathing animals other parents were sacrificing their children to.  So I sat there waiting to go around in a circle when a woman with dark hair and brown sweater carrying a child came over to my cubicle and said:

“Que mon fils monter avec vous, s’il vou plait?”

I gazed at her dumbfounded.  What is wrong with this person? Is she just speaking gibberish and handing a new little brother or sister over to me?  Is that how I got here with the people now living at ZsaZsaGabor?  Someone just hands you a baby?

My father came over and told me to move down on the seat so the little boy (new baby brother?).  Then my father turned to the brown haired and said something just a nonsensical to the woman, waved at me and went over to probably tell the other people I live with that we just won a new kid.  He’s not staying in my room.

That must be the secret code for parents, what that lady said.  And my father can speak it.  He later told me were Canucks which sounded faintly bird like, and that Canucks speak Frenchy.  Since this was good gig I had going, I kept quiet.  Over the last few years I’ve found that Paul and Anna Martin had moved from Quebec to the US in the 1880s and that I was descended from them and my father, being around French Canadians, knew some French.  I wondered who stopped Paul and Anna on their way to Troy and gave them my grandfather.

Anyway, I got my ride, the lady took the kid back, which made me breathe easier, though that kid would have been next in line for noogies.  My noogies. 

We went back to Maine a few years later, and things took yet another interesting turn.  More on that soon. And RIP Zsa Zsa.