Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Existing in New York City: Trying to Grow Old Gracefully

Foto by tgw, New York City, 2012
Here Today...Gone Tomorrow

I hung out this past Friday night with a couple of my best friends. They're at least a decade younger than I am. We gathered to partake of Mexican cuisine and then to listen to music. I sat there feeling somewhat old-fashioned. I mean it had to do with the music they were into and the knowledge they had of THEIR music but also the knowledge they had of MY music.

Growing older means growing more obsolete or out of the box as we used to say. Like keeping up with the latest technologies. I'm still using my Power Mac G4 running on Panther OSX. I love it. I have two Mac Books running Snow Leopard, but they're not as easy to use as this old G4. Heck fire, my only PC still running is a Toshiba running on Windows 95. Blogspot.com is once again threatening to discontinue this old Blogger interface I'm still using. They've tried to discontinue it before but I think a lot of bloggers love this version better than the upgraded one that I do use when I use my Mac Books.

I despise growing old; and you'd never know how old I am in terms of the way I look or my reasoning and philosophizing and conceptual thinking. I've never been a fan of my elders and certainly not old folks in general. In fact, in my past, I've been quite rude to doddering old F-ers, like on the subway or those lumping and bumbling along on the crowded sidewalks of this metropolis.

I am endeavoring to grow old as gracefully as possible. I'm an inveterate reader. I read deep books, too; even the novels I read are deep. Deep in the sense they're not as visual and revealing as comic books or how to books but deep in the sense of much in them has to be read between the lines. Like I'm reading Hegel again and trust me, he's deep. Especially his explanation of being and nothingness being equal in terms of right halves or left halves, top views or bottom views, nonsensical-sounding cogs in the fundamentals of dialectical thinking. Or the poems of Ezra Pound can cause you to go deep with your thinking when reading them or even when listening to Old Ez read them, a sport I enjoy every now and then when I put on my two Caedmon LPs of Ez reading his poetry (deep listening is also good for the brain). Or MW's great Website wood s lot contains some wonderful deep reading.

Deep reading keeps my brain alert though I admit remembering names from my past is sometimes momentarily blank slating for me. Like while attempting to write a biography of my brother, I realized I have no idea what my Aunt Gertrude's middle name was. It's as though I've never known it, which could be the case. I am usually a deep rememberer but like I said on occasion my mind goes blank. Like there's a jazz musician whose name I cannot for the life of me remember. Of course, with Google it's easy to find out this guy's name or hell all I have to do is pull down any of my Cannonball Adderly CDs since this guy played with Cannonball during the late 5os and early 60s. (At this very moment, I can't remember this cat's name.)(His name is Victor Feldman. I can remember the "Victor" alright but the "Feldman" throws me every time.)

If my mind going blank on names as I tumble into the unpredictable future gets worse, then I have to worry about the Big A, Alzheimer's, a horrible disease that there is no cure for in spite of what the big pharma's spiel in their advertisements, like for a drug you don't hear much about anymore, Aricept, a drug on which I used to do advertising for, a drug all the information I had in front of me showed it didn't work.

I play a lot of games during the day, especially games that test my reactions. I'm pretty good at several of them. I play my computer chess games and I'm a lousy chess player, but I know a lot of openings and I know some tricks of the game but of course I'd not have a chance in Holy Hell against a true chess player like that Norwegian whiz kid who has a chessboard for a brain.

And now I'm writing on two books, one a biography of my brother and the other a novel. I'm currently on chapter 1 of the biography but chapter 25 and going over 35,000 words on the novel. I have to write. Writing is my metier, but as I'm writing on this novel, I'm also thinking, who the hell will publish it? In fact, I have no idea anymore how to go about even submitting a novel for publication. Of course, if I were more up to date with the technology I could publish it myself as an e-Book. BUT.... And there are so many BUTs in my way when I am approaching the Red Zone of life.

My brother, a successful writer, told me before he died that one day I would wake up to the fact I didn't have enough time left to accomplish all the projects I had in my head and that I would have to boil my projects down to the one I knew I could finish in the estimated time I had left to live. My brother, by the way, wrote right up to the Sunday before he died on the following Tuesday. He finished and submitted two of his newspaper columns that Sunday. All of that while suffering from a devastating brain cancer, the beast that finally devoured him whole.

And Then One Day
And then one day you return home from seeing your cardiologist, a young man without any sense of humor. You return home depressed. You were at the hospital for almost 3 hours waiting for him to see you. You had gone to the hospital totally happy and looking forward to being able to get out of his office in time to get to a deli on Fifth Avenue and order their very great beef terriyaki. You've been feeling so good and strong and void of chest pains and shortness of breath and able to walk several long New York City blocks without a problem and you can't wait to tell that to your doctor and then breeze out still sappy happy with plenty of time to get to the deli and that delightful beef terriyaki.

Then you find yourself sitting in waiting room B1 at Bellevue Hospital and it's 5:00 pm and doctors and nurses and finance people are leaving for home, tossing each other hearty "good nights" and "see ya tomorrows" and you sit there so tired waiting for your doctor. You've missed the beef terriyaki; they shut that portion of the deli down around 4 pm, but you still feel good and you can't wait to tell the doctor that you feel better every time he sees you and you can't wait to impress him with how mobile and frisky and freakin' strong you are.

And then there he is. You see him talking to another patient holding a red folder in his hand, facing you, and then he looks over at you and calls your name..."OK, Mr. Wolfe...." And you jump up and you do a little dance to show him how well you are and you follow him into his office, a very drab room that faces on First Avenue and all that air-polluting traffic. And he sits you down and tells you to relax while he goes over the records of his previous patient.

You can't wait to tell him that tomorrow will be 7 months exactly since you had the massive myocardial infarction that almost took you off the mortal coil.

He excuses himself and leaves the office. You watch that traffic flowing up First Avenue, those huge double-size buses, several of them in a row, and the flocks of yellow cabs flowing along with those buses like remoras following sharks.

"So how are you doing," the humorless doctor says on reentering his office and closing the door behind him. It's now your time to impress him.

"I feel great, doctor, absolutely perfectly great." You're trying to beam though you have trouble with your voice. Since the heart attack it has gone from tenor to almost soprano. Plus you have accumulations of saliva just suddenly well up into your mouth making it hard for you to talk.

"Do you feel better than you felt last time I saw you?" he asked finally looking at you.

"Yes," you passionately let fly, "I'm feeling, like I said, great...I mean, I'm walking several blocks now...."

"No chest pains?"

"No, sir, none at all...."

"No pain in your right hip?"

"No, sir, that's absolutely gone."

Then he mentions how he's going to reduce a couple of your meds and you notice he has the prescription sheets for the new dosages in front of him.

He asks you about your meds awhile. Then he says, "I've told you that I'm pretty sure you need a defibrillator implant haven't I?" And then he begins talking about the risks associated with these and then he starts emphasizing the risks you will take without one. And you ask, "But, doctor, I'm feeling so damn good; I seem to be improving so why do I need...." He cuts you short. "I'm concerned because you have a pretty bad scar on your heart, really bad, and your EKGs are not showing any improvement...your heart is still not squeezing the blood...."

By now you're quiet. You feel whipped. Your heart is not healing no matter how great you feel. No matter how you hoped that last EKG would prove it was healing.

"You run a great risk without the defibrillator implant...I mean, with it you could have two maybe three years...maybe even five years left...."

Now you are stunned into silence. It's the first time he's ever been so precise as to how many years you have left. Two. Three. Maybe FIVE!

But, doc, you want to say, I feel so great....

And you leave the hospital and exit out onto First Avenue and you get a cab and the cab driver is reluctant to take you over to your neighborhood because President Obama is in the city and the cops have traffic jammed from where the David Letterman Show is taped up on Broadway and 53rd all the way down to Chelsea where the President and a bunch of r and b celebs are holding forth at a swank club just a few blocks from your apartment with a $40,000-a-plate whingding and the cab driver says, "You can walk it...it's not that far" and you have to tell him, "No, I can't walk that far 'cause I've got a bad heart...and I may not have that many blocks left to live." And he says, "OK, but don't blame me if the President has all these streets blocked off."

for The Daily Growler


Marybeth said...

Good grief. That's a sobering blog entry. Know that I love you.


Anonymous said...

I'm so glad to read that you're feeling much better. I am one of your dedicated followers, because of your blog's content AND writing style.

Since you are now away from a state of medical crisis, may I humbly suggest that you check out "Dr. Dean Ornish's Program for Reversing Heart Disease".
I know that it deals more directly with the circulatory system, but the heart itself may benefit from the program's components as well.

Also, if you can stomach it, a regimen of daily shots of fresh organic wheatgrass juice can be a marvelous general-purpose healer and tonic.
Always follow with copious pure water.

Your writings illustrate your very high level of open-mindedness. May you thrive for much longer than your cardiologist predicts!

Marybeth said...

Maybe I should mention this: A friend of mine who was hospitalized about 7 years ago with congestive heart failure and 2 previous "silent" heart attacks was told he absolutely needed stents inserted. He refused all medical treatment and went on an insane nutraceutical regimen and is doing great. He takes tons of nutritional supplements and I know Co-enzyme Q-10 is one of the main ones and he has increased his heart pumping output from 17 % of normal to something like 40 % last I heard. So there are things that help besides what the doctors suggest. Just to let you know that your situation isn't necessarily so hopeless.


languagehat said...

Damn. Take care of yourself, man.