Friday, May 03, 2013

Existing in New York City: Being Literary

Foto by tgw, "In Madison Square Park," New York City, 2013
Say Goodbye to: Ed Shaughnessy, a versatile jazz drummer who could play a variety of styles especially in the big band sense. Ed Shaughnessy, 84, American drummer (The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson).
NOTE: There have been no new posts of The Growler here lately due to thegrowlingwolf's withdrawing into his own world of creativity.  He's probably, for all we the staff know, off slunk up in his Davenport, Iowa, waterfront retreat, chugging down swigs of Keokuk corn likker, and writing on the many books he's currently writing on in order to speak his peace before his leaving the mortal coil.  We are merely guessing.  One cannot predict the whereas and whereforths of personalities like our leader's.  In the meantime (or meanwhile) be patient and keep tuning in since one never knows when this master of pseudonymic disquise will again show his masked face on this blog.

thedailygrowlerstaff (most of whom are lost souls themselves)
Say Goodbye to: Billie Sol Estes, the baby-faced wheeler and dealer back in the 60s who was born in Abilene, Texas, in 1924.  I grew up knowing a lot of Billie Sol's Estes relatives.  He was a member of Abilene, Texas's own homegrown Christian denomination, the Church of Christ, of which, after Billie Sol served a prison sentence for selling a bunch of rube farmers shares in his fertilizer spraying tanks that didn't exist (I have actually seen some of these tanks that he did have constructed as prototypes), he became a certified Church of Christ minister.  The Wikipedia info on Billie Sol is very sparse and deals only with his sins.  Once while my wife and I were journeying over into Mexico from El Paso, I noted there was a huge billboard with Billie Sol's picture on it advertising his loan company (I believe he started one of the big loan companies of the 1950s.  I'm vague because I was a mere kid when Billie was doing his best conning. Billie Sol Estes, 88, American businessman and convicted con man.  Here is a much better bio of Billie Sol:


I had composed a blistering tirade on President Barack Obama as a worst president than his predecessor, the little prick at whose library dedication, Obama said G.W. was "a good man."  Instead, I bring you the following:

Not Long to Live
It is not death itself that is hard, but the way that leads to death.
Jacob Wassermann in Doctor Kerkhoven

What do you do when you know for sure you don’t have long to live?  No set date but one arriving soon for sure.  At any moment actually.  Signs?  Minimum at the most.  Maybe a sudden swooning feeling.  Maybe a sudden tugging at your chest.  Negligible signs if any. 

Death coming like a thief in the night.  Death metaphors (a thief in the night; a Grim Reaper-like stranger suddenly knocking at your heart’s door) marching with glee through your mind.  You can’t worry about it.  You can’t dwell on it.  Or if you want to you can because you know if you dwell on it constantly you may go nuts and then you’ll lose the fatalistic feeling in your out-of-this-world mind.  That’s one way to challenge your situation head on.  Like driving your speeding car off a cliff not really knowing what you are doing or why you are doing it (like a character in a Walker Percy novel).

You can do that if that’s the way you want it.  Or you can try and wipe it off your mind without going crazy.  That’s hard to do when you know it’s coming.  Wipe it completely off your mind.  Take your mind totally off of it.

Or play constant games with a “bring it on” attitude maybe.  Like play constant rounds of golf (again as in a Walker Percy novel).  Or bowl 24/7.  Or go to a house of ill repute and indulge in sexual marathons.  If you survive the stressful energies needed to perform such games you are liable to a rewarding deep sleep, a sleep so deep and rewarding you never awaken from it.

And sleep is a problem.  If you go into a deep sleep you’re also prone to have horrible dreams.  Dreams of running from death and not being able to get away from it, its hot breath singeing the prickled hairs on the back of your straining neck.  Dreams in which you face monsters out to kill you.  Dreams in which you dream you are living forever only to run into death in the middle of your invincibility.  Dreams that become so mean they bolt you awake in a pool of sweat.  They bolt you awake in a pool of sweat with the realization “your time” is still coming soon.

Of course, you can take the easy way out.  A do-it-yourself solution.  You can buy a pistol and blow your brains out (like Hemingway and Dr. Hunter Thompson).  Or you can take a whole bottle of sleeping pills.  Or you can slit your wrists or slit your throat.  Killing yourself is hard to do unless you are nuts and like I said earlier if you’re nuts you may not even be aware of “your time” coming anymore.  Maybe the mere waiting for it to happen is nuts enough that you would be compelled to go ahead and get it over with.

You can go to doctors looking for salvation.  Or you can go to shamans.  Or witch doctors.  You can join voodoo ceremonies.  You can go to the foot of a Christian cross and plead with the dead Jesus hanging on that cross for a miracle.  “Let me live, please, let me live.”  Though why would that dead Jesus let you live?  He teaches that death is salvation, doesn’t he?  Or you can practice transcendental meditation or yoga.  Neither of which practices have ever saved anyone from death, especially not the TM gurus or the yoga yogis. 

Or you can write poetry.  Stay up all night writing poetry.  Poetry about life.  Or even poetry about death.  About passing.  About transcending mortality.  Through poetry drifting off into a state of nirvana.  Or a state of limbo.  A purgatorial place where you can think sublimely.  Where you can lose yourself in ethereal thoughts.

What the hell do you do when you know you haven’t got long to live?

When those who know tell you, “It may be tomorrow or it may be six months from now….”  “Can’t you be more precise?”  “No.  Sorry.  The only encouragement I can give you is I’ve known of cases with your problems who lived for years….” 

If you only could get a specific date.  I’m going to die in 31 days.  Or I’m going to die precisely this coming May 31st at 6:30 in the evening.

You don’t want to waste time.  You must occupy what little life you have left doing something creative.  Doing something valuable.  Perhaps volunteering among the terminally ill.  God no.  That’s too morbid an idea.  To walk among the soon-to-be dead being soon-to-be dead yourself.  You think you’d rather shoot yourself than endure that.  So how about working among the vibrantly living?  Work with kids?  Or would you be jealous of their chances at full lifetimes?

You could become evil and wish to take those with much life ahead of them with you when you finally feel your end time is about due.  You could arm yourself to the teeth and go to a populated place and start mowing the living down.  That’s a possibility.  A revenge-type possibility.  I’m dying anyway so why not go out in a moment of glory?  Surprising the living with death.  But then what if by some miraculous moment you lived and were told you had been misdiagnosed and instead of dying you were going to live on for your full number of years?  Then you would be sentenced to die in a gas chamber…or to die on a gurney with a State executioner injecting you with death.

This is the situation I found myself in after surviving a heart attack.  This is the situation I found myself in the day after I left my cardiologist’s office after he had told me he thought I should get a defibrillator implant.  “Why?” I asked him.  “Well,” he told me, “I’m concerned about your heart…you know, only sixty percent of your heart is viable, forty percent is dead.”  “So, what does that mean?”  “It means without this defibrillator device, your heart could just suddenly stop beating.  Should this happen, you would have at the most about three minutes to get to an emergency room….”  “Or what, Doc?”  “Or they’d not be able to get your heart to beating again….”  “And I’d be dead?”  “Yes, you’d be dead.”  “So, doctor, without the defibrillator, how long have I got to live?”  “I can’t say, it depends, you’re not a young man.”  “I know how old I am, I just want to know what are my survival chances given my age without this defibrillator.”  “Two years at the most.”  “And with the defibrillator?”  “Three, four, maybe five years.”

At most five years to live!  To be able to remember easily back twenty-five or thirty years and to realize how fast those years passed makes five years seem like a blinking of life’s eyes.  Five years.  And in five years I wouldn’t be that old.  I still felt like I had lots of life left in me.  I am constantly taking my pulse and my heart beats merrily on beneath the pressure of my fingertips clasped fast against the large vein on the underside of my left arm’s wrist.  My heart due to certain meds I am taking is forced to beat at a low rate, 53 to 60 beats per minute.  The reason I was told was because a rapid heartbeat signals a problem somewhere in my cardiovascular system.  For me a sudden rapid heartbeat could mean another heart attack sticking its ugly monkey wrench into the works in terms of my time left on earth.

My time left.  E.E. Cummings wrote, and I’ve never forgotten it since I read it in Paella Mea now so many decades ago when I was a young and death-defying man: “Time the eater of all things lovely.”  And T.S. Eliot wrote something like that, too, in the Waste Land.  And when I was a singer I sang “December Song,” “Oh it’s a long road from May to November…but come December….”  Yeah come December.

My grandmother, a poet, wrote a poem in which she told the Grim Reaper she would refuse to die in the spring when life was springing forth from the living earth, when seeds were coming alive, when flowers were waking up and spreading their wings, when like coming out of the graves of winter life was reborn.  She didn’t want to die then.  Please.  But when she died, ironically, it was spring.

Fats Waller said, “One never knows do one?”  The Bible says death will come in the twinkling of an eye.  And that’s the problem I live with everyday now. 

I’m sure it’s the same as like being on Death Row.  And I sometimes picture myself as being on a Death Row.  I know I am definitely going to die.  But when?  But if I really did know…like if my doctor told me with a sardonic smile on his or her face, “You are going to die at 6:30 pm on Friday the 13th of this next month,” what would I do?

To know is perhaps suicide.  To not know is perhaps best.  What you don’t know won’t hurt you.  That old saying just may be the truest answer to the question that will stay on your lips until your time finally comes.

for The Daily Growler

For a blistering look at how "following in the Neo-Con footsteps of that 'good man'" President Obama is, check out this site:

I don't think any tirade of mine can make it more clear than this site how corrupt President Obama's presidency has been and will continue to be.


Languagehat said...

Listen to Fats, not Doc. They can give you expected ranges, but nobody knows anything for sure. There are people alive today who were given a year to live back in the Reagan administration. Fuck death.

Marybeth said...

We're all on Death Row. Life comes with a death sentence. That's part of the game. And few of us know when death, our own personal death, will show up. We all live with the illusion of immortality because it is the only thing that makes life livable. Death can pop up in the weirdest places at the weirdest times. Take that little eight year old kid watching the Boston Marathon. He wasn't expecting that. Just live like you have forever because, what the fuck? Worrying will drive you nuts. And doctors aren't soothsayers. I had an uncle who was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1942 and told that he had 6 months to live. He died in 1972. LIsten to your music, read, write, hang out with your wonderful friends.

The Daily Growler said...

I wrote this as a "short story" for the Bellevue Literary me, I've been a Timothy Leary Existentialist most of my life. I wrote this after a sojourn in Bellevue Hospital where I met this poor slob who told me he had a terminal disease and it was driving him nuts because his doctor was wishy washy about how long he had to live...the guy admitted he was still smoking cigarettes and drinking whiskey.


Susan Vento said...

Hi Daily Growler,

I have a quick question regarding your blog. If you could send me an email when you get a chance, I would greatly appreciate it!