Magic Mountain In The Sky

The lights of Tucson glow behind the mountain, glowing a silhouette, casting an ominous glow across the clouds.  How can I not be enchanted?

At first I was not in love with this harsh desert landscape.  Everything is stark, hard-edged.  Everything has spines, or bites!  Life in the desert leaves a very fine margin for error.  Screw up once, and you easily lose your way in the maze of cacti and endless leguminous shrubs.  

Where is water?  

Mostly underground or locked inside plants that are stoutly defended by suits of spiny armor.

Where is food? 

All around you, locked inside plants that are stoutly defended.

Or running fast: jackrabbits, desert rats, lizards, snakes; you have only to gain access.  Good luck.

Watch out for things that bite or sting.  And everything bites or stings!  

The most terrifying sight in the desert is a dusty-looking cloud moving along 6 feet or so above the ground.  As you get closer, you perceive a low hum, almost a vibration.  

Turn around and leave, now!  It’s Africanized honeybees.  They’ll kill you faster than any rattlesnake or scorpion!

I inadvertent walked underneath a tree in which Africanized honey bees were swarming.  I perceived a sense of movement, then the hum of thousands of wings….I held my breath, striving not to give off fear pheromones.  I’ve seen a person get swarmed by honeybees.  She was allergic, and saw one bee and freaked out. Suddenly the whole hive was on her!  So I tiptoed out from under that tree, trying not to tiptoe…

Having been kind of cornered in Tucson by bad weather everywhere else, I’ve had time to get to know this inhospitable environment.  I’m awed by its stark beauty.  It’s harder to photograph than many places I’ve been, perhaps because of the monotonous miles of….cactus. And shrubs in the legume family.

Sometimes Mother Nature smiles and puts on a light show behind the Magic Mountain, bending the light from the city and bouncing it off the clouds.

Article: Courgetti crisis: why the vegetable shortage will eat clean-eaters hardest

Courgetti crisis: why the vegetable shortage will eat clean-eaters hardest

http://flip.it/SQkMLo

A primer on the effects of dependence upon imported staple foods; and why the English will be needing their dentists more than ever.

Politicizing the Opioid Epidemic at the Expense of Chronic Pain Sufferers

Truly a voice from the darkness.

shiksappeal speaks

On a cold, wintery day in NYC, I drove my wheelchair from my law office in the financial district to Beth Israel in Union Square. Frozen to the core and in tremendous facial pain from the cold wind striking my face, I entered the waiting room of the pain management clinic. On a break from work, I arrived in my typical designer suit and shoes, but out of the remaining twenty patients, only one other patient even resembled me. The waiting room was filled with typical looking addicts waiting in line for their next fix. Their hair was uncombed, their bodies and clothes were filthy, their bodies exposed from immodest clothing, and their voices were loud and agitated. My chest tightened with anxiety and fear. Is this how I, too, would end up?


The nurse called my name, and I followed her to the examination room with baited breath in…

View original post 749 more words

Patient Abandonment: Personal Experience of an Ethicist

http://m.content.healthaffairs.org/content/36/1/182.full

A patient receives prescription opioids after an accident—and no support from his physicians as he weans himself off.

Coyote Lonesome

In broad daylight, this elder of the Coyote tribe showed him/herself to us as Atina and I were wandering in the desert near Tucson, AZ.  

I had just dragged Atina away from 

1) a pair of enormous jackrabbits–they were bigger than a Shi-tzu, with long long legs

2) piles and piles of horse shit in varying stages of decomposition, tossed over the horse corral fence.

As we were walking in the opposite direction from these distractions, I felt Atina go rigid on her end of the leash.  Miffed, I thought it was more jackrabbit or horse shit and turned around to yell at her, when I saw that she was standing stock-still staring at something.  I followed her gaze….it was a big red coyote, standing stock-still staring at us!

It was huge, like the jackrabbits were huge…maybe there’s a connection there?  I’ve been running across coyote shit that’s much larger caliber than usual, and mostly made up of rabbit hair.  

Anyway, this coyote was easily as big as my 75 lb dog.  Maybe it was a wolf!  I’ll have to ask a ranger next time I spot one.

The putative coyote stood there for long minutes checking us out.  It was so close I could see individual hairs.  I wished we could go and talk to it…but two different kinds of canines, one of them wild…so I talked to it from a distance.  It looked at me with mild curiosity and eventually turned and trotted off in the direction of the rabbit warren that Atina had discovered in a thicket of mesquite trees.

…In Which I Try Something Altogether New And Different

My recent posts have been lame and few.

Depression is largely to blame.  So is pain.  I wouldn’t go so far as to chalk my depression up to pain, as I’ve been suffering from depression literally all my life; but it sure is hard to get un-depressed when struggling in the grasp of unremitting pain.

I went to see an orthopedist about my shoulder.  He seemed like a decent sort.  I was struck dizzy by the splendor of his haberdashery.  His colors were straight out of the last Laura Ashley paint swatch book I consulted for a vintage room re-do.  

I had to drag myself away from admiring the knife creases on his shirt sleeves and trousers, the precise correctness of the diagonal striped tie….

The shoulder.  Oh yes.

It feels like how your shoulder feels after a **really good** flu shot.  You know, the way you slink around trying real hard not to bump into anything, and of course you do, because you always do, except you don’t normally notice it because your deltoid muscle is normally not all hot and red and swollen and sore.

You try to move your sore shoulder around, because you’ve heard that moving it around helps…with, oh, something.  I can’t remember.  The only thing that helps is Time.  Tincture of Time, that great healer.

So it goes with my shoulder.  It’s been hurting for several months.  I’ve given it gallons of Tincture of Time, to no effect.  In fact, it’s getting worse.

So it was that I came to visit Dr. Haberdashery on Friday last.  He took no x-ray, but put me through a rigorous demonstration of my range of motion, marveling at my flexibility (quite!).  I yelped and complained of pain, but forced my upper extremities into all sorts of contortions–in order to prove, I suppose, that I’m not…something.  I have a morbid fear of being thought a fake.  I believe this comes from having been accused of faking various things like asthma, which I got from inhaling my mother’s cigarettes since before I was born.  So now I feel like I have to demonstrate how hard I’m trying, to show how rigorously I’m adhering to my physical therapy regimen…which, in truth, I’m not really, because I’m simply hyperflexible.  I have abnormal collagen.  I can pop my shoulder right out of its socket!  

The diagnosis (sans x-rays) is arthritis.  The treatment: increase my celecoxib for a couple of weeks; then if no improvement, consider steroid injection.  If no relief with that, consider surgery to “decompress” the joint by grinding off the bone spurs.  Dr. H quoted the numbers: 80% get relief from this surgery, 20% don’t.  Better than back surgery, but still more risk than I’m willing to take at this point.

After my bout of calisthenics in the way of physical examination, my shoulder started feeling like a tensely  swollen and exquisitely tender softball.  Getting dressed/undressed is a new kind of challenge.  I quickly learned that pullovers are not a good idea.  I got trapped with a sweatshirt over my head and no way to get further in or indeed further out!  

Just because I needed more pain, something in my thoracic spine went “pop”a couple of days ago, and now it hurts to cough, or breathe, or move, or do anything….

So now, if you include my wrist that needs surgery (I do), I have three active areas of acute pain on top of my entire spine and the rest of my joints, which provide a kind of basso continuo for the baroque dance that is my Pain Body.  

So, did Dr. Haberdashery send me away with any pharmacologic relief?  Aw, come on…you know the answer!  Of course not.  We’re in a national epidemic of…something.  No, pain medication is no longer a menu item–not that it has been, not for many years, for me anyway.  Maybe it’s the brain diagnoses.  My experience has been that I’ve had to beg for pain meds, even tramadol.  This guy had “Please don’t even ask” written large all over his vintage green shirt.  I didn’t ask.

Up in a high cabinet, in a box with teas that I use infrequently, are a couple of packets of Mitrogyna Speciosa, also known as Kratom or Ketem.  It’s an herb that teeters on the brink of making the DEA Schedule I list. In fact, it was scheduled to be scheduled this past December.  In an unprecedented move, tens of thousands of people wrote to the DEA requesting that Kratom be saved from the list, that it not be torn away from law-abiding Americans who want to stay law-abiding and not have to scramble around in the darkness of the black market to get their medicine.  Sound familiar?   

Why does the DEA want to sequester Kratom?  Is it really as bad as heroin or (gasp!) cannabis? 

Well, not really.  In fact, Kratom simulates mu receptors, which is what opioid medicines do.  It’s a mild pain medicine, rarely results in addiction, and is extremely useful in helping opioid addicts to detox with hardly any withdrawal symptoms.  

We can conjecture why Big Pharma wants Kratom off the market.  With such valuable properties, people might not need a whole subset of expensive pharmaceuticals–anything from naloxone, which has risen in price some 1,000% (yes, that’s right) since the CDC’s initial report and the subsequent media blast about opioid epidemic, and the very real heroin epidemic that spits out scores of overdose victims daily–to fentanyl patches, to the drugs used by the “recovery” industry: buprenorphine and Suboxone being the contenders here.

Kratom can contend with the contenders in a number of contexts.  I’m not an expert–the opposite–so please fill me in, in the comments.  I’m just here to report my personal experience.

Which is: I was going mad with pain.  I had bought some sample-size packets of Kratom powder.  I took some.  I felt better.  Much, much better.  Still painful, but bearable.  Liveable.  Much better.

I’ve been afraid to try the Kratom because of fear of side effects.  The chief side effect is nausea and vomiting.  This is hailed by Kratom users as a built-in overdose preventer:  If you take too much, you puke and that’s that.  I’m not 100% convinced of that, but I have a lot of research to do, now that I’ve dipped my toes in the green waters of Kratom and lived to feel better.

And what about my legal medical cannabis?  Isn’t that supposed to be a panacea?  Why do I need something else?

Let me tell you, if I were to take cannabis sufficient to blot out this pain, I would be blotted out myself!  I do medicate at night very heavily, using a powerful coconut oil infusion that I’ve baked up into brownies…and what brownies they are!!!  Knockout drops.  If I got that medicated in the daytime I wouldn’t be able to stand up.

Which brings me to another Kratom advantage.  In low doses it’s a stimulant.  In high doses it’s a sedative.  Now, I haven’t found any definition as to what constitutes a “low” or a “high” dose.  I suppose it’s individual.  I started out with a gram yesterday, got some pain relief with that, and increased my dose to 1.5 grams today.  Better pain relief, felt a little bit high but clear and alert.  Decent!  Tomorrow I might try 2 grams.  

Have you tried Kratom?  What was your experience?

Sticky Business

Life is full of embarrassing moments.

Like when my son was three, and we were standing in a checkout line.  I was standing, rather, and he was sitting in the cart, getting an eye-full of the other shoppers.

He pointed at the lady behind us in line, and shouted,

“Mama!  Look at that lady’s ENORMOUS breasties!”

I withered away to a mortified crisp, but the lady with the enormous breasties laughed it off, saying she heard that all the time.  (?)

So this time it’s my RV toilet.

RV toilets work differently than regular toilets.  Instead of “things” flushing into a city sewer system or a septic tank, RV human waste gets flushed into a PVC holding tank, where it mingles with whatever chemicals or enzymes one puts down there to digest things into a nasty black liquid.  When your tank gets near full, you dump it down a campsite sewer connection or a dump station.  Yes, your RV also takes a dump!

Well now.  Regular readers will know that I have bleeding guts from Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD).  One of the annoying things about bloody poop is that it’s “difficult to flush away.”

That is to say, it sticks to the toilet.

Unfortunately, it not only sticks to the toilet bowl–I have a much more intimate relationship with my toilet brush than I ever anticipated or wanted–it sticks to the walls of the holding tank as well.  I found that out today.

I’ve been noticing of late that my holding tank has not been dumping very well.  I thought maybe it might be my macerator pump–the thing that grinds up any “solids” that are still hanging around after the chemical treatment.  The macerator grinds everything up and spits it out into the dump hose, to be pumped down the sewer drain.

Yes, lately it has seemed that when I go to dump my tank, not much comes out.  I can’t tell for certain-sure, because the sensors that are supposed to measure the level of gunk in the tank quit working the week after I bought this brand-new unit.  But I’ve noticed that the tank gets full more quickly than it used to, and it takes almost no time to dump before the macerator pump starts making the noises it makes when it’s finished with its job.  Er, duty.  Business.

So I took it to the repair shop, thinking the pump was bad.

As ill luck would have it, the RV repair guys who pulled the unfortunate job of working on my rig had an odious–and no doubt odorous–task to do.

Turns out the macerator pump was fine, but my holding tank was lined with layer after layer of…shit.  My sticky shit.

They washed it and washed it and washed it, but were never able to get the tank clean.  Yes, it’s supposed to get clean!

They quizzed me, with accusing eyes, about chemicals.  Was I one of those crunchy types who thinks all chemicals are bad?

They postulated that perhaps the previous owner had let the tank dry out.  I filled them in: it’s a brand-new RV, I’m the original owner, and I certainly do put the approved chemicals in at the approved times.

I couldn’t make myself explain that I have sticky shit because I have bleeding guts.  It was too much to ask.  I was already shriveling up from embarrassment….no doubt my face looked like a fire-engine-red prune.

So I just prevailed upon them to clean it really well.  I bought a special RV toilet cleaner-outer wand that you attach to a hose, then you stick it down the toilet and it goes whirr, whirr, and allegedly cleans the inside of the tank.

Of all the embarrassing things that have happened so far with this ass problem of mine, I think this one rises to the top.  After this, shitting my drawers in Wal-Mart was not half as mortifying as it was before the Encrusted Crapper fiasco.  A bright side!

Who’s The Bully?

This gem of a clip from Carol Burnett poses some deep questions and ethical dilemmas.

See if you can catch the 5 techniques of psychological abuse demonstrated in the skit😄

Depression Is A Drag

I don’t know if anyone else has noticed, but I haven’t been posting with the clock-like regulatory of previous days/years.  I just haven’t felt like it.  I haven’t felt like anything.

I’ve been inhabited by the demon Depression.  It’s sucked the life out of me.  I have no interest in anything at all.

If it weren’t for my dog I’d certainly be dead by now.  Sometimes I get frustrated by that.  It’s not like this is some passing cloud.  I’ve felt this way since childhood, with a few manic episodes thrown in so I could get something done and piss off everyone in my environment in the process.

I’ve ruined two childhoods (my own and my child’s), decimated two marriages, gained and lost more than one profession, and now slog through each day putting one foot in front of the other.  Just taking up space on the planet.  

I used to volunteer, feeding people less fortunate than I.  It made me feel good to be of service. Now that my skeleton has betrayed me, I can barely lift my coffee cup, let alone sling hash.  

I think about doing some kind of phone hotline thing, like a suicide prevention line.  Stupid.  How can I help someone else who’s in crisis, when I myself dream of going to Belgium, where euthanasia for intractable mental pain is legal?

I isolate myself.  Depression is not something to chat about.

“Good morning, how are you?”

“Fuck off.  I’m depressed.”

Or how about this one:

“How are we today?”

“We feel like shit.  How about y’all?”

“Oh, is it depressed?  Don’t wallow in it!  Put on a happy face!  The sun will come out soon.”

And other well-meaning drivel.  

“Oh, my (sister, friend, whatever) got depressed after her sixth baby, and they said it was a chemical imbalance, and she took, what’s the name of that stuff that begins with a “P,” for a whole week, and it was like magic!  You really ought to try that stuff.”

Yeah.  Thanks.

Really, the suggestions make me insane.

“Why don’t you go get some more of those magnetic brain treatments?”  –Mom

Because I get them in Canada.  My brain would freeze to the pavement right now.  If I’m still alive in the spring, I’ll brave the headache and get some more TMS.  

(Yes, I know it’s available in the U.S.  A very low-voltage wimpy version that barely surpasses placebo.  Thanks for the suggestion.)

“Why don’t you get one of those SAD lights?”–I forget whose helpful suggestion this was.

I’m in Arizona.  The light here is so bright it hurts my eyes even through sunglasses.  Do you really think a SAD light is going to help?  I have one, somewhere in one of my three storage buildings, each of which contains the relics of past lives.

The first one is 10 x 20 ft.  It contains my life from 1972 or so through 2002.  My own art, millions of family photos, my medical books (now obsolete), my general library (molded), tons of relics, memorabilia, horse stuff, VHS tapes, who the fuck knows.

Then there is the 10 x 10 foot unit with my life from Israel in it: plastic tubs full of gorgeous clothes that I used to wear every day, but in the casual States would look absurd everywhere except perhaps NYC; boxes of more books, religious; more art; and assorted personal effects.

Now there’s a new one, since my mother had all my stuff from my father’s former studio, where I lived until 3/4/15, boxed up and deposited in a brand new storage unit, so she could rent the studio out.  This one has my very personal effects in it, such as my Israeli I.D. documents, my jewelry, stuff I really wasn’t prepared to have dumped unceremoniously into boxes and carted away.

Clearly this is a thorn in my side, but it’s not the cause of my depression.

I have my family to thank for that.

My mother’s mother was in and out of the hospital because of depression, her entire life.  She suffered hundreds of ECT treatments.  Many of these were given at home.  My mother and her sister were tasked with holding their mother down while she convulsed.

My father’s father was paralyzed with depression.  Like me, he tried to outrun it a few times.  His doctor recommended he move to Florida, for the sunshine.  He did better there, except when he was overtaken by bouts of paranoia that precipitated episodes of going on the lam.  He would move my grandmother and himself from one seedy Jewish residential hotel to another, keeping ahead of some imaginary threat.  Eventually my grandmother would manage to put in a call to my father, and he would fly to Miami and somehow catch up with the fugitives.  Getting Grandpa to open the door and let him in was another matter.

There are suicides on both sides of the family.  It’s quite a genetic load.  

No one told me any of this until I was sitting in my bare room during my first hospitalization, trying to make sense out of this enormously intimate and awkward conversation, painfully aware of the fact that I had a roommate who was trying to be respectful of my non-existent privacy.  My father came to visit me just once.  He was too “shook up” seeing me in that condition.  My mother, who is always up for drama no matter what the cause, came every day, for the first two days.  After that it ceased to be exciting.  She is easily bored.

I’m not sure how long I can keep this up.  I don’t want to traumatize my son and my ancient mother.  Even more, I don’t want to leave my Biggess Doggess to suffer who knows what kind of fate.  She’s got failing kidneys and other health issues, despite being a young lass of 2 10/12.  I can’t bear the thought of someone not taking care of her.

I guess I’m not ready to die yet.  I still have what to live for, even if it’s not a love for life itself.  Even if I have outlived most of my purpose.  I wonder what will happen.

Eighth Night

The ultimate night of Hanukkah, in the year 5777 from Creation.

And the ultimate night of the civil year 2016.

And the beginning of Yom Rishon, or First Day, that always begins after the sun sets on the Holy Shabbat.

Time to be doing.  Time to be getting up and going! 

I think about my life in the past.  I was always getting up and going, doing, and doing even more!  I was never satisfied with “good enough.”  It had to be perfect.  Everything had to be perfect.  No such thing as “good enough.”

Being sick is pure torment.  I forget all the time why it is that I’m not at work.  I jump up and head for the phone, gonna get some work happening around here, can’t be that hard…OUCH!  Who broke my fucking arm?  WHOA, what happened to my neck???  And somebody’s stabbing me in the heart….what the fuck is going on here?  Why can’t I just go the fuck to work like a normal human being?

Take away my ability to do meaningful work, and you take away my self-worth.  I have a hard time feeling like I’m worth a rat’s ass even on a good day, when I’ve gone in and saved lives…but when I’m stuck on the sidelines, I may as well be dead.  

It would be a lot easier if I could tell from one day to the next, how I am going to feel.  If I knew, for instance, that every Tuesday would be an OK day, that I would go to the bathroom like a mensch, and my shoulders wouldn’t cause me to squeak every time I reached for something, and my brain would not be either fogged over from depression or reeling with the electrical overload from mania…if I could count on every Tuesday being a good day, then it would be possible to get a volunteer gig for Tuesdays.  A volunteer thing would do wonders for my heart and mind.

Too bad I don’t have any good Tuesdays!  Or Wednesdays, Thursdays, etc.

I hate to whine.  I know some people are going to actually read this, and probably will go, oh, fer krissake will you stop whining and get on with it!

I feel the same way. 

It’s been 16 1/2 years since I fell off the balance beam.  I have held on to the notion that there must be some greater purpose in it.  That, you know, it must be part of the Grand Design, that certainly I would be one of those who Triumph Over Adversity.

That has not been the case, at least not so far.  I haven’t given up.  Where there’s life there’s, etc.  It’s just that things are gradually becoming more unpleasant.  I wonder when, and how, this thing will end?