Thursday, July 31, 2008

The C Word

As a general rule, I prefer not to discuss my personal life with the world outside of a few people whom I trust and know. Some people call it a defense mechanism that I tend to be less than serious most of the time, and who am I to argue those claims. I tend to chalk it up to the fact that we've all got something shitty going on in our lives, and we don't need to be saddled with other people's problems as well unless they really, really mean something to us. Whatever the case, my experiences of late have inspired me to put my experiences and thoughts to paper (or in this case, the intertubes) as something of a therapeutic exercise. Feel free to hit that back button at any point, I really don't mind....I don't want pity, condolences, or prayer (though the woman in question is quite Christian, so she probably wouldn't mind the prayer if you want to throw it that way). I really just want to say my piece.
Cancer isn't something I've got any real experience dealing with. My paternal grandfather, who it turns out was quite the bastard, died of it mere months after the sole time I met him (as a child). I've had an aunt get it and recover, but she was out of state and it was during a period in my life (adolescence) in which I was too self-aborbed to really get it. Otherwise though, thats it. Maternal grandfather lived through a stroke and died years later of old age. Maternal grandmother died a few years back of old age. Paternal grandmother died of Alzheimers, which is about the only reference point I have for this.
As a child then growing into adulthood before it ended, Alzheimers is the worst thing I can imagine. Unlike my brother, I spent a lot of time with my grandmother as a child...when she was lucid, before the disease set in. By the time he had that chance, it had already started to set in. I remember so many things about her, and then the years and year as her mind made that rapid descent downhill, to the point where if your timing wasn't just right, she had no idea who you were or what was going on. This was a hard woman, a woman that grew up during the depression....on a Texas farm, and to see her reduced to being a's something I just can't reconcile in my mind, even all these years later. A few months back when I was reading the Dante's Inferno I thought to myself that any sort of concious knowledge that one was afflicted by Alzheimers is worse than anything Dante had to offer.
In short, I would never wish Alzheimers on my worst enemy, or my worst enemy's family. No one should have to endure that. Although I did once wish it on George W. Bush only so he'd understand the error in his ways for fighting stem-cell research, but I digress.
Cancer is the polar opposite beast. Unlike my grandmother, who lost her mind but kept her body, my great-aunt's mind is sharp as a tack and she's losing her body. Quickly. It was just over 3mos ago that she was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer (yes, I know what that generally means....). They told her it was operable, and within a week she was in the hospital to get it removed. My father had to leave on business after he took her to the hospital, but we all assumed it would be a successful surgery and sure, there would be hills to climb, but she would make it. I was going to see her in the hospital after it was over, be her cheerleader, get us all through this (the way I had to do with my father's surgery a few years earlier).
That afternoon I called my Dad for an update, expecting the simple response that the surgery went well. It didn't. I remember where I was, driving east on Northwest Hwy. about to exit Skillman, when he said the words. The doctors aborted the surgery, there was nothing they could do. So that afternoon, with my father in California, I had to go to the hospital and visit my defacto grandmother (she's been there my entire life), and try to comfort her as she's nodding in and out of consiousness, looks like death warmed over, and has been told she has fatal cancer.
How do you do that? How do you stay positive? How do you hold back tears? How do you talk to someone that just got a death sentence? I really don't know how I held it the traditional definition, at 26, I'm supposed to be a man, but that day....that week....I felt like a boy, like a child. I had to keep a brave face, I had to spend my days at work, but in my heart....I was being crushed. It was the toughest day of my life, tougher even than the night I had to deal with my pill-fucked father the night after his surgery acting like a child and pick him up off the floor.
But you see, the story doesn't end there. You wish it did on some level, but it doesn't. In the 3mos since the surgery, she had to endure a month of rehab in a home, and now she's at home with hospice care. I've had the privilege....and it has been a great get to know her, better than ever, since. To get a family history, to get her thoughts and her experiences, and I'm relishing it. It's been a great experience, but the downturn is starting. The cancer has moved to her stomach, she can't keep food down. The jaundice is returning. The clock is expiring, and quicker than I thought it would.
When she was a child, her mother (my great grandmother) died of cancer. It eventually ate through her stomach and through her skin, and as a child my great-aunt and my grandmother had to bandage her to stop the fluids from bleeding through the cancerous sores on her abdomen. Can you imagine being a child and having to do that?
And can you imagine reaching your 80s, remembering that, and then suffering through the cancer yourself? The world is a really fucked up place. It really is.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Movies & Film

Often during the course of conversation, the subject of film comes up. People will quote or reference a movie, and more often than not, I'm left with a blank expression and shrug of the shoulders. Because you see, unlike some people that have extended video catalogs, I own very few DVDs....and ultimately I see relatively few movies. I'm not sure why it is, I don't have any sort of secret disdain for movie theaters or for film in general, it's just that somewhere between juggling forms of entertainment (games, conversation, music, TV, internet, going out, etc.) the poor movie seems to get left out. I've come to accept that about myself, that I will always be a few steps behind most everyone else in the movie category (example: i just now got a copy of 'There Will Be Blood' to watch) and willingly accept the mockery it often heaps upon me from the movie snobs we all know and love. And hey, if they want to movie-bully me, I can TV-bully them, because I highly doubt they've watch the entirety of 'The West Wing' or 'ER' or 'Oz.'
The flip side to this coin, is that often I will see bad movies before I see good ones. Sure I might not have seen 'No Country For Old Men,' but I bet you haven't seen the entire 'Rush Hour' or 'The Mummy' franchise, have you? I didn't think so. So while my knowledge of classic or "popular" movies might be lacking, my knowledge of "bad" movies tends to be alright. Anyone can appreciate a thoughtful and meaningful cinematic masterpiece, but it takes a certain type of person to also be able to appreciate a movie that offers nothing but a thin plot, a hot chick, and lots of explosions. I am that person, although even I will willingly admit that 'The Transporter: 2' was absolutely terrible.
With that in mind, I've watched 3 movies in the past few days since returning from Portland. 'Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee' was a good movie. Enjoyed it, but then again we all know I'm a sucker for historical movies. That said, they did Sitting Bull was alright, not groundbreaking, but a good watch.
Then I finally watched Doom, based off the groundbreaking video game series of the same name and starring The Rock. Yes, I admit, I like The Rock as an actor (and no, I've never watched wrestling)....he's no Tom Hanks, but there's a place in this world for movies with The Rock. Now Doom was predictably cheesy and mindless, but eh, so was the video game....
To cap it off though, yesterday I finally got to see the movie I've been waiting ages to see. I don't know why I didn't go see it in theaters, I don't know why I didn't just buy it a month ago, but I finally rented......Hitman. I absolutely love the video game franchise of the same name, think it's one of the best when I had an afternoon to kill and saw it available on-demand, I jumped at the chance to finally watch it.
It was freaking awesome. This Timothy Olyphant fellow didn't have the voice, and the script took a few detours from the videogame persona of the character, but overall it was a pretty damn good Agent 47. Lots of great (and creative!) violence, lots of great fight scenes, and of course....a super hot chick.
I had never heard of Olga Kurylenko before yesterday, although apparently she's going to be in the next Bond movie and has been in some award winning movie called 'Paris: Je l'aime' which I think movie snob Adrienne has seen, apparently without informing me of this incredibly hot Ukrainian woman. If nothing else, make sure you see Hitman just to make sure that you get to see all of Olga Kurylenko.
But really, it was better than I thought it was going to be.....I really enjoyed it, and there aren't many movies made about things I like that I say that about....normally they bastardize things when they move them to film. So go see Hitman, and then do yourself a favor, and buy the video games....which are awesome. You can prolly skip the first one, they re-do it in the third.
And finally in closing, this has me wondering if there's going to be a Grand Theft Auto movie....and if there was, how wildly successful could it be if they stuck to the grit of the game? I'd be interested, that's for sure.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Portland, OR

It's always sad when a vacation ends. The weeks you spend hyping yourself for vacation, then the carefree attitude one adopts during makes it tough to return back to the daily grind.....and the one hundred degree heat. That said, I'm back.
First off, major thanks to Blake for taking time off for it, and then for putting up with me for a week. Also to Sarah and Adrienne for putting up with me, and the fake Matt Hasselbeck for the picture.
But ya, Portland was great. It's really a great city. I've always loved Seattle, but imo Portland blows it away. It's all so walkable and full of cool independent shops and restaurants. And the beer, good god, the was fantastic. The food too. Somehow the city manages to make Chicken Fried Steak into breakfast (and it was spectacular!) and Mac & Cheese into dinner (also spectacular). There were great record stores, great bookstores, and not a fucking Wal-Mart or Target in sight (they're all outside the city. how cool is that?).
The weather was great. Mornings were cool and even in the afternoon when the sun broke the clouds it was warm but never hot, especially in the Texas sense of hot. Second day I was there we grabbed breakfast and then went to St. Johns for some disc golf....beautiful course, great was exactly what I needed. Then we grabbed a sandwich and tea at an outdoor cafe and played cribbage, then go home and read for a bit before hitting up the bars for happy hour food/drink specials. That was pretty much everyday, with only the activities and the places we went changing.
There aren't a whole ton of pictures, but there are a few and I will upload them when Sarah sends them to me. I don't know why you'd want to see my vacation photos, imo there's not a bigger beating in the world than someone showing off their vacation photos (except maybe wedding photos.....), but apparently some people like to do that sort of thing. We did make it a great mountain vantage point to watch sunset on the Columbia river, which was quite awesome, and then hit up a waterfall. But other than that excursion to the outdoors, and our afternoon hitting up wineries/vineyards in rural oregon, most of the trip was just spent inside the city, enjoying the clean air and great weather.
All in all, it was a great vacation, and a lot of fun. So ya, rock.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

You Can't Make This Stuff Up

God Bless Dallas;
A special meeting about Dallas County traffic tickets turned tense and bizarre this afternoon.
County commissioners were discussing problems with the central collections office that is used to process traffic ticket payments and handle other paperwork normally done by the JP Courts.
Commissioner Kenneth Mayfield, who is white, said it seemed that central collections "has become a black hole" because paperwork reportedly has become lost in the office.
Commissioner John Wiley Price, who is black, interrupted him with a loud "Excuse me!" He then corrected his colleague, saying the office has become a "white hole."
That prompted Judge Thomas Jones, who is black, to demand an apology from Mayfield for his racially insensitive analogy.
Mayfield shot back that it was a figure of speech and a science term. A black hole, according to Webster's, is perhaps "the invisible remains of a collapsed star, with an intense gravitational field from which neither light nor matter can escape."
Other county officials quickly interceded to break it up and get the meeting back on track. TV news cameras were rolling, after all.
Taken from the DMN Dallas City Hall blog.
Kudos to this Mayfield fellow for refusing to apologize. Too often whitey will bow in and offer the insincere and yet still demeaning pseudo-apology just to avoid the grandstanding, protesting, and bitching the black man will lead. It seems it's just more trouble than it's worth to stand up.
We've always known that John Wiley Price was an idiot, but this just takes the cake. But while we're on the topic of race relations and racial idiocy in Dallas, please allow me a few more moments of your time.
As some of you may or may not be aware, the city conducted what has since been called an "informal poll" about what to rename Industrial Blvd. (I don't understand what's wrong with Industrial.....) with such idiotic names as Eddie Bernice Johnson Pkwy (the only reason the lady is still in office is gerrymandering), a slew of aquatic themed names, and the landslide winner.....Cesar Chavez Pkwy, which of course won because this is Dallas and half the city is now Mexican. At which point the city council predictably bristles (wtf does Cesar Chavez have to do with Dallas? This isn't even an agricultural town) and says no. The Mexican groups of course bitch and moan, citing that what was once Oakland Ave. is now Malcolm X (which was equally stupid....) and so they want to rename Ross Ave for Cesar Chavez.
Nevermind the fact that Ross Ave. is extremely long and runs through downtown and would cost business' tons of money to change every advertisement, sign, piece of stationary, and card with their name on it. Never even mind that Ross Ave. has been a major thoroughfare (unlike Oakland Ave. was) in this city since the freaking 1940s (it was the Greenville Ave. of the 1950s). Let's just say it's a bad idea considering developers have been buying up massive chunks of Ross Ave. with the expressed intention of driving all the Spanish language businesses off of the street, which has been ongoing for the past decade just as it has on Live Oak and Gaston.
It just drives me nuts. Look folks, I'm all about diversity and the fact that we can all co-exist happily and peacefully. There's a reason I moved back to Dallas proper instead of the suburbs or lily white North Dallas like so many people do. But people have got to respect that this city, and it's history, is much bigger than their block and the racial grandstanding just has to stop. And with that, I'm off the soapbox and sending pseudo-apologies to my entire Hispanic readership.
Ok, not really.