Category Archives: Jimmy

Forgotten Days in Tontitown

 

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This picture is of my brother, me, mom, and dad. I’ve written before how ambivalent I am about this picture. On the one hand, I’m glad that the picture exists. On the other, it is horribly misleading because it might convince bystanders that we were a happy family.

Before highway 412 modernized us, we intimately knew highway 68. Before its expansion and encroachment all along the yards lining it, it was a typical narrow road passing through NWA. It was a vital artery connecting the small towns that dominated our corner of the state. It’s “Old 68” now, truncated and lost to failed bridges that isolate it from its replacement. I once knew parts of the old 68 with precision. There were many times I would ride back to our home with my drunken dad, praying to the silent god who presumably watched over idiots like him. On the other hand, I knew such hopes were truly childish because Dad had killed a cousin of mine in a DWI accident. This knowledge invalidated the whispers of hope I had. Sometimes I’d pray for a horrible crash to engulf us and put an end to the uncertainty; other times I’d wish to just get home in one piece.

The land over on the far side of Tontitown was simply beautiful. I find myself forgetting this at times. Rolling hills, thick trees, creeks crisscrossing where the land permitted, and open expanses of fields filled the area. For the most part, property owners weren’t aware of kids traversing their land. As long as we respected their property, those that were aware simply chose to ignore us as we did what kids do best. There were times where we’d set off walking and have no idea where we were heading. Chiggers, mosquitoes, and snakes often accompanied us. When you’re young, you assume that such things are a required tariff in order to enjoy life.

Because my family moved more often than a pack of unwanted nomads, I lived in Tontitown more than once in my youth. The first long stretch followed our trailer in City View Trailer Park in Springdale burning down, rendering both at least 100,000 cockroaches and us homeless. We moved to the western fringe of Tontitown, near the bend where the new 412 first veers away from the original 68. When 68 was rerouted and renamed 412, it cut across Road 852. Technically, it wasn’t and isn’t Tontitown – but everyone considered it to be so. It was not too far from the infamous and now-defunct Blue Hole swimming spot, home of the coldest water imaginable. When I was young, I didn’t even realize that Blue Hole Road was a real name.

We moved to Washington County Road 852 to stay with Leta, the widow of a paternal cousin. Dad had a penchant for sleeping with a variety of people, and choosing from the woodpile didn’t deter him. It took me several years to pinpoint precisely how Leta fit in the family tree. Her husband, my dad’s distant cousin, had died a few years prior. Leta had an interesting life, and despite all the other surrounding confusion, I now know that I would be fascinated if I could go back in time and have an adult conversation with her. She wasn’t a warm person; on the other hand, I didn’t understand how much of an interruption we might have been to her life.

I’ve written before about the place being the perfect alignment of isolation, anger, and addiction. Highway 68 ran across the north, leaving the land below it pristine and only accessible through a complex series of dirt roads. I was in 7th grade, and because of the fire, I had lost everything. The house was small, and even the so-called bedrooms were nothing more than imaginary boundaries inside the old house. We all shared one bathroom and a clawfoot bathtub. Ancient box fans provided most of the airflow into the house. The outside of the house was covered in tan brick-theme tar paper, similar to what was commonly found in the area where I was born. While we lived at Leta’s, Dad spent time filling the inside of the house with dark paneling. We shared one console television in the living, very close to the front door, connected to an old tv antenna outside.

My parents often fought, as they were prone to do regardless of the impermanence of their residence. My dad had several affairs, including the notorious relationship with Leta who owned the house. The adults around me drank more per capita than any household in Tontitown. The alcohol-fueled many days and nights of violence and terror. It also sometimes granted us too much freedom. At times, I forget that because Leta worked at the Venetian Inn at night and Mom worked split shifts and unusual hours at Southwestern Bell, our presence at the house overlapped in a crazy Venn diagram.

As much as I vilify the players in the drama in that period of my life, I am the first to admit that there were some spectacular adventures. The geography allowed for us to trek miles in several directions, to explode a ton of fireworks with a total disregard for human safety, fire a variety of pistols, rifles, and shotguns, and to escape the lunacy the adults brought to the table. I could go outside and climb on top of the barn past the gated fence, or if I was really ambitious, crawl up onto the roof of the house or clamber up one of the ten million trees. The house also had a simple covered front porch, bordered on one side by a massive pile of firewood. We dreaded the surprise announcements that we were going to have to help our Dad cut firewood. I have an entire book of stories about some of those mornings. I could sneak away across the barbed wire and read, as long as I could suffer the bugs and snakes inhabiting the area. It was at Leta’s that I found her copy of “Your Erroneous Zones” by self-help guru Wayne Dyer. It was a revelation and seemed to describe an attitude and life that seemed impossible. I could take my french horn down into a dense valley and sound like I was summoning the Valkyries. It was possible to walk and fill oneself with many grapes picked off the vines or find patches of blackberries thick with both briars and berries.

At night, the area seemed to revert to a time centuries ago. Dark was genuinely dark, and animals of all kinds inhabited every nook and cranny of the fields and forests. There was a couple of times that my Dad forced us to walk across the darkened fields and leave proof of our visits inside an abandoned house, once part of a now-forgotten community. My cousin Jimmy was unnaturally afraid of the dark and everything it might contain. We were more afraid of my Dad, though. One of those forced walks in the dark is now one of my most cherished memories. The house stands epically in my memory and its silhouette is still etched in my mind and often used as a comparison to measure foreboding. Had my parents been more normal, it could have been a paradise. My appreciation for the land of that area has only grown as I’ve aged. The land owes me no apology for the people who stained its beauty.

As much as I knew about the area, I knew much less than my brother who had more friends and didn’t hesitate to go out and work in the grapevines or tomato farms. When the trailer burned, it burned my connections to the friends I had at City View. Sometimes, though, old friends, especially my brother’s friends, would visit and the shenanigans would commence. There’s a reason we universally look back and hold dear those memories of such adventures. They encapsulate so much of the joy of being a boy and having the freedom to experience small pieces of the world.

We often had mega-barbeques, fish fries, and feasts. They were raucous affairs, of course, and many ended with fisticuffs, shouts, and blood-soaked shirts. On one occasion, the party ended because my dad threw an entire box of ammunition in the wood fireplace in the living room. I took advantage of those times by eating barrels of salad soaked in Viva Italian dressing, or bag after endless bag of Venetian Inn salad and rolls. Leta worked at the Venetian Inn and brought home a treasure of food from there each day she worked. I, of course, loved pasta. After eating several miles of it, though, I usually opted for endless salads. We would walk the long dirt road home, rain or shine, from the nearest school bus stop up near Mitchell’s service station. (Those walks home after school would dissuade anyone from choosing a large band instrument to learn.) I’d often eat a king’s meal of rolls, salad and sometimes 2 or more chicken breasts. I could make a pot of coffee and drink it all. I sampled a variety of wines, too. Leta didn’t mind. She knew that we were going to be unable to overcome our curiosity. Don’t be too concerned about the bit of wine. I had access to unlimited alcohol and a few drugs, which didn’t interest me.

I’m only reminiscing because one day not too long ago, someone online answered a comment about that area and Brush Creek, which lies not too far away. Another commenter mentioned the massage parlors in the area. It made me laugh, reading the comments of those who claimed they were all fables and made-up urban legends. Where men walk, you can be assured that vice follows.

For those who don’t know, Tontitown once harbored several houses of ill repute, stills for moonshine, and a bit of weed for those wishing to find them. It’s topography made it ideal for concealment while also not being so far out of the way that it was prohibitive to find it. The hills and hollers made intrusion unlikely. Not too far from where I lived out on the dirt road, one of the residents had a decent plot for marijuana growing, with a water well off the road, powered by an illegal electric connection that was off the grid. He resembled the actor Brett Gelman if he never shaved. He also looked exactly like Leta’s son, who was the personification of an ex-Vietnam hippie. Leta’s son struck me as crazy, but he was always kind to me and talked to me like an adult. I remember once when we drove to Timbuktu to visit him, and he was in the front yard, totally naked, taking a shower under a hand-made system of water hoses. It was hilarious.

Even though the accusation will make some people defensive, many of these unsavory places were known to law enforcement. I’m not alleging conspiracy, of course. People do crazy things often enough with the necessity of making outrageous claims. Someone I know very well loves telling the story of her dad, who was a Springdale policeman at the time, giving protection to someone involved. My dad was known to payoff DWIs under the table, not to mention bribing people to look the other way. It was common. I’m not telling the story to paint someone negatively; it was just the way many things were done. Monroe County, the place where I was born, was a significant conduit for all manner of vice, too. Everyone knew it. Dad had a temperament and way of finding the most clever places to get into trouble. “Friends in low places” would describe his circle. Regardless, though involved in the shady businesses never interfered in other people’s business and expected reciprocity in return. Minding your own business granted every mutual safety.

The massage parlor sat near 68, hidden in plain sight in a nondescript tan trailer. There were, of course, no signs or indications that nefarious goings-on could be experienced within. I used to amuse myself by imagining that some industrious and brazen entrepreneur would put up a huge flashing neon sign indicating “Sex Shop” near the place. Google Streetview hasn’t visited the road in over ten years. I know that many people got lost looking for the massage parlor because I remember Leta and others telling stories about the faraway neighbors getting late-night knocks on their doors, demanding to be let in.

Because Dad would drink to excess, he would mouth off, often without realizing he was spilling the beans. One evening, he had driven by the trailer with his bottle of Evan Williams between his knees. “That place will make a man out of you,” he said, as he punched me on the side of the head. I don’t remember why I was in the cab of the truck with him. I would choose the bed of the pickup even during a lava storm to stay away from Dad when his mood could shift.

Sometime after, Dad had pulled in to the small driveway next to the trailer. I was surprised because I was in the back of the truck. Dad’s dog Duke and I remained in the back of the pickup. A little bit later, Dad came out and proudly drank some of his whiskey and coke and drove home. I overheard him talking about the place to more than a couple of people.

It took me a bit to connect the dots. There was a cookout at Leta’s one Sunday, and someone said something about the convenience of having a massage parlor up the road. Mom threw her cigarette at the person joking about it and then hurled her half-finished beer into dad’s face. She shouted her favorite “MoFo” curse repeatedly as she left. (Many get-togethers ended that way.) Dad didn’t rush after her as everyone expected. He drank until the sun descended into the valley before reminding Mom of how dangerous he was. I don’t remember whether I cowered out of sight or managed to escape outside and down the road or through the surrounding landscape.

There were times when Mom would drink and then decide to go hunt for my Dad. She’d drive by the Red Door and all the other usual places that might contain him. I think after finding out about Dad’s presence at the massage parlor that she always took a moment to look over the area around it in hopes of seeing his truck. I’m not sure how many times I was forced to prowl with Mom. I do know that she had no business driving most of the time.

Or being married, now that I think about it.

I’m not sure how long this particular massage parlor stayed in business. (Long enough to increase Dad’s chances of getting his head caved in, though.)

If you missed it in a previous post, we moved after Mom discovered that Dad and Leta had been having an affair for a long time. I found them together one night, which is why I can state with such certainty this isn’t a figment of my mom’s fabled anger and imagination. Weirdly enough, we moved to a place very close to where I now live, to a tiny trailer on the road that would one day become part of the Don Tyson Parkway. That place was indeed a crucible of violence. Mom knew that Dad was unfaithful. Proof of it, though, inevitably started a predetermined sequence of weekend tirades.

Now that I know so much more about Dad’s inability to behave like a normal husband, it would be interesting to know whether Mom would kill my Dad after learning the new information. The breadth of my Dad’s infidelity goes much deeper and further than I suspected – and that’s quite a feat.

I have several stories that I’ve never told. Some of my reluctance arises from the involvement of other people who still walk the earth. While it is my right to share these stories, I’ve not done so because some of the unflattering biographies aren’t entirely in my control.

I don’t have a great record of our time out there on the western edge of Tontitown. I’ve mentioned before that my family simply didn’t own a camera. We relied on others to document our lives. There are pictures of our time there, but very few.
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P.S. I wrote this story without stressing the storyline. I didn’t know how to create a central theme, so I didn’t. The story and words stand ‘as is;’ take from it that which you will.

 

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The picture is one I took in 2006 after the house in Tontitown burned. I haven’t lived there for almost 40 years. It’s an unimaginable and detached amount of time. The inset picture is of me from around the time I lived in the house.

 

 

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This picture is of Uncle Beb and my cousin Jimmy doing the Hambone dance. This picture shows the corner of the house that’s also in the picture of the house after it burned. You can see the wilderness near the road in the background.

 

 

 

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This picture captures a common activity: everyone armed and shooting. My Uncle Bed, Uncle Buck, dad, and my cousin Jimmy. In the right circumstances, these gatherings were joyous.

 

 

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The picture in the first comment is a picture one of my dad. He’s three sheets to the wind. He’d just rolled his beloved truck down into one of the deep hollers near our house late at night. He was oblivious that night. The aftermath and days after were violently unpleasant.

 

Summer’s Bedrail

 

jimmy terry and x teri

 

In the summer of 1978, my family was living in City View trailer park, a place of infamy I’ve previously written about. Many residents were notorious about not maintaining their lawns. I’d go so far as to say that the word ‘lawn’ would almost be the last word a rational person would use to describe the lots assigned to each tenant. Some, however, took pride in their lots, which confused me when I was younger. In a bizarre twist, my dad usually made my brother and I trim the grass around the bottom of the metal skirt under our trailer with a butcher knife. I know – what could go wrong?

Residents would pile an amazing array of objects next to, under, and at each end of their trailers, often partially hiding the end with the heavy metal hitch on it. This tendency caused at least ten million banged shins and legs, especially playing tag, catch, or football in the yards. During the time we lived at the trailer park, I found a loaded pistol, pornographic magazines, whiskey, potato chips, and other things under the skirting of trailers.

Many of the kids living in the trailer park spent their entire day roaming the park without shoes. I was one of those barefoot savages. My feet were as hard as tire tread.

One of the endless days at the beginning of summer, I jumped down from the back door of my trailer, as steps were an invitation for someone to try to get inside. Even the front steps of most trailers were cheaply made using narrow wood planks and thin metal supports. Most trailers had terrible front steps and none at all in the back, often with both comical and horrendous consequences due to the number of people who attempt a hasty exit or entrance while under the influence of one substance or another. A smart kid knew exactly how to jump from the back door and simultaneously fling it closed again as he or she leaped out. Note: not while a parent was inside. As we all learned, slamming a door was treated by parents as seriously as murdering someone in broad daylight.

My friend Troy had told me to come over and find him. I hit the ground running and by the time I made it to the spot a few trailers away, Troy and the other miscreants took off running from me. I darted around the end of one of the trailers. The grass was at least waist high against the trailer. Because I was attempting to set a land-speed record and catch up, I ignored the danger of the grass. I jumped in the grass as I ran. My right foot landed on something hard and I felt the immediate agony of something cutting into my foot. In my childhood, I stepped on a few dozen nails, broken bottles, as well as an assortment of other things. It went in deeply. Despite my speed, I fell into the grass. I had landed on a long, old-style rusty bed rail. The upturned corner had pierced all the way into the arch of my right foot. I was surprised that it had not passed all the way through my foot and out the top.

I could barely see my foot, so I crawled out of the grass and sat on the ground, looking at the expansive and deep cut in my foot. For a few moments, it didn’t bleed. As I released my foot, the blood spurts and an intense cramp started. I survived my second head trauma a few years before, one which resulted in massive blood loss and almost 200 stitches. This didn’t seem as bad until the cramps started. As the blood pulsed out of my foot, I realized I had to get back to the trailer, so I crawled as fast as I could despite the cramps in my foot.

There is a lot I don’t remember about that day. Someone called my dad at work. Normally, this would signal the end of my life. No one called my dad, not ever, even after a decapitation. It was probably my sister who called. I don’t remember. My dad did not want to come home, even after someone exaggerated the severity of the cut by saying they thought I was dying. It didn’t sway him, however, as his parenting style could best be described as “If he dies, I had too many kids to begin with.”

I do remember that by the time I got out of the trailer, the cheap linoleum looked like a crime scene photo and the rags I had used to try to stop the bleeding were drenched.

Dad came home over an hour later, angry and blustering. He screamed at me to get in the bed of the pickup truck as he got behind the wheel. I managed to climb up, then over the tailgate. My foot registered every bump and pothole in the road between our trailer and the medical clinic over on Quandt Avenue and Young Street. Dad’s dog Duke kept me company during the trip.

I don’t remember who the doctor was who helped me but he was a rapid-fire, no-nonsense doctor. He used a large bottle with a nozzle on it to spray inside the deep cut even as a nurse used her gloved fingers to hold the wound open as far as she could. For good measure, he doused it with a huge quantity of some type of disinfectant, which set off another round of foot cramps. Dad was not in the room with me, which was a huge relief to me. He’s the type who would probably slap a surgical patient for sleeping during the procedure.

The nurse went out to find him and dad returned and stood in the doorway. I’m paraphrasing, but the doctor asked him if he wanted some other kind of treatment. Dad told him no and that the doctor should do whatever took the least amount of time. I’m certain that they were discussing cutting my foot off, given my dad’s mean streak. I figured out later that stitching it quickly might cause some long-term cramping or other risks. Dad went back out to smoke.

The doctor seemed to put an inordinate number of stitches in my foot. Despite the shots to numb my foot, I could feel most of them. He did tell me that the bed rail had almost pierced all the way through my foot. He dressed it and listed off a list of important notes that I couldn’t possibly remember. I didn’t have anything to cover my foot, so the doctor put a plastic bag over it and told me to stay off it for a couple of days and to avoid getting it dirty.

Because dad wouldn’t come back in the room, I didn’t get crutches. Fair or not, a doctor in Springdale at that time wouldn’t have been surprised by a callous father. I think it was almost normal for medical staff to witness parents treat their children like cattle.

My Dad also, of course, didn’t offer to help me as I tried to hobble out to the truck and once again climb in the back of the truck.

When we got to the trailer, dad didn’t get out. I climbed over and managed to get out without screaming. I knew a beating was coming and simply didn’t want it to happen right then. We got the blood cleaned off the trailer floor, not that it mattered. Mom and dad routinely added one another’s blood to the floor at regular intervals.

To add insult to injury, I got a celebratory beating from both my mom and dad later that day, for a confusing mixture of carelessness and the sheer inconvenience of being bothersome. They both waited until they had consumed enough liquid courage to justify a beating. It’s some consolation that their anger toward me for getting injured at least stopped them from beating each other, at least on that night.

My foot secreted a constant ooze of clear fluid tinged with blood, especially after I walked on it. Mom, with her degree in folk medicine, ignored what I told her the doctor said and forced me to sit in a scalding bathtub of baking soda with my foot submerged in the liquid. She then poured undiluted alcohol on my wound until I almost passed out. She also insisted that I not cover the wound, so that it could breathe. Given that she made me literally eat Vick’s vapor rub, I didn’t have much faith in her medical advice. I also couldn’t figure out her idea that a beating might be medically advantageous for me, either.

A couple of days later, my Aunt Ardith convinced my mom to go to the clinic and to find out what was supposed to be done. Mom only went to the clinic to ask out of fear Aunt Ardith could say “I told you so” after they amputated my leg for gangrene. Mom came back with bandages, gauze, and some ointment. Aunt Ardith asked her about the crutches after reading a few of the notes the nurse gave my mom. “He ain’t got no G-D broken leg!” she shouted. Aunt Ardith rolled her eyes. By then, I was walking around without anything covering my foot. I had popped two of the outer stitches after a cramp hit me and I tried to stand up. I think my foot was a little infected by then. Aunt Ardith prepared a foot bath for me as Mom sat and drank a beer. My aunt showed me how to prepare the foot bath and told me to keep the bandage on it and to avoid putting pressure on my foot. No more mention was made of the crutches. I am certain that Aunt Ardith is the only reason I didn’t get a massive infection in my foot.

The next weekend, my cousin Jimmy wanted desperately to go see the movie “Thank God It’s Friday,” a 70s disco comedy, if such a thing is possible. It was showing at the Springdale Malco Twin theatre, on Highway 68 near Harps grocery. As I’ve written before, Jimmy almost always got his way, which worked out in my favor. All of the movies I got to see as a kid were the result of Jimmy, Mike Hignite, or another cousin. Literally, all of them. Aunt Ardith drove us to the theater while Mom sat in the passenger seat drinking her salted beer and smoking. They dropped us off and drove away. At the window, Jimmy got a laugh out of a woman who refused to say “God” in the title of the movie. “I need four tickets to ‘Thank Goodness It’s Friday'” she said several times. Jimmy was tickled that she couldn’t say “God,” but somehow thought that the movie would be appropriate to watch instead. Like many of our memories, I have no reason that adequately explains why I can remember that tidbit, but not other more important details in my life.

We bought two tickets and as I turned to go inside, one of the very young workers at the theater told me I had to put shoes on both feet to see the movie. I couldn’t have put on a shoe if I tried, especially with the thick gauze Aunt Ardith had put on my foot before leaving the house. I wasn’t wearing a sock and we’d never imagine such a thing as a medical boot or shoe. The manager came over, looked at my foot and said, “Get out,” as if I had planned to run inside the auditorium like an angry linebacker. We also didn’t get a refund.

My cousin Jimmy was furious. We went back outside and sat on the curb outside the theater. A few minutes later, someone came from inside the theater and told us we couldn’t sit outside and had to leave. I hobbled with Jimmy down to a payphone. No one answered at his house. As is the case with most of us and the phone numbers of our youth, I’ll never forget their phone number: 751-1551. Unlike my mom and dad, my aunt and uncle lived in the same house for almost their entire adult life, with the same phone number.

We wisely decided that our moms went to the liquor store for replenishments. So, we waited. After an hour, they drove up next to the building and we got in. Aunt Ardith parked the car haphazardly behind some of the other cars and walked up to the ticket window, her Tareyton cigarette still in her hand. I’m not sure what she said, but the manager came back over and immediately regretted it. Mom sat in the passenger seat, shouting obscene and encouraging words of agreement toward Aunt Ardith. The ticket clerk handed Aunt Ardith the money Jimmy paid for the tickets. She was cussing when she got back to the car. Mom threw her Budweiser can into the parking lot and opened another from a paper bag at her feet. She had probably become concerned that she might run out of beer during the very short drive from my cousin Jimmy’s house.

Evidently, my aunt had also demanded an apology from them for forcing us to get up and leave the relative safety of the front of the theater after being turned away for not wearing two shoes. I wondered what the manager would think if he knew that both Aunt Ardith and my mom were drunk. I think the shadowy canopy near the payphone to which we had been banished was far safer than the interior of the car being controlled by two drunk women. This sort of observation would have led to a beating for me. It didn’t occur to me until much later that normal parents would have known not to send a child to the theater without shoes, even if they had a medical reason.

I didn’t see the movie “Thank God It’s Friday” for another 25 years. Compared to a massive cut in the foot, it’s not so bad.

I ended up taking out my own stitches, in the stupid hope of avoiding another beating for the necessary return trip to the doctor.

In the years afterward, I would sometimes have the strangest phantom cramps in my foot where the scar is. The scar diminished in size but would occasionally flare up when I least expected it. Once, I was foolishly ‘jogging’ with Mike Hignite and it stiffened, causing me to fling myself headfirst into the waiting mud. I ran a lot when I was young and it was invariably on my mind to be careful of my foot catching me off guard. Sometimes, it would cramp while I was driving with my foot on the gas pedal.

If I run my finger along the scar on the bottom of my right foot, I can almost imagine that summer day again.

Thank God it’s not Friday, I say.
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P.S. The picture is of Jimmy and me at Dogpatch. The bottom inset picture is another one from the same day.

 

 

 

 

“The Picture” Lives On…

 

I originally posted this in 2014.

Enough time has passed since Jimmy died for me to remember the goofiness more than the anguish of cancer that he endured. It’s natural that death works that way, as he was alive and kicking for much longer than he was suffering. There are still those days when I catch myself wondering what Jimmy might make of something or I half-expect him to drive up to the house after getting more stuff for his hoard from a local garage sale.

Fair or not, a lot of Jimmy’s energy was siphoned away by his one family member’s obsession with money and getting what she thought was hers. It was a travesty and I learned a lot from it, whether I wanted to or not. It angered Jimmy that he was being punished with cancer. Had he survived and not relapsed, I think he might have begun to feel pity for his family member again, as she was at the whim of her own addictions and demons – and he could see it.

The above picture is one which my cousin Jimmy insisted I take of him. It was immediately after his first cancer surgery. We were at his mom’s house. (My Aunt Ardith.) As you can see, Jimmy was still smiling and laughing. His mom wasn’t too thrilled with our brand of humor. Our custom was to make the most outrageous, tasteless and macabre statements that we could imagine. Between the two of us, we used to come up with some epic craziness. Aunt Ardith would sit in her perch on the couch next to the sliding glass doors, drinking her whiskey and coke, smoking, and feigning surprise and mirth at some of our goofiness. We had the ability to literally say anything to each other or about each other, directly, without fear of anger.

Jimmy was very confident that he was going to beat cancer. When this picture was taken, I was very hopeful. Realistically hopeful, I thought. Jimmy joked that this picture would make an ideal Christmas card. His mom specifically told me that I had better not make cards with the picture on it. (My reputation for doing that sort of thing was quite well known…) Jimmy then chimed in that it would make an ideal “All I got was this lousy bout of cancer” t-shirt. It’s still funny, although with a slightly different twist to it now.

The plan was going to be to post this picture on Facebook after-the-fact. Jimmy was interested in being able to talk to people about his experiences. As a well-liked employee of Budweiser, he knew a lot of people and would have a lot of opportunities to talk to people. Unfortunately, his cancer came back to take him down.

This picture might as well have been taken in another century. It both seems like both yesterday and ten years ago simultaneously. His mom became ill and died a few short months before him after he relapsed. His mom’s house is sold to strangers and Jimmy’s life is fading in everyone’s collective consciousness.When Jimmy died, I had tried to get people to write anecdotes and stories to share with me. I had made a commitment to share them out in the world in such a way as to attempt to keep those memories alive. I did my best to disseminate his pictures to friends and family, sharing them on public drives and makings disks, printed copies and any other method I could think of. We all have our stories and moments to remember with Jimmy. Some of us have a strong collection of memories, many of which were times that weren’t fun while we were living them but are as much a part of his life as the “good” times. As time slides past us, our stories will slide into the fog with us.

Whether it is wrong to say so or not, Jimmy’s death affected me in countless more ways than my own mother’s death did. I was with Jimmy for much of his final time and was with him when he finally had nothing left with which to fight. He weighed so little that it seemed only his soul remained in him.

Not only were we contemporaries, but we shared a common bond of ridiculous attitude toward many of life’s idiocies. We were both forged in a family where laughter could be replaced by drunken rage without notice. My youth was fuller thanks to Jimmy and his parents, even when the times weren’t so good.

Jimmy’s life was one of potential. His younger years were full of missteps and mistakes. (Isn’t that true of all of us, though?)  It would have been interesting to see what he would have made of his promotion at Budweiser, of his relationship with his girlfriend (and then wife) before his passing, or of his new appreciation for the scarcity of life. Had cancer not kicked him, I think he would have been one of those people who would have flourished with another lease on life. His laugh would have been a beacon to people and his youthful impatience would have dissipated.

 

 

(Jimmy is on the far right. Picture from Dogpatch, USA, the 1970s.)
If you’re interested, you can find a few more stories about my cousin Jimmy on this blog by using the “Category” drop-down menu on the right-hand side of the main blog page.
Here’s one: A Reminder…   and An Unfinished Blog Post.

A Memory Overcomes Me

 

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As the sun beat down and the creek noisily flowed away from me, I glanced up to see the array of monuments to lost mortality on the bluff to my right. It’s deceptive how the trail sprints like a careless runner through the middle of things. I pictured Jimmy standing up there, waving, telling me to keep walking even if they sun cooked away my enthusiasm. That’s how time works sometimes, hurling the most pleasant of hallucinations upon us.

There’s no lesson or moral to this story, just an observation about the overlap of memory. Maybe it’s because Jimmy is up there on that bluff, his own rock and etched tooth raised against the August afternoon breeze. He wouldn’t waste his time lecturing me; he’d turn up the radio and let the music waft through the air. As I walked past, Cristian Castro sang, “…que el tibio abrazo que no volverá …” It wasn’t Jimmy’s kind of music, but he’d laugh and say, “Whatever floats you away, dude.”

“The Picture” Updated

Enough time has passed since Jimmy died for me to remember the goofiness more than the anguish of cancer that he endured. It’s natural that death works that way, as he was alive and kicking for much longer than he was suffering. There are still those days when I catch myself wondering what Jimmy might make of something or I half-expect him to drive up to the house after getting more stuff for his hoard from a local garage sale.

Fair or not, a lot of Jimmy’s energy was siphoned away by his one family member’s obsession with money and getting what she thought was hers. It was a travesty and I learned a lot from it, whether I wanted to or not. It angered Jimmy that he was being punished with cancer. Had he survived and not relapsed, I think he might have begun to feel pity for his family member again, as she was at the whim of her own addictions and demons – and he could see it.

The above picture is one which my cousin Jimmy insisted I take of him. It was immediately after his first cancer surgery. We were at his mom’s house. (My Aunt Ardith.) As you can see, Jimmy was still smiling and laughing. His mom wasn’t too thrilled with our brand of humor. Our custom was to make the most outrageous, tasteless and macabre statements that we could imagine. Between the two of us, we used to come up with some epic craziness. Aunt Ardith would sit in her perch on the couch next to the sliding glass doors, drinking her whiskey and coke, smoking, and feigning surprise and mirth at some of our goofiness. We had the ability to literally say anything to each other or about each other, directly, without fear of anger.

Jimmy was very confident that he was going to beat cancer. When this picture was taken, I was very hopeful. Realistically hopeful, I thought. Jimmy joked that this picture would make an ideal christmas card. His mom specifically told me that I had better not make cards with the picture on it. (My reputation for doing that sort of thing was quite well known…) Jimmy then chimed in that it would make an ideal “All I got was this lousy bout of cancer” t-shirt. It’s still funny, although with a slightly different twist to it now.

The plan was going to be to post this picture on Facebook after-the-fact. Jimmy was interested in being able to talk to people about his experiences. As a well-liked employee of Budweiser, he knew a lot of people and would have a lot of opportunities to talk to people. Unfortunately, his cancer came back to take him down.

This picture might as well have been taken in another century. It both seems like both yesterday and ten years ago simultaneously. His mom became ill and died a few short months before him, after he relapsed. His mom’s house is sold to strangers and Jimmy’s life is fading in everyone’s collective consciousness.When Jimmy died, I had tried to get people to write anecdotes and stories to share with me. I had made a commitment to share them out in the world in such a way as to attempt to keep those memories alive. I did my best to disseminate his pictures to friends and family, sharing them on public drives and makings disks, printed copies and any other method I could think of. We all have our stories and moments to remember with Jimmy. Some of us have a strong collection of memories, many of which were times that weren’t fun while we were living them but are as much a part of his life as the “good” times. As time slides past us, our stories will slide into the fog with us.

Whether it is wrong to say so or not, Jimmy’s death affected me in countless more ways than my own mother’s death did. I was with Jimmy for much of his final time and was with him when he finally had nothing left with which to fight. He weighed so little that it seemed only his soul remained in him.

Not only were we contemporaries, but we shared a common bond of ridiculous attitude toward many of life’s idiocies. We were both forged in a family where laughter could be replaced by drunken rage without notice. My youth was fuller thanks to Jimmy and his parents, even when the times weren’t so good.

Jimmy’s life was one of potential. His younger years were full of missteps and mistakes. (Isn’t that true of all of us, though?)  It would have been interesting to see what he would have made of his promotion at Budweiser, of his relationship with his girlfriend (and then wife) before his passing, or of his new appreciation for the scarcity of life. Had cancer not kicked him, I think he would have been one of those people who would have flourished with another lease on life. His laugh would have been a beacon to people and his youthful impatience would have dissipated.

(Jimmy is on the far right. Picture from Dogpatch, USA, 1970s.)

From Alissa’s FB: “… Jimmy … still in his hospital gown following surgery due to the drain tube he had; it took me two days to convince him to wear t-shirts with pockets to hide the tube. He finally agreed if I could find the “right” shirt he would indeed wear them. I finally found the perfect T where I cut the pocket out from the inside. He was tickled that I found a way to hide that drain tube….P.S. I still wear that perfect T to sleep in.”

 

08032014 A Funny Cancer Story (Updated)

(This is a picture of me and Jimmy horsing around during one of his son’s birthday celebrations.)

One day toward the end of my cousin Jimmy’s cancer struggle, I stayed with Jimmy during the day. Jimmy’s girlfriend had to leave town for the day to suffer through her state licensing exam for either cosmology or cosmetology (just kidding), so I offered to wander around and spend the day with Jimmy. The day was broken into long periods where Jimmy would pace and smoke, followed by more smoking. I was accustomed to seeing him smoke but on that day, he smoked as if he had to get them all smoked, forever. He wanted me to run him to a convenience store and drive around. (While looking back at the dates, somehow I had forgotten completely that Jimmy insisted on driving over to the new house he was to move into with Alissa.) We stopped at EZ Mart before going over to check on the new house, chiefly to get Jimmy more cigarettes. We couldn’t go inside the house, but we walked around and traded terrible commentary about the house. Jimmy wondered if there was room in the backyard for “muffin-fetchin” dogs, a long-running joke we shared. After leaving the house, we went back to the same EZ Mart we had visited before seeing the house. I honestly can’t believe I forgot that part of this story as I wrote it. The mind is a strange thing!

Coming back, the traffic around Joyce Street was unimaginably terrible. Jimmy had lit another cigarette as I drove, joking and carrying on. As I reached the intersection to turn right into the side road leading to Jimmy’s apartment, Jimmy fumbled the lit cigarette.

Jimmy looked at me and said, “Dude, I think I am on fire!” He said it as if someone had just handed him a roll of $100 dollar bills and a fresh pizza, except he uttered it in quiet amazement.

Since he was wearing baggy shorts, he couldn’t tell whether the cigarette was on him or had fallen to the carpeted floor. By the time I realized he had dropped the cigarette, there was already smoke in the air. Traffic was piled up front and behind. The look of surprise and bewilderment on Jimmy’s face both made me laugh and terrorized me simultaneously. “Hold on,” I hollered and hit the gas, going to the left hard. (Joyce Street, even on great days, is already akin to a Vehicular Roulette in that area.) Incredibly, some idiot behind me did the same, darting into oncoming traffic behind me. My goal had been to get turned onto the side road, slam on the brakes, then jump out to run around the car, fling open Jimmy’s door and find the cigarette before he burst into flames. The car behind me threw a wrench into my plan, making it very dangerous. I floored it for a second, then hit the brakes. The car behind me screeched to a halt as I started to get out of the car.  He then swerved around me, giving me the one-finger salute as well as some interesting curse words to brighten my day. I had wanted to throw my door open but had to wait to see what the car behind was going to do. It was one thing to potentially let Jimmy catch fire, but on the other hand, I didn’t want my driver car door ripped off the hinges by an angry driver as he sped past.

Smoke was coming from near the door. I couldn’t figure out if it was him smoldering or the carpet. Jimmy was under the influence of a lot of medication, so it was possible that he was, in fact, ablaze without really knowing it. I ran around the car, opening the door as if I were the Incredible Hulk and with enough force to have flung it to three miles into the air. It turned out the cigarette had smoldered on the carpet, burning it, producing smoke. I handed Jimmy the cigarette back an couldn’t help but start to laugh at him as he put the cigarette back in his mouth. And then he laughed and laughed and laughed.

As I got back in the car, he said “I’m so sorry for catching your car on fire, X.” I laughed again and said “At least we’ve got a good story to tell.” (I say this a lot no matter how bad something is that happens.) Despite knowing how I am about stuff, he seemed to be genuinely alarmed about the carpet. At the time, he probably didn’t know how close we had been to having someone drive over the top of us while we were sitting in my Honda, trying to get out of the crazy Joyce Street traffic.

“Promise me you won’t tell Alissa. She won’t think this is funny.” The way he said it made me laugh even harder. I think it would have been MUCH more complicated trying to explain to Alissa how I had gotten us killed than explaining a funny story about Jimmy torching my car. I reassured Jimmy that it was no big deal which led him to worry that maybe Dawn would be upset. I told Jimmy that she would only be upset if I drove the car home while it was on fire – and ran it inside the house. Over the next hour, Jimmy continued to be worried about the car but as I told crazier and more outrageous jokes about it, even he started to realize it was a great story.

(Sidenote: this story happened on either March 12th or 13th, 2013.)

 

Jimmy – The Unfinished Blog Post

I wrote this blog post quite a while ago. It looks nothing like it once did. Neither does my mind, for that matter. As tightly as I cling to the idea of how cancer punished Jimmy, as much as I want to remember the lesson of how fleeting our chances can be, I still find myself incredulously shaking my head at disbelief at how life doles out its reward and pains.

 

This blog post was longer by a factor of 5, if you can believe it. I’m tired of seeing it in my draft file, challenging me, reminding me that I’m not supposed to be a perfectionist or concern myself so much with presentation. Jimmy would tell me to “fire that thing off” and light up a cigarette, laughing at me. I deleted about ten minutes of reading; I regret doing it now, but like life, it serves no purpose to focus exclusively on what we lost. I can hit “save” on this blog post and get up to have a cup of coffee. It would be a joy to be able to go have a cup with Jimmy, watching him pace the concrete outside, smoking, chatting, and wondering out loud what might happen next week.

A couple of years ago, I Jimmy was dying of cancer. His journey with the disease was like so many other people’s. He initially was defiant, suffered through the uncertainty and treatments, remission, followed by the punch of a relapse and of the reality of it coming back to get him. I wish he had followed through on his initial plan to write about his experiences, even if all he used was Facebook. Those words would be comforting to me now, even if writing carelessly or negligently. They would be his words, allowing me to hear his voice in my head, walking me through his choices in life. He told me differing reasons as to why he stopped doing it after just a couple of entries. Fear and fatigue were definitely factors in his reluctance to share. When his cancer recurred, I think he knew he might have to admit defeat; defeat as he saw it, anyway. Jimmy didn’t want to write a story of defeat, even if no one else would have read his story in that light. Someone once said that life is inevitable defeat but the game can still be enjoyed.

When Jimmy’s cancer came back, he went through intense denial about the likelihood of dying. I don’t blame him. Jimmy’s faith was supposed to insulate him from further abuse from the disease. In many ways, the cancer returning stunned Jimmy, as he had worked out promises to god in his head about using his new opportunity in life and take advantage of it, more so than he had done before when he had lost focus on the frailty of our lives. I do believe that his intention was to figure out a way to parcel out his experience with cancer and share it in the best way he could – had he survived.

Jimmy was also especially at odds with the idea that smoking, dipping or drinking could have had any effect on his cancer’s development. He continued to smoke during his remission and when the cancer came back to attack him. Jimmy loved to smoke. It defined the personal moments in his life, shaped his day into increments of being alive. It is a habit he learned from his mother, a million cigarettes into her lifetime. To be clear, I don’t fault Jimmy for continuing to smoke after his diagnosis. It would be easy for me to jump on it and preach about it – but smoking isn’t something that is easily set aside. When you are facing your demise, anything that can ease the pain of dealing with it is twice as hard to kick off one’s back. Each of us gets to decide how we would handle the slow death spiral that comes with cancer. No matter what I would write about it now, the truth is that I can’t say definitively what I  might actually say or do if I were in his shoes. I know that if smoking is what kept Jimmy saner while dealing with cancer, I will not judge.I always knew that when his urge to smoke waned, he was ready to let life slip past him.

We couldn’t get my cousin to make choices about the rest of his life, as he was so focused on his self-affirmation of survival. Trying to get him directed toward further treatment or hospice was an admission of defeat for him. His stubbornness interfered with the quality of his life in the last few months. He was lucky to have his girlfriend during this – and  my cousin misbehaved enough that it was a constant surprise that he kept her around. Jimmy had the infamous Terry attitude and the anger that gave him rein to lash out when he didn’t feel well. The medication he was on liberated his temptation toward anger.  For a time, he did his best to drive away his girlfriend. But she stuck with him through it all. Jimmy threw her off her orbit sometimes, but she was still circling, connected to him. Despite Jimmy’s issues before with his girlfriend, I kept reminding him of the urgency of being alive and respecting those who had been steadfast in their support and helping him.

When I went over after work to see Jimmy and discuss hospice and options with him, he knew that I was there to be honest with him. One thing Jimmy could always expect from me was honesty, even if it was the type of truth that made him say “Ouch!” and even when I thought he was being dumb. Jimmy had been missing the doctor’s guidance toward hospice and focus on quality of life for as long as he might continue to survive, and insisted that the decision to discontinue all his chemo and radiation treatments again was a positive sign and that he was going to live through it. After considerable setbacks with another round of chemo and a few hospitalizations, Jimmy’s doctor ended treatments and prescribed hospice, with the expectation that Jimmy follow-up accordingly. When we left the treatment center, Jimmy was already talking about how good of a sign it was that his treatment was ending – that it meant that he was going to get better. It was a terrible moment, one with fangs at my throat. Even for me, it was a minute of two of suffocating desire to run away from it.I aged a year or two in those moments; my normal confidence had fled and I couldn’t imagine being in his shoes.

(In an attempt to be clearer, the objective of me talking to Jimmy wasn’t to dishearten him or to in any way ‘preach’ at him. The objective was to get him to change his focus toward a better understanding of his choices and options for the remainder of his life. His denial of some things was directly hurting his medical situation and those around him.That being said, it was his right to do what he wanted.)

Finding the words to get Jimmy to listen to me was one of the toughest things I’ve ever had to do. I made an impassioned and heart-felt attempt to get through to Jimmy to take the first step toward accepting hospice treatment and shifting his focus toward making decisions while he still could. Jimmy had already witnessed and suffered the effects of his mom recently becoming ill and dying fairly quickly. She died without much of her wishes, medical or material, known – this in turn, caused Jimmy a LOT of horrible issues with some family, all of which could have been sidestepped with minimal preparation. I never could get Jimmy’s mom to follow through with a living will, a regular will, or any of the other necessary decisions and planning. She was a very smart woman but for whatever reason, didn’t follow through, leaving Jimmy to suffer the consequences with another family member whose motivations were less-than-reputable, in my opinion.

Jimmy felt that admitting he needed hospice was the first step toward acceptance of his death. Jimmy had all the hospice information there at the apartment with him. I walked him through what had happened, what his doctors had been trying to tell him, as well as all his options, where he could live and how he could continue to expect his family and friends to help him.

“You think I’m going to die, don’t you?” was Jimmy’s response. It broke my heart for a while to hear him ask in such a plaintive, accusatory tone. “Yes,” I told him. “Your cancer is going to win, sooner rather than later.” I reassured him that in reality, little had changed – that the only difference between the present and five years ago was that he could be assured his death was to be sooner rather than later. We talked about his renewed faith and how he could use that to focus himself on living the rest of his life the way he needed to.After talking to Jimmy at length, I told him that a pastor was coming over to talk to him and to ask him any questions he might have, and that we could figure out how to help him get as much choice out of his life as was feasible. Praying and offers of comfort were supposed to be part of the equation, too. Jimmy’s outlook was immensely more optimistic and informed. We talked about how beautiful the Hospice Lodge was and Jimmy kept saying he needed to go spend at least one night there. He also spoke of understanding how his medication and frustration were making him lash out at Alissa and the girls and how having Noah see him that way wasn’t what he wanted in his memory. Then, the pastor arrived. The comforting acceptance vanished…

The pastor came over to get my cousin to listen to the necessity of making plans for how to spend the rest of his life in comfort, as well as making all the decisions to take care of his girlfriend and son, as well as all his things, before leaving us. When the pastor arrived, instead of talking to Jimmy as both a comforter and counselor to help him make plans, he used the opportunity to pray with Jimmy, insisting to God that his cancer would be taken from him and to focus only on surviving the disease. No mention was made of hospice, what course of treatments were left, or any discussion of the decisions Jimmy should focus on. The literature regarding hospice was ignored and after the pastor left, no further mention was really made of it. I had hoped, too, that the pastor could make a personal connection with Jimmy about not letting his disease continue to anger him and affect his bond with his girlfriend and her two children. I was very frustrated that the pastor missed his chance to address all the other needs and things Jimmy needed to hear.

His method was full of vocal holy spirit and not focused on counseling. I don’t understand it. Maybe I’m not supposed to.

(Sidenote: If Jimmy could come back for a day and listen and see what the consequences are to his not having made certain decisions back when he could have…To this day, over 18 months later, people he wanted to protect are still dealing with the aftermath of it. Jimmy would not be happy about it. I would look him in the eye and call him a goofball for not taking the lesson of his mother’s death and how his half-sister behaved and using it to make better decisions.  I tried and tried from the outset to get him to use his mom’s example to motivate himself to make the decisions he wanted, to disclose them to everyone who would need to know, and to face the mortality. He wanted Noah to have things, but he also wanted Alissa to not have to stress. That’s why he chose to marry her so late into his life. Not out of fear and not out of regret or obligation; rather, as an affirmation of life and the realization that he was going to go ahead of his time, even though he had so much more to live for. I’m both surprised and amused by how a couple of people behaved, even after his passing. Jimmy made his declaration loud and clear when he married Alissa. It would embarrass me to step up and fight against his wishes in this instance, were I not observant enough to look at his life and see that his marriage signaled his priorities and his wishes.)

Until right up before Jimmy died, he would look at me and say “I’m not dead yet,” or more likely, “I ain’t dead yet.” The last few times he was half-joking, just to get a rise out of me. He even asked me the day he got married. When Alissa, Jimmy and Alissa’s dad and step-mom dropped by the house one afternoon, as tired as Jimmy was, he looked me dead in the eyes and said “I ain’t dead yet” and came into the house.

About a week before Jimmy died, I was certain that he was going to be gone that Saturday. He stopped breathing for what seemed like a minute, his skin grew discolored and his condition could not have been worse. When oxygen arrived, he showed vast improvement. Alissa had to make the decision to give him oxygen or not. Had she not, Jimmy would have left us that Saturday afternoon. It would have been a good day to die. The next day, he was outside, smoking, talking about how close to death he had been. It was his Indian Summer, one that afforded him mental acuity and the ability to laugh at the absurdity of it all. “That’s the way to go,” he said. But he wanted to smoke when he work up that next day – a sure sign that he wasn’t ready to dive into death just yet. He had the twinkle in his eye that day.

Someone very close to Jimmy joked that maybe he should have been smoking during his viewing. No disrespect was meant by the comment and it has a harsh truth to it. When I mentioned his mom having smoked over a million cigarettes before her death, it was no exaggeration. Even at 3 packs a day, 365 days a year, over 50 years, it surpasses a million cigarettes.

He died on a March Monday afternoon, in his relatively new home, married, and had not survived long enough to see his son Noah graduate, and without the chance to use the knowledge that cancer had cruelly given him: that all these plans we make, things we hold in esteem are nothing without happiness, health, and people we enjoy in our lives.

Jimmy died months ahead of my mom. For whatever reason, his absence has so far made a much bigger impact on my life than my mom’s passing. I don’t hide this fact or sugarcoat it. I feel like Jimmy could have done a few things so much differently had he lived a few more years. When the cancer came back he was certainly mad and resistant to the idea of dying. But I wonder what might have become of his new marriage and his better job at the Budweiser. It feels like he and might have had a much different appreciation of one another and been around to suffer and appreciate middle age together. Cancer is a scary infection, one which challenges everything you are hoping for and all too easily takes your optimism and burns it in front of you.

I use Jimmy’s suffering to compare how I might react to the same challenges. I know I would not do well.

I work to remember the good and bad times with Jimmy before cancer defined him. His life was a long bookshelf, with cancer being but a blip on one end. It sometimes is so hard to look back and see past the long interlude when cancer start its dance.

Toilet Photos (Update)


 

One of my previous hobbies involved taking pictures of the toilets (or a toilet) in a place I visited. (I didn’t take a picture if the place were filthy.) At the apex of my hobby, I had at least a 100 great toilet pictures. I’ll bet you’ve never read that sentence in your life before, have you? Say what you will about the foolishness of such an endeavor, it was certainly inexpensive to collect such “mementos” of the places I had visited. I would even take them back when all I had was a traditional film camera. Imagining what the people printing the pictures were thinking was no small part of the fun of the stupidity I enjoyed.

Whether I sauntered into the Imax in Tulsa, Oklahoma, or Liberace’s private bathroom, I would take a snapshot of the toilet. Doing this rarely failed to give a me a burst of laughter. There were times someone might walk in during my shot. More than once, I had looks of outlandishly bewildered expressions thrown at me. On one occasion, I took a shot and the flash must have bewildered someone in an adjacent stall I thought to be empty. I heard a very quiet “What the f$%^” come out of the supposedly empty stall. Explaining what I was doing in these situations didn’t seem to sate the curiosity of those who walked in during these photography sessions! No, it usually inspired the inquisitive people to march away quickly, very quickly.

A few years ago, I had visited Olive Garden in Fayetteville with my cousin Jimmy Terry. He wanted to “see me in action,” so to speak. He accompanied me to the bathroom and as I opened the stall door, he couldn’t control his laughter. “I can’t believe you do this all the time!” he giggled. I let him take the picture but his giggling resulted in all 3 of the pictures coming out looking like he had a seizure while trying to take the picture. More than once, Jimmy would later ask me if I took a picture of any toilets while I went to Vegas or to a new restaurant. He liked to joke that I should get a photography service started and do the photo shoots ONLY in bathrooms. He said it would be easier to clump everyone together if they were all crammed in a stall together – and that they would be more inclined to not waste time, especially if the stall were “between users,” so to speak. He added that since people were always running off to the bathroom, doing the shoot IN the bathroom would be thereby eliminated as an excuse, too.

When going through old photo albums, you could have seen two dozen pictures of the Air Museum only to be thrown off guard halfway through by a full-color shot of one of the toilets residing there. Every once and a while, I would throw in a picture of one of the toilets in the dvd picture slideshows I loved making. (From my perspective, there was just as much recognition of my visit having seen the toilet as the front of the building housing it.) Including toilet pictures in a person’s slideshow is a quick method to determine how much of a sense of humor someone might have.

(I used to joke that such a book would make an excellent coffee table book. The novelty of such an item should have been enough to achieve modest sales, even as a gag gift.)

Sometime not too long ago, I thought I was doing myself a favor by culling the toilet shots out of my photo collections. I think by doing so that I excised a portion of my wonderment and amusement toward the world. It would be a great pleasure to laugh at some of those pictures again and to test how many I could identify without any context.

Newser Story Containing a Couple of Links Directly Related to This 

 

“The Fault In Our Stars” (Update)

The Fault In Our Stars  (Novel, not movie…)

Have you ever had a mystery revealed to you? Even when you know you aren’t going to comprehend fully, you get a glimpse of what it might feel like to be satisfied with your own mind? Reading this book was like that for me.Such a book overshadows your days, lingering at the edges of everything you say and do. For anyone unfamiliar with such a feeling, I would ask that life allow each of us at least once to be so overpowered by the written word. I’ve never been one to concern myself too much with book genres; I find that ‘interesting’ and ‘not interesting’ are better expressions of the content of a book. While this separation seems a bit too generalized, each of us is also governed by where we are in life as we experience a new book. I think that TFIOS is one of the few novels that will touch you regardless of your circumstances. I wish that I would have read this book when it was first published. It would have been such a boon to use the humor with my cousin Jimmy and others. How other people who’ve lost people to cancer might avoid being overwhelmed reading this book is beyond me. Whatever your temperament, you can’t “just read” this book and not immerse yourself in issues beyond the book. It is personal, much like the way John Green describes the cancers his characters live and die with.

I’m a late arrival to the John Green bandwagon. For whatever reason, I’ve always read his words in bursts on the internet, even at the expense of not watching him and his brother on their online presence, or of reading his novels. Despite my lesser writing ability, I see an affinity with the unexpectedness clever preciseness of his writing.

Even though I bought the book for interim reading on a recent trip to Hot Springs, I found myself gleefully abandoning the facade of the real world for the quick-witted, emotional world of The Fault In Our Stars. Few books have hit me with such explosive force. It compares equally to A Prayer For Owen Meany in punch. While the latter’s world is more complex, TFIOS is a rapid succession of both emotion and wit. For those who have lost people close to them to cancer, it not only will make you laugh at the serious absurdity of it all, but challenge you to not cry. For it to have been written by someone not scarred by cancer, it is a testament to John Green’s intense style.Regardless, you will yearn for a world inhabited by people as smart and interesting as Hazel Grace and Augustus. As you walk around your real life while consuming this book, the people you encounter will suffer by comparison.

For the five people who’ve never heard of “TFIOS,” I would ask you to forego the usual clichés and give this book a try. Whether you are into clever banter or engaging story, this novel should satisfy anyone. I’ve heard some criticism of the movie, as it allegedly veers too harshly into shmaltz. With the novel, John Green writes with such clever insight that you’ll find yourself wanting to earmark pages for re-reading and sit alone with a cup of coffee, pondering the issues it will free up in your mind. For whatever reason, reading the book will spark 100 distinct bouts of creative thought and leave you wondering why you couldn’t have shared the world described in the book. At its heart, the book is devastatingly harsh, but always true, and always resonates.

“You do not immortalize the lost by writing about them. Language buries, but does not resurrect.”

“I’m in love with you, and I know that love is just a shout into the void, and that oblivion is inevitable, and that we’re all doomed and that there will come a day when all our labor has been returned to dust, and I know the sun will swallow the only earth we’ll ever have, and I am in love with you.”

“The weird thing about houses is that they almost always look like nothing is happening inside of them, even though they contain most of our lives. I wondered if that was sort of the point of architecture.”

“Whenever you read a cancer booklet or website or whatever, they always list depression among the side effects of cancer. But, in fact, depression is not a side effect of cancer. Depression is a side effect of dying.”

“The pleasure of remembering had been taken from me, because there was no longer anyone to remember with. It felt like losing your co-rememberer meant losing the memory itself, as if the things we’d done were less real and important than they had been hours before.”

“That’s part of what I like about the book in some ways. It portrays death truthfully. You die in the middle of your life, in the middle of a sentence”

“Some tourists think Amsterdam is a city of sin, but in truth it is a city of freedom. And in freedom, most people find sin.”

“Without pain, how could we know joy?’ This is an old argument in the field of thinking about suffering and its stupidity and lack of sophistication could be plumbed for centuries but suffice it to say that the existence of broccoli does not, in any way, affect the taste of chocolate.”

― John Green, The Fault in Our Stars