Thursday, December 31, 2015

You never know

        I'm sure that I have mentioned the fact that I paint, and I paint with seven other artists on Tuesday mornings. If you haven't heard it, you will now.
        Being a friendly group, we thought that we should share our art with the community, so we applied for a group showing at the Art Center. The same art Center where we paint every Tuesday. After a short time we were told that our application was scuttled. We were not upset. It was a long shot to begin with.
       Weeks went by and then, this past Tuesday, the Art Director came into our work space and said that he was sorry about our failed attempt, but, if we were to give him some samples of our work, he would present them, individually, to the board for inclusion the Discovery Series. That's a three week long show where one unknown artist has hers or his work shown with the works of two well known and established artists. The artist is given about 45 feet of wall.
        The only hitch in this offer was the fact that he needed the photos within the next two hours as he was presenting all of the candidates to the board, that afternoon.I was thinking of looking for some images on my laptop and I started to do that...then a friend came to talk to me and then my wife came to pick me up. Just before I closed the laptop, I said, "Just give me a minute..." and I gathered up four or five photos that may or may not have represented my work and I attached them to an email and sent them off.
        On Wednesday I had not even looked at my email. It had been a bad day for pain and I had taken a lot of Norco. A lot. But, Thursday morning was different and I opened an email from the Art Center and learned that I had been selected! I had many, many emotions right then. Joy. Despair. Excitement. Despair. You can see where this is going. To be recognized for your work in the art community is an honor...well, it is for me. And then there is the problem of the Reception. Maybe three or 4 hours of standing around with a smile on your face while overhearing all of the comments about your work. "My 3 year can do better than that!" Since I have ASD, the reception is very disturbing to me. I have been in similar situations and I had walked simply away from them. I'm certain that I shouldn't do that here.
       Okay, I will cogitate on that problem...and in the meantime, I will go out to the garage and get some more paintings done.

Monday, December 28, 2015

We have a date

A surgery date. It will be on January 15th and all we need now is a time. Once again we wait. Not that it matters much. Speaking from experience, the hospital will change the time, every time, and at the last moment. Sometimes earlier in the day and sometimes later. Whatever. I'm looking forward to it.

I have found that most people are not happy to have surgery of any kind and so they think my attitude of gratitude is a bit odd. I have also told people that I don't expect this surgery to 'fix' my pain problems. They don't understand this and wonder why it won't work. I have to explain that this is just a step toward eventual pain relief and that pain relief is certainly not guaranteed, no matter how many times I have surgery. Again, these friends are mystified as to why I don't have some sort of guarantee from the doctor. These are the same people that are unhappy with every outcome they experience from the doctors they visit. They also wonder why I don't drive off to  a distant medical center; 200 miles plus. There, to talk to a doctor that has the same chance of 'fixing me' as my local surgeon. (He moved here from that same distant city because he wanted to have his children grow up in a more rural setting)

The new pain drug regimen is unsettling. The Morphine ER 3 times a day plus Norco has me seeing some things that are not there and talking out loud whenever I feel so moved. I don't drive any more so I'm relatively harmless. The goal is to stop or reduce the use of Norco for break-out pain...or stop the break-out pain altogether. Which it has. It's cut it in half and I'm happy with that, even though today happens to be a bad day and promises to be worse.

Bad pain days will quite often result in good painting days. It's as if the brain (me) needs to focus on anything other than the pain. Some of my better paintings have been created when I was in pain. Speaking of better paintings; I had a chance to view some of Ellsworth Kelly's earlier works and I realized that one of my paintings, one from a year ago, is very much like one of his. I'm happy about it because I hadn't seen any of his works in years, yet his style shone right through! There's nothing wrong with that, all artists 'steal'. Mr. Kelly admits that when he went to Paris for the first time, he copied Picasso.  I guess I shouldn't use the words 'steal' or 'copied'. Let's say he was influenced by Picasso, as were thousands of other young artists. I know that I've been influenced by many artists. Starting with Virginia Cobb and followed by so many more; Gaudi, Basquiat, DeKooning, Pollock, Krasner, Richter, Anna Barne, Nolde, Hyams, Mehretu, Heilman, Diebenkorn, Freud, Hockney and many others. The ones that I think were a greater influence I have typed them in Bold.

I must get to painting. The promise of more pain has been fulfilled.

Late breaking news...the surgery will start at noon which means that I must be there at 10:30. News of this is of no interest to anyone; except to me and the lovely lady that will drive me there.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Just read

         I just read the December 14th posting on Time Goes By. The subject was dementia and the fear of it. That's something that was really bothering me six months ago. The number of times I would wander around the kitchen looking for the right place to put something or to find something was out of control, or so I thought. I realize now that it was all quite normal for someone my age (75). Yes, I still try to put the ice cream in the bread drawer and try to use the toaster to heat my coffee, but I was lucky enough to have had some balance problems. I say lucky because I told my doctor (my PA-C) and he referred me to a neurologist, as well as a balance specialist at the local rehab center. The neurologist noted my minor complaint "I keep forgetting things" and he then introduced me to his clinical psychologist. She took me into her office and we spent half an hour testing for dementia and Alzheimer's. All quite painless, of course. I was then told that I was just fine and my memory problems were the ones that were to be expected at my age. There was an immediate feeling of relief, as if a weight had been lifted from me. I know that I would never have gone to the neurologist on my own. I should have. Years of needless worry could have been avoided. 
         Of course I received a new worry in place of the one I lost. The doctor had ordered a brain scan to make sure he covered all the possibilities of things that might make me lose my balance. He had to order a CAT scan because I couldn't have an MRI. I can't have MRI's because of the metal cable and battery that is implanted in my back to combat intractable back pain. It doesn't work but it is there anyway. He told me that the brain scan showed a possible enlargement of the ventricles in my brain. Possible is the key word. CAT scans are not as reliable as an MRI. If there is enlargement of the ventricles, then further testing is needed to rule out any possibility of Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus. That testing would involve a spinal tap, or Lumbar Puncture. That's not high on my list of favored medical procedures. As a Navy Hospital Corpsman, I worked for a neurosurgeon and had to assist in many Lumbar Punctures. My job was to hold the patient still while the doctor pushed a long 14 gauge needle into his spine. In the position I had to use to keep him still, I was just inches away from the injection site. Once the needle was in place I was asked to remove the inner cannula and begin to measure the spinal fluid as it slowly dropped out of the needle... enough of that!

       That brings me to today. I'm anxiously waiting for a phone call from the neurosurgeons office. Neurosurgeon and not neurologist. I have lots of doctors! This neurosurgeon is going to remove all of the metal from my back. The reason for the removal is three fold. One is to remove a useless piece of medical hardware. Two is to remove the hardware so that my pain specialist doctor can safely do some epidural injections to quiet the back pain that has become my constant companion. And three is to allow my neurologist to order new brain scans using MRI technology. Both the doctor and I want to know what's really happening to my ventricles. Because, if it's not Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus, it may be Parkinson's or ???

I'm just back from a checkup visit to my main doctor, Stuart the PA-C. We decided to increase the amount of morphine extended release that I'm taking. I will take it 3 times a day instead of twice. It will be wonderful to get rid of the wires and have the epidurals. Maybe then the pain will finally be gone and I will be taking no drugs! I won't be holding my breath though...  


Friday, December 11, 2015


The Polls have spoken! And the Polls say that Americans are terrified of Dâ'ish! Well, if they weren't before the polls, they are are more likely to be so now.

The poll I saw was the Times/CBS poll and it was a telephone poll, conducted on both cell and landlines. There were approximately 800 respondents and weighted slightly toward the Republican side of things. These 800 people now represent the heart and soul of America. What a farce!

If you have a landline, you are certainly more likely to be over the age of 60. Not certainly over the age of 60 but more likely. If you have a landline OR a cellphone and you answer phone calls when you don't know the identity of the caller? You are most likely to be desperate for a conversation. Very desperate. We have caller ID for just this reason...screening out salespeople and pollsters! There are millions of people that are not interested in polls. And, as we know, millions more that aren't even interested in voting. Of any kind.

I can see that the 800 respondents are not at all like me or most of the people I know. I am over 60 but I don't answer the phone, landline or cell, when I don't know the caller. I have voicemail...leave me a message.

If the pollsters had told me what the question was going to be and how they intended to conduct the poll, I could have saved them time and money and given them the same result. Just give me half the money budgeted for the poll and we would both be happy.

I'm not bringing up something new. I read an article, in the Economist? not long ago, about this problem. Pollsters are finding it increasingly difficult to find a method of polling that will be close to accurate. Their reputations are at stake and after the polling failures during the last election, they are desperate to find a method that will work for them. I don't think this one will do it. But, in the meantime, the gullible among us, and there are far too many, will be hiding under the covers.  

Monday, December 7, 2015


What an odd word; recollect? Isn't that a word that grizzled old prospectors would say to the Lone Ranger? "I recollect y'r right, masked man." Do we use this word anymore? And why did it pop into my head just now, as I was searching for a word to title this post? There are three questions that I can probably postpone answering for quite awhile.

My head is full of odd thoughts this morning. Memories, actually. I've been seeing that happen quite a bit recently and I think it's because of the change in pain meds. There's nothing unpleasant about it so it's a side effect that I can put up with.

I remember my mother doing the washing down in the basement of our house on Center Street and right above her, in the kitchen, was a pantry door and when you opened the door, you could look down, through the screened in bottom of the pantry and watch my mother at work. I loved to watch the clothes going through the wringer and coming out flat and stiff as they emerged from being squeezed. That was in 1948 so she was lucky to have a washing machine. I remember that there was a 1937 Chevy coupe sitting in the driveway of that house. New cars were also hard to find. I should say 'inexpensive' new cars. It was also in 1948 that my dad got a new job and a 1947 Oldsmobile two-door fastback sedan. The Chevy was retired to Chevrolet heaven...

That same year I was sent to Colton, California; To live with the family of a long time family friend. I had asthma and the doctor had suggested that a change in climate might help me. There was certainly a climate change between Manhattan Beach and Colton. I had spent some weekends there before and I remember just how hot it could be. Remember; it was the 1940's and central heat and AC for the average residences didn't exist. No AC in the cars either.

The drive to Colton in the 40's could take close to six hours as there were no freeways. It might take you four hours today....during rush hour. Ninety minutes if you drove it at 1 in the morning. Since it did take so long, I spent some time on the train. My 'host' family would put me on the train on a Friday afternoon and my dad would drive me back to Colton on a Sunday afternoon.

I was fascinated by Union Station in Los Angeles. It was (and is) an architectural marvel; in my eyes. And it was only nine years old when I first saw it. Sometimes my dad would have mom and my sisters with him when he picked me up at the station and we would go over to nearby Phillipe's for a French Dip sandwich. Phillipe, The Original, exists today.

That memory contains memories of the porters that worked on the trains and at the station. They all were black. I had never seen a black person before. No African Americans lived in Manhattan Beach. And it was about seven years later that I saw another African American. That was Jesse and he worked for my dad as a Hod Carrier. For some years before I met Jesse, I heard stories about him during dinner time. My dad respected Jesse and would tell us about how hard Jesse had worked and what he done that week. When a job finished up, dad would keep Jesse working on odd jobs as long as he could or until another job started up. All this time, I never knew that Jesse was an African American.

My dad wanted to buy a car for the two of us to work on and one that I could then drive, I was fifteen then. Jesse had a Model A that he drove to work every day and he sold it to my dad for $10. Jesse brought the car out to our house on a Saturday. I remember meeting Jesse and after getting over the shock of seeing a black man, a Negro, an African American, in our driveway and then shaking his hand, I was fascinated by him. Very tall and slender. Soft spoken. He took his tools out of the back seat of the Model A and put them in dad's car. We shook hands again and then dad drove him home.

Four years later, 1959,  and I was in the Navy, stationed in North Carolina. Civil Rights did not exist. I saw how African Americans were treated there and was shaken by it. It still bothers me when I think about it.


As I read and re-read what I've just written, I wonder if I have written this before? It seems familiar. And if I did write this once before, are the facts still the same? These kinds of doubts only occur after the age of seventy. I think?

Another memory was of one of my favorite haunts. The automobile junkyard, on Rosecrans Blvd, owned by Mr. Jones. I had a Model A and so a junkyard was an appropriate place for me to be. This was in pre-OSHA days and to enter into the junkyard you only had to show up in Mr. Jone's office at the front of the lot with some tools in your hand and a declaration of what it was that you were looking for. That's all. You were then free to wander through the immense property. After a few trips I knew where most things were and could locate what I needed in minutes. But, I was interested in everything else that was in that yard. Amazing stuff! I remember a 1936 Cadillac limousine that had barely been touched. It was immense, black of course, and had twin fender mounted spare tires. I would often sit in it and wonder if I could come up with the $200 that Mr. Jones wanted for it.  

Even more amazing was the fact that no one that I knew of had ever hurt themselves while salvaging auto parts there...the good old days.

Gotta go...I'm having one of those side effect dreams and I don't want to miss it.


Friday, December 4, 2015

Good news

I had an endoscopy and a biopsy of the tissue involved in my Barrette's Syndrome, all on the day before Thanksgiving, and I received the results a few minute ago; all is well. That's two years in a row so I will be taken off the 'once a year endoscopy' list and will just have to see the doctor in his office. I also have to take Prilosec from now until? Let's just say forever. Just another drug in the arsenal I take.

I had a great day yesterday, with little pain, and I only needed two Norco. Today started out differently and I needed pain relief just a few minutes after having the first cup of coffee. I'm still painting, I just come in and sit for awhile after I feel the nerves complaining. Which I'm doing right now. I'm sitting at the kitchen table with my laptop handy while I read the latest copy of ArtNews. I read a lot of the current art magazines; ArtNews, American Art Collector, American Artist and one other, whose name escapes me. That's all well and good, but, they cover the modern art scene, from New York to Los Angeles and Miami and Santa Fe and the Arab Emirates and Berlin and...nowhere near where I live. The type of art they feature is almost exclusively Abstract and all the various offshoots from that description; Abstract. That's the kind of art I love; the art that moves me. Unfortunately, there are very few abstract artists in Butte County. Part of that problem lies in the fact that this county is 'Red' and I've never met a Republican abstract artist.

I'm starting to fall asleep as I type; a side effect of MS Contin. It's time for me to get and go back to my paintings....I just wondered, where would I put this new painting? I started painting seriously about five years ago and I've accumulated a lot of paintings in that time. Some are good and most are not. I have plans to cover the bad ones with gesso and start anew. But, what I should do is what John Baldessari did when faced with an overflow of paintings that he deemed to be trash. He hired a crematorium for the time needed to dispose of his painting by reducing them to ashes. He invited his friends and I understand that they had a wake right there, champagne included. I don't have that kind of spare cash so I might have to just send them off to the dump, and without ceremony.

The lack of space for my paintings really is a problem. I'm going to rearrange the five paintings that are on the living room wall that has the most space. I'm going to try and put fifteen paintings, of varied size, in that same space. With careful planning and design I think it can be done. I've seen it before! All the other rooms, including the bathrooms and laundry room, are filled with art.

Gotta go...

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

It's too early to shop for Christmas...

I don't want to do it. I actually enjoy most shopping. I like to go grocery shopping as long as it's Trader Joe's or Raley's. I like shopping at Kohl's for my clothes. I don't mind Target for my cat food and paper plates. But Christmas shopping is something I avoid at all costs. I will probably wait until December 15th and then, later at night, I will log on to the Amazon store and do it all in half an hour. And I don't want anything at all. Nothing. Nada. Give to your favorite charity. Don't know which one? I will be glad to give you suggestions. Imagine if we all did that! What a great present for the world that would be!

The act of not wanting a present is something I see among most elders. If we have reached an age where we are retired and are able to live comfortably. Comfortably meaning that we have enough money for rent or house payment, for food, for clothing, for medical insurance and co-pays... we really don't need any more than that. I have a cupboard out in the garage where I store all those kitchen appliances that we no longer need. We give them away whenever the cupboard seems a bit crowded. It's the same with clothes and shoes.

If you still need to give me a present, give me a tube of acrylic paint. Any color. I'm an artist and paint is always needed. The color you give me may be just the inspiration I need. I tend to paint on any kind of surface, so I don't need any paper or canvas. At this time of year I can always find plenty of cardboard. Cardboard gives a painting a great texture.

Speaking of painting, I finished hanging my latest piece in the living room. I tried to take a photo of it in its final position but the lighting was all wrong this morning.  Trust me, it looks good there. The photo on the right was taken in the garage.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Late last month

November is gone and the month continuous 'commercial excess' is upon us. We finished up the month of November with the usual holiday event; a family Thanksgiving feast. This time was a little different as we met at a lakeshore cabin in the woods. Our son in law's family has had this cabin for close to forty years; purchased when property like this was not near as dear as it is today. It's located on the shore of Lake Almanor and close to the village of Prattville. This is the second time around for Prattville as the original Prattville is under the waters of the lake. The lake itself is a creation of Great Western Power. PG&E, the north states major power provider, is now the owner. The lake was once a meadow, named quite aptly, Big Meadows. There was a 'huge' hotel spa/resort here in the late 1800's and early 1900's with excursion trains bringing customers from the San Francisco area up the Feather river canyon and then by stage to the towns of Chester and Prattville and to the hotel.

Enough history. We were there for a family gathering and although we didn't have all of the family there, we did have a crowd. As the most senior members of the family, we didn't have to do anything. We were only allowed to watch as the children and grandchildren put the feast together. The temperature outside was in the low teen's, so no one was playing outside, even though the sun was out and it looked beautiful... except for the winds that were 10 to 20 mph range, bending the tall pines and creating white caps on the lake.    

The road up was clear and ice free. We had been worried about the drive as a storm had been through here just two days ago.

Here's the cabin. One bedroom downstairs (ours for the weekend) and numerous cubicles with bunkbeds on the upper floor for all the rest of the family. The photographer (me) is standing about 20 yards away from the lake.

Early morning view of Mount Lassen, our own volcano! It's dormant now, having blown its top off about 100 years ago. It's wonderful to see snow on it once again.

The first turkey is gone. Our son in law had a second, smaller, turkey to cook for the next day when most of the family had left. That second turkey provided a lot more in the way of 'left overs'.

We had a wonderful time, seeing so many of our family here. It was especially nice to not have to worry about the cooking. In our 52 years of marriage, Laurae has cooked countless Thanksgiving dinners. She certainly deserved this day of rest.    

On Saturday morning we packed up and said goodbye to the lake before making a leisurely drive back down the hill to town; 90 minutes away.