Back From the Shadows Again

“We are born in an age when only the dull are treated seriously, I live in terror of not being misunderstood”—- Oscar Wilde

 

Let’s see, the last blog entry I wrote was on July 7, 2019 – on the eve of my annual trip to New Orleans for the Writing Marathon. That was almost three months ago – a long gap for me.

I’d like to say that I’ve simply been busy with other things and decided to take a break for no real reason. I’d like to say that… but it wouldn’t be true. It’s a long and complicated story and some of it I’m going to keep under wraps – a lot of it isn’t just my story – but here’s the ten cent version. It may not be completely accurate – my memory is hazy.

Every year I look forward to the writing marathon in New Orleans. But this year, I thought about skipping. First, Candy had some surgery and wasn’t really up and around completely. She assured me that it would be cool if I went. As the day approached I realized I didn’t feel very good. Among other symptoms I was weak and tired all the time.

It took me a few minutes to realize this originally said “art changed my life” — French Quarter NewOrleans.

Checking into what it would take to cancel I realized everything (two hotels, parking, the conference fee etc.) was already paid for and non-refundable. A week of vacation was scheduled and my work arranged. So I decided to go.

The drive to New Orleans wasn’t too bad – I’ve made that trip more than a few times. To make the trip easier I had a hotel in Gonzales – most of the way. I could sleep there, get up fresh and drive the last few miles. There was no hurry, but I had a hell of a time getting out of bed. Eventually I hauled myself into the car and drove on into the Big Easy… and checked into my French Quarter Hotel. It was a beautiful piece of luxurious historical lodging and I was excited… though a bit worn out.

The first evening reception of the Writing Marathon was great. This was the third year I had attended and there were a lot of familiar faces and old stories going around. I was excited for the week of walking around and writing.

The only problem was, everybody kept saying the same thing, “Bill, you don’t look too good.” And I felt really weak. I begged off going out to eat and live music and went back to my hotel.

And proceeded to get really, really sick.

One scary thing is that I remember spending one day in that room but it turns out I might have been there for three. I must have been unconscious/delirious and unaware of the passage of time. I do remember looking around my hotel room and seeing things as they were, but when I’d close my eyes I would see someplace else – some kind of seaside scene. Back home, Candy and Nick were upset because they couldn’t find me (I wasn’t answering my cell phone). Lee was on his way back to New Orleans from the Galapagos Islands.

Finally, I realized how much trouble I was in and called the front desk. The kicker is that I couldn’t breathe. It felt like a panic attack – but I realized that there is a big difference between not being able to breathe because you are having a panic attack and having a panic attack because you can’t breathe. I was able to stagger to the front desk and they put me in a cab that was always at the step and sent me to an urgent care center.

The cab driver, a grizzled old veteran of the French Quarter said, “Hey, you look like you’re having congestive heart failure. The last guy I had like that was dead in three days.”

The urgent care center took one look at me and realized I was too far gone for them and stuck me in an ambulance. At that time, Lee had come back from the airport and called the hotel. They said they sent me to an urgent care center, but didn’t know which one.

Lee lives car-less in downtown New Orleans so he looked up urgent care on his phone and rented a bike. Later, he told me that it was a good thing – that he could get around in the quarter faster on the bike than in a car. The first two places he checked were wrong and then he rode up to the place I was at as they were loading me into the ambulance. He said I didn’t look too good. They wouldn’t tell him anything until he begged and they said they were taking me to the Tulane Medical Center.

So, what happened? It turns out that it started with a urinary tract infection that then spread to my bloodstream and set off a serious attack of Diabetic Ketoacidosis. I don’t want to sound too dramatic, but alone I probably would have been dead in about six hours. However, they knew immediately what was wrong and with treatment, I improved quickly.

I spent a couple days in intensive care. Going through my mind constantly was the Dorothy Parker quote, “What fresh hell is this?” The worst was the fact I had eight (yes, I counted ‘em – including one triple on my right arm) IV tubes and needles stuck in both arms and one foot. Whenever I would move it would set an alarm off and I would lay there listening to that awful BEEP BEEP until someone would come by and reset the machines.

It was a lot better when I was moved into a regular hospital bed and after a few days I was released. Lee’s apartment was only a few blocks away and I felt like I could walk there. But the minute I hit the pavement and the Louisiana summer heat I realized that I didn’t have the strength, sat down on a bench and waited for a ride.

That turned into a theme as I stayed at Lee’s place for almost a week until I regained enough strength to make it back to Dallas. If I rested I would feel OK, but as soon as I actually moved it would take all my energy. Simply taking a shower was about all I could muster.

The view from my son Lee’s apartment – New Orleans, Louisiana

One day, while Lee was at work I decided I could walk to the grocery store, Rouses. I made it to the store, bought some food, then realized I wasn’t going to be able to walk back (only two blocks or so). I waited outside until Lee came by after work – and was able to shuffle back with him carrying the bags.

Even after returning home, regaining my strength was a slow process. I did go back to work as soon as I could – walking across the parking lot the first day back was a serious effort.

Then I found myself having not ridden a bicycle in two months. That first day I climbed on and rode two miles. After that short distance, I felt like I had finished the Tour de France. So I made up a chart and some goals and have been working on building up my mileage since – up to ten miles per day – I was able to ride 300 miles total in September and am almost getting to where I need to be.

There has been this personal journey to put my life back together. One last thing is my writing – and I’m about there. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to write here every day, there are a lot of other things going on, but I promise I won’t have another gap like that if I can help it.

Off to the Big Easy

I’ll be in New Orleans for the New Orleans Writing Marathon for the next week. I’m taking my laptop, but I’m not sure if I’ll be posting here.

See you on the flipside.

(click to enlarge) Sixth and Camp in New Orleans – a beautiful row of Camelback Shotgun Houses

All Work And No Play Make Jack A Dull Boy

Yesterday, I wrote about riding my bike and drinking coffee. I really like my little thermos that I bought years ago at a gift shop called Plum (now sadly gone) off Magazine Street in New Orleans. It is small and has a cool leather wrap printed with graphics inspired by The Shining.

 

It’s pretty cool and keeps the coffee pretty hot.

My coffee thermos.

Acquiring A Taste

“Keep on acquiring a taste for what is naturally repugnant; this is an unfailing source of pleasure.”

Aleister Crowley, The Book of Lies

 

I’ve stolen something. There is a bar that I visited last year, one that had an old fashioned photo booth back in the back, next to the filthy bathrooms. On the wall by the booth was a torn up cork board. A lot of people thumbtacked their strips of four photos into the cork, leaving them for posterity. I picked up a handful that looked interesting and stole them.

I’ve scanned the strips and I think I’ll take them, one at time, four photos at a time, and write a few words about the people in the photographs. Or, more accurately, what I imagine about the people. This is the last one I have (for now).

Previous:

Two Women

A Guy, His Girlfriend, and His Uncle

Meet in Air

Red Molly in a Leather Jacket

Time’s Relentless Melt

Found by a photobooth,
Molly’s At the Market, French Quarter, New Orleans

They were so excited – the drink had been so ballyhooed they even decided to throw it down in a photobooth and record the wondrous moment for posterity.

Unfortunately the stuff, despite its fame, sucked.

Time’s Relentless Melt

All photographs are memento mori. To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s (or thing’s) mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt.”
Susan Sontag

I’ve stolen something. There is a bar that I visited last year, one that had an old fashioned photo booth back in the back, next to the filthy bathrooms. On the wall by the booth was a torn up cork board. A lot of people thumbtacked their strips of four photos into the cork, leaving them for posterity. I picked up a handful that looked interesting and stole them.

I’ve scanned the strips and I think I’ll take them, one at time, four photos at a time, and write a few words about the people in the photographs. Or, more accurately, what I imagine about the two people.

Previous:

Two Women

A Guy, His Girlfriend, and His Uncle

Meet in Air

Red Molly in a Leather Jacket

Black and White love

They were in Love. Mad and passionate, unbelievable love – like being lost in a world unimaginable, but with someone else there. There had been a lot of madness and passion and even a little bit of love in that French Quarter bar, but they felt like they were the first and last. Everybody does.

They were both afraid to take the photos. Maybe photographs can’t steal your soul, but maybe they can steal your love. Especially black and white photos, especially machine-made photos. This is dangerous ground.

So they abandoned the little strip after it fell out, threw it on the dirty floor right outside the bathroom. Someone found it and thumbtacked it to the wall. If you could find the person that tacked it up (and you can’t) they wouldn’t be able to tell you why they bent over and picked it up, or why they pushed the rusty old pin through the paper. It fell five more times, the cork was old and brittle, as if it was trying to escape, but someone always put it back.

They shouldn’t have worried. Photographs, especially black and white ones, do steal your soul and do steal your passion. But there is plenty more left – an unending fountain, really, if that is what you want. The photos are only gifts, bits thrown out into the cold night, given away, but never really lost. Never lost.

Time is the real villain – the relentless thief. Time will steal your soul and your passion and your love. Though defeat is inevitable, a photo or two cast out into the pond of the world is one weapon against that inevitable doom of chaos. A small and fleeting victory – but maybe the best you can do. The best they could do.

Tear Down, Dance Over, and Laugh At

“One who knows the Mississippi will promptly aver—not aloud, but to himself—that ten thousand River Commissions, with the mines of the world at their back, cannot tame that lawless stream, cannot curb it or confine it, cannot say to it, Go here, or Go there, and make it obey; cannot save a shore which it has sentenced; cannot bar its path with an obstruction which it will not tear down, dance over, and laugh at.”
Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi

Mississippi River, New Orleans

Meet In Air

“We should meet in another life, we should meet in air, me and you.”
Sylvia Plath

Found by a photobooth,
Molly’s At the Market, French Quarter, New Orleans

After they had communicated with each other, after having found each other, only over the waves of the internet – the two of them finally flew from each coast, West and East, to meet in New Orleans. It was like finding a long-lost sister… or an unimagined lover, or both. They spent the evening in a French Quarter bar drinking frozen Irish Coffees and gushing at each other. After texting and Skyping so much, years worth – they worried that there wouldn’t be anything left to say to each other… but the opposite was true. So many truths, so many secrets… even a few sweet, sweet, lies.

When they finally kissed in the photo booth behind the bar it was like a jolt of static electricity.

But what did they really know about each other? What do any of us.