Ode to Healing – Part One

John Updike


A scab
is a beautiful thing — a coin
the body has minted, with an invisible motto:
In God We Trust.
Our body loves us,
and, even while the spirit drifts dreaming,
works at mending the damage that we do.
That heedless Ahab the conscientious mind
drives our thin-skinned hull onto the shoals;
a million brilliant microscopic engineers below
shore up the wound with platelets,
lay down the hardening threads of fibrin,
send in the lymphocytes, and supervise
those cheery swabs, the macrophages, in their clean-up.
Break a bone, and fibroblasts
knit together the blastema in days.
Catch a cold, and the fervid armies
swarm to blanket our discomfort in sleep.
For all these centuries of fairy tails poor men
butchered each other in the name of cure,
not knowing an iota of what the mute brute of body knew.

— Continued —

For further reading:
Updike The Jew



A Life In Fragments

Fragment ManI’ve been writing living my life in disconnected fragments.   I’m whiplashed.  Thrown back and forth like Freddy Grey of Baltimore infamy.  No flow:  tried to express things so primitive, so primeval, so…   …   …Neanderthal utterances; grunts and growls, would sound right at home in my screaming painfulness.   There are no words…   … …before there were words, there was the pain.  Nine point three, in my humble estimation,  on the Comparative Pain Richter Scale.  Yes, it rocked me.

Torquemada’s Iron Maiden, if it didn’t kill you, mortally wounded your soul.   You’d make any devil’s bargain; piss yourself, beg and plead, for relief.  And I did.


 Yes, I survived.  Not only I:  many others have survived as well.  I’m proud and humbled to be among them.
Pain at that level is gone.  For now.  More of the same is bound to follow.  I am a hearty, full-bodied man.  But also a vulnerable man.  My names are legion:  colchicine, allopurinol, hydrochlorothiazide, digoxin, benazepril, metoprolol, oxycodone,clonidine, warfarin, fentanyl,  simvastatin, nortriptyline.  Slowly, ever so slowly I turn; turn towards my struggle towards health.  My physical therapist, and The Lord, are my shepherds.  Wit sustains me when muscles weaken.  Melancholy is a guilty treasure.  Prudently mined; it’s a gift that keeps on giving.
Along the trails thru the frontier, lonely outposts were manned to give succor for the weary explorer.  I’m at one of those existential waystations now, waiting for few moments to catch my breath.  A new day is before me, but it’s getting late.  Got to get on my way.
Saddle up, Taxi Dog!  It’s time to ride.

Has It Been Six Weeks?

It seems like six months. Since I’ve written you. And I hate to complain. But its the pain. 4:12 AM. Four increments of sleep from midnight to now. Not acute pain. I’ve HAD acute pain in the past. Sit along the bed in my wheelchair, rocking back and forth, slowly, like praying (‘davening’; like the old Orthodox Jews at Yom Kipoor, lost in a different painful orthodoxy) for relief. Thanks God its not that kind of pain. Not now. Now its the kind of pain that one has to concentrate upon, meditate upon:  counting one’s breaths, twelve at a time: one… … …and two… … …and three… … …and four… … …and five… … …(what was that phone number I was supposed to remember when I woke up in the mor… … …shit!!)… … …one… … …two… … …three… … …four… … …(“Little Boy Blue”, that old Johnny Mathis hit. What was the last line? And now I can’t get it out of my head!! “Going out of my head, over you-oo, night and day, over you-oo” Night and day; was that Cole Porter or Ira Gershwin Porgy and Bess is starting at the Music Center next week can I afford tickets have to check my checking account… … …shit!!)one… … …two… … …three… … …four… … ….

Where was I?

—   —   —

No, not that kind of pain.

But NOW; now I can sleep!!


Maybe I’ll write more in the morning.

Norman Is In Ireland (apologies to R.J.Squirrel)

Falling.  Bottomless.  Tumbling.
painful joints;


to know You.
I is nothing with out U.

Writing this,
like this,
formless, meaningless….



No meaning.

All I know, can know, hope to know, hear, see, feel:
no form. 


Pin-ball wizard!
Damaged hands.
Motion. Memories of motion; e-motion.
Broken/English, back-hand, left-hand, no hand.
No spin; dead ball.

Wish it’d “Go”!
But it won’t.


From The Correspondence File:

Catterel – [http://www.catterel.wordpress.com] – and I were commiserating about our “lost” comments:  some essence of our work, collected on the blogs of others we’ve encountered around the blog- o-sphere .   She agreed that the ‘essence’ might make good fodder the us word-grazers.  Of course she suggested I NOT use the tempting “that would be utterly ridiculous”.  So instead I’ll just say that it would be like going from the ridiculous to the bovine.


To Tarot Man:  [http://www.tarotman.wordpress.com/about]


Here I’ll answer your questions.  The best thing about blogging is that, by exposing your ‘self’ to interesting others, you get to meet wonderful people along the road.

1. My full name is…still unknown to me.  It changes several times a day, as I evolve.

2. I AM a…a grandfather, husband, retired psychotherapist, wonderer.  Tomorrow?  Who knows!

3. I AM…heterosexual, but my sexuality only one part of  a me.

4. I live with…two cats.  A Calico named Keiko; but my wife & I have these meaningless arguments about whether its “Keiko”, “Kieko”, or”Kikko”.  She has no voice [The cat; not my wife!!]; a rare characteristic in Calicoes.  [Not rare at all in wives; although I’ve only had one so I shouldn’t generalize.]  And I’ve only two in all.  [Cats; I mean. There are two cats.]

These catty arguments have continued since 1964, when we got married, and have only gotten worse, no matter how many cats, or cat names, we have chosen.  We HAVE called each other various names in our 48 years of wedded bliss.  Isn’t it strange how “bliss” is so often rhymed with “hiss”.

My other, current cat is named Shaina: she is the worlds’ loudest cat.  At night she’s ofter mistaken for a coyote!!

5. I love reading…since I was not able to for years after my stroke.

6. I do not eat nearly enough cheesecake!  There’s a wonderful Portuguese bakery near me that serves with “natas”.

7, 8, 9.   I’m a puer aeternus.

10. Sleep is under-rated…I do it all the time.

11. Tito Puente, Poncho Sanchez, Horace Silver, and Dizzy Gillespie.  Okay?

12. I AM single…not forever, one hopes!!,

13. I AM an Ethical Witch…Glad to meet you.


Sitting Next To Death

Mr. D.S.President and Facilitator —  Los Angeles

International Association for Near Death Studies

Dear Mr. S,

First let me tell you something about myself.  In 2002, at age 59, a had a stroke which left me paralyzed and unable to comprehend language.  Couldn’t understand reading, writing, or speech.  Its called aphasia. I was told that I ‘coded’ several times.  All I felt, [internally, as it were] was nauseous and dizzy.  And suddenly it was three weeks later.

I was in  a rehab hospital for several months.  But slowly, over the past decade, more and more competencies have returned.  I’m still paralyzed [right-side] but I have a good life.

Recently a dream from those times returned.  And that’s what prompted my inquiry to IANDS.  In the dream, I’m in some sort of temple.  Not clear if its Christian or Jewish, but there’s a distinct middle-eastern theme.  And the temple is HUGE.   And  empty.

A mysterious man comes in and sits right next to ME!!  Doesn’t do or say anything.  His very presence is ominus.  Just sits right next to me.  But why is he sitting next to ME.  There’s plenty of space elsewhere.  But he’s invading my space.

Well that’s all there was to the dream.  Until about a week ago.  But then, Kla-blam!!  I realized what it all means.

“HE” is Death. He’s not ready for me.  Yet.  He’s, like, sizing me up.

He knows he’ll win.  He always wins.  Just not today.   Not today!!  I respect him.  And he seems to respects me.  We’ve staked out our territory.

And it goes.   Until it doesn’t ‘go’ anymore.
—   —   —
So that’s my story.

You must know many stories, many instances like these.   I just need to be with in touch people who understand it all.

Hopefully you can help me find some.



The Naked Truth Has No Bellybutton

“Katz”, the enlightened one mewed!!

I haven’t written consistently for months.  Family problems, deaths, various levels of illness and pain, existential angst, and an overall ‘I-don’t-give-a-flying-fuckingness’.   And trying to explain it all, in retrospect, doesn’t seem worth the effort.  So I’ll just start from here.

In a month, I’ll  be 70 years old.  No matter how matter how many times I acknowledge that fact, it still sticks in my craw like an undigested piece of pickled herring; cold, sour, full of bones.  Bones.  Bones.

What is it about bones.  Throwing bones to tell the future?  The future is pretty much determined, when you’re 70.  Sooner...   …   …than later.  Every day is a gift, I keep telling myself.  Yet a day’s gifts can be unwelcome.  Some days’ gifts feel unwrappable.  “Just leave them in the box”, I think.  And my painful hands don’t want to be pained.  Usually  curiosity wins out.  I give in, push away the covers, face the day, unwrap the gift.

My apartment looks out on the third floor and there’s a schoolyard across the alley.  Those  little bastards are screeching at the top or their lungs.  The loudspeaker intercom calls out from two hundred yards away, “Third grade gym in 10 minutes” or “Mrs. Gold, please come to the office”.   Am I the grouchy old man who the frightens the kids with his pickled herring sour face?  I could be.  I want to be.  I don’t want to be.

I get dressed.  A slow, painful process.  My ‘useless’ right hand just sits there.  Often, when I wake, I can’t find it.  I have to do this impotent flexing thing with my shoulder to initiate any action.  The children don’t understand.  They don’t have any receptors for that level of painful knowledge.  At least, I hope they don’t.  I remember, I try to remember, that mindless joy of childhood.

Am I angry?  Lonely?  Determined?  Invigorated?  Jealous?  Choices.  Choices.  Every day; choices.  More and more choices.  Less and less time.

My left hand, my arthritic hand, my ‘only’ hand, usually feels like it is controlled by a mad Nazi scientist, who randomly shoots electric current, wrist to fingertips.   On good days!!  On bad days, I feels like the Fuehrer himself has wrapped it up in a barbed-wire glove filled with dozens of poisonous ants.

Its 10 AM.  Still time to make a go of it.  Get out of the house.  Find something.  Focus on something.  Focus.  FOCUS!!

The children still play.  I still have unanswered questions.

Another day.  Another tomorrow.  More questions.   Always questions.


Psych Hospital From Hell



Romneys In The N’ewes -or- Election’s Erections -or- Romneys Short Scrotum -or- ….


Shocked Sheeps !!
N Z Vet J. 2008 Dec;56(6):326-9
Can Romney lambs whose scrotums have been shortened by the use of a rubber ring be used as an alternative to vasectomised rams for inducing early breeding activity in Romney ewe lambs?



Institute of Veterinary, Animal and Biomedical Sciences                       Massey University, Private Bag 11222,                                                    Palmerston North, New Zealand.                        p.r.kenyon@massey.ac.nz



To determine if exposure to ram lambs whose scrotums had been shortened by the use of a rubber ring would induce reproductive activity in ewe lambs, and determine if this technique was an effective alternative to vasectomised mature rams.


Seven hundred and forty-nine Romney ewe lambs, 7-8 months of age, were randomly assigned to one of three treatment groups. Treatments included exposure for 17 days prior to breeding to either mature vasectomised rams (Vasec), or ram lambs whose scrotums has been shortened via a rubber ring (Ram SS), or not being exposed to either vasectomised or short-scrotum ram lambs (Unteased). Using crayon marks, ewe lambs were identified as having been marked during the first 17 days only, during both 17-day periods, during the second 17 days only, or not marked. Hoggets were weighed on the day of introduction of entire rams. All ewe lambs were diagnosed for pregnancy status using ultrasound.


Unteased ewe lambs and those exposed to ram lambs whose scrotums had been shortened by the use of a rubber ring were less (p<0.05) likely to be marked and pregnant to the first 17 days of breeding than ewe lambs exposed to mature vasectomised rams. Twin-bearing ewe lambs were heavier (p<0.05) than their single-bearing counterparts at introduction of the rams.


Exposure of ewe lambs to mature vasectomised rams is an effective means of increasing the numbers of ewe lambs bred and pregnant to the first 17 days of breeding. In contrast, a 17-day exposure to ram lambs whose scrotums had been shortened by the use of a rubber ring, at the ratios utilised in the present study, were not a suitable alternative to mature vasectomised rams for inducing early breeding activity in ewe lambs.

[PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]
—–     —–     —–
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Although the Supreme Court has largely upheld the Affordable Care Act, one new study–by the country’s largest private health insurance provider–concludes that a public option like the one Obama rejected could save states and families money.

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Even though public debate over American health care policy has been trapped in legal limbo, research into the nuts and bolts of fixing American health care has never gone away—and, in fact, has evolved in strange new directions. In at least one case, a major health care provider has concluded that a single payer system was viable at the state level.

In late March, a study by the Lewin Group, a research subsidiary of UnitedHealthcare, the country’s biggest health insurance provider, found that a broad single-payer plan would save the state of Minnesota $189.5 billion from 2014 to 2023, and lower annual health care costs for families by over $1,300. But it would also cost the state’s insurance industry more than 42,000 jobs, as health care moved from a paid service to a public benefit.

UnitedHealthcare is based in Minnesota. A liberal Minneapolis think tank, Growth and Justice, commissioned the study. It supposes a publically funded and administered program, with far greater public involvement than the federal Obamacare plan approved today by the Supreme Court. The researchers claimed the modeled program would “cover a broad range of health services for all Minnesota residents, including those now covered by federal and state programs and undocumented immigrants.” It would eliminate insurance premiums for employers and workers. The investigation—of a system that could have been rendered all but illegal had today’s ruling gone against the Obamacare plan—imagined a system funded from “current funding for government health programs” and several tax increases: alcohol, cigarettes, a bump in a state payroll tax, or an increase in Minnesota’s income tax.

The study is here.  The possible future it describes is controversial. As of today, though, it also appears to be legal. Let the shouting resume.

About Marc Herman
Marc Herman is a writer in Barcelona. He is the author of The Shores of Tripoli.