I have to admit I’ve been psychologically and emotionally down of late.
I’m frustrated that no foods taste good to me, especially my three main food groups: tomato sauce, bread & pasta, and chocolate. Honestly, all these things are disgusting to me right now. Before I caught cancer, they were the staples of my diet.
Of course, I weighed about 6000 pounds back then. Now, I’m a reed in the wind.
Another reason for my doldrums is the fact that I’m not the guy with cancer anymore. This is embarrassing to admit but I felt like the star of the show when I had My Olive Pits™ in my neck. Now I’m just another guy.
Then there’s the aspect of the rush I got fighting a disease that could have killed me. Had I not begun treatment, my little tumors would be great big tumors by now. And there’d be more of them in different places in my body. I’d be on the way out. Like soldiers who confess that fighting in a war was the high point of their lives, my recent tussle w/ malignancy was weirdly exhilarating. It’s a good bet nothing I’ll ever do for the rest of my life will be so urgent and imperative. The rush is gone. I’m living everyday life again. It’s an anti-climax.
Oh, I’m thrilled to pieces the tumors are gone. I’m equally ecstatic I don’t have to go in for daily radiation treatments or shots of poison every three weeks. But, like most things in life, my cancer war and the subsequent armistice have evoked conflicting emotions within me, many of which might seem awfully loony to those who’ve not been in the fight.
I hope Pencillistas can understand.
Anyway, slowly but surely, I’m finding the energy and desire to live the Big Mike life again. To wit, I’ll be working on some stories for Ron Eid’s Limestone Post magazine, I’ll be cranking up the old Big Talk series of interviews on WFHB radio, I’ll get back to my Black Comedy novel, and of course there’s the Charlotte Zietlow memoir to get published. Oh, and trust me, my seat behind the Book Corner sales counter awaits.
Come to think of it, maybe life isn’t going to be so blah after all.
Hey, Look At Me!
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At risk of infuriating everybody who considers the Fourth of July a religious holiday, I’ve got to say I agree with the author of the piece.
Major League Baseball started making fans stand and sing GBA during the seventh inning stretch of every game in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. As the years went by, most teams cut back on the ritual to the point where now, fans sing the song on Sundays and holidays.
Gersh Kuntzman, who wrote the piece, puts a fascinating historical spin on the song. He writes:
Even Irving Berlin, who wrote “God Bless America” in 1918, considered it so maudlin and depressing that he stuck it in a drawer. Twenty years later, as the world prepared for war, Kate Smith asked Berlin for a patriotic song for her radio show. He pulled out “God Bless America” and changed one lame line — “the gold fields up in Nome” — to an even lamer line — “oceans white with foam.” You know the rest: Smith’s version became as much a symbol of post-war patriotism as the flag, the space program and all the white people moving to the suburbs.
Bill Maher put it best soon after the GBA thing became a baseball rite. He cracked [I’m paraphrasing], Okay, singing the National Anthem before every game is love of country. I get it. But this “God Bless America” stuff, that’s stalking.
I’m not as pointlessly radical as I was back when I was 14 y.o. I wanted to be just like Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman. I wanted to condemn my nation for its twin sins of racism and the Vietnam War. I wanted to spit on the flag. If I was a little older and had a bit more guts, I’d have run through the streets with Bill Ayres and Brian Flanagan, breaking store windows, taunting cops, and flipping off The Man during the Days of Rage.
Mere months after those October, 1969, mini-riots in Chi., I sat in the grandstand at Wrigley Field awaiting the start of the Cubs game against the Cincinnati Reds. The voice of field announcer Pat Pieper came over the PA: “Ladies and gentlemen, please stand for our National Anthem. Gentlemen, please remove your hats.”
I neither rose nor removed my Cubs cap. That was the extent of my demonstrable radicalism at the time. I felt like a revolutionary. The National Anthem was played on the stadium organ. Still sitting, I was surrounded by standing fans. A little kid near me tugged at his daddy-o’s sleeve and whispered a question to him. Based on daddy-o’s response, the kid must have asked, Why isn’t that guy standing?
Dad loudly replied, his voice dripping with contempt, “He’s an anti-American scum, son.”
At that very moment, I realized how full of holy horseshit in-your-face demonstrations of both patriotism and radicalism were.
Yeah, let’s knock off the “God Bless America” nonsense, and while we’re at it, how about dumping the Anthem before the games as well?
July 1st Birthdays
George Sand — Born Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin, the 19th Century French socialist and novelist adopted her nom de plume, wore men’s clothing, smoked cigarettes, and haunted establishments that previously had been off limits to women. She wrote of the lower classes and women’s rights. She carried on countless affairs with notables of the intelligentsia, including Frédéric Chopin. Russian novelist Ivan Turgenev wrote of her: “What a brave man she was, and what a good woman.”
William Strunk, Jr. — Along w/ author E.B. White, the Cornell University professor of English compiled the standard usage reference, The Elements of Style, better known as Strunk & White. Strunk worked for a short time as literary consultant at the MGM studios in California. It was said he cut a figure straight out of central casting and so was dubbed “the Professor.”
Estée Lauder — Founder of the Estée Lauder Companies, specializing in cosmetics. Time magazine named her the only woman among its 1998 list of the 20 most influential businesspeople of the 20th Century. She learned about the cosmetics industry when she helped her uncle run his beauty products company. Her first product was Youth Dew, a bath oil and perfume. She once said, “I have never worked a day in my life without selling. If I believe in something, I sell it, and I sell it hard.”
Carol Chomsky — Wife of Noam, she was a renowned linguist in her own right. She decided to work toward her Harvard PhD during the late 1960’s when her husband was a leading anti-Vietnam War activist. She reasoned she might have to support herself if Noam were to be jailed for his anti-war activities. Carol developed the “repeated reading” method of improving children’s reading speed and word recognition. It entailed having the child read a selection as a recording of it was played. She found that repeating this four times often dramatically improved comprehension and retention.
Leslie Caron — The only dancer/actress who could have played Lise Bouvier to Gene Kelly’s Gerry Mulligan in the movie version of An American in Paris.
Caron With Kelly
Debbie Harry — Without her, there’d be no Blondie.
On this day in 2000, Walter Matthau died. Born Walter Matthow, it’s said his first wife Carol Grace (who was also once married to the novelist William Saroyan) was one of the possible models for Truman Capote’s character Holly Golightly from the novella, Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Matthau exhibited surprising range as an actor, from Fail Safe‘s Professor Groeteschele and A Face in the Crowd‘s Mel Miller to The Odd Couple‘s Oscar Madison. As the slob in Neil Simon’s beloved play, Matthau as Madison weeps in his bed and unloads on his roommate:
I can’t take it anymore, Felix, I’m cracking up. Everything you do irritates me. And when you’re not here, the things I know you’re gonna do when you come in irritate me. You leave me little notes on my pillow. Told you 158 times I can’t stand little notes on my pillow. “We’re all out of cornflakes. F.U.” Took me three hours to figure out F.U. was Felix Ungar!