Archive for February, 2020


Serving as a Honda District Service Manager in the early eighties, I often whizzed through Madison, Wisconsin. Occasionally, I would stop at Zimbrick Honda.

John Zimbrick was legendary. In 1973, Zimbrick introduced Honda’s to its dealerships and established one of the most successful customer service departments in the country. If the customer didn’t have a ride for service, he would pay a local cab company to ferry his service customers. What the customers didn’t know was that Zimbrick would pay the drivers to report feedback, whether positive or negative. I once asked Zimbrick why he did that.

Of course, I want our dealership to provide excellent value,” Zimbrick noted. “But, if my customers are going to talk, I want them talking about me.”

Therein lay the first reason Trump commuted Blagojevich. In essence, whether good or bad, Trump wants people talking about him. And only him. Trump is, above all, a marketer. He understands the power of repetition. He knows if you say it over and over and over, people eventually succumb to stupid.

Secondly, Trump is hell-bent on revenge. In the late 1990’s I attended a Karrass negotiation course. Midway through the second day, Dr. Chester L. Karrass mentioned something I remember to this day.

When someone has got you by the balls, it’s a good time to piss on em.’”

When Democrats believed they had Trump by the balls only meant he was going to piss on them. It’s vintage Trump. He mimics Russian win-lose tactics. Like most autocrats, Trump is short-term (tactically) oriented, whereas Congressman and bureaucracies are long-term (strategically oriented). By overcoming impeachment, Trump wins once, and by commuting Blagojevich, he wins twice.

Lastly, once bitten, Trump is determined to revoke and overwrite any part of his predecessor’s legacy. In the television series Crime Story, Lt. Mike Torello, says to a bad guy:

“Hey, you. You hurt anybody else, when this is over, I’m gonna find what you love the most and I’m gonna kill it. Your mother, your father, your dog… don’t matter what it is, it’s dead.”

On prima facia value, there are subtle connections between Blagojevich and Trump. Blagojevich was an Apprentice contestant and was convicted by a ‘rule of law’ over Obama’s vacated Senate seat. Democrats believed in Obama. Obama believed in the rule of law. Yet, Lt. Mike Torello’s quote is like Trump’s way of saying he will kill anything you love, including the rule of law…and your dog.

Earth is filled with strong men pummeling democracy and fulfilling self-interest. Trump is just another autocrat.

From a spiritual perspective, our next president must end our current culture of corruption. Exclusively exercising decisions because one can doesn’t bode well for the everyday family living on Main Street. The Dali Lama noted that when Tibet was still free, Tibetans cultivated isolation, mistakenly thinking they could prolong peace and security. Consequently, they paid little attention to the changes taking place in the world around. Later, they learned the hard way that freedom is something to be shared and enjoyed in the company of others, not kept solely for oneself.

Democratization must reach to others across the world, where future generations will consider humanity as the most important achievement. And how can we ensure such democratization? By voting. We can only make a difference if each of us chooses to be the difference.

Humor

I’ve read that fear of cancer returning represents one of the most common concerns. This fear can last years. I have no such illusions and presume the consequences of my lime will return – just a matter of when. I wonder how I survived until sixty.

I have a funnier fear. Back in 1996, a car dealer general manager in Minneapolis said he was going shove a golf club up my ass. And that’s my fear – that in fact – he snuck into my home last weekend, took my prized Calloway nine iron, shoved it up my ass right up to my neck, and left. “Damn,” I said to a friend. “Someone has to clean that club for the upcoming best shot tourney.”

My doctor stated not to bend over. No worries. My neck is so stiff I can barely bend over. And therein lies my greatest fear: I can sit on a toilet and be unable to raise my underwear. Yeah. Yeah. I know. Some people fear about cancer’s return, I worry about wiping my behind.

A friend inquired, via text, about the latest?

“I am still old, bald, and fat.”

“Yeah. Knew that already. Anything I can do for you?”

“Yes,” I replied. “I drop my cane and can’t bend over, and I text you. Will you come and pick it up for me?”

“What if you drop your phone?”

“F•••.”

I hope I am humorous until the end. I do not fear death. I fear not being able to laugh. For instance, if I have to die in 2020, I hope it’s just before the election, “Tell Trump I’m not voting for him.” Or may something like, “Hey? Anyone want to see a dead body?” Being a computer forensic geek, I could claim, “S•••. Forgot the browser history.

You know, maybe it’s crucial to be like Tig Notaro. In 2014, on Late Night With Conan O’Brien, Ms. Notaro commented:

“Before I had a double mastectomy, I was already pretty flat-chested, and I made so many jokes over the years about how small my chest was that I started to think that maybe my boobs overheard me…and were just like, ‘You know what: We’re sick of this. Let’s kill her.’”

In 2012, I wrote that by shining light on a dark road to guide others also lightens yours. The very nature of which is both Christian and Buddhist. Yeah, some days suck, but some do not. Like everyone else, I get up and continue forward. Ultimately, when I’m at my lowest, God becomes His greatest.

When a coworker asked how I dealt with the pain, I quoted a Buddhist I had read.

Well, I simply reflect upon the moment and remember I am not having a bad day. My body is, but I am not.

Yes, I have ups and downs. Moments of pain get intermixed with moments of relief. I forgive and continue on. By injecting humor, and using humor as an essential support tool, I’ve found pain lessens. Sure making fun can ruffle feathers, but for those like me, it’s about survival. Humor can be dark. But it can be fun. And it can be healing.

Eating a Slim Jim, I reflected. Nearly ten days post-operation, I can confirm recovery has been pretty damn dull. Learning to change bandages on the back of your neck was a steep learning curve. Reaching backward, removing, and reapplying is a feat, even for one who had extensive medical training.

When you have a tumor, life is measured by units of centimeters or millimeters. Tumor sizes are then transferred to patients via a common language: pencil point (1 mm), a crayon point (2 mm), a pencil eraser (5 mm), a pea (10 mm), a peanut (20 mm), and a lime (50 mm), etc. I will never look at limes as merely pieces of fruit – ever.

The biopsy returned Thursday with a measurement of 50x30x13 millimeters. That’s equivalent to a medium-large lime. The cells weren’t cancerous but weren’t normal. As such, my ‘lime’ received a similar rating like Stage 0: no cancer, only abnormal cells with the potential to become cancer.

The portion of the tumor in my spine remains there – waiting.

Overall, I felt emotionally good. Physically? Meh. I experienced a massive headache the night of surgery and felt good the following day. This past week was not particularly good. I downed some pain medication a week ago Sunday and dealt with weird off and on fatigue of the neck and head from Monday onward. At some points, it seemed like my head could not be held upright.

Tactically speaking, I have a little trouble moving my neck sideways and cannot lift anything over 10 – 15 pounds for a month. Internal neck muscles will require seven months to heal. Therefore, the surgeon kindly requested refraining from rock climbing, parachuting, hiking the Pacific Coast Trail, or swimming the English Channel.

It appears news of the surgery spread, as I received a ‘care package’ from my employer. There was a variety of accouterments: crackers, cheese, popcorn, etc. It’s the first time I ever ate a Slim Jim. Darn good. ‘5 Star’ rating from me. The Cajun Slim was wicked.

In the past few days, many have praised my outlook and how I’ve handled the process. That’s just the show I present. The truth is, there have been some awkward highs and lows. Some of it has been damn depressing. I recognize all of this as just a volley in a more massive war. The doctors won ten days ago, yet I must remain vigilant.

Who knows how much time is left? I could have years or months. No one says decades. I might have a long time, or death may show quickly. People live for years with these debilitating symptoms. I don’t want that.

Right now, life’s about this Slim Jim. And it’s damn good.

While the surgery was a breeze, I was surprised by some low-level anxiety. Anyone saying otherwise is more than likely in some form of denial. Mine deepened when surgery was pushed back several hours. Similar to ocean waves before a storm, light bouts of emotions rolled and rolled.

I didn’t experience tomophobia, the fear of surgery. I did not fear my surgeon would mess it up and hit the spinal cord. It was always the same two questions: Should I have proceeded alone and What if something goes wrong? What if? What if?

The good news, I’m not alone. 

I was reasonably jovial in the pre-surgery check-in.

“Any allergies?”

“Yes,” I deadpanned. “Parachutes that don’t open, lightning strikes and bullets.”

“Are you sure what to attempt this using only local anesthetic.”

“Yes.”

The MRI indicated the tumor was about the size of a walnut and led the surgeon and I discussing (during surgery) why food is ‘the comparable.’

“Oh,” she hypothesized. “Mr. Patient, the tumor was the size of a radish … an orange … a baby carrot.”

I know why. Patients can relate. Patients can digest the size of an orange but cannot understand 9 cm by 6 cm by 19.5 cm. I envision her saying to a friend, “I ate a 9 cm by 6 cm by 19.5 cm tumor for lunch.

The surgery revealed my tumor was not the size of a walnut; it was more significant. Mine also had several roots or offshoots not detected by the Lipoma. That explains why my symptoms were degrading, but the scans didn’t reveal it. These roots were hidden. Unfortunately, the tumor inside the spinal cord remains. Just have to wait and see if this surgery will lessen spinal pressure. (It’s a bid to buy time. I’ll take what I can get.)

Twenty-four hours later, I feel pretty good. I met the surgeon this afternoon.

“You have eighteen stitches. Since we left a gaping hole, had we had to sew it shut. Otherwise, it would go a cavity of blood or potential infection. The surgery entry point will close in a couple of weeks. The stitches on the inside won’t dissolve for months, and the healing time will be about seven months. You’re likely to experience side effects. A hand may not work as well before surgery. You may experience headaches. Some of these will diminish. The tumor will be biopsied, and that should help us confirm the initial diagnosis and future treatment of what’s left.

“You know that cane you came in with?”

I nodded.

“Take it everywhere you go. Go to work? Cane. Go to a movie? Cane. Use the bathroom? Cane. Got it?”

I nodded.

So…that’s it for now. Back to monitoring. Here’s to another day.

Lastly, I wish to thank ‘Cosmic Traveller7’ for her thoughts and best wishes – meant a lot.

Trump Acquitted

In light of Trump’s acquittal, I was sent the following revised Pledge of Allegiance:

I pledge allegiance to Donald Trump;

And for all that he stands;

One nation, under the GOP;

With liberty and justice for the rich and powerful.

Amen

Sadly, it will be an interesting year.

I made it past another birthday. I commented to a friend of the irony: I never expected to live this long. Yet, here I am, though tired. My body feels the burden: both in neck pain and fatigue.

I awoke this past Saturday and had no desire to rise. Sunday felt better. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t spend my day-to-day life checking for lumps and bumps. Outside of the seven or so whom I’ve told, I don’t discuss it. Regardless of what inconsiderate amount of ‘pain in the a···’ thing my body tosses my way, most never see it. Just not my style.

I still haven’t told many people. I even lied about the date of surgery to those whom I have informed. Why? For the better part of life, my symptoms were dismissed by those around me. Therefore, secrecy became the rule.

Additionally, the surgeon is attempting to extricate only the portion of the tumor outside the spinal cord. “Fairly simple,” the surgeon noted. Therefore, I expect to get up from the surgery and walk out. I don’t want to borrow others’ time and energy. They need to remain in the present.

Having worked in healthcare all these years, I know surgeons poke people with sharp objects. And surgeons can make technical errors. One might slip, have a lapse, require a microscope, or inadvertently damage something. Yet, I have an innate knowing that the surgery will turn out ok.

Therefore, I am not in a dark place. I know I will survive tomorrow’s surgery. Maybe having as much of the tumor removed will assist with pain and cramps, improve ‘the quality of life.‘ So I’m told. As Buddha would say, it’s all illusion. Maybe. Maybe not.

Even though I did create an auto-generated post 30 days post-surgery should the s··· the fan, I am not ready to wrap this life. Should it all go south, maybe I will agree with this body: “Time to call it a day. Get some sleep.

Still, I fully expect post-surgery life will find me focusing on important things.

  • Forgive people who will never be sorry;
  • Love those I can;
  • Find peace with those who will never forgive me; and
  • Let go of grudges

I will extract whatever lesson(s) and move on.

See you on the other side.

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