My inspiration writes comics

There are things so perfectly, so exquisitely, written that they trigger a deep yearning to ever be able to meet or exceed such a standard.  I give you Tycho’s account of something that happened when Penny Arcade went to the San Diego Comic Con.

I returned to the Westgate Bar, a place I have tried to describe before, where a woman was playing Those Were The Days. She was playing it on the piano, but in my memory the woman and the piano constitute one entity.  To give you an idea of this song’s character, let me include a verse here.

Those were the days, my friend
We thought they’d never end
We’d sing and dance forever and a day
We’d live the life we’d choose
We’d fight and never lose
For we were young and sure to have our way

When I said that I had returned to the bar, let me be absolutely clear: I was returning from the restroom. This tune, at that moment, seemed to give the act a kind of epic cast.

A man near the door threw his arm wide at the crescendo, granting me entrance with a grand sweep. It was Lieutenant Commander Riker. Sitting to his immediate right sat Avery Brooks, who played Captain Sisko, nodding me in. After this, linear time was completely obliterated.

My consciousness bobbed like a bottle in black water, so that the rest of the evening exists only as discrete moments. In the first memory, Jonathan Frakes is singing a duet with the woman behind the piano. In the next coherent droplet, I am in another part of the room. Avery Brooks is now behind the piano, finding chords in it that I have never heard, and when he asks what he should sing next the woman pauses, and then says “Summertime.”

I thought, “Oh shit,” but I must have thought it with my mouth, because I said it aloud.  He doesn’t need the whole song, though. He only needs one line of it:

There is nothing can harm you.

He takes this line and turns it into a kind of meditation.  Trying to absorb every band of data this man is putting out is sheer agony. My mouth just hangs open, all parched basset, and I cover the hole with my palm to hide my uvula. He is cracking open the universe, he is destroying me.  I don’t know how you can hear music like this and live.

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you know, it’s funny…

…how much fear of rejection and ridicule is involved in trying on a smaller size.  It feels remarkably like walking up to the cool kids’ table in the lunchroom.

…how stress can be cumulative, and not even particularly noticeable until later.  everyone talks about the snowflake that triggers the avalanche, but does the avalanche realize that it was that particular particle causing all the trouble before everything is sliding willy-nilly downhill?

…how the pop wisdom regarding stress characterizes it as negative — an overbearing boss, a tense social situation — but the psychologists have a point when they point out that it can arise from positive experiences too.  it’s funny to think that something you actually enjoyed could have just added another layer of powder to your teetering snowpack.  maybe it’s exacerbated by having the good and the bad causes all jumbled up together.

…how much serenity can shine in the face of pain and death.  my grandmother is not a sentimental person, and she’s not having italian matriarch-style deathbed scenes with anybody.  but she said to my mother that after she’s gone, mama should sit in the swing at her fuquay house, and they will have conversations there.

In summary, it was a hell of a week

As if the last post weren’t downer enough, there was yet another blow in the McCollum household last week.

Rest in peace, my sweet Rascal-boy.  I won’t go into cliches about your long journey being over, but simply say that I’m glad you were able to go on your terms, in the place you spent your life.  I’m glad that you went in your sleep, and that despite all those physical limitations that hampered your later years, there was no pain and no suffering.  You got to feel the mountain grass soft under your belly and listen to the breeze, and you got to be with your family.

I will miss you.

What Cancer Cannot Do

This is not a conversation I want to be having.  I’ve been putting it off for a week now, but that seems cowardly, and I know I have to talk about it sometime.

So here it is.  Short, brutal, unsentimental.  Factual.

Last weekend, my grandmother was diagnosed with cancer.  Terminal, systemic, advanced cancer.  It may have started in her liver and breast, but now there are nodules wrapped around her bronchial tubes, a mass pressing on the bottom of her lung that keeps her from breathing well, a mass on the top of her lung that presses against her throat and keeps her from swallowing.  And just to be sure that there’s nothing to be done about all this, it’s in her lymph nodes as well. Read the rest of this entry »