Thursday, April 29, 2010

I have a green thumb.

And at the moment, big old green Hobbit feet.
I really need to remember to wear sneakers when I attempt to mow the grass.
And to shave. I really need to remember to shave the tops of my feet too.

I have been working on our backyard for about two years now. It's a big project. Mostly because there was nothing there before. It was a blank canvas for me to create my masterpiece upon.

And over the last few years I created something of a little garden. Not so much an oasis, but more of a oh-that's much better than it was.

Don't ask me what I'm planting. My thumb isn't that green. Aside knowing the difference between perennial and annual, my knowledge of plants is limited.

Basically, I use the IIPIPI Method. IIPIPI stands for "If It's Pretty...I Plant It." I'm not totally brainless about it, but I also don't agonize over the details. If it's pretty and I like the color, I put it in the garden. If it's a perennial, I know it will come back next year, I can split it and it will make more versions of itself. I figured out for the most part what works in full sun and what doesn't and I like being in charge of the hose. It's like being in charge of the remote for the tv...except that its outside. I guess it's a guy thing. Freud should have looked into men who garden. Maybe he did. I don't know. But what guy who was watering the garden hasn't put the hose between his leg while it was on and screamed "Look Ma! No hands!"

Really? Only me. Damn.

Here's what I like. I like color. I like things that will come back next season. I like really pretty river rocks as accent pieces in the garden (and I have traveled the state in search of just the right rocks and have conducted clandestine missions-my girlfriend humming the Mission Impossible theme-to retrieve said rocks from rivers and streams) I like levels and flower beds created in organic shapes.

I like digging in the dirt. Now,I don't know what it is about digging in the dirt I like exactly, but I like it. I like it a lot.

I think digging in fresh soil with my bare hands appeals to my inner child. And I'm all for making him happy and not afraid to let him loose every now and then. I think letting your inner child out to play is a good thing, and as long as little sailor suits and babysitters who smell of cheese aren't in my future, I will continue to do so.

Here's what I hate. I hate big plastic birds or animals as decorations. Don't get me wrong. Pink flamingos are fun, and there is a place for them. That place is just not my garden. I also don't want an army of trolls, gnomes and other little folk in my garden.

I had a little gnome once. His name was Chad. Chad had a little wheelbarrow. One day, after indulging in some wild berries, a crazed squirrel took Chad's innocence. It is for Chad that I don't have any little folk in my gardens. I miss you.

I do have a birdbath and can't say that I don't enjoy all the activity that my cement addition has inspired. Washing the dishes, I get to see the whole show. It really is just like the community pool, I have come to discover.

If you watch long enough you will see the fat kid who takes up the whole pool and won't let anyone else enjoy a good splash or wing wash. There are the gossips, who sit on the sidelines, dipping their feet in occasionally, all the while chirping and squawking about something somebody did somewhere to someone else. There's the stud who puffs out his chest and turns all the ladies' heads and there is the lone loser who had too many worms and poops in the water in front of everybody.

Yep. Just like the pool at the Y.

I find that working in the garden is a wonderful form of therapy. It's very zen-like. Peaceful. Except for the neighbor's dog who won't shut up and you try to hush by throwing dirt clods at him. Hypothetically.

Strolling through the backyard, lush green grass under my toes, I become at peace with the world and for that brief period of time, all is well. Birds are singing. Traffic seems hundreds of miles away. I look into the fire-pit I created and imagine a beautiful fire under summer skies. Sitting there with my lady until we become sleepy from having looked into the dancing flames longer than we should have. Or until the fire department shows up and six guys with extinguishers trample through the yard and tell us that someone complained about the smoke and they have to put out the fire.

Stupid neighbors.

and that's Jody with a "y"

Feeling nostalgic, I decided to stop by and see my old friend Dr. Frank Burns today.

The purpose of my visit was to have Frank prescribe me different medicines. One that I am currently taking barely makes a dent in the pain and the other makes my arms flail like Ray Bolger's as he danced If I Only Had A Brain in The Wizard of Oz. My hopes were that Frank would be able to switch me over to better drugs. Even as I am typing that it makes me realize how much that sounds like something a junkie would say.

It had been a while, but as I walked down the monotone hallways, everything came back to me in a warm flush. How would he react to me just dropping by? Would he even remember me? And how could he since we've only really made eye contact once?

As soon as I opened the pine door to the Happy Land that is Frank's waiting room, it all came back to me. Seeing all those smiling faces sitting there in those yard sale waiting room chairs, I realized how much I have enjoyed not being here.

I double-checked all my paperwork because I know that any misstep...any lost prescription...means Game Over. Pack it up and move on down the road. I had my stuff together. And quite frankly, no pun intended, I was surprised that they even agreed to see me today without an appointment. Sometimes though, you have to roll the dice. I rolled 7's today and won a few minutes with Frank. Which is sort of like winning the Big Deal on Let's Make a Deal and discovering that you had won 1300 pounds of SPAM.

As I sat in the waiting room, the several people sitting around me, squeezed into their little wooden chairs from the 1970's, began telling Frank stories. Which are sort of like the stories you might read in Penthouse Forum because in the end, whether the actual happenings have been exaggerated or not, someone is getting screwed. The only thing missing was the pizza delivery guy and that music. Yeah. You know the music I'm talking about.


It was apparent that everyone hated Frank. The older woman next to me, someone's Me-Maw I'm sure, suggested in so many words that all Frank needs is to have sex with someone...and fast. One thing I can't imagine is the kind of woman who would end up in bed with Frank and the other thing I don't want to imagine is Frank in bed.

I guess somewhere there is somebody for him...on craigslist...towards the back...near the end of the ads...where only the desperate and truly depraved go.

The time passed slowly and we all shared the one TIME Magazine there was, tearing out a sheet as we read it and passing it along to the person next to us.

Finally, the door to the inner sanctum opened and I heard my name. Well, sort of. I heard someone trying to pronounce my name and doing a really bad job at it. It's simple. MATZER. It's MOTT with ZER. Like mozzarella without the ella and adding a zer. I would expect a Hindu man with 87 letters in his last name to at least appreciate my situation and unique name and try a little harder.

But that's Frank in a nutshell, isn't it? No hard work for him. He's not breaking a sweat for anybody. Just balls.

Frank and I finally had our little one on one in his office which was decorated in the style of boxcars from the 1800's. Sparse and cold, yet unfriendly and uninviting. The only thing missing was a stack of pallets and maybe prison bars.

Big shocker! Frank actually asked me how I was feeling. It actually took me a second to find my jaw to answer. I looked around by my feet and finally found it under his desk. I thought to myself, "My God. Frank is acting like a human being!" Was Ashton Kutcher gonna bust out from inside the closet and tell me I was being punked? Were there pigs causing problems at Richmond International Airport?

It did't take long for my answer because as I began to answer him, Frank turned away and starting asking me more questions. That "it-would-be-so-much-nicer-if-you-weren't-here' tone came back in his voice. His eyes glazed over. Then it hit me. He had thought I was someone else. Maybe his parole officer? Or the guy who was blackmailing him with those photos of him wearing a little girl's party dress and being pelted with bananas. (I don't know. I saw it in a movie once)

Yep! Frank was back to his old self. Ignoring me for the most part. Staring at his computer. Asking me questions but not really caring about the answers. You know. Playing coy. And he smelled great too. Like booze and band-aids.

He was hinting around that he wanted to stick another big needle in my neck but I wasn't buying. It didn't work the last time. It just hurt like hell, my neck felt like it was filled with cement and then my headache came roaring back the next day. Maybe that's what they taught him in that school that he went to after successfully drawing Buddy The Squirrel from the back of that matchbook that said "WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE A DOCTOR?"

Nope. No needles for me today. Just a couple pieces of paper that only a pharmacist will be able to decipher.

I could tell Frank was disappointed. Or aggravated. Or angry. Or asleep. Shit. At least he was breathing. More's the pity.

After about ten minutes, when all the small talk had deteriorated into long moments of silence and stares out the windows toward the sunlight, Frank dismissed me. In my hand were the three new prescriptions he had written for me. We looked at each one last time (in my head was this little Terry Gilliam/Monty Python-esque animation of me catapulting Frank into the mouth of a monster that lived in a lake of fire.

Maybe Frank was thinking the same of me? I don't know. I may never know. He plays his cards pretty close to the vest. Like the way a zombie does. Besides, he never blinked or showed any signs that he had a pulse. He just closed the door behind me and, I can only assume, went back to cruising craigslist for the future Mrs. Dr. Frank Burns....and for the best price of bananas by the pound.

and that's Jody with a "y"

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

"The only reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen at once."
Albert Einstein

"Time is on my side...oh yes it is."
Jerry Ragovoy for The Rollingstones

My guess is that neither Al or Jerry never had a piece of candy corn in their spinal column.

I mean they both had their own stuff to deal with, I guess. Jerry has the whole "Who the Hell is Jerry Ragavoy?" thing and Al...well...Al was absent-minded and had possibly the worst hair in history. Next to Phil Spector during his murder trial, that is. I don't know what it is about geniuses and their hair but do they not know how to use a comb? Don't they care that people have to look at their ugly hair?

I just realized. I have pretty good hair and I manage it fairly well.

I'm not a very patient person to begin with, you know. Lord knows I try to be. This time, however, I feel totally justified in my impatience. To me...right now...June, and my next MRI session, seems like a million years away.

And I can't help but wonder.

What is Orville up to?

I mean, I get bored on long car rides. When you're a kid its easy enough to sleep or torment a sibling or play The License Plate Game or, better yet, start 100 Bottles of Beer at somewhere near 1000.

I can only imagine what that little bastard is up to. Is he making friends? Is he playing I Spy with the parts of my neck? Is he twiddling his thumbs? Hell. Does he have thumbs by now? Which raises the question...

Is he getting any bigger?

I hope not because that would mean bad things are brewing. Part of me, I have to say, wishes that Orville has packed on some weight. Only because that growth would give the doctors a little more to work with. Then they would have a better idea of what they are dealing with...strike that...what they have to work with and what I have to deal with. Yeah. That's more like it.

Shit. I don't know. I just don't know any more.

I haven't written in a few weeks for several reasons. I knew you were wondering, so I thought I would go ahead and address my lapse in posts.

Well, for one. I was busier than a one-armed paper hanger. At least that is what everyone says when they are really busy. I've never seen a one-armed paper hanger. Hell, I've never seen a two-armed paper hanger. So, like you, I am just going to have to imagine that a guy with one arm is going to stay very busy hanging that paper.

I have been trying the whole "Stay Busy-Stay Distracted-Stay Well" tact. And for a little bit of the last couple of weeks, that idea seemed like a good one. But then the end of the day would roll around and I would lose all feeling in my hands and forearms and the reality of everything would come rocketing back towards me.

I've been painting panels for a mural I created for the Va. Discovery Museum in Charlottesville, Virginia. It's my interpretation of an undersea world. It is intended for the Toddler Room in the museum and it is colorful and full of plenty of things for little eyes to discover. It is the biggest project I have ever undertaken and it was a challenge. It's very hard to paint when you can't feel your hands or your brain is being rocked by a Keith Moon drum solo.

The mural, more or less, is done. There are just a few final touches to be added to the room.

I'm tired. I feel like I've been hit by a truck. But I feel great in knowing that I've created something that could potentially hang for 20 years.

I've stopped taking one of the medicines I was on. I hated the side-effects. My arms would jerk and spasm uncontrollably, and when you're an artist, you would much rather put up with the pain. Stuttering was another little habit I've picked up. Yes. I was real attractive the last few weeks. Arms jerking. Stuttering. Little cotton balls taped to my forearm from so many IV needles. I know I looked like a junkie. I wondered why people kept handing me their spare change. I won't complain. The last time I went Downtown, I made $3.17.

Of course the headaches are ever present. Sometimes there is an anaconda wrapping itself slowly around the base of my skull. Like today. Sometimes there is an icepick between my eyes and at the back of my head. Sometimes the light is too bright and sounds are way too loud and I wish the whole world was wrapped in down pillows.

Sometimes I can't shut out the screaming pain in my head. It is hard to stay focused when my body won't cooperate.

If I have realized anything in the last two weeks it is that I don't know what I would do if I couldn't draw or paint.

The one thing I have not gotten used to is Orville and the fact that he is getting bigger and fatter and might have to come out which would mean surgery on my spinal column which could potentially be very dangerous and could result in paralysis and well all that would suck.

So, that, dear reader, is where I am at right now.


Waiting for June and all the while trying to be productive and stay positive and work towards my future and smile and be happy.

I think it was the poet McFerrin who said "Don't worry. Be happy."

Easy for a guy who made a gazillion bucks off that little ditty to say.

and that is Jody with a "y"

Friday, April 2, 2010

April 2, 2010
PART 12: M.R.I Did Some Drawing

"I dream a lot. I do more painting when I'm not painting. It's in the subconscious."

Sometimes words cannot describe what I am going through...what i am feeling...these sketches are just an attempt to work out those feelings...

Pain Image #1

the demon keeps insisting."

Pain Image #2

"tightening its grip~holding on tight...
doing its best to stay out of sight."

Pain Image #3

"flightless angry bitter rage...
tearing...tearing at its cage"

And that's Jody with a "y"

*All illustrations are property of J.E. Matzer's Wafer Thin Mint

Thursday, April 1, 2010

April 1, 2010
PART 12: Yes. We Have No Bonanzas.

"Hello? Is there anybody in there? Just nod if you can hear me. Is there anyone home? Come on, Come on, Come on, now, I hear you're feeling down. Well, I can ease your pain Get you on your feet again. Relax. I'll need some information first. Just the basic facts. Can you show me where it hurts?" Comfortably Numb, Pink Floyd

Today was "MRI Day."

Two observations from this morning. I have to slip into Seinfeld-Mode here (you can imagine the voice if you would like).

Entering the MRI Waiting Room this morning at 6:45 AM, I was handed a clipboard with several forms to fill out. Then I was directed to a locker room where I could stow my belongings in a locker with a lock. I hung up my sweatshirt and put my knapsack at the bottom. Locked the locker up tight and then I put the key to the locker in my pocket.

As I was entering The Chamber of Magnetism, where "the magnet is always on," as a sign tells you, the technician asked me if I had any metal on my person. I reached my hand into my pocket and felt the key for the locker.

"Only the key you gave me," I said.
"Oh you can just put that over there on the counter."
I half-expected her to tell me that there was a little locker for the key. And then there would be another key for that locker. And see where I'm going with that.

As I was lying down on the sliding bed of the MRI machine, the technician handed me two little spongy earplugs. Like an idiot I put them in my ears right then. Then she proceeded to give me my instructions for the procedure. I felt like Charlie Brown listening to an adult speak. "WAH WAH WAH WAH WAHHH WAH WAH WAH." I just nodded and smiled. For all I know she was saying "We've been having trouble with this particular machine lately. Let us know if your head begins to throb and we'll put you out before you burst into flames"

Okay. So I've been through an MRI before. I know the score. I knew about not moving and trying not to swallow big swallows. I knew about the little squeeze ball that was connected to an alarm of sorts in the technician's little command post. If there was a problem (drowning in spit, coughing fit, ) all I need do is squeeze the ball and a voice on a speaker asks what the problem is. I don't know how it sounds to them when I squeeze the ball, but I like to imagine that it's connected to a string that pulls a cat's tail. Or one of those old fashioned car horns that wail "AAA-OOOOOO-GAAA!"

My MRI today was broken up into two halves: "with contrast" and (say it with me) "without contrast." The "without" contrast is fairly standard. The "with"involves an IV and that means a needle (no sweat!) and afterwards a little drop of blood, a swab, and then a band-aid secured with the strongest, stickiest tape man has ever created.

I've decided that I'm just going to keep a wide strip of hair shaved around both of my monkey arms. It will be much easier to pull the tape off that way. I don't even care if people stare. Maybe the fad will catch on. Who knows?

There's always long sleeved shirts. And maybe I won't have to have blood taken every two weeks. That would be nice too.

The MRI, with all its clicks, knocks, bangs, whirs and clanks, lasted about half an hour. The technicians suggested that if I felt sleepy (especially since it was 7A.M.!) to feel free to fall asleep. I can't even imagining falling asleep in something that I imagine is very similar to being inside of a paint can when it's put on the mixer at your local Home Depot.

I thanked everyone for their kindness and left. My next appointment was in two and half hours so I found a place to camp out.

Something struck me funny about the waiting room I was sitting in. The chairs are really, really uncomfortable. I wasn't expecting Lazy-Boy recliners, but it's just ironic that the waiting room for the section of the hospital that treats people with neurological problems, back, neck and leg troubles, has the most uncomfortable chairs. I'll bring that up at the next staff meeting.

Finally, after a very long morning, I was finally face to face with my new best friend in the whole world, Dr. M.

Pleasantries were exchanged and then we got down to business. The results of my brain MRI were good. There's nothing up there. Let me rephrase that. There are no abnormalities present. No potholes. No loose LEGGO pieces I may have ingested as a child. No spots, specks, dots or doohickies. Just a brain.

The radiologist reviewing my film did take a gander at my cervical film and took a look at the thing that has everyone talking. In his opinion, he suggested that the small blip inside my spinal cord may be a.....

A cavernous haemangioma.

(I know. I'm right there with you.)

(Well, Doc. Sounds pretty bad. Lots of really long Latin words. And some really great Scrabble words, too. Just take me for a walk, tell me about the rabbits, and shoot me in the back of the head please)

Okay. Sounds like I contracted something while eating some sort of wacky pasta while spelunking in a cave. What gives? I have never been cave diving. I've seen The Descent, pal. Nobody's sticking me in the neck with a mountain climbing pick!

Ironically, in an effort to describe what a cavernoma is, Dr. M. told me to imagine piece of popcorn. Imagine it's a piece of popcorn? Really? No problem. (Mmmmm... I wonder if Dr. M's been reading my blog?) I mean it's not that different from a piece of candy corn, is it? (you just have to laugh at the insanity of it all) It's got the word corn it it! That's too funny. To me anyway. But what do I know? I like to watch videos of people falling down.

At the very least I think I've finally got a name for you know what. ORVILLE. Orville. I like it. I don't know any Orville's personally, so I'm not worried about offending anybody. Mr. Redenbacher has passed. He's not going to complain. So Orville, it is. According to an on-line baby name book, "Orville" means "golden city." I have to admit, I didn't see that one coming. I was expecting "prone to wear nerdy little bow ties" or "maker of popcorn." "Golden City." Sure. Why not? I can work with that. Could be worse. Could have meant "Cluster of pain."

Anyway, to explain what might be going, here is a description of this cavernoma. A canvernoma is also called a cavernous malformation and cavernous hemangioma. Imagine a cluster of small berries, raspberries and mulberries seem to popular examples, containing blood in various stages of evolution. Evolution of course means growth in this case. Great!

This aggravating little bugger is rare. .01% to .05% of the population will experience the joy of a cavernoma in their lifetime. Lucky me! It is also rare for people my age. It usually occurs in people ten years younger than me. I've always been younger than I really I am though. I jump in rain puddles and I'm afraid of the monster under my airplane bed.

Even though the word cavernoma contains "noma" it does not mean that this has anything to do with cancer. So....whew! Big whew!

To determine if Orville is growing, we will make him stand against the jam of kitchen door and pencil a hash mark along the top of his head with a ruler. We'll also do another MRI in June. A little over two months from now.

How do solve a problem like Orville?

What exactly to do with Orville has been debated. I've been to several websites and there's seems to be some disagreement where removal of a cavernoma is concerned. If, in fact, I have a little Orville on my spinal cord, and he is, in theory, getting bigger every day, my doctors and I will have to make a decision at some point, more than likely, during my next appointment, when we will decide on a course of action.

If Orville is a caver-yada yada, then he will get bigger and he will cause more problems by pressing against a larger area of nerves. The numbness and tingling will spread and I will turn into a jellyfish that never sleeps and eventually implode. That might be a little over-dramatic.

Orville is certainly a pain in my neck right now. If his intention was to mess up my life and freak me out, then he's succeeded. The tingling and numbness I had been experiencing every few days is now an every day-every hour of every day thing. It's driving me crazy.

It's SO $%^#@$%^^&*&*(^$#@%^&*% FRUSTRATING!!!!!!

It's almost impossible to sleep because of the constant tingling and little electric shocks being sent from my fingertips to my brain but there really is nothing to do at this point. Pain medicines don't work because it's not really pain. The prescriptions I have been given are keeping the pain at the base of my skull in check-sort of-but there is nothing I can do to alleviate the numbness and tingling. (I've said 'tingling' way too many times. See! I did it again. Shit.)

I've got till June. Hopefully Orville, or whatever it is, will remain the same. Then we're back to SQUARE ONE. The square where we have no idea what has attached itself to my spine. I hate that square. I really do. Four stupid corners and lots of "What's" and "Why's" and "When's."

I'm done thinking about anything else for today and my hands and arms are done too. They are going on strike and I'm caving.

The Three Stooges are on the television. They're mining for gold. Moe just hit Curly with a shovel. Right in the kisser! And there's a slap for Larry. I'm sure there's an eye-gouge and a "Woo Woo Woo!" in the forecast.

Gee I hope there's a pie fight.
Gee I wish I had some popcorn.

Oh. That's right.

and that's Jody with a "y"