Saturday, May 4, 2013

5/4/13 Sons of Misha: Depression in the Twitter Age.

Haven't blogged in a while.  No time.  Haven't done a lot of important things.  Too busy with other important things.  I see my blessings for the blessings they are these days and focus on them. Unfortunately history has shown I'm not really a very insightful judge of things that affect my own spirit.

Yesterday I found out my cousin Erin took her own life at 35 years old.  Erin and I didn't see each other or talk much but we had a certain connection and fondness for each other.  The primary connection was an affection and reverence for our uncle Misha.  Misha was a great, loving, honest caring guy.  Perfectly an uncle to me in that my father wasn't there and Misha had no kids and genuinely liked my brother and myself.   As a dysfunctionally raised, insecure kid, I wasn't sure anyone except my grandmother and Misha liked me.  Misha was that ONE adult in a position of influence who didn't say "you should do this or that" (actually he did say I should go to business school after helping him sell antique jewelry at flea markets on the weekends, but I didn't take that too seriously since I was like 8 or 9 years old, but I digress) or "don't do this or that."  He asked "what do YOU want to do?"  From a very real conversation I answered "I want to be a drummer, play drums."  He inquired quite matter-of-factly "are you any good?"  I replied "people tell me I'm really good.  I think I am."  He asked "then what do you need."  I said "drums."  He said "how much do they cost."  I said "about $1000 bucks."  He said "how much do you have?"  I said "about $280."  He said "meet me at Manny's at lunch time and we'll see what we can find.  So we did and I got my 1st real  kit, sacrificing decent cymbals to get a $350 maple snare that is pitted and rusty but sounds as good today as the day we got it, about 28 years ago.  I played those drums all over the country in snow and rain and I still have them.  They are a major part of my journey.

Misha was gay and could never ever come out of the closet.  The stigma to him was just too great and yet when I think back, like most families of gay men, most of us knew.  This kept him very lonely and despite his good nature and outward happiness, living a lie caused him great pain.  He died in one of the early years of "the virus" when it was still mostly a "gay men's" disease in NYC.  I say he pulled a "Freddie Mercury" in that he didn't tell almost anyone until just a few weeks before he died.  Not enough time to really say goodbye.

So how does this relate to the Facebooky Tweety culture in my pinball machine of a brain?  I found out about Erin's passing on Facebook.  That medium bothered some but didn't really bother me.  Her folks are isolated in Vegas and likely had no more practical manner to reach out to their own friends far away and particularly to Erin's friends who they likely didn't know.  Besides being in abject pain, they also were worn out from trying for years to love her through her troubles and save her.  Erin suffered from depression.  My family has a history of mental illness on both sides...maybe all three sides when parts of my wife's family are included, but then, I think it's in every family...overlooked, ignored, misdiagnosed, mistreated, over or under medicated.  In my history, it was ignored, squashed, buried, a cancer left to grow in the dark.  "We are as sick as our secrets" is a common 12 step slogan, and "our secrets grow in the dark and die in the light of exposure."

We often see people as we want to see them and I always thought Erin was so together.  Beautiful, smart, sensitive.  A fantasy cousin/sister I was thrilled to have.  From the side of the family most whacked out and yet most influential.  We were the Sons of Misha.  I could include Erin's aunts and my cousins Shari and Marilyn who were cut from similar cloth except possibly still of the previous generation and were the silk that sort of connected us and held us all tenuously together, even at great distances and time apart.

But that's just it.  This FB thing is a ruse.  We connect and reconnect with friends, family and strangers near and far, but it's very superficial.  Communications coming down to 2 lines of congratulations, or "cool picture" or "I love that song."  Lots and lots of "miss yous" and "we need to all get togethers" but it's easier to skip those phone calls when you just sent a 1 line comment.  Easy to never write a letter because...well who the hell writes letters anymore?!

I never knew or dreamed or imagined Erin had a depression/substance abuse problem.  I thought cigarettes were her biggest vice.  Man am I an idiot.  Being the poster boy in my family and my generation's representative of messed up'edness, least likely to succeedism, rock star burnout fantasy cum recovery and ultimately stable family happy ending guy, about 4 years ago I got a call from Shari telling me about Erin being in the hospital or an inpatient rehab (I can't recall but believe it was a near OD or maybe indirect suicide attempt) and asking if I could talk to her.  I was floored.  I had no clue.  I asked Shari for her number and said I will call her or she can reach out to me , knowing the latter would be unlikely due to stigma and shame (been there done that).  12th step calls are like unplanned pregnancy.  They just show up unannounced.  I called her from a Disney pool in Orlando that night.  We talked for 2 hours and I laid it all out for her.  My journey, some stuff (what little I knew) about our history (brilliant musical savant and full blown schizophrenic grandma Eda, Misha stories, my dad the pathological anti-realist, liar and screwup, my Mom and Stepdad the 12 step warriors and recovery professionals, whatever).  I tried to persuade her to go to meetings, stay in rehab, surrender, give herself a break.  All that jazz.  I believe in it.  I do.  I am Mr. Together now, but there were times I crawled with tears in my eyes into meetings in foreign cities because I was mentally and spiritually lost.  Sometimes those foreign cities were my home group, local, comfortable and yet I was still lost.  They propped me up.  Gave me a chance to heal.  To believe this too shall pass.  And everything does.  One way or another.

After that Erin was doing better (I believed).  I know she put some time clean together (over a year).  I didn't have the slightest clue about her level of depression.  And this is where it gets me.  All of our communications over the last 2 years were one line comments on Facebook.  Comments on my son's soccer picture or an old pic of me with one of a thousand punk hairdoos.  She had gotten a new job, I thought she found a guy she liked, stuff like that.  Always every 3rd or 4th message with a "we need to see each other soon."  Always.  This too has passed.

Social media is great.  It is a remarkable tool to connect and reconnect.  It does not and cannot replace a phone call or a visit.  It just can't.  The realization that it sort of prolongs the procrastination and feeds the illusion that we are "in touch" just causes me great pain today.  It's not a call or a letter, it's barely even a post card.  It's a passing wave in the hallway or a hello standing at the next urinal.  It's bullshit.  Great authors and artists have great books of letters to each other.  Historic letters.  The letters, on their own read as literature today.  They are portraits of time and emotion and life and love and pain.  In 100 years will someone reading back over our FB comments and Tweets find us as human?  Will our Tweets reflect any soul or depth?

Sure, I'm just venting because I'm angry that depression took another soul.  One I love and care about and deserved better.  And again, I didn't get to say goodbye.  My selfish self wants a hug.  I want her back.  I can fix this shit.  If only..........



Saturday, February 23, 2013

2/23/13 A Historic Moment in Women's Sports History that Women Don't Know About

2/23/13 A Historic Moment in Women's History that Women Don't Know About Is Tonight:

A watershed moment in feminism was the tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs.  The idea of a woman beating a man straight up was unheard of and Billie Jean made no bones about her desire to right that wrong and America watched and attitudes changed.  Tennis already had women competitors and it's own stature apart from the men's game.

Tonight women's history will be made in MMA. Yes, Mixed Martial Arts when 2 women, yes 2 women headline a main event in the UFC.  This should on the surface have even greater significance than that famed tennis match for a number of reasons.  First, it is women gaining the spotlight in a TOTALLY male dominated sport.  The women's game exists, but it is really in it's infancy.  Secondly, these two combatants have earned their stripes clawing up through the ranks of a brutal and sacrificial sport.  They are true warriors.  They won't be hitting a ball back and forth, they will be hitting each other.

Third, the back stories are just made for today's media hungry tabloid society.  "Rowdy" Ronda Rousey is a phenomenon, taking the game by storm, impressing everyone from the harshest sexist critic to the most open minded fight aficionado.  She is just that good.  She was an Olympic Judo Champion.  She also looks good.  She is cute and blond, has poise, swagger, has posed (with and without clothes) all over, hit the talk circuit and talked smack as well as humbly about her youth and upbringing as a fighter.  If you see her interviewed on TV you might think she is a surfer or cheerleader.  When you see her in the ring you might think she's Mike Tyson who breaks limbs....or Godzilla.  She is intimidating.  She is 6-0 in her MMA career, destroying every opponent inside 1 round with devastating arm bars...more than one that probably ended in surgical repair to her opponent.

Her foe (or prey if you're a betting person) for the big show,  Liz "Girl-Rilla" Carmouche has her own bona fides in and out of the ring.  While not as model hotty as Rousey, she is openly and proudly the first gay fighter in MMA.  While only touting three years experience, she served 3 tours of duty in Iraq as a Marine.  She has risen through the ranks and after an unsuccessful start has made serious bones in the Invicta league.  She is a heavy underdog.  It may be that only a real Marine was tough and crazy enough to fight Rousey and the UFC knew it.  She has the fight in her.  The difficulty is Rousey has the fight and impeccable technique.  

The fight itself may be short but it will be great and explosive.  Blink and you'll miss it.  Likely Carmouche will just be the next chum in Rousey's shark tank.  Or she may take Rousey into water's she's never swam.  That's to be seen tonight.

It is however, already historic, not just for MMA, but for women.  Having a man vs woman exhibition tennis match is good.  Having two women headline potentially the biggest pay per view of the year in a completely male-centric sport is better.  This is a watershed moment.

Billie Jean King made women feel equal to men.  These two may seal the deal that women can potentially kick the living shit out of men!  How's that for equality?!

Oh yeah, some other guys are fighting, too.  Henderson-Machida should be a great match.


Thursday, February 14, 2013

2/14/13: Nassau Dems Reinventing the Square Wheel

2/14/13: Nassau Dems Reinventing the Square Wheel

Big news in today's paper is that Tom Suozzi has tossed his hatless head (hair too nice for a hat) into the ring for County Executive.  For those outside of Long Island and thus not as clear on hyper-mega layers of hack crony government and patronage, County Executive is sort of the Mayor or Governor of the county, in this case Nassau County, one of the earliest and richest models of suburbia and poster child of the suburban bedroom community lifestyle of a behemoth city like New York and for the rest of developing America.

Suozzi swore he was NOT interested in running, at least until he became interested, which publicly seemed to go from nay to yay in the span of a day and a half.  The problem is Suozzi was the previous Executive and while leading during a time of decent prosperity, he left a mountain of poo to clean up for the next guy, who couldn't clean poo with a haz mat crew and an Army Corps of Engineers escort.  Suozzi lost because the people wanted change.  That hasn't changed.   He ultimately got annihilated by Eliot Spitzer for the Governorship which Spitzer later got booted out of in shame for frequenting a call girl, a really hot and PR savvy call girl.  I won't go into Ed Mangano, current Executive because I am leaning Dem this time around and Mangano, aside from being Republican has run one of the lamest administrations I've ever seen.  Lots of smoke and mirrors, no substance.  Assessments?  Pretend to clean it up and pass it on to the schools.  Schools sue.  Now neighbors must fight to have their homes assessed as low as possible so their neighbor can pick up the difference in the tax "refund."  Sounds complicated.  You bet.  This is what they try to pass as "reform" around these parts.  This might help clarify...Cuomo caps taxes at 2%, we vote to approve school tax of 1.7%, actual tax burden goes up 11%.  Simple, no?  Middle class homeowner tries not to punch a wall.  Then losing the Islanders (with help of course), dragging his heels on Hub development and getting one-upped by Kate Murray's regime (edit: see "layers of hackery" above).

As for the Dems.  There is a new guy, Adam Haber.  Seems nice enough.  True outsider.  Big money made trading commodities, then got out, bought some commercial RE and a few restaurants.  A boy done good story.  The other candidates are extremely usual suspects.  Suozzi, with Nassau Dem czar Jay Jacobs working his corner like Freddie Roach on steroids and Red Bull and Jon Kaiman, Town of North Hempstead Supervisor (edit note: again see "layers of hackery" above to explain why we have a Town of Hempstead, Town of North Hempstead, Village of Hempstead each with their own bureaucracies [and legal teams] all within the limits of Nassau County) who seems to be "tight" with the Governor and may be being groomed for one position or another. 

So effectively, there is the lifer whose family is the Rocafellers/Tammany Hall of Glen Cove and has been there and done that to and for the County and sees the job as a political "comeback," the other a long timer with phat Albany connections..........and the new guy.

What is interesting is that Suozzi has $1.2mill in his coffers from his last campaign.  Haber should be a non-entity but has infused his own campaign with $2mill which is driving the Nassau Dem establishment batshit crazy.  They are trying to posit Haber as some Romney-esque character who is out of touch because he has money.  As Jacobs admonished in his limp attempt to justify patronage jobs and Suozzi raises to self and friend's "we can't ALL be millionaires."  The thing is Haber is fairly left center leaning and in his one public stint on the Roslyn school board has proven a penchant for bringing business principles (refinanced debt to save a good chunk 'o change) and an ability to compromise which is key in an area where power is so diluted.  Even having an understanding of the art of compromise is a boon to progress as the extremists dictate the agenda these days.  He appears to be a lot more like Obama than Romney and Jacobs may be shooting himself in the foot by attacking Haber for making a few legitimate sheckles.  His story is very familiar to most middle class Long Islanders (aside from the army of union and civil service employees and their robotic voting blocs) and most would begrudgingly admire that he's using his money to open eateries, hang out with his kids and run for the school board.  It will make these guys mental that they've got a "Romney" on their hands who is actually a liberal, hasn't sent jobs to China, is acting locally with his own dough and for all we know, his dog rides INSIDE the car!  Haber says he's in it to stay and came out swinging (albeit timidly) against the establishment and Suozzi machine but even that gives me pause to reflect.  He seems to 'get' diplomacy.  I hope he can maintain it when they start the personal attacks....and they will.  Hard.

So for now, I feel good about this guy Adam Haber.  I requested/suggested he put more talking points out there as opposed to his "Nassau Suggestion Box" website which is a nice, PC idea but a bit pandering and not likely to do much besides rile up the kooks that were kicked out of other local forums like Patch and City Data.  Still, I like the cut of his jib and feel he is coming from an independent, pragmatic spirit.  He understands the need for business growth but is sensitive to services.  He claims in Roslyn he helped forge win-win-win solutions for the taxpayers, the teachers and the district.  If he can back it up, that appeals to me.  We need ALOT more of that.  I dig pragmatism over platitudes. 

So here we go.  When it comes to local politics, it's not the Nassau Coliseum but the Roman Coliseum, only less cordial.  The attack ads will start soon.  The river of money will flow into the sewers.  The homilies on jobs and taxes and education will be nothing new, but at least there is a new face with some interesting ideas and the cash and smarts to go the distance.  This could be interesting.  

Thursday, January 31, 2013

1/31/13: Those In The Middle of the Road Get Run Over

1/31/13: Those In The Middle of the Road Get Run Over

It is hard to be truly independent and a natural socio-moderate in this time of libs vs cons talking head pundit as rock star news media.  To see both or even all three sides of an argument.  To strive to understand both sides, empathize or sympathize or whatever.  Sometimes it's a Gemini thing.  Some have accused me of cognitive dissonance.  I think, like Howard Stern, I'm just born to be a judge, but without the institutional trappings of a courtroom.  Are you on the left?  Are you on the right?  "I'm middle of the road."  People in the middle of the road get run over! 

The latest trend in American socio-politics is the massive division in popular opinions on so many issues. It is doubtful that policy has ever been dictated and led so much by the extremes.  Even when polling reveals a popular majority opinion it is difficult to reflect that in policy.  Or amend it. 

It seems to be much easier to make laws than to change them.  Currently there are intense battles about gun control, drugs, tax policy, defense, climate change and these do not even have religious underpinnings like abortion, the mother of all divisive topics.

Unfortunately, when it's not being made behind closed doors for political gamesmanship, policy is made in knee jerk political responses to catastrophic events.  Probably the worst time to legislate anything.  The 2nd amendment was framed by a war for independence and efforts to remove a tyrannical government.  It has been tempered slightly (you can't blow up trees in your backyard with a cannon) over time, each time based on a Columbine or Newton, CT type atrocity.   

Drug law has changed each time a "new" drug epidemic took hold or worse, exited the ghetto and reached main street.  We know prohibition failed and yet that is the basis for all of our efforts to control drugs.  If there is demand, prohibition will fail.  All of the secondary symptoms are caused by that prohibition.  There will always be a way around it because prohibition creates rivers of money and money is like a liquid that will find the path of least resistance or create it's own.  Who imagined competition between the Cartels and Big Pharma for the veins and brains of America?  Unlikely bedfellows if ever there were.  Then there are the States actively legalizing or decriminalizing.  And yet the "war on drugs" limps along.  It took 30 years of suffering and pain to end the Rocafeller Law in NYS.  Years of failure, suffering and wasted money. 

On tax policy one team believes with all their heart that giving more to the top will create a fountainesque cascade of wealth to all.  The other team believes spreading the wealth amongst everyone creates a better benefit.  Both sides are correct.  Government IS too big and DOES waste too much money without enough oversight.  But government DID bring us out of the depression with work programs, infrastructure projects, mortgage assistance and the GI Bill.  That DID happen and it WORKED.  Our greatest generation actually had a lot of help.  2 sides to every story or just more Magoo cognitive dissonance.  Is "balanced approach" a Gemini thing or is it just a rational idea?   

We create policy and legislature in these knee jerk political cirises and wonder why they don't work and yet even in the face of failure, we cannot change them.  We enter into wars and regime changing on a whim and it takes decades to extract ourselves.

We need to be more tactile as a nation.  We offer billions in aid to other countries but have protracted battles over offering a fraction of that to our own people in times of disaster.  We need to be able to look at laws objectively and practically and audit them against a more current landscape.  We have a judicial branch for this.  They need not be lifetime appointments.  That has created a clear politcal motive by parties to seat the "right" candidate to affect the bench.  The bench should reflect the Nation, not the party in power.  That is why they are a separate branch of government.

Decent businesses have policy documents.  They are sets of laws, rules, processes and procedures for how to manage the business, grow and prosper.  These policies are reviewed EVERY YEAR.   

Our laws and policies should be reviewed and updated with the same consistency and intent of purpose.  To utilize the best STRATEGIC initiative to do what's best for the PEOPLE of the US of A, now and for the future.

To Congress, instead of blowing past each other on the left and right, stop and shake hands in the middle of the road.  Find some common ground and get to work. 

It's as easy as this!    


Monday, January 28, 2013

1/28/13: MMA. Legalize It, Yeah. Don't Criticize It!

1/28/13: Legalize It, Yeah.  Don't Criticize It!


Not that, you friggin burnouts! 

MMA in New York. 

The fastest growing sport in the world, now on network TV and raking in the highest pay per view numbers in sports history is illegal in ONE place.  No, not North Korea.  New York.

There are more blame theories floating around, from old school boxing purism with it's deep rooted corruption, to the "unions vs. UFC" chatter, to Assemblyman Bob Reilly preaching the outdated John McCain mantra of "human cockfighting" and making it his signature issue in the Legislature all these years.

Note the impetus for this was a 1997 law that made "no holds barred fighting" illegal.  MMA wasn't then and certainly isn't now "no holds barred" fighting.  Admittedly there were mismatches, unclear weight classes, multiple sets of rules, no unified governing body and less wide acceptance.  Today things are much different.  It is highly sanctioned, has clear rules that are beginning to become standard, solid safety records,  acceptance from local and State governing authorities and most tellingly, legalization in 49 states and major network TV coverage.

Fortunately the tide is beginning to turn.  Thanks to advocates like the Coalition to Legalize MMA in New York ( and the deep pockets of the UFC, the movement is starting to gain traction in the right direction.  Some bright spots in the recent timeline include:

1.  Assemblyman Reilly retired this year.
2.  UFC and friends filed suit to lift the ban.
3.  NY needs and wants the money and Governor Cuomo is receptive to and even an advocate of casinos and sports based entertainment primarily to keep those revenues in New York as opposed to NJ or Connecticut. 
4.  Massive local growth of the popularity of the sport and training facilities.
5.  Madison Square Garden is seen as the potential crown jewel for the UFC.
6.  No discernable star power in the current heavyweight boxing ranks that can command top box office and pay per view draws. 
7.  Court has ruled that the ban ONLY applies to "professional" MMA and not amateur.

#7 has created a ripple effect as amateur promotions grow in number.  While they have the legal blessing of the court, they are shunned by athletic commissions and most recently in a scathing and landmark letter from the Association of Boxing Commisions (ABC) to the Governor and State Senate blasting them for allowing unsanctioned and unregulated events while outlawing professional promotions.  Their main concern being medically unfit fighters who fail to be cleared to fight in other state's sanctioned events can then fight in unregulated NY events.

Headwinds are staring to form among the legislators that favor lifting the ban and allowing combat sport's natural progression and continued mainstream acceptance. 

Hopefully, the sport can maintain it's integrity, sportsmanship and warrior spirit in the face of continued expansion and growth. 

It is many a New Yok MMA fans dream to see a top headline event at Madison Square Garden, the most legendary fight venue in history.

Note:  Great information for this post was respectfully lifted (looted, stolen) from articles on NYMMA Now's blog.  Go there for more information and special shout out thanks to Stephen Koepfer for all of his efforts to bring legalized MMA to NY.

1/28/13: Great Schools or Just Expensive Ones? LI: Redux

1/28/13: Great Schools or Just Expensive Ones?  LI: Redux


Brooklyn: Taxes on 3000+ sq ft home, valued at $1,000,000                      $5600
LI: Taxes on 1800sq ft home valued at $350k                                             $11,000 ($7800 schools)

Brooklyn: Elementary school has full music program starting in KG. Complete orchestra with multiple instruments and sections. Full drama program with plays starting in KG.

LI: Elementary has music program that starts in grade 3 with 2 instrument choices (Violin and Viola). Drama program with plays start in 4th grade.

Just an example of the arts and our schools do jump up in quality in HS but that is more demographics than value for the dollar. Many many fewer at risk kids, poor kids, etc.

I just don't get how we justify what we pay. Statistically we have a lot of Intel finalists for a small area which is great, although the names read like a who's who from India and China (nothing wrong with it, just saying) but we also send a disproportionate number to the military and community colleges.

The latest threat/discussion is of dropping AP programs due to budget constraints.

Why can't we just say it out loud that mandated, contractual benefits and pensions coupled with unfunded State madates are taking pencils (and drumsticks and paint) right out of the kid's hands. 

If we are so hell bent on "great schools" for the kids, how do we accept this? For what we pay, shouldn't we be adding programs? For $20k+ per kid, shouldn't we be at the forefront of technology?

Enrollments down, programs cut, costs up?! Somebody help me with the math. 

Friday, January 25, 2013

1/25/13: Joey Schnoodles & the Ancient Chinese Secret

1/25/13:  Joey Schnoodles & the Ancient Chinese Secret

No, it's not a fantastic new discovery on Little Steven's Underground Garage radio.  It's about a great fucking dog.  He's not "Schnoodles" because he's any kind of Schnauzer or Poodle.  He's Schnoodles cause I thought his dick looked like a schnoodle and I started calling him "Schnoodle Pecker." Judge me.  Go ahead.  Do your worst.  I don't care!  It morphed into Joey Schoodles.  I've called him snout pecker, Snouticus (a favorite of my wife) and Snout-hampton.  He's a boxer.  Today is his 11th birthday.  For a boxer, that's pretty good.  Under the circumstances, it's exceptionally good.  

Joe is our boxer.  He's actually my wife's boxer.  She has a thing for them, we wanted a dog and I found him in the Town of North Hempstead shelter.  It's a nice family yarn that makes me look like a good guy so I'll retell at the risk of immodesty (wtf is that?!).  When they release a pure bred inmate pooch for adoption from this shelter, particularly small, in demand breeds like Shit-zus (bad spelling intentional), toy breeds, etc, there is often some competition.  They have a fine libertarian method for handling this called 1st come 1st served.  Thy have an offical parking line up area, tell you to park it and DON'T LEAVE...not for coffee, not to take a dump.  When they open in the morning, 1st one in line gets the hound. 

The day before I visited Joe (as they named Joe Boxer) and decided he was a good guy and a supreme butt wiggler my wife would spoil and turn in to a girl dog without any surgery.  I deemed him worthy to be a Magoo.  He was 8+ mos. old, already neutered and house trained, had a microchip and the story was he was found wandering the 'mean streets' of Port Washington (median income @ $95grand/yr).  When notified, the owners didn't want him back.  I'd easily spew a hail of choice expletives their way, but fuck them, I owe them as I got the best dog in the world out of it so their douchetacularness is my blessing.  I raced to Home Depot and then home to start ghetto fixing our crumbling fence and gate (actually there was no gate) to prep for our new bundle of flatulent joy.  Ya gotta love a breed of dog whose AKC description claims "flatulence" as a trait.  So farting is in his job description and he's a major leaguer.  But I digress.  I fixed the fence and told Lisa (not yet my wife), "you can't ask questions but I need two cheese sandwiches (one for me, one for Joe) and I won't be home tonight."  She obliged.  I remember clearly it was Sept. 12th, 2002.  I sat in the car all night listening to talk radio discussions on the anniversary of 9/11 and also reading some pulp thriller.  In the morning, I busted out the Shnoods for good.  He dragged my ass around and we both took a father/dog leak on the LIRR tracks.  Bonding.

If there is a higher power, then Joe is a missionary of his warmth, spirit and love.  He does not have a mean, angry or aggressive bone in his body.  He has never growled at anyone except me and I instigated it, trying to break him of some of the spoiled femininity my wife instilled in him.  He did bark at a burglar once, but it was after he left....with Lisa's pocketbook.

The rest of the story I hesitate to tell.  I am superstitious and there is some mysticism in it.  I'm scared of jinxing a miracle.  I always planned it as a euology when the time came.  When I think about it, if it can help someone keep their friend longer and help them suffer less, then I should tell it.  So here it goes. 

In April 2009, on a regular evening when we were getting home from work, we noticed Joe lose his balance in a freaky way and ultimately lie down.  I noticed immediately labored breathing and his lips turning pale white.  I knew instinctively something was up and the whiteness was anemia.  I scooped him up and rushed him to our vet.  His main guy Dr. A was not there so I saw Dr. Longo.  She is a sweet lady, rushed him in for an xray and immediately saw a mass on his spleen and said it probably ruptured and is causing the bleeding.  She said they would stabilize him and that we should think about a splenectomy in the morning removing the mass and the spleen (which I'm told they can do OK without).  When I met with Dr. A who would do the surgery he explained about these things and the 1st time a shitty fucking word "hermangiosarcoma" entered my lexicon.  It is a very aggressive blood borne cancer.  The plan was we would do the splenectomy.  If during the surgery they found a serious spread of tumors, we would let go and say good bye.  If not, we do the surgery and send the mass for a biopsy.  That is what happened.  Dr. A called me to come in for the results and hinted not to bring Lisa which already told me it wasn't good.  Came back positive for hermangiosarcoma.  Prognosis: 3-5 months with chemo, 2-4 months without.  Chemo NOT recommended as it apparently doesn't work for this.  No options except to make him comfortable and let go.  Being the obsessive fuck I am I made the mistake of investigating the shit out it on the web.  Ended up finding worse stats like 23 days to 91 days life expectancy.  Fuckers.  I also ran across some hyped up stuff about Traditional Chinese Medicine, herbal treatments, other holistic stuff.  Mostly articles debunking it and a few sites selling herbal remedies that seemed more new agey honest than charlatan.  In other words I think the hearts were in the right place, but I had no confidence that they would be a working option.  I am not closed minded, believe in a lot of spiritual mumbo jumbo and certainly have no arrogant ties to Western medicine being the be all end all for human health.  I don't trust that we know much and have seen 1st hand how the scientific community sometimes can't agree on the color of a brown turd.  I also learned that cancers (people, dog, etc) THRIVE on carbs.  I had known about and did more research on a Dr. Jay (J.J.) Wen, a vet with a practice in the Hamptons (actually Speonk, the beginning of the Hamptons before the megabucks kicks in) specializing in a combination of Western and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for animals.  I thought it was worth a consult.  There is nothing harder than feeling helpless and doing NOTHING, even when the best professional advice is to do nothing.  He looked at his records and checked him out and said flat out "over 30 years of his experience, 30% respond to the treatment and are cured, 70% it does nothing."  I was like "cured? You mean remission, right?" and he said "no, cured, no sign of the disease anymore."  I figured this guy was a quack snake oil salesman at that point but had little else to go on.  He had a nice place, busy with many beautiful pets, many years in the business and excellent reviews and I had nothing else to lose.  We started the herbs ($150/mo vs. chemo at $1000's per month) and planned to come back in 30 days.  I also started him on EVO brand food.  A zero-carb/zero grain food.  I've never seen dogs graze so not sure why they would ever need grain but that's another story.  After 2 weeks Lisa and I agreed Joe hadn't looked that good in years.  All of his other bumps and skin hassles cleared up or shrank.  He ate, played, was still the laziest fucker around, but was HIMSELF and happy.  A 10 on the quality of life meter which is how you start measuring shit after a terminal diagnosis.  Passed his checkups after the 1st 2 months.  Had a few mast cell tumors that had been growing for a few years and Doc Wen said for now they are not an issue, only the hermangio.  At 3 months, an abdominal ultrasound and xray.  My heart was near the floor waiting.  Came back CLEAN.  At 6 months.  CLEAN.  At 9 months.  CLEAN.  Doc said "he's cured."  I still thought WTF?  My conditioned Western brain could not wrap itself around that term.  He said he was cured by 7 months and if the disease were active, he'd be gone by now.  That jibed with all of the other information I'd gotten.  At one year we stopped the herbs.

3 weeks after stopping the herbal remedy (a strange concoction including ginseng, astralagus, other regular supplements, but also cockroach, flying squirrel dung and bloodworm. I had to translate alot of Chinese to find out the ingedients but they all came up on different TCM sites with history, uses, indicators similar to Western meds and supplements), the mast cell tumors began to grow noticeably
and quickly.  He prescribed another mix that didn't help.  I told him that I swear the Neo-DC Powder he was on earlier stopped the tumor growth and since it had no side effects and he was fine, I wanted to keep trying it.  He said "why not" and advised cutting the dose in half.

Fast forward, it is now 21 months since the ordeal began and Joey Shnoodles has lasted almost a year and a half longer than our best medical minds said he could.  He is an old lazy fart and I envy him for that.  He still jumps around, goes for long walks, checks his pee-mail at every lamp post, gets up and down the stairs, bed and couch and is still God's greatest agent of l'amour.  I talk to my HP sometimes and say "thanks for time time you've given us with Joe and if we can have some more I would certainly be grateful, but mostly, don't let him suffer in any way.  He's the greatest ambassador of your light and love."

Today he'll get the 2nd 'birthday steak' he wasn't supposed to see.  

Before this all began I talked to Lisa's friend who had experience with Dr. Wen for her dog's allergies.  She also confided that she was seeing one of the doctors on a list he keeps available of TCM practitioners for humans.  She was looking for ease of chemo sysptoms from breast cancer treatments.  She found the herbal remedies helped a great deal.  They are becoming accepted in wider circles not as a cancer remedy (we are too closed minded and conditioned to be ready for that), but as a tool in the arsenal for treating chemo side effects.  Accupuncture is now covered by many insurances and is not even considered an "alternative treatment" anymore.  I recently was sidelined by a hip injury and groin pull from hockey.  Tried the sports med guy.  Long waits, high co-pay.  Ultrasound targeted cortisone shots.  I was in pain again before I reached my car in the parking lot.  Tried an accupuncturist guy on Dr. Wen's list.  Dr. Ping Zhu, 35 years of experience, teaches at the highly regarded local school that pumps out massage and accupunture therapists like Pez.  He said "I don't need to see the xrays, I will examine you and we will treat the pain."  He is part sadist.  Jabbed me with a dozen strategically placed needles and tacked on electrodes.  Started the juice and said "take a nap for 20 minutes."  I said "take a nap?  I've got needles in my leg and I'm being electocuted." He called me a baby and said take a nap.  After 1 treatment the hip pain was gone.  Committed to 5 more sessions.  After 3 the pain was back to the usual pain I'd grown used to over the last 10 years.  $85 cash per visit, no insurance, no receptionist, started on time, no waiting.  I joked that it was like the old west "I'll pay you a horse and some tobacco if you remove these bullets, doc."  No paperwork, no red tape, no bureacracy.  Believe what I say or not.  Those who knwo me know I don't bullshit or abide by bullshit and I am evangelically pragmatic.  The shit worked.   

Supplements have taken over drugstore shelves for diet, respiratory, digestive, mental health ailments and everything in between.  Why the continued resistance when it comes to cancer?  The cynical part of me knows it's because supplements can't be patented so the research money doesn't go there.  The optimistic side of me says progress is being made.  If one person gets the option of herbs over pain, or a family pet can get another few months of quality life without lying on the floor dying with their tongue hanging out from invasive chemo then this blog post was worth it.

My uncle joked to me years ago discussing politics when I said I was "in the middle" that "people in the middle get run over!"  I've come to accept that as a politcal reality.  I WON'T accept it as a medical one.  If Western medicine, all of 250 years old is good and Traditional Chinese Medicine, 3000 years old is good, together they can be great.  Western medicine is amazing at diagnosing.  We have machines that can find anything.  We have pills to ease the pain and treatments to cut it out or blast it with radiation.  We are not so far along at helping the body heal itself, which is actually what nature does.  The best remedy is to NOT get sick.  Seems simple but it is long forgotten in Western medicine.  Prevention is a word used to encourage keeping insurance costs down, but in the day to day, it's low on the importance scale.  Chinese meds are purely holistic.  The idea is not to attack the disease but to STRENGTHEN the parts of the body whose functions it is to heal the body.  Combining Western diagnostics with Chinese holistic advances is where the answers will lie. 

You cannot graft a new idea on a closed mind.  Open your mind.

Recently Joe was back at his old vet Dr. A who is a family friend and has known us a long time.  Joe still has allergies and scratched himself, accidently scratching his cornea.  Took him to the doc who was skeptical but pretty amazed to see Joe alive and in the flesh and still being the great patient that is Joe.  He loves vets.  He loves everyone.  On one visit after hearing my story for the 3rd or 4th time, each with me sheepishly justifying that "those Chinese herbs might really work..." he asked me for the contact info for Dr. Wen.  He said he had someone with a boxer in the same situation we were in.  Like us, the guy said he couldn't sit back and do nothing.  Dr. A said he felt he had to tell him about our story and give him the option to find out more.  I gave him the number and my number and told him to call me if he wanted more info.  Changing attitudes, one mind at a time. 

Joe is probably overdue for another trip to Doc JJ Wen's at Hampton Veterinary Hospital.  It's an interesting place.  It's a nice office and they are usually less expensive than our regular vet.  I can tell it's often a "last resort" destination for alot of pets and their people.  Lots of gorgeous older dogs with limps, wounds, missing parts, etc who are all beautiful.  Also lots of pups with allergy issues. Seems we know as much about pet allergies as we do people allergies.  Not a damn fucking thing.  Maybe it's all gluten, the latest public enemy #1 malady.  Who knows?

I'm heading home from work soon (no I didn't write all of this at work...of course not...wink, wink) and have to whip up Joe's birthday steak which he complains I always overcook.  I am trained to not go below rare but he says that's overdone.  Oh well.  The day he doesn't give me a world class beggar look for a piece of meat is the day I'll worry.  Truthfully, I try not to worry now.  Joe's playing with the house money.  I still beat him up and tell him boxing is a dying and corrupted art and he should learn MMA.  They should have a breed of dogs called Kempo instead of Boxer.  He's never offended no matter how hard I try.  Nowadays I let him win alot.  He knows the day I stop wrastling with him is when he has to worry.  I am blessed to have that guy for a friend.  I'll cherish every minute I get with him and when he goes I'll know it's because the guy upstairs has an important assignment for him.  Save the soul and heart of another wretch like me.

Thanks, Joe.  Happy Birthday....pecker snout.