My Life On Parade

Click on link to hear an interview with Michael and Spider about Red Wedding conducted in the Spring of 2014 by Big Blend magazines

Thieves

October 16th, 2014

Things are going okay, except for the fact that Spider is losing weight again. Last week he threw-up his meal two days in a row and now he only seems to want to eat little bits at a time. I keep trying to feed him, but I don’t want to push. In fact, he seems to get irritated with me when I do push. He is now down to 124 pounds, the lowest weight he has been thus far, about 35 pounds under his normal weight before he was diagnosed with the cancer last year. I talked with Cindy about this and she reminded me that he lost a lot of weight after his first radioactive isotope procedure but then after about three months, he started gaining it back. Maybe that’s what is happening again. It’s been about a month and a half since his last isotope procedure, so maybe in another month and a half, he’ll start putting back on the weight.

Last Friday evening, we discovered our water heater in the townhouse was starting to leak from the bottom. It kind of worried us that the whole thing might give and the tank would drain out and destroy our laminate flooring, so Spider ran to Lowe’s and ordered a new tank and paid for emergency installation and on Saturday, the workers came and removed the old tank and replaced it with the new one. The cost of the tank was $300. The cost to have it installed was $500!

On Saturday evening, Renee came over for dinner. She brought us homemade cookies. We spent most of the evening telling her band stories from our past. We don’t usually share these stories as we don’t like to bore people and we figure most people wouldn’t be interested anyway, but Renee seemed to enjoy hearing about our adventures.

On Sunday evening, Jay L. and Dhara came over for dinner. I fixed pasta and we ate sitting around the coffee table. We talked about our favorite horror movies and TV shows. Both Jay and Dhara had worked that day and they were dragging ass (they work in politics and will be putting in long hours until the election in November is over), so they didn’t stay long. They just wanted to come by and show us some love.

Last week we met with an auction house about helping us find a home for all of our things left behind after our estate sale at our old Oro Valley house. We sold a lot of stuff, but we still have a lot left (too nice for a yard sale or to give away to a charity) and we desperately need to clear out the house so we can get it up for sale. We met with a young guy named Tim and he seemed very interested in everything (even our junk that we figured we would dump). Tim said he wanted to do an online auction from the house in a few weeks (the auction house takes 30% from the sale) and he would send us a contract, but it’s been nearly a week and we haven’t heard back from him. We also spoke with Dean Groth (our realtor and friend) and he recommended that we replace the air-conditioning unit and fix the low water pressure in the Oro Valley house before we put it up on the market, so we have appointments to do that next week.

As we look around at all the stuff left over from our estate sale, we’ve noticed that some things appear to be gone yet Spider doesn’t remember them being sold. In other words, we think that some of our things were stolen during the chaos of the sale including some high end things. How depressing to think that there are people who would steal from someone who has cancer. Oh well. Speaking of the estate sale, I like the comment that Ted B. left on Facebook about his experience with Spider that afternoon as Spider was showing him one of his motorbikes. Ted wrote:

What an experience for me. When Spider told me to come with him and look at his bike, I was a little puzzled. He was like a little kid. He hopped on that thing and took off. Then he asked me to get on. I’m way to big to get on that thing. I hesitated. There was no way I wanted to get on that. But his enthusiasm overcame me so I tried. First attempt, I stalled the motor, couldn’t peddle fast enough (seat too low, my knees were almost up to my ears). I was done but Spider was having none of that. “I’ll push you. You need to get to 7 mph” So off we went, successfully launching me done the street. When I got back, he had a bigger smile on his face than I did. Totally awesome. Wished I had gotten the Rosy the Robot cookie jar though…

We are still dealing with paperwork concerning Spider’s disability pay. It never ends. The latest is that we were told that Spider has been overpaid since January and so we had to pay them back over $1600!

John B. (our ex-neighbor) and his wife Martha have been so kind to us. They are always phoning to check in and see if we need anything. A couple of weeks ago when we were busy trying to get ready for the estate sale, John came by and got our car and took it to have our tires replaced. Of course, we paid for the tires, but John did the labor and he got us a really good price.

Spider and I have noticed that there are at least seven or eight pitbulls living in our complex and it makes me uneasy. In fact, our neighbor Carlos has two pitbulls, and the other day a neighbor came walking by with two pitbulls on chains and it seemed like he could barely control them. They had massive chests and they looked fierce (not friendly dogs). Don’t get me wrong, I love all dogs and I know that pitbulls often get a bad rap, but they worry me especially around Frappy. I guess it doesn’t help that the last time we were at a dog park, a pit ran up out of nowhere and attacked Frappy. Fortunately Frappy wasn’t hurt, but it was creepy, the way the pit started to go for Frappy’s throat. The owner said “Oh my god, I’m so sorry. Cupcake has never attacked another dog before.” And that’s just it. Pitbulls can be sweet dogs, however if they ever lose control, they have the ability to kill. Frappy wouldn’t stand a chance.

Yesterday afternoon, we had Eva E. and Brenda L. over for lunch. Eva has been a great friend always making sure we have enough to eat and Brenda (who make us healing beads) always leaves loving comments for us on Facebook, so it was sort of a thank you lunch.

This afternoon, Spider went out to lunch with a couple of his old work buddies (Steve H. and Harold K.). It was Steve’s idea to get together and he insisted on picking up the lunch and Harold gave Spider a small cast iron pan in the shape of a guitar. Spider said they shared a lot of laughs. I’m so glad that his work buddies haven’t forgot about him.

Tomorrow evening, Cheri Z. is flying in to stay with us for a few days. Cheri was concerned about me after I had my meltdown during the estate sale and this was the soonest she could make it out. I’m feeling much stronger since then, but it will be nice to have Cheri here.

Remember me talking about the headless saguaro that Spider would always wave to on his way to work or whenever we passed by (it’s top was cut off to make room for a power line, yet it continued to grow)? Spider would always wave to the giant cactus tree and say “If you can make it through life without a head, so can I.” Well, seems a while back the saguaro was hit by lightning and both of its massive arms fell off and now it is turning brown and is dying. It makes me feel sad. Every time we pass by now, it looks worse and worse and I can’t help myself from thinking that it is symbolic. Both Spider and his headless saguaro are dying.

Better

October 3rd, 2014

Sometimes I feel embarrassed when I read back what I wrote in my blog, especially when I’m feeling unbalanced. It’s not always easy being an open book. Sometimes it leaves me feeling so exposed and vulnerable.

I guess I had a meltdown from all the stress I’ve been holding inside and it’s scary when your body starts to react to that stress, doing things that you don’t have any control over. It got to the point where my mind started flipping out and I couldn’t get hold of thoughts, couldn’t think clearly or function like normal and my body began to wig out on me, shaking uncontrollably and no matter how hard I tried to stop the shaking, I just couldn’t. I can’t even begin to describe how creepy that felt.

On Wednesday evening, I washed and folded some clothes and put together a small bag of things just in case I needed to go to the hospital to recover, but then the bad feelings began to subside and as of today, I’m feeling better. I’m still not 100% but at least I feel more in control of what is happening to me. Spider and I took a few days off from everything and I think that helped. Also, having so many dear friends reach out to me via phone calls and messages helped too. I am so grateful for Shirlie W., Peter A., Sally R., Lisa and Nancy, Laura B., Sel, Linda D., Robert S., Rob A., Danny, Renee, Steve S., Brenda L., Elizabeth L., Paul C., Michele B., Lynnie C., Spike and others for their love and support the last couple of days (as well as their suggestions on how to deal with the stress). Knowing that I wasn’t alone and that so many friends had my back helped make a difference. Most of all, I am grateful for Spider for putting his arms around me and holding me tight until the ugly thoughts lifted. Last but not least, I want to thank Cheri Z. for all of her concern and words of support. In fact, Cheri booked a flight to come stay with us for a few days during the middle of this month just to help us get back on track. She is a true friend.

Tomorrow, there is a community wide yard sale in our old neighborhood and Spider wants to participate and try to sell off more of our stuff, but I’m not sure if I can do that. Although we sold an enormous amount of our possessions at our estate sale last Saturday, we still have a shitload of stuff left and it’s weighing on both of us because we need to get the house cleared out and up for sale. The problem for me is that I just can’t deal with the people. Obviously I didn’t do a very good job last weekend. I’m not sure exactly why I’m having such a hard time. I’m pretty sure I have emotionally let go of all the things we are getting rid of. After all, it’s just stuff. Maybe it’s just the idea that it represents an end to the life and the plans that Spider and I had before the cancer came into our world. We have so many cool collectibles that we had planned to sell a little at a time once Spider retired, something fun for us to do in our golden years in oder to pay for little vacations, but now that dream is gone. Now we are letting go of these things at a loss. For example, last weekend at the estate sale we sold a beautiful and rare cookie jar for $50, but it normally sells on ebay for $250, however it’s not about the money, it’s about the loss of a dream, the loss of our future plans.

Besides the estate sale, I think the other reason I was freaking out is because Spider was in so much pain. He had a pain in his right side (where his liver is located) that he described as being stabbed with an ice pick, a pain that was radiating up into his shoulder. He was trying to dismiss the pain, but I could see it in his eyes (not to mention that he was moaning in his sleep at night) and I was so worried, worried sick. Because the doctors can not determine how long Spider has to live at this stage, we are living in limbo and that wears on me and plays with my head. I mean, all I kept wondering was if this pain was a sign that something bad was about to happen, if it was a sign that Spider’s liver was going to give out on him and I can’t begin to tell you how scared and stressed out I was. And it didn’t help that Spider left a message for Dr. Patel about the pain and Dr. Patel didn’t even phone him back.

After waiting for three days, Spider phoned and left a second message for Dr. Patel and finally Dr. Patel did call him back and told Spider to stop taking the chemo pill and within a few more days, the pain went away. At this point, we had no idea if the pain was coming from the pill or if it was swelling from the isotope procedure. Then, yesterday, Spider met with Dr. Patel and we got some fairly reassuring news. Spider’s liver enzymes are still functioning good, just below normal, and Dr. Patel determined that the pain that Spider had been experiencing was probably indeed swelling from the isotopes, not from the chemo pill, so now Spider goes back on the pill, first a half dose and then three quarters. So, for now, things are okay.

Lost

October 1st, 2014

The night before our estate sale, Spider and I were over at our Oro Valley house putting price stickers on as many things as we could and my mother phoned. As soon as I heard her voice, I wanted to cry and tell her that I wasn’t in a good place, but I didn’t. My mom has her own issues to deal with right now and I didn’t want to worry her, so I pretended everything was fine.

I wasn’t going to go to our estate sale. I just felt like I couldn’t handle it, couldn’t handle a bunch of vultures fighting over our possessions. It was just too much for me, but then I was filled with such guilt about leaving Spider alone to have to deal with it all, so the next morning on only one hour’s sleep, I forced myself to get up and shower and off we went. As soon as we arrived to the house two hours before the estate sale was suppose to start, there were already people waiting outside, and as soon as I got out of the car, that horrible, greedy couple (the wife that was a cancer survivor) came rushing up to me and the woman said “Michael! Michael! I want those Western Christmas ornaments!” I had planned to sell the whole box for $40, but I told her the price would be $100 just so she would get out of my face. We quickly went inside and I looked around at all of our things (all of our possessions and things that we were saying goodbye to) and I couldn’t handle it, so I went out in back and sat on our patio. Robert S. arrived, followed by Paul and Sel, and they talked to me but it was hard for me to focus. I just couldn’t think clearly. Then other friends arrived and they said there was a line forming outside the door and again I couldn’t handle it. In fact, my legs started shaking and I couldn’t make them stop. I just sat there feeling paralyzed. Then it was time to open the door and I’m told that people came rushing in and grabbing things like they were at a day after Christmas sale. Spider was over-swamped, so thank god we had friends there to help. Robert and Sally R. jumped in to help Spider like pros answering questions and taking money, and Louie O. helped add up prices and Jeff (of Eva and Jeff) helped carry things out and Neighbor John watched the door. Other friends were there too, Jay and Dhara and Ryan and Jay (with their boys) and Ted B. (a friend of Paul and Sel). Some friends came out to the patio to check on me while the chaos was going on inside, but at first I couldn’t even make conversation. I just continued to sit there trying to stop shaking, trying to focus on what people were saying to me. Carolyn (our next door neighbor) came up to me and she started patting me on the back and crying and telling me how much we were in her thoughts and she just went on and on putting on a show for everyone to see and I wanted her to just go away, but she just went on and on acting like a big drama queen patting my back and patting my back to the point where I wanted to scream. Finally she left and I began to calm down a bit enough to where I could communicate with our friends, and after about an hour, the crowd inside had died down enough to where I felt like was calm enough to check things out. When I went into the house, it was almost surreal looking around our once beautiful house, now looking rundown with piles of our possessions on the floors looking scattered and picked over. It was so depressing. There were still people walking around and carrying items in their hands (memories that once meant something to us). Thank god our friends bought some of our stuff so at least I knew these things were going to good homes. Paul bought all of my Streisand memorabilia and he pulled me aside and said “Micheal, if you ever want any of this back, all you need to do is say the word and I’ll give it back to you.” That was so sweet of him and it was so wonderful knowing that our friends came to our rescue. I honestly don’t know how we would have pulled the sale off without their help and support. All in all, we sold a huge amount of our stuff and we made a very nice chunk of money, however there is still a lot of cool things left and I’m not sure what we should do with it all. Just thinking of having to return to that house is enough to make me feel sick to my stomach. I know we need to get that house fixed up and on the market, but I can’t deal with it.

Spider told me that during the chaos of the estate sale, a stranger came up to him and placed a good luck charm in the palm of his hand (some kind of large French coin on a chain) and the man said “I just want you to have this. It brought me good luck during a bad time and I hope it brings good luck to you.”

On Monday evening we drove up to Phoenix to see a Temples concert with Robert S. I didn’t want to go at all as I’m feeling extremely unglued, but Robert had already purchased the tickets and I didn’t want to disappoint him and Spider, so I forced myself to go and as it turns out, it was a good diversion. There were moments when I felt like I was going to lose it, but I held it together and got through. Robert found us a vegetarian restaurant (Green) near the venue and the food was awesome. The concert was at a place called the Crescent Ballroom, not a large venue (probably holds about 200 people) but a place with great atmosphere (much cooler than most of the cool clubs we played back in the day) and it was primarily filled with college kids and younger. There were some older people there too, but I’m sure that Spider and I were by far the oldest guys there. I kept staring at all the young people and remembering when Spider and I were their age and feeling somewhat sad, sad that we are now in the last phase of our lives. We sat at the top of some bleachers towards the back of the room where we had a great view. The first two bands were interesting, but I didn’t really connect with them, however Temples were pretty magnificent, just as good as their record. Robert bought a Temples album and when he placed it behind him, it fell between a narrow slot between the bleachers and the wall and it was gone. There was no way to retrieve it. It was lost, so Spider, the sweetheart he is, went and bought another copy for him. At one point between the second band and Temples, I stepped outside the club to get some air and as I was standing there I noticed an old black man sitting in a wheelchair by the side of the building. The man looked horrible with matted hair and missing teeth and he asked me if I had any change. At first I told him that I had no change and I started to walk away, but then something came over me and I reached into my wallet and pulled out a twenty dollar bill and went back to the man and handed it to him. When he reached out to take the money I saw that his hand was all twisted up and crippled and I felt so bad.

So how am I doing now? Not good, not good at all. I think I’m having a meltdown. I’ve been holding on to so much stress for months and months that I think it is starting to take a toll on my body. I’ve been clenching and grinding my teeth to the point where my gums are bleeding and I keep having bouts where my body keeps shaking uncontrollably and I can’t calm down and make it stop. There are times when it is so bad that I feel like I should go to the emergency room, but I don’t because I don’t want to be locked up in a psyche ward and leave Spider fending for himself. I keep hoping that these feelings will go away, that I will pull my shit together and be strong, but right now I feel like I’m going crazy. I feel so lost.

Shoes

September 29th, 2014

Sometimes well-meaning friends and people tell me that I need to think less of myself and focus only on Spider, that he is the one who is dying and how I need to make life good for him, that I need to be strong and the two of us should just be relaxing and enjoying life and living in the moment, but that is easy for them to say. Of course, I focus on Spider and of course I’m trying to do everything I can to make our lives happy and fulfilling with the time we have (how ever long that is). The truth is that about 90% of the time, all I do is think of Spider. Spider is my partner and my lover and my man. He means everything to me, however it isn’t always easy to go through what we are going through and put a happy face on things. God knows I try, and most of the time I do a pretty damn good job of it , but I am only human and sometimes the stress is too much for me and sometimes it can be very difficult to keep all the stress buried inside. When I think of everything we have been through since last November, I’m actually amazed that I haven’t just started screaming like a madman or crying uncontrollably, but I don’t. I just keep pushing all the shit to the back of my mind, holding all the stress in my gut. Yes, Spider is still here and we still have each other and we’re living in the moment, but sometimes, often the moment is not pleasant. Sometimes the moment is like a nightmare that I can’t get out of. The stress of knowing that Spider has terminal cancer, the stress of all the doctor appointments and trying to keep track of all the different doctors, the stress of all the misinformation we’ve had to deal with (like doctors telling us that Spider could get a transplant when that wasn’t the truth), the stress of thinking about all the tumors growing inside of Spider, the stress of the hideous and painful procedures that Spider has had to undergo, the stress of Spider being in pain or vomiting uncontrollably and feeling helpless to help ease his discomfort, the stress of juggling endless doctor bills and worrying about money, the stress of having to complete mountains and mountains of stupid paperwork just so Spider can be on disability (paperwork that is still not entirely complete because it still keeps coming), the stress of having to figure out all of our finances because the state of Arizona does not recognize us as a legal couple, the stress of having to transfer everything over into my name, the stress of having to downsize and move into a new place while under the gun, the stress of the actual moving, the stress of trying to quickly fix and repair things in the new house so it is liveable, the stress of having to sell off two-thirds of our possessions and treasures at a great loss, the stress of trying to get the old house up for sale (a house that has some major issues), the stress of watching Spider lose weight and turn into a skeleton, the stress of realizing that Spider can no longer take long walks with me and Frappy like we used to, the stress of Spider having chemo brain (and how sometimes he can’t focus on things clearly), the stress of laying in bed at night unable to sleep while listening to Spider moan in his sleep, the stress of trying to be there not only for Spider, but also for our friends and their lives and their problems, the stress of wanting to phone friends and dump and cry on their shoulders constantly but not wanting to come off like a drama queen or a Debbie downer, the stress of Spider’s sister turning against us because she doesn’t like what I write in this blog, the stress of having to quickly learn how to maintain a house and car on my own, the stress not knowing how much time that Spider and I have left together, the stress of trying to not let Spider see how freaked out I am, the stress of knowing how worried Spider is about me, the stress of watching Spider slip away from me little by little in little ways, the stress of wondering how I’m going to live in a world without my partner of the last nearly 43 years, all of this stress on top of more stress, and I hold most of it inside on a daily basis. Like I said, I am being strong, as strong as I possibly can be considering I’m not the most stable person to begin with, but sometimes it is all just too much for me. How I wish that Spider and I could truly relax and enjoy live to the fullest. We keep trying and maybe we will get there, but right now it isn’t as easy as people suggest. Forgive me if I sound like I am feeling sorry for myself, but try to be in my shoes for just one day.   

Kevin, Jessica (holding London), Spider and Cindy, September, 2014

Kevin, Jessica (holding London), Spider and Cindy, September, 2014

People

September 25th, 2014

So, Spider met with both Dr. Patel and Dr. Devis early last week. Dr. Devis was pleased with the procedure she performed and said she hit the tumor with the radioactive isotopes spot on, and Dr. Label increased Spider’s chemo pill dosage from half to three-quarters dose. Since then, with the dose increase, Spider has been a little under the weather. He threw-up really bad on the first night and now he has bouts of nausea on and off throughout the day. He also feels a stabbing pain on the side of his liver. He left a note with one of Dr. Patel’s nurses at the cancer center several days ago about the pain and nausea, but neither Dr. Patel nor one of his people has never gotten back. Of course, this pisses me off.

We got to know our neighbor Carlos a little better a few days ago. He stopped by and hung out with us for a couple of hours. Carlos is 30 years old and grew up here in Southern Arizona and he’s a real great guy, and as I think I mentioned before, he is very attractive. In fact, I think he could be a model. I’m glad we are getting to know our neighbors. It makes me feel like we live in a nice complex.

Ryan H. came by last Saturday evening to jam on guitar with Spider. After, I fixed us dinner and then we watched “Pink Flamingos” starring Divine. Ryan is only 22 years old and had never heard of the movie. Not sure if he liked it or not. The thing is, I forgot just how truly gross that movie is. Hard to believe they got away with half the things they did in that movie back in 1972.

On Sunday afternoon, Jessica along with her new boyfriend Kevin and little London drove down from Phoenix to visit us. Cindy came over and joined us for lunch. It was great to see Jessica and Kevin is a very talkative and nice guy (a good-looking guitar player) and little London was a doll. They said they may return this Saturday for our estate sale.

On Tuesday evening we went to the Loft theater with Cindy to see the new documentary about the David Bowie exhibition that is traveling around the globe (now in Chicago). Robert S. was there, so we sat with him. The documentary (David Bowie Is) was interesting featuring a look at all things to do with Bowie’s career from his costumes to his hand-written song lyrics, and although, as a Bowie fan, I found it very interesting, I almost felt like I could have produced a better documentary. I think it could have been more edgy and Bowie-esque. The museum narrators were a bit dull and the people who spoke about Bowie sort of missed the mark in my opinion.

All this week, Spider and I have been going up to our old house and sorting through things for our upcoming estate sale on Saturday. It is unbelievable to me just how much stuff that Spider and I have acquired over the years, so much stuff and so many memories. I practically feel like we were hoarders! I put up an ad on Craig’s list explaining our situation about Spider’s cancer and how we have downsized and are trying to sell off the rest of our treasures (everything from cool retro furniture to desert oil paintings to vintage Western gear to one-of-a-kind lamps to metal art pieces to Fiestaware to vintage tiki mugs to Indian rugs to brass deity statues to vintage toys and so much, much more) in order to help pay for a nice trip somewhere for the two of us, plus Linda D. was kind enough to put up flyers for us where she works, and just by the response so far, I think there are going to be a lot of people there. In fact, while we were over at the house yesterday, several people showed up at our door asking for an early look and so we let them in and that was a big mistake. The first couple that came in started off being very nice telling us that the wife is a cancer survivor and going on and on about her battle with the cancer (going on and on too much considering she is a survivor and Spider’s cancer is terminal), but then they quickly got nasty and rude and started haggling with us over the price of every little thing even though we were giving them killer prices. It really upset me and they weren’t the only ones. Others followed and it was the same thing, nasty and rude people wanting to haggle and bitch about the prices like they were at some cheap garage sale. I felt like they were all vultures. By the time we got home last evening, I was so stressed and freaked out over these people that I literally became sick. I just couldn’t believe how ugly some people can be and I think that months and months of worry and stress over Spider and lack of sleep on my part (at least one or two nights a week I don’t even sleep, I just lay awake until morning and then get back up to start the new day) combined with these ugly people left me feeling vulnerable and unable to cope. I talked with both Cindy and Cheri Z. by phone and told them what happened and both of them were supportive and had suggestions (like putting fixed prices on things), but unfortunately nothing they said really helped me and as the night went on, I just started flipping out. The thing is, I am not comfortable dealing with strangers to begin with and these people were awful to us. Cindy said that I shouldn’t have mentioned Spider’s cancer in my ad as it just makes people want to take advantage of us (like sharks that smell blood in the water) and I guess she is right. Anyway, this afternoon I still feel sick and freaked out and as of right now I don’t know how I’m going to deal with all the expected people on Saturday. I already feel overwhelmed and majorly fucked up in my head. Robert S. and neighborhood John are suppose to be there to help us, but I honestly don’t know how or if I can deal with the all of the people. I hate to put it all off on poor Spider, but, again, I feel sick and don’t think I can cope. It’s like my mental illness is in full gear and I’m having one panic attack after another.

MICHAEL AND SPIDER - ALADDIN SANE
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Michael and Spider version of David Bowie’s song “Aladdin Sane” (edited short version), 2010

Me and Spider, 1977

Me and Spider, 1977

Me and Spider enjoying some secret Jacuzzi time, September, 2014

Me and Spider enjoying some secret Jacuzzi time, September, 2014