Today is Emily Dickinson’s birthday. In an alternative world, where everyone lives to be thousands of years old, she’d be a young 127 year old woman, still writing her poems on little scraps of paper.
Happy Birthday, Ms Dickinson.
I wonder how long it is going to be before everyone n Colorado smokes a bit of weed on the side. Sure, there are people who are opposed to it, or who just don’t care to try it, but, come January 1, 2014, when pot begins being legally sold for recreational purposes, when more people are smoking, and more social gatherings involve a few joints before dinner, rather than cocktails, I wonder if the hold outs will give in, in order to fit in with their friends? It will be interesting to watch the evolution of marijuana use over the next few years.
To be honest, I haven’t thought much about marijuana, ever. I thought about it when we voted to make it legal to sell for medicinal use, and I thought about it when we voted to make it legal to sell for recreational use (I voted yes on both). It was never a substance that I was drawn too. Like a good many teenagers, I tried it a few times ( a half-dozen times at most), and, once I became an adult, I think I’ve tried it four or five times in the past twenty-five years. It’s never done much for me, other than the occasional munchie frenzy. Every time I’ve tried it, it was always out of a desire to fit in with the group of people I was with. When you’re a weird, nerdish loner, you often go along, just to feel as if you belong.
I don’t enjoy the feeling of being high. I never minded an alcohol buzz, but, being high always felt too strange, too unable to control my thoughts. I may not always have the happiest and brightest thoughts, but, even when my thoughts and mood are dark, I still like having a sense that I am in control of what’s going on in my head (even if I know I don’t have that kind of control). Illusions can make us happy, right? Being high either made my mind race, and almost hurt because the thoughts were coming so fast; or, it made my mind go silent, made me not care. So, it was never something I thought much about.
When the pain started — or, rather, when the pain started getting worse.
My pain began over a year ago. Maybe closer to two, but I was still drinking pretty heavily then, so I didn’t pay much attention to the pain. Then I sobered up, and, while most of me feels much better since I quit drinking, I no longer have the pain-killing effects of the alcohol to numb my body. As I dried out, the pain became more noticeable, and, over the past year has become much worse. It went from feeling as if my whole body were suffering from a mild headache to feeling as if my body was one giant migraine. The pain began in my legs and feet, then I began to have pain all over — a different sensation of pain than was in my legs, but, a sense of pain that was, some days, rather debilitating.
As the months passed, the pain grew worse. The tingling, burning pain in my legs and feet was diagnosed as neuropathy, as a result of HIV — more specifically: HIV drugs from the early days. I read recently, and, not thinking I was going to quote the statistic, I didn’t note the source (sorry), that almost a third of long-term HIV survivors develop neuropathy.
For those of you without a dictionary at hand, neuropathy is a condition caused by a variety of things (diabetes, HIV, certain drugs, certain cancers, etc). Neuropathy is damage to the nerves, which, in one of nature’s great ironies, damages your nerves in a way that lessens your sense of touch (feel), but, causes pain in the nerves — while the deadening of nerves reduces your sense of touch, the nerves become the source of the pain. Metaphorically, the very thing that lets you feel the sensation of pain is dead, not working, yet, it is the very thing that creates pain, almost as if losing the ability to feel, its created something to remind itself that it was once alive, once could feel pleasure and pain.
The best way to describe the pain of neuropathy is to imagine soaking your legs in a tub full of Icy Hot, or Bengay. The pain is a hot tingle, and a cold burn. It is not, thankfully, a pain with a set level of discomfort — meaning that it comes and goes, and when the pain is active, sometimes the pain is mild, bearable; other times, when the pain comes, it’s incapacitatingly intense.
My doctor prescribed two different medications. The first, Gabapentin (Neurontin), didn’t do much to relieve my pain, but, it messed with my head: fuzzy, groggy, angry. The second, Percocet, was little better, though the groggy, fuzzy feeling from the Percocet was much darker feeling.
There are some other pain medications that might help, but, the stronger the medicine, the more intense the side-effects. I am content to live with the pain being at a manageable level, but I’m not content living in a drug-induced haze. One, because I don’t like feeling that out of it, and two, I need to be fairly functional, because I’ve got a ninety year old mother to worry about. A certain level of pain is acceptable if it’s tolerable (and I have a fairy high pain threshold to begin with); as long as I can still get around, and have a reasonable quality of life, I’ll be fine. That is much preferable to being pain free and drugged into insensibility. So, while I was considering some of the other options offered, a little voice in my mind said “Hey, dingbat! You live in a state where marijuana has been made legal for medical purposes — pain management being one of those purposes.” So, I began to do research — as with any internet research, I try to gather information from reputable sources. After about a week of reading many articles about medicinal marijuana, I decided that I’d give it a try.
Yesterday, I went to the marijuana doctor, who assesses and certifies that I have a condition that might benefit from the use of pot. I went with the deluxe package, that includes the doctor visit, and then they fill out all the legal paperwork that needs to be submitted to the state’s Pot Regulation Bureau (or, whatever official department is handling the paperwork). I was able to be seen at the clinic as a walk-in, and, about an hour-and-a-half later, I was walking out of the office, temporary license in hand. Under Colorado law, I am now eligible to legally buy, and legally possess up to two ounces of pot, (I can even grow my own — a six plant limit, with only three being in bloom at any given time). As plants and I tend to not get along (i.e. I kill them), I’m going the consumer route — buying the pre-made goodies, and the pre-grown plant.
We were going to go to a dispensary that was around the corner, and down a few blocks, but, as we were getting ready to drive to the dispensary, we discovered that there was a dispensary just a couple doors down from the clinic. Since we were already parked, we went to check it out.
My only comment is that I felt as if I were in a place, doing something illegal, and that a police raid was imminent.
We went to the originally planned dispensary.
What a surprise. Denver Relief, the dispensary we went to, is really a very comfortable place to be: the environment is clean, welcoming, and nice; the staff was incredibly helpful, knowledgeable, and willing to answer all my questions, and take as much time as I needed to decide — and, there was no pressure to buy any specific product: I was free to choose whatever of the choices that best met my needs. They had a variety of edible weed: brownies, suckers, hard candy, gummies; they had it in beverage form, in drops that went under your tongue, in a mist, as a patch, as mints. And, then there was the old-fashioned kind: the plant itself, in all its stinky glory.
I went with a Mountain High Sucker, tangerine flavor (I’ve not tried it yet). I also bought Chill Pills, from The Growing Kitchen (not yet tried), and two different types of weed — a daytime, and a nighttime variety (the day time weed allows you to be more functional, where the evening version relaxes you, mentally and physically.)
Oh yeah. I bought a pipe too.
So, last night, I went out into the backyard, loaded up the pipe, and, feeling a bit furtive, I smoked a bowl.
I think I smoked too much.
By the time I got to bed, moving my legs was an effort, that’s how relaxed and buzzed I was. My thoughts raced, strangely at times, and, I even giggled a bit. Finally I went to sleep, a vow to not smoke that much again.
Today, I was more cautious. I only took two hits from the bowl this morning, and, it made me a little more spacy that I care to be, so, I went with just one hit from the bowl each of the other times I went out (three, so far). I cannot even begin to describe the difference. Last night, having smoked so much, I was really not feeling any kind of pain. I wasn’t feeling much of anything. I was pretty much one rather large lump of jelly. Today, being more cautious, I found that the one hit is enough to reduce the pain from intense to slightly more than mild. And, while I felt a little bit of a buzz, it didn’t interfere with anything I did today — in fact, I only really noticed that I had a bit of a high when I wasn’t really doing anything. When I was active, doing something, the feeling of calm was there, but no buzz, and that is a perfect place to be.
I’m hopeful that I’ve found some relief that’s going to allow me to not live in a constant fog of pain medication.
According to my mom: “Everyone’s mad about this Happy Holiday thing. One or two athiests think they can dictate what we can and can’t say. Well, everyone is mad now that they can’t just say “Merry Christmas.”
As I am not mad about this, I guess that makes me not a part of everyone. Not sure if I should feel insulted or flattered I’m not included .
I had thought about getting this for her:
But, then I realized that I’d have to buy it from the National Republican Congressional Committee, and, well… I just couldn’t bring myself to give them money.
Every nation has its iconic heroes. For many South African’s, Nelson Mandela is nothing shy of legendary. His activism, his leadership, his sheer force of character helped break the ugly hold of apartheid on his home country.
His long years of imprisonment never broke his spirit, and, he emerged triumphant — becoming the first democratically elected president of South Africa by a fully-participartory populous (not just the White Only vote that had ruled for so long.)
There are others who can write more eloquently about Mandela, who can tell his story better than I.
However, I wanted to add my voice, to say good-bye to a man who was incredibly inspiring. As a kid, back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, as Mandela was freed, as apartheid crumbled, I watched a nation reshape itself. The images, the words, the stories of that struggle, that time, and the ultimate freedom inspired me, still inspires me. I may not have been to South Africa, or even be of South African descent, but, I can say that even half-a-world away, I feel honored to have lived to see those momentous events unfold.
I think one of the most beautiful songs I know was written during those years, by Nona Hendryx (part of the legendary R&B group Labelle). The song was specifically written for the time, for the Mandela’s — Nelson, and his then-wife Winne. The song is “Winds of Change (Mandela to Mandela)”
I think it was beautiful then … and it seems especially beautiful for this sad day.
Goodbye, President Mandela.
If you’ve followed me for awhile, you’ve heard me blah, blah, blah about Spotify. It’s a simple app, that works on your computer, your phone, your tablet. And, if you have a WordPress blog, it’s the easiest way to share a song that you can’t find a video for.
You don’t even need to download an app … you can just go to the website, and listen within your browser. And, you can even sign-up/sign-in with your Facebook account. I’m telling you: WordPress and Spotify make sharing your favorite music so easy.
And, if you’ve ever tried to find a video version of a favorite song (one that’s not mainstream popular), Spotify is like iTunes in its selection, but, you can share the full song with anyone else who’s a Spotify member. And, best of all, it’s FREE! (There’s a not-free version, that has no ads, but, the ads on Spotify aren’t bad). So, sign-up, or sign-in to your Spotify account, and listen to these favorite holiday songs of mine:
When I first started taking photos, back in 2008, I was very adamant about digitally manipulating my photos.
Time has passed, photo editing software is everywhere (even on one’s phone!). You just can’t get away from it.
However, my opinion has only changed slightly over the years. When I first began taking digital photos, I did very little adjusting — more tweaks than adjustments. I try to keep my photos as close to the original as possible, except for things like darkening the shadows, or brightening the colors, or sharpening the image. When I take a photo of something, I’m wanting to capture it as it exists, not as it exists in some fantasy land.
Don’t get me wrong — I’ve got nothing against digital art. If people want to take parts of various photos and blend them together to make new photos. I think there are some brilliant digiatl artists. I’m just not one of them. I can admire them and their work, but, I chose not to change my images too drastically.
That being said, with all the new software that’s out there, it’s fun to play around, and rework an old photo, still keeping it fundamentally the same image, just giving it a new look. So, since I’ve got nothing better to do with my life than blog, I’m in need of material to blog, so, what the heck — I’m going to start reworking, and reimagining some of my favorite photos. It’s not really a contest to say which is better — the original, or the new version. It’s just a way of making the old seem new.
And, what better place to start, than to start with what I consider my first good photo — it does take a bit of practice to get it right (actually, I suspect that even after a lifetime, there’s always room for improving technique).
Here’s the original edited version, taken February 9, 2008:
And, here’s a new edit, done last week, using Topaz Labs software — I think the image is a bit more sinister:
What do you think? Sort of feels like it might be used to illustrate the First Part of my The Asylum of The Blessed St. Eustochium story — abby that gets destroyed…
I think Judy Collins’s beautiful soprano really adds to this lovely song (that dates back to the 15th Century).
Here’s the story:
(Cleaning Up The Old Blogs is a series of posts that are part of an effort to condense my collection of old blog posts, from three other separate blogs, into one place, keeping only my favorite posts. These are the original posts, with very few minor (mostly grammar, punctuation, clarity) changes. This is a post, from my old LiveJournal blog. Original publication date: December 24, 2004.)
This ornament came from a nice, sweet, older woman who thought it was “cute”. It was given to my friend Pecos’s husband. He thought it was the gayest thing, and apparently they thought of me. (hmmmmmm……) Anyway… it was a regift… but, in this case, being as Pecos doesn’t have a tree (although, I have been thinking that an atheist tree might be rather fun… will have to think of ornaments for it), and being as she knew that I would appreciate the spirit of the gift, and the humor, I am now in possession of it.
I have to say two things about it. First, it is undeniably very gay, though not the gayest ornament I’ve ever seen. That honor belongs to a perfectly lovely pink glittery star that was perched on top of a co-workers tree many years ago. Picture Glenda The Good Witch, picture the star on her wand, then color it shocking pink and surround it with something resembling a pink, feathery boa, and you’ll get the idea. (As I’m writing this, I’m envisioning what the gayest tree would look like. I’m thinking totally white tree, instead of tinsel garland, it would be wrapped in a couple of lovely pink feathery boas, lots of sequined cheap jewelry for ornaments, perhaps a pink vibrator perched on top….). Anyway, back to the gay ornament. So, not the gayest, but certainly the most funny. And secondly I will cherish it forever.
Without further ado, I give you The Gayest Ornament:
I am not a believer, which could be why I like this song so much. But, I do enjoy the spirit of the season: the wish for peace on Earth.
(And, ok…I’ll admit it. I enjoy the music of the season….
…………………….There…. I’ve said it).
And, just because: an interview with Greg Lake, telling the story of the song.
Is anyone else bothered by the part of the song “Frosty the Snowman”, where Frosty goes ‘thumpity, thump, thump; thumpity, thump, thump’? Usually when snow goes ‘thump’ it is splitting apart, smashing into pieces. So, if Frosty were thumping, how could he then go over the hills of snow, in one piece, before he melts?? Please advise.
Crazily Contemplating in Colorado.
It’s a song about a snowman who magically comes to life. You believe he can come to life, but take issue with the fact he can go thump and still remain intact? Get a hobby, and stop overanaylizing pointless crap. Worry about solving world hunger instead.
I’ve mentioned a few times on my blog that I am HIV+. About two months from now, I’ll mark my 25th anniversary of finding out that I was infected with the AIDS virus. I purposefully use the word mark rather than celebrate, because there is nothing celebratory about it. Not that being alive and healthy twenty-five years after my diagnosis is a bad thing.
In fact, most days, it is a good thing.
Yet, it’s been a journey fraught with stigma, with pain, with heartbreak, with losing jobs and friends because of it. I’m now developing complications from use of some of the early drug treatments. Don’t think that I’ve got a negative attitude towards my HIV. I don’t. Ok, so maybe I don’t like my HIV, but, having survived through those early years, when everyone around me was dying from it taught me that those who were most negative and angry were the ones who died, more often than not. So, I’ve tried very hard not to wallow in self-pity, or to be angry about it — neither emotion will do anything to get rid of it, right?
There’s a part of me that’s wanted to share some of the stories of my journey through life as an HIV person, and, while I’ve written a few stories about it, I’ve not written as much as I could.
That’s going to change. One of my writing goals for 2014 is to be as open about my HIV as I have been about my struggles with depression, and with breaking my alcohol addiction (which, by the way: November 15th was my one year sober anniversary — a cause for celebration.) I want to write more about my life as a person with HIV because I’ve been reading that new cases of HIV among young people are, again, spiking upward. While we may have new drugs to treat HIV, and while HIV is now a manageable illness, much like diabetes is, it’s not a fun disease to have. Maybe knowing what its like will help someone make smarter choices and avoid infection.
And, like any writer, putting thoughts and feelings into words, sentences, paragraphs, and stories is a way to help make sense of things, to help release some of the pain. So, watch this space for more.
Until then, watch this video of some remarkable women living with HIV:
(video via Upworthy)