Randy's Corner Deli Library

23 November 2010

Back to Life

It's been a long time since I posted anything on this blog, which, during the elections of 2008, was getting a lot of activity, from me as well as from the rest of the world. Unfortunately, since August 19, 2010, I've been a little busy fighting off polycythemia vera and Crohn's Disease, for which I had surgery on October 8, having very much enjoyed that moment in time when you come back from the dead, and wake up in so much pain, you can hardly utter the words "morphine now". Nothing like waking from major abdominal surgery with a 12 inch zipper in your belly, but nothing like real physical, horrible pain to remind you that you're alive.

Suffice it to say that after a second hospital stay - from October 20-24 owing to the fact that my guts weren't working - I am really feeling a lot better, looking good - I lost 40lbs. and am into a 34" waist pant - a size I haven't seen in almost 20 years, and I am really, really trying to get back into the swing of things, and with some help from some dear friends, I am starting to swing, and swing hard. There's no choice, because whether I'm sick or not, I'm the only one who can put food in my stomach, so I have had to be somewhat productive, or at least try, from the moment I woke, unfocused and moaning in pain, from my surgery.

Tonight as I write this, I am awaiting the arrival of my beautiful boy (who is, he reminds me, 19 years old) from Bloomington, where he is attending the IU-Jacobs School of Music as a Jazz Percussion major - talk about focus! - and where he is, according to all I am hearing and reading, really on his way to his goal of being the greatest percussionist in the world, on a par with Elvin Jones, who was, some of you may know, mostly known for his work on the drumkit for John Coltrane. But he doesn't stop there, oh no. His drive knows no bounds and he's become not only outstanding on the drumkit, but a monster on the vibraphone and the timpani as well. I am linking to three videos of his in the waning golden wonderful days of high school:

1: Mitchell's Arrangement of Nardis by Miles Davis

2: Mitchell playing "Concerto de Aranjuez - Adagio on Marimba

3: Mitchell playing John Bergamo's "Four Pieces for Timpani, Movements I & IV

The point is two-fold here. One, he is my pride and joy, words my mother, may she rest in piece, used to call me, the meaning of which eluded me until Mitchell was born. Two, it will pay him, and everyone in these troubled, chaotic times, to be as versatile as he can be.

All I have ever expected of him is to be the greatest at what he loves to do, and get paid for doing it. As the Joker in 2009's "The Dark Knight" said with respect to robbing banks, "if you're good at something, never do it for free". Lacking passion in one's work is a recipe for a miserable, robotic life, lacking real drive or energy to excel. Why would you want to excel at something you don't really believe in? To me, that's a commonsensical precept, but one which, I think, was lacking in a lot of our boomer upbringings, at least Jewish ones, where we were expected to go to school to get a "job": a doctor, a lawyer, an accountant, and blah, blah, blah.

I'm working my way through an excellent biography of Thelonious Monk entitled _Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original_ and there is a passage (at p.178) in which Thelonious recounts taking his eldest son, Toots, at the time, if I remember correctly about 6 years old or so, for shoes and being told by his wife Nellie what kind of shoes to get for Toot. He replied - "I am going to take him to the shoe department - and he can pick his own style - he's the one that has to wear them, not me." And, of some more urgency of late, the very forward-thinking parental notion of letting his son be who he really is, another commonsensical parenting precept that I have drilled into Mitchell's head since he's been able to understand metaphysical concepts such as that of being. He's his own man. He is who he is, nobody else. And the beautiful thing about what he's doing - Jazz - is that it commands that the artist always be who he is, since every improvised note is intentional, demanding that he always mean every note he plays, being who he is in that moment in time. The combination of his career choice and not being afraid of being himself wherever he goes is, I know, going to keep him away from psychiatrists and antidepressants and psychotropic drugs for the rest of his life.

He's a star. Now it's time for his old man to get a life, too, because Mitch has his own life and in all honesty, my focus needs to be back on what I am going to do for the rest of my life and with whom. I have screwed up so many relationships in the past, so many great women I could have and should have settled down with, but I wasn't ready evidently, just to be who I am, because in all honesty, I don't think I ever had occasion to really think about that for myself. It's only been as the result of being Mitch's dad that I have learned how to live myself. It's time to put into practice what I've been drilling into his head over the years. It's obvious that I can't do this life alone, and that everyone needs somebody to love. I could quote the title of every Beatles song ever written (and John Lennon in particular) and they would all be right - life is nothing without someone to share it with. Nothing. What is it but simple narcissism to focus one's attention completely on your own needs? For me, it's a matter of two being better than one. The words "soulmate", "life partner" mean oh so much more these days than in the past when I was under the severe delusion that I could do anything by myself, a sad and lonely victim of belief in my own graying frailty, unaware of just how happy you could be if you could focus yourself in large measure on making one other person in the world happy, and she me. And between the two of us, we totally rock (or, being a Jazz dad, swing) together.

These are the thoughts that cross my mind as I try to reenter life again. If there's one thing that I have learned over the course of the past three years since my last visit to the surgeon, it's to never give up. Never. I'll give up when I die, and that is, I hope and pray, a long, long time from now. In the meantime, back to life.

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