Off the Wagon

Maybe it’s the recent news or maybe this thing—whatever it is—that’s going on with my pelvic floor, or maybe the start of school—well—but to make excuses–I have fallen off the wagon lately cigarette wise.  Still I have not smoked a whole cigarette on any given day, but it’s been a while now since I have gone through a whole day without taking a few puffs.

So I have fallen off the wagon, but I feel as if I still have a good hold on the side of it or the tail gate. 

Maybe I am half on and half off the wagon.  I feel optimistic about an eventual positive outcome.  Oddly I feel optimistic because I have accepted the fact that breaking a 42 year old smoking habit is going to be hard, it is going to take a lot more time than I thought, and there will inevitably moments of backsliding. 

The trick with the backsliding is to take it seriously, to keep a real eye on it—mostly to register it and keep track of it, so you don’t slide unconsciously back into old habits (for example I am writing something but I don’t have a cigarette going and I don’t even have any coffee—damn!—but wait, that’s good) and not at the same time to start whipping yourself because you have failed and you are going to fail because you are a weak and terrible person with no character or spine to speak of and secretly or not so secretly you are self-destructive and have no will to live.

When I start thinking like that I want to throw in the towel.

Unfortunately I do start thinking like that.  How I developed this capacity to beat myself up I have no idea.  It’s almost as if I do it quite naturally; I lie in wait for myself in the bushes and then when I am not prepared I jump on myself from the bushes and beat myself up. 

I do not believe in original sin.  But I think I know what people mean by it or rather where the idea came from.  It came from people with an amazing ability to beat themselves to a pulp and still survive.   People who have committed no crime that they can remember (at least) and so conclude that just being alive or being who you are must be some sort of crime.

I don’t know how I got from falling off the wagon to original sin, but I did.  That’s how it goes these days.

Still Befuddled

Who called economics the “dismal science?”  A science, it’s not.  Pretty dismal, it is.

Americans will foot the bill for Fannie Mae and the other Fannie, or is it Freddy, semi-private though government guaranteed operations to the tune—guesstimates have it–of 200 billion bucks, or about 625 bucks per American citizen.

Then the government for–who knows what reasons–refuses to bail out Lehman Brothers—no reason of course that they should—and the stock market drops bingo 500 points.

Then the government—whoever this government might be—decides to bail out AIG, because AIG is not an investment bank, but an insurer of such things as investment banks.

Many middle class people put money in AIG; it was considered rock solid.  They are now looking into a hole.  As one commentator on CNN put it, in a quite cavalier tone I thought, well the collapse of the market may mean for those close to retirement having to work 10 or 20 years more than they had thought they would.  That depends of course on whether they still can have a job (what with firms laying off older people left and right cause they cost more); and for some that will mean working till the day they drop face down on that MacDonald’s hamburger grill.

But for young people, about 25 say, this is a good time.  As a commentator put it, there’s blood in the water, so buy, buy, and buy.  If you are young, you will have the ten or twenty years necessary for those stocks to turn around.  I am not so sure things are going to turn around myself, and how many young people out there have money to invest?  I wonder.  When, it appears, half of the recent graduating class—just this last spring—will be going back to live with mom and dad because they simply can’t make it on their own especially with all those student loans to pay off.

Oh, excuse me, did I say McDonald’s hamburger grill?  I was surprised to learn that MacDonald’s no longer sells Big Mac hamburgers.  Why, no, they sell the Big Mac Sandwich.  How a hamburger becomes a Sandwich I don’t know.  In my mind’s eye, a bunch of hamburger between two pieces of white bread might qualify technically as a sandwich, but it would be a pretty bad hamburger.  Of course sandwich—associated with such things as tuna (as in tuna sandwich)–sounds better than hamburger.

And the FDA (a virtual lobby for the drug industry) is about to approve the sale of genetically modified meat.  One example.  The placement of a cow gene in pigs to make the pigs grow more quickly.  And when we eat it we will have not idea where it came from.

I wonder how the pigs feel about this.


I am overtaxed and overloaded.

The events of this last week were too much for my aging brain.

I wake to find that Lehman Brothers (a brokerage firm that has been around for 158 years) has gone under.  One article described the Lehman Brothers employees pouring out of their headquarters caring bags of their stuff into Times Square. Merrill-Lynch appears to have been saved from insolvency by having been bought up by Bank of America.

Earlier I was worried about friends, a couple, living in Houston.  We called them right before Ike hit and they were prepared.  And Saturday, I think it was, they got a call through to us saying they were OK.  But the connection kept breaking up.  Sunday they called again and I was able to speak with my friend for 5 to 10 minutes but then he had to get off because his cell battery was running down and at that time (up to the present, as far as I can tell) he has no power to his place and no way to recharge the cell.

I imagine their ice box has pretty much melted out.  There they sit in that sweltering heat with no air conditioning.  2 million are without juice, and they say it may take WEEKS to restore power to all who have been affected.

Since when has the Red Cross started calling the people who evacuate to their evacuation centers not evacuees but “clients?”  Is there some stigma involved in being an evacuee that is lessened by calling an evacuee a client?  I don’t get it.

And was it a public official who said Evacuate or Face Certain Death!  Boy, that’s like if you don’t do what we, your oh-so-trusty-worthy-government tells you, we are cutting you lose and letting you die as you will.  Whatever happened, to leave nobody behind?  Or maybe that’s just the Marines. 

Or what about just good old plain Christian Charity.  And so we had CNN newscasters berating people who were not evacuating as troublesome, irresponsible people who deserved whatever they got, as if they were bad, bad children refusing to obey their parents.  And of course those newscasters were speaking with no direct knowledge of what might be involved for some people in even being able to evacuate.

Over all, not a pretty picture.

Santa Barbara Cemetery

Having managed to locate the ashes of Carol’s parents, today we buried them.  At the cemetery of the Santa Barbara Cemetery Association.  First though Carol checked out all the local burial places.  The one right here in Goleta is supported by the taxes of the people of Goleta.  Being buried there was consequently somewhat cheaper.  But it was located right next to the Freeway.

Carol had her eye on Santa Barbara Cemetery for some time. Her mother had always wanted to live near the ocean; but she never got to (though they had the money) because Carol’s father was worried it might upset his allergies.  Turns out you can see the ocean from the Santa Barbara Cemetery.  So Carol decided that would be the place since it afforded her mother an ocean view and her father wouldn’t be around to complain about the allergies.


  So looking one way—you can see the ocean (barely) and you turn around and you see the mountains.  Quite a Santa Barbara place.  But more expensive than Goleta—3300 dollars in fact for a duplex plot for two parents (stacked on top of each other).  We will probably buy a plot for ourselves there.  I said, though, what if we change our plans, and the lady showing us the plots said the cemetery would buy it back (with a transfer fee of 150) should we change our minds, or we could put it up for sale on Craig’s List.



I thought jeez what an opportunity; and asked if we could buy more than one plot.  Maybe a dozen or so because the way I figure it these little plots are bound to go sky high what with the surplus of yuppies about to die and in a decade we could probably fetch triple what we paid for them.  But the lady showing us about got real stern and said the law prohibited any speculations in cemetery property. I had to work, with help from Carol, to convince the lady that I was just kidding.


Carol said a few words with me and the cemetery lady present.  Then we went out to lunch.  Just Carol and me.  Not the cemetery lady.


39 days without cigarettes–I think.  Now what do I have to be anxious about. 

The Weather Channel

What do I have to be anxious about?

Those hurricanes for one thing—that one with the foreign sounding Name that was heading to New Orleans seemed at first a replay of Katrina—and I really had not liked that one at all.  Now something called Hanna is heading possibly up the coast and into the Carolinas where I have relatives.  I know they are in a drought and want rain, but I am not sure they want it in hurricane form.

To allay my anxiety in this area—information sometimes helps—I have been forced to tune into the weather channel.  I cannot stand those people.  One evening two of them were talking to each other about the hurricane with the foreign sounding name—Gustav!  That’s it—Gustav—and I could not make hide nor hair of what they were talking about….they two were saying stuff like it is a cat 1 but it may be a cat 2 and later become less than a cat; and the other person said, yes, that would appear to be the case depending on “sheer” in which case going in a counter clockwise direction it might become a cat 3 windwise but probably not a cat 4.

I sat there dazed thinking they were talking about cats until I figured out they were using “cat” as an abbreviation for “category.”  I found these people sickening in their use of hip weather forecaster slang when talking about a force of nature capable of drowning people and destroying homes.

And then they yack on—in the most bewildering ways—about how this particular cat so and so located off the coast of Africa appears under “favorable” conditions capable of becoming a cat 4 by Friday—and I want to ask “favorable”?  To the people who might be hit by this cat 4.  No, they are talking about conditions favorable to the hurricane becoming a really massive and destructive hurricane.  These people have completely screwed up values.  They identify with the hurricane—and in a world where we are all just spectators WANT to see a cat 5.  How else to explain it when having viewed a bit with a roof being ripped off a building as if it were Kleenex the weather person says, “Awesome.”

Now first the word “awesome” should be banned forever.  And on top of that it really seems the wrong word.  “Horribly destructive” would be better.  After all, somebody had the roof ripped off his or her house or place of business.

So while I was relieved at the information that Gustav had fallen to a cat 1; I came away feeling anxious that these forecasters seemed vaguely disappointed that the storm had not turned out as awesome as they had predicted.

Why but of course, you say.  Those people don’t care about the hurricane or the damage done by it; they care about their ratings and how many people see them talking about the hurricane—and that might mean more money or even turn them into an overnight celebrity like that Anderson Cooper guy who has his own TV show now because of the way he reported on Katrina.

38 days without a cigarette and I really, really WANT one.

A Headache in the Pelvis

While I was happy to hear that my prostate and bladder were A-OK, I was still left with the question, well, then, why the hell am I feeling this discomfort.  I asked the urologist this question directly.  He answered that, well, he couldn’t say, only that it wasn’t the prostate or the bladder.  We are proceeding by a process of elimination, he indicated.

I said, maybe it’s all in my head.  And he seemed to indicate that it could be, and that just having him tell me it wasn’t my prostate or my bladder might make it go away.  Well, I said, I hoped it was the case.  He said also it might be some tumor in the colon pressing against the prostate region; but he just threw that one out off the cuff as a remote maybe perhaps because if that was the problem he would have noticed it earlier with his finger, given how far, it seemed to me at least, he voyaged up there.  And hell, I had a colonoscopy about 18 months ago. 

Then he said something about muscle spasms.  So after seeing the urologist, I started googling around about muscle spasms in the pelvic floor, and I came up with something called Chronic Prostatitis/Chronic Pelvic Pain Syndrome (CP/CPPS)  According to Wiki this accounts for 90%-95% of prostatitis diagnoses,[2]a  and is also known as chronic nonbacterial prostatitis. The annual prevalence in the population of chronic pelvic pain syndrome is 0.5%.[3] Men in this category have no known infection, but do have extensive pelvic pain lasting more than 3 months.[4] There are no standard diagnostic tests; diagnosis is by exclusion of other disease entities. Multimodal therapy is the most successful treatment option,[5] and includes α-blockers,[6] phytotherapy,[7][8] and protocols aimed at quieting the pelvic nerves through myofascial trigger point release with psychological re-training for anxiety control.[9][10] Antibiotics are not recommended.[11][12]

Other forms of chronic prostatitis involve infections, one very serious that would have presented in fevers and downright illness.  I have not had that. Could be some sort of infection is present, but I am inclined towards chronic nonbacterial not only because I have had no acute infection but also because chronic non-bacterial is related to something with which I am fully familiar:  chronic anxiety.  The co-authors of A Headache in the Pelvis write:

 Most of the symptoms of pelvic pain or discomfort, urinary frequency and urgency, and pain related to sitting or sexual activity in cases diagnosed as prostatitis are not related to infection but are caused by chronically tightened muscles in and around the pelvis. Our natural protective instincts can tighten the pelvic basin, causing pain and other perplexing and distressing symptoms. Stress is intimately involved in creating and continuing these symptoms. Once the condition starts, the symptoms tend to have a life of their own.

They use the word stress here—but in other places in their writing and in the writing of others ugly old anxiety (especially with reference to anxiety trigger points) comes up quite a bit.

A few days ago, I called my trusty psychiatrist.  He is a decent guy by the way and keeps up with his field.  He had heard of this Chronic Prostatitis; so I figure it is not some web only syndrome or condition made up by crackpots who want to sell herbal medicines.  He is sending me a magazine article about things I might do.  And I see him in a couple of weeks and will discuss the issue.

In the meantime, at the worst, I occasionally feel as if I am sitting on a marble right down there where there shouldn’t be anything to sit on. For now, I find the matter more psychologically distressing than physically painful.

37 days without a cigarette!  What with the rigors of quitting (I do not think I have yet quit) and this strange complaint—I am most days in a state of near complete torpor.

Mild Discomfort

After three weeks of waiting, I finally got to see the urologist this last Thursday.  In addition to feeling, during those three weeks of waiting, wiped out by the cigarette cessation project, I felt strange and weird sensations in what is called the pelvic floor, the location of a number of vital body parts having to do with sexual reproduction and waste disposal.  I was experiencing down there in that primordial nether world what I called “discomfort” that ranged from mild, to moderate, to significant. 

Significant was the worst because I didn’t know what the significance was—aside from having to urinate a bit more frequently that usual; had my prostate enlarged?  If so, that might account for the difference in urination.  Or worse, did I have prostate cancer?  The discomfort had been with me a couple of months, relatively mildly, before I went to the doctor.  I finally felt I simply had to go to the doctor what with all the older guys at the club where I work out constantly talking in hushed voices about their experiences with prostate cancer—with procedures that led sometimes to complete sexual dysfunction and much worse actually incontinence…. So I was pretty much a mess those three weeks waiting to see the urologist and a miserable mess the week before thinking about prostate cancer….

So last Thursday was a long day.  First I went to get my teeth cleaned.  I had forgotten I had a cleaning appointment.  My hygienist was somewhat disappointed in my gums; they had infected pockets she said and too much tartar.  She went to work and ground the hell out of my gums for an hour.

Then I went to where the urologist was.  He was a short guy with salt and paper hair sort of moussed straight up and he had a soul patch too, and a really big index finger as I was soon to find out.  First, my PSA (the blood text for prostate cancer) was really normal and my urine he said was “crystal clear.”  But the guy had, as it were, to see for himself, and having requested that I bend over he stuck his finger about as far as he could “up there” till I felt almost that he was going to push it right out the front.  I mean the guy gave the old prostate a pretty complete work out as far as I am concerned.

Now from where I was standing all bent over I couldn’t see the guy’s face when he removed his finger from where he had stuck it, but Carol who was present said the guy had a look of relieved excitement.  And while I couldn’t see his face—as still bent over I wiped stuff from that area—I heard him say. “Normal. Completely normal. That’s a healthy prostate.  And it’s not even enlarged.”

Then he had me go pee in a plastic bottle.  “Empty, completely,” he said.  So I did and when I went back in the little room, a nurse person made me lie down and ran some machine over my abdomen that indicated I had indeed emptied my bladder.  Honestly I don’t know what that was about.

The doctor returned, again saying, healthy prostate and no signs either of bladder cancer.  My urine was “crystal clear” he said again. I can only assume urologists have other standards for “crystal clarity” than those of your normal lay person since it seemed pretty damn yellow to me.

36 days without a cigarette……