Fighting the Unseen

It’s scary. It’s daunting. It’s the Unknown. The Unseen.

And while it takes many forms, this time it’s so personal that fighting it seems nearly impossible.

In the summer of 2011, my body started having unusual symptoms. It started in my right foot, and I had believed it was a sports injury of some kind. I was avid gym junkie, working out on average one to two hours per day, four or five days a week. I would run, cycle, lift weights, jump rope. I was in good shape. Probably the best shape of my life up to that point.

When my foot started aching, I tried resting it. After several weeks, with no improvement, I sought out some medical advice from a friend of mine – a certified physician’s assistant. The diagnosis, she thought? Plantar fasciitis.

So, I picked up a little shunt for the foot, and one night I put it on. I awoke in the morning with such pain running through my leg, I thought I would cry. It was throbbing, and it felt like a vice was squeezing the insides of my foot. It took a day or two before the pain subsided to the point that it was previously.

Now approaching September, it had spread. My leg was stiffening, and I wasn’t moving as easily as I used to. I had stopped working out. I couldn’t control my leg. I went for ex rays on the foot, visited a podiatrist. No breaks, no unusual skeletal or muscular problems.

In October I visited a them park. Universal Studios for Halloween Horror Nights. I went unaided, but probably with a bottle of aspirin or Tylenol. Popping them temporarily relieved the pain. By the end of the night, only six hours on my feet, I could not stand without assistance. I was shambling, no longer walking. I thought perhaps I was dying. That some mysterious neurological ailment was shutting my body down, piece by piece.

The next month was the worst, and I walked with a cane. It took nearly fifteen minutes to get out of bed. Every part of my body was in terrible pain. The zest I had for life was leaving me. I had scheduled more doctor appointments, CAT scan, MRI, blood work. The doctors thought it important to rule out cancer.

The doctor noticed high sed rates (erythrocyte sedimentation rate) in my blood levels, and referred me to a specialist. A rheumatologist. In the interim I was prescribed Celebrex, a strong, nasty anti-inflammatory. And, it worked.

For the next three months, before the specialist could see me, I took Celebrex and began feeling revived. Energy levels came back, pain subsided, and I had a semblance of life again.

In January, 2012, I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. Suddenly, my invisible affliction had a name.

And yet, there was something unsettled for me regarding this diagnosis. That will be the crux of what I write about in this medical series, as I explore new options for my health. Because over the last six years I’ve been on numerous medications, suffered flare-ups and bouts of depression and anxiety, visited with holistic specialists, and have wondered whether I would ever have a normal life again.

I don’t yet know the answers, but I’ll share the questions on here, and what I find out.


Back to nature

When did we develop such hubris as to tame Nature? To say that we knew best for our wild Mother?

Don’t get me wrong. I love the conveniences of modernity. But knowing that all of these are mere constructs of our claim of superiority over Nature, I feel that we are in for a cruel surprise when the forces we think we know show us their full potential.

We humans are still so new. So inexperienced. And yet we walk around so certain of ourselves. With all we know, are we any more fulfilled than the wolf, or the boar, or the elk?

The thing is, it’s not enough to know facts – if for these facts we sacrifice our animalistic aspects. We are smart. We are clever. But we are not the Ultimate Power. If we were, we wouldn’t stay locked inside what we view as a protective place (home, office, car, etc.), ensuring only what we let in could pass the threshold.

No Ultimate Power has ever feared an intruder. Only those with delusions of power. And being delusional is seemingly a very human device. For the wolf knows it is a wolf. The boar, that it is a boar. And the elk, an elk.

To tap into one’s humanity is to release the ego – this inflated sense of self that man has come to identify with. I’ve heard time and again that facing one’s own mortality is what teaches us to be alive. What it means to be.

Until we let down these walls of sense, and reconnect with the wild, natural world, all we can be are pretenders.

The Youth of America

I look around, and I can’t help think… It’s a breaking system. Yet, time and again I see that as it continues to fail, someone starts picking up the pieces, putting them back together, and doing it better. And I’m heartened by that.

We’ve had two significant movements coalesce in the first fifteen months of the Trump Presidency: Me Too and Never Again. Two slogans, each started some time ago, but both with more traction now than had ever been seen.

I believe the older generations have grown complacent. Even the older millennials are guilty of this. We’ve been frogs slowly boiling in pots of water, watching the rise of the age of information, instant access to nearly everything, as well as the reduction of privacy. We’ve slowly been acclimated, so it’s not something we specifically noticed. By the time the heat is too high, it’s too late for us.

The country has made some frightening changes. Amid record levels of prosperity and renown from abroad, we’ve upended system after system. Healthcare. Education. Gun laws. Civil rights. Military service. Worker’s rights. Women’s rights.

And in 2016, it seems even Democracy itself. We Americans of an age 30 or older are in no real place to fix this. Though it’s not impossible, it certainly seems unlikely. We can’t seem to cooperate long enough to take a bathroom break, let alone try and fix the system.

In come the youths!

It’s the younger Americans, and youthful citizens around the world, who are seeing this and saying, “Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Something is wrong.” They’re taking up the causes, and will only continue to do so, and improve on it.

As education moves to more testing and less teaching, the students will find ways of educating themselves. Maybe even reinvent the system that is currently failing them.

As levels of debt increase in the Nation, the young Americans will get behind spending moratoriums. Pundits have decried the millennial non-interest in driving as laziness. Yet, maybe it is a subconscious, or inherent move against the rampant consumerism that faces this country. Why does a family need three or more cars? What’s wrong with public transportation? And, if living somewhere where public transportation does have something wrong with it (anywhere not heavily metropolitan and without significant investment), then they’re going to get busy fixing it!

As race relations seem to endlessly be a matter of debate (white vs. black; white vs. Latino; black vs. black; white vs. white; white vs. very nearly everyone it seems), students who were raised according to the golden rule (do unto others) or general codes of ethics (everyone deserves to be treated with respect) feel that their parents and grandparents are acting irrationally, either cussing Trump and the Republicans, the NRA and anti-choicers; or cussing Obama and the Democrats, gun control and pro-choice. (I’ll rarely use the term pro-life to describe the Conservative Christian side in this, for as long as you can support the death penalty, you have no right to call yourself pro-life. I know there are those who are completely pro-life, but not all who call themselves pro-life fit the title.)

Seeing this irrational behavior, the kids are crossing boundaries. They’re more likely to find friends of different races, religions and creeds. It’s the parents that are trying to instill fear into the children. “Watch out for people from X. They are the enemy.”

Kids know better.

We’re a young nation, struggling for identity. Struggling to see who it is we are. I’m for one optimistic about what our future looks like. Yes, it seems that we have some form of derailment every other day. Yes, we have racism and misogynistic behaviors still shaking us to our core. Economic inequality and mass hysteria brought on my faulty media sources (or sources claiming to be media). There are dangerous people and damaged people. And sometimes, just sometimes, it’s scary to be out among the Americans. But it also seems that we’re doing better, averaging in an upwards trend. And the youth are leading the charge.

We’re not perfect, not by any stretch of the imagination. But each and every citizen, I believe, feels a desire to make the world a better place. And it is the youth of the Country that, I believe, hold the key to brushing off all the problems currently facing us, and moving us into the bright new future that is America.


My first introduction to Japanese culture was an anime my brother gave me to watch when I was around thirteen. I still remember watching it. Ninja Scroll, a little film about a traveling samurai, and I remember being amazed by both the culture depicted as well as the entirely new style of animation that I was seeing. It was captivating, and I was absolutely hooked.

Shortly thereafter, after making some friends in high school who shared my love of all things Japanese, we discovered that one of our teachers had lived in Japan, and spoke fluent Japanese. We decided that, as freshman, our school needed a Japanese class. We set about creating the petition, getting the signatures, and convincing him to teach the class. He accepted, and then in sophomore year, we started Japanese 1.

It still ranks as one of my two favorite classes that I’ve ever taken. (The other was a choir class that I took.) I learned more Japanese language (hiragana, katakana, and a decent amount of kanji) in that first year than I did in any subsequent class or tutoring session. We also delved into culture, issues of politeness and honor. Our instructor was also an Eastern medicine practitioner, and he did a live demonstration of acupuncture on another teacher during our class. He made the language a fun and exciting proposition for us – learn Japanese, explore the world.

Unfortunately, our beloved Japanese instructor moved on to bigger and better things, though many of us have kept in touch with him over the years. The incoming teacher was of a more traditional countenance, and suddenly the joy that inhabited the class was lessened.

Since then I spent much of my time in vocal or acting training, and spent several years working as a professional actor in Central Florida. I received my bachelor’s in business administration, considering running my own theatre someday. Upon hearing of the closing of the Kabuki-za theatre, I had wanted to travel to Japan then and see a performance. Regrettably I was unable to make the trip at that time.

It had long been my dream to travel, but the common everyday things made it impossible, or so I thought. In 2016, following the end of a three-year relationship, I decided to travel to Europe. So, in just over a month I booked airline tickets, a couple of nights in a hostel, and bought some gear. From the decision made in the second week of February to travel, and at the end of March when I actually left, I had just five weeks to prepare.

Then, last year, another month in Europe. Still, Japan has been calling to me the entire time. My Dad and Step-Mom are even getting over there in two months, before I have the chance to.

That then is my intention for this year. To make it to Japan. Possibly a few other places (Nepal, Bhutan, China and Thailand, perhaps).

Hopefully something will work out, in the way it always seems to do.


Books books books (and then some)

Books sometimes aren’t read. They’re purchased. They’re kept, usually. Some of the more popular ones get read quickly once acquired (Grisham, Patterson, Grafton, Steele). Others linger, like David Foster Wallace, Ron Chernow, Robert Pirsig, and James Joyce.

I once read the entirety of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, with the exception of the thirty-page speech that John Gault gives towards the end of the novel. I just couldn’t stay focused that long.

Now I will often quote John Waters (of Hairspray fame) who says: “Collect books, even if you don’t plan on reading them right away. Nothing is more important than an unread library.”

Even Nick Hornby’s book Ten Years in the Tub (which I’m still working through) mentions that books we buy and don’t read reveal something about the person we are, or at least want to be.

I notice this type of inconsistency throughout my life. My girlfriend keeps telling me that I need to watch The Dallas Buyer’s Club. It’s on Netflix, I own the movie on Blu-Ray, and I have yet to watch it. Every night that I’m visiting, if we’re lying in bed thinking of things to watch, she asks, “Tonight?”

“No.” By the time we get to bed, it’s too late for that kind of movie. I don’t really watch tv in bed, unless I’m staying with her. Not anymore.

So, movies that are going to invoke thinking require a chunk of time and the attitude that such a movie is going to require. The seriousness. And I think books are the same way.

We tear through the legal mysteries and thrillers. Rejoice in the light-hearted fantasies and romances. But when it’s time for those books that are going to fire more neurons than we’re comfortable with, we have to give them time.

Maybe that’s a result of the way our culture is, throwing so much at us all the time. Our neurons feel so inundated with information that it’s hard to devote a full allotment of attention to anything that we think could be challenging material.

A derailment of American Politics

I’ve been reading David McCullough’s American Spirit, a collection of speeches he’s given over the years. And it has me thinking.

We’re on the 115th Congress of these United States. The 45th President. A Nation that has been trucking along for 242 years, and doesn’t show any real sign of slowing down. Yet, all we talk about in the court of public opinion is how bad one side is doing compared to the other, or how bad both sides are doing.

Look, no one has the answer. If they try to sell you goods saying that it’s the only way, don’t believe them. There is no only way. But the level of discourse in this Country has spun sickeningly out of control.

So, what to do about it? I could cite a hundred news stories this week alone that are divisive, inflammatory and (sometimes) downright wrong. I’m being conservative estimating only a hundred.

I trust newspapers more than I do television, and I trust television more than I do the internet. It’s a matter of timing. If it takes longer to get a story to the public, it seems sensible enough that it will have had more fact checking involved.

When it comes to news, we should demand more fact checking.

But it’s cheaper to have the talking heads rehashing events, asking questions to avoid defaming someone, rather than reporting the news.

In Dan Brown’s Origin, protagonist Robert Langdon muses, and I paraphrase, “I remember when breaking news was printed in the newspaper delivered the next morning.”

News isn’t sensationalism. Yet that’s what the internet and even television provide. Sensationalist stories to grab viewer’s attention and entice advertisers with the eyeballs those stories can provide. So we get more President Trump, more heated rhetoric, and more of the things that I bet comedian George Carlin would find hysterically funny, were he still alive. (I think of the 7 Dirty Words all the time when watching the news.)

We’re getting less news. Less research, and less objective analysis. And we’re suffering as a Country because of it.


Cuckolded and cropped,
A shadow with no self.
Beaten, bruised, broken, bloody,
Footsteps falter beneath me.
Capped at this height,
Stunted; wingless.
Flightless Icarus
When once the sky.
Cleaved from the aether,
Dirt I reside.
In dirt I live.
In dirt I hide.
It is in the dirt
That I will die.
Countless words drawn from my lips
as looking above, I lie.
Bitter feeling enfolds my breast
Remembering the sky.