Monthly Archives: March 2014

LARYNX-FREE LIVING ~ g. kinyon

I’m not complaining, just explaining. I’m a post-op laryngectomy. I can’t talk. A year now. You begin smoking as a child, long before your brain has fully developed, far prior to your shift into the third chakra, as those in the know understand; and then it is incumbent upon your adult, thinking, reasoning self to stop—to end your life-long nicotine habit when you have a job and a spouse and children and debts and broken things and responsibilities that could fill a list long enough to wrap around the Earth one and a half times and Mars more than that, I think. I stopped, honestly I did, but it was too not-enough and past the buzzer. Nobody can say for a fact why I contracted larynx cancer, but who am I kidding? I smoked, I got cancer. Post op ergo propter hoc. They say we humans have five senses. Still, sometimes I feel like we have six and I’m missing one.

Seems to me it requires one of our senses to say, “Hey buddy, knock it off!” Or, “What’re you lookin’ at, corksacker?” Imagine: You get in a heated argument and your opponent pauses while you scratch out a page-long note with all the emphasis marks in the right places to produce your desired effect. And then that person tells you he can’t make out a certain word. People aren’t capable of keeping their indignation ramped up through all of that. The anger subsides. It takes speech to enjoy the thrill and brinksmanship of a good verbal joust. Still, speech is not a sense. We have (or don’t have) the senses of sight and hearing. We have the gift of speech, and that’s how it is. I’m missing a gift.

This leaves me with two pertinent questions: 1) How do I handle it? 2) How does everyone around me handle it? I went to buy some clothes a few months back, because new clothes make a person feel better. I explained to the sales clerk by way of my little whiteboard that I could not talk. Bless his heart, he thought he would prove his empathy and display a solid measure of fellow feeling. This he did by not speaking himself. He desired that I squeeze between two standing racks of hanging clothes so that I might get a look at his computer screen and see the discount he was giving me. He didn’t tell me this; he gestured the whole thing. And so it went until I paid for my items and left. No verbal expressions of gratitude on his part, just visual ones: smiles, nods, and thumbs up—same as I. The guy, of course, thought I was deaf. It would’ve confused things all the worse to write that I could hear and that he could go ahead and use his voice—that doing so wouldn’t hurt my feelings any. It was easier just to let it go. Happens all the time. I’ve learned to point to an ear, nod my head, and mouth the words “I can hear.” I have an electronic speaking device like the guy on “My Name Is Earl,” but things have to be pretty quiet for people to hear it.

I was talking music with a friend of mine recently, and by way of felt-tipped erasable marker I asked if he was familiar with a certain song. “No,” he said. “How does it go?” I gave him a look and started counting down in my head until I saw the light bulb pop up over him. And BINGO! There it was: that semi-embarrassed grin that says “Oh…yeah.” I would’ve loved to hum a few bars for him. At least this way, though, we got to laugh. And I had the song in question playing on my smartphone as soon as the ancient 3G could produce it. Throw in texting and emailing, and out of all the centuries of human history to date, I picked the best era to go mute. Someone told me the other day I should go on Jeopardy, that I’d be good at it. Tick tick tick tick tick…Ding! Oh…yeah.

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I squeeze through narrow store aisles and inevitably almost bump into someone. They say, “Pardon me.” I say nothing. I want to ask for pardon, too, or say, “Not at all,” or anything to be polite, but all I can do is walk off and leave someone thinking people can be real assholes. I’m a white guy, and when I bump into a black person without speaking, I cringe at what I’m sure is being thought. I don’t bother to beg pardon from your kind. This happens way too often. Or for instance when I reach behind a lady who is standing there reading an ad flyer to grab an item, and she says, “Oh. I’m sorry,” but without looking up from her reading material. If she looks up, I can smile and visibly wave it off at least. But she doesn’t. She expects me to answer that it was no problem at all. I don’t, of course. I move on in silence, leaving her to think some people can be real assholes. None of this means I’m not in fact a real asshole, because I kind of am, but for reasons other than a shortage of common decency.

In a large and crowded pool hall, I slip off to the bar and buy my buddy and myself a beer. A mug in each hand, I serpentine through people and tables and see my friend wandering off. I’m close enough that I can call his name and make him turn around and take his beverage. Except that I can’t. Instead, I try sending mental signals, produce in him the sense that he’s being observed. But that’s wishful thinking. I follow him around for five minutes before I give up and find a safe place to stash his drink. That’s nothing, though. I order a large pizza online one night, to be delivered, in the course of which I click a wrong button and end up ordering two. If I can talk, no problem: I make a phone call and straighten it out. The pizza site gives no options to send an email and I end up eating forty-five bucks worth of pizza for three days. One night the pizza guy can’t find the right buzzer for my apartment. He rings someone else’s for a while until he gives up and calls the phone number I’ve entered into the proper field. I can’t answer. I suspect correctly who’s calling, however, and hurry to the entrance of my building before he goes away. When I add that to the fact I can’t make use of drive-through fast-food lanes, I have become a healthier eater. The signs at those places will say something to the effect of: Speech or hearing impaired customers may order at pay window. That only works when there’s no line ahead of you. When you’re in line and stop in front of the speaker, the poor order-taker has no idea why you’re not answering her May I take your order greeting. Better to just eat like you care for your health, which, finally, I do.

I haven’t been pulled over by a cop yet since this has all gone down, although it’s only a matter of time. And you can bet I’ll milk the sympathy gland with all I’ve got if there’s one to be milked. To get out of a ticket? Hell yeah. I mean, who wouldn’t? I can’t foresee, though, how that scene will play out. If he’s looking at my license and asking questions, I’ll have to get his attention somehow without spooking him into going for his sidearm. Waving my arms…nope. Taking a chance there. Clapping my hands? No. Uh uh. He or she will just have to get pissed at my snotty ain’t-talking-to-you attitude and look at me. Will I have an explanation ready on my writing board? Let’s hope so.

No one has explained it to me adequately yet why when they remove your larynx you can no longer breathe through your face. (I haven’t asked, though, since it doesn’t really matter. It’s not like the doctor will tell me I’ve made a good point and insist on fixing that.) Instead, your neck becomes the new turnstile for air to come and go. This takes some getting used to. I put off looking in the mirror three days the first time—until I had to. But many weeks went by before I had a grasp of what all that would mean to me.

For years I kept an Irish tin whistle in my vehicle. Whenever I’d hit a red light, I’d pull it out and play it to pass the time. That and my harmonica went out the window after the ectomy. (Mouth instruments aren’t something you can give away very easily.) I carry an accordion around with me now. A friend of mine brought out his blow-dart tube the other day, and I communicated fake-mournfully that I’d never be able to blow darts again. “Oh man. I’m sorry. I never thought about that.” I laughed. I never blew darts anyway. But I did blow on hot soup. Hey, I just thought of something: how would the cops handle me at a DWI check point? “Blow, blow, blow, harder, harder, harder!” Heh heh. Make me. One way or another, I’ll have fun with the cops over this someday.

Actually, I have in fact lost one of my senses—the sense of smell, although not completely. A scent or odor has to be strong enough to slap the olfactory by itself. I can’t vacuum the air with my nostrils anymore. (So much for some other bad habits.) This means the smoke detector will probably wake me before the smoke does. I have to take the kitchen trash out whether it’s full or not, just in case, every other day. Bathe at least once a day and go with a light application of aftershave or the eau de parfum. Febreeze and candles. I have no idea where I am with the scent levels so I have to settle for judgment calls on that stuff. I bought some cologne the other day and told the salesman I would just have to trust him on his recommendation.

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I’ve found ways to deal with the removal of bodies of water from my pastimes—I have other, land-based activities to occupy my canoeing, kayaking, tubing, swimming, skiing, boating, parasailing, and fishing time. I hope, though, I never find myself standing on a bank while some child—anybody, but particularly a child—is screaming for help in the middle of the lake. Once in my life I dived into a river and pulled a drowning person to safety. (I also once jumped into a lake to drag my vehicle to safety after I’d left the emergency brake and gears unapplied.) Beyond throwing someone a PFD, I am now useless in that situation, and that’s scary. And that’s not all. If I get into a wreck, the paramedics aren’t going to figure out I’m what they call a neck breather unless I’m able to pull my turtleneck down or my yank my scarf away. I need a sign around my neck, a driving sign: Neck Breather—No Breathalyzers or Soliciting.

I’m having much fun, though–on this page and in general. I can run, jump, climb, kick, exercise, hike, backpack, camp, write, read, pluck strings, pluck birds, throw knives, annoy friends, learn, drive, see, hear, taste, feel, and other things with a teenager’s energy minus his bumbling confusion. I’m glad to be alive. Sneezing is a little weird, but I’ll take it. I wanted to write about this one time, and I have done so. Maybe somebody facing the same rest-of-your-life will see this and know he isn’t alone, and that it could be a lot worse. I was feeling sorry for myself one day, sitting behind the wheel at a stoplight, when I looked over and saw a blind man, tapping his white cane, waiting for the light to change so he could cross the street. His eyes were fixed directly on mine, as if he could see me. I shivered, mentally apologized for my unmanly self-pity, and—lesson learned—carried on. He would’ve traded afflictions with me in a heartbeat.

LUCID DREAMS: When Conscious Meets Subconscious ~ g. kinyon

Standing on a polished wood floor, I looked across the length of a room in which I’d never been. I didn’t know what the outside of the house looked like; this room, in fact, was all I knew. It was appointed cozily enough: three standard pieces of white cloth furniture plus a shaggy white throw rug in the center, wood paneling, artistic wall hangings, light entering from a patio door to my right. Another room was beyond an arched passageway on the far side of this one. I stood behind the sofa, which was positioned width-wise and in my way. Rather than walk around it, I did what I usually do in these situations: I levitated about head-high and propelled myself forward, not a skill everyone enjoys. The next room had black walls and red leather furniture with brass stays. The table tops were glass. Along the left wall at the top extended a room-length sheetrock box where ductwork had apparently been covered. At the far side, carpeted stairs rose six steps to a landing and cut 180 degrees before ascending to the next floor from there. I wanted to see the upstairs, naturally, but another interest delayed that proposition. The ceiling of this black room was not itself black, but white with a bluish tint. I flew higher and closer. In burnt-red, images straight off of bowls and vases from ancient Greece were scattered as overhead décor. Paper trim with representations of Doric columns added to the classical effect. I studied this to my heart’s content. But before shooting to the staircase, I alighted. I announced with my arms spread wide that I was the designer of all I surveyed. I added, so there’d be no mistake, that I was fully aware of the paradox. “I don’t know what will be up those stairs, but I will have created it.” And onward I flew, the paradox blowing my mind to atoms.

For the second time in my life, I had intentionally pulled off a lucid dream. I’d had lucid dreams before—several times—I just didn’t know they had a name. Nor did I know a person could will them to happen. But like any of the things that make living a positive, lucid dreams take effort. Conjuring them requires practice, study, repetition, and determination. I am only in the apprenticeship stages of this conceit, and I fully intend to tack on a part two after I’ve got a better handle on it all.

When the human mind becomes aware that it is existing in the course of a dream, the fantastic happens. One realizes he need only imagine earthly or heavenly delights for them to appear. The senses are intact. The universe in this plane is at the dreamer’s fingertips. And at his caprice. The three things LD beginners will inevitably do once they know what’s going on are 1) Jump up and down and shout to the world that they’re dreaming and they know it. 2) Fly—if they can figure out how, anyway. 3) Have sex. Again, all the senses are intact. It’s a natural, primal impulse. To make that person materialize, though—the person you want to do it with the most—requires a few spins around the block. Early on you’ll have to settle with what shows up, which seems instructive of real life in some vague fashion. Remaining in a conscious dream long enough to get much out of it takes practice too, by the way. The initial excitement of having accomplished it on purpose, the jumping around and shouting, will often be enough to ruin it. To scare it off, if you will. You’ll either wake up or slip into a standard dream, lucky if you can remember later it happened at all.

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The dream I described above is an example of having a slight amount of experience. Rather than getting overexcited and carried away with controlling everything around me by way of conscious intent (as I did the first time), I allowed my subconscious to have its head. I explored the world of my imagination, let it come to me on its own, show me things it wanted me to see. This approach earned a reward—that of recognizing the paradox. Before I flew up the steps, I knew that in the insignificant span of time it would take me to round a corner, I would have designed and built a complete environment, with all the detail that can be imagined–but I wouldn’t know what was there until I arrived. And I was in awe of my abilities when I saw what I could do. Today’s leaders of lucid dream experimentation report employing their skills to better understand the universe. A master can go forward or backward in time and observe, shrink to explore the infinitesimal, or examine distant solar systems.

Tibetan Buddhism probably represents the oldest known culture to gain a true understanding of lucid dreaming. The Tibetan monks have apparently devised techniques of dream yoga that can send the adept to deeper levels of conscious dreaming than the typical practitioner can reach. In fact, in lucid dreaming one can find a nexus of many of the Eastern spiritual philosophies. Lucid dreaming is a goal of meditation and proper breathing. The goal of kundalini yoga is called, interestingly, the kundalini awakening. As with kundalini and the chakras, achieving lucidity may follow the course of visualization of colors and focal points of the body. Certain sounds and even chants, along with control of the breathe cycle, can help one dive into a dream with full consciousness. The same is used with qigong, practiced by Taoists to achieve the Tao, or the divine emptiness—a superior state of being. Dream lucidity can be as frivolous, as spiritual, or as empirical as one wants to make it. While there is no harm in using it to placate the id, (even kundalini and qigong are consciously libido-friendly) there seems to be a saturation point with conscious dreaming where temporal thrills lose their luster. In the material realm, we often hear of the person who has it all (Kurt Cobain comes to mind) committing suicide. Wealth, fame, and sex are no longer fulfilling. The accomplished lucid dreamer need never get bored, but simply move on to the next grand adventure. The options are limitless. As to how often the LD old-timers–the for-the-sake-of-science masters–take a dream-world break from study to get laid…that’s anybody’s guess.

You can cheat your way to…well, if not to lucid dreams, at least to some wild ones, via dream herbs and chemicals. These are easily found online. The first dream chemical I discovered was in a nicotine patch. The warnings on nicotine patches even mention disturbing dreams. I like disturbing. I’ve tried them solely for the sake of a short cut to lucidity, but to no avail. I’ll order some of the other goodies before it’s all over, I can pretty well promise. Part two.

As a point of further interest, Paul McCartney famously found the music for “Yesterday” in a dream. Srinivasa Ramanujan, the mathematical genius, claimed he received his formulae from a Hindu Goddess in his dreams. The Jekyll/Hyde story came from the dream world. So did Frankenstein. Philosopher Renee Descartes was a lucid dreamer, as were/are a host of other famous names. Like Goethe and Tesla.

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The one critical tool for becoming a lucid dreamer is maintaining a personal dream journal. This is not easy to do and it proves you’re serious. Imagine you fail to check your inbox for a few days. When you do check it, let’s say you have a hundred messages. Now imagine deleting them all without reading. Once you start keeping a dream log, you’ll know you’ve deleted a hell of a lot of unread messages over the years. Your dream journal speaks to you–it sends you messages. It shows you patterns with your dreams you never knew existed. You’ll read it and think…wow. The number of false awakenings–where you dream you wake up, think you’re awake, and then dream you awaken again and again–the number of those I’ve recorded is astounding. As for help in accomplishing lucidity, it’s the act of waking up in the dark and scribbling shit on paper that habituates you to moving from the dream to the temporal worlds and back. The sooner one gets comfortable manipulating things in the hypnagogic state, the sooner one masters LD.  Also, in your journal you’ll find dream signs you can learn to recognize to verify you’re dreaming. But I’ve come across something else by way of the journal, something that has validated–for me, at least–the concept of synchronicity. I’ve given Freud his due here, and now it’s Jung’s turn.

Two nights ago as I write, March 8, 2014, I went to a poetry reading in an eatery/drinkery I’d never heard of, in a town where I don’t reside: Grandview, MO. On my way out of the place, Cafe Main, I passed by this big glass pastry case, loaded with some of the finest-looking, most tempting bakery products I’d ever seen. I hesitated. I wanted one. But I knew those things were bad for me. I watch what I eat for the most part and I dragged myself out of there. The following morning, yesterday, I woke up with no dreams to record. I was disappointingly blank. Of a sudden, something triggered my memory, and I commenced to setting a dream journal record by packing four legal-size notebook pages tight with the description of a single dream. I usually wait a week or so before I go over what I’ve recently written–it’s more interesting that way: I forget what I’ve recorded just as completely as I forget what I’ve dreamt. After I transcribed my marathon dream, I decided to read over the last few entries. Here’s what I see as if for the first time: I’m in some kind of retail establishment in Grandview. Floor to ceiling glass walls. I have an item to buy, a rolled-up mattress. A salesman takes it from me and disappears. I go to look for him. I pass a big glass pastry case full of delicious-looking treats. They look wonderful, but I know they’re bad for me and I leave. Date: Friday morning, March 7, 2014.

Make of it what you will.