Today is my 40th birthday. A birthday that I was NOT guaranteed to celebrate. I just looked back in this blog to the several entries around my 309th birthday and things were frankly quite grim! We were JUST getting the news of my recurrence and learning what we could about the reality of that situation. The doctors that we saw all agreed that without treatment I had 6 – X months to live, where X ranged from 8 to 12. “Fine, I’ll take 12!” I said, and refused treatment. So here we are 12 months later, and there is no question that I am a sick man.. I take a fistful of pills three times a day in order to keep pain at bay, to stay upright when I want to be upright, and to stay asleep when that’s my preference.. But I am NOT dead. I don’t look dead.. I don’t behave dead.. and for the most part I don’t feel dead.
Furthermore, I did NOT spend the last year making trips to the doctors office for treatment that would have left me feeling terrible with no promise of results. I think back and realize that I packed more living into the last year than I’ve managed to fit into any other single year of my life.*
I began writing in the last post about my long conditioned feelings about this time of year. About the sense of finality that comes with the holidays for me. For quite a while now my birthday has felt like the horizon. When I made it to the scary six month mark that they warned me about the natural next landmark was this birthday. I felt as though it would be quite fitting and natural to diminish during the fall, with the failing light, and die right around my birthday, proving to the docs that I had outlived all but their very most optimistic predictions. But here we are, and I’m feeling fine! Ok. Well. That’s a patent lie. I don’t feel fine, exactly. I feel like hell a lot of the time. Most recently, I’ve started to loose function in my left hand and forearm. Numbness, nerve pain, loss of strength and control, etc… BUT what I mean is that I feel miles and miles from dead. This is going to take a serious mental adjustment. A new horizon! I’m not sure what that should be. Hillary’s birthday is March 2nd.. But that would be a really crummy birthday present. I would love to see Nova Scotia again.. The earliest we ever really go up there is May. Is that too long? Another 6 months?
At any rate.. The whole thing leaves me feeling a bit untethered. I had a good reference point. I had a script that made some sense, but my body did not cooperate. Now that this birthday has come, I’m feeling a bit at sea. But that’s not a terrible way to feel (better than dead, I’m thinking..).
I have been shooting a lot with the hasselblad Xpan that I bought recently. I love the format. I love the narrative quality of such a wide frame. I had a roll of Ilford fp4 in it last that I shot more or less in two bursts. One burst of shots of Hill working on the day bed in our bedroom, while Putney slept snuggled up to her legs. And one burst of Monkey Business shots of me and Glen goofing around up on the roof. I took one lonely shot between those two bursts, though. I was taking the camera down to the shop with me one day, just in case, and I stepped out the door and saw the fresh snow. I pulled the camera out just to see what I could frame there from the top of the stoop.. I was checking the light.. the aperture.. figuring out where to focus. I put the camera up to my face and was looking around for a photograph. I suddenly became aware that someone was walking down the sidewalk and was slowing down because I was taking a picture. So without even thinking I just pulled the trigger, and dropped the camera from my face.
“What are you doing?” It was Hillary. I didn’t even know that she was out.. I thought she was behind me, back in the house. Suddenly I got very flustered.. I mean, what WAS I doing? I hadn’t really had time to see if there was a picture there.
“Ah.. Just taking pictures of this white on white!”
“What white on white?”
I started looking around for something obvious to point to and came up short. It had just been an impulse, and I wasn’t really sure that it had been a good impulse.
“I’m just headed down to the shop to work on stools,” I said.
That shot turned out to be my favorite shot on the role, though. I actually find it quite moving. Maybe you’ll see it too, maybe not. I printed up a copy this morning, and it’s stunning. It was my intention to put it up for sale today maybe as a last minute x-mas present for someone.. I’ve run out of time, though. I need to take a shower and get dressed and head over to my birthday party. BUT, maybe I’ll put it up tomorrow morning. Just that print. Glen and Hill and Putney are all very cute, but for me, that lonely photo is the most interesting. I’ll make it available just in the US, and if I ship by friday, it should make it to you by x-mas. Now. I need to go to my party. Fast Boy OUT!
*A partial list of things that spring to mind!
- Built the UTA
- Rode the UTA all around Westchester and Vermont
- Traveled around Europe with Hill and Glen and Hedi
- Took lots of photos, and sold lots of photos (and was stunned.. stopped in my tracks by your willingness to BUY my photos)
- Made things in the shop that were NOT bikes (Pill flasks come to mind)
- Invented the umami bomb (and cooked some pretty memorable sunday night dinners in the backyard)
- Broke my arm and assumed that was the end of my bike riding career
- Played lots of pool
- Made several trips up to Vermont to spend time with my brothers and other Vermont pals
- Got over the broken arm and rode bikes some more!
- Showed bikes and photos at the first annual Bike Cult show in BKLYN at which I auctioned off the UTA and the Assless to raise a combined $15K for the home hospice program of the visiting nurse service of New York.
- Cooked thanksgiving dinner
- Crawled to the presumed finish line : My birthday! only to keep right on stumbling along..