progress

It’s been a minute since I’ve written anything up here.

This broken arm has really been making me feel tired.  Everything takes more energy.  It seems to be healing just fine.  I only wear a splint if I’m on the subway, or somewhere else that I’m likely to get run into.  But I can’t (shouldn’t) lift anything, and range of motion is pretty compromised.  Playing pool is no issue.  That’s a big relief.  Cooking is slow, though.  Trying to do anything in the shop is slow/not possible.  This week I have slid out of retirement to teach a bike building class to an old friend.  By the time 5:00 rolls around and I send him away, I am ready for bed.  Last night I rallied after an evening nap and made dinner for friends/family.  Tonight I will have to rally to go to Sam Amidon’s album release at Poisson Rouge.  If you don’t already know of our good friend Sam, you should familiarize yourself..  and if there are tickets left for the event, you should buy them!  (see you there).

I have requested an appointment with my doc.  I’m curious (and a bit terrified) to perhaps do some imaging and see how the tumors have progressed.  We’re two weeks away from the beginning of June, which will be 6 months from the time that the docs suggested that I had 6-8 months to live.   I guess it’s possible that whatever increased levels of pain and fatigue I’m feeling are purely due to the anxiety/depression of that reality.  Maybe getting some pictures and seeing that the tumors haven’t advanced nearly as much as the doctors had expected will help on that level.

On the other hand, the docs could look at the pictures and say, “we’re pretty surprised that you’re not feeling MORE fatigued than you are..  shit..  you shouldn’t be upright!  Why don’t you head home and we’ll send someone to set you up with a morphine drip”

“Um.  Doc.  That’s not going to work for me.  I’m supposed to be racing bikes in Germany in August..”

Gang.  This thing is wearing me down.  I’ve been wanting to work on getting some photos up for sale on my website, as some of you have requested..  I’ve been wanting to do some work on my website in general – make an auction page for the UTA – make it a little more clear on the orders page that I’m not looking for new orders at this stage, etc..   I’ve been wanting to work on a set of stools that are rattling around in my head (broken arm not helping with that either, really).. There ARE even some people that I’d like to spend a little time with.  But I’m not finding the energy to do any of it.

We have a couple of sets of really nice new linen sheets for our bed.

The folks from Made By Hand came to the house for a couple of days in January of 2012 to shoot a short film about me.  I had been pretty hesitant about the idea from the start, and when the appointed day(s) rolled around I wasn’t in great shape.  I was in remission.  I was cancer free, as far as we knew.  I was building bikes and trying to get on with my life.  But I was pretty depressed.  I guess not uncommon for people who have been through treatment for cancer..  AND it was January.

I opened the door expecting Keith (the film maker) and a camera man..  it turned out to be a crew of 6 (7?).  I was overwhelmed.  The two days left me feeling pretty wretched.  I said all sorts of things in front of the camera that I regretted having said.  Like the feeling you sometimes have after a night of too much drinking, when you wake up and think “wow..  did that really tumble out of my mouth?” and you think about how maybe you’d be better off if you just took a vow of silence.  I have a feeling that I may have said “hipster dipshits,” at least a couple of times during filming, and some things about the people to whom I was referring that I’m not about to dredge up and repeat here.  The guys in the crew were unbelievably nice about it, though..  and in the end, they made a film that did NOT make me seem like the bitter wretched human being that I felt like at the time.  I am very grateful for that.

Enjoy.   And as always, thank you all for staying tuned.

 

81 Replies to “progress”

  1. i only just saw the video and posted it on facebook immediately in the hopes that people will watch it and share it.

    among the heartbreak i feel is that i didn’t know of your story sooner. i feel like i am picking up what would have been a favorite book and only reading the last chapter.

    may you continue to paint your world your own way, no matter how much time you have left. i know my world is much more colorful because of what you have shown me from yours.

  2. absolutely fabulous and utterly mesmerizing. will definitely have to share. no matter what shit i may be going through myself, E, you are ALWAYS in my thoughts. BIG love from way up here.

  3. could it be that since you are leaving your immune system alone (not having more chemo) that it’s repairing itself and slowing down the cancer?

    doctors are almost never right, although they keep on making pronouncements

  4. This movie, you talking, touched my heart. Thank you so very much. And yes, cycling has saved my soul from going round the bend many times. I am no longer able to cycle long distance on a “normal” trekking bike but the gods invented e-bikes just for me.

  5. Thanks for sharing this Ezra. I wish I had something meaningful or useful to offer but really I don’t. Thanks for everything you have and will share with us.

  6. Well, I found the movie inspiring even though you said above that you wished you didn’t say the things you said in the video. I’m glad you did as it makes it honest.It was beautifully done. I love your creativity. It’s amazing. I want your Fuji X100, and your dog. And one of your bikes. All beautiful. Your photography is also inspiring. I checked out your Flickr Page. I have some of the gear you mentioned. I still have my Olympus Stylus Epic. Your creativity is vast. I hope you’re feeling better soon.

  7. Beautiful film, Ezra. Although the depression did come through a bit, they certainly didn’t make you out to be a “bitter wretched human being”. I doubt anyone would believe that anyway.

  8. I’m so glad you haven’t taken a vow of silence. You have given voice to the elements of living that are so rarely discussed out in the open…the hardest parts imaginable. Your words are such a gift.

    Enjoy those linen sheets!

  9. i like so much the video, the first time that I hear your voice!!, please don’t be with anxiety, it doesn’t help any… but i suppose it’s easy to say.
    We all are with you, and the doctors aren´t wrong sometimes… Come on. Big big hug

  10. This was wonderful and so interesting and beautiful. I never would have thought your voice sounded like that.

  11. I was just doing my irregular check for new stuff on vimeo when I suddenly realized “Hey, thats Ezra”… Man, you didnt look like a bitter guy at all, you are just serious and intense about everything you do and and encounter. My wife and I send you big hugs… And if you ever come to germany, let me know. Stay strong, Ezra.

  12. Great film. You did make ‘pretty good dances’ and gave me the most valuable and memorable dance experience, something which I still cherish. I have just put the duet onto a DVD as my students wanted to see me dance…and that duet is the best dance I ever did. Sending lots of hugs and respect. Cx

  13. Beyond the fact of the movie to be a very nice piece of documentary art- although we never met, it makes me feel even closer to you. Thank you so much for sharing your struggles with us as well as your joyous moments. I send my love to you and you family. Cheers from Switzerland. I’ll stay tuned…

  14. Great short! i didn’t get “bitter” or “wretched” from that at all. Ah, the magic of editing. Great getting to know you a little better through this little film. For some weird reason I imagined your voice would be deeper… 🙂

  15. Hi Ezra,
    Lovely film and ditto comments above on your voice and total lack of bitterness/cynicism. Heard Sam Amidon on BBC6 Music here in the UK a couple of days ago. Made me think of you. Big love from the UK.
    Dan

  16. Your film is inspiring. Your blog and your attitude and your intelligence and honesty and openness, doubly inspiring. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

  17. you are great. this little video of you is wonderful. i’m so glad you put it out there. RALLY. for samamidon. i wish i was there to join you. big hugs to you, hill, putney and sam. xo

  18. Dear Daniel Ezra Caldwell….smiling….Your clip touched my heart..and I had to laugh about growing up in a southern vermont town..and taking up wood work…out of boredom. I grew up there, too. How do I not know you? Gave a glad shout over the ass-less, a joy nonetheless….loping along with you..peace and all my best. – A.

  19. The first job I ever had was as a lifeguard at a big municipal pool. Summer camps routinely dumped bus-loads of kids there in the afternoons. The only catch was that every kid had to pass an informal swim test with the counselors to be allowed to stay in the deep end unattended – where all the cool kids hung out, of course. So you’ve got a group of 4 friends who all want to stay together. Three kids are showing off with backstroke and flip turns, and then inevitably there was one kid who clearly never had the luxury of swim lessons. She would bravely jump in and – while trying to look calm – make her way down the lane. Upright, short strokes, little kicks – doing her best approximation of swimming while also consciously keeping her chin just above water. The chin-above-water thing was awkward and actually not at all helpful with swimming, but every kid put in that position had the same expression – you could practically see the survival-instinct bull horn blaring in their heads: JUST KEEP YOUR FUCKING HEAD ABOVE WATER. If the kid made it all the way down the lane, she could stay with her friends. If not, she couldn’t. So to see these kids try to be cool while in abject survival mode as everyone else was laughing and splashing around them always killed me. They would get to the other end and absolutely collapse. Took every last shred of energy and concentration they had to keep their chin above water, get to the end of that fucking lane.
    For me – as a grown up now – that’s the best description I have for depression. I’ve never experienced depression as apathy. Mine has always been much closer to a barely contained panic. Because I do care. I fight like hell to stay with my people, but it’s hard work – everyone’s doing flip turns and gliding around me and I’m trying to look cool but all I’m thinking is chin-above-water-chin-above-water-chin-above-water all fucking day. I know I look a little awkward. I’m trying. And I’m fucking exhausted.
    That’s all I could think when you said you were expecting one guy and a crew of seven showed up. I got a wave of “overwhelmed” like depression ptsd – like a sudden sense of drowning. And then rage. I wanted to throttle those people for you, but having seen that gorgeous movie, I’m just incredibly thankful (!) you stuck it out. They did beautiful work. And you are being way too hard on yourself. You could never come across as wretched anything. You say hipster dipshits and all I wanna do is high five you, but hands down – best part of the movie – all I wanted really – was that tongue at the end. (and my boyfriend just high-fived me for that one. You know what I mean. jesus.)
    Thanks for the update. We’ve got all our things crossed down here for your scans.
    Big love from Austin:)

  20. So good to see & hear ya involved in a film again. I still remember early on in working with you, the way you approached film making, how you treated your subjects and the technical wizardry with which you used Premier. It was inspiring. Now to see you as the subject of another’s art, it is quite powerful. So much information, philosophy, LIFE in those 12min from 2 days. Thank you for doing it. You have nothing to regret. Your words are those of an Artist. It is YOU! What moves you, motivates you. Your openness and clarity with which you speak your mind is what draws people to you and informs your art. Let it roll baby, let it roll.

    As always I hope to say hey in person before I head out on the road again, love to Hill and thank you for Teaching Cancer to Cry! How beautifully you do.

    PEACE

    Lutin T.

  21. Thinking of you and yours daily,Ez. It’s always a wonderful thing to see you in moving pictures. Great big love and positive thoughts from way out here in Oregon.

  22. So beautiful. Your voice! It’s so gentle. I pray for a miracal. Because they DO happen. And because if one were to happen, surely it would be to save this beautiful passionate gentle soul that gives so much of himself to the world. Thank you for sharing, well….everything. <3

  23. Dearest Ezra, I can’t wait to watch this film about you! I think about you often and hope everything is good on your end. I’ve been depressed too. I think it comes with the cancer. That guy I met at chemo that I told you about (I think) who was about my age, I found out, died 10 days after I last saw him. It hit me pretty hard when I found out and I’ve been feeling dark and hopeless. I’m trying to get out a bit more and do things that used to make me happy but it’s hard when I can’t conquer these things with the same vigor. I was sad to read about your broken arm and thrilled when you got the splints. You are an inspiration to me, to keep trying and keep pushing instead of simply waiting to die. I wish you luck when you see the doctor and I really hope the diagnosis is positive. Love, love, DD

  24. Hey Ezra,

    Those two days in your house up in Harlem have been more transformative for us (the 5/6 of us showing up) than we’d wanted to admit at first. That may have been the reason it took so long to finish it. Wanting to do it justice, to do you justice…

    You’ve been a great host and “topic”, throwing some impro kimchi crepes on the table, having us laugh yet digging deep into life and your own fears and motivations.

    What I want to say is: thanks. Thank you. I’ve been touched.

  25. Ezra,
    Life as an expression of art. Wood, Dance, Bikes, Photography, Words. The vehicle is irrelevant. Your spirit soars in the face of your challenges. Thanks for holding the torch and sharing your gifts, despite all the shit. Rob

  26. bikes. i wish i had one of your bikes. watched that doc and then found this blog read it. i just kinda feel fucked up now. kinda drunk. i guess feeling connected to you with the whole losing interest once i realize i CAN do something syndrome. and expecting a journey into bike making and then being smacked with the cancer situation instead. which hits home too. my mom was taken by cancer at 42. wishing that they had shown your angry bitter side. you deserve to be bitter if you want. i hope that you can take solace in the accomplishments under your belt. although i suppose it could have the opposite effect. i hope you make to Germany. and much further.

  27. The film is beautiful and didn’t make you look bitter or wretched at all. I loved the long shot of you riding the assless bike. It was nice to hear a voice after reading along with your blog for so long.

  28. Well I’ve been following your story for quite some time and I must say it feels more than a little one sided. This film is such a intimate glimpse into your life it feels even more one sided now. I wanted to share with you that your work is beautiful , be it photography, bikes, or words. Thank you for sharing your life and talents with us. Onward!

  29. I cried through the entire video but mostly just cause I love you and Hil so damn much. Ha. I think of you both every day!

  30. many hugs ezra…gorgeous, lovely, sad, amazing film. what a treasure, in the midst of all the crap. i like ashley’s story…it is really hard keeping your head above water. xoxo

  31. a friend of mine posted your video on fb and as i know and admire her creativity, thought, ‘ok, i’m going to watch this because it looks like someone is making something remarkable.’ the video had me w/in the first minutes, and i was thinking, ‘i’ll thank her for posting this because i so identify w/ this life trajectory and w/ this honesty of being naturally good at many things and not achieving mastery until the intense work/dedication happens’. that, and just appreciating the interest of the story and the craftsmanship of the bikes. then, the cancer. wham. i needed a mop at my desk. i just kept watching, then read your recent blog post here. whew. i want to say, ‘i have no words’ but i do, ezra: thank you for touching my life. your story is real, inspiring and profound. i wish for you the greatest peace and strength in your journey, and am sending you comforting, healing thoughts.

  32. Ezra, I just saw the film and was touched by it. It seems like you have lived a good and spontaneous life, not bound by convention, following your interests and passions, which is a lot more than many can say. And, you’re funny. Hold on to that sense of humor even in your darkest hour.

    I’m sorry you are dealing with cancer. That sucks. But after reading your blog post, I’m mad at your doctors for giving you an estimate of how long you had to live. How should they know? Andrew Weil, author of Spontaneous Healing, calls this “medical hexing.” You might check out the book.

    Best wishes.

  33. Dear Ezra, I have been following your blog for about 6 months but it’s the first time I’m writing to you. Your speaking voice is so beautiful, and it’s wonderful to hear it, as I have been imagining what you sound like. I had cancer almost 2 years ago and while I currently have No Evidence of Disease, the fear will stay with me as long as I live. I wish for a miracle for you, that you outsmart this terrible thing and stay in the world for as long as you can. You are a true artist who is so inspiring to me, and I thank you for being so clever, strong and thoughtful.

  34. Hola Ezra,
    Espero que te recuperes pronto de lo del brazo y puedas cocinar sin problemas.Qué putada que no puedas andar en bici,lo siento.
    Änimo y un abrazo desde España.

  35. Ezra,
    We are a family of cyclists and photographers and I’ve just watched the film about your fascinating journey to where you are today. Our family has also been dealt the blows of depression and terminal cancer. However, what impresses me, as a teacher, is your adaptability, flexibility and resilience. I loved what you said about turning to woodwork as a boy, motivated by ‘sheer boredom’. Today too many kids miss opportunities like that because they are glued to screens. Leaving industrial design for dance — beautiful! I want to show this to my high school students here in Vancouver so that they understand the breadth of creativity and how life’s journey is rich with change. Sometimes tragic change.
    I wish you continued hope and healing.

  36. ya know, when i broke my arm, i was super tired because my brain had to learn how to do stuff differently… all sorts of things, from typing on a keyboard to simply unlocking a door or attending to bathroom needs. during the first two-ish weeks, i slept about two hours a night more, and that was pre-cancer and otherwise healthy me…. so, i wonder if that’s a part of your equation?

    beautiful movie… thank you for doing it…

  37. Came across your story today on Adventure Journal. It pierced my heart against the backs of my ribs. I was most moved about how you react when you’re supposed to die tomorrow. You buy a motorcycle and fulfill the cliche. But it’s not like that. Not like that at all. That dream that, “If I had 6 months to live, I’d go to Antarctica or the Grand Canyon or on a Disney Cruise,” is really bullshit, isn’t it? When my husband was diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma the standard diagnosis was nine months. Nine fucking months. I wondered for a while how we were supposed to respond to that when most of that time would be spent in pain, trying to fight, writing a will, etc, etc. The end of the story is different for us: my husband lived. He received a liver transplant and had the world’s best doctor and is one of very few people that ever lived from this type of cancer. But when he was sick, neither of us really wanted to hear about other people’s success stories. So I will spare you. But know that I so admire your courage and your honesty. Because even though I’m sure the sadness and uncertainty sometimes brings you to your knees, and I’m sure you don’t feel very brave, just being this honest is enough.

  38. Would that we had more of this in the world today. Believe in miracles, Ezra. I do, because have seen them first hand.

  39. Caught the film by chance, Wow! All I can say. Thanks for sharing that with us out here, Inspired me into going to have a go at getting something built again. Hey Ezra, you love a game of pool? Like a challenge? Then get yourself on a snooker table and have some time away from pockets the size of buckets!
    Keep on Keeping on!

  40. Ezra…you’ve touched me in places almost beyond words – or at least I can’t think of any good enough. I don’t remember how I found you…bikes or cancer, the places where our lives intersect, but I’m much the richer for it. Thank you. For everything. Off to ride on a beautiful Miami night, and wishing you good rides too, Ezra. Wherever they may take you. Huge love to you and yours from the 305.

  41. This is a beautiful video, Ezra. Thank you for sharing this and so many other things with us. Rooting for you, be well.

  42. Hi, I really enjoyed the film, your craft, and your thoughtful way. I hope you feel as well as possible. My Mom has had stage 4 metastatic breast cancer for 5 and a half years now, and am especially grateful for all the time I and my two young sons have gotten with her beyond the time the doctors predicted (4 to 12 months).
    Take care,
    Dennis

  43. Hey there, loved this Bike Maker episode, thanks for sharing your story, it was inspiring! I will be praying for you Ezra!

  44. beautiful film. well done. nice to hear and see you working and riding. i will be in NYC next week for a theater festival i’m involved with…SOLOnova. Check it out maybe? we don’t know each other and still i am crossing my fingers and toes that the scans say something positive..maybe? whatever that may be..

  45. Hi Ezra,

    It is a beautiful film, and I felt very moved.

    Please remember that there is an Asian friend here praise for you.

    Best wishes

  46. Great to hear your vocal voice Ezra, as opposed to your written and photographic voices. I’m glad they were good to you about the editing – I think it’s come out well and you come over well. Kia kaha.

  47. what a gem. should’ve watched in the morning though. too damn late to be left with so much to think about. What you said about the relationship with work is so insightful. In your case from the looks of it “good for a beginner” was surpassed long ago in list of arenas.

  48. A beautiful movie it is Ezra..
    Impressive self portraits..insightful thoughts.

    Racing in Germany in August you say?
    Where at?
    We may be seeing eachother.

    All the best to you, the missus and the dog.

    S.

  49. Just catching up Ezra. You continue to face these great challenges with grace and humor. I thought the video was wonderful—and particularly enjoyed hearing your actual voice. xoLinnea

  50. Damn. The second I heard your voice I burst into tears. I hate this is happening to you – it breaks my heart. We love you Ezra…you have inspired and moved so many people. Hugs and love to you always…