Monthly Archives: March 2006

Bye, Mom

It’s over. My mother died today at 12:10 p.m. Pacific time. My father and I were on our way to the hospital; her best friend, Shirley, was at her bedside.

She had not really been conscious since late Sunday night; since yesterday afternoon she had been in a deepening coma.

It is a great relief that this awful time is over, and that her long years of pain and struggle are at an end. I will write a proper farewell to this extraordinary woman as soon as I can find the right words.

A remarkable thing happened later this afternoon.

Kind of a Hard Day

For better or for worse, this page has temporarily been taken over by my family’s crisis. I know that there are many of you who have been checking in here to see how things are going. So:

My mother is now in an unresponsive state, and is in a Cheyne-Stokes respiratory pattern. She is receiving intravenous saline, morphine to control her pain (at 5 mg/hr.), and no nutrition.

The last coherent words she exchanged with anyone were with me, as I left her room late on Sunday night. She is already gone; perhaps she will still be breathing in the morning.

The staff at Tri-City Medical Center, in Oceanside, California, and her doctors, Daniel Vicario, James Brinkman, and Chris Lewis, are nothing short of saintly. I have seen quite the opposite often enough to appreciate it.

Thank you all. Added to my list of topics to visit upon resuming normal operations here is the book “Miracles”, by C.S. Lewis.

12:09 A.M., Room 220, Ramada Inn, San Marcos, CA

I really don’t want to use this space for family updates, but these past few days I have been so completely occupied by family matters that I have had no opportunity for preparing any posts, certainly not the sort of posts I want to be writing.

When I dashed back out to California on Thursday, I had every reason to imagine that my mother would already be gone by the time I got here. However, since all involved have decided to give up on treatment and switch to palliative care, she has bounced back a bit, and although she is terribly weak and frail both physically and emotionally, she is able again to speak with us.


I may not be posting again for a day or two. The situation in California has declined very suddenly, and the end is at hand. My father and brother are with my dear mother, but she is now beginning the private part of her journey, and is already slipping beyond earthly awareness. I am flying back to be with them tomorrow.

Ah, my heart… how very sad this is.

How It’s Done

So to cheer up, I decided to read some Perelman. Here, from Are You Decent, Memsahib?, is young maharaja Lam Chowdrie proposing to buxom stripper Sherry Muscatel:

“Oh, moon of my delight… Life has bruised your wings, my little shama thrush. All I ask is a simple boon. Let me spend the rest of my life catering to your smallest whim.”

al Coda

This is another sad day for my family. Though my mother has fought valiantly to endure a last-ditch round of chemotherapy, today she and her doctors (James Brinkman and Daniel Vicario, who have cared for her as if she were their own mother) have agreed that her battle is unwinnable, further suffering pointless, and that hospice care is what is needed. She may have a week or two.

It is proving to be difficult for me to get back to any real writing here during this difficult time. Though there is much that I want to get back to, I simply can’t focus properly right now. Dennett et al.will be dealt with in due course.

Cold Spring, NY

Today marks the vernal equinox, but you’d never know it around here. There’s a chill wind blowing, and it’ll be down in the twenties tonight. Quite a contrast from San Diego, where I spent most of last week.

I blame that bloody groundhog.

The Long Bomb

I’ve been away, and haven’t properly attended to my duties here for weeks now. There is much that I want to write about; in particular I want to air a few thoughts about Daniel Dennett’s new book, Breaking the Spell, and about some of the questions it raises. But meanwhile…

Eye of the Storm

Back in good old Brooklyn again tonight, for a little while at least. The outlook is grim in California, but I will resume normal operations tomorrow, at customary levels of pith, insight and wit, for as long as circumstances allow.

Thanks to all for your patience and support.

Gone, But Not Forgotten

I’m in California still, looking after my gravely ill mother, and opportunities for thinking the longish thoughts needed to generate an interesting post are scarce.

I would, however, like to take a moment to remember, on the first anniversary of his cruelly premature death, my good friend, the gifted bassist Wayne Pedzwater. Here is the post that I wrote immediately following his memorial service.

If you should see this, Patty, know that you are in my thoughts.

No Moss Gathered

Once again, I am afraid to say, waka waka waka might lie fallow for a day or two. I must hie back to California first thing in the morning to help with my parents’ deteriorating circumstances, and have been rather frantically attending to my many other duties and obligations in preparation for being away for a few days.

I have here a good opportunity to practice what I have just preached in the previous post.

Pressure Points

In times of stress, our breath tends to rise in the chest. The shoulders lift and tighten. The jaw clenches.

Over the past thirty years of kung fu (and other inner work), I’ve devoted a good deal of attention to this. When I watch inexpert students sparring, the signs are always there, and always the same. The students are nervous: they are putting their skills to the test, and they might receive a painful blow at any moment. Also, their egos are on the line, and they are being watched. I can see the tension in their shoulders, the stiffness and jerkiness of their movements, the quick and shallow breaths, the lack of connected power in their techniques.

Oh No You Didn’t

If you are interested in logic and philosophy, or are just plain argumentative, here is an interesting site that I found out about over at Bill Vallicella’s place: The Fallacy Files.

Onto the sidebar it goes.

Walter Browne Throws One Down

I was poking around online the other day and came across this outstandingly brilliant game by the great American grandmaster Walter Browne. When I was a teenager I used to come into New York with my friends to play in tournaments at the old McAlpin Hotel at Herald Square; Browne was always the one to watch. You could always tell where his board was by the crowd gathered round.

This is a game from one of those tournaments, way back in 1973. Enjoy.

The More Things Change

A Zen saying:

Before enlightenment,
I chopped wood and carried water.
After enlightenment,
I chopped wood and carried water.

Crab Nebula

And here is a story about something you have seen before (I’m quite sure about that, because until a few days ago, nobody had) – a lobster covered with “silky white fur”.

Kind of looks like he should be holding a pair of maracas. I’d like to know what that “fur” is made of; as I recall it is only mammals that grow hair.

C’est la Vie?

There is a buzz and twitter on the network today from NASA; according to the Drudge Report, they are about to announce that there appear to be geysers of liquid water on Saturn’s moon Enceladus.

If true, this is a big deal.

Bright Idea

I’m sure we have all, at one time or another, had the experience of being dazzled by a bright light. The other day it happened to me, and I noticed something quite surprising about it.

Cowboy Leg Beautiful Pole

I had to share this, which came to me by way of Eugene Jen.

Bon appétit.

Are We Not Men?

My friend Jess Kaplan, who often sends me interesting tidbits, has called my attention to a curious item from Turkey. It’s a story about a group of siblings who some are saying exhibit retrograde evolution.

The Bright Side

I’ve finally taken up Daniel Dennett’s latest effort, Breaking the Spell : Religion as a Natural Phenomenon. The book is an attempt to apply the methods of evolutionary psychology and sociobiology to a critical examination of the possible reasons for our fondness for religion. It has unsurprisingly ruffled a few feathers, something Dennett seems to relish.

OK, We’re Back

First of all, thanks once again to all of you. We’re back in Brooklyn now, after a brief trip to San Diego to visit my ailing mum.

I’m going to write one more rather personal post here, before returning to the usual bloat and blather.

Back Soon

Very sorry not to have been providing any “content” here the past few days. I’ll be back on Sunday.

Meanwhile, here is a link, from my friend Jess Kaplan, to an essay that makes some interesting points on the value of promoting democracy in foreign cultures. In particular:

America basically inherited its institutions from the Anglo-Saxon tradition and thus its experience over 230 years has been about limiting despotic power rather than creating power from scratch.


Thank You All

Many, many thanks to all of you who have commented and emailed with kind words of solace and comfort. I am blushing a bit – I never meant this site to tilt so far toward the private and personal, but one writes about what is in one’s thoughts, and my thoughts have been occupied by little else since hearing the bad news about my mother. I had no idea, frankly, that so many of my friends and relatives had been visiting this site. Thank you all for that as well; it’s easy to get the feeling that writing a blog, for all its world-wide visibility, is little more than shouting up a drainpipe.

I’ll write what I can in the days to come, and I’ll try to get back to the usual pretentious rubbish as soon as possible.

Thank you again.