The Absurd Epistolary Adventures of the Astonishing FartMan chronicles the amusing escapades
of the lovable, stinky, and obnoxious Cape & Tights Super Hero, and his maudlin Alter Ego, W____,
as they learn to cope with Stage IV colon cancer, each other, and their annoying fellow human beings.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

TAF Enterprises, Inc., Names S.C. "Cappy" Fluid as Special Lateral Assistant to CEO T. A. FartMan

From: T. A. FartMan
Sent: 6/16/2011 08:43:00 AM
To: W____
Subject: Press Release Announcing Cappy Is Joining the Team

Dear W_____,

Reproduced below my signature line is a copy of the press release we just sent out this morning.

I realize you're having some trouble adjusting to having Cappy always hanging around, but eventually you'll start to get used to him. He keeps telling me how much he admires how you do what you do and insists he's always going to be on your side. So if he's gonna be here anyway, you might as well try to get along with him.

Yes, I know that's all just "nicey-nice talk," but, honestly, with an ambitious young thing like Cappy, it wouldn't be surprising if he decided to ditch us two worn out old fart-makers, to move on to bigger and better things before too long. So instead of getting all freaked out about Cappy being named as my new sidekick, just try to go with the flow for a while and see how things develop.

How many times do I have to tell you? Don't worry about Cappy pushing you aside. Your job as my alter ego is safe. You and I got into this thing together, and unless you decide you've had enough and want to get rid of me, we will always be together. You'll always be my One and Only Alter Ego Secret Identity. I'll forever be your One and Only Cape & Tights Super Ego Hero.

Off the record, about this Alter Id, the Sidekick, this Cappy guy, the Interloper, remember what they say: Keep your friends close and keep your enemies closer. We gotta handle this with circumspection. I'm hearing through my sources that Cappy's alter ego's father is a major big shot with BCM Parking, and we've got contracts for a crapload of boring but lucrative security work at their garages. That's easy money we would probably have to kiss goodbye if Cappy, or whoever happens to be his flimsy twit of an alter ego, ever ran pouting to their daddy about us. So let's just try to be patient. Cappy might go away on his own. If he doesn't, I know someone who--for a reasonable and proper professional services fee--will drain the piss juice right outa him, and do it so quietly, so discreetly, so permanently, that people will hardly remember Cappy ever even existed, much less the circumstances of his disappearance. But let me, The Astonishing One, work out all that stuff. You don't wanna to know the details. Just chill and play along, okay?

So what do you say about you and me, just us two, getting together at Lucio's (my treat!) to see if any of those '04 brunelli we've been hoarding is ready for drinking? You pick the date, you pick the bottle, I'll clear my calendar.

Your old buddy,

TAF Enterprises, Inc., Names S.C. "Cappy" Fluid
as Special Lateral Assistant to CEO T. A. FartMan

HOUSTON, TX -- (MarketwireBS - Jun 16, 2011) TAF Enterprises, Inc., (NASDEQ: TFRT) announced today that the company has retained S.C. "Cappy" Fluid as Special Lateral Assistant to TAF Founder and CEO T. A. FartMan.

"Cappy Fluid has been functioning as my Special Lateral Assistant in an unofficial capacity for several months," Mr. FartMan said, "and during that time has amply demonstrated the persistence essential to that role. Therefore, we are pleased to announce that Cappy has officially joined the TAF Team and now will be publicly recognized for his contributions. Having Cappy at my side enhances TAF Enterprises' industry-leading capacity for reliable, timely, precision delivery of methane/hydrogen-sulfide gas services for our growing client base."
According to Mr. FartMan, the function of his Special Lateral Assistant (known in the Super Hero sector as a "sidekick,") will be a "fluid and dynamic one, which we do not want to define rigidly." He said that in addition to pursuing a sidekick's traditional career path as an emerging top-level manager "without portfolio," Cappy Fluid will direct the company's anthropologically-derived hydrogen sulfide and methane gas delivery services in the medical setting, a workspace in which Mr. Fluid has substantial experience, having previously specialized in Post-Surgical Hepatic Collections. His responsibilities as Special Assistant will also include activities in the Company's educational/entertainment services for children and community relations in the U.S. and Canada. T. A. FartMan will continue personally to direct the growing Crowd Control and Humane Mass Dispersal segment of TAF's business as well as the company's successful Elite Transportation Services.

(More information about the background of Mr. S. C. "Cappy" Fluid is available by clicking here.)

About TAF Enterprises, Inc. ( NASDEQ: TFRT)
TAF specializes in producing complex highly-concentrated anthropologically-derived methane and hydrogen-sulfide enriched compounds for use in a variety of contexts, including humane sub-lethal mass dispersal, crowd control, military, personal self-defense, education, and entertainment applications. TAF also operates the highly successfully Elite Transportation Services, providing worldwide transport to departing heads of state; rock, pop, rap, and hip-hop stars; executives of major international corporations; A-list celebrities; heiresses and/or sluts famous mostly for being famous, and other clients, who may require individualized, discreet, immediate, supersonic mobility.
For more information, contact 1-808-FartMan (1-808-327-8626) or visit

Forward-Looking Information
This press release contains certain statements that should be construed as "forward-looking information" within the meaning of applicable securities legislation, which statements may, but do not necessarily, contain words such as "estimate," "might," "may," "would," "could," "will," "intend," "plan," "anticipate," "believe," "expect," "growing," "emerging," "successful," and similar expressions. This forward-looking information includes, but is not limited to, information regarding the anticipated growth of TAF's Crowd Control and Humane Mass Dispersal business.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Bathing in Tears

From: W____
Sent: Thursday, June 09, 2011 9:10 PM
To: Gl____
Subject: Re: Xeloda/Clinical Trials

Dear Gl_____,

(This turned out to be an awfully long email, so don’t feel obliged to read it all at once, or to hurry to reply.)

I hope you and G____ are coping okay. I know this time is so very hard for you two—harder than anything anyone should have to suffer through.

Somehow it seems we find just enough strength to do what we have to do.

Looking backwards on what we’ve been through, we say, “How did we ever make it through that?”

And looking ahead to what’s coming at us, we say, “How will we ever get though this?”

We hang on to each other for dear life, and then do what we have to do, which usually means putting up with things that we have not much choice but to put up with . . . and trying to make the best of things, even though “the best we can make of it” is not all that great sometimes.

I could not imagine going through this without my wife. Sometime we just cling to each other and cry silently for a good long while, and then try to kiss away each other’s tears. Her tears are a salve for my soul. I do love the way they taste. Is it selfish to want her to cry over me so I can bathe my spirit in her tears? Well, if she is going to cry over me, she should do it while I’m around to enjoy it, rather wasting her tears after I'm gone. Whenever that happens, she should quickly finish crying and get on with living a happy life.

Yes, I will try to remember to email you my new blog posts. However, after having been pretty idle at work for the last few months, this week I’ve started on a big new project, and it might keep me too busy to be able to write new entries very often. Also, after I post a new blog entry, for a few days I’ll continue to fiddle and fool with it until it seems like something close to acceptable, so I might not email a new post to you until it's been worked into good shape. For me, writing is an ongoing never-ending process of revision. How silly of me to take this blogging so seriously!

Gl___, I happened to run across something on the internet that might be helpful to you if you haven’t seen it already. There’s a series of videos that a woman at John Hopkins recorded to help caregivers cope with taking care of a sick family member. It’s called “Walking on Eggshells” and you can view the videos here:

I’ve watched a few of the videos, and some of what’s in them is so obvious that it doesn’t hardly need to be said, but even though it’s mostly just common sense, it still might be helpful and reassuring to hear. Although the videos were intended for family caregivers, as the “caregivee,” I found the videos reassuring. Perhaps they might be helpful for you as you attend to G___'s needs.

To turn on a dime with a change of subject: How interesting that politically you are to the left of Obama!

Even though I’ve been sick almost for the whole last year, I still do care about and pay attention to politics. I’ve always been a politics junkie. But I guess I’ve always practiced my politics in an abstracted way, which means that, if someone is a good person, for friendship’s sake I don’t care a whit what his politics might be. There are good people with a variety of different political views. And you can conclude that you live in a decent political system if people don’t have to worry about politics in their personal relationships. In a good system, political power keeps its nose out of things that are best left to be decided among individuals, friends, families, churches, customers, businessmen, etc. In a bad system, politics demands to be involved in everything. Of course, tyrannical governments' excuse for intervening in every facet of life is that those being tyrannized just aren't healthy enough, wealthy enough, smart enough, or powerful enough, to look out for themselves without the regular daily assistance of a caring big daddy government

But I'm surprised you consider Obama a DINO. To me, he's the perfect example of a contemporary Washington Democrat:

--overeducated, but underworked (shall we golf or shoot hoops today?);

--ungrateful for the wealth and other good things that our good free-market system has delivered into his grubbing hands (his wife "coincidentally" got her paper-pushing salary at the UofC Hospital substantially increased when hubby entered the Senate, yet she considers this a "downright mean" country; you have to wonder how many babies might have been helped at that hospital with the money that was thrown away on her--$317K in 2005; cruelly slashed to barely over $100k when she cut back to part-time! If you think her job important enough to be worth the hundreds of thousands she was paid each year, consider the fact that when she left to go to Washington, her old job was eliminated);

--contemptuous of those unwashed masses who can't speak "Austrian" or some other foreign language (although Obama himself is perfectly monolingual, while I speak fluent Australian, mate);

--too arrogant about his own brilliance to take a even a little time to learn the simplest basic details about the subjects on which he expostulates with such rhetorical ease (e.g., the "profits/earnings ratio"?!?!);

--condescending in his prevailing assumption that so very few of us plebes can get along without his and his lib friends' help.

So you see, you must forgive me that I’m probably just as far to the right as you are to the left.

But in this circular political universe, I’ve travelled far enough to the right to start bumping into people on the left.

You could call me an Constitutional Conservative, which means I want:

a central government that is limited and restrained;

individual freedom and responsibility;

free markets (with appropriate but limited government regulation);

vibrant strong local government with lots of citizen involvement at the local level;

respect for private property, which is an absolutely necessary condition of freedom (How valuable is your freedom of speech, for example, if you aren't allowed to own your own pencil and paper, but must ask the government if you "qualify" to receive some? And who exaxtly decides who qualifies?)

Just a quick thought about my insistence on respect for private property as a necessary condition of freedom: The true definition of a slave is "a competent adult person who is not allowed to receive, keep, and dispose of the fruit of his own labor." The fruit of each of our own labor which we each produce and amass is what is called our individual private property. Thus, the right to keep and manage one's own private property is the right not to be enslaved. Yes, in theory (communist theory) a government that takes away the fruit of our labor can take very good care of us, using the fruit of our own labor and the fruit of our neighbor’s labor. But if the government takes the fruit of our labor and uses it to take care of us, we are still slaves--well-kept slaves perhaps, but slaves nonetheless.

Freedom-loving men and women prefer the dignity and independence of taking care of themselves using the fruit of their own labor, rather than having to depend on the uncertain beneficence of government to return to them what they themselves earned. Does any reasonably competent person really think that a government ruling over 300 million others will attend to his very particular wishes and needs more closely than he can attend to them for himself?

People who think it is a good idea to put a big centralized government in charge of all sorts of things need to remember that it is just as likely that a George W. Bush will be running that government as it is that a Barack Obama or a Bernie Sanders will be in charge. They might love a Bernie Sanders, but when was he ever running the show? More likely a Dubya will be in charge, and do they really want to risk putting their lives and fortunes into the hands of a Dubya? Isn't it better and safer and freer not to give government all that power in the first place?

“Power to the People,” is what I say. But “Power to the People” is contrary to a system in which a few hundred political elites in Washington oversee the details of the lives of the other 300 million people. It is important to have a diversity of political environments in this big land, so that the lefties can have places like Berkeley CA (and California generally), where they can go to live and run things and try out their pet theories, and the righties can have places like Tomball TX (and Texas in general), where they can live and be happy and test out their favorite political theories. Personally, I would not be happy living long in either Berkeley or Tomball, but I’m glad they both exist. Imagine how bad things would become if every place were run like Berkeley or every place were run like Tomball. Without the Berkeleyites to keep them in line, the Tomballers would quickly become tyrannical, and vice versa. (But I can't resist pointing out that while California, with all its natural advantages but with its bloated public sector, sinks down the tubes, Texas is hanging in there quite nicely, with 37% of all new jobs now being created in our great state.)

Political diversity is a great virtue. Our founders understood that to create political diversity you have to allow lots of power at the local level so all different kinds of communities can develop, where different views can grow and flourish, as opposed to having a totally uniform system run from the top down by a handful of arrogant elites in an over-spending self-seeking federal government. (If I weren’t so opposed to federal mandates, I might say that every citezen should be required to purchase and to read the Federalist Papers as a precondition to receiving the franchise.)

Aristotle wrote that to be a true citizen, and to be truly free, a person must both “rule and be ruled, in turn.” This means we must all take turns being in charge and letting others be in charge. To know how to rule, we have to know how to be ruled, and to know how to be ruled, we also have to know how to rule. But if most power is concentrated into the federal government, very few of us will get to participate in the ruling, and instead the vast vast majority of us would simply be ruled by those 600 elites in Washington DC.

To give everyone a fair opportunity to participate in a meaningful way in ruling and being ruled, it is necessary as a matter of numbers that the political system allow most power to be exercised at the local level where there are more offices to be filled. And this local power must not merely be that of administrative functionaires of a federal system; for the local power to be meaningful, it must be decision-making power. That is just one more of the many reasons why the federal government should involve itself to decide only those things that cannot be addressed locally. That's what the Framers wanted, a federal government limited to exercising only the necessary national powers expressly granted to it in the Constitution.

It's never been revealed publicly before, but The Astonishing FartMan is actually my True Indian Name. As a Certifried Class A Minority (viz. rare and indigenous), a Native American, whose people have been devastated, first by federal violence, and then even more by federal do-gooderism, I want to tell all the limo liberals out there that perhaps the best thing they can do now for poor dumbass Injuns like me is not to assume that we is too stupid and pathetic to take care of ourselves, but just to leave us alone to make our own way, as they will find we are capable of doing, just as we did for numberless hundreds of years before their arrival on our shores--if they will not tax us into poverty or destroy our dignity and self-respect by teaching us to depend on government handouts generation after generation after generation. Yes, it makes rich liberals feel all warm and fuzzy to think that they are helping us poor dumb barefoot outhouse redskins, but please, they can help me more by just leaving me alone.

A satirical website, titled "Stuff White People Like," is the second funniest website on the internet (the one you're now reading being the first funniest), but its list of Stuff White People Like is missing an one obvious entry:

Indigenous Peoples

Yes, white people do seem to love us indigenous peoples, us noble savages, who they seem to think have, or damn well oughta have, some kind of mystical connection with the earth, nature, the land, streams, plants, animals (especially wolves and bears), birds (especially hawks and eagles), rocks, crystals, whatever. (If you'll meet me at McDonalds and treat me to a cup of coffee and a sausage biscuit with egg, we can chat about my Ingenious Indigenous Powers until your heart is content, or until the coffee makes me have to go sit on the john, whichever occurs first.) I do wish white people loved indigenous people a little less, because they have almost loved all of us to death.

I try to tell my Injun brothers, "the White Man and the Black Man ain't ever gonna give you enough to let you live as well as they do; they're gonna give you only enough to keep you right where you are--so why don't you let the White Man and the Black Man keep their money, and instead go out and earn some of your own!" Forgive me if you think it's racist to say it, but we dumb Injuns is the smartist and most cleverist race of human beans the Great Spirit ever set down on His earth (myself being an excellent example), if we can just keep ourselves sober and off the dole long enough to realize it.

Yes, liberality is a beautiful private virtue, practiced using one's own money, but it is a dangerous political virtue, which, praticed using the money of others, ends up hurting even its putative beneficiaries, as Nicollo Machiavelli presciently pointed out hundreds of years before the actual invention of the limousine: It's just too easy for them limo liberals like the Obamas to be liberal with other people's money and then to take credit for being so concerned and caring for the less fortunate. So when Barry and Michelle, in what would be a fine display of the private virtue of liberality, have given away so much of their own millions and so much of their own property that they are reduced to living on money and property equal to mine, then we can talk about whether my taxes need to be raised. Until then, they should either put up or shut up. The least the Big O could do would be to toss a few bucks his brother's way. The limo liberals will not be happy until they have transformed most of us into "less fortunates" from whose dependence they derive the smug, condescending, superior, self-satisfaction of their political liberality.

So you see, I am a political junkie with some strong opinions.

Tomorrow I’m scheduled to talk with a local school board member, Anna Eastman, who is wanting me to support her—again—in her upcoming election. You might have noticed that I'm no fan of Obama, but this Anna Eastman, whom I supported in the last local election cycle, was an Obama precinct chair in 2008. Even though she was, and probably still is, an Obama-momma, I was very happy to support her in her first run for the school board because she understood that parental involvement in a child’s education is the key to educational success, and her platform emphasized encouraging parental involvement. Some Astonishing Family Facts: My grandfather, a swampland Indian, ploughed his boggy fields behind a mule all his life and signed his name with an X; my grandmother probably never spent one day in a school room, but somehow learned to read and write, just barely; her son, my father, graduated college; I graduated from a law school around the corner, as did two of my sibs; my own daughter, who went to Yale, is rumored to have been a Bonesman there, as were John Kerry, both the Bush presidents, and whothehellknowswhoelse. Although all us Astonishing Ones have deep down roots in the dumbass interbred swamp Injun tree, we all paid attention to our kids' educations.

How can anyone not love such a country?!?!? And, yes, I am bragging.

(It is one my favorite theories that, in a properly functioning American polity, locally run schools are the best “school” for the grown up citizens to learn how to involve themselves fruitfully in local politics.)

Well, Gl____, forgive me for the long political digression. Perhaps it might have served at least as a little distraction from the “you know what” that is running roughshod through our lives.

On another subject you mentioned: With what you and G___ are going through right now, I can definitely understand why ZoomberGirl makes you angry. Nonetheless, I do still think she's a good kid. (Am I allowed to call a woman in her late twenties a kid? She’s ten years younger than my own child!) But I think ZoomberGirl is in danger of trapping herself, her real self, alone behind an emotional wall if she feels that she has to keep up the cold fakery of the Rah Rah Cancer Fighting Cheerleader persona. Her recent post titled “Keeping Positive,” for all its rah-rah-rah, fight-fight-fight “positivity” seems to this grumpy old fart to be just terribly sad, especially at the end, when she writes, “I am fighting my cancer battle with the unshakeable certainty that everything is going to work out exactly how I want it to.” Dear Child, When and where on this earth in this life did anything ever work out exactly as anyone wanted it to?

Yes, it is right to see the good in life, to have hope, and to try to stay strong for the struggle. It is good not to mope around too much and make everybody else feel miserable all the time. But ZoomberGirl takes it too far with her noble wish to please everyone else by wearing a Smiley Face mask all the time. It’s a perfectly fine mask to present to certain healthy people who really don’t want to be bummed out by another sad cancer story "thrown up in their face." But someone among those who love ZoomberGirl, and there are obviously many who do love her, should try to let her know gently that it’s okay to admit, and to let those who love her see, her normal healthy human weaknesses, fears, and vulnerabilities.

Really, I can’t image that many people with cancer, especially those with a crappy prognosis or those who know they are reaching the end of the their days here on earth, would find inspiration or solace in what ZoomberGirl writes. What exactly does ZoomberGirl have to say to the 70+% of Stage IV colon cancer patients who will die of their disease within five years of their diagnosis? "Too bad for you; unlike modest little ol' ZoomberGirl, I guess you just weren't positive enough, and that's your own silly fault." But notwithstanding the brutality of her implicit message, ZoomberGirl is a good person, a very noble soul, a person who wants to please the whole world, even if that requires persistent self-negating self-denial. I do think that eventually she’ll find her way to a more self-acknowledging, true-to-herself way of going about things. Poor ZoomberGirl. I think she’s spent her whole life pleasing others and ignoring her own true self. (Caveat: This armchair internet psychologizing and philosophizing about self-denial and being true-to-oneself comes from an inveterately grumpy guy who has recently contrived himself an alter ego super hero whom he calls The Astonishing FartMan.)

Please give G____ a good long hug for me.

Sending love, hope, and prayers,


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Hepatic Sub-Capsular Fluid Collection (AKA "Cappy")

From: T. A. FartMan
Sent: Wednesday, June 08, 2011 7:58 AM
To: D______
Subject: Re: Advice About Large Format Printout


Thanks for the info on companies that do large format printing. I’ll check out A&E Graphics, and the other printing places you've recommended.

I’m doing okay—not great, but definitely okay. (Thanks for asking!) The fluid that our post-chemo CT Scan showed around our liver is officially known as a “hepatic sub-capsular fluid collection,” and inhabits the space inside the “capsule” that encases the liver. Such fluid build-ups are not uncommon after surgery, so we're told, but one would have expected it to have reabsorbed by now since we’re almost 5 months post-surgery.

Anyway, since this softball-sized water balloon seems to plan to stick around, I've given it a name, “Cappy,” (short for “sub-capsular”). And now there’s a "rumor" going around that somebody named Cappy will soon be joining our Cancer Super Hero Team in the role of my sidekick (a la Batman’s Robin).

Just between you and me, the rumor is true.

Although the details are still being finalized, it seemed both a logical and a poetical imperative to invite Cappy to serve as my "sidekick," since Cappy does feel a lot like a "kick in the side." (Actually, more like a swift kick in the diaphragm, but that’s close enough for government work.)

In a blog post linked here and excerpted below, my alter ego, W____ (who is sometimes mistaken for me), gets a little pissy that I am going behind his back to hire a sidekick. Well, I plead guilty. Although "behind his back" is territory no sane person voluntarily would choose to enter, in this instance I could not avoid it because W___ has jealously squelched all my previous efforts to expand our operational capacity. It's inefficient, not to mention embarrassing, that I, the Founder, CEO, and Public Face of TAF Enterprises, should have to attend to minute details, such as hiring a graphics outfit to do up our convention posters.

Anyway, here's the excerpt from W____'s latest whine-fest, which you might find entertaining:
Speaking of twisted nonsense, there had been a worrisome rumor floating around that TAF Enterprises has been in negotiations with someone to come on board as The Astonishing FartMan's sidekick.

When I confronted FartMan about the rumor, he said that since Batman's got Robin, he thinks he probably needs a sidekick, too. He says that I shouldn't worry about being replaced because a new sidekick position and my alter ego position would be two entirely different functions. He says that having a sidekick around might take some pressure off me. (But I wanna know, if the alter ego function and the sidekick function would be entirely different, how will a sidekick take pressure off me, other than by taking over part or all of my job?!?!?)

It sounds to me like it's practically a done deal already. (For the record: Neither have I approved, nor have I been consulted about the pending arrangement.)

I'm wondering, even if this sidekick isn't actually replacing me, won't the sidekick want to have his own alter ego secret identity, too? So now we're gonna have two alter egos around here competing for face time?

Fine, except I hope T.A. doesn't expect his new sidekick to live with me. Yes, I know the
various different cute boys who pulled time as Robin usually lived with Batman's alter ego, Bruce Wayne. But Bruce Wayne was what used to be called an "old bachelor" (a genteel euphemism that served the purpose just fine before some Einstein came up with "gay," an early modernism already, and none-too-soon, destined for the historical ashbin along with "colored," "crippled," "retarded," "pro-choice," etc.). Unlike Wayne, who seemed to enjoy having a sidekick mincing around his house in skimpy green briefs and “to-die-for” matching slippers, I'm a married man and there's no 5FUing way my wife's gonna put up with some half-civilized adolescent male of unsettled and dubious predilections stinking up our guest room.

Rumor is the sidekick will be known as "Cappy." I checked, and sure enough, TAF Enterprises has filed the name "Cappy" with the
Super Hero Registry. What the 5FU kind of a Super Hero name is Cappy? Maybe it was a typo, and the sidekick's name is supposed to be "Crappy." That would make a lot more sense, doncha think?


Pretty pathetic stuff, huh?

So anyway, thanks, D____, for your help with finding a good printer. And, if I could ask one more big favor: You've known W____ a lot longer than I have, so if you would help chill him out about the Cappy deal, I would be eternally grateful.

Take him to dinner at Lucio's (my treat!), get him buzzed on one of those wet-doggy-smelling Rhone wines he loves so much, and then reassure him that I told you that he is and always will be a key component of the winning TAF Enterprises business model. That should do the trick!

Meanwhile I remain . . .

Your Friend and Loyal Super Hero,
T.A. FartMan

Friday, June 3, 2011

It Just Kinda Happens

From: W_______
Sent: Friday, June 03, 2011 7:22 PM
To: V_______
Subject: A Child at Play

Dear V_______,

As I had begun to suppose might happen, I did rework my last email to you into a new blog post.

The blog version, pressed into the service of fiction, is quite a bit different from what I sent you this morning. It’s titled “A Child Lost in Play: Ubiquitous Ridiculousness Amidst Priceless Inapposite Beauty.” Yes, the title is long, and pompously ponderous, or ponderously pompous (whichever you prefer), but I like to use titles to "connect the dots." The big takeaway is,

"If you're laughing, you're living."

Anyway, you can read it by clicking here.

I hope you know that I never write an email with a predetermined intention to work it up into a blog post. It just kinda happens. You should also know that what I send you is heartfelt truth, but what ends up on the blog is twisted fictional nonsense, meant to serve purely as entertainment to distract from or ameliorate the cancer crap you and me and some other people are going through.

Speaking of twisted nonsense, there had been a worrisome rumor floating around that TAF Enterprises has been in negotiations with someone to come on board as The Astonishing FartMan's sidekick.

When I confronted FartMan about the rumor, he said that since Batman's got Robin, he thinks he probably needs a sidekick, too. He says that I shouldn't worry about being replaced because a new sidekick position and my alter ego position would be two entirely different functions. He says that having a sidekick around might take some pressure off me. (But I wanna know, if the alter ego function and the sidekick function would be entirely different, how will a sidekick take pressure off me, other than by taking over part or all of my job?!?!?)

It sounds to me like it's practically a done deal already. (For the record: Neither have I approved, nor have I been consulted about the pending arrangement.)

I'm wondering, even if this sidekick isn't actually replacing me, won't the sidekick want to have his own alter ego secret identity, too? So now we're gonna have two alter egos around here competing for face time?

Fine, except I hope T.A. doesn't expect his new sidekick to live with me. Yes, I know the various different cute boys who pulled time as Robin usually lived with Batman's alter ego, Bruce Wayne. But Bruce Wayne was what used to be called an "old bachelor" (a genteel euphemism that served the purpose just fine before some Einstein came up with "gay," an early modernism already, and none-too-soon, destined for the historical ashbin along with "colored," "crippled," "retarded," "pro-choice," etc.). Unlike Wayne, who seemed to enjoy having a sidekick mincing around his house in skimpy green briefs and "to-die-for" matching slippers, I'm a married man, and there's no 5FUing way my wife's gonna put up with a half-civilized adolescent male of unsettled predilections stinking up our guest room.

Rumor is the sidekick will be known as "Cappy." I checked, and sure enough, TAF Enterprises has filed the name "Cappy" with the Super Hero Registry. What the 5FU kind of a Super Hero name is Cappy? Maybe it was a typo, and the sidekick's name is supposed to be "Crappy." That would make a lot more sense, doncha think?

Sending love, hope, and prayers,

A Child Lost in Play:
Ubiquitous Ridiculousness
Amidst Priceless Inapposite Beauty

Dear Readers,

Here's another maudlin schmaltzy pseudo-philosophical email W___  wrote, presumably to another one of his bald ladies.

The guy is incorrigible, but I guess the ladies, especially the bald ones, go all fluttery for this gooey stuff. If I could say his lines with a straight face, I could change my name to The Astonishing ShagMan.

Read it and weep!

T. A. FartMan

From: W________
Sent: Friday, June 03, 2011 9:14 AM
To: V_______
Subject: Re: CEA testing

Dear V_____,

It is so very good to hear from you. But you shouldn’t ever be sorry about not writing. I know how much energy it can take sometimes, psychological energy, just to write an email. Sometimes, we’re just not up to it. So write only whenever you feel like it. And when you do write, if you write only the words, “Don’t feel like writing much right now,” that will always be sufficient.

You poor thing! You deserve to throw yourself a pity party, but you have to remember to invite me, too. You have been through so much, have suffered so much, it breaks my heart! Sometimes a pity party is what’s needed. Speaking of pity, and the lack thereof, one thing that bothers me most is when healthy people try to paint a happy face on me while I’m in the middle of suffering my butt off, and when, because of that suffering, I cannot forget for more than a few minutes that my situation is pretty bleak and seems like it will probably just get worse.

The only thing is, don’t let yourself go too deep down into the pity pool. Don’t jump into the deep end of the pity pool unless you know you are a good swimmer or are wearing some kind of floatation device. I have some cute blow-up floatation devices I make use of to keep myself from sinking to the bottom of the pity pool. Maybe you should get some for yourself. Let me know, and I will tell you all about mine.

Yes, it is kinda strange being off chemo. With all its “routines,” chemo felt almost like having a steady albeit crappy job, especially since my work has been so slow this year. And I’ve met some “regulars” there at the infusion clinic with whom I have become friends. So last Monday, one of the "every other Mondays" when I would have gotten dosed if I were still on chemo, I took a sort of busman’s holiday and went up to the clinic to see some of my new pals. (Now that is sick, doncha think, me going up to the infusion clinic just for "fun"?!?!) So, yes, I know what you mean about feeling a little lost without the biweekly poisoning routine.

As much fun as it is to hang out with all my new buds at the confusion center, ooops, I mean the infusion center, on balance I do prefer NOT getting the chemo.

Honestly, besides not missing chemo, I don’t particularly miss working either. Without the work routine, my life has become a lot less structured, and it will probably be difficult for me to readjust when work heats back up. But, you know, I am finding that I can get along perfectly well without the structure of regular work. I piddle around the house, piddle in my garden, go for bike rides when I have the energy, spend more time with friends, read this, that, and the other thing, and pretty much do whatever I want whenever I want. 
I like it.
Even when I’m not working, on days when I’m feeling well I am as productive as I’ve ever been, but just in different ways. So I’m starting to think that, unless you do work that you love or love the social interaction with the people you work with, the benefits of the normalcy of regular work are way overblown, at least for someone like me, who feels content and productive with a good book in hand.

I do understand that, because we all do define ourselves at least partly by our work (and I'm not saying that's wrong), going to work regularly can help us feel more secure in our sense of who we are. And the social interactions at work are valuable, especially since in this modern world, non-work social interactions are sometimes not frequent enough to satisfy the human need for the annoying company of our fellow human beings.

On the other hand, we are who we are, whether we are "currently working" or not working. And not working, being a man or woman of leisure for a while, gives us time and frees us to learn more about ourselves and the world. One of the things I admire most about the ancient Greeks--unlike life in this modern democratized egalitarian world that teaches us to despise the idle rich--is that the Greeks were not ashamed not to work.  They considered themselves perfectly respectable, and  also well-blessed, if they had enough wealth to permit themselves not to work, and instead were free to spend their time doing "other good things," which would include leisurely socializing with friends, contemplating life's beauties, and pursuing knowledge of the themselves and their world.

So maybe you are pushing yourself too much in trying to keep working. You are right to think about what you would be giving up and what you would be gaining if you stop work and went on LTD for a while. Maybe it's time for you to taste some of the sweet life of the happily unemployed. Maybe not.

Speaking of being happily unemployed, my dear wife is getting nervous about the household finances since I’ve not been working much lately. Myself, I’m not worried. We’ve got a cash stash to get by a long time without me having an income, and work will heat back up soon enough. If S____ is that nervous about it, instead of sleeping until 10:30 every day, and sitting in her PJs drinking latte until noon, she can always go out and get herself a real job. (That’s what I would tell her, if I weren’t such a big wussy.) You see, my wife is a “teaching artist” for one of our local museums, and works only about five or ten hours a week doing art workshops with little kids and similar things. Yes, S___ is such a princess, of noble French extraction;  I definitely married above myself, being extracted from outhouse-poor, shoeless-dumb, inbred-stubby Indians whose progenitors for the last hundreds of years lived as isolated, uncivilized, plumbingless beasts in the swamps of North Carolina.

I do love my wife more than my own life, but I’ve spoiled her too much in some ways, and I do worry how she’ll get along if I’m not around. That worry is probably only a manifestation of my distorted and egotistical sense of self-importance: Once I’m gone, she’ll probably live comfortably on the life-insurance; marry Studley (the pool maintenance guy who never wears closed shoes and owns no shirts with sleeves); move to Tuscany; acquire a retinue of young Italian lovers; make them all crazy jealous of each other; and finally, uncaptured, escape this world peacefully in her sleep at 95.
As long as the annuity check arrives on time, S____ probably won’t miss my sorry self all that much or all that often. And something like that is exactly as it should be, exactly as I would want it to be.

To change the subject a little to respond to your remark that, unlike me, you like it when people tell you that you look good: I don’t really hate people telling me I look good, because I, too, am a little vain about my looks. (Not that I’m good-looking, but being ugly as a hairy wart never stopped anyone from being vain.) I was just extracting the comic potential from the "you really look good" phenomenon, trying to get some "sick" humor out of it by making healthy people feel uncomfortable about their all-too-predictable conversation, the discomfiting of which is one of my favorite forms of entertainment these days.

Yet sometimes I do think some people tell me I look good, not so much to make me feel better, but so they can avoid thinking about how totally messed up I am with this cancer. And that’s okay, they can fake it all they want, as long as they don’t expect me to join them in faking it. For me, the bad stuff in life, whatever it is, is easier to deal with once I acknowledge the reality. So I do resist when people try to patronize me into joining them for a quick ride in the HappyMobile to HappyLand Amusement Park, a facility that never existed and closed down permanently right about the time I got cancer.

I am so very, very thrilled that you enjoyed my Lucinda story. (If you're interested, T. A. and I have posted some entries, such as this one, relating how went our mini-reunion to see her in Austin a few weeks ago. It was a blast!) Not just anyone can tolerate, or even make it through, this convoluted, blown up, runaway prose, which is another indication that I do seem to enjoy making things difficult for people. I’ve developed an attitude that says, “Hey, I’m something special, good, and unusual, so if you want to learn to enjoy just how special I am, you are going to have to be willing to make an effort to discover the real me, bat crap crazy bastard that I am, because I am not an easy lay.”

Of course, that’s the kind of off-putting attitude that could end up with me being all alone in some bleak, ammonia-addled, crap-slathered convalescent home in a crumbling, treeless, red-lined neighborhood. But even if that happens, I’ve got the internal resources to deal with that, too, ‘cause I am one tough bastard. Lots of good people end up alone. Lots of assholes end up with many "friends." Some major assholes go through life with an entourage of butt-sucking admirers. In a world where sweet darling innocent three-year old babies get cancer, like the ones my wife works with at Texas Children's Hospital, I can’t expect life to be fair to me about such things. But I won’t let that fact stop me from loving myself, loving life, and loving others.

It is so very heartening to have you tell me I should start a blog, especially since I actually have started a blog. It’s a fictional blog, based very loosely on my reality, with the appropriately (for me) off-putting title, “The Absurd Epistolary Adventures of The Astonishing FartMan.” The blog chronicles the adventures of the Super Hero, The Astonishing FartMan, and me, his alter ego, W___, (cf. Superman and Clark Kent) as we deal with having colon cancer. (You'll notice that FartMan and W___ don’t always get along with each other.)
As both good and bad writers have done since time immemorial, I steal freely from life itself.
Thus, my epistolary blog consists mostly of old emails that I have reworked and posted here as back-dated entries. This blog was started only a few days ago, but has back-dated entries as early as August, 2010, when An Ambulance Came to My House and my cancer saga began. (What a lazy man's way to fill up a blog!) I post only my own reworked emails, and very rarely use emails received from others, and then strictly for documentary purposes, because it really would be stealing if emails from others were appropriated for any intrinsic literary value. So if you want me to reproduce one of your emails on this blog, you'll have to send me a message passably stupid, that also conveys nothing mistakable as genuine human feeling.  Of such communications, important emails from doctors are perhaps the only reliable examples.
And because the blog, although a fictionalization, is based loosely on my reality, I’m writing it anonymously. All real names are changed or obscured to protect the purely innocent, the purely guilty, and the purely human. For example, the woman who blogs at the W____Girl Blog, appears in my blog as “ZoomberGirl.” In my comments on her blog, (about which more to follow in my next paragraph), I used to call her “V_____Gal,” so the name “W____Girl” I changed to “V_____Gal,” and then to “ZoomberGirl.”

While we're on the subject, a further digression about ZoomberGirl:
Before I started my own blog, I used to post--or rather I should say more accurately, my alter ego, T. A. FartMan, used to post--long ridiculous obnoxious satirical comments on ZoomberGirl's blog. He was what might be called a blog-squatter on her blog. But one day ZoomberGirl deleted our best comments because she said they were “distracting.” Fair enough. The truth is, if she were paying attention, I don’t think ZoomberGirl would immediately appreciate the treatment she gets in my blog, such as at the end of this post, in which I had gently remonstrated about her relentless, fakey, real-life-avoiding, rah, rah, “positivity.”

Although ZoomberGirl knows the T. A. FartMan blog exists, I don’t think she will ever read it carefully enough to feel insulted. The truth is, our reason for posting comments on her blog was to try, gently and with silly humor, to show her the possibility that, even as tough as cancer is to deal with, living in reality instead of living in rah-rah land can open up possibilities for deeper and more meaningful relationships with those we love.

By bitching endlessly, but humorously, in comments on her blog, our hope was to show ZoomberGirl that she doesn't always have to maintain that facade of the Happy Cancer Warrior, to show ZoomberGirl that sometimes moaning and crying hot tears inconsolably in your momma's arms (if you are lucky enough still to have a momma) is a perfectly good and reasonable alternative to the cool hardness of keeping a stiff upper lip. People don't usually like to kiss stiff upper lips; they usually prefer the softer ones. So keeping a stiff upper lip can sometimes be a strategy to avoid risking getting slathered with all the messy tear-snot that comes with letting your emotional guard down. You don't have to be a Cancer Super Hero. Instead you can let the super egos and alter ids like T. A. FartMan play that absurdly costumed role, while you get to sit back and just be human.

Of course, living in reality, whatever the heck that is, can also be a risky messy screwed up business, so I suppose me and FartMan's do-gooder efforts were blamably presumptuous. What the hell do T. A. and I know about ZoomberGirl's reality anyway? What the hell do I know about my own reality, living as I do as the alter ego of a comic book character who wears a cape and tights, calls himself The Astonishing FartMan, and passes gas everywhere he goes? You know, when it comes to coping emotionally with cancer, I've painted myself into the corner labeled "whatever works has to be fine with me, 'cause I'm already bat crap crazier than you are." So if ZoomberGirl does happen to read this, which seems unlikely, I hope she will forgive me and FartMan's clumsy officiousness as well-meant.
Enough about my alter id, FartMan. Enough about ZoomberGirl! Let's talk about you and me.
As do many of my friends, you yourself make some appearances in my blog, with your name disguised as V______, as in for example this post and this post.  (But there is also at least one other person identified as V____, so don’t get them confused.) I’m a little nervous about telling some of my friends and acquaintances about the blog, because they might not appreciate how "their character” comes across. I would explain to them that the blog is fictional, with snippets of real life cut out, cut apart, rearranged, and reassembled so that they can’t assume something I write about a character who looks like them is actually about them. I don’t think you have anything to worry about in that regard.
But one thing that does worry me a little about you and me is that, if you read my blog, you might pick up the obvious clues that I am, in actual real life, what most people on the left side of the political spectrum would call "a right wing kook,” and you might decide on that basis to dismiss me as an uncaring evil Repuglican. (Isn't that what some liberals like to call us these days?) Funny thing is, most of my friends are lefties (I hang out in artsy fartsy social circles), and although me and my lefty friends have gotten into a few rousing political arguments over the years, the friendship trumps all, even my right-wing obnoxiousness, and the politics falls by the wayside.

But why am I presuming you might be a lefty politically? Again more presumptuousness? Demographics, I guess: NY,NY, single working woman with a “witz” in her name. If I were you, with your demographic, I’d probably be a lefty, too. So if you aren’t well to the left of Obama, I’ll eat my shorts. (Good thing I don’t wear any!) But, in this circular political universe,  I’m so far to the right that I almost end up coming back around to the liberal position on a lot of issues (illegal immigration, government spying, police brutality, individual rights, etc., being easy examples of issues on which I tend to disagree with my right wing brethren).

Enough with politics. Yes,The Absurd Epistolary Adventures has a satirical tone running through most posts, but at bottom (and I do have a large bottom), I hope the blog is funny in a way that takes some of the sting out of life with cancer, maybe distracts us from the crap we’re going through, or at least helps us laugh at the parts of this whacked out existence that are funny.

I say, “If you're laughing, you're living!”
Heaven knows there is plenty that deserves to be laughed at, not least of which is my own silly self. And speaking of Heaven, I do believe that God is The Divine Humorist, Who loves to laugh at the ubiquitous ridiculousness which He Himself has created amidst all His priceless but inapposite beauty. So living in the middle of all that priceless but inapposite beauty, it is our duty to play our comic roles with the kind of dedication that is usually observable only in the play of children. There is no one so serious as a little child happily lost in his play. Children at play take their playing and pretending so very seriously, and, learning from them, so should we, the so-called grown-ups.

Regarding the upcoming Colon Cancer Alliance Convention, much as I would love to attend, I don’t think I will be able make it to Denver for the get-together. Our only daughter, J____, is moving back here to Houston from R____ at the end of June, so I will be expected, nay, required, to be around to help with all that stuff in whatever way either of my two tyrants shall dictate. If I can sneak away to Colorado for a day or two, I would definitely like to attend the CCA confab, and will let you know if that possibility presents itself.

V______, I feel blessed, so very well-blessed, to have met you in our online group. You are an inspiration to me, and I don’t mean that in a backhanded “ZoomberGirl” way.

I should warn you that, because this email turned out so long, there’s a good chance that either T. A. FartMan or I, his alter ego, W____, will want to post it, in a revised and edited form, as an entry on the blog.

Sending Love, Hope, and Prayers,

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Crowd Control Never Goes Out of Style

From: T.A. FartMan
Sent: Wednesday, June 01, 2011 9:46 PM
To: St__________
Subject: W____ and I

Dear St_____,

As you warned me, I did run into W_____ at D____'s big Memorial Day Bar-B-Que.

And as you advised, I did take advantage of the opportunity to have a long talk with him about his role and our relationship.

Notwithstanding all his grousing about my management style and my PR strategy, the bottom line is, (surprise, surprise), W____ wants more compensation, and he wants more "recognition" of his efforts.

I do try to sympathize, but finally had to tell him straight out, "That's not the way this deal works."

As to his compensation, W____ knew from the start that his good efforts to help get this operation going would constitute his fair share of capital investment in TAF Enterprises. If this thing pays off, he'll be well taken care of. He made sure to get my promise about that, in writing. (Isn't mutual trust a beautiful thing!?!?!)

But right now, W____ needs to stop whining to me about his compensation, because times are tough all around. This hanging-by-a-thread startup pays me squat and barely covers my expenses. As an alter ego, W____ is able to keep a regular day job, but as a Board Certified Super Hero, can I be expected to schlep my Cape & Tights around StarBucks making half-caf capos for all those Birkenstocked white people? Most of my longterm projects might as well be pro bono, because eventually everybody seems to forget that I don't work for free. People just aren't paying.

If not for the occasional paid-up-front contract job, I couldn't afford to keep my skivvies and longjohns patched and dry-cleaned. Speaking of which, things were so slow last month that I had to accept a one-off gig as the "costumed entertainment" at a stupid little rich kid's ninth birthday party. You can't imagine how 5FUing humiliating it is for a Board Certified Super Hero to have to stoop to doing "pull my finger" routines for a bunch of spoiled brats.

But I do it, gladly, because I've got my eye on the big picture.

And speaking of big, we have come close to hitting it big several times. Just one example:

Last February I had a deal all lined up with Mubarak to clear Tahir Square. The buzz on The Street was that if we closed the Tahir Square deal and could turn in a halfway decent performance on that job, we could build on that success to compete for the hundreds of crowd control and mob dispersal contracts expected to be put out for bid for the upcoming Arab Spring. I had rounded up three dozen ambulatory homeless people and got them to sign releases wherein they "volunteered to be humanely dispersed" from Market Square Park. So we were all set to nail down the deal with a convincing live demo of our "airborne sub-lethal mass dispersion" solution.

Unfortunately, before we could run the demo, mealy-mouthed Hillary got the idea that it would be politically incorrect to grant any U.S.-based operators the permits and clearances they would need to render any substantial assistance to the Mubarak regime. The idiots at Foggy Bottom don't mind appeasing the mullahs; but heaven forbid letting an independent entrepreneur help out a longtime US buddy like Hosni. So before long Egypt will have Moo Slim Bros, Inc., running things, and that ain't no 5FUing Fat Free Yogurt Company! (Big mistake, HRC!)

I had told Hosni, if he would just chill for a sec, I could talk Hillary back onto the bus. But Hosni decided to try to solve his problem the old-fashioned way. I warned him that, even though the old open and direct method (batons, bullets, and blood) will do the trick in places like Syria and Iran or really any country that's not a US ally, what would still work in Tiananmen Square won't work in Tahir Square. But Hosni was too panicked to pay attention, and we all know how that turned out. (Big mistake, Hosni!)

When the Tahir Square deal collapsed, I did pick up a little side money by personally and discreetly transporting Hosni down to S-el-S. During the flight, while he was sitting on my back with his legs squeezing the crap out of my solar plexus, I was sorely tempted to "blow him off" (if you know what I mean) right there over the desert, but instead I just told him he should change his name to Hose-me Mubarak, because his impatience, nay, his untimely lack of confidence in our crowd control capabilities, had left me bent over, nailed to the Wailing Wall, with my tights tangled up around my ankles.

(To put the cherry on top of this three-turd-sundae, the Houston mayor called me again today demanding I do something about the 36 unkempt fellows still homesteading in Market Square Park. I promised her that, now that I'm off chemo, I would try to fly over there tomorrow and drop a couple of my F-bombs to clear the place out. More unpaid pro bono!)

But even though "Operation Square Deal" fell through  in Egypt, I'm still confident that we've got a winning business model. We've maintained our position as the only player in our segment that can absolutely guarantee to disperse any mob, of any size and any disposition, promptly, discreetly, and totally without bloodshed. That's big. And we have demonstrated the expertise not only to manage events in the crowd control workspace, but also to coordinate messaging about those events. When we clear out a crowd of political protesters, we simultaneously gin up the memes that the regime has "heard the legitimate demands of the people and is committed to democratic liberalization,"  and that "the people, having brought their plight to the fair leader's attention, now are returned satisfied to their happpy hearths and homes." (It will never cease to astonish me, The Astonishing One Himself, how well that BS still works.)

The main performance issue for me, and this is something I've got to work on, has been to calibrate my emissions so that the stupid protesters can run clear of my poots before they pass out. We can't have media images of people laying around unconscious, because that creates a misperception of WMD use, which undermines our careful positioning of our crowd control solution as "humane, sub-lethal, organic, biodegradable, and 100% gluten-free." (We are also the only provider certified compliant with ISO 13.040 Air Quality standards.)

Anyway, I think we are in the right business, at the right time, with the right product, because as my dear momma explained to me so many years ago:
"Even when times are tough, crowd control never goes out of style."
I went over all this with W____, and he seemed to realize that, as far as compensation is concerned, we all need to show some grown up adult patience.

However, it has not been so easy to dispose of W_____'s complaint that he doesn't get proper recognition for his efforts. He can't seem to accept the fact that the whole point of having an alter ego is to avoid recognition. (Well, duh!) It's like he wants us to book time on a digital billboard on Broadway flashing:


W___, reprising his Tony-nominated role,
The Astonishing FartMan
"The Absurd Epistolary Adventures"

I reminded him about the confidentiality agreement he signed, and carefully explained that a Super Hero must have some chill time when he can just blend in and act like a normal person. That's all I'm asking W____ to do, for him to cover for me a few days a week so I can have a little downtime relaxation and, while he's at it, maybe for him to scout us out a stray hottie every once in a while. (Strange as it seems, a lot of perfectly doable babes prefer W____'s sensitive prissy guy shtick to my manly Board Certified Super Hero wooing. I don't know what it is about me that bothers them . . . maybe it's the farts. But having spent a lot of time in D.C. lately with WJC lobbying for an export exception for our advanced gas technology, I can tell you that the females who work in the federal government don't mind my smell or WJC's, and he is one very stinky dude. It seems Washington women are used to it, and are actually attracted to men who emit gaseous BS all the time, because I guess they figure those guys are the ones most likely to float to the top of the capital toilet bowl.)

Forgive me for my parenthetical digressions, but since you are a longtime friend of ours and also TAF Enterprises' biggest investor, it's vitally important that you be fully informed about the subtleties in my key man relationship with W___, especially since I will have to be making the rounds with the VCs again soon and am counting on you to set the example for our other investors.

I'm also hoping that you might try to talk some sense into W____ about the "recognition" thing. Gently remind him that, if he goes to the media with his complaints, my lawyers will make him eat every page of our twenty-seven page confidentiality agreement, one page at a time, in front of a jury that won't be able to stop itself from falling in love with . . . .

Your Do-Gooder Super Hero,
The Astonishing FartMan