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.

Friday, June 3, 2011

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,

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