Ed Mycue

Dear Readers, if you have not clicked through already to read Ed’s comment to my Chicken Shawarma post, click here. You owe it to yourself to do so. In reading Ed’s comment you will be introduced to a fine poet, a great soul & a man old not only in years but in wisdom. I only know Ed by way of correspondence–we met when I was Poetry Editor of the Wallace Stevens Journal & Ed submitted envelopes stuffed & over-stuffed with his poetry & cover letters as poetic as the poems themselves. Here are a couple more Mycue resources–a video & selection of Ed’s poems. I continue to be astonished by the poet’s hard-edged realism expressed in the humane language of one perpetually love-struck by the world.

Shawarma Palace Chicken Shawarma Sandwich

For more than a month I have been eating bland food–that’s when I’ve felt like eating anything at all. Saltine crackers, oatmeal, peaches & cottage cheese . . . But the last couple of days my appetite has begun to return. A colleague dropped off some loaves of bread from his favorite bakery the other day & toasted it was life-restoring. Tonight, Carole was up in Ottawa with our new dog Buckle getting her first scent detection certifications. She stopped at the Shawarma Palace for dinner & brought me a plain chicken shawarma sandwich. Real Food.

It was late when she got home & I didn’t want to tempt the nausea gods out of hiding, so I only ate a couple of bites. It is difficult for me to describe how good those bites of sandwich tasted. Singer Warren Zevon, then dying of cancer, in his last TV appearance with David Letterman, advised viewers to “enjoy every sandwich.” It’s a cliché, of course, a tossed off piece of carpe diem perfectly suited to Zevon’s persona; but at the same time–& I tell you this now from personal experience–it is achingly true. I’m looking forward to eating my chicken shawarma sandwich for breakfast. Talk about a morale boost.

Update: Eaten for breakfast.

Chemotherapy Update (A List of Eight)

  1. After all my life absorbing the cultural lore surrounding chemotherapy, I have been surprised this week–the first of four–that Sunitinib worked so quickly to restore, however incrementally, my strength & lift my fatigue.
  2. The lore says you will be sick as a dog, but as far as I can tell the nausea I was experiencing as I began chemo was a side effect of Percocet taken for pain. Since switching to mostly morphine sulfate with only occasional Percocet for pain, I haven’t had any nausea. Morphine is not quite as effective as Percocet, but the trade-off is worth messing around with the morphine to get the dosage right.
  3. My hair has not fallen out. Yet.
  4. Sunitinib comes with an extensive kit that includes a little satchel complete with fancy medication box with compartments for each day of the week, those subdivided into times of day. I may use the pill box, but want nothing to do with the satchel, what with its brand-identification implications.
  5. Sunitinib costs approximately $466 / capsule.
  6. The satchel also contains several expensively printed pamphlets intended, near as I can tell, to usher one into the arcana of the “cancer community.” I want nothing to do with that community. Such a community is a granfaloon, to borrow Kurt Vonnegut’s neologism: “A granfalloon, in the fictional religion of Bokononism (created by Kurt Vonnegut in his 1963 novel Cat’s Cradle), is defined as a “false karass.” That is, a group of people who affect a shared identity or purpose, but whose mutual association is actually meaningless.”1
  7. Flinch reaction: As my pain has receded, I still find myself flinching when making certain motions, despite the fact that the flinch itself is more painful (now) than the gesture or movement.
  8. Among all the brochures there is one sober one that explains “Sunitinib is not a cure” & that “different patients respond differently to this drug.” My oncologist had already explained this to me while making it clear that there is no cure for my cancer when it has developed past a certain point. “No cure, only management,” or, in blues language, “Doctor say it kill me, but he don’t say when.”2

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Source: Wikipedia.
  2. “Cocaine Blues.”

Feldenkrais & Gesellschaft

This piece in the NY Times reports that the latest U.S. Scripps National Spelling Bee co-champions are (again) from South Asia. Jairam Hathwar spelled “feldenkrais” & Nihar Janga spelled “gesellschaft,” arriving at a linguistic stalemate. There is no entry in the online OED for feldenkrais, but Wikipedia tells me that it is a way of training people’s movement to “increase . . . kinesthetic and proprioceptive self-awareness.” Gesellschaft shows up in the OED with this brief entry: “A social relationship between individuals based on duty to society or to an organization.”

Since reading this article a couple of hours ago I have been pondering whether it’s possible to draw any coherent implications from the fact that the two winners “are the ninth consecutive victors of South Asian ancestry, and the 12th in 16 years.” One is tempted to make invidious comparisons between the South Asian immigrant community & American nativist English-only fundamentalists. And though that particular social configuration currently packs a certain political wallop, its arguments are so incoherent they ultimately tear themselves apart.

So why this run of victories by South Asian elementary & middle-school students? My best guess would be that Indian immigrant communities (in the US & elsewhere) preserve the very deep Indian understanding of language. Combine that with the aspirational immigrant respect for education & one can begin to see how this run of South Asian spelling bee victories might happen. The claim about Indian cultural understanding of language would need to be further developed & I’m not expert enough to do that in an adequate way. I would simply note that there is a 4000 year textual tradition that begins with the Vedas. For the first half of that period the “texts” were oral, but there was a highly developed form of “oral literacy” among the priestly class that included an elaborate technology of memorization & error checking. Early Buddhists, faced with preserving the discourses of Gotama, adopted & adapted this set of values & skills for their own purposes.

I assume that the boys’ parents are immigrants who grew up bilingual in English & an Indian language & that the boys have grown up speaking American English. I hope they are also speaking the Indian language(s) of their parents–from the boys’ first names probably Hindi. India is an example of bilingualism / multilingualism on steroids. No doubt the boys’ families created an educational / study environment based on these values. The parents themselves would very likely be prepared to draw on their own traditions to help their children prepare. And this would be true of a certain percentage of similar immigrant parents, thus the long string of victories.1

These two particular words raise a question about how children study for the highest level of spelling bee competition. I assume they simply memorize long lists of common & even not so common words, but at some point this method will reach a point of diminishing returns. At that point competitors will need to shift to phonetics, including the phonetics of words of non-English origin. Feldenkrais is a Ukrainian / Yiddish (?) surname; gesellschaft is borrowed from German. I doubt these were on the boys’ To Memorize list.


Show 1 footnote

  1. I make no claim as to whether such training is in some larger way good–either in general or for particular students.