Missing America

miss america 24

1924 was a good year, just look at how the roaring ’20 saved fabric…Susan B. Anthony legacy would be cemented on August 24th, 1920 with the ratification of the 19th Amendment. Why ’24 over the other years though?

  • Lenin died.
  • The first gas chamber execution. Skip O’Hare. went ahead in Las Vegas which coincided with Bob’s all you can eat chili smothered burrito night and the Edison funnel, deemed a failure after Mr. O’Hare merely vomited everywhere. Instead he electrocuted an elephant again, to fall on Mr. O’Hare. Due to a bum leg ligament, Franz, the elephant fell into the crowd, killing 7 onlookers. The sick Skip O’Hare demanded a new trial on the 7 latest victims and would live another 14.8 years.
  • Hitler is sentenced to 5 years fir his role in Beer Hall Putsch, serving only 5 months.
  • J.Edgar Hoover becomes head of FBI.
  • George Mallory slowly became a human Popsicle, sadly before Sal. the shaved ice guy from Philly could douse him in cherry syrup.
  • Native Americans are granted US citizenship if born within the USA….not a joke.
  • My favorite: Toastmasters is founded.
  • First Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade is held.
  • Dec 30th, Canada craps out a hockey team, and calls it the Boston Bruins.

What does any of this have to do with Miss America 1924? Ruth Malcomson  was from Philadelphia…and she WON! Modern miracles do happen.

Miss America 1924 - Ruth Malcomson (2)

Miracles happen. I need one but fact of the matter is God went above and beyond in my case of them.

those knees tho

Between miracles though we have these bookends, the above: Those bare knees. Hearts race, the quicken pulses producing a faint dew of perspiration of men everywhere within eye contact of this vixen from 1921 and below:

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Sacajawea’s cousin Sits on Hay (©1931) finishes a disappointing 43rd. One judge commented her outfits were nothing but “harlot” quality all night long.

She faded off into obscurity, and that was alright for her.

A friend told me something the other day that made it easier- “you hsve a legacy, on these blogs, and the memoirs. Michael, they are incredible, their word, your experiences, those things have helped people get through things. That God saved your junkie ass alive along enough to finish is many things, a miracle for you, a blessing for us.”

People tell you something like that and it’s impossible to not be amazed, to be humbled and honored. I did it right this time around, and while the cancer thing certainly qualifies as in need of a miracle for healing, my heart has rejuvenated, and my soul fully mended. For those gifts, what can I even say? The goodness inside of me, that chunk o’ God inside us all- grace allowed me to sweep the wreckage away from it, while I mended a lot of it, I needed a friend here to rehabilitate my ego, another to resuscitate my connection with Him, while others alleviated the pain I created.

The miracle has so many facets, so many players involved, and seemingly from all of the randomness comes an order. How else do you explain any of my beautiful life, a life I endeavor to keep being thankful with each new day. One more chance to give back. For all of you who took the time to read this, thank you- there’s one miracle in itself, you made it through the whole thing.

PEACE and Love,
-MFJ

A Beautifully Chaotic Life

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I’ve lived a beautiful life, and even though I know my countdown has begun earlier than most people, I am ok with it- the majority of the time. Fact is the kid who had a blasé outlook for so long is absolutely loving life. However, on the way home from the Tool concert, I lost it talking to my buddy.

He saw a side of me few do-the raw, unpolished, unprepared guy whose truest emotions rest at the bottom of God’s murky filled cauldron of mystery stew. My batch is good on salt big guy. Every once in a while though the angel stirring the pot is out smoking or on a more important call-lord knows there is enough tragedy and pain on this planet, it’s a wonder dinner is ever served. Point is, that calm, collected demeanor sticks to the bottom sometimes and I scream out unrehearsed material -which goes like this – “I don’t want to fucking die yet. It’s too early!”

Obviously I am still here, but I felt human the other night at Tool. Maybe diseased  or a cancer-ridden  human is more accurate. The metastasized bone cancer areas made their presence known on a couple hour drive. My last vertebrae is affected, as well as areas in my pelvis, meaning sitting hurt. Talk about something we take for granted. “I don’t want to fucking die, and I don’t want to feel so much pain just fucking sitting.” I don’t get both right now, so the living part will be the better play. Tomorrow when I meet with my hospice nurse, my pain meds may go up again. 300mg of extended-release morphine twice a day and 20mg of immediate release hourly if needed put most of my body at peace, but now there’s this, so 400mg, here we come probably.

I had someone tell me how lucky I am to be getting so many opiates. I won’t be speaking to that cretin anymore. “Yeah, I’m blessed- Look at that, I have some leftover chondrosarcoma, lung and bone cancer there’s plenty to spare. Lucky for you my mom raised me to share.” Speaking of lung cancer, 4 flights of stairs at the parking garage and I could barely breathe to curse the cheap bastards for saving  a dime on no elevators. I needed oxygen, desperately. I’ve never felt that before unless someone knocks the wind out of me. It’s a race of ironies, because  needed it as fast as possible, yet had to pace myself between a narcoleptic snail and a Xanax addicted 3-toed sloth.

By far the worst thing though was the other 5 people I was with-they wanted to do something. As I sat breathing in my oxygen, I began to sob. I just can’t keep up with regular people-I’m sick. I’m slowly dying.

I told one of them about it, and through his Russian accent, I remember him telling me that it was cool, not to worry about it. I was there wasn’t I? Isn’t that the important thing? I was fucking there, and that is a beautiful thing. I turn 43 Wednesday. Pearl Jam plays here on April 8th. It would be the 25th show I’ve seen them, and plan on seeing them.

My life has been a wonderful experience. I’ve truly lived it, through all the pain and bs, nothing has stopped me. I saw Game 1 of the 1992 Stanley Cup Finals. I’ve been halfway around the world, countless countries and historical monuments, like Ankgor Wat in Cambodia, Mayan ruins in Tulum, Stanley Cup and a Steeler  victory parades. On and on with the sights, but then there’s the people through all of it. From Mario Lemieux Christmas shopping at Kaufman’s. As a boy, Jimmy “Superfly” (sadly a Murderer) Snuka, to my guys on the railroad tracks, having their deep philosophical conversations on everything from politics to what dog looks strong in the 8th race at the kennel club. The amount of awesome in my life is just humbling.

I got this text last night and cried like a baby who had his Twinkies stolen. Do babies eat Twinkies? Not important.

You’re the man. I appreciate your strength more than you know. It was a good time. I’ll be back sometime this week.

Funny thing, he taught me how to be that man.

Peace & Love-
MFJ

Cancer Diaries: What is That Creeping Behind Me?

taROT

Angels represent refined earthly wants and desires, and that allows writers to slap “pure” in front of just about any word to heighten its sense of value and universality.

Truths…those absolutes that play out the same way, over and over in life.  Not everyone is going to pay taxes, so that cuts the cliche down to 50%, and really, Michael Jackson is still alive in so many of our hearts, music turned into data or perilously preserved in vinyl grooves, so is even death a certainty?

Legacies…memories with the brain’s Play button pressed in someone’s head, somewhere, right this minute. Since I just wrote it, I’m thinking about seeing him a few nights ago, on a Motown tribute concert, singing Billie Jean, all those sequins refracting light, the one glove, and of course, those dance moves. Because you just wrote it, you’re thinking about him right now too, but maybe you don’t like his music, maybe you think him having Mr. Bubbles the chimp for a pet was inhumane, but MJ left many marks.

MJ…I hear it, I think Michael Jordan. Just my most popular internal search result. The man was the flat out the best to ever play the game. His competitive spirit the thing that should be envied, from playing baseball and gambling, to out-dunking Dominique back when the NBA mattered.

Add up those first 4 paragraphs, you obviously reach the sum of MFJ, the author of this blog, me, physically being consumed by cancer, an unknown quantity of numbered days remaining, who values the one sole truth of love being the answer, and wanting to leave that mark on someone in this world.

I mean clearly, that’s the inside picture from my exact thought process- as one word suggests the next in sequence, albeit my order. A progression where I am denying a very important certainty, we all die. The difference is- I know my time is just about up. Doctors tell me this and the searing pain in my chest remind me there just might be some veracity in their claims, proving they are indeed fortune tellers. Tomorrow there might be a radical discovery curing all malignancies, because a team of doctors have been in the Amazon (which, in this rare case, is NOT a vast place of consumerism, where you can buy Shoestring Theories), find that the feces from a rare moth larvae pulls the plug on this unchecked cellular aggression. That or God is sick of my fucking ‘Cancer Diaries’ blogs.

Bingo Michael.  Enough is enough. I mean, I have given you the PERFECT opening to reignite the halcyon days of Tinderfish, OurTinderTime.com, – that collection comedic genius- that was pure (<- see what I did there?) sophomoric humor at its most sublime. So, you’re going to wrap this blog up, and go edit your Tinder profile:

Ladies, I respect your honesty: that you are not on an app that brings people together based on solely on attraction to fuck and have one-night stands. That somewhere in those right swipes, love blooms. I really want that too, but I have terminal cancer. Do you think we might be able to wave that rule you have  though, because I’m dying – and I know Vanessa Williams is on the money, because I want to Save the Best for Last too.

Enough God, I will not stoop to that level or shut up about my illness. I mean, you’re the one who writes this story line, so at least let me fill in the some of the blanks. That people in similar situations can share exactly how some of this feels, that type of sharing is vital.

I’ve become obsessed with my phlegm. Is that a fleck of red in there? Is that some of my once healthy lung? What exactly is happening on my insides and more importantly, this- you gave me so many shots at dying before- is a shitty way to take me out. I mean it-why did you waste all the time from even my last overdose in 2014 to now. It could have just ended then. My guardian angels would have gotten some extra time off, or re-assigned to someone who had enough to offer he wasn’t just killed off 2 years later.

I am angry. I am sad. Both because I am scared.

I shouldn’t be mad, I should be celebrating life. But I’m in my own panic.

I’m sick of this.

I can’t fall asleep because I might not wake up.

And well, I have more shit to accomplish.

deathcard

I’m invested in Star Wars– I have to make it to 8 & 9. Give me that. A legacy. That humor deflects, it never changes the truth. The greatest truth in life- love, for my fellow human being- that is pure. That is joy, to help another human being, to unknowingly pull someone back from the edge so that one day, their faith outweighs their fears, and something beautiful is created.

Never stop living Michael. It’s okay to be afraid, just don’t become paralyzed. Be grateful. Be kind. There’s work to be done.

Peace & Love,
-MFJ

Deep Philosophical Bullshit

Get out your pens, because you can’t make a mistake and there will be a test after all is said and done.

gsdgssgs

In a word, authenticity. Existentialism at its core means we determine our thoughts, actions in this crazy, mixed-up world. Left out of the above picture is Jean-Paul Sarte, the man credited with first coining the word and philosophy of existentialism. You’ll probably recognize him from his likeness on the Haitian flag…

sartre

That was a joke. He’s not on the flag. I also don’t think he has any Haitian features. These blogs are getting harder to write, but that word, authentic, it’s a word that can be so inspiring or vile, but either way, the adherence should be respected. Like it or not, but that serial killer who can’t get away from wearing pink chiffon dresses with fishnet stockings who only goes after bearded guys who smoke pipes, well, he stays true and fits neatly into his jigsaw piece in the puzzle of life.

All the above though should be read, at least one per author. This lesson of we make ourselves, it plays out a crazy story line in my life. My surroundings, my traumas, my broken heart never made me put a needle in my arm. A funny thing happened though when I read another loosely existential book, the Big Book, it dawned on me that my essence where all cultivated by my actions. There was no blame game. even though I tried my damnedest to create a herd of scapegoats.

I was incapable of facing my problems head on, to quote Nietzsche:

Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.

Now I feel like that nothingness, and I don’t know what to do. I used to sum up my life in a single sentence, I was a heroin-addicted pharmacist, who spent a year in federal prison and couldn’t stop until 12 years later when I tried to kill myself and found rehab in the aftermath. 
December 18th, 2015 I hit the milestone of 18 months without using. A lot went into making that happen, too many God/guardian angel interventions (all are recounted though in Shoestring Theories, my memoir, available by clicking the title in fact 🙂 ), lots of coincidences, which I define as  acts of God where he keeps his anonymity in tact, an amazing list of friends and more than anything, becoming an authentic human being. I got honest with myself, another human being and God. That 10-ton bag of bullshit I had been lugging around with me was gone, and let me tell you how much easier it is to walk around without that weighing me down. Life just got better.
I was blessed with the great fortune of waking up today, of getting enough pain killers in my system so I can actually write an entire blog in one sitting and not curling up into the fetal position, just another thing to be grateful for. I’m surrounded by people that love me. I get these phone calls daily, from friends who are in complete shock when they hear why just exactly I am feeling like an abyss these days. I’m dying. And what can you possibly reply to that statement?
I don’t want to be that hushed whisper that’s on the other foot- it used to be ‘he’s a junkie.’ Now it’s, ‘Can you believe Mike’s cancer is going to kill him?’ Authenticity, til the end. I’m not changing, I am still grateful for every morning my ryrs open, for when I have an appetite there’s food to eat, for Holly providing a roof over my head, for the chance to talk to someone and be as much of a help as I can. I’m still the Mike that sent his Michigan State Spartans fan the joke: what does MSU football and marijuana have in common?  Both are green and get smoked in bowls. I told him I am willing my Big Book to him, signed even, because he goes to a fellowship that uses a different set of books.
I know it’s hard on my family. A family who prayed for years that I quit shooting heroin and just find happiness. Well, family, I have. As tough as it is to write any of this, I am peaceful, I am joyous. To all my friends whose support never dies down (terrible pun, shoot me, that’s even worse, I’m shutting down this parenthetical now), I’m grateful you all, even you Eugene. To the man that help forge the man writing this blog, that inspired me to write more with his compliments, Greg, I love you. To Eli, the man who gave me my 1-year medallion, we’re NOT watching the Steelers playoffs. To any of you I call friends, and there are so many of you, I love all of you.
And for shit’s sake, I’m not dead yet. I’m taking every precious second God is giving me. I’m going to be greedy. And of all the shit we put a value on, platinum, gold, silver, Pat C’s mom, diamonds, cars, brand name clothes, all of that stuff added together will never be as valuable as life is. Take that from this blog. The rest, I’ll get back to you all on it.
BONUS: Mike’s Reading List of the Pictured
The Stranger – Camus
The Metamorphosis- Kafka
Being and Nothingness- Sarte
Shoestring Theories- Janflone
Beyond Good and Evil- Nietzsche
The Sickness Unto Death-  Søren Kierkegaard
Notes From Underground- Dostoyevsky
Just thank you all for praying for me, thinking of me, liking me, loving me, just knowing me. God willing, I’ll be around for a long while.
Peace and Love,
-MFJ

Cancer Diaries: Afraid to Sleep?

vintage nurse

Mitt Romney, paraphrased at the 2012 Presidential debates, said something like, The emergency room can provide adequate health care to those who don’t have health insurance. Yeah Mitt, you’re deadly wrong.

A little history as to what I am calling Mt. Cianflone (elev 4.12825″ above sea level), i.e. the chondrosarcoma on my chest.

PLEASE NOTE: I’ve not seen scan images, but being a formal health professional, I don’t want to since it is easier to live in naive bliss. Plus, my imagination can get a brief workout, as I am confident Michael Jr. is none of the following: It is NOT the leftovers of my long lost twin I  only partially consumed in utero.  Nor is it the accumulation of Swedish fish and Five Guys’ burger ‘juice.’ It does not deflate when poked with a safety pin or syringe.

What it is though: I was born with what my family called bone spurs, one of which was under my left armpit. Dormant since birth, this calcified lump suddenly erupted about 5 years ago, becoming built up little by little, until it became a noticeable entity. It looked like I could only afford one boob in an augmentation, and this surge in growth I blamed on the Fukushima reactor meltdown. I was also getting very high at the time, a few years into a ‘this time it will work,’ multi-year love affair with heroin. I knew it was there, I certainly understood that it was a tumor of some kind, but that is where my curiosity ceased.

By the time I added cocaine to the routine, another year or so had passed, and it had grown noticeably. (Another shameless plug ALERT: Shoestring Theories (BUY ME) in fact begins with a trip to West Palm hospital. which is where I had this mass first scanned. I was told it was an osteochondroma, a benign bone tumor. However, if it grew in the future, I needed to get it checked out. It grew, I didn’t have it checked out. It stopped growing, then it made an attempt to really gain some attention, or finally make me pay it some mind.

Why I had avoided this for months:

  1. It was benign, I would get it cut out when it physically bothered me.
  2. I was fairly new in recovery, and didn’t feel I was ready for major surgery, the pain, and the pain killers.
  3. No insurance, if I could just make it til January 1st, I could afford this and not just be swept along from one cancer place to another.
  4. Couldn’t be living paycheck to paycheck

I was in a place that even missing one week of work would set me back because I was trapped in the Delray halfway house scene. Paying week-to-week rent, all that it takes to derail the locomotive is one unexpected expense and next thing you know, you’re getting thrown out over not paying the rent. Let’s just say, where I was staying, they were not flexible when it came to the money

All this has left me where I am at this moment, coming to an understanding that all the support in the world does not change the intimacy of my relationship with death. I have my good days, where my smiles are genuine. I feel it deep down inside- this path I am on has a beautiful outcome, be it survival or not. I’ve said it before, writing Shoestring Theories, if it reached just one addict or family of an addict and helped them get the truly awesome gift of recovery, then confessing all my sins was well worth it to help spur that change.

Today is not one of those days. The pain level is intense, every breath is a cacophony of high pierced wheezes that deafens as I close my ears. Days like this, where just trying to roll out of bed seem super hero feats of strength and mind control.

Worst of all is this new anxiety that attacks me at night- I am afraid to sleep. There’s this loneliness with sleep these days, unexplained, crushing. My eyes close but the lids are spring-mounted. Irrational fears hold thought veto control, am I afraid of not waking up? Or being startled conscious by sharp pain? Would company ease my mind?

I hope this feeling and I divorce quickly. It is absolutely draining, it’s soul-devouring and my first true ‘doomsday’ emotion. In the meantime, I patiently wait for exhaustion to take over. Somewhat ironic fatigue is lazy and can’t show up even on the same night.

Prayers please. Peace and Love,
-MFJ

The Cancer Diaries

vrn

Death may be the greatest of all human blessings. ~Socrates

Not feeling you right now Socrates. By no means am I arrogant enough to say, I’ve got this, it’s not my time. Maybe it is. It’s a weird position to be in, knowing you have to both be prepared that death is a possibility, and at the same time have to fight my ass off to survive. I hesitate to start a blog series based on this subject, I am not out to depress friends and family, but this is a recovery blog at its core, that every once and a while drifts from that center.

My diagnosis is that I have a chondrosarcoma that has metastasized to my bones and lungs. I spent 10 days in the hospital to find this out, and have spent the past few days being referred by my referrals. I’ve finally landed at the doorstep of a University of Miami orthopedic oncologist. UM is the best around, so I am excited and trust this is whose hands I am supposed to end up. What’s hard for me to get out of my head is the doctor who told me “It’s bad.”

Do it big or go home. My medical background is a curse right now. There’s a line in my first memoir, Long Sleeved Summers, that says something like, I wish I had bone cancer so that I could be an acceptable junkie. Come on God? Really? Was there a genie present when I wrote those words? What about my other two wishes? For those who don’t know bone cancer pain sucks. It’s a slow, progressively shitty ride to the end.

So the great debate, some people will not welcome me when I pick up 18 months, because a medical professional has me on narcotics. The doctor is well aware I am an addict. I am not a martyr. I am not just going to writhe in pain. I can barely sit up or lie down without them. I take them as prescribed and I am not looking for needles or crushing them up. Don’t get me wrong, it awakens those thoughts, because what’s the point right?

Wrong. Any fight is winnable, unless you throw in the towel, give up by giving in in this case. Heroin has always wanted to kill me, and circumstances went that it took the rather slow approach. 17 years is a long relationship, to spend with someone who seemingly does so much for you, some of you get that. When you get it though, that she sucks all your innate goodness, that she disconnects you from God, it’s not worth throwing that away.

There’s so much running through my head, quiet moments when I cry, let my guard down and understand life’s countdown just got a little nearer than is comfortable. There’s moments of resolve, that I’m too young for this shit, that if anything, I am a survivor. Then there’s the peaceful balance, what will be will be. That if I stay in that fit spiritual condition that book talks about, I won’t wast my time, whatever it is, that I will continue doing what I can to help the next human being. It’s not about me and my problems, it’s about altruism. I sat in my own shit for too many years, and I’m not about to do it now over something that is ultimately in God’s hands.

He has my back. No matter the outcome, he’s got me. That’s my comfort. I don’t think there is anything even close to that level of solace available, everything in its right place. Oh, and in case he forgets me, which he never has, I’ve got hundreds of people reminding him, and for all of that, I am thankful.

Peace & Love,
-MFJ