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?

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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?

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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

Knives Need A Good Honing

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About a ten days ago I had this post I started, about being thankful all 365 days a year, and not just the one lore tells us of, where the Indians, seeing we were going to bite it, decided to kill those weird birds that always hung around, the ones who never laid an egg, who had scrotums dangling from their beaks. Once a year the most irrelevant, tasteless fowl takes center stage on a dinner table.

Truth be told I’m Italian and much more thankful for the lasagna on the dinner buffet. Yet here it is, Pearl Harbor Day, and I’m just getting around to writing something about being grateful. I’m doing it from a hospital bed. I have had a benign tissue disorder get bumped up into something that has metastasized into my lungs. I sit here waiting for my biopsy results to come in, to see what this hunk of flesh in my chest is made up of, is it bone, muscle, fat, parts of my twin I imagine would have been named Stanley, the one I partially digested in utero or a little bit of everything? How cool would it be if it were just Swedish fish goo?

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That’s me, and my trophy I claimed at the hospital.Most improved satisfaction. The first night I was here, I was scared. 5 people waited with me in the ER. Every day I’ve been here I’ve had company. I’m still scared. Words like metastatic get thrown around, or the simple fact having a ten pound tumor removed is going to be in medical terms, “one hell of surgery,” it would be easy to say to myself I’ve had a great run at this thing called life.

Some things just aren’t meant to be. Love is not enough. Bad things happen to good people. Pick a cliche and run with it. While I had hoped my tumor would have been featured during this past weekend’s closing of Art Basel, there’s always next year.

Some things can’t be rushed. The most important, soul fulfilling things march along at their own pace, on an unseen timeline that only comes into focus in retrospect. I’m thankful though, right this second, I’m going to get through this. Moments like this, I am incredibly grateful to have lived out my life exactly as I have. I am loved.

The suicidal junkie of 18 months ago, the one so alone my shadow was a stranger us gone now. The world had no use for me, or so I thought. Moments of clarity caused full scale shifts in perspective, I had no use for the world. I was a selfish taker, never giving back  to anyone. Now there’s a guest list to see me here.

I’ve become someone just true to myself. I embrace my talents, use them to make a person laugh, to view life from a different plane of view. I encourage others to do the same and am so excited for upcoming Mind Shrapnel projects. As for cancer, I don’t fear that one either.

I’ve got time to leave some more marks on the publishing world, and a few people I can allow to rule the Mind Shrapnel  empire after I’m gone. Point is, I could die tomorrow and not worry the most minuscule bit about things left undone. I accomplished something huge, I got clean, I became recovered. Those people coming to sees me, baking and texting me, I want in their lives 18 months ago. Everyone one of them can tell you who I am. Until the day I step away from gravity, I will always have my integrity in check. Accomplishing that is the ultimate blessing and god gave me that chance- to be someone instead of a something.

Peace and Love,
-MFJ

And This Is What Happens When Greed Masquerades As Help

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I remember the feeling of desperation I felt when I was told I couldn’t get into DAF unless I had $6000, because that’s just what I would spend it on. Any glimmer of hope I had, evaporated when the lady told me that, I had no where else to go, and for some reason, Florida does not believe in homeless shelters. Then she saw that I had used, and I got into detox.

One man’s desperation need not reflect another’s, we all have our journey, but we are all sick when we go into any rehab facility. I literally had to drag myself into DAF. The most spartan place ever, the place I hated because it made me look at the devil in the mirror. I swear the vultures circled that place all the time, not just over the admission building. If an addict doesn’t go to that place, a non-profit rehab (WTF? Those exist?), there are plenty down here willing to treat the sick and suffering, if they have insurance of course. If not, many will help you get some Obamacare in your life. Make no mistake, these vultures don’t have wings, just steroid inflated, tattoo covered arms and the slightest hint of brown sugar from the vape cloud they emerge from.

Time to turn your attention to this- Cigna Tired of Getting Pissed On (Ok, not the real title of the Palm Beach Post’s story, but it should be.) I am pretty sure in some of my rants on “Recovery”  and Delray Beach I mentioned this fact that greed is going to fuck it up for someone who really needs help. Why is it so hard to do the right thing? To get paid for legitimate services, not gouge the fuck out of insurance companies (I hate them too, because well, they are as greedy as fuck too) by aligning with diagnostic companies to perform $3000 urinalyses? So, now, someone who overdoses and is saved, wants to get into a treatment center might get denied. a $10 dipstick test and some awareness is all you really need to know if someone is high. We smell our own kind and sure as shit know when someone is fucked up.

Heads up California- you’re next as these scumbags leave Florida for the next opportunity to rape and pillage on the backs of an addict’s insurance coverage. So to all you fake-ass mother fuckers talking this recovery game to parents in New Jersey, bring it. Before the IRS and FBI bring it. Before you get sodomized in a prison cell for your straight fraudulence, please, tell me what a difference you’ve made, while you date 3 female clients secretly, in between trips to the gym and tattoo parlor, and how steroids are ok because they certainly aren’t mood altering, get all built because in the end, you’re still insecure little boys, in the end you haven’t discovered the true gifts of a close relationship with God.

Help to help. I don’t want to see it on your Facebook pages, because maybe I know someone who lived with you- who saw you with a different girl 3 nights a week, who cried like a bitch when one of them left, who gave Suboxone and Xanax to your sponsee (killer combo by the way), yet you have the fucking gall to trumpet how awesome you are as an interventionist, how you made this big difference for people. Maybe humbly thank God for that opportunity to help another human being. Maybe not date her out of the rehab you got her into, take her out on her insurance money your buddy got for getting her in and gave you another kickback.

In case you haven’t noticed, and maybe you haven’t because you one upped Jesus, walking on air, so there’s a lot of us you never see, but a lot of people who were here have passed on to the next phase of life. On to another “pillar” of recovery – again, very similar circumstances, you took from her what you wanted, she trusted you, you promised her the world and threw her out with the trash, because the next one you rescued had a better ass. Well, the lesser ass isn’t decaying, she’s just ashes in the ocean. She made her choices sure. We’re supposed to be the ones who get people clean. that guide them through the steps, to give back what was given to us, not overcharged to Cigna.

It’s not about people, places and things, because those are in abundance down here. It’s about neutrality. Things people through the steps should know, should live. Selfless. Altruism. This shit turns my stomach.

Karma, its debts always are collected upon.

-MFJ

Next on Blurred Clarity – Costumed Slumlords