Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Thing That Wouldn't Die.

Last Monday I went and saw a cardiologist, because I had what is called 'calcium score' done. It determines the amount of calcium (ie: blockage) currently in your heart. Normal is 100 or less. Anything over 300 is bad, anything over 400 means you're headed for a heart attack. Mine was 422.

After a couple of EKG's (to be sure of results) and a sonogram of my heart, my Cardiologist told me I had had at least one minor heart attack already, probably two. (I was busy living and didn't notice). I was scheduled for an angiogram on the 25th of this month. That procedure is done with a catheter inserted into your heart via artery from your wrist or thigh. Dye is shot in and x-rayed to show any blockage.

I'd been experiencing mild but regular chest tightness, and was anxious to have this done. However...last Thursday, I experienced light headedness, confusion, a spreading ache down my left arm and up into my neck. It became hard to draw a breath and I thought I would faint. I knew I was going to lose consciousness sooner than later.

Luckily, my friend and business associate, Jenny Bender, was here and insisted I call 911, walked me down the stairs and stayed to make sure I was awake until the EMTs arrived. I now have no doubt that this saved my life. (Thanks Jenny!)

The EMT's worked on me during the ride, keeping my vacillating blood pressure stabilized, and continued to do so as I was checked into the ER, where the ER staff took over. It took a couple of hours, but they got my heartbeat and pressure under control, and I was admitted overnight.

The angiogram was performed the next morning (by my own cardiologist who has rounds there, lucky for me), and it was determined that, besides that damage done to my heart by previous heart attacks (I wish they'd left a note), one of the four arteries in my heart was 90% blocked. They applied angioplasty and a stent on the spot. (Angioplasty is the insertion and filling of a balloon to open closed arterial passages. A stent is a tiny cage inserted to keep it open.)

This was all done through a catheter inserted into the artery in my right wrist, requiring only a band-aid for recovery. I was kept over night again, and released Saturday afternoon, feeling much better than I have in a year. My prognosis is that I could easily live another decade or more ( I am now 60), if I take the proper medications and stay away from drugs and alcohol, something I've done pretty much for the last ten years. The staying away, that is.

The only blockage has been dealt with, although the issue of low action to my left ventricle, due largely to being a wild ass druggie and booze hound for 30 years, (Bolivia owes me a statue, I think. You, too, Kentucky bourbon country.) may or may not correct itself in time. In either case, I am on these medications anyway, so I'm taking it day by day, doing my diligence, and hoping for the best.

In short, I'm back, stronger and mentally sharper than I have been for a year, infused with a new desire to wring every moment out of life, and, having spent a night, alone, contemplating that it may be my last, find myself unafraid of what comes next. I am convinced this epic journey we experience does not end.

When the time comes, I intend to ride that final flush of DMT into my dying brain right on through to the other side. In the meantime, there is no longer any fear of death in me. Only a desire to get a few certain things done, and continue to monitor this amazing thing we call life, the science behind it, and those who would attempt to control it in the rest of us.

For the time being, I am still here, still creating, still watching.
The moral of this story is simple:

You are who you are and nobody can take that from you unless you allow it.
Be free, experience love and life whenever possible.
Nurture compassion and acceptance in yourself and others.
Contribute to your community, in terms of personal effort, your own creative vision, and the monitoring of those who steal these things from all of us.

Be unafraid, my friends.
We Will All Die.

It's how you choose to live that really matters.
Do it now.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Mindfulness and Walking The Walk.

There is a term frequently used in modern Buddhism, called 'mindfulness', which among other things, focuses on being aware of one's own thoughts and actions, as well as their effect, in the moment.
It is often used and developed during meditation.

An expansion of this process is the awareness of one's self as part of a larger whole, community or society. Unless one lives in complete hermitude, it is impossible to NOT have an effect on those around you, at least on some level.

With that in mind, I'd like to offer some observations.

I've recently posted a segment from the documentary, Soul Food, linked here.

The opening line lays it all out....

"There is no better example of racism in the 21st century than the relationship of black people and access to healthy foods."

This is a symptom of a larger picture. Black neighborhoods often remain under developed, becoming home to liquor stores, pawn shops and bodegas, clearly demonstrating that the goal is for inhabitants there to become alcoholics, pawn their possessions, and live off of expensive and unhealthy food choices.

Sure, those communities have a history of liking many of those foods, but white communities have fresh grocery stores competing with fast food, pizza and po-boy shops, rarely relying on gas station munchies for nutrition, and having big box stores for non-food items, where black neighborhoods are more likely limited to Dollar Store crap.

As these 'minority' neighborhoods develop beyond that scope, it is often because monied, whiter parties have followed poorer whites into them, discover the lower housing costs, and move in for the kill, displacing the traditional, generational families who live there, and jacking up housing prices to drive them out. This is the process we call 'gentrification'.

There are, of course, places where these issues are more economic that racial, but the effect is still the same.

As the neighborhoods begin to gentrify, the new developers open more high end outlets, whether it's Whole Foods, high end food courts, or bistro specialty shops, designed for higher income citizens.
Sometimes, these new 'developments' are made using government grants, designed to improve the neighborhoods of poorer Americans, with those grants being manipulated to allow developers to increase the housing value and drive them out (Pres Kabacoff is a master of this).

So when I see white, self declared 'progressives' sitting at the St Roch Market, which was built with money predominantly (2.3 million out of 3.2 spent) ear marked for redeveloping under privileged neighborhoods, decimated by the Federal Flood, and toasting themselves for their 'open mindedness' and ability to be 'color blind', I wonder if they know how full of shit they really are.

It's a parade of mindless white privilege at the very site of black exclusion.

And yes, I've heard the "But black people work there" excuse. How many black people work for New Orleans Building Corporation, who rents that place out at astronomical rates?

It is was most recently run by deputy Mayor Cedric Grant, who, while African American, is also behind the fencing off of areas under the expressway to displace the homeless. Nice.

Before him? "Developer Sean Cummings replaced Ford as executive director under Nagin."

In short, before you praise yourself on your modern progressive attitude, how about a little mindfulness? You may be cheering yourself on the grave of those you claim to protect.