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April 20, 2012 Dear friends and relatives everywhere:
My friend George Bowering, the Poet Laureate, is presently vacationing in the Florida Keys with his wife, author Jean Baird (compiler of a truly terrific book of essays on grieving, THE HEART DOES BREAK), and he just emailed today to tell me they had found a place on US 1 that billed itself as a “Chapel And Tavern.”
By coincidence, that's what I could use right now: a combination chapel and tavern. Sounds like Callahan's Place, now that I think about it. And that's where I want to be, this minute, composing this happiest message I have ever written.
I just got a phonecall from my son-in-law Heron, in Ohio. My daughter Terri's first round of chemo is over.....and the doctors have just finished scanning her within an inch of her life.....and they can no longer find any tumours anywhere outside her breast, and the original two tumours there have shrunk more than eighty percent each. All the other, metastasized tumours (in all her lymph glands, her leg bones, and other places) have shrunk to the point of indetectability.
Pause for loud, Homer Simpsonesque, “Woo-HOO! In your FACE, cancer!”
She is STILL Stage 4, and will always be: once a cancer metastasizes, the assumption is that it will again. But at the moment she's just this side of in remission. In light of this new information, they have decided not to give her a double mastectomy, after all. Nor do they now anticipate using radiation. She'll just need careful watching, and regular (expensive and dangerous) chemo at intervals for the rest of her life.
But at the moment, her and Heron’s biggest problem is paying the massive bills for all that chemo and all those scans and tests she’s already had. And a benefit concert being held for her here on Bowen Island on May 26 should help some with that. Please visit <http://www.gracefulwomanwarrior.org> if you’d like to drop something in the hat. Or contact blessed Jan Schroeder <JanMSchroeder@aol.com> for the latest updates on the eBay auctions she is running on Terri’s behalf. Current auction items can be viewed at <http://tinyurl.com/6qazk2k>.
To summarize, my daughter has kicked cancer's ass. With diet, exercise, meditation, positive visualization, a bit of reiki, and above all attitude. See her splendid blog at <http://www.gracefulwomanwarrior.com> for details. Her doctors had assured her none of that stuff would help in the least; now they are gobsmacked. Me, too.
Let there be joy everywhere. Terri da Silva of Troy OH, wife of Heron, mother of Marisa Alegria, daughter of Jeanne and me, is well. Oh my God I can barely see for tears. I didn't think loved ones of cancer patients ever got good news. Jeanne must be so relieved.
It is just now washing over me exactly how scared I was. I had been keeping the full knowledge from myself. For the first time in a long while, my writing is beginning to flow again.
Shared pain is lessened; shared joy is increased. Please share my joy! And thanks to all of you who sent money, prayed, or just held a good t’ought.
PS—the attached song, one of the most joyous I know, is written and sung by Terri’s aunt Kathleen Rubbicco, currently leader of and pianist for Dionne Warwick’s orchestra. It was one of Jeanne’s very favorite songs, and I sang it to her at her Benefit Concert here on Bowen Island, back in 2010.
My Beautiful Fate With You.mp3
February 10, 2012 Storm Surge
“There is a tide in the affairs of men which, taken at the flood, you’re liable to fucking drown.”
—Richard Fariña, BEEN DOWN SO LONG IT LOOKS LIKE UP TO ME
I literally cannot express (let alone repay), and will never get over, the tremendous amount of love and kindness and support I received from you all, during and after my Jeanne’s heroic battle-to-a-draw with cancer. Over 6,000 of you sent me letters of condolence and consolation; nearly 1,000 of you sent gifts of one sort or another, an uncountable number took part in the eBay charity auctions that Jan Schroeder ran for us, and God alone knows how many of you prayed for us.-
I deeply regret to report that I could use some of that love and kindness once again.
Nobody was more supportive to me during and after Jeanne’s illness than our only child Terri Luanna and her handsome Brazilian husband Heron da Silva and their now-2-year-old daughter Marisa Alegria; all three were present when she died, and all three spent the next year helping to put me back together again, before moving to Ohio so Heron could work as an electrical engineer for Honda. All three of them are tied for first place on my Favourite People list.
So on November 20 I flew to Ohio to spend the holidays with them. Literally the next morning, I awoke to the appalling news that Terri had just been diagnosed with breast cancer. Stage IV metastatic.
If you’ve gotten an odd or nonexistent reply to an email, letter, package or phone message in the last few months, this is why. If you’ve been wondering why there hasn’t been a new podcast in a while, this is why. If you’ve been wondering how the writing is going, this is how. I seem to be having trouble concentrating on anything. My brain is turning to fudge. I’ve been working on this announcement for over a week, even though I know putting it off won’t help anything. Cancer took my mother, both my aunts, and my wife, and now it’s gunning for our only child.
How bad is Stage IV breast cancer? Well, the best 5-year-survival rate statistic I found online is currently about 40%.
Actually, that’s good news. As recently as five years ago, that figure was more like 10%. Obviously, I would rather it was closer to 110%: but a fourfold improvement in five years ain’t bad. As I told Terri, if they can just maintain that rate of progress, in another five years they’ll be curing people of breast cancer who don’t even have it.
Terri Luanna is now in the midst of aggressive chemotherapy, which will be followed by surgery, and radiation, and then perhaps some more chemo. Her oncologist is being backstopped, and concurred with, by her Second Opinion source, Sloan-Kettering in NYC. She’s too exhausted from endless tests, scans and counseling, and too heavily ravaged by side effects, to ride herd on a 2-year-old, so when I returned to Canada in mid-January, I was replaced as full-time babysitter by an ongoing rotation of girlfriends and aunts; I’ll be going back for a second tour in March or April.
I am not even going to attempt to describe my own feelings about all this. As Jeanne would have said—did say, in the same situation—words just can’t touch it. I’m hanging in there.
Terri and Heron, for their part, are both very good at staying strong and positive. They have to be. They live with a telepathic two year old—who was in the room when her grandmother died, and knows what the word ‘cancer’ can mean.
All three of them can use your help.
For a start, check out Terri’s extremely well-written new blog <http://gracefulwomanwarrior.com/>, and send an encouraging comment.
That won’t be hard duty. Obviously I’m biased, but trust me on this: my daughter gives damn good blog. She writes with eloquence, grace, honesty and great courage. She’s already had more than 10,000 hits, and hundreds of comments, and I know she draws strength from them on a daily basis. There’s also a crosslink to her new gracefulwomanwarrior Facebook page.
But more tangible support is more than welcome.
Heron works for Honda, a good employer, so their medical insurance is decent, by American standards. But he began working for them less than a year ago, so it hasn’t fully kicked in yet, has a steep deductible. And take my word for it, even the best medical insurance (such as Jeanne enjoyed) leaves a ton of expensive stuff uncovered—endless things that add up fast, at a time when there’s already more than enough to fret about.
That’s why the new website <http://www.gracefulwomanwarrior.org/index.html> associated with Terri’s blog (created for her by a committee of friends and relatives that includes Jeanne’s 4 sisters Laurie O’Neil, Mary Rodericks, Dori Legge and Kathleen Rubbicco) also features a pair of links labeled Contact and Donate and Benefit Fundraiser.
The first one lets you donate whatever you can by card, Paypal or check-by-mail. And that same page also offers you the same three convenient ways to buy tickets to the Benefit Fundraiser concert which will be held at the Country Club of New Bedford, MA on March 2. It will feature McCarthy & Leggé, whose truly amazing music will be familiar to my podcast audience (Dori Leggé is the youngest of Terri’s aunts), plus special guests, and there’ll be an auction.
Also, dear Jan Schroeder, who organized all those eBay auctions for Jeanne and me, has just volunteered to gear up again for Terri—thank you, Jan! What she’ll be auctioning and when is still being worked out, so watch Terri’s website for news on that score. If you’d like to donate something to be auctioned (it needn’t necessarily have anything to do with science fiction), please contact me at my website address, email@example.com and I’ll forward your message to Jan.
If you’d like to help but are currently tap city, de-gigged, spent, bent & unsent, suffering from pavement rash—that’s cool, cousin: I am quite familiar with that condition. Even just a Facebook ‘like’ or a short blog comment can mean more than you know. Prayers are especially welcome, if you pray, or even just good wishes. And if you should ever get an opportunity to help advance breast cancer research with your vote or your voice, that’d be appreciated too.
One final request: this time round, I’d rather you didn’t send me supportive mail. I deeply appreciate the impulse—but every email I read, even if it’s short and I don’t respond at all, is at least a sentence of fiction I didn’t write that day. I just can’t afford kindness at those rates, right now. The best thing I can do for Terri, and for myself, and for all of you who have already been so kind and patient, is to finish and deliver ORPHAN STARS, the novel I’ve owed for a long time now.
God knows it won’t be possible to read anything, much less write, during those intervals when I’m on Grandpa duty in Ohio! At two and a half, Marisa is not an unreasonably demanding mistress: tireless devotion, unwavering attention and prompt service every moment she’s awake are quite enough to suit her. So far, at least. But anything I read in Ohio, I’ll probably be reading aloud to her.
Best job I’ve ever had!
Thanks for listening. I hope you enjoy my graceful woman warrior’s blog. She explains that name on her website’s home page, by the way. And as you’ll see, Jeanne named her well.
Where Tesla Meets Robinson....Near Callahan's Place
(all photos by John Moore)
In the first photo (#546), the buildings visible on the right, behind my brother-in-law John Moore's PT Cruiser, are all that remains today of Wardenclyffe, Nikola Tesla's laboratory in Shoreham NY, designed by Stanford White. All but invisible in the woods directly behind me is the huge circular concrete base of the 187-foot-tall tower Tesla raised for the purpose of giving free limitless electricity to the whole world--until his chief backer J.P. Morgan found out, and pulled the plug. (Perhaps one of the most apt uses ever of that particular metaphor.)
Notice the street sign in the foreground. I'm shown standing at the closest spot a civilian can now get to the surviving structures: the corner of Tesla St. and Robinson St. (See photo #551) No shit. It's within a block or two of Rte. 25-A--which is the only location I ever gave for the original Callahan's Place.
Some, including me, believe it was with that tower, designed by White's associate W.D. Crow (which, by the way, took the best efforts of three successive demolition firms to bring down; a shitload of dynamite was required) that Tesla accidentally caused the Tunguska Event of 1908, which leveled 2,150 square kilometers of Siberian wilderness. See my CALLAHAN'S KEY for details (and see photo #553 for a better shot of the tower's base). He also designed and produced the first Tesla Turbine there, and did the first mass production of Tesla Coils.
The site was subsequently purchased by the Agfa corporation, which polluted it with photographic chemicals so horrifically that it's now a Superfund Cleanup Site, which is why it's surrounded by high chain-link with serious barbed wire on top and camera surveillance. (see photo #559)
By a coincidence even more gasp-worthy to me than the name of the nearest intersection, the Wardenclyffe property is in the path of a huge power-line right of way corridor (seen in photo #562), which was constructed for the purpose of carrying the immense amounts of electricity that were expected to be generated by the Shoreham nuclear power plant only a few miles away--which never opened, thanks in part to the efforts of my anti-nuke friends David Crosby and Graham Nash. The reactor was fired up exactly once before it was abandoned, but never produced a single watt. TWO schemes to bring almost limitless power to the Long Island/NYC area, and both of them failed utterly, the first due to greed, the second to fear. A dispiriting thing to see and contemplate....relieved only slightly by the visible presence in that power-tower corridor of cell-phone towers (see photo #565), a technology that did not fail.
In photo # 579, taken from where John's car is seen parked in the first photo, you can see the back stairway on which I like to imagine Tesla used to catch a smoke between experiments.
There are several groups presently trying to have Wardenclyffe cleaned up and turned into a museum/historic site/tourist attraction--among them the Tesla Science Center mentioned at the bottom of this webpage. Please Google them all, and support all you find worthy. A science center and museum at Wardenclyffe would be a fitting memorial for the man who invented the modern world single-handed, and got screwed out of all the money and most of the credit.
As Wikipedia notes:
Designation of the structure as a National Landmark is awaiting completion of plant decommissioning activities by its present owner. [The Agfa Corporation--SR]
In 1976, an application was filed to nominate the main building for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. It failed to get approval. The Tesla Wardenclyffe Project, Inc. was established in 1994 for the purpose of seeking placement of the Wardenclyffe laboratory-office building and the Tesla tower foundation on both the New York State and National Registers of Historic Places. Its mission is the preservation and adaptive reuse of Wardenclyffe, the century-old laboratory of electrical pioneer Nikola Tesla located in Shoreham, Long Island, New York. In October 1994 a second application for formal nomination was filed. The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation conducted inspections and determined the facility meets New York State criteria for historic designation. A second visit was made on February 25, 2009. The site cannot be registered until it is nominated by a willing owner.
Anyway, that's how I spent (part of) my winter vacation. The first thing I intend to do when I get home in mid-January will be to record and post a new podcast for you. In the meantime, I hope you'll find these photos entertaining.