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 Umberto Eco said, "Perhaps the mission of those who love mankind is to make people laugh at the truth and to make truth laugh, because the only truth lies in learning to free ourselves from insane passion for the truth."



Men's Health!
(Mine anyway)

    I had decided to pull all the info on my TURP off the site but if anyone needed to talk to me about it I just said to contact me and I'd fill in any blanks....But! Note below, I"ve now written a short version of all of that. c


    So! Attention all men reading this
(and the partners who support them). Men are big into one really bad habit; denial. I have men in my men’s group who are getting up three and four times a night and are not dealing with what this means. This is a “sign”, and not a magical one. This is a swollen prostate! And as you age, you will have to deal with it. Maybe not as intensively as I had to but odds are you may indeed be on the same track if you live long enough. Men over 65 have an 80% chance of wrestling with all of this. My advice, catch it early before you’re holding an 18” tube in your sweaty hand and fearing the worst.


    Latest: Sept 30th 2020...I am cancer free! I'll keep breathing.....easy.

                                                        One More Time       

    I took all the info on my prostate “adventures” off this Men’s Page ‘cause I was sure anyone who would venture here would have already read it, so I dumped it all. And didn’t copy it!
    Yeah I know, dumb.
    “Dumb” because today I got a request for a copy because, “It really spelled it all out and was informative for anyone going through the same struggle.” (paraphrasing a request from my TURP-buddy Jack.) So here’s a rather condensed version of the chain of events and where they led me back in December of ’17.
    I had been dealing with BPE (benign prostate enlargement) “issues” for decades, maybe since my late 30’s, and took all kinds of advice from both medical and non-medical (“alternative”) folks. The medical people mainly did prostate checks, “Yep! You’ve got some enlargement on the right side. But no ‘lumps’ so it’s just a watch-and-wait thing.”
    The alternative folks were into saw palmetto and sundry teas. So I popped pills and drank a lot of teas, with and without sugar & creamer. Did a lot of meditation and even sat, for a time, on a very hard rubber (or plastic) thing that supposedly massaged the prostate into submission.
    I was into bike riding back then and the hard leather saddle was said to help, or not, depending on who I talked to about it.
    The up-to-pee thing really wasn’t too bad early on, maybe two or three times a night but that was about it. Time went on.
    (Making this long story short) I DID have an episode of not being able to pee at all. What a nightmare! I spent 8 hours in the E.R. at the V.A. NOT because they wouldn’t see me but because I downplayed the problem and kept getting bumped to the end of the line.)
    I was cathed at that time (an in-dwelling, that's the bag-on-the-leg) and given Terazosin, a med that lowered my blood pressure and caused some depression. (I finally got the cath out two weeks later.)
    By the way, prior to that prescription med. I was taking an over-the-counter (actually over-the-internet) thing called “Prostate Miracle”. The reason it worked (for a time) was because it had a lot of beta-systerol, which is the most important active ingredient in saw palmetto. This stuff helped for a long time.
    More years went by and one day I discovered blood in my urine. I thought it was a U.T. infection but upon exam, discovered it wasn’t. This was (potentially) very bad news.
    I was referred to a specialty clinic and they discovered that I was retaining urine. They drained two LITERS from me that day. (I lost four pounds and two inches. I do NOT recommend this as an approach to weight loss.) They also recommended (insisted) that I, 1. Start self-cathing. (to give my distended bladder a “rest”) and, 2. Get a cystoscope procedure to look inside my bladder to rule out cancer. I didn’t want to do any of this so I went back to the V.A. for a second opinion.
    They concurred. So, for the next six months I learned to self-cath five times a day! I never thought I’d be able to do it but it really wasn’t as bad as it sounds, it just interfered with sleep a bit, as you can imagine…..but it wasn’t painful, just inconvenient since I had to do it…..anywhere. (At a friend’s houses or in public restrooms when we were on the road. The main thing was to avoid all sources of possible infection because if that happened I’d be dealing with an in-dwelling cath again. Yes, that’s the one with the bag-on-the-leg.)
    After the six months of this I went in for the cystiscope, which was done in order to look into my bladder for possible “lesions” (tumors).
Well, sure enough, I had two of them. They were the “bad” kind (aggressive) but they were small (about the size of the nail on your little finger) and they had not penetrated the wall of the bladder.
    They were surgically removed easily and I was set up on a three-month schedule of looking inside with the cystiscope. This is also not painful by the way. (The cameras they use are no longer 35 mm with a telephoto lens. They are now very small.)
    After about a year of no-re occurrence, I was advised by an old friend of mine (Jack Hebrank) that I might want to consider a TURP procedure. This is a kind of roto-router of the prostate. Technical name is; transurethral resection of the prostate. (TURP.)
    Though the prostate is not totally removed, a good deal of it is taken out. (After five or ten years it can grow back but if it presents a problem again, they just repeat the operation.)
    Problems? Well, it depends. Each individual will have a different experience. Mine was, and is, that erections were a thing of the past….BUT! though the “plumbing” was affected, the electronics were not. i.e. I still had (have) an orgasm and it’s just fine. But no ejaculation accompanies it. (Once again, every individual will have a different outcome and erections may not be off the table for all. And there's always the blue pill. I haven't tried that yet.)
    Frankly, what preceded this, due to my age (over 80) is the fact that my interest in sex was pretty well down the list of pleasurable experiences. In short, I no longer felt “driven” by it. We, my wife and I, are, as usual, in the same place with all of this. Her libido has diminished as well so now and then we will both get interested, and we make the time and effort to physically reconnect. But it has not, in any way, diminished our affection for, or our connection with, each other.
    Having the TURP done has improved my life 100%.....I still return to the V.A. for checks, now down to every six months, and so far all’s well.
September 30th. NO CANCER! Hooray! Next check......next year.

                                         On to the next PROBLEM!
(as of September 30th)
    I don't remember when this all started but the rectal bleeding began about a month ago. I thought "hemorrhoids"! and treated appropriately. It didn't stop and in fact there was increased bleeding.
    Called the V.A. Turns out you can't get in to see an actual doc, it's all phone communication. So phone-doc prescribes "hydrocortisone suppositories". Treatment is 6-8 weeks. Time goes on, no improvement. I decide to take a "risk" and go into the E.R.
This was not a good experience. 3 hours on a bed, hooked up , no call button, waiting for a physical exam from an actual doc who turned out to be a damned fool  (I have stronger descriptors but will refrain) ........also came in contact with a male nurse who (I suspect but cannot prove) is a T supporter ascertained from the kinds of "orientation questions" he asked; one of which was (
this was after the usual name-date-location questions) "Who's the president?" "Do I have to answer?" "Yes, with his full name." after which I muttered "Same as lump." He said something under his breath and I never saw him again...for 3 hours.
    So d.f. doc shows up, jams his finger in my anus, with NO lube, tells me I'm "....tight." Yes really, and leaves.
    I get unhooked from the beeping stuff and go home. Two days later I get a mailing from the V.A. which tells me I should set up a colonoscopy. (something I have PTSD from since the last one brought on hemorrhaging and a near-death experience.)
    So, after a few days of dithering, I have finally resigned myself to having to travel down that road again.
    More on this........as the drama unfolds.
    Two weeks later, the V.A. never followed up.

    Sept. 22nd
    All these days later and STILL no help from docs. Will go into the E.R. today, hopeful.....or at least resigned. E.R. did NOT do the job.
    Sept. 30th FINALLY got an appointment with an actual "proctologist" (a very rare specialty these days it seems.....AND she's considered to be "......one of the best." Since there's only one I would consider this true by default.) Cancer fears jumped up, but have a bit less "power"after a bit of a miracle this morn. On my way to the V.A. for the bladder check (note above) turned on the radio and heard the last line of "Here's to love" sung by Streisand....it was ".......may all your storms be weathered, and all that's good get better......here's to life, here's to love, here's to you." What are the odds?
Got the message!
  October 1st, Exam showed probability of colorectal cancer. Don't know anything else yet (how big, how aggressive, what "stage". Won't know till next week.) Yes, may THIS "storm" be weathered....somehow, someway, please.
  October 21st, Yes it's cancer alright. Confirmed by a biopsy at UNM (Univ. of New Mexico Hospital....the top cancer facility in the state.) What to do? The next step is a PET Scan to determine the "stage", the aggressiveness, and the extent. But this can't happen till Nov 2nd. Meantime I have to sit with this thing and cope with the liquid diet (cause I can't pass anything of substance through the partly blocked anal opening (sorry to get "graphic" here, but these are the physical facts I have to deal with. 
    It's a tough time, and I really don't know about survivability at this point. Maybe that's what all these positive messages are about. I, and we, continue to HOPE!
    November 7th update; Its been awhile since I sat down to write about all that has been going on with me physically, mainly because it’s hard for me to sit. The cancer I have is “anal” cancer and not colo-rectal. This is good news because this type is much more amenable to treatment (radiation and chemo) and not necessarily a candidate for surgery. Nonetheless, it’s a m.f. and very hard to live with. (many trips to the bathroom day and night, limited diet, liquid mainly, low energy, weight loss, 10 pounds so far, and an abundance of pain and strain.)
    I've now had every test known to be relevant and this is all that is going on.
    I don’t want to go into more detail than that, but the good news is that the stats on good outcomes are very high, so we have left most of our fears behind and we are banking on the experts at New Mexico Cancer Treatment (affiliated with M.D. Anderson). (Even the oncologist at the V.A. endorsed our choice.)
    Everyone around here has come to our aid. Neighbor Dan getting wood pellets for us, Steve doing water runs, Dave S. taking care of a leaking kitchen faucet, Dave C. and Kara offering to take me to appointments (5x a week for 6 weeks soon as radiation begins)…..and so many more helping in so many ways. What a blessing a community is.
    We SHALL overcome.
    November 20th update: At the beginning of this ”thing” I thought I’d do up-dates for the interested. But frankly, just dealing with this on a daily basis doesn’t lend itself to further reportage. If I write about it it’s like having to go through it yet again, and I didn’t even want to go through it the first time.
    What’s the “it”? Bathroom visits up to 16 times a day (nighttime visits are mainly about changing t-shirts after a light sweating experience. That ranges from a two-shirt night up to a five-shirt night.
    Once in the bathroom it’s a task of dealing with trying to get things to pass through an almost occluded opening due to the tumor there. This is NOT fun.
But you see, this is exactly why I don’t want to write about it.
    I had a “port” put in last Tuesday. This allows easy access to my blood system so I don’t have to get “poked” over and over again both for blood samples and to put in the chemo. Chemo and radiation begin next Monday and will go on for six weeks, five days a week.
    I am low on energy and in some level of “discomfort” most of the time. I can eat anything I like but will have to pay a price for whatever it is later. This means I have to avoid high fiber. My appetite is low but I know I have to keep my system strong in order to deal with the next step.
    I have had every test known to medical science. 5 C.T. Scans, one PET scan, one colonoscopy, one anal probe, one test that goes in from the top down (can’t remember the name of that one) two enemas that turned out to be unnecessary, one MRI. All have shown that the cancer is localized (it hasn’t gone anywhere else) and though I have an 85 year old body, and it has lots of ageing “problems”, none of them is serious enough to have to require additional treatments.
    Fear is a constant, mainly around how bad chemo and radiation will be. Frankly I can’t imagine it could be any worse than what I’m having to deal with on a daily basis before treatment is undertaken to shrink the tumor mass. At this point I welcome anything that will bring SOME relief.
    Every comfort has been offered, from Tylenol to Oxy to cannabis I’m signed up for them all.
    Prayers come from every friend, and I have friends galore. My closest right now is, as usual, Elizabeth, who sees to my every need.
    Water is being hauled by Steve, wood pellets supplied by Dan and Dave, all the kids are on board with help of any kind. My only “enemy” is my own battle with I-should-be-doing-more and “Come on, you’re not THAT bad off.” self castigation.
    The “race” is about hoping the chemo and radiation will shrink the tumor before it blocks me off. I that were to happen the only response will be emergency surgery. We should have an answer to this within two weeks.
    Prayers continue.
    That’s about all I want to write about this now. My mantra is “Simple” (intervention) “Speedy” (works fast to shrink the tumor) “Successful”.
    That’s about it for now. d
December 7th+ up-date; Just got back from a fifty mile round trip to the car wash (couldn’t stand the way our Prius looked after weeks of snow and mud). Nothing about the trip proved anything. I certainly can’t say I enjoyed the freedom of driving my self for the first time in weeks. It took a lot of energy out of me and contributed nothing to healing. The car is a little cleaner though.
Each day presents a new experience of this thing but the main “feature”, the unending part, besides the side effects which are many, varied, and always changing, is the pain, I’ll stop calling it “discomfort” because in fact it’s more than that, of my burning rectum (my ass that is). Any approach to sitting must be preceded by a quick intake of breath and then a gingerly lowering to the inflatable “doughnut” Eliz bought the other day and that I thought at the time was overkill……wrong, it’s a blessing.
    I take an Oxy in the morning, around 8 and that helps me get through the day, till around 5. It’s only 2 ½ milligram so it’s not like I’ll get hung up on it, but it helps a lot….dulls the pain.
    I was told today by the cancer nurse that “This is the hardest treatment there is.”! (or the hardest cancer to treat……mainly because of the location I guess.)   
    I’m tired most of the time, I could spend my entire day, and night in bed if it weren’t for the “obligation” to get up. I totter around like an old drunk and try to remember to stand straight but I mostly don’t want to do anything, not read, not write……nothing. Watching bad TV is about my speed.
    BUT, did I mention things ARE getting better? Used to be, just a week ago that anything coming out of me was a splatter of gas and some blood. (sorry to get so literal here but this is a REAL cancer in a REAL place)
    For the first time in months I am forming a “stool” and this is a big deal because it means I am no longer blocked by a “mass”, which IS shrinking. In fact, I am no longer blocked.
    I am 1/3rd through all of this and I know I WILL get past it…….but it’s tough partner. It’s very, very tough.
    I’ll stop here because I’m out of steam and I’d rather lie down and be distracted by “Tales of Wells Fargo” than continue to complain about this pain in the ass.

Dec 11th+; Just caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror this morning, ribbons of loose flesh hanging off bones like a refugee from a German prison camp. Stunning, disheartening……not much left of my physical self, at least the physical self I remember myself to be.
    I don’t feel as emaciated as  I look. I don’t feel strong by any means but I feel strong enough to go on. One more month of this. Just one more. On the 23rd they will dump a load of chemo, called an “infusion”, into me. Merry Christmas. I don’t expect I will light up like a tree but I may feel like Christmas past a few days later. God this is hard. Hard.

    December 31st, Slow and steady wins the day the saying goes. Slow and steady is how my own healing is going. In fact it is so incremental that sometimes I begin to think that maybe things aren’t moving along. Then I look back over the journey.
I usually don’t do this purposefully. I may happen upon an old email that Elizabeth sent to someone describing what I was going through at the time…….the only word that fits is “nightmare”. I probably overuse that one, but there is no other description that is more apt.
The whole drama began in July and the nightmare part best describes the fact that I could not get a doctor to actually do an exam in order to find out what the problem was. I can cite going to the bathroom, racing to it more likely, up to 16 times a day, uncounted times at night and that would be a good part of it. And what would take place during those “visits”, I won’t go into detail here but blood was often involved along with what everything else you might expect.
The worst vision (memory) I have of all this is summed up by my being on all fours on the bathroom floor of the emergency ward at around 3 AM trying to push this anal blockage aside so that I could expel fecal matter while at the same time fending off a 2” cockroach which, for some reason wanted to become my friend. (In my memory that one has grown to 3"). And that’s enough about all of that, though there was so much more, so much.
These days it’s just about my version of “burning man”, a rectum on fire in response to radiation five days a week for the past month and a half…and the nighttime sweats, up to five soaked T-shirts on a bad night, two on a “good” one, the hair loss, weight loss, energy loss, and the sight of my ragged body, just lose skin and bones. Not a pretty sight.
I doubt that I will ever take the time to write about all of this in any detail. I don’t want to relive any of it. Too much of a bad dream.
Early on, when we knew nothing about the specifics of the cancer but feared the worst, we talked about end-of-life “options”. When I brought this thinking up with hospital personal when I was an in-patient, a kind of concerned “panic” ensued and I was visited by every one from Social Workers to psychologists to the over-loaded hospital Catholic priest who wound up giving me a blessing but not last rites. Once I explained that given the fact that I didn’t know just how bad this cancer onslaught might be and that I didn’t want my family to go through months, if not years of suffering along with me, things calmed down a bit and I was no longer seen as a suicide risk. In other words, they got-it that I knew what I was talking about and was quite sane as I addressed end-of-life options with my family. Most medical people don’t want to talk about death as a choice. Understandable.
These days I am feeling close to normal, as close to “normal” as I can be while still experiencing chemo and radiation side effects (those noted above). My energy is pretty good, my mood “up” in comparison to all the preceding months, and, though I “totter” some, a reaction to the rectum sensitivity, I am getting close to walking in a normal manner though at a slower pace than usual.
I’ll be done with radiation next week so from here on out it’s about recovery and hope. Hope that the cancer has been vanquished and I can begin to rebuild my body with some weight lifting and walking.
2021 is a time for me and for all of us to reinvest in hope for ourselves and our country. And it certainly is for me as well.
    Happy New Year indeed!
    Friday, January 15th, 2021, the last up-date for a while.
    Today I sent out a letter to my radiation transport crew, the five people who took it upon themselves to drive me into the New Mexico Cancer Center every weekday (it’s about an 88 mile round trip, considerably longer for some of them. John and Susan Hall coming from Santa Fe, Chris Porosky from the far northwest of Albuquerque) for my radiation treatments (all 32). Theirs was a once-a-week journey, mine was usually five times a week and included more in-depth adventures; the entry into the Center where all Covid questions must be answered with a “No!”, a yellow wrist band taped on that assured others that I had passed inspection (cursory though it was) the next wrist band confirmed that I was who I claimed to be (name, date-of-birth repeated over and over again with each human encounter) the walk to the “changing room” where pants were shed and a gown put on (never could understand the point of this since all of that was shed in the procedural room, then the escort to the radiology department, there assured everyone that I was who I claimed to be, climbed onto exam table, magic marker crosses on lower pelvis and each hip applied and checked for proper position (aiming points for radiation “guns”) slow insertion into radiation “tube”, sundry noises as machine does its job, one more slide out for a positioning check, then back into tube for the actual radiation “shot(s)” (nothing is felt when this happens by the way). Finished, the table slides out of the tube “You’re done!” is the greeting. I climb down off the table, pull up underwear, pull down gown, put on shoes, get escorted back to changing room where I dump gown in “Soiled linen” bin (soiled with what I have no idea) pull on pants and then exit to make a quick call to my ride home and we’re off……again. (Unless blood has to be drawn through my under skin “port” implanted in my upper chest. That can add about 20 minutes to the otherwise 25 minute procedure.)
    All of this ended last Monday, the last (external) radiation treatment. I note “external” because I am told the radiation will go on for three months inside my body. I am experiencing that; my inflamed butt and other lovely side effects are constant reminders of something going on here. But no more rides to town for a time, my next “check up” will be in February sometime with others spaced about three months apart.
    This is a hard time for all cancer patients. The watchful-waiting thing…….will it come back? Did we get it all? etc. I’ve been through it all before with the bladder cancer three years ago but take no comfort in having had the experience of it. This is the not-knowing time, the waiting for other shoes, etc. You know the kind of metaphors I’m talking about. The low-level anxiety time that doesn’t clear up much until three or five years have gone by.
    The good part? I’m getting my energy back. I’m able to string enough thoughts together to write this report, I may be able to read again soon, or have the desire to. I have an appetite and am actually eating real food, though I still drink the Ensure in the morning. I’m back to some weight lifting and will be taking walks soon. (I do still have to keep my distance to a bathroom in mind. No need for details regarding this.)
    I can’t say that life is back to “normal”, don’t know if it will ever be. But! I am alive and improving fast, thanks to you, your prayers, your thoughtfulness, your caring, the medical community of the V.A., UNM Cancer Center, all the docs and nurses and technicians, modern cancer treatment regimes, and not last nor least my long-suffering wife and partner Elizabeth.
    I would NOT have survived this without her. She was not just “available”, she handled ALL the details of this nightmare-journey, made sure the appointments were set up and handled AND that they were PAID FOR by our Medicaid and V.A. support systems. If that ball had been dropped, and it easily could have been but for her tireless work, we would be in deep, very deep crapola. It was enough that I was in that position physically, to be in it financially would have been a disaster! She prevented that. (An amazing woman.) And all of that besides taking care of my every need from heated blankets to reminders about taking this pill or that. Yes, did I mention “amazing?” She is all of that and more.

    March 28th, The first of an every 3 month check up this week showed no cancer! Next is in June, though I might have a CT scan in April. So far––– so (very) good.
    April 21st, another check, this one followed "blood work" two days ago. So far, so good. Next, three months from now.
     May 5th, Next check, a CT scan, in July.
    July 5th, Had a rectal exam last week, found a "nodule" and this called for a biopsy. (This is done under full knock-out drugs.) The whole nodule was removed. Awaiting the lab report now but frankly, I think I'm OK, The anesthetic used was another story, side effects were, still are, horrible. Muscle cramping from neck to groin. Couldn't get out of bed without help. Will complain.
    Next, a CT scan on July 6th to determine if the "C" is anywhere else.
    July 9th, Not so lucky. "Nodule" turned out to be cancer. BUT! CT scan showed no cancer, once nodule was removed. Not sure where this is going yet. Will avoid surgery at all costs........if possible. Might be chemo next.
    July 13th, Of course the best answer to my prayers would be NO CANCER! Which IS the case at present. But, lurking in the shadows is the “haunt” of a return. So this is how UNM Cancer Center proposes to handle it. As with the bladder cancer I had in 2017, from here on out I will be checked every 3 months, though it might be more often, to see if anything is returning. Digital checks along with an MRI….but no treatment of any kind unless there is cause. Treatments, as of now (if there is a return) will be limited to immunology or chemo depending on response. Way down the road, if actually needed, surgery…..might not be a BIG surgery, might just be narrowly applied. The BIG one is of course, the “bag” solution which, they know, I am resisting……………..unless all else fails.
    Right now, I am (mostly) fine. At least 90% of my anxiety has been assuaged and sleep for us both will become normal. (No more wake-ups at 3 or 4 AM due to free floating angst.) I can’t tell you what a relief this is……..except to know, “again” that prayers are answered.
    Thanks for all of yours….we are keepin’ on!
    July 22nd, Went into UNM Cancer yesterday to meet with doc (the "chemo" doc) and all blood work has come out just fine. (no "bad" cells swimming around). In short, NO CANCER! I'm on a three month watch now.....and breathing a whole lot easier. Yes, prayers answered.
    October 20th, almost one year to the day that all of the above began. Had an MRI just a few days ago and as of today I am CANCER FREE! I can't tell you what a relief this is. The worst is over and now I am on a three month watch (as usual).           
    On the other hand, or other end if you will, a look inside my bladder has shone the possiblity of "abnormal cells". This CAN be the result of all the radiation. A few weeks from now I'll go in for a bi-op to take care of that. At this point it doesn't look like a big deal. Breathing going a lot easier from here on.
    November 10th. Underwent bi-op of bladder on the 8th. Worst part was the lead-up when I got tangled up in a BIG "what-if" about maybe not coming out of the knock out drugs. Well, I did (of course) and the recovery isn't a whole lot of fun, but they did a good job at the V.A. and in a few days I'll find out what they found and what's next. So far.......so good. Maybe BIG interventions are over!
    November 25th (Thanksgiving). So, yes there are "problematical" cells in my bladder, meaning any one of those cells COULD develop into cancer. That's the result of the radiation I received for the anal cancer (and I was warned that this could be a by-product......but, had to be done after all). So now what?
    Beginning December 28th I'll be "infused" with a treatment, tried and true for over 40 years, that will (98% sure) keep any cells from going crazy. (Yes, I know I'm using technical terms here but you know what I mean.) As long as the side-effects are tolerable I foresee no problems. It's a once-a-week thing (every Tuesday) for quite some time (months maybe) but it bodes well. Everything else seems to be working well........well, not really. the scar tissue in my rectum takes away both awareness and control in that area. You can imagine what that's like. BUT! I'm alive and feel fine so I'll accept the downside(s) of that and embrace every new day with gratitude.
    December 27th, The V.A. called to tell me that the infernal machine that mixes up the devil's brew (the t.b. toxin) has broken down. So nothing happening re cancer and me TFN. Happy New Year!

“You Americans and Your Guns….”

    ….sighed the Canadian border official as he was confiscating the two pistols I had forgotten I had behind the seat in my truck. I was traveling to Victoria, BC on a sightseeing venture after a Men’s Weekend on Whidbey Island, Washington. It was part of an extended road trip that originated in San Antonio and wound up through Chicago, Milwaukee, Casper, Wyoming and then Whidbey where I was the sweat lodge leader for the weekend. The guns belonged to my San Antonio daughter and I had totally spaced that I had stuck them in my truck and hadn’t really intended to be carrying them on this trip at all. And now they were gone, and they were sort of expensive and, as noted, didn’t even belong to me.
    Embarrassing, and a costly oversight. But what stuck with me, even all these years later, I’d guess that was in the early 90’s, was how we were seen by people outside of our culture. “You Americans and your guns.” Yeah. What th’ hell is that all about anyway?
    Well, we know damned well what it’s about. It’s about our being sold on the concept of fear beginning with the gun manufacturers, the gun lobby, the “Second Amendment” fanatics (and the gross distortion of that bit of our Constitution which serves their own ends) the fear-mongering media, the politicians who have their own vested interests to serve, and our romantic notions of what and who we are as a nation. i.e. we got where we are by virtue of having more and better guns (don’t forget “guts”) than the other guys. We outshot the Brits, the Indians, the Mexicans, the Spanish, the South, the outlaws, the Germans, the Japanese, the Italians….then we got outsmarted by the North Vietnamese…..uh, but let’s not get into that.
    Fact is, GUNS, more and better GUNS will keep us and our families “safe”. (It says that right here in this gun ad and in our Wild West culture.)
    No matter what the statistics say, we are all safer when we are armed and ready. “…..if we’re trained!” says one gun advocate friend of mine. (Let’s not get into the fact that cops are “trained” and yet that hasn’t prevented a few of them from shooting unarmed people when they feel threatened.)
    “All those mass shooting wouldn’t have happened if there had been some good person present who was armed!” goes another claimant. The fact that Gabby Gifford was shot when three “good people” who were armed stood around her and made no difference in the outcome doesn’t seem to enter into this pattern of thinking.
    When that border inspector said what he said, I (sort of) remember thinking, “Hey, I’m not like those gun nuts Americans. I just happen to have a couple of guns in my truck. I don’t do this routinely.” That was true in that scenario. But it wasn’t true a few years later when I did routinely carry a gun. And it changed me for a time.
    If someone got aggressive in traffic there was, somewhere back in my thinking, a thought that went like this, “Hey! You’d better not get pushy, I’ve got a gun.”
    That’s a different response than I would have had if I hadn’t had a gun. Sans fire power I would, and do, think, “What a clown. I’ll just stay away from that one.”
    As it turned out, I preferred the latter response because I realized that the only way the former thought was going to take me would be a road to greater and greater escalation.
    Seems our society is having the same experience.

And add to this:
                        Background Checks, the Political Manipulation

    Let’s face FACTS and not fantasies. Background checks will NOT stop all the gun violence in our country, in fact it won’t stop any of it. Few of these insane killers, “insane” because they did what they did not because they were necessarily diagnosed as such before the fact, would have been stymied in their search for these weapons of mass destruction with a background check. The guy who killed half a hundred in Las Vegas was not a raving maniac, he was a cold-blooded killer for no-one-knows-why. He had no history of “mental illness”.
    Short of confiscating every single gun in America, which will never happen, the only way we can at least make it more cumbersome for someone to carry out these mass murders is to make the tools they use less proficient. In short, stop the sale NOW of all “assault-like” rifles. (By the way, those opposed like to say “They are not really ‘assault weapons’ because they are not fully automatic.” and we’re somehow supposed to feel better about that) The fact is that even if they are not “fully automatic” they can be fired as quickly as anyone can pull the trigger and with high capacity mags. That means that 30 rounds can be fired almost as fast as you can say “Gee! That’s’ awfully fast isn’t it?” Yes, yes I KNOW that someone can load up on standard clips and slap them into a rifle or pistol quickly….so even banning h.c. mags won’t help much, but it’s SOMETHING, and if we can add it to the idea of BG checks, well hooray!
    More to the point, ban the sale and manufacture of these weapons AND of high capacity magazines AND of parts for those weapons…..and require that any current owners of such weapons register them, at a high taxation rate, just as any owners of machine guns must. If they won’t pay, confiscate them.         Period.
    And let’s not get into the stupid argument that gun ownership (of ANY kind of gun) equals “FREEDOM”. If you Mr. Gun owner want or feel the need of having a gun around then you may have one (or two or a dozen for that matter) but the type of gun WILL BE REGULATED….and you are free to stand on any street corner and argue about it all day and night…and thus your right to Free Speech will be respected. But there is no right to be armed to the teeth with high firepower for all….that’s why we don’t want anyone to have a howitzer or a bazooka for that matter.
    This “background check” b.s. is nothing more than a political game being used to buy off those of us who want something done about these killing machines in our society. We are offered the sop of background checks in order to turn off the spotlight and call off the dogs as it were and make us believe we’re getting somewhere…….yet if and when we finally win that fight we will wind up with NOTHNG. And “they”, the gun lobby and NRA supporters, will breath a sigh of relief that those who would “take our guns and our freedoms” have gone away.
Meanwhile, the potential killers will still be able to roam free with high powered weapons and we and our children will still be at high risk to those who will remain, until after the killing spree, unidentified.
    And “Open carry”! What are we teaching our children, mainly young boys? That’s it’s really a good idea, even “manly”, to be walking around with guns on our hips (and shoulders) all over town? Even in Dodge City in the 1800’s it was against the law to do that. And that was called “the wild west”!
And this crazy idea that “Guns don’t kill, people do.” The FACT is, SOME PEOPLE WITH GUNS KILL LOTS OF PEOPLE and the only way to at least slow the massacre down is to give them less power and ammunition to do so.
    People driving cars kill people too…but at least we have them register their cars, carry insurance, get a drivers license and require that they be sober. All we do for the OC people is ask them to get a license to carry a lethal weapon into our malls, parks, public meetings…etc. That’s it!
    In response to the marches against gun violence some folks in Montana staged a counter march called, “For our guns”. Montana, the highest death rate for homicide and suicide by guns in the country. This gun worship is one crazy religion.

What we need is; Mother's (Wives-Girlfriends) Against Fathers (Husbands, Boyfriends) Carrying Guns! Not a great acronym but a great idea!


 The fallout for me from a Men’s Weekend

    You’d think, well I’d think, that by the time I hit my 9th decade in life I’d have it all figured out……the “all” being Life & Me of course. But no! It took yet another Men’s Weekend to dredge up some hauntings from the past and exhumations of long buried feelings to make things “interesting” yet again post gathering.
    To wit; despite being told, even assured quite often of late, that I, yes ME, I have made quite a positive difference in a number of lives it was only after “owning” that affirmation in front of people that I was then plunged into some deep work on myself.
    The circumstances were that in the midst of our regular Give-Away Ceremony at the end of the weekend I stood up to have my say about how I saw and experienced the event and somehow got around to admitting that maybe, just maybe, some people came to these things, Long Dance, Vision Quest, Men’s Weekends, etc. not only because we, Elizabeth and I, do interesting stuff, but because of me and what I have to give or “teach”, though I still shrivel at the “teach” thing…offer maybe, but teach, that seems like a stretch too far. Seems like hubris.
    Anyway, there I was, standing up in front of a bunch of people saying, not from ego but from honesty, that maybe some would come to experience……me! This is a tough claim for me to stake.
    Of course I know what I want to do ALWAYS is to be clear and authentic. I know I’m not really the brightest bulb in the Spiritual chandelier, maybe I’m simply a clever guy, not in the manipulative sense, just that I’m able to tell a pretty good story and have got a memory storage unit full for just about any occasion. (None of them fictionalized or embellished to suit some hidden agenda.)
    I’ve got some wisdom about life too, and I really, really want to help. I take that Emerson line, “…to know one person has breathed easier because you lived.” to heart. In the end I want that to be said about me. I can’t imagine a higher honor.
    And, as with any of us I’ve got some crap in the closet, so my work is to keep trying to clear that out, sometimes by ‘fessing up, sometimes by just letting it go. I chose what works best for me and don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all approach.
    But my standing up there and saying that I MIGHT have to accept the possibility that some people being attracted by how I do me and thus how the workshops I, and we, present have some power to support change, seemed incredibly risky. But I did it………and then Pandora’s box was opened. By me.
    And here came the flood of guilt and shame.
    First of all, whenever I end an email to someone I close with; “Love from our OZ! to yours.” I capitalize both letters in Oz to create a picture of those emerald towers, and I add an exclamation to communicate its singular importance, i.e., that the Emerald City represented Hope, and that’s what I “hope” our place and what we create here represents for all who experience it. After all, that’s what it has been for us. But…!
    Yes, there was a “But”, a fly in the ointment, a shadow in the spotlight that always bothered me about that allusion. In the end, the Wizard was unmasked as a fraud and I wondered if deep down inside I wasn’t one too.
    Why would I think that? Because one of the themes of the weekend, or for that matter, many a weekend I and we have created, has been “Who do you THINK you are?” because in that question there is both the power of self-delusion and the potential for change. And who did I think I was? Over the years; a kid who was dancing as fast as he could, working on an honest choreography of life. A kid with so-called shameful secrets, in short, the guy behind the curtain.
    By the way, in my experience that “shameful secrets” thing is usually very subjective. Though there might be some things any of us would concur ARE things to be ashamed of, many are, objectively, quite ordinary blunders that we, standing outside the experience might see as having little or no real shame potential at all. Often confessions of these things to others might be met with, “What’s the big deal?” responses which are not helpful. Because though the event itself may not objectively seem to be something we would consider to be worthy of condemnation, the power of how we have felt about it, over time, becomes more and more discomforting. What may have been a small weed, fed with enough guilt food, becomes a sequoia.
    So! The guy behind-the-curtain; his being exposed as a fraud, I came to realize, wasn’t the end of the story nor was it how it turned out. In fact he was an honest man, a bit of a bumbler to be sure, but an honest man who had taken on the task of creating a place of Hope, and the job he took on was the promotion of that idea. He didn’t work for personal gain, unless you consider his role as The Great and Wonderful Wizard of Oz! a kind of ego payment. He felt the need to create that façade because he had little confidence that his simple personage would be able to sell the concept. He wasn’t a “fraud”, he was a man with a great heart who wanted to help in the only way he knew how, with showmanship. We can fault the smoke and mirrors, but certainly not the intent.
    Well, that’s not me, i.e., I don’t do smoke and mirrors, I just do me and I hope there’s enough communicated about the value of honesty and the power of personal risk in the service of highest purpose to be worthy of the title, “The Wiz”.
    As my Italian grandmother used to say to me over and over again, “Non cha be shamed!” At the time, I thought is was something that came out of her experience of being an immigrant in a time when Italians were were seen as “….lower than Negroes.” (an observation made by W.B. Duboise). But now I know that it’s a one-size-fits us all.
    I’m owning that one, and gifting it to you as well. No matter what, when it comes to our self imposed and inflated sense of  guilt about ANYTHING;
“Non cha be shamed!” and love from us here in OZ! and from the guy who stands in front of the curtain.

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