Friday, September 05, 2008

Doc Visit, Jogging and Chuck.

With all the bleedings, scans, biopsies and blood tests that have been going on the past month or so, I've not been keeping up with my exercise regimen. Just after the biopsy, it took me at least a week before I could do very much. 

So, my blood sugar has been testing a bit high. The thing is that when I work hard at maintaining my health, I can get to feeling normal. I forget about the virus and how easily my body starts to feel like it's coming apart when I'm not being diligent. 

When I saw Dr. Tony, we talked about the higher blood sugar and he said there were new drugs out there, etc. But something inside me just said, "You know, I'd rather fight this with exercise and diet. And then, if it doesn't work, we can start looking at medications." I just felt like I could do it.

One of the things I like about Dr. Tony is that he's aggressive. If something looks a little wrong, we hit it hard. Time is not on the side of a person with a damaged immune system. At this point, my total t-cells are still below 400. But then, they've been that way, it seems, forever. I guess this is my stabilization point, assuming there is such a thing among positoids and I think I'm basically about as sound as a person can be in my condition.

I decided there in the office that I would work this through by sheer effort. 

Last night, after we had dinner, I put on my shorts, t-shirt, socks and shoes, and went outside. It was about 7:30. The sun had set, but the sky was still light. I began speed walking. Since it's been awhile since I've run, I didn't want to go too fast. But to just listen to my body. And speed walking felt good.

Once I kind of settled into that and my breathing felt normal, I went into a jog. I had forgotten how nice it feels to settle into a nice jog. It can be like flying if you let it. 

One of the great motivations for getting out and running is my rediscovery of Kulak's Woodshed.

About the time, I was ready for a break, I was standing right there at the front door. The thing about Kulak's is that there's no cover. If you want to just drop in, it's like having an extra living room in your house. It makes me feel like there's a neighborhood here in this otherwise cold and dark street filled with blocks of apartment houses. 

It's just too weird that Los Angeles has the best weather on the planet, and no one goes outside. 

Remembering that James Lee Stanley was playing, but hadn't started yet, I plopped onto the sofa just to his right. Immediately, an adorable white poodle comes up to me and sniffs at my cuffs. I reach down and scritched her under the ears. She started rubbing against me, almost like a cat, so I patted the couch and she jumped up into my lap.

I had a four-legged companion for the show!

Then James Lee asked Paul Kulak, "Is it time to start?"

Paul said, "Anytime you're ready." (Everything is broadcast live over the net).

And there I was, less than six feet away from James Lee Stanley as he sang and did funny monologues for an hour. (His story about Star Trek underwear, from his days as an extra on the set of TNG is graphically hysterical.) 

Musically, he writes intelligent, witty and emotional lyrics and would probably call himself a folk singer, but to me, it's just great music. His guitar playing was intricate and edgy. For many songwriters, by the way, James Lee Stanley is close to godhood. And here he was kicking ass in this tiny funky space, hocking his CDs and making jokes about how "in Hollywood they line up to forget you." 

And I'm there as part of my evening jog.

I left after an hour. Stephen Bishop (!) was on next, but I needed to get myself moving again. I said goodbye to the doggie and hit the street again. Just about a block from home, I looked up and there he was. 

A stick figure wearing a baseball hat and pushing a cart jam packed with bags sticking out on all sides.

It was Chuck

Just as I approached, he held out his arms and said, "I can tell it's you from a block away. Old Thunderthighs."

I gave him a big hug. Chuck is a homeless veteran, by the way, for those of you who don't read this blog regularly. He dumpster dives, but only for cans and plastic items and the random treasure, and tries his best not to get oily or dirty. He is well known in the neighborhood by many of the merchants who will sometimes feed him. He freely admits to being an alcoholic, and he works harder than anyone I ever met, but he lives on the streets. 

He said, "I had a heart attack since I saw you last."

He did look thin, and he had a bandaid over his nose. His glasses are old and very thick.

He lit a cigarette. "I know I shouldn't smoke or drink, but this is my life. I'm not chasing death, but if it comes, it comes."

"I wrote a song about that once."

His face brightened. "Hey! I found a great place to sleep!"


"These guys have this business and the parking lot is behind and kind of protected. And they kind of know me from the neighborhood. I mean they know I'm not scary or threatening or anything. So, after they close, they said if I want to sleep back there, away from the noise and view of the street, it'd be okay."

"Wow! That's great! And it doesn't hurt for them to have someone on premises at night."

"They told me never to do anything, but that if I see something or someone snooping around, to tell them the next day."

"Sounds perfect."

"Yep. There's this one place just in front of the cars where I can stretch out and play my radio. Do you ever listen to 'Coast to Coast'?"

I said I did. It's a radio show with psychics and paranormal "experts" talking about the planet or the sun or ghosts or whatever.

"That's everything you need to know about me."

And I believed him.

"What do you think about this Sarah Palin?"

Now, this was interesting. One sometimes assumes that homeless people are automatically shut off from society. But Chuck stood there and gave me an analysis of the whole situation. She had only given her speech the night before. 

After I made it home, I realized that in cities like Los Angeles, there are little pockets of communities within communities. But you have to go out and find them. They don't come to you. You never run into people accidentally if you don't get out and look around. 

The problem is that these neighborhoods, created through zoning don't really make it easy. (That's why I support places like Kulak's and why I'm glad they've let it stay around. Too bad it's been such an long, hard, expensive ride for Paul. I'll be telling that story at another time.)

 I like having a neighborhood.


Anonymous said...

Excellent post and well written. About all I can say is... Isn't this what living is all about? Letting life find you and enjoying the moments. Too many people fret away their daily lives accumulating goods in the name of success without ever taking the time to enjoy what they possess.

Thanks for the story

Steve Schalchlin said...

Hey thanks, Glenn! I'm just now learning how to appreciate what I've got. Or maybe it's a lifelong journey.