Wednesday, October 24, 2007


God, I hate being in Limbo, and I seem to be spending far too much time there of late. A combination of factors are responsible: having reached a point in my current book where I simply don’t know where to go next; frustration over the fact that I have three books in the publisher’s clogged pipeline with absolutely nothing I can do to speed things up; residual self-disgust (see earlier blog) over recently having spent nearly $200 on computer programs I have been unable to install; the weather, which I really don’t mind, but which at the moment is reminiscent of something out of The Hound of the Baskervilles. Overall, an odd mixture of edginess and mild torpor. Not particularly pleasant.

I just had “lunch”—a Hot Pockets Cheeseburger which, on the box looked to be overflowing with scrum-diddly-iciousness but proved to be only slightly more tasty than the box it came in—and decided to come in here to compose the next blog entry. And here I sit, staring at a vast expanse of white screen with only a few dark smudges of words on it. From a distance it looks like an ant on the corner of a freshly-ironed bedsheet.

Limbo is certainly not a place for the impatient, and I have long been a poster boy for impatience. I’ve come to the conclusion that my mind is somehow not wired properly and subsequently is constantly short-circuiting, triggering flashes of thought which have little or no bearing to what the rest of my mind is doing or thinking. Memories appear from nowhere, thoughts go not from “A” to “B” but often from “A” to “X”.

As an example (as if one were needed), as I wrote the above I remembered that when I first moved into my big old house in Pence, it had lots of bats. I really like bats and would never harm them, but they can be rather disturbing as they suddenly swoop and flit through the house, especially at night. I would get out of bed, get a large wide-mouthed jar an a square of cardboard I kept for the purpose, then follow the bat until it lit somewhere. I’d then carefully put the jar over it and slide the cardboard under the opening until I had the bat trapped in the jar. I’d then take it downstairs, open the door, and let it go.

My mind is like the bat, and Limbo is like the jar. I don’t like being in a jar. It isn’t that, when I’m in the jar, I don’t still have thoughts and memories and ideas, it’s just that in such a limited space I can’t seem to grab on to any one of them long enough to do anything with it, and the sense of frustration—my primary nemesis—takes over everything else.

It is so terribly important to me to always have the sense that I have accomplished something in the course of a day…that I’ve somehow preserved one more bit of myself in words which will remain hopefully long after I am no longer physically here. Therefore, my time in Limbo is doubly frustrating.

I seem to spend so much time consumed by the need to leave evidence to the future that I really did exist that I often neglect truly enjoying the present. And when I do things(as I did today by going to the Art Institute) which I really enjoy, I feel guilty for “wasting” time I could have spent writing. A lose/lose situation, I fear.
But never fear. I know this current Limbo won’t last, and I will, I hope, someday find a balance between enjoying my todays without feeling guilty. But it isn’t easy.

New entries are posted every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Enemy Mine

Caution: Like the wording on a car’s rear view mirror, the emotions expressed below may appear considerably more intense than they actually are.

I’ve always loved Dorothy Parker’s classic comment on her arch rival, Claire Booth Luce. A friend once observed: “But you know, Claire is her own worst enemy,” to which Dorothy replied: “Not as long as I’m alive.”

I like Dorothy. And perhaps there is, out there, someone who hates me more than I do. But I doubt it. I was contemplating today (and I long ago gave up trying to figure out whence or why these thoughts come) the fact that, as I’ve undoubtedly mentioned before, I frequently do not like myself very much. I never have, and not infrequently frighten myself with the intensity of the rage and self-loathing that consume me whenever I find myself unable to do some task a rhesus monkey could perform with one hand while scratching his butt with the other.

I have also acknowledged that this mild-dislike-to-deep-loathing scale is balanced on the fulcrum of what I expect from myself. If I cannot do something well—and I cannot resist the temptation to say “which is just about everything”—, I do not want to do it at all…even though, again, I fully realize that no human being can possibly attain the level of perfection (no, lets make that “competence”) I set for myself. But it drives me to total distraction to see how much closer most people seem to get than I do.

And therein, I think, lies a key to why I have increasingly compartmentalized myself into Roger and Dorien…to spare one part of me the contempt I frequently heap on the other. At my most logical, I really do understand that Roger is merely human and subject to all the mental and physical frailties and stupidities to which all humans are prone.

Where this perceived unworthiness comes from I have no idea. But it has plagued me all my life.
I was an awkward kid, a klutz and a loner who of course wanted to be popular. I have always been a gigantic sponge for affection, praise, and adulation, as you may already have gathered from reading these blogs. There could never be…can never be…enough. Even my family, who I knew loved me, couldn’t provide enough.

I constantly look around and compare myself to others, and invariably find myself sorely wanting. That nearly everyone I see and envy has their own problems of which I am not the least aware simply does not register. Every time I try to remind myself of that fact, part of me counters with “Yeah, but…”

And another key rests in the fact that my emotional responses never advanced far beyond the two-year-old level. I have not one scintilla of patience. When I want something, I want it NOW and resent any amount of effort that might be needed to get it. If I buy a computer program, I expect to hit “Download” and begin using it immediately with no further ado once it has been downloaded. Do not bother me with reading instruction manuals. I am totally incapable of it and become totally confused within the first sentence, from which I slide quickly into frustration, anger, and a seething fury of self loathing.

Well, enough of the clothes-rending and self-flagellation. I’ll go have my coffee and chocolate covered donut, now, and get on with the day. Despite my bitching and moaning, life is good.

New entries are posted every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Lucky Me

As you know, I am too frequently given to bouts of self pity over the residual effects of my winning battle with tongue cancer: the loss of my salivary glands and the subsequent inability to taste food properly, to swallow a single bite without washing it down with liquid, etc. I had often thought of how devastating it must be for someone whose life revolves around their ability to eat, chew, swallow, and taste.

The most recent issue of People Magazine has an article on a rising star in the culinary world...young, talented, handsome (the kind of guy Dorien responds to by automatically though facetiously saying “We hate him”) who has been diagnosed with Stage 4 tongue cancer. My heart goes out to him. He has just begun his course of treatment which involves the same chemo-and-radiation treatment I went through. He is entering the radiation phase: the one that destroys the salivary glands.

The article made it sound as though the treatment were new, but in fact it apparently is a result and extension of the experimental protocol I chose to join when offered to me as part of my own treatment. The article implied that the standard treatment for tongue cancer still involved surgically removing up to 2/3 of the tongue,which could result in an inability to swallow and a loss of speech. My speech is impaired (amazing how many things saliva influences), but I can both speak and swallow most things…though not pills.

He will, undoubtedly, have to undergo surgery to remove his lymph glands, as I did. But from what I understand from my oncologists at Mayo, drastic surgery is in fact becoming less and less used as an option, and progress is being made in many areas.

The story contained some interesting facts and encouraging news: tongue cancer, as I knew, is a rare disease, with only 9,800 cases reported each year. Most are the result of smoking, though neither I nor the young chef ever smoked. He apparently had his for an astounding two years before they figured out that it was indeed tongue cancer, and by that time it had reached Stage 4 and spread to the lymph glands in his neck. (It took six months for them to diagnose mine—also Stage 4—though it, thank God, never spread beyond the original site.)

I wish the young chef well, as I do anyone going through any major illness. The survival rate for tongue cancer is going up steadily—currently as high as 70 percent—and though his life will change dramatically, chances are good that he will still be alive at the end of his battle. I’m sure he will find some way to continue his career as a chef on some level, but it will not be the same. He is lucky to be sufficiently wealthy to simply turn to managing his several restaurants rather than actual food-preparation, though he will undoubtedly have periods of wondering what he had done in his life to deserve what has happened to him. And he’ll realize, as I have, that he did nothing wrong; that fate is simply capricious and what matters most is how one responds to being dealt a rotten hand. And hopefully he will realize, as I do, just how lucky he will have been just to survive.

New entries are posted every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back.

Friday, October 12, 2007


You may have noticed a recurring theme here: a ranting and railing against crap we are willingly spoon fed through our TV sets. And the astounding thing, to me, is that so few people object to it. It’s infinitely easier to blindly accept what we’re told than to even attempt to think for ourselves.

I'm sure you've seen that ad for the Byproducts-on-a-Bun chain showing a quadruple cheeseburger with bacon and tomato that looks to be equivalent to the height of a six-year-old boy and the seductive voiceover assures us is “piled high” with goodies? Sheep that we are, we race, salivating in anticipation, to our nearest Byproducts-on-a-Bun store and order one.

And what do we get? Instead of the wonderous tower of mouthwatering deliciousness we just saw on TV, we’re handed something that could easily be slipped under a closed door. But of the 34 people standing in line in front of you and the 34 people standing in line behind you, each and every one of whom orders the same thing, exactly how many complain that they have been screwed? How many even realize it? The only thing “piled high” is the bull***t that dragged us in in the first place.

If I am served something in a restaurant that is not what I ordered or the way I ordered it, I will send it back without hesitation. If the service I receive is shoddy, I ask to speak to the manager, which is just what I did at a Perkins Restaurant last time I was on a visit to Mayo. I went in for breakfast. I was seated and sat. For ten minutes. No coffee, no water, no menu. Sat. The waitress passed by with one of those little push-sweepers picking up crumbs from the aisle. I sat. Finally, she brought a menu--no coffee, no water--and then disappeared again. The next time she came by, I asked to speak to the manager, and did. She was, of course, very apologetic and said the breakfast was on Perkins. I explained to her that while it was very kind of her, I did not want the breakfast to be on Perkins. I wanted breakfast to be less than an all-day adventure.

As I always explain to the manager…and I have spoken to a number of them…I direct customer complaint is far better for all concerned, including the manager, than the cutomer's simply walking out and never coming back. Though again, sheep that we are, most people will go back, and no one will have learned a thing.

When I am kept on hold for an hour and a half, being reminded every 30 seconds that “We are experiencing heavier than normal traffic. Your call is very important to us. Please stay on the line and a service representitive will be with you shortly” when I do get a service representative, I explain the reason for my call and then ask to speak to a supervisor.

Some of my dear friends really hate going anywhere with me because I refuse to simply shut up and ignore an obvious wrong. These incidents do not occur frequently, and I do not go out of my way to find fault with anyone. But when I find it, you can bet your bottom dollar I report it.

There was a time when businesses were there for the convenience of their customers. A few still are. But increasingly customers are there at the convenience of the business, and 99.5 out of 100 people simply accept it. It’s wrong, and I’ll be damned if I will go along with it. We deserve what we accept.

Our politicians tell us lie after lie after lie after lie, and we nod with wide-eyed innocence and take every mispronounced word and mangled sentence as gospel, and when election time comes around those of us who bother to vote at all make sure exactly those same people are returned to office. It is to weep.

But I’m out of space, so will close for now. Thank you again for putting up with me.

New entries are posted every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


Several nights ago an itchy finger woke me up. I learned long ago not to scratch an itch, but rather to use my fingernails to push down on the affected area. It’s just as effective as scratching, but avoids a lot of redness and scratch marks. Despite my efforts, the itch kept up for a long time before it finally went away.

The next day I went out and bought some cortisone cream. That night, the same finger itch, plus a new itch on my right foot. I applied the cream, and it went away. The third night, more itching, more intense. First one finger, then several fingers, then the palm of the one hand, the fingers and palm of the other hand, then my left knee. I’d just begin to deal with one when something else would start to itch. I lathered on the cortisone cream, which did no good at all.

I should point out this happens only at night, never when I’m up and about.

Last night I not only could not sleep, but the itching became so intolerable I was forced to get out of bed at 2:30 a.m. I went to the computer, hoping to find out what was going on, for the computer knows everything, even though it is sometimes extremely reluctant to let you know what it knows. I tried searching under “Symptoms: Night Itching” and several other places. Tons and tons of references to scholarly papers, most of which could be purchased from equally scholarly medical journals. But nothing…absolutely nothing…to suggest what was going on, or what I might do about it.

I did, in a list of symptoms, come across this: "Intolerable itching all over body without perceptible eruption of skin especially in pregnant women worse at night preventing sleep and worse from scratching :- Dol"

I took some, albeit small, comfort in discovering the condition was not unheard of and apparently not life-threatening. But other than that, it didn’t really help, particularly since I am neither a woman nor in menopause nor pregnant.

Some time ago, my local oncologist had referred me to a general practioner named Dr. Wexelman, whom I thereafter saw on one occasion. So this morning, I came to the computer to find Dr. Wexelman’s number and give him a call. I did not have his number. I looked in the phone book. It did not have his number. I called St. Joseph’s Hospital, where both Dr. Malhutra, my oncologist, and Dr. Wexelman are located. and asked for Dr. Wexelman’s number. I was told there was no such person.

I then called my oncologist’s number, explaining to the receptionist what my problem was, and asking her to please check my chart to find Dr. Wexelman’s number. “I’ll have Dr. Malhutra call you,” she said. I told her I didn’t want or need Dr. Malhutra to call me. I wanted Dr. Waxelman’s number. That’s all. “I’ll have Dr. Malhutra call you,” she repeated.

Dr. Malhutra has not called. I have no way of contacting Dr. Wexelman, if in fact he exists. And the evening lies ahead.

New entries are posted every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back.

Friday, October 05, 2007

And Blog Begat Blog

I’m not really quite sure why I do it. Sometimes I think my ego has just totally taken over. And too often, my self-absorption reminds me of those annoyingly precocious tykes one sees on TV, ozzing “cute” from every pore.

I honestly would have to sit down with an abacus to figure out exactly how many blogs I have going. I have one devil of a time trying to keep up with them all. And so what do I do? Why, I start another blog, of course.

To tear my mind away from the fact that the pipeline for publishing my already finished books is frustratingly clogged and seemingly getting more so every day, I decided to take on a non-writing project I’ve had sitting patiently on the back burner: scanning hundreds of old personal and family photographs dating back more than 100 years (I’m not in quite all of them), and sorting them out into some sort of a thread. I’ve divided them into categories—mom and dad, Fearns (mom’s side of the family), photos from my folks’ cottege, college photos, friends…and “friends”…my navy years, photos of Ray, my time in Los Angeles, my time in Pence, and individual photos of me from zygote to the present . Again, egotism run amok.

And I fall back yet again on the flimsy reasoning that you might have even the most remote interest in any of this because it goes to prove that we are all far more alike than we are different.

So, having scanned and sorted and categorized, I heard the far-off voices of Judy Garland and Andy Rooney chirping “Hey, gang, let’s put on a show!” And I thought that since I spend so much of my time laying myself out before you, warts and all, in my various forms of writing, why not do so visually, too?

And thus was Dorien Grey: A Life in Photos born. The object is to post at least one photo every day or so, accompanying it with a short paragraph of explanation. I have no idea how successful this little experiment will be and can readily foresee that, like life, there are so very many overlaps and interrelations and visual digressions that it may all fall down like a house of cards. But we’ll give it the old college try, and hope you might come along for the ride. I really do enjoy and appreciate your company.

The “warts and all” aspect, for example, might be a bit difficult. One seldom has photos taken under other-than-pleasant circumstances. None taken of all those embarrassing or shameful or seamy episodes that clutter everyone’s life, and my increasing reluctance, as Time began playing her mean-spirited tricks, to have my photo taken at all. And none at all, of course, taken when no one else was around. One tends to be on one’s better behavior when someone is standing there with a loaded camera. So there’s mostly happiness or contentment and good times reflected in these photos, which, after all, is what all of life should be about.

Oh, and I might point out in my own defense that I use “Dorien Grey” in the title of all the blogs not quite so much for the joy of seeing my own name repeated yet again…which of course I do…but for the sake of Google and other search engines, in the remote chance that someone might be trying to look me up. I wouldn’t want them to miss anything.

If you might want to take a look, you'll find the new blog at

New entries are posted every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back.