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Dean Whitbread 2013

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Written on August 24, 2008, and categorized as Secret and Invisible.
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“The last time I saw Richard was Detroit in ’68,
And he told me all romantics meet the same fate someday
Cynical and drunk and boring someone in some dark cafe…”

‘The Last Time I Saw Richard’ by Joni Mitchell

Behind every cynic is a disappointed romantic, is the often quoted adage. In my case, the romantic does not leave when the cynic enters. He lurks behind the sofa, ready to start a revolution with expensive cologne, rich, dark chocolate, and blood-red roses.

Cynicism is born of experience. I am cynical about doctors, and yet, I am romantic about healing.

Being cynical means being safe – I destroy false hope with the machinery of my clever mind. I also prevent myself from seeking help when I need it, which frankly, is just dumb. I know where the dumbness comes from – my childhood. I found it there in a doctor’s surgery, being given stupid drugs I didn’t need.

Now, though, my own revolution is upon me, the turning around of my sofa. I have managed to avoid confronting the issue of my deeper health whilst moderating my worst excesses in the romantic belief that since I am not that indulgent that much of the time, I should be ok. Actually, I have no idea how well or sick I am, but I am not entirely well. I went to the doctor yesterday. She looked at the strange bruising on my legs and asked me if I had HIV (I don’t). She asked me how much alcohol I drink. I felt guilty about that one. She sent me off to hospital on Monday where my blood is being tested for practically everything you can imagine including lipids, diabetes, lymph, liver and kidney function, and a whole heap of extras.

I am making gallows humour remarks to everyone who cares. I am not quite in mortal fear, but I admit to being rattled. If the first doctor hadn’t called in the second doctor.. if the doctor hadn’t said, “Call me Thursday, and I’ll tell you whether you have to come in immediately or not.”

“Fuck!” I thought, as I left clutching the referral. And then again, “Shit!”

On the way home, I was pondering about whether this was my hedonistic past catching up with me, when I noticed an old associate of mine from 13 years back riding past on his bike, no lights, in the half-dark. I called, he stopped, we chatted. He used to be a drinker – not now, he’s been dry 7 or 8 years, he told me matter of factly. As we caught up, I saw that in his battered face, there was a real spark of survival. I found myself recalling with amusement how he nearly electrocuted me once. He told me that those many years back, I had been a selfish bastard. I knew what he meant, but without any rancour, replied that I wasn’t that bad. We chatted more, and told him about my visit to the surgery, and the reasons why, and that I might have a screwed up liver, and that despite my cheery demeanour, I was scared. “The liver can recover,” he said, “but you have to let it.”

Then he recounted the story of Chay Blythe, the famous yachtsman. He had been told he had Hodgkins Lymphoma and was given four years to live. He was offered “the mustard gas, the chemicals and everything.. but he said, well, if I’ve only four years to live, I’ve always wanted to row round the world, it will take me that long to do it. I think I’ll do that rather than be crippled by the your medicine. He set off and achieved his goal. Four years later, still not dead, he set off on another mission. 30 years more he lived..”

I am not deeply religious, but I needed that positivity, and I thanked God for it. Bless Simon. Of course there is no mention of this fabulous bravery in any of the search engine references I can find. Apparently Sir Chay is alive and you can book him for a motivational lecture – maybe I should look into it… would certainly give me something to write about. The factual truth in this case is irrelevant – he was giving me clear guidance on my attitude, which I needed. It made me mindful of the wonderful Warren Zevon song, My Shit’s Fucked Up which he wrote and recorded with the body failure that killed him.

“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.”

Winston Churchill

When I was looking for the Joni Mitchell quote, I found this next to it. Neat, Winston, neat, especially from a man who smoked and drank all his life. I had planned to write on the subject of letters this month; instead I will devote Gibson to all things healthy.

Whatever Simon’s kindness, optimism, I am about to be presented with facts about my biochemistry which is a fairly daunting prospect. I don’t want to end up as the Ivan Noble of Funk. I am going to have to give my system its 50,000 mile service, which could even lead to yoga. Fuck! Better make that kundalini yoga.

First published November 2005.

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This thing has 3 Comments

  1. Indigobusiness
    Posted 24 August, 2008 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

    I know the feeling, one day I looked down and saw my feet were purple.

    Great Joni Mitchell lyric, but I think it goes like this:

    The last time I saw Richard was Detroit in ’68,
    And he told me all romantics meet the same fate someday
    Cynical and drunk and boring someone in some dark cafe.

    When I first heard that, I swore I’d never let the cynic in me overtake the romantic, no matter how disappointed or broken-hearted. And by the wise grace in which no one lives forever, I might just make it.

  2. Deek Deekster
    Posted 24 August, 2008 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

    You’re right, I’ve corrected the quote. What happened to your feet?

  3. Indigobusiness
    Posted 24 August, 2008 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

    Nothing wrong with my feet, they were just trying to tell me something.

    I rarely listen.

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