That’s what I wanted: to write something profound. Profundity as a goal is elusive, though it can overtake us unawares from time to time, which is probably the best sort of profundity: the unplanned. We all have it from time to time, and we mostly lack it when we are setting out to be profound. Instead of profundity we wind up with absurdity, which pretty much sums up the human condition…the profound embellished with the absurd, or vice versa.
Today is Christmas Day. All my family is asleep up at the house. I am down in my studio. I have zipped off an invoice on a job, done some analysis for the benefit of a subcontractor, and in the process answered a few questions for my sister-in-law, who runs as tight a ship as anyone I have ever seen. She keeps Newt and me out of trouble and watches things with a keenness for which we are all grateful. A tight ship is one that stays afloat.
Not only have I done some work, I have fooled around with two banjos….my 1927TB1 Conversion, and my Crafters of Tennessee Deluxe Walnut. I fooled around with head tension, deciding I had them too tight. I do this every time I get to play an original pre-war flathead Gibson. Usually it is my friend Butch Robins’ 1934 RB4. Yesterday, it was Banjo Herb’s RB12. I don’t recall what year it is, but it was once owned by the late, great Bill Keith and he used it when he was a Bluegrass boy. It is a top-tension banjo for all you who are interested in such things, and even if you’re not interested, it’s still a top tension, which is a statement that is at once profound and absurd. Think about that for a while, since profundity contains a lot of stating the obvious and absurdity is frequently found in the nuanced language of government undersecretaries, trying to sound profounder than they have any right to think they are.
Ooops!! I just got the phone call that the granddaughters have arisen at this 5:30AM moment and Christmas is exploding up at the house. I’ll be back in a couple of hours and you will never have known I was gone . . .
Pardon me. I was gone longer than I thought. It is now 4:00PM. We had a big time opening presents, then lunch with more extended family, including my friend and mentor, R.E. Huffmaster, who was able to join us on short notice. We had smoked Turkey, Strawberry salad, Watergate salad, Green Bean casserole, Hash Brown casserole, cornbread dressing with giblet gravy and fresh cranberry sauce, Asparagus casserole, mashed potatoes, rolls, ice tea, chocolate pie and velvet cake. As this meal was all leftovers from last night, it was a freebie. We will have more freebies tomorrow.
On my trip to Houston last week, Dr. Gooday increased my dosage of the Ruxolitinib to 200mg twice daily. Dr. Mainmost squeezed me in after seven days of no sleep and added an additional medication to what I was already taking for the Restless Legs Syndrome, which is a patch called Neupro (rotigatine), a drug used to control involuntary movements in people with Parkinson’s disease. The Mirapex I currently take does he same thing (both simulate the naturally occurring neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain), but apparently I had been on it so long that I have experienced augmentation, which means the symptoms get worse while the medicine gets less effective, without my being able to take larger doses of the medication, which could trigger a whole host of unexpected problems. I now take these two drugs with a slight dose of hydrocodone, which makes the drug stick to all the right receptors in my brain. While this cocktail has not been the miracle that produces eight hours of sleep a night, it has so far produced three to five hours, which gets me by, five hours actually being fine for me. All in all, I’d say I’m doing pretty well at the moment.
I went with my friend Tuscaloosa Mike yesterday to Birmingham for a Christmas Eve picking party at Banjo Herb’s. Banjo Herb is a good friend, great banjoist, and fellow CLL sufferer. Our varieties of CLL are a bit different. He has a FISH 11q deletion, while I am FISH normal, but IgVH Unmutated, of which neither is a good thing. Both are better than deletion at chromosome 17p, though, which is about the worst kind of CLL, being obstinate to treatment and becoming refractory early on, refusing to respond to anything and everything hurled at it by the doctors.
We both are veteran CLL patients. Banjo Herb has started on Ibrutinib at UAB in the last few months while I am on the Ruxolitihnib Clinical Trial at BATCC. If the Ruxolitinib does not continue working, I will also be on Ibrutinib, unless it turns out that the Ruxolitinib has killed me, which is possible, as all of these drugs can and occasionally do have serious side effects and reactions. Every drug does, including aspirin, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen. Sometimes a sudden peanut or seafood allergy turns up and kills a person, taking him completely by surprise after having eaten peanut butter shrimp sandwiches all his prior, now cut-short life. Some might say it was the gluten that got him. It could be. Everything has its risks, since there is no way of escaping risk in this life. We manage the risks as best we can, sometimes not doing so well, as there is always the risk of the completely unexpected.
“We had no idea that JAKAFI (ruxolitinib) was going to cause the spontaneous outbreak of full grown White-tail deer antlers on people’s heads,” later testified the Incyte Corporation’s representative before the FDA panel, adding, “Unfortunately, a full rack of deer antlers scoring 150 points or better on the Boone & Crockett scale are dangerous things for humans to be sporting on their heads in December in Mississippi.”
The FDA then called an immediate halt to the clinical trial in Mississippi until the end of January when deer season closed. No charges had been filed in any of the several incidents reported in various Mississippi counties as no prosecutor would bring a case before a grand jury, most of them understanding because they were hunters themselves. Some things one just cannot prepare for, even the absurd, though the real absurdity might be apparent to the hunter who went to collect his trophy only to find me laying on the ground, run through by a furiously expanded 165 grain Nosler partition bullet, with twelve points, a 25” spread, and a 175 B&C rack sprouting from my head, rocketing through my favorite bowler like Jack’s beanstalk just as I was loading some sundries in the parking lot of the Dollar General, the poor man’s Wal-Mart in Mississippi.
“How could you shoot Chris in the Dollar General parking lot?” the deputy asked the hunter.
“I seen them antlers, and they was legal,” said the hunter very matter-of-factly.
“They are legal,” agreed the State Wildlife Officer who had also been called.
“It’s still a homicide,” said the coroner, who had arrived before the deputy, but after the game warden.
“Completely unavoidable, though,” said the deputy to the coroner the game warden echoing in unison, all of them nodding their heads in the way of country folk who are rendered mostly speechless at the scene of unfortunate events.
“Maybe we can call it an adverse drug reaction/homicide,” said the coroner.
“It can’t be a homicide and a drug reaction,” said the deputy, “one or the other, but not both.” The game warden nodded his head. He was now nodding his head at everything anyone said. He had gone into sycophant mode.
“Is that a man or is it a deer?” wondered the coroner, more to himself than anyone else, really. “Deer don’t shop at Dollar General, but men don’t have deer horns.”
“Well, it’s obviously a man. But it’s a man with deer antlers growing out of his head. Sort of a deer/man, but definitely a legal rack harvested by a properly licensed hunter on private property.”
The hunter stood over by the side, his 30-06 rifle sitting on the hood of the deputy’s patrol car, the bolt removed. He nodded his head, too, saying, “It was legal, all right. I’d shoot him again if he got up.” While he had some modicum of remorse over having shot Chris, it was a clean shot, he thought to himself, and Chris had likely not suffered at all. He sure wanted to get that rack before anyone decided that they had to confiscate it. He already had visions of the trophy handsomely mounted over the mantle of his fireplace. “Can I get my trophy and rifle and go, now?”
“What? You gonna just cut off his head and leave with it?” asked the deputy. “I can’t rightly allow that.”
“Naw, I just want to saw off them horns, then I’ll be gone. I don’t need Chris for nothin’. We never was all that close, anyway. Y’all can figure out the rest later. That’s a legal rack, and I want what’s properly mine.”
“You don’t seem sorry at all, and this is Christmas Day and Chris is your wife’s third cousin. What do you reckon you’ll say to the family?” The deputy inquired.
“I reckon I’ll tell them he had a fine set of horns,” said the hunter. “We’ll think fondly of him every time we look at those horns over the mantle.”
Everyone bowed their heads in silence as the coroner made his final notes in his report.
“I’ll fetch the hacksaw,” said the game warden. In just a few strokes, the horns were removed, and everyone was gone back to their homes…except Chris. He went to Buford’s Funeral Home and Beauty Parlor, one of thee few places left in Mississippi that offered discounts on embalming and hair color.
I sure had a good time at Banjo Herb’s. I picked on his pre-war Gibson Top-Tension RB-12 Flathead banjo, mentioned earlier. It was formerly owned by the late banjo genius, Bill Keith, and was the banjo Keith used during his tenure as one of Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Boys. It was originally a tenor banjo, but the fact that it is an original flathead rather than the more common archtops makes it worth a lot. Add in the historical provenance, and there’s no telling what this banjo is worth. Like a lot of valuable things, it may really be priceless. I sure know this…it is a fine banjo and was a real treat to play. It sounds even better when it is in the hands of Banjo Herb, that gentleman of a man, though to hear it told he is a the world’s meanest banjo teacher, having a plaque on the wall to vouch for his meanness, though I suspect there is more to the story than just that. The plaque announcing his meanness was likely a gift from a thankful student, as we are all thankful for those teachers and mentors who pushed us to be our best, those that made us work hard, ever harder: those who will not let us rest. It is they we remember and respect.
Somewhere in here there may be a hint of profundity. Somewhere there is absurdity. It would be absurd for me to think you can’t see the obviously absurd, and perhaps smug to think that there is anything profound at all. Perhaps absurdity is all any of us are really good at. It comes natural.
I have to go now. I have a headache, almost as if horns were sprouting from my skull.
Thank you, Banjo Herb. Thank you, Tuscaloosa Mike. Thank you Kevin and Jimmy D. Thanks to everyone who shared their gift of music with me yesterday. Thank you Dr. Gooday, Hemosapien (whom I will see in January) and all the staff at MOA, Dr. Mainmost, Incyte Corporation, all the staff at BATCC, all the oncologists, hematologists, and staff at UAB, to all those who treat us CLL and other cancer patients everywhere, to my family, to my friends, and to those who indulge me in this forum.
Thank you for one more joyful, peaceful, plentiful Christmas Day and everything in it, including the risks the day brings. May we all manage those risks as best we can, even those we have not counted on: even the absurd ones. Right now, one risk will be managed by a dose of omeprazole for the heartburn from having eaten too much rich food. I knew of the risk of that, but ate anyway. Now I’ll take the omeprazole to manage the heartburn, then perhaps deal with the risks caused by the omeprazole. They will be likely none, but there could be one entirely unexpected, like walrus tusks, which would be safer in Deer-season Mississippi, but no less absurd.
Hunters, make sure to properly identify your target. If it is in a Dollar General parking lot, it might be best to think twice before you shoot.
Things are not always what they seem, which is probably the least absurd thing written here today.
Thanks, two times!!
©2016 Mississippi Chris Sharp
PS — It took two days to get this done. Post time 7:28AM CST, 12/26/16