Yes, it has been a long dry spell since I added a post here, but much has been happening to distract me and very little of it has been good.
Effecting not just me but all of my students and colleagues and, for that matter, nearly everyone on the planet, has been the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting responses to it ranging the entire gamut from the rdiculous to the sublime. The situation was made worse in the current polarized climate when those responses, and the competing interests of medical safety and economic stability ran headlong into each other and were were instantly weaponized along political lines having little to do with either sound medical or sound economic issues.
That mostly just confused the issue and muddied the water but, as a friend noted, it did have a fascinating side effect on social media. Facebook somehow magically certified thousands of FB “friends” who had never in their lives cracked open a law book or medical reference work (too many big words, I suppose) but became magically endowed with a level of expertise in Constitutional Law and Epidemiology that would allow for no error — meaning all contrary views were, by definition, wrong and therefore not just bad, but evil and the actual words in the Constitution or the med books was just there to confuse you…
Meantime, here in California, Southern California to be specific, Community Colleges like City College were told on a Thursday afternoon that they would have one week to fully and totally transition every single course being offered to all online/Distance Education style courses. The campus shut down and both faculty and students were sent scurrying to learn how to operate in this new paradigm. I was lucky in that I’ve done a lot of DE courses and actually believe that SOME topics are actually delivered better with the addtion of web-based material. But I also know that some are not, and that list includes Photo lab and studio classes and other topics that are based on hands-on interaction in the field with students… such as my landscape class that had just gotten underway.
The result has been unsatisfactory for me and I know it has been for the students as well. But to their enormous credit, that class is full of serious photographers who have really gone “above and beyond” to help make it work. Whatever success derives from this semester as far more due to their willingness to work with this than any skills of mine at presenting it. This is one of those great classes you hope to have every once in a while when teaching and it is simply maddening that we cannot get together for real to go shoot and learn. These are the kinds of classes that turn teaching itself into a great learning experience. It grates heavily on me to feel that the system, for whatever benign reasons, is really cheating them here.
But… meantime… another issue has arisen that, for me specifically, has added insult to injury (or vice versa). About mid-March I suddenly developed some really severe pains in my lower abdomen that by the 20th were so intense I went into the Emergency Room at the VA hospital in La Jolla. It is about a 20-minute drive. I left my house at around 5-ish in the afternoon and returned at 3 am the next day having learned several fascinating things — in a macabre sort of way.
For one I learned for sure that I am what is called a “Hard Stick” patient, meaning that my veins are so scarred that it is very difficult to insert an IV line in the normal places (arms, hands, legs, etc.) . So I am now the proud owner of a “Power Port” inserted in my chest with a direct line to my heart and into which it is easy to insert an IV line. That device was installed using what is euphemistically called “Conscious Sedation” which is a medical procedure, I am convinced, was developed by Tomas de Tourquemada to speed along confessions of heresy in his role as Inquisator General, and I can tell you I would have confessed to nearly anything to get them to stop. While they were at it, they also biopsied a few cancer sites in my abdominal area. It was during that procedure that it became evident that my old very, very, very high tolerance to pain killing medicine from back in the military days has not gone away. Oh for joy…
Meantime, back in the ER that first night, the REALLY powerful news came not long before they sent me home with a calendar full of scheduled appointments and meds. The CT scans showed that the colon cancer that had been excised a year before and which earlier scans showed no signs of return, had, in fact. thought it over and like the Spanish re-conquest of the New Mexican Pueblos, came back with a vengeance and metasticised to, in the doctor’s words, “everywhere.”
Hmmmmmmm…. Now THAT didn’t sound all that good… And some subsequent research didn’t make it sound any better.
So now, I am starting the 3rd day after my 2nd infusion of Chemo Therapy scheduled for once every two weeks. For the first treatment, I had far less problems with side effects that was anticipated, which I am most grateful for. Statistically the worst days are 3rd – 5th following infusion so I’m now braced for that. But most of all I’m really frustrated. Of all the times in my life I want to surround myself with beauty and turn my cameras and mind into the awe and power of nature it is right now, right this moment. But until the government lifts the restrictions, we are still in a quarantine state and with my immunie system so compromised it is probably just as well.
But that’s why you’ve not heard much from me lately. This is not a story I enjoy telling, so honestly, just put it off. But enough people knew to start the rumors going so I thought it best to at least set the record straight as best I can. Hopefully before very long we will be able to get out and go take a good deep breath of clean mountain or desert air and basically ANYwhere out of the city. Stay tuned for updates that will, I truly hope, will be far more upbeat as well.