Thursday, November 16, 2017


Sometimes, the Complete and Total Loser makes pancakes for breakfast. The days he does that on are usually cold and damp ones, with no sun, preferably rain or snow. 
Pancakes are not something you usually make alone just for you. Preparation is sloppy and much cleanup is needed. They're also not a very healthy meal. Nothing but carbohydrates, butter, and liquid sugar and after eating them you feel bloated and stuffed. 
But they are a comfort food and the Loser, who always has and always will live alone, bends to his craving once every three weeks or so during the cold months and makes them.
He does something while making them that's so pathetic that it saddens even him. He imagines he's not making them only for himself but for him and the son he never had. The son is nameless. He's around five years old and a nice little boy. He and the Loser are up early. It's a Saturday or a Sunday, cold outside and gloomy. The Loser's wife—the boy's mother, also nameless—is sleeping in and will have a light breakfast and a cup of coffee when she wakes later. 
It's the first time the Loser has made this meal that the boy has been able to help. His small hands are careful with the single egg the batter requires. He stirs the batter.
father son making pancakes

"You know," the Loser tells his son, "because there aren't any girls here right now, these aren't pancakes, these are mancakes, and only men can eat them."
The boy giggles.
"If a girl came in here right now," the Loser continues, "we'd say, 'I'm sorry, lady, but you can't eat any of these. These are mancakes. You have to have just toast.'"
The boy laughs. He is thrilled with this experience of his gender opening a door to an exclusive club.
The Loser keeps it up a little longer. He uses a falsetto voice to mimic a girl saying how delicious the mancakes look and couldn't she please have just one? But no, the Loser tells her, dropping into an exaggerated base, "These are for men only."
They eat their mancakes. The Loser allows his son to use too much syrup the way kids do. It's a warm, happy moment they'll both remember forever.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Wrong book?

A Man Called Ove is a novel by Frederik Backman, a Swedish columnist, blogger and writer. It was published in English in 2013. It's about a grouchy 59-year-old man named Ove who's been laid off from work and lives alone. The Complete and Total Loser is a grouchy 59-year-old man named Loser who's been laid off from work and lives alone. He is breezing through this book, which he avoided reading for years.
A Man Called Ove book jacket
The A Man Called Ove book jacket.

It's predictable as can be. After just a few days, the Loser, who is a very slow reader, is nearly halfway through it but he can see where the plot lines are going. That's usually be a negative, but here it's a positive; you know Ove is going to end up happier than when he started, but that's OK and the pleasure you get from the book is watching the journey.
This morning, the Loser was listening to a local psychologist talk about a study that shows how relationships had a more positive impact on overall health than even genetics. A big part of this probably has much to do with the idea of others making sure you eat right and take action when you have a medical problem. The Loser knows a woman who, like the Loser, has always been alone (and no, there is no chance the two will ever be together—none) and is doing nothing to deal with her breast cancer.
A Man Called Ove was made into a movie in 2015. The Loser just watched the trailer and it nearly moved him to tears even though it was in Swedish with no subtitles and he couldn't understand a word.
The greatest difference between Ove and the Loser, by the way, is that Ove had love in his life for many years. The Loser never did.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Last leg

male amputee on crutches
This man is not the Loser.
If the Complete and Total Loser's bone sarcoma comes back, his doctor said, amputating the leg might be the best way to minimize the chances of it taking root in his lungs, which will kill him within a year. The way the leg is and where that would occur is too high up to make a prosthesis practical. The Loser would spend his remaining years on crutches. 
He despises being on crutches. You can't carry anything when you're on crutches unless you put it in a backpack. You can't push a shopping cart so you'd have to go to a big store that has those electric carts you drive around and those aren't in all stores. 
And people with missing limbs spook most others. Yesterday, the Loser saw a man with one arm running. He saw the man peripherally at first. Something in his subconscious registered as not being right, so the Loser instinctively turned his head to look at the man full on. He looked away quickly and smoothly, but his own life with a big shoe has taught the Loser this: The man noticed.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Long walks

Last week, the Complete and Total Loser walked three times in Valley Forge National Park. He even got off the trail and walked on rough surfaces. This is a big deal to him since the knee replacement surgery he had in June went only so-so and what he's walking on is a hinge connecting two rods. Also, last week the Loser had a "manipulation," an attempt to make his bad leg bend more than forty-five degrees. It was unsuccessful.
Valley Forge National Park trail
A part of a trail at Valley Forge National Park.

The doctor said laparoscopic surgery was an option, that another doctor could go in and scrape away the built up scar tissue and make the leg more flexible, but the Loser is wary of yet another procedure. If he never rides a bike again, so be it. He's nearly sixty anyway and it's unlikely that he'll be sixty-five, let alone seventy. He can walk, he can drive.
By the end of the year the Loser's prostate will come out. The surgeon he spoke to about this said the numbers of men these days who are left incontinent and impotent are low, but the Loser knows he'll be among them. He just knows it.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Last week

Philadelphia's Chinatown has been around since 1871 when a man named Lee Fong opened a laundry on 913 Race Street. The Complete and Total Loser discovered it shortly after he moved into Philadelphia 120 years later, in 1991. 
The Loser had lived in Asia for four years prior to that and had developed a liking for many Asian things. He'd bicycle there from his studio apartment a little under two miles away and buy twenty-pound bags of rice and other items he couldn't get in conventional grocery stores. He discovered what is still his favorite coffee shop, Ray's Cafe, where they made siphon coffee years before anyone else, and would spend long hours wandering through Chinatown's many small stores.
Chinatown Gate Philadelphia
The picture everyone takes of the Chinatown Gate in Philadelphia.

This was when he was in his thirties and forties.
Last week he went there after a brief doctor's appointment. The Loser has lived in the suburbs since his parents died six years ago and takes the train to the city. 
He visited a few of his old haunts. At several points, he was convinced that extra blocks had been added. As he walked, everything from the waist down hurt. Although nearly a week later he's still feeling the effects of the trip, the Loser enjoyed his visit. His health is declining rapidly—who knows how many more times he'll be able to go? 
The Loser grew up with a bad leg and he knew it would decay and immobilize him at a younger age than most (he's 59 now). Because of this, he would sometimes make a point of being conscious of his good health and lack of pain when he was young. 
It turns out that while doing that may be a good thing to do, it has no effect on anything when you're older and suffering.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

A rare event

Today a doctor told the Complete and Total Loser that his aortic aneurysm is not going to kill him and is so minor it may just be a congenital difference. A giant phew! for the Loser.

He was so happy he went to the online dating site he frequents to see if he could find a woman with whom to celebrate, and the comely lass in the photo here popped up as someone the Loser may love.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

AAA = Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm

A few days from now the Complete and Total Loser will find out more about his abdominal aortic Aneurysm. Meanwhile, he is finding the notion that it could burst at any time, killing him quickly, something that affects the decisions he makes in daily life. 
Last night, for example, the Loser was in the mood to watch an old movie of some kind. He wanted it to be in black and white, nothing grim and serious, and something he hadn't seen before. The problem with those parameter is that the
broadway limited 1941
Broadway Limited, a 1941 comedy.
Loser, who will turn sixty within a year, has seen most of all the good movies made then. At least the ones he had access to last night. He settled on Broadway Limited, a 1941 movie. Its biggest star was Victor McLaglen, maybe. The movie, a comedy, wasn't very good. But it was short, an hour and fifteen minutes. 

When the Loser looks at his large pile of unread books (he buys used books he aspires to read), he gets selective. They must be very good and short. He wants to learn more about his aneurysm before thinking about tackling Infinite Jest, which he's had now for years.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Since late April

Here is the Complete and Total Loser's health tally from April 24 to September 14 of this year, 2017:
  • Knee replacement surgery that found his childhood bone sarcoma had returned, making the replacement surgery impossible. The surgeon took out the knee, put in a concrete spacer, stitched the Loser up, and told him he'd try again in a month or so. Meanwhile: crutches.
  • Being told by this same surgeon that he needed a cat scan of his lungs after being injected with a dye for contrast because the bone sarcoma "liked to migrate" to lungs and that there was a one-in-three chance of that happening which, if it does, will kill the Loser within a year. He's to have this test every three months for the first year, less often after that.
  • Finding, from the blood test that determined the Loser could tolerate the dye, that his PSA level had shot up, and then having a prostate biopsy that found the Loser's prostate to be cancerous enough to require it's removal at some point in the near future.
  • Knee replacement surgery, successful this time, but not with the kind of artificial knee most would get but a hinge and two titanium rods hammered into what's left of his bones. The replacement weighs five pounds, which doesn't sound heavy and isn't until it's inside you like that.
  • Learning today, after his second lung cat scan, that although his lungs are fine he has an aortic aneurysm of about four centimeters and must go on high blood pressure medication soon. Usually, aortic aneurysms develop slowly and don't burst right away (which always kills you) and don't require surgery, but the fact that the Loser's has appeared so quickly—no one said anything when the first scan was done—has him wondering if he's not an exception to this. He'll find out more from his general physician tomorrow.
The Loser is 59. He never thought he'd make it to his fifties and he knows he won't live to be seventy, but now he's starting to wonder if he'll live to be sixty.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Life with an alcoholic

The Complete and Total Loser got a text from a friend and ex-coworker two months ago. He'd been kicked out of the house he shared with his girlfriend, had lost his job the previous month, had little money and no place to stay. Could he stay with the Loser?
The Loser said yes. 
The friend is an alcoholic but one of those who'd say he isn't because it's "only beer" and only at night. But it's half a case of beer a day and the friend mentioned that it was an issue with his girlfriend. Also, the friend had gotten a DUI six years ago. It's helpful to look objectively at things that have
happened to you because of your alcohol or drug use and then make the diagnosis. The Loser is surprised that his friend, who is very bright, hasn't done this. 
The friend also smokes a pack of cigarettes a day. 
He stays up well into the morning, drinking and smoking and going online, sleeps until at least one in the afternoon, wakes to drink only coffee with cream and sugar until dinner, which he makes himself with lots of butter, meat and pasta only. He never eats vegetables or fruit. That is his only meal of the day—he gets most of his calories from the beer, each can of which has about 150 calories. He bathes surprisingly infrequently and skips days brushing his teeth. Despite this, he seems clean. The Loser reeks and feels disgusting if he misses one of his two daily showers and the grease on his bald scalp thickens and shines.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Sticks and pain

The first ten minutes or so in an MRI aren't bad. You can't hear the music or whatever you've asked them to pipe through your headphones because the machine is a noisy one. But no matter: MRIs are often done quickly these days, and the Complete and Total Loser heard others being theirs would take about ten minutes.
The Loser's took longer. Much longer. He was in for an hour and fifteen minutes because of the five pounds of titanium he has instead of artificial the knee joint most would get. 
And there's more! After an hour, he needed to be injected with a dye to show contrast. The Loser used to have nice veins and he'd get that little unearned thrill people get from being told something about them is good (hair, eyes, hands) when nurses told him what an easy stick he was. Not anymore. The numerous operations and tests he's had so far in 2017 have led to scarring and the nurse had to abandon his left arm for his right to inject the dye needed for the last fifteen minutes of his MRI.
You know what? All the pads and cushions in the world won't make keeping your lower half completely still for an hour and fifteen minutes comfortable. 
The Loser needed the MRI so his doctor could see if the bone sarcoma had come back and needed to be tended to. Meanwhile, the Loser needs to visit this doctor anyway because bone has grown around the hinge now serving as his knee, limiting its range of motion, so the doctor will need to knock him out and force it to bend, grinding away the bone growth as he does. This isn't really an operation but a manual manipulation. Still, the Loser knows it'll hurt like hell when he comes to.
After the MRI came a lung cat scan to see if the Loser's bone sarcoma has spread to his lungs. There's a one-in-three chance of it doing so and if it does there's no treatment for it—the Loser would be dead within a year. That needed a different dye for contrast and required another stick. This one in a large vein in the Loser's right hand. 
The second test required that he not eat, so the Loser skipped breakfast. Not a big deal, he'd thought, as he'd be in at 8:30 and home by 10:00. He didn't get back until after noon and, though he'd promised himself to have something wholesome and nutritious, bought discounted cherry turnovers and chocolate chip cookies at a supermarket on his way home and ate too many of both.
bathroom sink
The bathroom sink in which a spider died.

Tomorrow, maybe the day after, the Loser will learn if he'll be dead in a year or not. It would make sense to enjoy this day of not knowing with a light heart and happy mind, but the Loser is finding that impossible.
He sees misery everywhere these days, the Loser. A few days ago while cleaning the sink in the picture, a sink that he never uses because the bathroom has two, he found a dead spider in it. It had fallen into the sink and died, probably after several days. It would have tried to climb out, never giving up, always sliding back just as it neared the rim. While the Loser knows that its tiny arachnid brain is incapable of higher thoughts like regret, he can't help thinking the spider thought some version of oh shit, oh shit, oh shit, oh shit.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Watching the high jumpers

There are women on this planet who can jump over bars that are more than six feet off the ground. That amazes the Complete and Total Loser, and he's been watching them for many minutes at a time on YouTube lately. 
female high jumper blanka vlasic
High jumper Blanka Vlašić.

female high jumper
A female high jumper at the start of her attempt.
He doesn't know why he's drawn to this. It's not because the women are without exception attractive, with their long limbs, flat stomachs, and youth—there are pretty girls all over the internet. Is it their athleticism? If that's it, the men jump far higher. The Loser might like it because of the way they act. When they make the jump, they smile and are happy. (The men smile too, but with pumped fists.) 
blanka vlasic high jumper
Blanka Vlašić is 6' 4".

The Loser may also like it because he knows nothing about the sport. They convert forward motion into height without the in between step of crouching down to spring with the legs. They begin their run to the pole with an odd backward lean, like characters in a cartoon who are about to run, and take jaunty, long strides to the site of their leap.
The Loser, an aging man with prostate cancer who had his knee replaced two months ago and can barely get out of his car now, may just like knowing there are healthy people out there whose bodies obey their brains.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Sudden death

The mother of a friend of the Complete and Total Loser's died on an operating table Monday. It was unexpected. True, she was older—in her 70s—and the operation was on her heart, but it wasn't supposed to be life threatening. She was fine the day before and, her daughter told the Loser, only having the procedure now because if she'd waited longer she'd have to have many tests redone.
operationg room
An operating room.

The Loser texted his friend, the daughter, late in the morning of the operation to ask how things were going and to say he knew how waiting around hospitals was an unpleasant way to spend one's time. She texted back that there had been bleeding and complications and that they were to tell her more in about half an hour. 
That was the last he heard that day until a mutual friend called him that afternoon to say she'd heard the patient died.
The mother, whose name was Linda, was one of the rare parent of a friend whom the Loser had thought of as his friend too, even though he only saw her two or three times a year. The Loser had emailed her the afternoon before the operation saying he hoped all would go as well as he was sure it would and that the two of them should go on a long walk together in the coming fall to celebrate their rehabilitation (the Loser had a knee replaced a month ago). She wrote back: "It's a date!"
The Loser has mixed feelings about dying on an operating room table. The pros are that you're asleep and numb and unaware that you're dying. If you can't die while committing an act of heroism, dying in your sleep is the best way to go. The cons are, of course, that you are dead, and you never got the chance to say goodbye to those you love or take in a sunset knowing it will, not may, be your last. You can't even eat breakfast that day.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

State of affairs

surgical staples incision
Five of the 71 surgical staples that held the Loser's incision closed.
The Complete and Total Loser is nearly a month out from having his knee replaced. The pain is not what others said it would be. He'd describe it as discomfort more than pain. The leg is swollen and tender. The right side of the 71-staple incision is numb and warm to the touch. The left side is sensitive and itches. The Loser washes twice a day and the incision is clean but not scrubbed. Dead skin is piling up. The staples came out two weeks and four days after the operation.
The hospital kept the Loser two days longer than the three minimum he'd have preferred. It made him antsy and irritable. You can't wash properly sitting in bed or a chair. He did what he could with the tub of warm water and washcloths they gave him but to feel clean the Loser needs to have water flow over him. He has that now, in the house, but he's still not stable enough to stand in the shower so he washes sitting on a shower chair, scooping water from a bucket. Better, but not ideal. He's sick to death of it.
He's moving without the crutches. Yesterday, a friend took him shopping (he hasn't been cleared to drive yet) and for the first time since late April he walked in a store and filled a basket himself. It felt good, but a odd not to have someone do his bidding. (No wonder the rich become petty and mean so quickly.)
The new knee isn't really a knee. It wasn't what others would get. Substantial poles anchor it to his diminished femur and the knee is really a hinge. The Loser won't have the mobility others do. Even though the device is made of titanium, which is lighter than steel but heavier than aluminum, it's heavy. He can feel the heaviness when picking his leg up by the pants cuff.
Yesterday was his first day not taking opiods, which did little in the way of pain relief anyway. The Loser had heard they make you constipated and it's true. Despite the stool softener he took twice a day and the psyllium husk he drinks each day, his daily session on the toilet became a once every two or even three day struggle.
Everything about this has been gross and inconvenient, though he is walking more without crutches. It's slow and awkward, but with less pain than before. The pain overall isn't bad but enough to keep him from reading well or watching anything though provoking. He lies on a couch and watches four hours of Match Game '75 and '78 on a channel he gets over the air, as he's too much of a Loser to be able to afford cable.
In September comes the removal of his prostate and—despite of what his urologist tells him—the inevitable permanent impotence and incontinence. 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Prostate Biopsy, a poem

A prostate biopsy won't ruin your penis,
That will come some time later.
But what comes out is ever so heinous
You'll become an orgasm hater.
prostate biopsy
This is as much fun as it looks like it'd be.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Carly & Jack, 2052

Jack: What year was it that Uncle Complete and Total Loser died?
Carly: God, Uncle Complete and Total Loser. I haven't thought about him in ages. Hang on, I'll access.
Jack: No, come on, try to wet brain it. 
Carly: OK. Uh, I think it was in 2016.
Jack: I think it was later than that.
Carly: Yeah?
Jack: Yeah, it was after my freshman year and your junior year. Remember we had to drive him around that summer to appointments?
Carly: Right. I would take him shopping. To supermarkets.
Jack: Supermarkets. Jesus.
Carly: Well that would've been in 2017, so ... I'm gonna verify with implant. Huh. Yeah, it was 2017 that we drove him around and he died in ... 2019. The middle of that November.
Jack: I don't remember going to the funeral.
Carly: There wasn't one, remember? We just had a get together at home and sort of melded it with Thanksgiving.
Jack: Oh yeah. Right. Huh.