Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Spleenless in Jersey City

Hello all! I'm home again and without my spleen! I was released on Monday afternoon and have been feeling good and improving daily...only one pain killer today so far! I will be returning to Wenonah and my postings tomorrow but wanted to say thank you to all the folks at Virtua Voorhees, especially my Surgeon, Dr Balsama. Also Leah, Tricia, Kusuma (hope I got that right!), Renee and all the folks on the floor! Everyone was wonderful and made my recovery a snap! I'm thinking of going back and having my gall bladder removed in a month or so.
More importantly my numbers are on the rise and soon I can move head on against the Hep C. God is good!
To all of you in New England: I'll be at the Stonecoast MFA on 7/7 for a reading and then at the Frost Festival of Poetry from 7/31- 8/5. Hope to see all my poetical friends up north at one or the other event! Lots more on the horizon in 2007!
Hope you're all writing and reading and enjoying this beautiful summer weather.
Yr pal,

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


Well, I'm consumed with wait and worry, so while I'm waiting and worrying here's a poem from me and Mario:

Mario Infirme Says Wait.

He inhales his Pall Mall and holds it for what seems like hours.
He lets the smoke out slow.
He smiles just a little, he reaches into his pocket, removes his wallet
and opens it.
He says.
How long did that take?
I said,
I don’t know, a minute?
He says, I could have taken longer and the same thing would have happened.
Wait for the bartender.
He knows you’re here.
He’ll be down this way eventually.
He’ll mix your drink and place it in front of you.
Wait for your son to walk across the room.
Watch him wobble and lurch.
He’s about to fall.
He doesn’t.
His sudden rush sends him the last few feet into your arms.
Put your head deep in the crook of his neck and breathe.
Wait for the smells to rise from his skin.
Breathe them in and wait.
Wait for your wife to come.
Watch her shudder waves of pleasure or is it terror.
Wait for the boss to bring you your check.
Wait for the rain to reach you from across the bay.
Think of that scene in the Renoir movie where the rain moves across the water.
Think how long he waited for that to happen.
Think how it might never have happened if he hadn’t waited.
What would come to you if you’d only waited.
What have you lost by rushing?
Wait to hear what your lover is saying. Don’t start talking before they’re done.
He’s saying he wants you more than life.
If you talk before he says it you’ll never know the truth.
Wait for the truth.
Wait for things to happen.
They always do.
Wait to find out what they are when they do happen.
Wait for all the surprises that are just out of your grasp.
Wait for someone else to pick up the check.
Wait for the newspaper.
Wait for the bus.
Wait for your son to be born.
Wait for your father to die.
Wait for all the things you’re afraid of and wait for all the things you want.
There’s plenty of time for action.
For now just enjoy this drink, this quiet conversation, this soft music,
this oak bar, this cigarette.
It will all be over soon enough.

Monday, May 21, 2007

My Grades

Well, now it's clear. I was an egghead. Although an egghead with poor cursive writing skills. And after looking at Mrs. Ferrera's handwritten notes I know I was far from her goals for my cursive writing. Looking back I was grateful for the day that I could just print in caps. I do that well. Thank God for Industrial Drawing in 8th Grade.
In the meantime we can deconstruct this relic from the past. The black and white photo of an entrance to the school none of us used. The teachers comments. Her references to me as Jackie. The fact that I read too much. Read too much! What a curse to spend my time doing what they taught us to do!
Note too the principals signature rubber stamping our efforts and the signature of my father. John M. Wiler. A signature I would use a million times as an adult as I am his namesake. Seeing it there chills the spine.
Another man signing your name again and again attesting to the scholarly efforts of his son. A man who knew little of what happened in his son's classroom. Who assumed, rightly, that the same things were happening there that had happened in his third grade classroom. Who sent me to school alone each day with barely a nod. In fact, if I remember correctly he was usually gone by the time we left. We were home for his arrival at days end. It was almost always a celebration. Of what I'm not sure. But happy we were to have him back in the house. Like dogs waiting for their beloved master, tails wagging, twitching with expectation. Oh sweet joy.
Jackie loved third grade. He loved to read. He read too much. He didn't learn enough but how much he didn't learn is for the subject of later posts.
In the meantime we'll id our classmates and talk about the impending birth of my beloved sister in the next posting. See you all on the other side of my splenectomy.

3rd Grade Report Card

Sunday, May 20, 2007

More vented spleen

Hello all, I'm just back from AIDSWalk NYC and wanted to thank everyone who donated to sponsor me. Plus I have good news in that my surgery will be laproscopic and should go off without a hitch. Finally I screwed up with my 3rd Grade report card and won't be able to post till tm'w. Many apologies.
Till tm'w then.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Venting Spleen

I haven't posted in several days. Not because I don't have anything to say but more because I've been preoccupied. I mentioned needing a spleenectomy the other day. Actually I don't require a spleenectomy, instead my physican hopes a spleenectomy will allow my body to tolerate the ravages of the treatments for hepatitus C. When I take the treatment it works very well with me as far as the Hep C goes. The problem is that, like chemo, it's designed to kill fast growing cells in the body.
It also totally wastes my bone marrow. The first time I went on the treatment I required a transfusion. The second time I had most of my platelets destroyed. We won't go into the OCD aspects. The spleen removes waste products of the immune system from your blood. This includes platelets. It keeps your platelet count in balance. By removing it I should produce tons of platelets thus giving me more chance of staying on the treatment that much longer.
I'm not particularly happy about this.
I'm losing time from work, I'm going to miss Memorial Day, people are afraid around me. I have to eat hospital food. Doctors aren't real clear about what recovery entails. They just say x number of days. Will it hurt? Will I be able to walk around? Not a topic of discussion. I haven't even been able to talk with my doctor's scheduling aide. So later this morning I'll drive to South Jersey with a picture of my innards, a CT Scan, to see if my spleen is small enough to be removed without cracking open my chest.
Perhaps you can see why this means I don't particularly give a fuck about JFK or Mrs Ferrara right now.
I'm going to dutifully post about 3rd grade day after tomorrow. I'm hoping to scan in a copy of my report card because I can't remember what subjects we studied. I've forgotten what I learned. I can remember the name of Mrs. Ferrara's son, Raymond, but not whether we had Social Studies or not.
I dreamed the other night I was in an auto accident. I was waiting with my friends after the accident for the EMT's when I glanced down at my shoes and saw they were soaked in blood. I pulled my pants down a bit and saw I'd been pierced in the upper thigh by a sharp object and I'd been bleeding profusely.
The blood was warm and thick against my skin and starting to dry in some places.
I gather the dream has something to do with a sense of dread. You would think that having survived one near death experience you could gut out a little thing like a minor organ removal. I don't even want to drop off the CT scan. I'd rather talk to people about mice. The oddest thing is how much this feels like the week or two before I went to the hospital in October of 2001. Everyone is going about their normal business, including me, and around the corner is something I know is waiting but can't grasp. Quite.
In 2001 I lost everything I had except for a few pieces of furniture, some bits of clothes and my television. I woke up in South Jersey alone. I have spent the past six years recovering all that was lost. Part of me feels like this was all a futile dream. A good dream but a dream. Trying to recover your life with things seems foolish. Yet I love my new car. I cherish this little computer and my iPod and my new telephone. I relish the chance to work. I take great joy in joking with my friends at work and at home and there are moments when I'm sitting on my porch watching Johanna and her friends and the dogs that life has never been better.
So dear friends, forgive my lapses of judgement, my bad taste, my failures to properly thank you on one occasion or another. Forgive my audacity in writing this story. My foolhardy attempts to capture life. Forgive me and grant me some absolution. I promise to write again of the boys and girls of Wenonah, my brothers and my new born sister. My parents and my grandparents. But it will have to wait a few days till I know better if my chest will be broken open and my heart exposed to the air.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

More News

Isn't it funny how you can leave some things out? Did any of you read Henry Adams autobiography? I did. I loved it. Then my friend Mack asked me if I noticed anything. I said, yes, the guy didn't have many girlfriends. Turns out Henry skipped over being married and his wife's suicide.
I forgot to mention in all the rush in my last posting that my CT Scan was approved and I'll be sliding through a tube on Friday to see how large or small my spleen is. Once that's done on May 25th a surgeon will remove my spleen. Hopefully nothing bad will happen.
You might ask how much else I've left out of the story of my life in Wenonah or what's not in my poems. I might tell you.
I might not.
I'm also walking in the New York AIDS walk the Saturday before my surgery. Those of you of a charitable bent are invited to go to the AIDSWalk NY site and find me (John Wiler) and donate in support of my efforts. It's my second walk. I did the first in 2003 in Philadephia.
What else am I leaving out here? I can't remember. Oh well, tomorrow's another day and I'm sure it will come to me.

1960 and News

I was going to write, yesterday or today or tomorrow, about the news that affected our little family in 1960 & 1961. I still am, a little, but for a moment I'll bring in 2007 as well. In 1960 a new President, John F Kennedy, was elected President. He took the oath of office on a cold day in January of 1961. For the young men and women of my generation he was a hero. Young, strong, committed. I'll talk later about JFK because my family had other news in roughly October of 1960; my mother was expecting a child. It had been four years since my younger brother Ted was born. Mick, and Ted, and I pranced around my Nonny Glading's kitchen chanting, Oh no, not again! We were thrilled to have a new child join our merry band. This being 1960 we did not know if it would be a girl or a boy.
But to get more to the point; last night my niece Louise had a daughter. Makenzie Marie was brought into this world sometime yesterday evening. Her mother, a young woman, is doing well. The news of this young girls birth struck me with a force I hadn't anticipated, made me feel odd in ways I hadn't anticipated. I'll explore those thoughts in my poetry and in my conversations with my brother and my niece. But last night I also had a dream.
I dreamed Acme Exterminating was moving. We had to move quite suddenly to new headquarters and when we arrived we found our headquarters had no roof. There was a storm brewing and Luis and I and Willa were hastily moving things into a small enclosed room. Some of the things were my books. Books from my childhood. We were moving not just Acme but our own possessions. The owner of the company was weeping over the death of his father many years before.
I woke suddenly and wrote this down. It's three am. Acme Exterminating is in fact moving in just a little while for the first time in many, many years. The man who founded the company, Harry Stien, will not be moving with it. He died a few years back. He was a big, ebullient man of great joy and passion. He served his country well in WWII and left his son and his employees a company with a proud record in an industry known for it's family businesses.
What does this dream mean? What do any dreams mean? John F Kennedy was a new President in a young country that had just fought a bitter war across the globe. The men and women of his generation sacrificed much, achieved much, and believed that they could do anything. They passed that belief along to boys and girls like me and Mick and Ted and my soon to be born sister, Mary Louise.
Harry was JFK's contemporary, though from a very different background. He walked out of WWII and built a business in one of the toughest markets in the world.
Bob and I and Luis are the heirs of that business. Luis and I and Willa and Bob are a family as much as Mick and Ted and Mary Louise and I are a family. There is a roof over our heads in the new Acme Exterminating. That's a bit of what the dream means.
I was wrong. There is a roof over our head in the new office. The new office is just around the corner from the old.
So Makenzie Marie...welcome to a world that is the same and different. Just a few moments ago you weren't here. Now you are. Everything we tell you, everything your mother and father tell you will be the truth. None of it will be the truth. You will wake up one day in the year 2064 and look around you and say, wait, where is the roof? Why is it raining? When did we move?
Then you'll realize, as we all do, it was just a dream. A beautiful dream we hold in our hearts for a short span of years. Like all dreams it's filled with terror and sex and laughter and tears. Cherish your dream Makenzie as we cherish you.
Goodnight Mr President. Goodnight Harry. Goodnight Luis and Willa. Goodnight Ted. Goodnight Mick. Goodnight Mary Lou. Goodnight Louise. Sleep tight wrapped in your cherished dreams.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Little Men

Third grade began with a momentous Christmas. First, I caught my parents assembling bicycles for Mick and I. Then I told Mick and destroyed his faith in Santa. Actually he held on for about six hours until we came downstairs and found the gleaming new bikes. Then I got a bike! A beautiful red bike, a two wheeler, a giant red big I could barely get on it. Mick received a smaller black bike. We were both really excited but it was too cold that Christmas to do more than look at them. What a curse. Then there were little men. Army men. Plastic figurines of WW II soldiers and Civil War soldiers. Mick was entranced by the Civil War and both of us were fascinated by WWII. These were the years of war movies and heroism, japs and jerries getting blown to bits by brave GI's.
We set up our men throughout our room or the second living room or outside in the digging yard and made gun noises. I can still do a creditable machine gun. Later in life we bought Airfix HO scale soldiers from nearly every army in the world. Suaves and grenadiers and doughboys marched everywhere in the Wiler home. They were melted and torn apart and lost forever down sewers and drains and in holes. My mother and father unearthed them for years in the vegetable garden they planted in the digging yard once we'd moved out.
The figures frozen forever tossing grenades or half crouched firing tommy guns. Officers urging the GI's to greater glory, pillboxes to hide and fire machine guns. Planes and rafts and cannons and mortars and barbed wire all to serve our brave soldiers as they moved across the roots of a great black maple or tunneled deep in the digging yard.
The Airfix men became part of great tableaus we created in a box that had once been a baseball game. It had sides about two inches high and was roughly 3' by 6' and we'd fill it with dirt and rocks and create vast battlefields. We strung model planes on thread from the basement ceiling and lit them afire to have molten plastic land on our hapless heroes. All to the chatter of guns and the shrieks of children playing at war.
We played at war constantly. We invented our own game for the summers, based loosely on Kick the Can or Capture the Flag, which we called "The Gun Game". One person was it and had a gun. The others scattered in hiding to evade capture. The person who was it simply had to see you and call out your name and rough location. "Mick, behind the bush" or "Jack, in the tree" or "Chris, in the sewer" and you had to go back to the base. All the captured or basically living dead players could be freed by one person running in while the person who was it was away and touching the base. No warning or siren gave notice this was happening. This meant it could be a long night for the person who was it. Sam Stewart was our prize chump. He must have spent thousands of hours patrolling my yard looking for us in the garage or in the crawl space or up a tree or just beyond the porch. The borders could be expanded to include the McQuades yard but that was it. Even with just two yards it was tough to win. Almost like being on patrol in the Nam or walking a line in Korea. Except people laughed at you instead of trying to kill you.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Termites & Decay

Today my co worker David remarked that I like to talk to people about termites. It's true. Termite treatments and termite behaviors are clear and orderly and rarely rely on anxiety.
I'm basically sick to death of talking to my clients about mice. Or bedbugs. Or unknown odors. They should man up. It's not that big of a deal but they're rich and angry and they've been on the internet or they're humanists or kind or thoughtful or decent. They think killing mice is bad but they have no qualms about killing American cockroaches or termites or ants. I'm a little tired of their speicism. Kill one, kill them all. But no, if it has fur they want to relocate it. Or worse they find it unacceptable that they're paying a gazillion dollars a month and they have mice. As though if you were rich you couldn't get the flu or cancer.
Mice in New York are most often of the genus House Mouse. That means they live in our houses. They have small territorial ranges and they like us and our meager amounts of food and water we provide. Some people want to relocate them to a more hospitable environment. A field perhaps. Sadly mice from our homes don't have the faintest idea of how to survive in a field and will come to a horrible death.
It's like Iraq. We'll fix everything by giving them democracy. And if democracy is messy and weird and involves them not being our friends we're shocked. Duh.
I don't advocate killing every mouse on the planet. I like the little guys. They provide me with a good living. But if they live in your house and eat your food the only way to get rid of them is to kill them. That's not so nice.
I love democracy. I am willing to deal with democracies that don't like the US of A. Pragmatism is both a virtue and a curse.
So, set your mice free in fields to die at the hands of rats and hawks and starvation. Grant various republics democracy and watch with horror as they act contrary to your expectations.
If it makes you feel better remember that it's spring.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

My brothers and I

In the absence of my third grade class picture here are two unforgettable portraits of myself and my brothers. One is all three of us together. The second is Mick and I on the fishing pier of the 59th street pier in Ocean City. In 1962 this pier would be a part of the ocean.

Third Grade

Oh and this brings us finally to Third Grade. Mrs Ferrara. The dawn of life. Kennedy and Nixon. The birth of my sister, Mary Louise. The beginning of my rich life outside of my house. Models and games and fun! Desparate attempts at learning. 1960 and the dawn of the new decade!
Where oh where to begin. We all went to school again with just each other. In Mrs Ferrara's third grade classroom. Mrs Ferrara from Pitman, NJ. Mrs. Ferrara, loud and brassy and fun. I read To Kill a Mockingbird. I walked to school and I wasn't the rough tough creampuff. I played in a baseball league. I tried to be an altar boy. I was confirmed by the Catholic church as a soldier of Christ. I began to be me. I found Superman and Batman and the Flash! I found Aguaman and Hawkman and the Justice League of America! What a glorious time. It's true I still dressed like some awkward child of the Depression. It's true my mother still could not cook. But we began our rich life of play and imagination and creation.
Here then are the children of the sixth decade of the 20th century in all their stupid glory. Black and white and dumb but ready to learn.
God I loved this year.
Picture to follow. Terry and Bob and all my friends...let's give us all names:)

Second Grade and the Lake

I can't remember anything I learned in Second Grade. I remember Miss Quigley being beautiful. I remember learning to write and read. I can't remember a thing of arithmetic. I've asked my friends what they recall and the answer is the same. It's a strange thing to say but I passed through Second Grade as an innocent. It was the last year I believed in Santa Claus. It was the last year my parents were my whole world.
It was also one of the last years I spent at the Wenonah Lake. After school ended there wasn't much to do but play. Wenonah is a hot humid town near Philadelphia. When I was getting better and living in the Knisell's home Rachel told me that homes used to have outside kitchens to deal with the heat of summer. What we did do was go to the lake. There were several bodies of water in Wenonah. The Wenonah Lake was a community association that dated back to the 1880's when Wenonah was a resort town. There was the recently formed Wenonah Swim Club. A clean chlorinated pool with a snack bar and a kiddie pool and tennis and basketball courts. There was the Mantua Creek and the swamps. There was Parkers lake and Sinnott's Pond and another lake by one of the mansions in town. Only the Wenonah Lake and the Swim Club were open for recreation. It's a long standing fact of life in Wenonah that young families begin their lives at the lake and migrate to the pool. Young children have no sense of cool so the lake was fine. Once you were older the brown water and lack of facilities made it less than cool.
My friend Bob has many memories of play at the lake. Ed Campbell, one of the teachers in our school, was a lifeguard and regularly roughoused with kids on the raft of wood and 55 gallon drums in the middle. Kid's sold snow cones and families barbequed and there were rudimentary swimming lessons. The swim club had a world class swim team. Kid's from the Wenonah Swim Club competed in Philly and all across South Jersey. Their swimming records were all over the walls of the club. When you swam in the lake you emerged in a brown tan from the cedar water. It was neither clean nor cool. No one raced. Instead you ran willy nilly and cannon balled off the pier.
When I went back to Wenonah to recover from my illness (AIDS) I went each day to the lake. I sat there the only adult male in the place and watched mothers and young children having fun.
On the 4th of July there were competitive races at the lake. The 4th of July was the greatest day in Wenonah and remains so to this day. My friends come back year after year to sit on corners they sat on when they were children to watch the same silly little parade. It's beautiful. The Pitman Hobo Band and the Bonsal Blues Band square off mid town in a burst of John Phillips Sousa. Raggedy fake hobos and military nincompoops all playing their hearts out and everyone cheers and salutes. Politicians pay homage and walk the streets. You can say hey to the local representatives, laugh at the presumptions of small businesses and guess as to this years theme. I'll have a lot more to say about the 4th in years to come.
But always, on a hot day, when you were in 2nd grade you went to the lake. You caroomed off the pier. You laughed and scared your parents. You begged for a dime for a snow cone.
I'm going to break protocol here and put in a poem I wrote when I was stuck in Wenonah in 2002-2003. Please read it for it's great joy and nostalgia.
We’re All Going to the Lake

We’re going to the lake!
All of us.
We’re loading up the minivans.
We’re slapping up the kickstands.
We’re running around the house,
screaming about how we can’t
find our badges or our high band
or our favorite suit.
Which was right here and
we’re getting up slow from lunch
and walking out to the car.
We’re going to the lake!
Eight housewives, twenty five kids,
three lifeguards, one kid in the refreshment stand to dish up the water ice,
me and once in a while a dad and maybe some teenagers,
who are loud and look scary but
swim like shit once they hit the water
and smack!
What a lake to dive into!
A long brown ribbon of cedar water.
Trees brushing it’s sides, bright blue skies
fill it with clouds
and turtles strung out on a log.
They’re so tired from this hot, hot sun they forget to eat.
So the crappies and minnows
are all over the shallows.
Gotta get while the getting’s good.
Far, far out on the lake a big bass leaps up, flops down
and nobody sees the water ripple out.
They’re riding their bikes
down Jefferson or Monroe.
Towels over their shoulders
snapping in the rush.
A whine of spokes and muscle that’s been going on for fifty years.
Fifty years of kids hauling their
bodies trawling streams of brown water,
small muscles stretched,
yelling, running, tight little balls that
cannon into the water!
O Joy! O headlong rush to water!
O the whir of spokes!
The shrieks!
The gossip!
The affairs.
Bodies lying in beds, dreaming of other
bodies last night, last week.
Husbands, lovers.
Heat raising tiny beads of sweat,
the bathing suit tossed heedless on the chair.
The brush of finger to breast.
The wives dreaming of sweat;
muscled backs, thick bellies.
The drop falling from his chin,
running down her breast.
But then the kids are yelling!
We gotta go swimming!
Water calling water.
Awkward crawl
head out of water
crazy seven year old treading water.
mad dog paddle.
Mom watching, feet in water,
not really there,
but cool and wet on a hot, hot day.
O Wenonah Lake!
Canoes, boats, rafts,
big fat guy, belly up,
The only husband here today.
Me, watching housewives,
watching kids,
splashing dad,
slap of hand on water.
Ripples that go all the way to shore.
We’re all at the lake!
We’ve brought everything we need.
Life jackets, blankets, sunscreen, towels, badges, bands,
balls, rubber killer whales, sunhats, sun glasses, coolers,
cocktails cleverly disguised as lemonade, water,
watches, buckets to carry water and
All for the lake!
On a hot, hot day.
We go to the lake for the water.
Come in!
Come in!
Come in!

That's my lake. That's my town. Soon it will be summer and the snapping turtles will be on their logs, the bass will be leaping from the middle of a small brown lake and children will be screaming at their friends. Oh God. This is a beauty that can never be recovered.