When Riley Walker takes his Firecracker Red Jeep Wrangler for a drive on a Jersey Shore May morning, he has no idea that he’s about to collide with a honking pickup sporting a timber rattler warning DON’T TREAD ON ME. The crash leaves the drivers bleeding and hospitalized, and a gun-toting relative eager for revenge. Riley, girlfriend Molly, and her adopted grandson Klyde already have heartaches aplenty when their personal pain collides with America’s toxic cultural climate. Take the Lively Air is a tale of yesterday’s ghosts, today’s troubles, and the search for a promising future.
Today is the 65th anniversary of the lynching of 14 year-old Emmett Till. I don’t remember the incident, but I do remember seeing a photo of Emmett Till lying in his coffin. I don’t remember how old I was, but I know it horrified me.
Seeing was believing.
The photo was black and white. It possessed an unreal quality, almost as if it were a theater poster for a science fiction movie from the 1950’s. But it was all too real.
If you have never seen the photo, I suggest you use the Google machine and take a gander. There are many before-and-after pictures. See a pic of the lady who claimed the boy wolf-whistled at her, the reason her husband and his half-brother tortured and murdered him. Some folks claim the crime galvanized the civil rights movement. I remember Emmett Till’s mother in an interview. “I want the world to see this,” she said, meaning what had happened to her son.
So was it the crime itself or Emmett Till’s photograph that galvanized a movement?
The other night thanks to Twitter I saw what an AR-15 round can do to a human arm. There wasn’t much left of it. Most of the musculature above the elbow was shot away. Seeing this arm made me wonder. Suppose the parents of the children at Sandy Hook Elementary got together after that terrible day and decided to publish photographs of their children’s bodies. What would have occurred if the Sandy Hook crime scene photographs had been published?
Something tells me people would claim the photos were doctored. ( Just like the moon landing!) Of course Sandy Hook took on a bizarre nature of its own. Some people claimed it didn’t happen. It was crisis actors, a deep state conspiracy.
Only the most knuckle-headed among us won’t admit the last few years truth has gotten the shit kicked out of it. Like an old palooka in his last fight, truth gets bounced around the ring. I’m talking about truth, not facts. Facts don’t seem to matter anymore. Facts used to be something you could not combat with reasoning. Now it’s what you believe that counts.
Well, the men who murdered Emmett Till believed what the woman claimed. They believed a black boy had no right to wolf-whistle a white lady. And they believed he deserved what happened to him.
When humans carry their beliefs to an extreme or try to foster their beliefs on others, those beliefs become lost, clouded, without form. They don’t bring people together. They isolate. When you separate yourself from mankind, instead of looking for the common–justice, dignity, love–you see only the particular. When you separate yourself by your beliefs, it breeds violence.
Don’t believe me? Check the historical record. You may not believe what you see.
Nothing in common but air and water. That’s what Bobby Burkett, the antagonist in my new novel, Take the Lively Air, has to say about folks in my hometown. He’s an outsider, you see. Comes all the way from Pennsylvania to Jersey to do some fishing, surf fishing, to be exact. There’s been an accident involving his uncle. The way it looks to Bobby, it’s a simple case of road rage. His uncle’s pick-up has been hit and then pushed across an intersection. There are tire marks. And the truck stopped when its tires hit the curb. The other vehicle pushed it “…like a goddamn snowplow.”
Bobby’s pissed. Pissed is what he does best, and the focus of his anger is Riley Walker. Riley, the other driver in the accident, is in his mid-fifties and scared. He’s scared he’s losing his mind. He has nightmares, most of them about his former wife. She was killed in a traffic accident thirteen years ago. Guess who was driving?
Riley’s got to find out what happened at this new accident. He can see for himself his Jeep has its grill bashed in, and the pick-up truck’s been pushed against the curb by the Jeep. Trouble is he can’t remember. He bashed his head open, and he can’t remember exactly what happened.
He has to find out because Molly, the woman he’s falling for, recently adopted her grandson, Klyde, whose father is in drug rehab. This grandson is 12. He’s a good kid, but a handful (three handfuls). Molly doesn’t want some maniac hanging around Klyde–that’s the correct spelling, btw.
Riley, in case you haven’t guessed, is the MC. He’s where the action is. He has to find out what he’s done and try to make amends, try to find common ground. Riley has to dig deep, and in doing so, make amends for both accidents, including the one haunting him from thirteen years before.
The novel’s told from multiple viewpoints. Riley, Molly, and Klyde, along with Vera and Justin, a young (30’s…30’s to me is young) couple. There’s also Gus, Vera’s uncle and driver of the pick-up. And don’t forget Bobby. These characters are of different backgrounds, socioeconomic situations, political leanings, and religious beliefs. How to sort all this. I have to tell you, it wasn’t easy.
I hope you got a little interested in my novel. It’s in the re-write stage, which could could last quite a while. I hope you weren’t put off by my not-so-subtle way of catching your interest. All I can say is, don’t be like Bobby.
Whatever your viewpoint, now’s not the time to find differences. Let’s find similarities. Aside from air and water–fairly important items–what do we have in common?
“So, let us not be blind to our differences–but let us also direct our attention to our common interests and to the means by which those differences can be resolved. And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breath the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.”
~John F. Kennedy
Yesterday I had a consultation with a doctor and a nurse practitioner at York Hospital. I viewed the MRI scan of my prostate. Reading a report about an MRI and viewing an MRI are not the same thing. It’s similar to the difference between reading a summary of a baseball game and actually being there in the stands. I saw the two lesions on my prostate. They were bright spots on a dark oval, and that’s a cause for concern. It gave new meaning to the phrase “bright spots.”
I’m going to have a biopsy on November 18th. That’s what I really want to talk about, because I’m not writing this blog to only report on my condition. Believe me, I’d much rather be writing about writing. This is about the second most common form of cancer in men after skin cancer–prostate cancer.
These next three paragraphs are what I recall my urologist and the doctor I met yesterday telling me in conversation. If I’m wrong, I hope some doctor out there will correct me. To get started, the medical “gold standard” for detection of prostate cancer is a biopsy. It’s been that way for 20 years. You wouldn’t know it if you’re young and healthy, but trust me, most medical procedures have advanced tremendously in the last 20 years. I have first-hand knowledge of that. Not so much for prostate screening.
Most biopsies consist of small needles, from 10-12, used to collect tissue samples from the prostate. These samples are then analyzed. The prostate is about the size of a walnut or golf ball. I’m going to use a golf ball for my example. Ever look at the dimples on a golf ball? There are quite a few of them. Now imagine taking 12 samples from twelve dimples. See what I’m saying? It’s not hard to miss something. Yesterday I was told that regular biopsies miss 40% of cancers. The doctor who used that figure is a very firm believer in imaging. He said the ladies have it down pat with breast cancer screening, but men have a long way to go when it comes to prostate screening.
Since I had an MRI, the doctor will be using the images of the MRI to take samples from the specific areas which seem suspicious. In other words, the golf ball dimples get colored in beforehand, and that’s where the needles go (I’m told they also go into other areas). A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association concludes using MRI with ultrasound produces better biopsy results.
I hope this educates at least one guy out there. Ladies, you may have to help. Men, at least consider a PSA test. All you do is give a blood sample. That’s the starting point. Although prostate issues can be very confusing depending on your age, race, and family history, unless you trust Larry King or some other talking head on TV with your health, it’s something men should consider.
Okay, here’s the thing. I lost a very close friend to this disease one year ago. It’s been on my mind before my PSA started to rise. I’m not a doctor, of course, so I’m not going into areas where I’m not qualified. I suggest if any men or their significant others have concerns, check with a urologist. At least Google some basics, such as PSA.
My PSA started going up a few years back. One point something to two point something–nothing big. The routine is when your PSA gets above four, that’s a possible warning sign. All of this depends on your age. Does this sound confusing so far? Good. Because it is. There is not much that’s certain when it comes to the prostate from what I gather. But here’s what happened to me.
My PSA shot from three point something to five. Not good. So I waited six months. Boom. Now it’s seven. I knew about prostate biopsies. They are, shall I put it, hit or miss. My friend had a biopsy after his PSA went up–negative biopsy. One year later, his PSA hit the roof. Two and a half years later, he was gone.
The biopsy can easily miss a cancerous spot or tumor, if you prefer the more serious term. I went with another test. Google it, guys. MBT prostate cancer. It’s a test following a DRE (do I have to explain that pleasant acronym?) where you pee in a cup and send it to a lab. Mine came back 45% chance of cancer.
On to the MRI. A prostate MRI is quite accurate according to everything I’ve read. I had one. The MRI measures any detected lesions/spots/tumors in terms of PI-Rads, 1-5. 1 PI-Rad is best. Pi-Rads of five aren’t. I have one spot with a four, and one with a five. The good news is, hopefully, this was caught early. I have a biopsy coming up, and that will dictate treatment, obviously.
So my points are these: 1. Get your PSA checked. If it goes up, there are choices other than an immediate biopsy. 2. Read up on the topic if you are faced with a problem. Prostate cancer is VERY curable. 3. Don’t put your head in the sand about your health. Be proactive.
I’ll let you know how all this comes out.