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Health Update 6/10/2017

The countdown is on! On June 21st, I will be going to the hospital for surgery, that will hopefully lead to relief of some of the pain I go through daily from pancreatitis. It is a major surgery, anywhere from 4-8 hours, with a very long recovery. In the end, it may not fix all of my pain, but will hopefully mean the end to the flare ups, that have led to a couple of hospital stays a year, for the last 5 years. I am excited, scared, going through times of great relief, that this may finally help, and worried about what I am about to go through, without any real guarantees.

Let me back up to a couple weeks first, and then we will get into the pancreas surgery. On May 22nd, I had surgery for a cyst on my thyroid. The cyst has been there for a few years, it started off fairly small, we did a couple of biopsies, and both times it came back benign. Both times, they also drained the cyst, which worked well, for a while. This year it started to grow, and grow….. and grow! After seeing the throat doctor, he told me that it was now 5 centimeters, which is pretty large. He told me that these cyst’s can be small, medium or large, and in extreme cases extra large, which is when they absolutely need to come out. Dr. Bunn told me that mine was easily in the large category, and was getting near the extra large size. After talking about it, how it was making it difficult to swallow anything, including fluids (This is a weird sensation, I think most of us have been eating, and taken a bite that was tough to swallow, it feels like you are choking for the longest few seconds of your life, then it goes down and you feel total relief. I was getting that same feeling drinking a glass of water), so we decided that rather than waiting for it to grow anymore, we should take it out. The surgery meant taking the cyst, and the left side of my thyroid out. The nerve wracking thing, pun intended, is they are working right next to the nerve that controls your vocal chords. This meant that coming out of the surgery, there was a chance my voice would end up like Louis Armstrong. Fortunately for me, not so much my future as a blues singer, my vocal chords seem to be fine. They are irritated, so my voice is a little inconsistent right now, going from normal, to a little high, and a little low, it’s like a less embarrassing  version of puberty. The surgery went well, in the end, the cyst was the size of a lime, I will likely have a scar on my neck, the incision is nearly 4 inches long. It is healing nicely, and the recovery was so much easier than I thought it would be, if you find yourself having the same problem, I highly recommend Dr. Bunn at Spokane ENT. He did an awesome job, and I was super comfortable with him.

Now, smash cut to today. We are 10.5 days from the big one. My pancreas, over the course of the last five years, has suffered a ton of damage, its full of stones in the tissue, where the pancreas has digested itself, and the duct has strictures, dilation, and constant inflammation. My pancreas doctor took my case to a board of the GI doctors in the area, to try and get a collective idea of how we will move forward, they all agreed that surgical intervention was my best chance, as stents are not tolerated by me, they make my pain worse, and a nerve block that we did, had no effect on me. So an appointment was set with the surgeon, and they gave me the new plan.

I met with the same surgeon that removed my gallbladder. He is a great surgeon. In the entire Providence Health System, which runs hospitals all throughout the country, he operates on the pancreas more than any of the rest of the doctors. He is always calm, and collected, and very patient (which I will explain further on). He is confident too, without coming off as cocky. Basically, he is everything that you want in a surgeon. Dr. Mejia, my surgeon, explained that they will perform a couple of types of surgery. The first is called a Peustow(sp?), where they will filet open my pancreas, pull up a section of my small intestine, and try to connect the two. This means that my pancreas will drain directly into my small intestine, preventing the strictures from creating a back up of enzymes in the pancreatic duct. It is a complicated surgery as is, but further complicated because I am not an ideal candidate for this. They generally don’t perform this procedure unless the pancreatic duct is dilated to 1centimeter(10mm), my duct, at its largest point is only at 9mm, a difference so small that in most things, its nearly imperceptible, however in surgery, that is a pretty big difference. They will have to make a game time decision, once they are in there, and if they don’t think its going to work, they will change gears, and perform a total pancreatectomy.

The total pancreatectomy means they will remove the entire pancreas, parts of the jejunum, part of the duodenum, and a part of my stomach, they all share the same blood supply, so will have to come out. If all goes well, I should be out of the hospital in one week, which would be great, with complications, that could turn into a few weeks, so, fingers crossed. After coming home, I will begin the real recovery. This will be my summer, and likely take the rest of this year, and part of next year.

I have mentioned the pancreatectomy in the past. It is the procedure that we thought we were going to have to temporarily move for. The part that can’t be done here in Spokane is called an Islet Cell Transplant, there are only 4-5 facilities that have a lab capable of separating the islet cells to transplant back into the body. The consensus from the pancreatic board was, with the dose of insulin I am on, and the amount of enzyme pills I am having to take, is that my pancreas is basically not working anymore, so the islet cell transplant, which we weren’t sure insurance would cover anyway, would just create more stress, both physically, and emotionally. In other words, Spokane is our place!

Allow me to pull out my soapbox for a moment. Talking with both surgeons, I wasn’t sure what to do, which operation was more important to get, if I would be able to have both surgeries, and other things like that. Knowing that I have been disabled and not working for 2 years, and that the only insurance I can currently afford to have is a Medicaid plan, through the state, the pancreas doctors told me to move forward with the thyroid surgery first. The recovery is much quicker, for one, but the big push for that was this horrible excuse for a health care replacement. With how quickly it went through in congress, they didn’t even wait to hear how many people could lose coverage, they said 14 million, when the real numbers were actually 26 million, most of which would lose coverage for current condition, or pre existing conditions, that were not disqualifying pre ACA, will now be, one of those conditions added to the list is thyroid problems. The urgency for the thyroid surgery was to get it done before I lose my coverage for it. This new bill drops coverage for mental health issues, for those that need it the most, it also drops coverage, and makes it possible to disqualify people with diabetes, which is an epidemic here in the U.S., these changes are not likely to effect those in the middle, or upper class brackets, but completely take away the chance to live a long and productive life, for those who make, and have the least. This bill will kill people, there is no argument that it won’t, and thanks to my health issues, I will be one of those that it kills. I guess what I am asking, is can we put all the political bullshit to the side, quit worrying about republicans or democrats winning, and start concerning ourselves with America winning, please, for the sake of the millions of lives that we are considering to be not worth saving, including my own life, shut up, and start trying to find a solution, one that will actually work. Politicians are supporting this shitty deal, because they know it will get them reelected, after they campaigned so hard about the ACA failing, though none have explained, in the slightest, how it is failing. Anyway, enough on that for now, the last thing I will say about it, is remember, it is your friends, family, coworkers, and neighbors that will feel the effect, the politicians, and their families will be just fine, the blue collar workers, the people that are the most vulnerable are the ones that will suffer. Without The ACA, it is pretty certain I would have died already, it just isn’t right. If you believe that is okay, you give up your right to call yourself Christian, the right to hide behind that when you oppose gay marriage, or Planned Parenthood. Once you start thinking that it is okay for millions of people to die, just to save an average of $25.00, you are no longer practicing the religion you claim to be. You don’t get to pick and choose what parts of the bible you follow, and which you don’t. Excuse me while I put this soapbox away….

All of this being said, I am scared, and nervous, for what is to come in the next weeks, and months. I am also very excited to start towards progress, and hope that it will mean that at some point, I will be able to work again. In the midst of all of this, I am having to fight with disability, they say that despite the words of 6 doctors, I am still plenty healthy to work in different fields that they say are “abundantly available” to me. But that is a story for another time. In the meantime, prayers and positive vibes are gladly accepted, and I will let you all know when I am getting to a point for visitors. To those that I have had to break plans with, who I haven’t been able to see, I hope that this will get me back to the point that I can start making, and keeping, plans.

I would, quickly, like to say thank you to some people. First off, my mom and dad, in a lifetime, I could never repay you for everything you have done for me. Without you, I would be homeless, and broke, I am broke, but that is easier knowing that I have a place to rest my head. Thank you also for all of the help taking care of Bella, that dog has become an important part of my life, she brings me so much comfort and joy, she is not the easiest for people in their 70’s, but you two have done so much for her, and myself. Johnny, thanks for getting me out a few times, walking with me, going on little adventures, you, Zoe, Eme, Laura and Uncle David have been great friends, and I love you all. My cousin Missy, who sends me the greatest, and funniest cards, which always seem to arrive when I am having a rough day. They always bring a smile to my face, and usually a good laugh, thank you for being so thoughtful. All of the Warrick family, and Lindsay family, you have been so wonderful. Coop, thank you for keeping me presentable, and reminding me that I am needed, you are amazing, Annie, and your strength honestly inspires me! Last, but in no way, shape, or form, thank you Cubby, and Meghan, and Buddy Bongos. Your hospitality, and friendship leaves me in awe. Thanks for picking me up, running errands with me, and just spending time with me, on good and bad days alike, has been a life saver. It has been such a blessing to have you guys in my life, and you’ve set the bar of friendship very high, I can only hope that one day, I show you guys the same love that you have shown to me. I love all of you guys, and I hope to see you all on the other side of all this. That is it, for now, if I tried to thank everyone that has been there for me, it would take me days, weeks, and even months to write this, if I failed to mention you here, it was not a slight, the way you guys have rallied around me, moves me beyond words, I will never forget it, or you.

Love,

Tug

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Ebb and Flow

I get asked pretty frequently how I am “always” as positive as I am. Usually I tell them that I am just happy that I woke up that morning. This is a great way to put an end to that question, and is, for the most part, the truth. One thing that I have learned from being this sick for the last five years is that I shouldn’t take anything for granted. I really do mean anything. Right now, for example, I am lamenting every can of Diet A&W Root Beer that I didn’t savor to the last drop. Currently, I get to drink water with some of my medicines, but otherwise I only get to drink through the tube in my nose. I will say that it does make my ventriloquism act much easier, if not a little obvious.
To tell the truth of things, I am not always that positive. It’s a matter of me constantly reminding myself how quickly things can turn sideways. Ironically, I type those words as my dad and I watch the Daytona 500, and yet another big wreck occurs, but I digress. As I was saying, some days are much easier than the rest. It has been about three years since I have had a day without some form of pain or discomfort, and I don’t care who you are, Dhali Llama or not, it wears on you. Today is one of those days that I am having to fight back against the negativity.
A day like today is where I find myself to be lucky to have the family, friends, fans, and any supporter in general. The simple “get well” message, or funny post do so much to improve my outlook on the day. As much as words can tear down, they are even stronger at building up. So while I may wake up, and occasionally go to sleep, throwing myself a pity party, and feeling bad about myself, you guys are honestly what raise me back up. I appreciate that none of you allow me to wallow in self-pity, By posting your own funny stories, sending me jokes, and messages telling me to suck it up, you guys keep me on top. If I hate anything more than my own self-pity, it’s others showing me false pity, feeling sorry for me, because they feel obligated to do so. While it is nice to have people acknowledge that I am ill, and that I may not be 100%, I can’t stand when they make that an excuse for me. I can’t do everything that I used to do easily, but the last thing I want, is people to constantly remind me of it. I know, and when I can’t do something, or when it is much harder, I am okay with admitting that, but I am much happier keeping that frustration behind closed doors. I hope you guys are liking the blog posts, I am going to try to make these much more frequent, as it gives me something to do! And please, let me give you reasons I can’t do something, but don’t let me make excuses!

Distractions

I, I think that I might be a cyborg now. I have three different external pumps hooked up to me now, one of them even includes a tube going into my nose. The doctors claim that it goes into my stomach, to feed me nutrients, but I know the truth, it leads back up into my brain, and it’s not a Slim Fast style shake that is pumping nutrients into me, but it is a mind control juice, replacing my brains with mush! OMG. OhMG, OhMaG, OHMAHGAHHHH!!!!! Not really, but it is fun to think! Maybe its an experiment with Soylent Green. Bill? Is that you?
I wonder what would happen if you really were given the puree ‘o’ man. Would your political views change? Could you swap out with a super genius right before an exam, and become smarter than you really are? Would you be able to answer the questions that I am posing now?
These are the kinds of thing that run through my head, at 5 in the morning, while I am sitting in a hospital room, with no mental stimulation, aside from Reddit, and local news. My mind is full of useless ideas like this, none of them make much sense, and most of them come to me at inappropriate times. For example, I was at a funeral when it occurred to me that all fruit loops are the same flavor. I actually made a “Hmm” sound out loud during a moment of silence, and gave myself an anxiety attack trying to figure out why I hadn’t noticed this, and whether or not I was correct. Perhaps Toucan Sam wasn’t lying to me, and they were all different flavors, maybe it was the milk picking up all of those different flavors, and mixing them together like some evil genius fusion restaurant that took all of these sugar packed flavors, and turned them into some sort of lemon dominant citrus flavor that smelled like “Joy” brand dish soap only slightly better tasting! And of course we are at a funeral, so even though I am diving down that rabbit hole, I can’t exactly pull out my phone and look it up, that would be rude.
Wait a minute!! Why are they all looking at me? Could they see the panic in my eyes as I tried to run through every possible scenario to find the truth behind the multi colored rings of the breakfast time anomaly, but now everyone was staring at me as if figuring out exactly what that flavor was, as if they were nuclear codes! Oh the pressure! Oh the agony!! Had I started to wonder about this aloud? Why are they all looking? Furthermore, why is the guy next to me standing up? Is he trying to differentiate between myself and himself so others know that he is not a part of “Cerealgate 2017?”
As I soon found out, he was standing to tell everyone where the reception is to be held, following the service. I wish I had paid attention, I was going to go to the reception, and count that as lunch, and I cant ask the guy to repeat himself, lest I run the risk of explaining my theory on Fruit Loops, or the Loop Effect on Milk conundrum. But, what are you going to do, right?
You aren’t really insane, if you think you are insane, right? Because that is my only hope, really. The saddest part about all of this? I’m really a Cinnamon Toast Crunch guy, myself.
Cinnamon Toast Crunch is kind of a cop out of cereals. When it mixes with milk, or even when it stands alone, it provides the same flavor, a delicate mixture of savory and sweet, much like myself.
People wonder why I am happy most of the time, and the truth is, this is the kind of stuff that is on my mind, every day. This is why I am not focused on health problems all the time, there are cereal debates to be had! Hell with it, next election, I want a military guy to win, so I will cast my vote, for General Mills.

Reacting To Racism

Today, I did something I was raised to do. Something that every adult in my childhood told me I should do, something I’ve been told to do over, and over. I did something that people have called for, all especially the last couple of years, something that others have said, not enough people do. Today I stood up for my beliefs, I stood up looked hatred in the eye, and told it that it wasn’t welcome here. I stood up for what I believe was both morally and ethically right. And that is why I am wrong.
It doesn’t take a genius, or any research beyond opening the daily paper to see that racial tensions in America are high. Where I live, Spokane, WA. Is on the border of the Idaho panhandle, which is a place that will quickly snap you back to reality, should you think that racism is dead. We are very close to the former home of the Aryan Nations, a white supremacist group that in the mid 90’s was considered one of the largest, and most dangerous hate groups in the country. While they have been kicked off the property following a lawsuit that bankrupted the group, they are still around, and now are starting a new compound further north in Priest River, Idaho. Many of the former, and current members of the group, still live here. These members still find ways to harass people of color in our area, quite frequently.
Racism has never sat well with me, and let me explain to you why. I grew up in a nice neighborhood in Spokane. We were a successful middle class family, not rich, but living comfortably. My dad worked his ass off to make sure that my 4 siblings and I would be comfortable, and happy. Five kids are not cheap to raise, so he worked long long hours at the family business to provide for us. My parents always have, and still do want the best for all of us. They sent us to private schools with reputations for turning out bright kids, with good futures ahead of them.
Here is the problem with private grade schools, they are full of kids that are rich, kids who have the newest and coolest toys, clothes, shoes, and so on. Then there were the middle class kids. We rode the school bus, wore hand me downs, and, in my case, carried a super sweet Police Academy (the movie) lunchbox/thermos set. Yet another problem with going to private schools is, being the fat kid.
I digress, but I feel I should point out a little something about semantics. I say that I was the fat kid, but my class was a bit of an anomaly, we had 4 or 5 of us fat kids. Why do I need to explain this? When I explained this to a younger member of my family, they responded, “What do you mean the fat kid?” It seems nowadays portly children are kind of the norm, and to think I missed a normal childhood by 20 short years.
So I was a fat kid in a school with a lot of athletic kids, I was also a nerd. I wasn’t interested in sports, which was okay, as I was the one always picked last. I had shown some promise in my first couple of grades at the school, but by third grade, I had solidified my position as resident fat kid.
The wonderful job description for grade school fat nerdy kid is as follows:
Get picked last for any game/be called names that are oh so clever “fatass”/don’t get invited to birthday parties or sleepovers/get tripped in hallway, playgrounds/get punched and kicked by kids of all ages/be told by teachers that you are so fat that you are a disgrace
What isn’t listed in that job description are the added bonus perks of crippling anxiety, and depression with suicidal thoughts at the ripe old age of 10. But how does any of this relate to what this article is about? Well, allow me to bring this around full circle.
I noticed very early on, that a large majority of the other students in that school, and even some of the faculty didn’t care for or about me. I realized that I only had 6 or 7 friends at that school, that I wasn’t related to. What I hadn’t realized back then, and really hadn’t figured out until I was in my mid-twenties, was that the kids I did get along with, and considered real friends were the black, Mexican, and natives that went to school with me.
In seventh grade things came to a head for me, thankfully my parents started to understand that the bullying was as bad as I was saying, and that it wasn’t just some exaggeration, and they pulled me out of that private school, the next semester, I started at a public Junior High. I knew going in that it would take a little time before I made any friends, so I was prepared for that. I was meeting some kids in classes, and spent my first lunch in that cafeteria with the kid that was showing me around the school for the day.
Day 2, lunchtime. I saw only one person that I knew, we lived close to each other, and were not exactly friends. When we would play roller hockey in the streets we would always end up fighting, but I digress, so I knew that I wouldn’t be eating with him, soon I found some seats open in the middle and front of the cafeteria and sat down for lunch, alone. True story, the first seat I took was next to the group of special needs kids, one of them told me, that was were they sit, and I needed to move, the seat I moved from was never used, they just didn’t want me in their group.
Needless to say, the depression started to kick in, hard! It was another day that I left school despondent, and went home to cry myself to sleep, and consider if life was really worth living. The next day at school was kind of a blur,and all I remember of the first half of the day, was this sickening feeling, it was starting all over again, now I was just going to have more people hate me. That day at lunch, I again ate alone, this time at a table with more people at it, so I wouldn’t stick out. And then Snap showed up.
Snap, his nickname, was a light skinned dude that I had a few classes with. I can still remember the look on his face, and the tone and sound of his voice asking “Why the hell you sitting way over here
“I don’t, I don’t know anyone here to eat with.” I stumbled over the words
“Fuck that,” said Snap “tomorrow meet me at the doors to the cafeteria, you’re sitting with us.”
That was it, no discussion, he didn’t ask, he told me that I was eating with him.
Snap had figured me out quicker than anyone I have ever met, he knew I was too shy and awkward to actually meet him, so as I left my last class before lunch, he was waiting for me. “Lets go.” As we waited in line to get our lunches, we started talking about little things, what kinds of music we liked, what our favorite shows were, the basic 12 year old boy stuff. Occasionally he would introduce me to someone else in line.
After we grabbed our lunches, and our needed dipping sauces and other condiments we walked to a long table, as we went to sit down next to eachother,Snap announced to the table, “This is Tug, he’s pretty cool and he is going to start eating with us!” (Pretty cool!! Did he really just say that?!?) I looked up and down the table and realized that I had never been in a room with this many black people, let alone at a table with them.
It took a while for everyone to warm up to me, but I finally had friends. And not people that just claimed to be my friends, but real true friends! When anyone tried to flip me shit about my weight, or make fun of me for any reason, they were there for me. These guys taught me how to stand up for myself, how to fight, when to fight, when to run, and when to stand my ground.
My friends in Junior High, taught me about loyalty, and the power of a group standing together as one, rather than ignoring others problems.
What I came to realize, 15-20 after that day in the cafeteria, is that a lot of white people treated me like shit. Like they were better than me, not all white people, but many, but black kids, native kids, and Hispanic kids always showed me nothing but respect, they treated me like a human being, which was something that I hadn’t had in a long, long, long time. For years, I had jokingly yelled out in bars, “I hate white people!” but now I was starting to realize that it was kind of true.
This is probably the longest way possible for me to tell you why it is that racism makes me so angry.
So, today a nurse came into my hospital room praising Trump, then while speaking about Obama, he explained that he felt it was unfair that Larry Wilmore, speaking at the correspondent’s dinner, called Obama “his n***a” the nurse turned to me and said “but if I call him n****r, I am a racist.”
This was it, it was time to shit, or get off the pot, this is time to test my convictions, and morals. And I am proud to say I passed with flying fucking colors.
I told him not to worry, that wouldn’t make him a racist, because he already was one. I told him that I am related to biracial people, from cousins, to nieces and a nephew. I asked him how he could possibly think it was a good idea to say these things in front of me, and how dare he do it while working and representing the hospital. I told him that he was no longer my nurse, and if he laid a finger on me, I would take it as a sign of aggression. I told him that I was calling the charge nurse, and would be writing to the personnel department. As he silently turned and walked out of the room, I couldn’t help but wonder how we thought that was going to go, would Trump, emulating Putin appear in the room, riding a Pegasus that farted rainbows and glitter, topless, and defend him using the best words? How surprised was he when the guy with a feeding tube in his nose got out of bed to tell him he was wrong?
After he left, I called the charge nurse. The look on her face was one of pure shock, she started apologizing, and telling me how inappropriate. She explained to me that she was just covering a shift, so she called another charge nurse from another floor, and called her boss at home to handle this, they asked me to write a statement, which I did, (I will post that after some editing) and they have assured me that this situation would be handled.
What truly shocked me was the reaction that I got. I posted about the incident on Facebook, and not surprisingly got quite a few virtual pats on the back. I am in no way trying to down play those, I appreciate all of the positivity I was greeted with, but I was truly shocked to see people start to stand up for this guy. I was told that I should have been more graceful, or just ignored it. I was told (by a black girl) that it has no effect on me so I shouldn’t get upset, and should just move on. I was told that I stood up to this guy because I am a liberal crybaby and had my feelings hurt. I still am having trouble grasping this. When did we start feeling bad for racists? When did we decide that we should all just look the other way?
I guess you could call this venting, or ranting, or whining, but I am calling this my call to action. When you see something, or hear something like this, stand up to it. Don’t be violent, don’t just name call, but tell people that it is wrong, that they are wrong.this doesn’t apply just to racism, but to homophobes, islamophobes, women beaters, child abusers, animal abusers,etc…
And to anyone that is a victim of these assholes, please know that myself and others like me, will always have your back. We are all one people, one species, one community one tribe, and one love.
Please folks, let’s start loving our neighbors again. Maybe we all need a little yoga followed by going to the gun range…

Health Update

Well, I’ve only been promising you all this since, like, July, so…. 3 months, right on schedule. This week I will be adding a new doctor to the team, my GI doctor wants me to see a liver doctor as well, to see if that is the culprit, rather than my pancreas. We are hoping for some progress, it has been since the middle of January since I have had a pain free day.

Any more, my biggest problem with everything is that I am stuck at home all of the time. I miss working, and having accomplished something by the end of the day. Something as simple as that sounds like bliss, to me. On the positive side of things, I have had nothing but time to write new material, which I am looking forward to trying out. I haven’t performed for over 2 years, and I’ve got the itch! Not like a STD itch (STD….STI…I don’t know what we are calling it these days, which is a good sign, Right? Either way it’s not that), but you know what I mean.

So, we thought that I was going to have part of my pancreas removed this summer, but the surgeon has said that the widening in the duct is 1.5mm short of where he thinks he could make a difference. So we changed our plan. My GI doctor has asked if I am willing to try a full removal of the pancreas, and a transplant of the Islet Cells, which make insulin, and I have agreed to it. At this point I will do anything to try and improve the situation. Before that, though, I will be heading to Swedish, in Seattle, for a second opinion, and hopefully they will have a better idea.

The full pacreatectomy (complete removal of the pancreas) is a fairly new procedure. There are only 5-6 facilities that can perform this in the United States. Naturally none of those hospitals are in the northwest. The recovery is months long, the first couple of months could be in the hospital. It is a major surgery, with a long wait before I would get to come home. Obviously, this is not the most ideal of situations, but again, I just want to see some progress, this has been going on for 4 years now, and something has got to give.

I truly appreciate all of the prayers, and good thoughts and sweet messages I get from all of you. To the friends that I have seen, which is only a few of you (don’t take offense if I haven’t seen you, it is rare that I get out of the house at the moment), thank you for distracting me from all of this. All of your support has been, and is incredible. I have the greatest friends, family, and fans in the world. Thank you.

Rediscovering America

I found America (aka sad Columbus)

 

This Fourth of July, I decided to take a break from partying, and going to the lake, and chose to just stay home. After a day, wasted watching the “who dunnit” shows, on Netflix, I thought, “I should walk to cliff park, where I can see all of downtown, including the fireworks being set off by the city. In my fashion, I rolled a couple of joints, and set out on my journey.

Being careful to avoid the other parks on my way, where families were gathered, I took a bunch of back roads, contentedly puffing on my first joint. As I walked, I looked around, and took in the view. For those that are not from the northwest, you should know, just how beautiful the trees, and mountains are, this area is often described as “God’s Country” for good reason. I took in the architecture, and pondered about the houses, most are nearing 100 years old, and how some were huge, likely estates, next to some smaller humble craftsman style houses. All of them bursting with charm, looking warm, and inviting.

I finished up the joint, feeling a little lighter, and waiting for those familiar creeper sensations. Right as it started to hit, I was arriving at the view point. The city had closed the road, to accommodate the crowds, and the fire department was parked, and showing some kids through the Rescue Truck. Many families had spent the day there, under a blazing hot sun, to ensure that they were right at the edge of the cliff, getting the best view they could. The air was filled with the smell of the woods. In the middle of a city, behind the houses of families, well endowed, and living in opulence. By the scent, you would have sworn you were in the woods.

Many of us were shuffling around, trying to accommodate those shorter, so they would be able to see. Looking around, I could see the anticipation in the eyes of children, and sense the stress from parents, whose children had been loaded up on sugar, and were restless.

10 p.m. “BOOM BOOM” the fireworks have begun. At first, it was just what you’d expected. Kids shuffling around to get to the cliffs edge, parents frantically trying to control their spawn. Then it happened. I saw the America that I had grown up in.

These days, it seems, we are all so on edge. Everyone is at each other’s throat. Hating one another, for such simple, stupid reasons. Everyone is offended by everything. People think we shouldn’t celebrate the nation that we grew up in, immigrated to, live in. This is so bizarre to me; I have been raised with, and always held such pride in America. A nation, where we can do basically anything, within reason. We were the country that others looked to, to try to emulate, to find the key to the success that the U.S. had. We were a nation that grew, and thrived faster than any other nation, as countries go, we are pretty darn young.

I hear people all the time these days say “We are living in a police state…We aren’t free….America has never done anything good.” All of this makes me crazy, we are far from a police state, we get to travel around our country freely, we have a say in the direction our country goes in. Sure, some politicians are dirty, but that was our fault, allowing them to take money from corporations, and continually voting in those, that have been corrupt, inept, and uninterested in those they represent. Also, we are able to say all of these things, without risk of being beheaded. In my humble opinion, that makes us pretty damn great.

So there I am, half watching the fireworks, half people watching. Then it happened. A great flash in the sky, suddenly, the adults were oohing, and ahhing along with their children. I could see the misty eyes of reflection, certainly they must have been thinking like myself, of Fourth of July celebrations long past. Running around with sparklers, scaring friends, and sibling with secreted fire crackers. Watching large firework displays in your front yard, and watching the neighbor’s shows as well. Neighborhood barbecues, riding our bikes around, smelling the sulfur of premature ignitions. The Fourth was one of the greatest days of the year, the innocence of childhood preventing you from realizing that those fireworks were representative of the bombs, and artillery of the war that was fought when we made the original Brexit.

I watched as every adult I could see, started to smile. Not a large smile for pictures, not a small and smug smile, but instead it was that smile we  all get when remembering things we are fond of, the type of smile that you don’t even realize people can notice.

In those reminiscent eyes, and those pleasant smiles, I saw the America we once were, and hopefully will be again. You could feel the crowd’s attitudes changing, it felt like we were all children again, untainted by the pressures of adulthood, and learned prejudice, it felt like family there.

People turned and spoke to those next to them, stranger or not. As the fireworks ended, we all started to cheer, and applaud. We turned to each other, and discussed our favorite of the fireworks; we wished those around us a happy Independence Day.

As I walked home, alone, smoking my second joint, I could not help but smile. To see that, to see everyone put aside their differences, and enjoy the company of others, like the brothers and sisters that we all were. To see us all unite as one, for any reason, was refreshing. It showed me that things will be okay. Once we all unite and say enough is enough, we will whip this country, and one another, right back into shape. As for me, I am ready, and I am a proud American. This country isn’t always easy to love, but we always get through it, together. I love you America, and all of the people here.

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