my own private idaho

Life is not a journey to the
 grave with the intention of
 arriving safely in a pretty and
 well-preserved body, but rather to
 skid in broadside, thoroughly used
 up, totally worn out, and loudly
 proclaiming: Wow…. What a
 ride !!!” (Hunter S. Thompson)

When people ask how I am, I usually respond good-naturedly with “I feel great. Tired. But great.” The reality is that I am living in my own Private Idaho, which is not only a reference to a terrific film by Gus Van Zant, but, according to The Urban Dictionary, means “living inside an Idaho potato”, or a very small space. Metaphorically, it refers to someone who is not paying attention because he is daydreaming, or under the influence, or otherwise wrapped up within his own very narrow sphere of interest or frame of reference.”
I try not to allow this potato-space to fill up my head too much but when I do, I become immobilized. Leaden. The future becomes worrisome. But for anyone who has run a race, climbed a mountain or otherwise pushed themselves to their limit, you know you must not stop. You…have…to…keep…going. My grandfather’s 94th Infantry, 302nd division’s motto was “The Command is Forward.” Yes it is, grandpa. Yes it is.
One way I have faced the dragon, stealing a popular marketing phrase from a familiar sneaker company, is to “just do it.” The sad irony is that this slogan, perhaps one of the most recognizable catchphrases in the history of advertising, was inspired by the last words spoken by murderer Gary Gilmore before being executed by firing squad. His final utterance, “Let’s do it” was later appropriated by advertising agency Widen + Kennedy for Nike. Brilliant. Sick, but brilliant.
“Just doing it” in my case has meant pushing myself perhaps a bit too much- my body is now screaming at me to get more rest after the busyness of the holidays and spending some of the time with my family in Philadelphia. Oddly my illness was never brought up- it wasn’t that we were avoiding anything, it was, as my mother shared at one point, simply too hard to “go there.” I attended a mini high-school gathering where friendships of old were sparked anew as if it was yesterday.
New Year’s weekend we traveled to NYC where I celebrated the new year in Times Square with my daughters Hannah and Libby and Hannah’s friend Lily. The night before we stayed up into the wee hours with friend Buck and his band. New Year’s eve, at around five o’clock, we headed into Manhattan from Brooklyn. We all had fun but it was also a completely absurd folly: two million people crammed full on nearly every street. The sea of humanity was amusing, enlightening and disturbing all at once. The following day we went swimming in the frigid Atlantic with thousands of like-minded crazy people in Coney Island to celebrate the first day of the year. Two days later we were skiing at Okemo mountain with -10 wind chill. Days later I was nordic skiing at Grafton Ponds with Hannah’s team and old friends. What a great and fitting way to start the year.  Just do it has left me enriched, albeit with a few torn strands of muscle, due in part to a lack of regular exercise and from the side-effects of the steroids taken for swelling and inflammation.
(Bucky is at 2:36!)
Despite all this, I remain intact physically and emotionally. While I continue to meet with experts in the field for consultation and I continue to work towards a healthy regimen of meditation and physical activity, my days are mostly what they were before the calamity.
The next big day is February 28th when, along with a general exam and blood work, I will have my next MRI.
Meanwhile, the polluted water of the New Hampshire primary will soon recede and flow to another state, carrying with it the usual political flotsam and jetsam: the hate, hypocrisy, fear mongering, war mongering, posturing, lies, promises never to be fulfilled and the deep-seeded, sometimes cloaked sometimes naked viciousness directed towards women, children, teachers, the environment, science, health care, the poor, minorities and immigrants.
I refuse to watch the news coverage of the primary with any regularity as it all seems so shallow and meaningless. Just noise and talking heads. A mindless waste of outrageous sums of money. (I seem to recall my father owning a fake brick fashioned from foam to throw at the television whenever Nixon was on) Politics presented as sport, as if it was the Superbowl or the Kentucky Derby: driven by ratings, ad revenue and presented by Ken and Barbie dolls masquerading as newsmen and women. Substance in the news seems to be a rare commodity. Where art thou Walter Cronkite? Murrow, Huntley, Brinkley? Jennings? Brokaw?
So I keep my chin up and move forever forward and try each day to laugh as deeply as possible, dance whenever an opportunity presents, breathe as intently as I can, strive to help others and inhale the beautiful, brisk air of winter. And thank goodness for the B-52’s! (may I admit a continued crush on Cindy Wilson?) Were they actually singing about the primaries in Rock Lobster? I think so.
Happy New Year!
“Here comes a stingray
There goes a manta-ray
In walked a jelly fish
There goes a dog-fish
Chased by a cat-fish
In flew a sea robin
Watch out for that piranha
There goes a narwhal
Here comes a bikini whale!

About moosevt

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3 Responses to my own private idaho

  1. Elisabeth says:

    Hey Mark! You look great!! I’m thinking of you and wishing you nothing but the best as you face the future with characteristic courage, humor, and, well, chutzpah! Consider a kundalini chant for protection as you approach your next follow-up visit. I have found chanting in general to be quite soothing and it has steadied me in the past while waiting anxiously for results or when feeling vulnerable and scared. With hands in prayer position, “Aad guray nameh jugad guray nameh sat guray nameh siri guru devay nameh”. Or, words of your choice, of course! I like the way that one rolls off the tongue though, quite pleasing 🙂

  2. Anna Glass says:

    Happy to hear you were able to link up with AFS classmates over the holidays. Did anyone take pictures? I’d love to feature a class note in the next issue of Oak Leaves. Happy 2012, Mark! Anna S. Glass (

  3. Steve Fortier says:

    My friend, you’ve used one my favorite bands as your platform for your latest beautiful and inspiring story. I am glad you and your family had such a wonderful and memorable holiday season. I am quite sure that, due to your current challenge, the many more holiday seasons to come will also be wonderful and memorable. We can all learn from this. It’s “Good Stuff.” Maybe even a “Cosmic Thing.” And, I love that you “Tell It Like It T-I-is.” I am one of a LOT of people looking forward to your report from the 2/28 check-ups. In the meantime, rock on! And thanks!

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