… at the Passover table, speechless.

 

 

A nine year old me sits quelled at the Passover table, speechless.

 

Plan to call my cousin Norma, soon, tomorrow,
maybe this evening, no, its late to to late, call her this
coming Sunday, honest lies, no one believes
them including me, but I continue. Check to see if I
have her current phone number, hasn’t changed
in years, checked it a million time times over, so
then my cousin Bobby, he calls, haven’t
talk to him in 3, maybe 5 years, he calls to tell
me Norma passed. At her funeral I speak in
earnest, speak in subdued intensities, speak in
chary sentences, speak to family I haven’t spoken
to in years, don’t ask me how many —Years.
Hold no remembrance of our childhood
spent together, the only evidence, a black and
white photograph my father took of us. In it I am
in her care, younger cousin watched over by
older cousin. I look like I walked out of a sears roebuck
catalogue. Norma, she’s tall, neatly dressed,
beautifully young, beautifully my cousin. A starved
memory feeds off that image of the two of us. Now
I call her from her grave, now I tell her I love her,
always, since childhood. Now the question I’ve waited
to ask her, if anyone had a meaningful answer she would.
Norma, my cousin, my love do you believe in an afterlife?
I have my special way of believing, tell you sometime.
She’s busy, in the heart of salting her wondrous
challah bread. Tell me now. now. Later, sometime later.
An eighty year old me sits quelled at the Passover table, speechless.

 

                       ◊  ◊  ◊  ◊  ◊

A squeamish executioner; that’s not the way to kill children.

sqexicutioner_1-03

“The victims were shot by the firing-squad with carbines, mostly by shots in the back of the head, from a distance of one metre on my command. Before every salvo Taubner gave me the order – ‘Get set, fire!’ I just relayed Taubner’s command ‘Aim! Fire!’ to the members of the firing squad, and then there was a crack of gunfire. Meanwhile Rottenfuhrer Abraham shot the children with a pistol. There were about five of them. These were children whom I would think were aged between two and six years. The way Abraham killed the children was brutal. He got hold of some of the children by the hair, lifted them up from the ground, shot them through the back of their heads and then threw them into the grave. After a while I just could not watch this anymore and told him to stop. What I meant was he should not lift the children up by the hair, he should kill them in a more decent way.”

 

from the testimony of SS-Mann Ernst Gobel, on his actions under SS-Untersturmfuhrer Max Taubner* in Alexandriya, Ukraine

excerpted from “The Good Old Days” by Klee, Dressen and Reiss

Jews, come back to Germany. Please! We miss you.

judajewgraphic-01

Jews, come back to Germany. Please! We miss you.

“On the basis of a decision by the German Bundestag” the “Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology” had given the green light to market Germany to the Jews.

How about that. An overt plea, offer, request, inveigle, snuggle, smooch to get Jews to return to Germany; to walk thru the ups and downs of a German Jewish heritage. Is that chutzpah or what?

It is chutzpah. And it is “or what” the what being “sechel.”

“Chutzpah” is Yiddish for gall, brazen nerve, effrontery.
“Sechel” is Yiddish for smarts, intelligence.

Witness the chutzpah: “You gotta be kidding; the perpetrator is asking the victims back for seconds.”  The title “Germany for the Jewish Traveler” feels like it could have been penned for a film by Mel Brooks; recall his “Springtime For Hitler?”  I experienced a modicum of resistance, irony, black humor when I first read the title “Germany for the Jewish Traveler.” Goebbels, the nazi’s Reich Minister of Propaganda would have been impressed with its smart look.

Witness the sechel; disregarding my initial knee-jerk take on “Germany for the Jewish Traveler” this e-brochure is an important piece, not only for its tasteful marketing and design, its handsome photographs of cities, towns and countryside, its informative text and focus on the Jewish German heritage; it is the appropriate, refulgent publication to be included in a history of nazi newspapers and posters debasing Jews with abrogation, edict, propaganda. It goes on top of that dark pile, it’s the capper, it’s redemption; it is an achievement in Germany’s “Vergangenheitsbewältigung” — its struggle/effort to come to terms with the past; and it is a testimonial to the terrible truth. Kudos to the German Bundestag.

 In essence the title implies the unspoken.
“Germany for the Jewish Traveler and Holocaust Denier.

This e-brochure should be included along with all of the other materials, books and images used in Holocaust studies. Get it off to high schools and colleges.

 “Germany for the Jewish Traveler” gives a concise informative history of the Jew in Germany, beginning from the Roman Empire on to the Mid-ages on to Kristallnacht and to the present. Today, nearly seven decades after the end of World War II, Germany is home to the third-largest Jewish community in Western Europe. It’s also the only European Jewish community that is growing rather than shrinking.

The camps in Germany still standing
where you, the world can meander;

Buchenwald.
Dachau.
Majdanek.
Neuengamme.
Sachsenhausen.
More than enough to get the idea; can’t get any closer to the agony
than the living evidence of the agony;
 the wood of the barrack and
the brick of the oven lives on in silence.

Let us walk through the silence together. All of us, hand in hand,
you, the world.
Would someone, you, the world, please take the hand of Hassan Rouhani
during a saunter 
through the crematorium?

SAMPLE PAGES FROM “GERMANY FOR THE JEWISH TRAVLER”

text below excerpted from e-brochure Germany for the Jewish Traveler …

“And it is in this spirit that we in Germany are honored to convey a special invitation to the Jews of the world to visit our country. As we do so, it would be naïve for us not to recognize that for many, contemplating a visit to Germany may never be without a mixture of emotions. Perhaps scholar, Joseph Greenblum, put it best when writing in the May 1995 issue of JUDAISM, the academic quarterly published by the American Jewish Congress when he wrote that visits by Jews to Germany: “symbolize the failure of the Nazis to erase Jewish memory, for it was the Jewish civilization of that nation which was first targeted for extinction. That failure would be powerfully demonstrated by a visit to sites of Jewish significance in the very heartland of what was once the Nazi empire…. Such pilgrimages by Jews would recognize and support the ‘other Germany,’ its accomplishments in reclaiming Jewish history, and its seriousness in coming to terms with the past and with itself.”

click for e-brochure: Germany for the Jewish Traveler 

Mother superior with Deirdre

mothersuperior1-01

don’t know about you mother superior
that morning you were
a blizzard blinding
you were a
steep white glacier I slid down
you were my center, nothing
beyond you but the void
when I rested my head between your legs
the wind stopped
the bed became the moist earth
in which I dug my knees into
it was them my head said
don’t know about you mother superior
where were you
when I made my descent?

better yet, where was I?

Circa: Beatles, Rolling Stones, Leonard Cohen

by hblume

mothersuperior_design-05

Left

Mother superior and bloodroot.

Bloodroot is a perennial, herbaceous
flowering plant native to the Midwest
and eastern North America.
The blood of the root when cut open
was used as a dye by Native
American artists.

Center

Mother superior and trillium

 

 

Spam harvesting.

daturaa

Spam harvesting.

 

Gabby you’re not to blame;
it was just a matter of time.

Heartbeat of memory agitated,
aroused, cheated.

Guess what. What?

This yearning for closure, guess what, showed-up, appeared in a dream.

The Ignored waited for an opening.

For over three years the Ignored rehearsed in silence
giving repeat performances until it slipped through,
got my attention, followed me from dream onto the crapper,
into the shower; the Ignored was always there, unsettled
whimpering, nagging, wanting audience, spending its time along
the margin of consciousness within the depths of sleep; every
not so often I’d get a millisecond blink, a flash of white-light
calling out her name; had no idea where to go with that; let it go
as fast as it came, continuing on as a busy human fulfilling
the law of entropy; until this dream.

Attending To The Dream.

Lying perfectly flat on my back,
planted on a raised bed of moist earth,
my skin, a composite of embryos absorbing,
ingesting earth’s damp fevers,
branches into a million frenzied roots,
zigzagging, spiderwebbing through the soil,
rooting out the idiocy of,
the suffering of,
the chemistry of,
the unforeseen-foreseen of,
the complicity of,
the probability of,
the inevitability of,
the implacability of Gabby’s death.

Gabby’s roof top garden. Listen to Yourself listening to Her

 Oh,

 and I am buying an apartmenttumblr_ grain
(in the building next door to mine).

 Although I’ll be on the 3rd floor,
I get half the roof (which already has
nice wood 
decking tile on it — but no water source as yet!), so I’ll have a
garden/outdoor space.”

I feel a little stressed about the roof garden because
I have a lot of plants I’m taking from my “yard” and I need to
ensure that, on a full sunroof deck, I have a ready home
for them on the roof.

The plants I am really excited about aren’t the ones
I’m doing from seed, but the stuff I ordered from
Plant Delights — some awesome cannas, colocasias, that
zoblupie clematis I told you about, plus a long standing
favorite of mine, ruellia brittoniana (the tall one, not the dwarf
ones they also have). Plus some other things.

The spam harvesting is kind of negligible, don’t worry too
much about that.

 I decided I’m going to have to try to start the daturas
on the roof — I’m worried enough that (although I have
a separate room to put the plant-light system in) my cats
will get in and demolish everything, but if they got in and
ate that I would never forgive myself.

I really don’t know how this happened,
but I findRosamutabilis_grain
 myself for the first time having
a real design idea, 
and it’s completely
apart from what I’ve done in
previous gardens. It’s both awesome
and scary, and 
I hope it works, but in
a nutshell I’m embracing the 
full sun
condition and going hot with the 
colors
with a couple of cool blues and a tiny bit
of 
white (nigella African bride, a datura or
two, and moonflowers.

My poor vines (moonflower, thunbergia alata “salmon shades”, and
tropeaolum peregrinum)– those that survived the evil squirrel
(really, this squirrel was mean — when I first planted them, he just
bit them off at their bases, but didn’t eat the plant at all, did the
same thing with most of the sunflowers I planted.

Steve and I actually split up in October, but we are on good terms
and he’s staying with me for Josef’s summer visit (which we are shockingly
already half-way into). It’s working out very well,
I knew it could but was also worried beforehand.

My nicotiana knightiana will, at the rate it’s going, bloom in October!
Next year I will start them much earlier, and probably do mutabilis in place
of or in addition to the knightiana (I’ve never seen one in person), and
use a different 
rooting medium (I made a BIG mistake this year).

The job is actually going really well (although there are always the
usual stressors in any legal IT job). I like my boss and he values me
highly, and that’s the best thing.

I ordered a light rack for4.2
propagating things from
seed so I can get the nice annuals that
no one ever 
seems to sell. I feel a
little daunted by the prospect, but years ago
in 
Chelsea I actually hooked up my alcove
with shelves and florescent lights.

I don’t know where I stumbled across
blood grass but when 
I found it I had
to have it.

The falcons had no offspring this year, what a bummer.
Whoever 
maintains the site didn’t comment on it whatsoever,
perhaps this just happens some times.

I am a happy woman as I finally found
two salvia patens at the Gowanus Nursery yesterday, plus
two oxpetalum tweedia, which are a milkweed relative that
have the most awesome little milky blue flowers.

From out of the Outrageous Blue

She flew into Chicago on business while gathering
us up for a get-together dinner.
Haven’t seen her for 20 years. Remember Gabby
as a quiet teenager who sat in a lawn chair 20 feet behind
the adults; who spoke carefully then; now she’s the impetus
who brought us together to meet again for the first time; effortlessly,
Gabby cleared a wide gap of silence held between friends;
she offered to be the catalyst for amnesty.

We were easy together; surely this was thetropperegrher_grain
beginning of a friendship with possibility;
a future, a bond, flourishing with the turn
of the seasons. Yes, we’ll share the
offerings of the natural world; all her doing.
Once the child, no more, she invited us
into her life. We were honored, refreshed;
had no idea how fragile was the germinal thread
that bound us together.

Hey. She worked as a legal IT for a law firm in Manhattan.
How about that? Gabby ran the digital-info-lifeblood,
reigning over computers and its software, converting, storing, protecting,
processing, transmitting, retrieving; a pressure job to be sure.
We were impressed, in awe of her, proud, excited for her.
Gabby, big sister, made it big; Manhattan big; mother, sister, brother,
all optimistic, all impressed, all pleased. But.

But who knew, who understood a “back then” eventuality?
How many of us can look in the mirror to  see the “back then” heading
their way? Yes, there are signs; but they don’t come with answers.

Back then a vital life process, function, ratio of madness to sanity goes berserk;
deep within, below, something churned, cracked, mucked up the soil,
worms smothered, flowers withered seconds after a bloom was born,
arbitrary withering, random flip-flopping — one of daddy’s sperm gone twisted,
gone nuts, insane, bullied its way through, first to the beckoning finish line
before any of its competitors.

Bingo, fertilization; the sicko sperm wins to ultimately curse the year, month,
week, day, hour, minute, the very frigging second. The present made a lousy
commitment to the future much like the same lousy one it made for her father;
for him it was a matter of time, for Gabby it was a matter of time.

Before she jumped from her roof top garden four floors to pavement.
Is it really just a matter of time or was she salvageable if pursued
in time, before her time. There are parents who tried, tried again, plying
all the resources they could muster, could afford, only to learn
it made no difference — life over death lost; there’s no guarantee.
Tragic moments written in code waits for an update; no guarantee.

Spamaranoid

Everywhere Gabby looked she found
spamnicotiana_grain wilt. Gabby the gardener, the guardian,
sworn to a singular self-imposed allegiance,
the keeper and protector of the data and
the flower, standing vigilant like the sun,
ready to thwart, to prune 
the nagging
onslaught of spam swamp. They fired her
because she found spam 
rot wherever
she looked; she refused to leave the office,
loyal to her job description she stayed adamant
by her computer’s side.  

Don’t you understand how crucial, how necessary I am to us.
Please take your hands off me. Let me do my job. Don’t interfer
with the harvest. Don’t tamper with my existence.
There is no existence without me.  

They pried her loose from the office by grip, put her in a
prison psych ward — diagnosis, psychotic; they released her to the street.
Brilliant. Now what?

Her Suicide

Gabby fed her cats that day. Washed a sweater, hung it to dry.
Sat down to write a to-do list. Cleaned, dusted, organize stuff.
All things neat in their place she took her purse with her,
up to her roof top garden, to enjoy her new plants, have a smoke;
that’s all she intended to do, have a smoke, be with her plants.
Her fastidious housekeeping bares witness to intention; yes? no?

Either way, yes or no, a fourth floor roof top garden beckons
beyondOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA for those who seek it, imagine it; for those
vulnerable to whispers. From a selection of Gabby’s
inner-voices one voice finds expression.
It possibly goes something like this:
first a lullaby;
the lullaby metastasizes into a chant;
a chant metastasizes into a litany;
a litany metastasizes into an hypnotic, blinding,
deafening, profane anthem, 
promising her nothing,
pointing the way, directing her to leap-jump that very second,
without hesitation, from her rooftop garden before another
voice binds her feet to the roof top floor.

As Gabby fell all of us who mattered rushed, leaped, flew towards her,
stretching every bone, muscle, cartilage beyond limit, ripping ligament,
rupturing flesh, reaching out to her, our desperate hands, fingers
aching to catch, clutch, cradle, cherish her; she floated through our hands
as if we were not there.

 by hblume

 

words words words words words

hawkeating_1

 

♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦ ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

Eat my words.
♦♦
♦♦♦♦

The words scatter to safety. But for one.
It held its place frozen fearful sacrificial.
Sentence; it waited to be taken plucked devoured just like
a Black-capped Chickadee clutching tree bark seconds
before a Cooper’s Hawk strikes.
I dive down from out of nowhere intent on making a meal of it.
Seconds after the kill gulp licking my chops I go hungry.
Short spunky words long ponderous words
meaty sweet salty flippant stinky vile words all of them plate them for me.
I’m insatiable. I cock my head my ear to the zeitgeist much like
the perky stop-start American Robin does when darting
back and forth on grass listening for worms.

I listen for words.

♦♦♦♦ Just the right word.

♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
 The perfect word.

♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦ ♦♦♦♦♦Sentence by sentence.

♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦ ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦ Swallow by swallow.

♦♦♦♦♦♦♦ ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦ Peristalsis by peristalsis.

♦♦♦♦ ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦ ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦ Toot by toot.

 hblume

Fields of Real Estate

fieldsoffrelestate-1

 

Fields of Real Estate

 

05.25.02 11:45am the G & F Farm, Interlaken, NY

 

Two Mourning Doves squat plump on a high wire.
Lovers alone: their folded wings touch feel one another,
a conduit for their knowing, heartbeats merge
keeping time.
Wheat, alfalfa, corn stretch out below.
Above: the sky with gray and white washes
of infinity.

A sudden bolt into the atmosphere, a dive
into the grass to forage, then back again.

As before, their metatarsals enclose
one bare-scant hum of the continuum,
a sliver of commotion drawn from
telephone pole to telephone pole going
ya-ta-ta ya-ta-ta ya-ta-ta ad-in-fi-na-tum

And no sound.

Only the silence of day
realized by the work of tractor, the hum of pick-up,
the wind, by the call of crow, the bark of dog,
the wind, by the trumpeted moan of cow, always
the wind sashaying with wheat, corn and the future.

Side by side our Mourning Doves wait.

Holy spectator, timeless specter, waiting.
Etched in sunrise and sunset, waiting.
Washed in rain and wind, waiting.
Waiting for the glare the din of shopping mall,
parking lot, the future.

 

hblume

 

 

 

The ceremony of innocence is drowned.

 

momdadphili

The last phone call ever.

by hblume

‘Take it back Annie’
That’s what we called mom.
Her coffee never hot enough.
Take it back;
shoes, blouses, bras, coffee.
Doesn’t fit, don’t like, not hot enough.
Annie, my mom.

Morry, my father,
he’d handled it from there,
gave the waiter a blustering reprimand
over a not so hot cup of coffee.
Annie, my mom, she gave them her kibitz.
The blintz, plain, banana, strawberry
the bowl of borscht soup,
the crowds at Sammy Ashkenaz’s Deli.
Sammy himself.
Annie, my mom, she gave them all the business.
She had to be
one of the best kibitzer
in the business.
She was;
you’d have to see her in action.

If a waiter didn’t respond to Annie,
ignored, misunderstood her,
she pursued that waiter
relentlessly
throughout the course of service,
with digs, asides, looks.
Her intent, a rise, smile better yet a laugh
and the recruitment of the same table
serviced by the same waiter
who from then on out
greeted my mother by name;
“Hey Annie, how you doing today.
Coffee not hot enough. Sure Honey, I’ll get you a fresh cup.”
Mission accomplished, her day was made.

Annie loved to mix it up.
Felt it was her calling.
She’d stop strangers on the street;
a young mother pushing her child in a carriage,
engages her in a five minute chitchat
while my father several feet away waits
impatiently for her to continue on their walk.
“Annie, Annie, we have to go.”
This was also Annie’s method of getting back
at Morry, she victorious, he powerless,
incapable of participation, not his thing.
“Let him wait, I’m luxuriating.”

Annie, my mom had a thing for leopard,
anything leopard,
leopard panty, bra, jacket, scarf, collar, hat
a three foot tall ceramic leopard.
At age nine I found her leopard thing
mysteriously uncomfortable; more so as a teenager.
I’d spot her leopard spotted underwear snaking
its way thru a pile of laundry.

As a nine-year-old movie buff I saw my mother
as a synergy between Carmen Miranda and Rita Hayworth,
consumed in leopard, adorned,
ornamented with plastic fruit bobbing from her head.
She never sang Chica Chica Boom Chic; looked as if
she was about to and that was enough.
Annie, my mom, a lithe, slim, lively mom, quick to laughter,
a red head at that with small slender feet and hands;
one tough smart cookie.

Shout-outs coming from our dinning room.
“2 Bam! 3 Crack! 1 Dragon!”
Annie, my mom, the mah-jongg queen,
also played a serious game of canasta and pinochle.
Annie, my mom, a lithe, slim, lively mom,
quick to laughter, a red head at that with
small slender feet and hands;
one tough smart cookie.

Her girl friends all mah-jongg, canasta sharks
just like my mom.
All with an aggressive competitive wit-mouth
just like my mom.
All wearing leopard panties and bras
just like my mom;
at least back then that’s what I imagined
they wore whenever they got together to play mah-jong
or canasta; it gave them their mojo, their saykhel,
while back then I had no words to describe what
wearing leopard panties and bras gave them,
all I knew/felt was that they were highly energized
denizens at the gaming table in our dinning room,
all wearing leopard panties and bras.
They took their cue from my mom.

My father’s specialty: sudden outbursts of anger.
Can’t remember who threw the first punch.
I think he did.
Grappling at each other, we knocked the kitchen table over.
Annie, my mom grasped a butcher knife in her hand,
screaming she’d kill herself if we didn’t stop
Father and teenage son,
our first and only slugfest.
Memorable, at least for me.
For Morry my dad, don’t know,
never thought to ask him until now.

His thing, “Napkins.” There were never enough napkins.
Whenever they eat out the first thing he did
was to request extra napkins.
Once he had his extra napkins Morry could relax,
settle back, calm down,
unless the potato barley or gilfitafish soup was cold.
What ever the issue he was the one
who waved in the waiter to present our case.

In my late twenties in search of a questionable anima,
in trying to lighten my inner tonnage I went to Esalen
a retreat overlooking the pacific ocean; my first experience
with encounter groups. 
When returning to Chicago
I anticipated making 
up for lost intimacies.
For the first time I greeted my father with
a kiss on his cheek.
From then on out, from that moment,
from that first kiss at every hello goodbye
he’d leaned in for the kiss.
A kiss he came to expect.
And he did kiss back, eagerly;
first time Morry ever-ever kissed his son.
The floodgate opened where there was once
no evidence of flood or gate.

He called about 11pm.
He sounded frighten.
“I’m dying, Howard. I think I’m dying.”

Dying wasn’t a consideration that night.
We had just left my father’s room at the hospital.
My mother, me, my wife Kay, brother Phil, his wife Ginny
had been visiting Morry’s wellbeing.
The nurses skirted down the corridor of doors,
in and out of rooms, verifying vital signs,
putting patient and their family at ease,
all of us grateful, indebted to them
for dispensing peace of mind.
We left dad believing everything was under control,
the nurses had death locked down&out for the night.

I don’t know why I left home.
I imagine, I think to teach my parents a lesson.
“I’ll show em.”
“They’ll be sorry”
for what ever it was
that I can’t recall that might upset
an eight year old.
Convinced Phillip, my 4 year-old brother to leave with me.
We each loaded up a white sheet with our toys and games.
Bundle slung over our shoulder we trudged our way
over to Louie’s house to see if he wanted to join us.
Half way, realized we had nowhere to go,
told my brother we had better return,
don’t want to worry mom and dad.
Sitting outside our apartment door waiting,
looking forward to being found out …

Morry and Annie lived in Century Village
a retirement community in Deerfield Beach, Florida,.
They relished every day of it.
Century Village was their penultimate.
Mom became a passionate artist, took up oil painting,
known throughout Century Village as Annie the artist,
the painter.
Dad became a big macher; recruited to negotiate
the Century Village’s insurance plan, a position
of honor, trust and respect.
He was way overdue for a title,
his first time in the limelight.
And he delivered.
Nice going dad, proud of you.
Not sure I ever told him that, might have,
should have.

Looking through their back screen porch Annie would kvell at a
white heron jabbing its long beak thru the water’s surface.
She’d called me from Florida to tell me about how a gorgeous
white birds flipped fish from the end of its beak into its mouths,
how she’d fed a squawking white swan signaling its hunger
as it waddled from the pond to their back screen door
expecting a slice of bagel or raison toast.

My parents basked in the offerings of the
Florida climate and their amazing life at Century Village.
It was truly a wonderful time for them
where every day time took its own sweet time.
Morry made the coffee every morning.
Annie divided the pink grapefruit into segments.
One argument a week.

A typical day in the life of their sunset years.
My mother’s favorite movie, the Umbrellas of Cherbourg.
She wanted to get the DVD, a job my father took on.
Morry, looking through a Deerfield Beach newspaper
yells out:
“Annie, Annie I found one, an adult bookstore,
they’ll have the Umbrellas of Cherbourg”
My father at the wheel of their 1984 Buick left Century Village
onward to the adult bookstore.
Once inside they were stunned by a well
stocked selection of pornographic DVD’s.
Just as stunned was the clerk when a 90 year old redheaded
woman asked him if they carried the Umbrellas of Cherbourg.

This adult bookstore story was told at my mother’s funeral service.
She always appreciated a good laugh; she left us laughing.

Maxie was one of my father’s closest friends from High School.
He was a hero to my brother Phillip and I.
Drafted into the Marine Corp in his early thirties he fought
in the Battle of Iwo Jima.
After the war he became a fishmonger
Whenever my father return with a chunky bag
of ice and shrimp we had Maxie to thank.
My brother and I lunched with Maxie and my father.
Forty years since we’ve seen him last.
The sparkle in his eyes gone sad; that’s to be expected,
isn’t it? How long can an ex-marine, ex-fish monger
sustain a sparkle or for that matter anybody?
He still had his big smile; as wide as the Joker in Batman.
Yetta his wife gone. He lived alone.
One day my parents were talking to Maxie
on the phone when he stop talking.

They told us Maxie died on the phone while talking to him.
They were matter of fact, unemotional about it, as if people
die over the phone every day.
They never dwelt over their own mortality.
What they did was report:
Ralf Gibs passed. Gloria Star died. Irving Cove. Essie Blumenthal …
a report of subtractions … Gertrude Baker, Bernie Goodman,
Ruth Klein, Bob Siegal … adults my brother and I grew up with,
our childhood legends departed.

One last significant move in an ebbing life span.
Phil and I coerced Annie and Morry to leave their Florida paradise,
so to be closer to us and any immediate medical care
Morry might need; he’s had several spills, legs where getting
shaky, his body giving up on him.
Didn’t take much to convince him to leave;
he was eager to live at a place where it takes
three minute to walk to dinner, where there were waiters with
a decent supply of napkins.

It took some doing to get Annie to agree;
to leave a life style she was still capable of partaking in,
still relished.
Annie wasn’t ready to pack it in;
leaving paradise conceded that she was.
She’s doing it for Morry, wasn’t at all happy about it,
reiterated often, she’s doing it for Morry.
Annie wasn’t ready to be taken.

I’m dying Howard, dying.
Why did he choose to call me?
“Don’t worry Dad, I’ll call Phil.
He’s close to the hospital.
He’ll come by. Don’t worry.”

Phil called me next morning. Dad died.
Phil never went back to the hospital.
Why he didn’t don’t know, said he would.
Why didn’t I call the nurses station?
You know, we assume, I assumed that the monitor
reading his vital signs would
alert a nurse to a patient in the throes of death.
It had to be terribly frightening for my father to know
the moment by moment rush of a gathering death,
while waiting for a promised son to intervene.
Why didn’t Morry wave-in a nurse to his room
as he had waved in a waiter.

He was 94 years old. How much more life do you
want to squeeze out of an altacocker.
He had way more than his predicted share.
What’s a few more days, weeks, months
worth to a 94 years old man;
that’s the sentiment we offer up to the elderly,
what difference would it make,
he’ll not miss that extra day.
We’ll do the missing for him.
Leave him go. Leave him be.

Is that what the nurses did that night he died,
leave him be?
He was contented enough lying in bed reading the newspaper.
He needed nothing else, no music, no radio,
no TV except for the news,
except for a hello and goodbye kiss from his son.
Could he use a few more days of that?
Is that too dull, too pedestrian to warrant a few more days?
Now today this moment I wish I could have been there
to give him a massive bone crushing hug squeeze to to to
drown out his fear of a gathering death to to
drown out the fear of my own.

Bolted in space for one second of eternity
she stopped dead at the sight of
Morry decked out perfectly dead in his casket.
Death always makes an abrupt entrance exit.
Death knows nothing but abrupt.
Annie’s hand fell to her breast
where it remain, her mouth held parted,
a gasp audible.
I was close enough
to hear it leap from her throat,
that’s what it did, leap, saw it leap,
an icy flame,
an icy hand, her hand.
Morry died for Annie once more;
this time groomed, dressed for the occasion,
decked out perfectly dead in his casket.
He beat her to it. She outlived him.
It was close though, a photo finish.
Annie knew that.
She lowered herself onto a chair near
the entrance to the viewing room and distant from Morry.
That’s where she remained until we picked her up on the way out

“Comeback Annie ” another nickname.
In her sixties when they told her she was to be
released from the cardiac unit something didn’t feel right,
She refused to leave, wanted to stay over,
got an extra night.
That extra night she suffered a full-blown heart attack
she wouldn’t have survived if she’d gone home,
would never have participated in the 30 plus years she lived too,
10 years of it — get this — as an active golfer.
My mother always took credit for
having good instincts.
She slammed death to the canvass, pulverized its intention.
Got a pacemaker and another 30 years.

Phil and I flew to Florida to wait it out with dad.
I recall the three of us sitting together at the hospital
waiting to see if Annie survived her heart attack.
This was the first time we saw our father in tears.
Phil and I both made sure to tell mom about his tears.
See mom, dad does care, he’s not a cold fish.

I lost a letter.
Or dreamed that I lost a letter.
Either way I do have a recollection of reading it.
A letter I wrote to my mother when I was 9 years old.
Can’t recall word for word but it left the adult-me with envy
and this epiphany; as a child I felt better about myself
than I feel about my self now.
Where did I go sour? When did I loose it.

So you understand my need to read that letter once more.
So to fill a vague impression with substance;
to read line by line and feel the catalyst;
to see if I can wear a child’s innocence
if only for a minute or two,
to invoke a ceremony of innocence
if at all.

If I ever did possess this letter,
it was given to me possibly by my brother
who got it from my mother’s sacrosanct pile:
a collection of her past; mementoes,
trinkets, milestones, letters, post cards from,
photographs of family, lovers, significant others.
Phil, my brother was in charge of
mom’s sacrosanct pile after she passed away.
He has no recollection of the letter nor giving me a letter.
I’m not trusting his memory or mine;
too much static going on at our age, too many events,
a lifetime of incidents, many begin to feel dream like.

Or I could have got the letter from my daughter
Robin’s sacrosanct pile,
she getting the letter from my mother.

Or its a letter from a dream existing only in my psyche,
a gift not to be open nor read again.

Or a merger of possible truths all possible;
a dream and an entity in tandem delivered the letter.
(I’ll give you a hint; this is the case)

If it did exist I’d most likely laid it to rest in
my sacrosanct pile; that’s where
the dream suggested I’d find it.
After two frenetic quick searches
and not finding the letter, a slow methodical
difficult bittersweet third search found it.
See, always in a rush; hurry hurry hurry.
Slow up, take all the time that’s required,
you’ll find yourself; eventually.

There I was, at the very bottom, light blue paper,
tattered edges, written in pencil, in curser,
buried under my daughter Robin’s collages of images
cut from magazines pasted on construction paper,
buried under her letters to me, mine to her,
under her suicide letter to her mother,
step-father Bob and to her brother Robby,
buried under her step-sibling’s 9 year old drawings
of penis’s and super heroes, under photographs of her
high school friends and family, under her high school
diploma, yearbooks, 
under letters of condolence,
under this haphazard weight of telling words and images,
there I was, now christened the sacrosanct letter.

“Dear sweet Mom.
I miss you.
Are you happy there?
We took our medicine.
The laundry man came.
We made our beds.
Daddy got the ring.
It is pretty. So are you.
Your Loving son, Howard.
P.S. Did you meet any new friends.”

There was I the kid, the loving son,
a referee at the fights watching frighten
determined to survive
my parents from each other
my sweet mother screams at my father
she’s so angry at him
he backs off, contrite apologetic
you’re making a mountain out of a molehill
says my father,
she explodes all over him screaming is that
the all you can come up with
there was I    wanting wanting wanting
this all to stop
she tells him   me she’s leaving
tells him   me she has to get away for awhile
my sweet mother is leaving him   me
she’s going off to South Bend Indiana
my sweet mother is leaving
with her friend Gloria
my sweet mother is leaving
going to Gloria’s summer cottage at the dunes
my sweet mother packs her things
Gloria picks her up they drive off
The next day I write Annie, my sweet mother
a love letter in pencil, in cursive on light blue paper.

Three years later after my father’s passing
it was my mother’s turn.
The last few year of her life was especially rough going.
She came down with shingles.
Take it back Annie, this one tough 93 years old cookie
was in terrible pain.
Betty Davis had it right, old age ain’t for sissies.
My mom, one tough 93 year old cookie was no sissy.
Annie, my mom, a lithe, slim, lively mom, quick to laughter,
a red head at that.
Still all of the above but add in the pain and old.
Annie, my mom, tight to the bone, skin thin, brittle,
bruised at a touch, her hair insane, her eyes burning,
but still the kibitzer, the best in the business. 

When a cardiologist told mom her heart was failing she became irate.
“What are you telling me? I haven’t long to live.”
“He had a lot of nerve, where did he come up with that.”
If Morry was still alive she’d have him tell that doctor
to take it back for a fresh diagnosis.
As it was she enlisted her sons to take on her doctor;
diagnosis the same.

Annie had to enter a nursing home to recoup
from the shingles.
There she fell and cracked her hip sentencing her
to a longer stay than anticipated..
Determine to get out of the nursing home
she haunted the halls on a walker
until she got strong enough to get
the hell of that place.

Not long after leaving the nursing home
she became weak, had trouble catching her breath.
She was rush off to the hospital,
the same one my father died at.

She was in great spirits when we left her.
The nurse asked her if there is any thing else she could get her.
Her answer;
“Yes a martini.”

Later that night I called the hospital to check up on her.
She told me that she felt wonderful.
She became buddies with one of the nurses; knows her life story.
That’s typical Annie; she wheedles her way in there.
“Oh Howie she said. You don’t know how good I feel.
I haven’t felt this good in months.”
I felt awash in her buoyancy.
She had to get off the phone. She felt sleepy.
Our parting routine of many years went as such.
“I love you mom:
And her reply,
“I love you more.”
She passed away in her sleep shortly after our talk.

And look who inherited Annie’s kibitzing DNA.
Not me. Phil did, my little brother. You should see him in action.
He’s good. A kibitzer of the first degree.

How many good poems does it take to make a poet?

evapicola_1-03 SYLVIA PLATH in an interview was asked how she first began writing poetry, what sort of thing did she write about when she first began?  Sylvia Plath’s reply:

“Nature, I think: birds, bees, spring, fall, all those subjects which are absolute gifts to the person who doesn’t have any interior experience to write about. I think the coming of spring, the stars overhead, the first snowfall and so on are gifts for a child, a young poet.

Twelve year old Eva Picová had the “interior experience” Sllvia Plath speaks of — it’s called the Terrezin concentration camp, renamed Theresienstadt by the Germans. It’s called premature adulthood at gun point.

Theresienstadt concentration camp, a transit camp for children and the elderly who were eventually packed into cattle cars pointed towards Auschwitz and their death. Also a camp for men and women selected for forced labor. Beatings, torture, starvation and disease were commonplace. Eva Picová lived through a typhus epidemic, seeing her friends and others succumb to the disease.  She saw adults saw her parents suffer, saw them agonize, languish, struggle under the brutal and terrorizing treatment wielded by the Nazis.

The adults at Theresienstadt manage to provide art and writing classes for the children. Despite severe congestion, food shortages and compulsory labor, the extensive educational and cultural activities in the ghetto reflected the prisoners’ will to survive the unsurvivable; provided a distraction from their eventual selection to the gas chamber, a distraction from the harsh bare-bone living conditions; gave them, especially the children, a voice to resurrect hope from despair.

A Dr. R. Feder gave Eva Picová’s poem to the State Jewish Museum in Prague. She most likely wrote more. She was allotted one more year to do so.

You can find a collection of children’s art and poetry from Terezin in the book titled “I Never Saw Another Butterfly.” Included is Picová’s poem.

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IF EVA PICOVÁ DID SURVIVE THERESIENSTADT CONCENTRATION CAMP I IMAGINE THAT SHE WOULD CONTINUE TO WRITE POETRY, JOINING THE FEW SURVIVOR POETS AND WRITERS WHO GAVE US A PERSONAL HISTORY OF THE UNIMAGINABLE, THE ABSURD, THE MERCILESS. WHO GAVE US THE TELLING OF —  FINDING THEIR OWN VOCABULARY/VOICE TO EXPRESS WHAT IT WAS LIKE TO BE THE CHOSEN PEOPLE — THE PRIMARY PARTICIPANT IN THE FINAL SOLUTION — WHAT IT WAS LIKE TO WITNESS AND ENDURE THE NAZI’S SYSTEMATIC DEDICATED SLAUGHTER OF 6 MILLION JEWS. THEN & NOW —

Poet and writers born from the Holocaust.

  klugerboth-10Ruth Klüger  (born 30 October 1931)  is Professor Emerita of German Studies at the University of California and a Holocaust survivor. In Auschwitz, Kluger composed poetry in her head and, somehow, knew there would be a future for her after the war. Ruth and her mother along with a girl they adopted in Auschwitz were lucky and resourceful: they survived, and when her mother died in 2000, Kluger “felt a sense of triumph, because this had been a human death, because she had survived and outlived the evil times and had died in her own good time, almost 100 years after she was born.”

Her book “Still Alive: A Holocaust Girlhood Remembered” was named one of the year’s 10 best books by the Washington Post, 2001. Winner of the Thomas Mann Prize and the Prix Memoire De La Shoah

Ruth Kluger, an amazing women; her chutzpah, insight, honesty, creativity, survival instincts comes through In her book and everything else she takes on. Ruth Kluger didn’t call it quits after escaping Auschwitz. Risking her own life she help save the lives of Jews during the Holocaust by smuggling them on ships into Palestine.

The following:
SPIEGEL, a German publication interviews Ruth Kluger. Nov 7, 2006

SPIEGEL: Ms. Klüger, at the moment you have a research post at the University of California in Irvine, and before that you were a guest lecturer at the University of Göttingen. Do you sometimes go back to your home town Vienna?

 Klüger: Yes.

 SPIEGEL: But the emotions you experience in Vienna must be very different to how you feel in Göttinge

Klüger: Yes, what is strange is … how should I put it? Our personalities are such that we instinctively rely on our own experiences rather than using our brains. For me Göttingen is not a Nazi town, even though I know that Braunschweig is very nearby…

 SPIEGEL: Braunschweig is of course where Hitler was made a German citizen in 1932.

Klüger: Exactly. But Vienna reeks of anti-Semitism. For me every cobblestone in Vienna is anti-Semitic. If I hadn’t fled with my mother and her friend in time, by the end of the war I could have ended up in Bergen-Belsen. But I have never been there, and I don’t go to these concentration camp memorial sites.

SPIEGEL: These memorial grounds are certainly not built with you in mind.

Klüger: It is just not my camp.

SPIEGEL: But you do you travel occasionally to Vienna?

Klüger: I did a guest professorship there. It was very unpleasant. The people I had to work with were awful.

SPIEGEL: So you believe that anti-Semitism is still deeply ingrained in the city? That it will always be there?

Klüger: Vienna will never be rid of anti-Semitism. I have the feeling the city doesn’t even want to be. When I got the invitation to go there, I couldn’t help thinking: “This is the university where your father studied.” And the first few weeks I was there, I couldn’t shake off the feeling that my father was standing behind me. I kept asking myself what he would have said if he had been there. And after a few weeks I knew what he would have said: “You are pretty stupid to have come here.”

select for the complete interview

Nelly Sachs  (10 December 1891 – 12 May 1970)

nellysachs-06 a Jewish German poet and playwright whose experiences resulting from the rise of the Nazis in World War II Europe transformed her into a poignant spokeswoman for the grief and yearnings of her fellow Jews. She fled to Sweden in 1940 with her mother just before being deported to Theresienstadt concentration camp, and lived in Sweden for the rest of her life, emotionally unable to face the idea of returning to Germany.

In 1966 she was awarded the Nobel prize for literature (for her “German Jewish” poetry).

Her following poem questions the unfathomable  — all of the German, Lithuanian, Ukrainian, Romanian people who had a ‘hand’ in the Holocaust.

HANDS  by Nelly Sachs

Hands death’s gardener,
you who from the cradle-camomile of death
growing on the hard paddocks or hillside,
have bred the hothouse monster of your trade.
Hands, what did you do,
when you were the hands of little children?
Did you hold a mouth organ, the mane of a rocking horse,
did you cling to your mother’s skirt in the dark ….
You strangling hands, was your mother dead, your wife, your child?
So that only death was left for you to hold in your hands,
in your strangling hands?

Abraham Sutzkever sutzkever1_2-07was one of the great Yiddish poets of his generation who evoked the nightmare of the Holocaust with images of a wagonload of worn shoes and the haunting silence of a sky of white stars.

He was forced to dig his own grave at gunpoint; his newborn son was poisoned by the Germans in the ghetto hospital. Less than a year later, Sutzkever wrote a poem from a child’s viewpoint begging its mother to:

Strangle me with your Mama fingers

That played On my willow cradle.
It will mean:
Your love is stronger than death.
It will mean:
You trusted me with your love.

In 1941, he and his wife were sent to the Vilna Ghetto. Ordered by the Nazis to hand over important Jewish manuscripts and artworks Sutzkever and his friends hid a diary by Theodor Herzl, drawings by Marc Chagall and other treasured works behind plaster and brick walls in the ghetto. On September 12, 1943, he and his wife escaped to the forests, and together with fellow Yiddish poet Shmerke Kaczerginsky he fought the Germans as a partisan.

Paul Celan “There is nothing in the world for which a poet will give up writing, not even when he is a Jew and the language of his poems is German”

paul-08

Paul Celan was born in Czernovitz, Romania, to a German-speaking Jewish family. The death of his parents and the experience of the the Holocaust are defining forces in Celan’s poetry and his use of language.

Celan was imprisoned in a work-camp for 2 years, until February 1944, when the Red Army’s advance forced the Romanians to abandon the camps, whereupon he returned to Czernovitz shortly before the Soviets returned. At that time friends recall Celan expressing immense guilt over his separation from his parents, whom he had tried to convince to go into hiding prior to the deportations, shortly before their death.

After escaping the labor camp, Celan lived in Bucharest and Vienna before settling in Paris. In Paris, he translated poetry and taught German language and literature at L’École Normale Supérieure. Though he lived in France and was influenced by the French surrealists, he wrote his own poetry in German.

Celan’s poems often contain brief, fractured lines and stanzas, with compressed and unpredictable imagery, with the forms of the poems echoing the difficulty of finding language for the experiences he witnessed. Celan received the Bremen Prize for German Literature in 1958 and the Georg Buchner Prize in 1960

Celan committed suicide by drowning in the Seine river in Paris, April 1970.

His most famous poem, the “Todesfuge” (Death Fugue)

Death Fugue

Black milk of daybreak we drink it at evening
we drink it at midday and morning we drink it at night
we drink and we drink
we shovel a grave in the air there you won’t lie too cramped
A man lives in the house he plays with his vipers he writes
he writes when it grows dark to Deutschland your golden hair Marguerite
he writes it and steps out of doors and the stars are all sparkling
he whistles his hounds to come close
he whistles his Jews into rows has them shovel a grave in the ground
he orders us strike up and play for the dance

Black milk of daybreak we drink you at night
we drink you at morning and midday we drink you at evening
we drink and we drink
A man lives in the house he plays with his vipers he writes
he writes when it grows dark to Deutschland your golden hair Margeurite
your ashen hair Shulamith we shovel a grave in the air there you won’t lie too cramped
He shouts jab this earth deeper you lot there you others sing up and play
he grabs for the rod in his belt he swings it his eyes are blue
jab your spades deeper you lot there you others play on for the dancing

Black milk of daybreak we drink you at night
we drink you at midday and morning we drink you at evening
we drink and we drink
a man lives in the house your goldenes Haar Margeurite
your aschenes Haar Shulamith he plays with his vipers
He shouts play death more sweetly Death is a master from Deutschland
he shouts scrape your strings darker you’ll rise then in smoke to the sky
you’ll have a grave then in the clouds there you won’t lie too cramped

Black milk of daybreak we drink you at night
we drink you at midday Death is a master aus Deutschland
we drink you at evening and morning we drink and we drink
this Death is ein Meister aus Deutschland his eye it is blue
he shoots you with shot made of lead shoots you level and true
a man lives in the house your goldenes Haar Margarete
he looses his hounds on us grants us a grave in the air
he plays with his vipers and daydreams
der Tod is ein Meister aus Deutschland
dein goldenes Haar Margarete
dein aschenes Haar Shulamith

Primo Michele Levi always wore a short-sleeved shirt with a suit, even in winter, so that his prison tattoo was exposed whenever he removed his jacket.

primolevi number-05

Primo Michele Levi, an Italian Jewish chemist and writer, the author of several books, novels, collections of short stories, essays, and poems. His best-known works include “Survival in Auschwitz”, his account of the year he spent as a prisoner in the Auschwitz concentration camp in Nazi-occupied Poland. For the last forty years of his life Levi devoted himself to attempting to deal with the fact that he was not killed in Auschwitz. “The worst survived, that is, the fittest; the best all died,” he said.

primolevi-09

Campo di Fossoli was a deportation camp in Italy during the Holocaust taken over by the Germans. On 21 February 1944, Levi and other inmates were transported in twelve cramped cattle trucks to Monowitz, one of the three main camps in the Auschwitz concentration camp complex. Levi spent eleven months there before the camp was liberated by the Red Army on 18 January 1945.

Of the 650 Italian Jews in his transport, Levi was one of twenty who left the camps alive. The average life expectancy of a new entrant at the camp was three months.

Levi died on 11 April 1987, when he fell from the interior landing of his third-story apartment in Turin to the ground floor below.

The coroner ruled that Levi’s death was a suicide. Oxford sociologist Diego Gambetta, “If Levi wanted to kill himself he, a chemical engineer by profession, would have known better ways than jumping into a narrow stairwell with the risk of remaining paralyzed.

CENTRO PRIMO LEVI NEW YORK (CPL) is a New York based organization inspired by the humanistic legacy of writer and chemist Primo Levi, who survived Auschwitz and contributed significantly to the post-World War II debate on the role of memory in modern societies. CPL fosters and supports those interested in Primo Levi’s work, the Italian Jewish past as well as those interested in current perspectives and conversations about the Italian Jewish community today. It offers programs, publishing and networking activities and provides links to libraries and museums, academic and scholarly updates and a monthly newsletter. CPL is a dynamic and informative English language portal offering information and resources on Italian Jewish culture and history to audiences around the world.

A poem at the beginning of his book “Survival In Auschwitz”

 If This Is a Man

You who live safe In your warm houses,
You who find, returning in the evening,
Hot food and friendly faces:

Consider if this is a man
Who works in the mud,
Who does not know peace,
Who fights for a scrap of bread,
Who dies because of a yes or a no.

Consider if this is a woman
Without hair and without name,
With no more strength to remember,
Her eyes empty and her womb cold
Like a frog in winter.

Meditate that this came about:
I commend these words to you.
Carve them in your hearts At home,
in the street, Going to bed, rising;
Repeat them to your children.
Or may your house fall apart,
May illness impede you,
May your children turn their faces from you.

How do you fit 200 Jews into a Volkswagen Beetle?

jewjoke-01

Yascha Mounk, a young man, German and a Jew writes of a time when he was with friends enjoying a festive beer toasting, drinking Munich Oktoberfest. He was the only Jew. A young woman in his party got angry because Hans, one of the festive group told her to “knock it off” — she was in the process of telling a Jew joke.  The following is from Yascha Mounk’s recent article in the New York Times.

Stephanie, a petite woman in her late 30s, was trying to make a joke. “How do you fit 200 Jews into a Volkswagen Beetle?” she asked.

“Knock it off,” said Hans, a big-boned, folksy friend of mine. “This is not appropriate.”

“Why should I?” Stephanie shot back. “Because you tell me to shut up? Because they tell me to shut up? Come on, it’s just a joke!”

“I doubt it’ll be funny,” Hans said.

“Not funny? Have a sense of humor! Why can’t a joke about the Jews be funny? It’s 2006. The Holocaust happened 60 years ago. We should tell jokes about the Jews again!”

“Look,” Hans said, “you know as well as I do that Germans have a special responsibility to be sensi — ”

 “A special responsibility? I’m not even 40! No, no. I won’t stay silent any longer. Here’s how you fit them in. You gas them. You incinerate them. You stuff them in the ashtray. That’s how you do it.”

I came to know of this article from Julie Rosenberg’s blog “Googling The Holocaust.” Julie was quite upset. Portion of Julie Rosenberg’s blog reads …

 … There was that word “again” again. Read the third paragraph from the bottom of the anecdote and you’ll see it. The line reads, “We should tell jokes about the Jews again!”

What the f*ck!?!?! It will always be too soon to tell jokes about the Jews. Especially Holocaust jokes. Who in their right mind could think a Holocaust joke is in any way humorous? Just cut it out you ignorant joke-telling people. Those jokes are far from funny …

Julie Rosenberg went right to the heart of the hatred; she nailed the pulse of anti-Semitism, its lives on, the operative, conspicuous word …  “AGAIN”

again2-01

Are both Julie and I over reacting to “AGAIN” — carrying its implication too far? Hey, it’s only gallows humor, right? Wrong. This is: this is gallows humor from the mouth/mind of Woody Allen; his take on Richard Wagner … “I can’t listen to that much Wagner. I start getting the urge to conquer Poland.” Woody Allen on death … ”I don’t mind death, it’s the hours.”

It’s a Jews specialty; bagels, smoke fish and humor, gallows and otherwise. As for most Germans, humor is not their thing, especially gallows humor; they need to wait a couple of hundred years, then give it a try. Holocaust jokes are beyond the pale, not funny, nothing funny in any way about incinerating Jews to ashes. And to note: gallows humor is typically made by or about the victim of such a situation — not the perpetrator of it or for that matter their future generations whose hands are clean but thoughts rage anger against the guilt and the reason for the guilt, the Jews. Back off Jews. Back off guilt. Hate, front and center.………………..

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Julie Rosenberg wondered how Yascha Mounk responded to Stephanie when confronted with the Jew Joke.  Me to. I read his book, Stranger In My Own Country: A Jewish Family in Modern Germany. There he describes in greater content the Jew joke incident. We don’t get Yascha Mounk’s reply. We get his analysis, his take on it her.

Yascha Mounk writes explaining Stephanie’s behavior.

Stephanie’s joke was anti-Semitic. But, even as her bad taste and provocative demeanor repelled me, I realized that her reasons for telling it were not anti-Semitic, at lest not in the straightforward sense. Stephanie does not hate Jews as such. Rather she hates the standard conceptions of what Jews, and her country’s past should mean to her. In this sense, Stephanie is not just another neo-Nazi. She is part of a fast spreading movement.

Listen up Yascha Mounk; your friend, acquaintance, what ever you call Stephanie she is clearly an anti-Semite, a straightforward, no holds barred anti-Semite, nothing complicated or layered about it.  Stephanie doesn’t hate a “standard conception” of a Jew, she hates Jews.

Stephanie wouldn’t have told her Jew joke if you, Yascha Mounk, the only Jew present wasn’t there to draw blood from. If the likes of Hitler ever took reign of Germany again the likes of Stephanie would be a recruit. Anti-Semitism seems to fester within; it waits for a joke, a nod, a cause, excuse, proclamation so it may surface to find expression – “Again.” It always seem to be an easy sell — at least for the last 2000 years.
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The German language is stunning, mesmerizing, mind-blogging, chunky, substantial like a bratwurst, far-reaching with the jabbing thuds of a boxer’s punch. Some one – no one seems to knows who – joined 2 words together creating a humongous lengthy powerful word, audibly and in meaning. 25 characters in weight meant to help guide Germany from the Third Reich into the present on into the future. Vergangenheitsbewältigung: describes processes of dealing with the past, the struggle to come to terms with the past. A tough German word to live up to, not easy to apply.

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Yascha Mounk describes the young Germans of today as fed up with Holocaust memorabilia; they want to move beyond the “philo-Semitism” of their elders. Yascha Mounk uses philo-Semitsm to describe Germans who are moved by guilt, social pressure, political correctness, compelled to go thru the motions, be especially nice, make nice to the Jews, overly polite, hyped enthusiasm for all things Jewish such as Klezmer and  Yiddish.

Actually the word philo-Semitism offers a history and meaning carrying a more nasty virulent interpretation.

In fact, “philo-Semitism” was invented as a term of abuse, applied by anti-Semites to those who opposed them. …  “philo-Semite” was the equivalent of a word like “nigger-lover” in the United States, meant to suggest that anyone who took the part of a despised minority was odious and perverse ….
… selected from a review of Philo-Semitism in History edited by Adam Sutcliffe and Jonathan Karp
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Yascha Mounk tells us that many young Germans believe they have been inundated and persecuted with the slaughter of 6 million Jews for much too long; they now want to blot it from memory and public discourse; 60 years of penance — they’ve paid their dues.

Well … for those Germans who had to suffer thru their perceived, persistent persecution for crimes of the Third Reich I suggest the following antidote.

Suffer this; we take away all your possessions, furniture, photographs, family keepsakes, all of your cloths, clutching your six month old baby we stuff you, your family, neighbors into a cattle car shoulder to shoulder jammed tight one against the other, you can barely find space to sit, 3 days in the cattle car with no food, no water, it’s below zero you’re freezing, you defecates and urinate in place, the car reeks from the smell of feces and urine, old men and old women collapse and die, after 3 days we herd all of you out of the car, we take you, your baby, your young nephews, nieces, your grandparents, we have you strip naked, march you into the gas chamber where you will all share your terror, agony and last breath; we toss your bodies into an incinerator, burn you to oblivion, you, your family never happened, never existed, erased. You up for this?

All right, now that I got that out of my system I want to know. Do the citizens of Germany have a case; are they pilloried with the Holocaust as much as they say, as much as they feel they are?  Have many, any German citizen experienced Vergangenheitsbewältigung — have they come to terms with the past or are struggling to? I would never have asked these questions if not for Yasch Mounk’s book Stranger In My Own Country: A Jewish Family in Modern Germany. Never gave much  thought about Germany’s post Holocaust experience. 

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 … an interview

The interviewee,  Lars Rensmann, a German educator who teaches political science at the University of Munich and at the Moses Mendelssohn Center for European-Jewish Studies, University of Potsdam.

Interviewer: The 60th anniversary of the end of World War II was commemorated a few weeks ago. And in conjunction with that event, a poll was conducted on German history, and it indicated that one young German in two does not know what the Holocaust was. The poll was conducted by the independent research institute Forschungsgruppe Wahlen for public broadcaster ZDF and the newspaper Die Welt.  Do you think this statistic is connected to your earlier point about the limited amount of time given to teaching history?

 Lars Rensmann: Yes. It’s definitely the case that there’s insufficient history teaching and insufficient knowledge about the Holocaust among young generational cohorts, and this does not just affect uneducated adolescents. Political efforts need to increase to change this. It needs to be taught in schools way more thoroughly. It’s a shame that such a high amount of young Germans don’t know what Auschwitz or the Holocaust was, in spite of all the lament about an “over-representation” of Auschwitz in the German media and schools. Those data are alarming. It finally needs to become an important, if not central part of education, just like other subjects. Increased efforts in teaching about prejudice, anti-Semitism, and the Holocaust are overdue.

for the complete interview click here

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YASCHA MOUNK WRITES

…. In the context of the postwar years, the argument that Germans were victimized by some kind of draconian form of collective punishment rang particularly hollow. After all, most Germans did not even want those compatriots of theirs who had actually, personally, committed horrible war crimes to be punished. Many among them refused to acknowledge that the Third Reich, itself had done anything particularly wrong.

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YASCHA MOUNK WRITES

Fifteen whole years after the war, the reception afforded Marlene Dietrich when she first returned to Germany shows how little sympathy most Germans had for those compatriots of theirs who had chosen to fight against the Nazis. Dietrich, perhaps the most famous actress of the twentieth century, had fled the Third Reich and even – the audacity – donned an American uniform in appearances for the US troops during the war. When she briefly returned to her hometown, Berlin, in 1960, angry crowds protested her concert, one spectator egged her while she was on stage, and another spit at her. They all agreed with the slurs they had read in the local newspaper then. Dietrich was, quite simply, a traitor in her own country.
………

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Ursula Duba is a German-American writer, the author of Tales From A Child of the Enemy (Penguin 1997) and a non-Jew who believes that anti-Semitism is a problem that non-Jews have to expose and eradicate. She has researched and written about anti-Semitism and German-Jewish relations for 15 years. This excerpt is from her October 2004 lecture at Pennsylvania State University.

And yet, despite all the efforts made, despite all the good intentions, despite the genuine desire to do good, 59 years and four generations later, the legacy of the Hitler regime still haunts us, causing many of us Germans to feel frustrated or even angry at anybody who mentions the Holocaust.

As I mentioned at the beginning, despite all the effort made, it seems to be difficult for us Germans to accept that we are imperfect human beings like everybody else and that we did, in fact, give in to the darkest forces within ourselves. Could it be that the concept of the master race still inhabits part of our psyche and that the acknowledgement of our very human shortcomings is not considered acceptable within contemporary German society?

for the entire speech click here
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Jens Pieper

A summary of the views of Jens Pieper, the 24 year-old editor of Nobody Asked Us, a recent book written by a group of young “third generation” Germans who are students at Humboldt University. It represents this third generation’s thinking on how the Holocaust should be confronted and remembered and why they have declared their distance from how their parents’ and grandparents’ generations have dealt with the Holocaust. This summary was written by Peter Rigny, associate producer of this FRONTLINE film, “A Jew Among the Germans.” It is drawn from Rigny’s discussions with Jens Pieper.

The second generation of Germans has not overcome the taboo of talking about the Holocaust, despite the ’68 student movement and its rightful attacks on former Nazis still in high positions in the German federal government. This holds a great danger for the future.

 If it is still taboo to talk about the meaning of the Holocaust, its central importance to German and human society cannot be conveyed to future generations which will no longer have direct contact with eyewitnesses to the Holocaust.

Our generation should do what the former generation failed to do: to tackle the Holocaust on a personal, emotional basis, to allow on an individual level the sentiments of moral responsibility for the crimes committed in the name of the Third Reich, even though none of us (the generation of our parents and our generation) has committed any of these crimes.

 We are sufficiently informed about the facts of the Holocaust, but we are critical of our schoolteachers (as primary “informers”) for failing to convey to us (or perhaps they were psychologically unable to do so) the level of meaning of the Holocaust that could be of use today and in the future when direct contact with eyewitnesses will no longer be possible.

The second generation of Germans, our parents, pass on to us their message about the Holocaust in an imposing manner, i.e. without allowing any questions or responses or criticism from their children. They want to cement the message as it is seen by them, and in this way they declare us dependent, minor, underage. And yet “they” expect us to actively come to our own understanding about the Holocaust. This is self-contradictory, we say.

for the complete summery click here

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Germany Holocaust Memorial

The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, also known as the Holocaust Memorial, is a memorial in Berlin to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust, designed by architect Peter Eisenman and engineer Buro Happold. It consists of a 4.7-acre site covered with 2,711 concrete slabs or “stelae”, arranged in a grid pattern on a sloping field. The stelae are 7 ft 10 in long, 3 ft 1 in wide and vary in height from 7.9 in to 15 ft 9.0 in.

An attached underground “Place of Information” holds the names of all known Jewish Holocaust victims, obtained from the Israeli museum Yad Vashem.

Building began on April 1, 2003 and was finished on December 15, 2004. It was inaugurated on May 10, 2005, sixty years after the end of World War II, and opened to the public two days later.

Getting your mind off pain by keeping your mind on pain; recording your chronic pain for in perpetuity.

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Keeping a chronic pain diary; it seems like a cryptic way to get your mind off pain, by writing about the pain, while in pain; but it helped. Being preoccupied toned the pain down. It was my attempt to survive chronic pain, to outlive it, to organize it, to put pain in its chronological appearances, record its intensities, its whereabouts.  This was my way to exert some control over it, understand it when there was no understanding known. Of course, at times, there was no sitting at the computer; chronic pain demanded my 100% attention.

My chronicle of pain paid off is when I went to the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago / Chronic Pain Care Center. Before you’re accepted for treatment they require a written history of your pain; when, how intense, the specialists seen, record of Cat Scans, MRI’s, your state of mind … so on so on. As it was I  was not in the greatest shape to discuss my pain in a lucid chronological order; chronic pain doesn’t leave you with much mental acuity.  No problem, I handed them a print-out of my chronic pain history before they asked for it.

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CatchMyPain is a website set up for you to keep a personal pain history. If it were available when I suffered chronic pain I would have fled to it. As it was I created my own catch my pain — you don’t have to. If you’re living with chronic pain CatchMyPain is there for you;  register, sign in and begin to make chronic pain history.

CatchMyPain enables you to visualize and track your pain. By using CatchMyPain you can make detailed color pain drawings, which allow you to express the location and the intensity of your pain; specify the time of occurrence of your pain; share your pain diary (electronically) with your doctor/therapist or print it out on paper; track your overall moods; describe the quality of your pain; track events or circumstances which increase or ease your pain; track your medication and observe its impact.

Eventually you will be able to track therapies and medications and their effects. You will benefit from the insights of their pain research and you will be able to exchange best practices with similar patients!

What they get out of it you get out of it — their goal; to gain new insights about chronic pain and to improve the treatment of chronic pain based on the anonymized data from all pain diaries. (Your pain history is anonymous, your identity is deleted from your pain entries and your email is never given out.) To achieve this goal, they analyze and compare the data from the pain diaries. The anonymized data is shared with pain experts and scientists. In a few months you will be able to look at anonymized diaries from other patients too, in order to gain helpful insights.

Chronic pain begot CatchMyPain. The idea for CatchMyPain emerged from the personal pain odyssey of the CEO and co-founder Daniel Lawniczak. The pain diary CatchMyPain is being developed and maintained by the Swiss start-up Sanovation.

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A PAIN IN THE F*CKING CROTCH — A PAIN IN THE F*CKING ASS.
The Invisible Wellspring of Chronic Pain. A search for an answer, a diagnosis, a treatment in a sea of medical indifference/ignorance when it comes to chronic pain.

EPILOGUE ONE
“I’m taking my meds, taking my side effects, taking my Men’s Guards, taking my kettlebells, all 90 Lbs worth, taking them all to the grave with me. I’m pumped.”

EPILOGUE TWO
Male Pelvic Pain: It’s Time to Treat Men Right.

EPILOGUE THREE
When the touch of a feather feels like the flame from an acetylene torch. 
If you never had chronic pain you really don’t know what your missing.

EPILOGUE FOUR
Getting your mind off pain by keeping your mind on pain; recording your chronic pain
for in perpetuity.

When the touch of a feather feels like the flame from an acetylene torch. If you never had chronic pain you don’t know what you’re missing. Thank your lucky-whatever you’ll shouldn’t have to know.

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A PAIN IN THE F*CKING CROTCH — A PAIN IN THE F*CKING ASS: EPILOGUE THREE

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The collective “they”, they being most of the medical profession, officially call pain “chronic” when it last from 3 to 12 months, when pain continues after healing, when pain is spontaneous coming from out of nowhere with no apparent trauma. What makes chronic pain unbearable, unlivable, hideous; if it’s a constant day-after-day intense, relentless agonizing 6 to 10 pain level.

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Chandler, the 16-year-old girl in the picture above and in the following video goes thru a 10 plus pain level and then some. She is a patient of Elliot Krane, director of Pain Management Services at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford, where he works on helping children in pain, studying and treating kids who are undergoing surgeries, suffering from complications of diabetes — and kids suffering “neuropathic pain” resulting from injury to the nervous system itself. 

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I have ulner nerve entrapment; a pinched compressed nerve in my elbow leaving the muscles in my left hand to entropy and for me to experience tingling, burning, pins and needles in the side of my palm and adjoining little finger. Muscle waste and those prickly sensations are the result of neuropathy; neuropathic pain occurs when there is actual damage to the nerve. My pain level goes from a 2 to a 4, can’t really call it pain, it’s chronic but livable, easy to tune out.  In Chandlers case her neuropathic pain was severe with no possible tuning out. 

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Different story when I experienced chronic pelvic pain, deep visceral pain, referred to as “urogenital pain syndrome”, precipitated by/after surgery. Relentless severe pain levels — 7 to 10, running for four months on end. 

Pelvic pain is a nociceptive pain; nocicepters are sensory nerve cells that respond to trauma such as a sprained ankle, broken legs, damage to body tissue/organs, sending nerve signals to the spine and brain. In my case the healing was over, the offending incident no more, but my sensory nerve cells never got the message — they were spooked, working themselves up the pain scale to a 10.

“About 10 percent of the time, after [a] patient has recovered … pain persists. It persists for months and oftentimes for years, and when that happens, it is its own disease.”
                                             Elliot Krane

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We think of pain as a symptom, but there are cases where the nervous system develops feedback loops and pain becomes a terrifying disease in itself. Starting with the story of a girl whose sprained wrist turned into a nightmare, Elliot Krane talks about the complex mystery of chronic pain, and reviews the facts we’re just learning about how it works and how to treat it.

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A PAIN IN THE F*CKING CROTCH — A PAIN IN THE F*CKING ASS
The Invisible Wellspring of Chronic Pain.  A search for an answer, diagnosis, treatment in a sea of medical indifference/ignorance when it comes to chronic pain.

EPILOGUE ONE
Living pain free: I’m taking my meds, taking my side effects, taking my men’s guards and kettlebells, all 90LBS worth to the grave with me. I’m pumped.”

EPILOGUE TWO
Male Pelvic Pain: It’s Time to Treat Men Right.

EPILOGUE THREE
When the touch of a feather feels like the flame from an acetylene torch. 

Male Pelvic Pain: It’s Time to Treat Men Right.

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THE INVISIBLE WELLSPRING OF CHRONIC PAIN: EPILOGUE TWO

Synopsis: Having prostate cancer I had a radical prostatectomy; prostate was removed leaving me incontinent and impotent. I had an artificial sphincter surgically implanted to alleviate the incontinence. The procedure led to chronic pain, severe pain that a number of specialist had no explanation for or could locate a visible trauma.  For the complete painful fiasco, nightmare, journey and its resolution click here: “A Pain in the F*cking Crotch — A Pain in the F*cking Ass” 

When I suffered chronic pain, male pelvic pain was virtually unheard of not only by the general public but by most medical professionals. It seem male pelvic pain never made it to med school and was possibly the best held secret kept from mainstream medicine. Fortunately for me The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago / Chronic Pain Care Center not only acknowledge male pelvic pain but offered treatment.

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The following pelvic floor treatment was experienced at the “The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago / Chronic Pain Care Center” excerpted from my post, “The Invisible Wellspring of Chronic Pain”

Pain trumps Modesty

Pelvic floor treatment; no one else in my group gets it. I do. ( I was placed in a group of fellow chronic pain patients.)

A certified trained MPT (Master of Physical Therapy) specializing in chronic perineal pain, in my case one MPT Amy Ross, an All-American apple-pie looking, young woman from Wisconsin puts a, her finger up my ass to massage the, my anal sphincter; in doing so she examines and treats any tightness and tenderness she finds by gently stretching the connecting muscle.  You’d think, I’d think that I’d have reservation about receiving an anal massage let alone from a young women from Wisconsin. I don’t.

Kay occasionally sat in with MPT Ami Ross and I during therapy.

Picture this: in a small room Kay, my wife, sits on a chair 3 feet from Ami who sits on short stool while she moves her finger slowly, carefully, circling and probing my anal sphincter.  Her head tilts slightly as if she was concentrating on the inners of a combination lock, feeling, reading the various degrees of surface tension to find the unique combination of numbers to release the tension. I lie on a table on my side with my back to them my pants pulled down to my knees. On one occasion Amy timed and counted how many anal contractions I could do in one minute, an indication of increased elasticity and progress; when she announced my number Kay chimed in that she best me with six more contractions.  Kay, my lovely wife could not resist the chance to compete, quietly doing a set of contractions of her own. Her anal sphincter was obviously more flexible than mine.

I am internally, eternally grateful for the research and work done to understand and treat female chronic perineal pain.  Very little if any was done for males but what ever was done for women can be applied to my chronic perineal pain. Ami Ross began her career as an MPT treating female patients. Over the last several years the number of men she has treated has increased; male chronic perineal pain seems to be on the rise, along with its awareness.

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The above title is from a post from the website “The Pelvic Pain Rehab Clinic” The following excerpted from that post.
by Stephanie Prendergast and Elizabeth Rummer

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The absence of a virus or bacteria simply means a switch in diagnosis from “prostatitis infection” to “chronic nonbacterial prostatitis.” Typically, from there the doctor writes out an Rx for a few months worth of antibiotics and the drug Flomax, and the patient is sent on his way ….

… For the most part, there are four rungs to the ladder of pelvic pain treatment whether for a man or a woman. They are: working out external trigger points, working out internal trigger points and lengthening tight muscles, connective tissue manipulation, and correcting structural abnormalities…

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Despite the proven fact that PT is the best treatment for pelvic pain in men, it’s often difficult for men to get into the door of a pelvic pain PT clinic. That’s because not all pelvic floor PTs treat men. This is the second major reason men have an even harder time than women getting on the road to recovery from pelvic pain.

Today, the majority of pelvic floor PTs are women. And, many of these women are uncomfortable treating the opposite sex. For some female PTs, it simply boils down to them not being comfortable dealing with the penis and testicles. Among their qualms: What if the patient gets an erection? How do I deal with that?

Coming from a practice where 15% to 20% of our patients are men with pelvic pain, here’s our advice. If a male patient does get an erection, address it with a simple: “Don’t worry, it happens.” And move on. The bottom line is if you’re in the medical profession, you shouldn’t be intimidated by human anatomy. If you’re afraid to fly, don’t become a pilot. If you hate the water, don’t join the Navy. If you’re a vegan, don’t become a butcher. You get the picture!

Pelvic pain does not discriminate between sexes, and neither should those who treat it. Unfortunately even prominent organizations qualify pelvic pain as a “women’s health” issue. This needs to change.

For the complete post click here: Male Pelvic Pain: It’s Time to Treat Men Right.

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The Pelvic Pain Rehab Clinic, run by a number of highly skilled trained, educated physical therapist that understands the nature, complexities and treatment of female and male pelvic pain. They bridge a wide neglected gap between the patient and the medical community.

From their about page

One of the things that makes our clinic unique is that as physical therapists we focus solely on the pelvic floor and pelvic girdle muscles. The benefit of our focus is that it has allowed us to establish a deep well of experience that we are able to draw from when treating this complex part of the anatomy.

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Through the years we have worked hard at PHRC to foster relationships with providers throughout the country who treat pelvic floor dysfunction. As a result, when developing a treatment plan for our patients, we are able to include these providers.

The Pelvic Pain Rehab Clinic: Their staff.

I’ve included a list of their staff for those — you/us — who don’t quite understand what the titles stand for: MSPT? MPT? DPT? CLT? … and to realize their level of skill and dedication.

Elizabeth “Liz” Rummer, MSPT received her master’s in physical therapy at the University of Miami Medical School

Stephanie Prendergast, MPT She received her bachelor’s degree in exercise physiology from Rutgers University and her master’s in physical therapy at the Medical College of Pennsylvania and Hahnemann University in Philadelphia.

Marcy Crouch, DPT She attended the University of Southern California where she received her doctorate in physical therapy and completed a Women’s Health Physical Therapy Residency at Texas Women’s University and Baylor Institute of Rehabilitation.

Allison Palandrani, DPT she attended Sonoma State University where she earned a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology and the University of Southern California where she received her doctorate in physical therapy

Malinda Wright, MPT Malinda attended physical therapy school at the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin,

Jackie Crowell, DPT Jackie received her undergraduate degree from Armstrong Atlantic State University in health science, pre-physical therapy. Jackie then went on to earn her doctorate in physical therapy from Armstrong Atlantic State University in consortium with the Medical College of Georgia.

Stacey Anheier PT, DPT received her Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Marymount University in Arlington VA. Her undergraduate work in Life Science and French was completed at University of Portland in Oregon. With her interest in treating pelvic floor dysfunction, she seeks clinical excellence by ongoing professional education.

 Liz Rummer (MSPT) Liz received her Master’s in Physical Therapy at the University of Miami Medical School. For the past decade, Liz has worked hard to improve treatment for those suffering from pelvic pain syndromes as well as improve community and professional awareness of pelvic pain and dysfunction.

Stephanie Prendergast  MPT Stephanie r received her Master’s in Physical Therapy at the Medical College of Pennsylvania and Hahnemann University in Philadelphia. Early in her career, she learned about pelvic pain, became intrigued, and chose to dedicate her career to helping men and women suffering from these syndromes. She is committed to advancing the field through teaching, research and clinical practice.

Marcy Crouch DPT, CLT Marcy received her Doctorate in Physical Therapy from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. She completed her undergraduate work at San Diego State University, receiving a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology and Rehabilitation Science. Her love for treating pelvic pain and dysfunction began in her first year of PT school and has grown exponentially as she has continued her career. She completed a post professional Women’s Health Residency program in Dallas, TX where she focused on specific issues relating to men and women with pelvic pain.

Melinda Fontaine DPT Melinda received her doctorate in Physical Therapy from Simmons College in Boston, MA and her Bachelor of Science in Exercise Biology from the University of California, Davis. She spent two years practicing physical therapy in Boston before joining the Pelvic Health and Rehabilitation

Allison Palandrani  DPT Allison received her Doctorate in Physical Therapy from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and her Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology from Sonoma State University

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RESOURCE

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About the Pelvic Pain Support Network: The Pelvic Pain Support Network is a patient led organization with a board of trustees who are all patients or careers. As a registered charity, we are run entirely by volunteers. Their advisory panel comprises experts from across the world, including Australia, the US and France who are clinicians, researchers and health professionals with an interest in pelvic pain.

What they do: Provide support, information and advocacy for those with pelvic pain, their families and caregivers Promote and deliver education sessions about pelvic pain in the curriculum of health professionals and amongst the public. Encourage and support of research to increase knowledge and understanding of the impact of pelvic pain” There website provides: Support and information about diagnosis and treatment for those with pelvic pain, their families and caregivers Patients’ experience, managing and communicating about long term pelvic pain.

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A PAIN IN THE F*CKING CROTCH — A PAIN IN THE F*CKING ASS The Invisible Wellspring of Chronic Pain. A search for an answer, diagnosis, treatment in a sea of medical indifference/ignorance when it comes to chronic pain.

EPILOGUE ONE
Living pain free: I’m taking my meds, taking my side effects, taking my men’s guards and kettlebells, all 90LBS worth to the grave with me. I’m pumped.”

EPILOGUE TWO
Male Pelvic Pain: It’s Time to Treat Men Right.

EPILOGUE THREE
When the touch of a feather feels like the flame from an acetylene torch. 

“I’M TAKING MY MEDS, TAKING MY SIDE EFFECTS, TAKING MY MEN’S GUARDS (EUPHEMISM FOR DIAPERS) TAKING MY KETTLEBELLS, ALL 90 LBS WORTH, TAKING THEM ALL TO THE GRAVE WITH ME. I’M PUMPED.”

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THE INVISIBLE WELLSPRING OF CHRONIC PAIN: EPILOGUE ONE

Synopsis from the post “A Pain in the F*cking Crotch – A Pain in the F*cking Ass “: Having prostate cancer I had a radical prostatectomy performed at the urology department at the Northwestern University Feinberg at the hands of Dr. Anthony J Schaffer Chairman. Prostate was removed leaving me incontinent and impotent.  Several years later I had an artificial sphincter surgically implanted to alleviate my incontinence.  The surgeon was Dr. Mulcahy M.D. professor of Urology Indiana University, Indianapolis, Indiana where the surgery was performed.  The surgery was successful; got my incontinence under control.  Unfortunately the procedure led to chronic pain. For the complete fiasco click here.

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The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago / Chronic Pain Care Center is where I got my life back. And where I was put on Nortriptyline, a tricyclic.   For postpartum depression a woman might have gone thru after giving birth, she was given a tricyclic. As you would have it, the tricyclic unexpectedly also suppressed any pelvic pain a woman was experiencing along with depression. Nortriptyline is a class of tricyclics that somehow blocks certain pelvic pain message to the brain; it first worked for a woman; it works for me. Thank you ladies.

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Ideally it would be great if I could eventually get off the meds, eliminate the side effects and still be pain free. I tried 3 times to get off Nortriptyline, several years between each attempt. Eventually the pain came back, beginning very much like it began first time out, as an ache in my wiener.  I didn’t wait to see if it would accelerate.  I went back on the meds. Why I didn’t wait to see if it would or would not build to a full blown-out pain level 10 was, because as I was told, that for each attempt to go back on the med there would be a risk that the Nortriptyline would not block the pain as it once did; that’s because there was no guarantee the receptor sites that the Nortriptyline had to connect/lock with would be available again; that or something like that is what I was told. Not willing to take the chance of having to go thru the med trials again while I was in serious pain; no thanks. I’ll play it safe. I’m on Nortriptyline for life; learned to live with its side effects, as did my body.

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With nortriptyline came significant side effects; they were not insurmountable.  Initially I was extremely groggy in the morning. When I took some meds in the morning and some later in the evening the morning-groggies no problem.

Three more side effects: increased heartbeat, dry mouth and decreased libido; still with me to this day.  All manageable with aerobics, a water container always at the ready or a mouth spray and …

… Several weeks after my radical prostatectomy, in the examining room Dr Anthony J Schaffer revealed a trade secret to me. Why? I’m not sure, possibly to leave our relation on positive note. “You know Howard” he said, “You know, you still can have an orgasm. “ (the nerves and blood cells responsible for an erection were removed or damaged during surgery) Out of the blue, no previous conversation or anything I said or questioned motivated this information. Possibly he dropped this pithy little tidbit out of empathy.  My response: “Oh. Okay.” Later, once out of hospital on the way home I chastised myself for not asking how. I cannot imagine what his answer would have been. Well, it remained for me to discover how.  As it was it proved to be a challenge I eventually solved, my initial thinking, clever enough, was to treat it as I would a clitoris.

As it was the nortriptyline did have a debilitating effect on my “clitoris”, presenting one more challenge with a much greater degree of difficulty.

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Deep breathing, they stress deep breathing; you do a lot of that at the center.  It lowers blood pressure, relaxes mind/body, provides a way to cope with stress and obtain homeostasis.  Today I’m an ardent compulsive deep breather.

Physical conditioning; strength, endurance, balance, coordination, making use of  treadmill, machines, bands, medicine balls, balance boards, aquatic resistance, stability ball, yoga, all that good stuff. All part of the rehabilitation program. Most of my group left the clinic physically stronger with greater flexibility, more aware and confident of self/body. Today I workout 3 times a week, run 3 times a week, expanding upon those pathways discovered at the Chicago Center for Pain Management. At the new “75” I began Kettlebell training. Still swinging them, now at the newer 77. The Pain center fortuitously paved the way for my eventual and oblivious entry into the elderly.

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Two key practitioners that saw me thru the month and were responsible for my ultimate pain free life. Outstanding doctors. They provided focus, empathy, humor and professionalism. Needless to say but said anyway, I like them.

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Dr Michele Muellner, the attending Physician; she oversaw and prescribe treatment, responsible for one’s acceptance to the pain center, responsible for selection and course of drugs; she maintain daily contact with therapists and patient. Saw her as both a rock and pillow, had a crush; never let on though.

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Dr. Patricia Cole, pain psychologist; besides deciphering the world of pain, besides, being intuitive, sensitive and smart she left me with a kernel of my personal reality that I wasn’t aware of. “Howard,  Pat said, I’ve seen one trait often come to the surface. Resiliency. You are resilient.”  Confirmation, just what I needed coming off 7 months of chronic pain and depression. She’s right. It still holds true because Pat said so. It’s all in the saying … If Pat said So … If Pat said So … If Pat said So. … Resiliency … If Pat said So. My mantra.

*Could not locate a photo of Dr. Cole. Thus the placeholder.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

A PAIN IN THE F*CKING CROTCH — A PAIN IN THE F*CKING ASS  The Invisible Wellspring of Chronic Pain. A search for an answer, a diagnosis, a treatment in a sea of medical indifference/ignorance when it comes to chronic pain.

EPILOGUE ONE
“I’m taking my meds, taking my side effects, taking my Men’s Guards, taking my kettlebells, all 90 Lbs worth, taking them all to the grave with me. I’m pumped.”

EPILOGUE TWO
Male Pelvic Pain: It’s Time to Treat Men Right.

EPILOGUE THREE
When the touch of a feather feels like the flame from an acetylene torch. 
If you never had chronic pain you really don’t know what your missing.

A Pain in the F*cking Crotch — A Pain in the F*cking Ass. The wellspring of chronic pain.

Web

Pain levels: measured from one to ten. 

0-1   No pain

2-3 Mild pain

4-5 Discomforting – moderate pain

6-7 Distressing – severe pain

8-9 Intense – very severe pain

10 Unbearable pain.

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The King of Pain. I claim the title. There are many other fellow humans who also lay claim to it. Chronic pain bestows the title, that’s all you need, chronic pain you’re royalty. In my case I’m referring to a constant; a 24/7 pain; a 6 to 10 vacillating roaming sometime screaming pain level, months on-end, no way to turn it off except by blowing my brains out.

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I asked my doctor if he knew what the fifth vital sign was. He hesitated, surprised as if I might have posed a trick question. After racing through his memory bank for verification he answered, “pain.” The Veteran Administration in 1999 made pain the 5th vital sign with the pain scale from 1 to 10.

This is about my search, more so my wife’s tenacious search for an answer, solace and remedy in a sea of medical indifference/ignorance when it comes to chronic pain. It’s about a downhill journey mysteriously, convolutedly leading to the inevitable, the invisible, the misunderstood — and the preordained. I say preordained because at times I felt cursed. Thank you, thank you ladies; without the research, studies, treatments for female pain I wouldn’t have made it. For you female sufferers, you Queens of Pain, I owe you big-time.

From 1 to 10 what is your pain level? From 1 to 10 your happiness level, the sixth vital sign. Happiness level, why not?

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I lie on a table with my legs spread, in an examining room within the urology department at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

Dr. Anthony J Schaffer Chairman, chairman of the school inserts a tube called a cystoscope into my urethra thru the opening at the end of my penis.

“Ouch!” I flinch, it hurts, it hurts plenty!

Dr Schaffer, annoyed tells me not to move. He slips it up further.

Wow! That hurts. I flinch again.

“Don’t move,” he says.

“It hurts” I retort.

Leaning over me with his one hand on my penis and the other on the cystoscope he counters with an docthoritarian-docmissive reply: “If you would keep still it wouldn’t hurt.”

The chairman of urology department at the Northwestern University Fienberg School of Medicine tells me I’m the one responsible for the pain; well he’s certainly got the kudos to support his claim. What do I have? A nervous system that I relied upon my entire life to help me make my way thru the world’s slings and arrows, the Boy Scouts, the Marines. So far it has served me well. Until Dr. Schaffer?

Don’t move, I’m not, I say to myself, but give Dr. Anthony J Schaffer the benefit of the doubt, I say to myself, relax, breathe, don’t make a move.

Zip, farther up the urethra it goes, again it hurts, again I flinch; but barely, I manned-up.

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Dr. verses Me.

This is where it all began, the first chapter in my pain cycle.  Me, the patient, and Dr. Anthony J Schaffer, celebrated urologist who manages a teaching hospital, oversees research, fundraising, revered by his peers — we, Dr. Anthony J Schaffer and Howard have not hit–it-off.  I’ve made a lousy impression on Herr Doctor.  I’m a whuss.  I feel pain. Worst yet I’m responsible for it; a haunting theme to return and bite me in the ass again.

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“Prostate cancer.”

“Prostate cancer.” Dr. Anthony J Schaffer breaks the news to me over the phone, I got it, that’s what he suspected when he first felt-up my prostate.  The good news — it is not the supper aggressive form. I’m a 5 on the Gleason scale, which tells me I have a mildly aggressive cancer. The Gleason scale, from 1 to 10, gives a patient an indication of how much the cancer might have spread. In my case it’s taken its own sweet time, how much time that is no one can tell; likely, hopefully, it hasn’t got to my lymph nodes.

I chose to go for a radical prostatectomy over radiation therapy believing, given the same risk they both held, impotency and incontinence, I would get a thorough job by giving the surgeon a close look at the prostate and surrounding tissue.

During radical prostatectomy the entire prostate gland and adjacent glands are removed. There is a danger of damaging the nerves and blood cells responsible for seeing a penis thru to erection.  I gave Dr Anthony J Schaffer carte blanche — spare nothing that might have any taint of cancer. I want it out, all of it, cut, cut, cut — as much as you deem necessary, leave no tissue unturned. Sacrifice my sex life for my life.

The other caveat; incontinence.

But not to worry says Nurse Marie, head nurse of urology, ballast and public relations advocate for Dr Anthony J Schaffer, her boss. From my office at work I talked to Nurse Marie on the phone, going over protocol, procedures, dates.  When I brought up the question of incontinence Nurse Marie told me that under the deft hand and blade of Dr Anthony J Schaffer not a patient of his has ever experienced incontinence. And besides, Nurse Marie enthusiastically offered, if — if I should be the first he could fix that. It’s called Male Sling Procedure for Post-Prostatectomy incontinence, a procedure that Dr. Schaffer has developed and weaned his scalpel on; it’s one of his specialties. How did he come by his skill if none of his patients were incontinent, I asked, a reasonable question. Oh no, no no no, she answered, not on any of his patients, only on those incontinent from surgery performed by other surgeons, and believe me, there were many she said.

And I believed her. I wanted to believe her. I wanted to trust that I was getting the best care possible from the urology department at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Phew! Not one of his patients incontinent. That’s a load off my mind.

Radical prostatectomy. Successful. Almost died in recovery.

I woke after the operation feeling like shit. Kay, my wife sat next to me in a state of vigil. Am I suppose to feel this bad after surgery?  Great view though, large windows, spotted a red tail hawk nesting on the rooftop, pointed the bird out to Kay.  Now that’s a good omen. But not good enough.

I told the nurse I feel like crap, like I have the flu but a million times worst. On her way out of the room, without checking my vital signs, she offered “It’s probably the flu, it’s going around you know?”  What? You’re going with my metaphorical diagnosis. I caught the flu during a radical prostatectomy? I don’t think so, I replied.  I should not feel like this.  She’s out the door before I finish my sentence. Gone.

I have never felt this bad, weird, like I’m sinking, going, expiring, dying! “Kay, I importune to my wife: “is there a doctor in the house? “

She got hold of the 2 residents who presided at my surgery with Dr. Schaffer. Kay’s a red head so you can imagine what took place. They got defensive, told Kay she was overreacting.  She had no cause to get this upset. She was out of line. No reason to raise her voice.

Right, no reason at all except for major blood loss and shock. I was in extreme shock due to an excessive loss of blood during surgery. Either the nursing staff never read my vital signs or if read they did not recognize the markers for shock.

Dr. Schaffer and both residents were in on my loss of blood during the surgery yet never alerted the nursing staff or saw to it that they replenish the loss. No one would have discovered my condition if Kay hadn’t made a ruckus and got those two residents to my bedside.  It’s call hypovolemic shock, a condition you can die from if your blood supply isn’t replenished soon enough. That’s what it felt like, I was on my way out.

While in stupor waiting for blood a nurse from the urology department came flying in to my room intent on demonstrating to me how to insert a catheter, how to empty, clean the bag, all the particulars. I’m required to employ this urine depository, a catheter, for the first week of recovery.

Me to nurse: “I’m in no shape to give you any attention, I won’t remember a thing.”

Her: “I’m sorry I’m scheduled to show you now.

Me: “Please later.”

Her: “I’m leaving on vacation today.”

Me: “Go. Have a nice vacation.”

Just before they release me an intern from the urology department sets me up with catheter and bag, the catheter in my penis, the bag attached to my thigh. There is one problem. My urine is supposed to pass thru the catheter into the bag. Instead it drips. Instead some passes thru the catheter into the bag like its suppose to, some bypasses the catheter, dripping out thru the penis onto the floor.

“What’s with the leak? I’m dripping.” The intern doesn’t know why.  He unlike the Nurse Catheter Specialist On Vocation is not a catheter specialist; he’s never seen a leak before but this is only the third one he’s installed.

We get home. The leak is worst.  Shit! Can’t we get anything right? I’m going to have to wear a diaper over a catheter? No way. I’m determined to get this one right.

Enlightenment in the ER 

Once you’re signed out of the Northwestern University Fienberg School of Medicine there is no returning to the same set of doctors and staff. To the emergency room I go.  Once there, my catheter is reinstalled. Still leaks.  A resident from urology is summoned, the thinking being that if anyone can sort out the plumbing he can.  He wants to take a look with the cystoscope. I mentioned my recent mishaps with previous cystocope exams.  He replied confidently don’t worry, he was sure I’d feel no pain. To my amazement he was right. How did you do that, I asked. We apply a topical anesthetic. Is that a normal procedure? I asked.  Yes he answered, it is.

Oh? Normal procedure? So Dr Anthony J Schaffer is a sadist; he got off on giving exams without applying a topical anesthetic? Maybe he doesn’t know better? Yeah, right, sure.  Possibly the nurse screwed up? Somebody screwed up. Dr Anthony J Schaffer, read this! from Mayo Clinic’s web site: “Your doctor will insert the cystoscope. A numbing jelly will be applied to your urethra to help prevent pain when the cystoscope is inserted.” Come on Dr Anthony J Schaffer, what’s with you? Where is your head? Where is my numbing jelly?

As far as the leak goes the resident had no answer. I’ve got a leaker. Live with it. Wear a diaper over the catheter. It’s only for one week. That’s as incongruous as carrying an opened umbrella inside the home … unless there was a leak from the roof, which is, in case you didn’t get the significance of the comparison, like wearing a diaper over a catheter.

Was it lousy karma? Lousy care? Both?

1. Blood loss that could have proved fatal if Kay had not got the attentions of doctors who initially resisted her plea. 2. Short shrift out of my catheter tutorial. 3. Catheter conundrum — a drip no one could solve or explain. And 4. There were no beds available in urology. After surgery (discovered after the fact) I wasn’t placed in the urology section where I would have had the benefit of experienced urology nurse care. Instead placed in a wing of the hospital that had zilch to do with urology.

Now for the good Karma.

 1. The lymph nodes were clean, no cancer there. 2. I kissed my cancer ridden prostrate goodbye — 50% of it was malignant. That’s two positives I can live with thanks to Dr Anthony J Schaffer. I hold no grudge. Forget the lousy experiences had at the hospital, one of which almost killed me … well, that’s a hard one to forget. I’ll hang on to it for the time being. Super-pleased to be cancer free I slipped into a white voluminous balloon-like wraparound diaper that enveloped my ass, belly button, the fresh scar running just below the belly button down to the base of my penis, and the catheter protruding from my leaky penis. Adorable.

My penis either jinxed from the day it was born. Or after puberty cursed by God’s wrath due to owner malpractice.

My penis has given rise to  — putting aside varying degrees of momentary pleasure — considerable trouble, fear, insecurity, confusion, anxiety and ultimately chronic pain, a  punishment God or as I am tending now to believe more likely a Witch bestowed upon it.  It’s cursed or simply unlucky. An unlucky penis, yes I’ll go with that. Don’t believe me? Wait. Read on. My penis can’t get anything right.

If appropriate to context or to break the monotony of calling a penis a penis I’ll begin to refer to it as one of the following: weenie, wiener, schmuck, cock, dick, pecker, prick, schlong, schnitzel, Wally and one-eyed Willie.

Attention Wally!  Kegel inspection!

Back at the hospital examining room with Dr Anthony J Schaffer. Several months has gone by since the removal of the catheter. I’m still incontinent in spite of doing 300 Kegels a day for 2 months.

What’s a Kegel? When the prostrate is removed from the base of the bladder damage can occur to the urinary sphincter that is the mechanism to hold urine.  A Kegel is an exercise to strengthen pelvic muscles so to regain the ability to contain one’s self. I was encouraged to do them several weeks before surgery, during the time I wore the catheter and after it is removed. I preformed then religiously. Fifty quick flicks, and fifty holding flicks one minute a flick; I’d kegel while on the potty, while traveling back and forth on public transportation to work.

Dr Anthony J Schaffer sat on a stool eye-to-eye with my one-eyed Willie. He wanted to see how well I executed a Kegel. After 2 months and still incontinent, he needed to be assured that the wimp who lurched when feeling pain during a cystoscope procedure could perform a proper Kegel.

“Go ahead. Let me see you do a Kegel”

“Yes sir.” I snapped.

It went something like this: I squeezed my buttocks, pulled in my gut, tighten down on my pelvic muscles and bravo, my penis gave Dr Anthony J Schaffer a node, that being a slight tilt upward toward him, indicating a successful Kegel. I actually gave him 5 quick nodes. My one-eyed Willie passed without fanfare.

As I tucked Willie back into my diaper laden jockey Fruit of the Loom underwear, I casually slipped an apology to Dr Anthony J Schaffer.

“Sorry to be your first patient to experience incontinence.”

“You’re not the first he said. There were others.” He sounded annoyed, like where did I get that naïve idea? From your f**king head nurse, Nurse Marie! That’s where. Of course that was said to myself.

Oh well, can you fault Nurse Marie for bullshitting me?  She’s the loyal head nurse, marketing her boss, the hospital; that’s part of her job.  What’s a little white-BS here and there, in passing, over the phone, to stoke up a fearful patient’s enthusiasm for surgery; nothing like frank dishonesty to build trust?

Three months, thousands of Kegels racked up, still incontinent.

Back to the urology department at the Northwestern University Fienberg School of Medicine. They want to take another look-see; the cystoscope once again and I’m on the phone again with Nurse Marie. She sets up an appointment for me with a new resident they brought in, Dr J. Quentin Clemens. Dose she do a sell job on him: superb reputation, highly sought after, how lucky the hospital is to have him on their staff, how fortunate I am to get an appointment with the Dr J. Quentin Clemens. I have the honor of being his first patient. Yippee.

clemens_1-02 Blood gushed forth from my schnitzel like from a faucet.

Astride the examining table I wear the typical patient examining gown. The nurse stands next to me all prepped, ready to go. Dr J. Quentin Clemens enters, introduces himself. The nurse hands him the cystoscope. He takes hold of my penis and inserts the instrument. I screamed, an actual all out scream, not a wimpy ouch as I had with Dr Schaffer.  I shot straight up from the table to my feet.   Blood gushes from my penis onto the floor — a lot of blood.  Dr J. Quentin Clemens looks flummoxed. The nurse looks just as flummoxed. He stares at my pecker spouting blood, looks at the bloody floor, turns to the nurse, tells her to clean up and walks out of the room not saying a word to me. Come on Dr J. Quentin Clemens, I don’t even get a goodbye, it was nice to know you? Schmuck! (In this case I’m not referring to my penis.)

I walked back from the hospital to my place of work to sit before a computer. An hour later Kay picks me up from work to bring me home. I’m in exquisite pain; it’s as if a glowing red-hot molten steel poker was jammed up inside my dick right on up to its very head. Stunning pain; never experienced such pain levels before.  It pulsated, turning off and on, three seconds excruciating pain, one-second hallelujah, three seconds excruciating pain, one-second hallelujah.  I spent 2 days wrenching back and forth with this terrible pain, another 3 days as the pain tempered down to tolerable. In hindsight this was a rehearsal for the pain to come, the big numbers, the top 3, pain levels I will get to know.

Back to urology department to get a fix on what happened. Marie got me another doctor. She told me Dr J. Quentin Clemens was booked up solid for the entire month. Yeah, right, like they’re going to let him get near my wiener again. Another urologist from Dr Anthony J Schaffer dream team took several tests having no bearing on the bleeding pecker incident. What happened and why? Smoke and mirrors; the doctor deflected my question, would not cop to anything.

You don’t have to be an urologist/brain surgeon to figure it out. Clemens f**ked-up. He by carelessness or thru lack of experience broke the fresh scab located in an area that was recently healing from the surgery. He was so horrified, stupefied, embarrassed professionally he choked, panicked, was at a lost for words and fled. If anyone else has another fix on it be my quest. I do. I have another fix. Whoever requested the cystoscopy overlooked the fact that it was too soon to perform after surgery and that I was still healing. That decision for the procedure could only have been made by Dr Anthony J Schaffer. That could explain Dr J. Quentin Clemens dumbfounded mute reaction.

That’s it. Had it. Will never get near Dr Anthony J Schaffer and those clowns in his urology department at the Northwestern University Fienberg School of Medicine again. A comedy and tragedy of errors. The final cystoscope that broke the scab. Goodbye Nurse Marie and Dr J. Quentin Clemens. I’m taking my one-eyed Willie and wishing you a bloody adieu.

The further adventures of the two friends. PENIS and DIAPER TOGETHER.

Incontinence. It did define my life; put limits on the what’s and the where’s. This part I’m uncomfortable, reluctant to recite, my incontinence, how it has altered/hindered my life. It’s embarrassing, dumb, super-annoying and at times humiliating. It is not as a severe disability like loosing a limb; it’s a minor one; all I lost was the plug to my bladder and a life.

Why did I hold out for two years before I did anything about my my incontinence? Fear. How did I hold out, how did I manage dealing with it for 2 years? Logistics.

Every 1.5 to 2 hours out of my waking hours I have to change a diaper, no matter where I find myself. A twelve-inch by four-inch absorbent pad, referred today not as diapers but as Men’s Guards; touché, come a sudden awareness of eminent saturation and spillage, I dispensed with a wet one and slipped in a dry.  I’ve done an exchange on Third Avenue in Manhattan during rush hour. In Chicago during runs along the lakefront. Always carried a 3-day supply in my backpack, several in my back pockets. On the alert whenever I travel, scoping and inspecting locations for the whereabouts of the best, well kept sanitary pit stops.

My life centered around my incontinence. Desperate ingenuity. I came up with layering, 3 layers for maximum snug; First layer:  Fruit of the Loon jockey short underwear. I take a large but wear a size small to insure a good snug grip of diaper and genitals. Second layer:  Over layer one goes a Hanes brief short underwear; snugger fit yet. Third layer; the pièce de résistance, a boxer brief underwear by Under Amour, the brand responsible for innovative sports-ware for athletes, providing the best in compression, security, functionality and style. Snug on top of snug, the snuggest of all.  I’m all tucked in, ready to make a public appearance knowing I got 2 to 3 hours before wetting my pants. The third layer also gives me a dynamite secure tuck when performing a Kettlebell circuit.

Plenty of accidents, have a huge backup of underwear, have a tendency to get irritable, have revealed my diaper dependency to only close friends and some family, jobs I’ve had have been challenging, avoid large social gatherings, go thru 30 to 40 diapers a week,  $90 a month.

Why did I put up with it for 2 frigging years totaling 4160 diapers. Why? When there were surgical options available to deal with incontinence. Why? Because I was phobic of all things surgical, all things hospital. But I could no longer put up with it. Eventually I had to take on my incontinence, get the leak taken care of and get a life.

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My brother’s urologist recommended going with the Artificial Sphincter and John J Mulcahy M.D. for the job, professor of Urology Indiana University, Indianapolis, Indiana; he’s had years of experience with the Artificial Sphincter, great guy, personable, someone you can talk to.

The AMS Sphincter, a brilliant contraption.

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A quickie on how the AMS Sphincter 800 works. It consists of 4 connected parts: balloon, cuff, tubing and pump. The cuff encloses the urethra. When filled with a liquid the cuff squeezes the urethra closed, thus keeping urine in the bladder.  When you squeeze the pump in your right testicle the cuff opens moving the fluid into the balloon. This releases the cuff’s hold on the urethra thus urine can pass thru and you may pee.  After several minutes the fluid flows from the balloon flows back to the cuff. When the cuff is full, once more it squeezes the urethra closed. It’s beautiful, brilliant; it’s been around for a longtime, high success rate. What more can an adult who goes thru 4000 diapers per year ask for?

Dr. John J Mulcahy installed the AMS Sphincter 800.

No problems, no drama, excellent post-operative care, an easy to talk to doctor, fit the recommendation to a tee. I’ve a restored confidence in the medical profession.

The devise was to remain deactivated for ten weeks after the surgery. I had to return to Indiana University, Indianapolis, Indiana to see Dr. John J Mulcahy for him to activate the device and show me how to open and close the cuff.

In the interim.

I had these awesome new pair of Nike running shoes, called the Goat; it has a waterproof rubber like exterior with a zipper, ideal for running in the rain and in snow.  After 8 weeks of walking and healing I begin running again with my coveted Nike Goat running shoes, my proverbial diaper and for the first time tucked neatly in my right testicle, the AMS Sphincter 800 patiently waiting for its day of activation. Had a number of good runs before the big day.

The Big Day — Activation

First week in March I drive out to Indiana University, Indianapolis, Indiana to have Dr. John J Mulcahy activate the AMS Sphincter 800 and show me how to use it.

It works. Outstanding! At several pit-stops on the way back to Chicago I approached the urinal as if I was greeting a long lost friend; once again I stood before a row of urinals,  once again I took a long substantial refreshing, honest to goodness pee. Bye bye diapers. Hello world.

Day after activation day: the Run.

First day out running with the AMS Sphincter 800 activated …  actually all of me is activated, I’m running, yes running with my new exotic Nike shoes, the Nike Goat, flying, joy, what joy it is to run with out a diaper, to run knowing the cuff from my AMS Sphincter 800 is wrapped neatly around my urethra squeezing it shut, not allowing one drop of pee to pass. The earthen path has never felt so good beneath my feet. My crotch knows an airiness, lightness and freedom it has long forgotten.

 

Zap! Zap Zap Zap

Three quarters thru the run lightening strikes me right in the cock. Jesus what was that?! A sudden out of the blue sharp painful stab. It hurts enough to break my stride, almost tripped.  What is that all about?  Shit! I keep running. I’ve lived with injuries, bad knees, ankles, always ran thru them. So I continued to run while trying to ignore the nagging thought that the AMS Sphincter 800 might be f**ked. By the time I got back to the car I’ve ran thru 4 more of those sharp painful stabs all in the same place, in an area where the cuff wraps around the urethra. Dam it!

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I had the best most lauded experienced surgeon install a tried and true medical device, the AMS Sphincter 800, they call it the Gold Standard — still something went extremely, ridiculously, insanely wrong.  What? An unlucky pecker? A cursed smuck? What?

Later that day, after 3 hours at the computer working in my home office my smuck began to ache. The kind of ache I’d get if I just completed a marathon bout of 3 to 4 consecutive orgasms. A strained, heavy rotund ache, gradually building in intensity and weight over that evening.  Not a pleasant feeling. I am alarmed.

Dr. John J Mulcahy promptly returned my phone call the next day.

He says: Lets deactivate the device for overnight. See how you feel in the morning.

I say:  I can handle the discomfort. Things could improve by tomorrow. Yes?

He says: No. You could be doing serious damage. You should deactivate.

 I deactivate.

(Never found out what that serious damage could be.)

 Two days later we talk again.

I say: no better Doc. I’m still running. Still those sharp pains.

He says: Try deactivating it for a week.

A week later

I say: No better. I can’t run, had to stop. It’s too painful. I still have that ache throughout my penis but worst. What’s going on? I was running before you activated the device, no pain then.

He said: I didn’t know you were a runner. You never told me.

I say: What difference would that have made. People have run with it before, yes?

He said. You’re going to have come out to see me. I need to take a look.

(Never found out what Dr. John J Mulcahy would have done differently if he knew I was a runner. He was surprised when I told him. I’m surprised that he’s surprised. )

I made an error in doctor-patient relationship when I told Dr. John J Mulcahy about the pain experienced with the cystoscope at the hands of Dr Anthony J Schaffer. I was apprehensive, just wanted to make sure it did not happened again. And it did not, no pain with Dr Mulcahy cystoscope exam, barely felt it.  But the germ was planted.  I was suspect, again a whuss.  I should have not talked pain on my first visit to Dr. John J Mulcahy because lo and behold I’m talking pain to him on his watch and I need for him to take me seriously.

 Assigned to hell. Pain 24/7 Deep. Intimate. Intense.

I went on a pain rampage, 24/7, pain level ranging from a 6 to a 10.  It doesn’t get any deeper, intimate, intense than pain in your genitalia.  At night in bed I felt the pain migrate from my schnitzel to my anal sphincter to my the coccyx, my tailbone; once at the coccyx, it set itself up for the grand finale, turning up the juice, culminating at the base of my spine to streak up sizzling through the vertebrate trumpeting terrible, agonizing pain.

 

The sounds of pain. Penis and anal pain makes for agonizing moans. Spinal pain makes for agonizing screams.

This spine pain shows no mercy.  Recalling it, 2am in the morning, impossible to sleep, I can see myself as if impelled by a spear jammed thru my back into my spine, my spine arching like a taut bow, pushed forward by the thrust of of of of pain, driving me me me, as if possessed by a lunatic, crazed, pace back and forth along a narrow apartment hallway trying to muffle my scream so Kay could sleep.  I want out. Adrenaline glands stuck stuck stuck on overdrive, an adrenaline flood screaming fight, fight, fight, flee, flee, flee, my spine burns burns burns pain, pain, pain, get the hell out of here, vacate, vacate, vacate, I want out, out, out of this body. This is no way for a body to treat its soul tenant.  The pain fed off me, lived off me. Nothing remained of me. I became pain itself. I no longer existed. Kill me. Put a stop to me. This was a peak pain experience, level 10.

Three visits to the emergency room. Didn’t accomplished a thing; one of hospital’s ER staff thought I was drug addict looking for a fix. I looked like a drug addict.

This Doctor That Doctor 

A desperate shuttle from doctor to doctor, an internist, gastroenterologist, proctologist, 2 urologists; from test to test: colonoscopy, ultra-sound, x-ray, MRI.  Nothing. Clean bill of health. The gastroenterologist removed a polyp. None of the doctors offered up any recourse once they ran me thru their specialty.

Dr. John J Mulcahy, oh yes, he had a look. Everything one-hundred percent; the artificial sphincter in working order and a healthy urethra.

Removed the Artificial Sphincter

I had Dr. Mulcahy remove the AMS Artificial Sphincter 800. (yes back to ‘male guards’ again) He told me that I would most likely still experience the pain once it was removed.  He was right.  Still pain.  No relief.  How about that? How did Mulcahy figure that out?  With a knowing smirk on his face he did offer up a possible reason for the pain. More on the smirk to come.

 A dead end to end it all.

Four to six hours of sleep a night, a bowl of cereal in the morning, one can of soup a night, that’s it, everyday, once in awhile a salad, did discover when taking valium for an MRI the spinal pain subsided, stocked up on valium, developed apnea, eventually my body called it quits, gave out, overwhelming fatigue, depression, ached all over, on hot summer nights I slept with a thick wool blanket, felt like I was living in a cave, ventured outside of the cave two to three times a month, a dash back to the cave, felt I was a cave living within a cave, hiding out, peeking out, holding out, feeling any better a friend, family asked over the phone, always the same answer, wished they would stop calling, when my wife Kay came home from work she’d coerce me into playing scrabble with her, could barely hold myself up at the table to play, was coming close to cashing it in, was ready, cashing me in. I’m not good at this.

If not for Google I’d be an afterthought.

Then one day, not soon enough, but soon enough, Kay hands me a print out from a web page she found on Google. There in print, the name of my pain, an acknowledgement, a description of what I have suffered thru.

“Urogenital and Rectal Pain Syndrome”

Title of the paper: “Urogenital and rectal Pain Syndrome” Below the title the author’s name: “Ursula Wesselmann, MD, PHD Department of Neurology, The John Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore Md.”

Kay found me Dr. Ursula Wesselmann: specialist and principal researcher, the go-to name in pain mechanisms and reproductive organs with a devotion and focus on the neurophysiology characterizations of the pelvic organs. The next sentence reads: “Pain syndromes of the urogenital and rectal areas are well described but poorly understood and under-recognized focal pain syndromes.”

A phone number beneath her name! Oh the powers to be I beseech you: is this real or a cyber mirage. Terribly excited. Desperate. Could my pain have met its nemesis by the name of Dr Ursula Wesselmann.

Believe it or not, she, Dr Ursula Wesselmann answered the phone. Her staff must have been out for lunch and this doctor has no problem answering her own phone. How bout that? Stunned as I was when I realized that I had the real HER on the phone I managed to succinctly describe my chronic pain and made an assertive request for an appointment.

She was booked up for 3 months, possibly she could get me in sooner but why don’t I go to one of the pain clinics in Chicago? In fact Chicago has a great one, the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago / Chronic Pain Care Center.

Out of six bona-fide medical practitioners, doctors that I ran my penis, anal spine-pain thru not one was familiar with the idea, concept, subject of a Urogenital and Rectal Pain Syndrome. And not one directed me to a pain clinic. Chronic pain wasn’t on their radar nor was the possibility, the likelihood of a pain clinic existing within the city they practice in. Where is their head? Wherever it is, all that remains visible is their own specialty.

Retrieving my life from chronic pain.

The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago / Chronic Pain Care Center

Medication trials, and in particular for me, pelvic floor treatment: this is the initial part of an interdisciplinary chronic pain rehabilitation program at the Chicago Pain Center. The total program runs for 1 month, five days a week. Includes: individual psychological attention, biofeedback training, therapeutic recreation, vocational rehabilitation, relaxation training, occupational therapy, nursing care, clinical care manager, supervision and oversight by a physician with a specialty in physical medicine and rehabilitation; they’ve got me covered.

Pain loves company.

I’m placed in a group of 10 to 12 fellow chronic pain patients.  They all suffer from either a back, spine, hip or shoulder trauma. I’m the only one with chronic perineal pain.  What we do have in common. We have succumbed to chronic pain, we’ve surrendered. We have no life.  We’re hoping the pain center will change that. I have my life riding on it.  I’m sure my entire group has.

Breathe.

The daily litany at the pain center: what is your pain level and breathe, remember to breathe, slowly exhale and inhale slowly, concentrate on your breathing. Breathe. What is your pain level today and breathe.

Pain trumps Modesty

Pelvic floor treatment; no one else in the group gets it. I do.

A certified trained MPT (Master of Physical Therapy) specializing in chronic perineal pain, in my case one MPT Amy Ross, an All-American apple-pie looking, young woman from Wisconsin puts a, her finger up my ass to massage the, my anal sphincter; in doing so she examines and treats any tightness and tenderness she finds by gently stretching the connecting muscle.  You’d think, I’d think that I’d have reservation about receiving an anal massage  let alone from a young women from Wisconsin. I don’t.

Kay occasionally sat in with MPT Ami Ross and I during therapy.

Picture this: in a small room Kay, my wife, sits on a chair 3 feet from Ami who sits on short stool while she moves her finger slowly, carefully, circling and probing my anal sphincter.  Her head tilts slightly as if she was concentrating on the inners of a combination lock, feeling, reading the various degrees of surface tension to find the unique combination of numbers to release the tension. I lie on a table on my side with my back to them my pants pulled down to my knees. On one occasion Amy timed and counted how many anal contractions I could do in one minute, an indication of increased elasticity and progress; when she announced my number Kay chimed in that she best me with six more contractions.  Kay, my lovely wife could not resist the chance to compete, quietly doing a set of contractions of her own. Her anal sphincter was obviously more flexible than mine.

I am internally, eternally grateful for the research and work done to understand and treat female chronic perineal pain.  Very little if any was done for males but what ever was done for women can be applied to my chronic perineal pain. Ami Ross began her career as an MPT treating female patients. Over the last several years the number of men she has treated has increased; male chronic perineal pain is on the rise. I had six sessions with Ami.  After that it was up to my snitzel to behave and leave my anal sphincter in peace.

Referred Pain

Chronic perineal pain plays out between the anus and scrotum in men or anus and vagina in women. It is also known as urogenital and rectal pain syndrome. The perineum is the place where most muscles of the pelvic floor attach and therefore has many sources of referred pain. That said …

grayfutheradven_pain-02

Penis to Anus:  Excuse me Anus. You’ll need to tense up for now. I have a big bundle of pain just for you.

Anus:  Listen here Penis, where do you get off passing off pain. What do you want me to do with it?

Penis: Pass it on, Dude pass it on.

Anus: I’ve got enough troubles of my own Penis. You ever hear of hemorhoids?

Penis: Sorry guy, I got totally slammed.  Got more pain than I can handle. There’s no stopping me. Tense up, Spasm-up. Seize-up Anus. Here comes the pain.

               Wham, boom-bam, slam-a dam-do!

Anus to Tailbone:  Excuse me Tailbone, you gotta brace yourself now.  I got a shitload of pain I’m sending your way.

Tailbone:  Anus, can’t you keep this pain to yourself? And where did you get all this pain from, eh? .

Anus: From that schmuck back there? Don’t give me a hard time. Get a grip Tailbone. Tense up, Spasm-up. Seize-up. Tailbone, here it comes ready or not!

             Wham, boom-bam, slam-a dam-do!

Tailbone to Spine:  Listen up Spine. I’m passing you a lot of of pain. So don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Spine:  Swell, that’s just swell of you. Thanks for the warning. Where in the Pelvis did you come by this pain?

Tailbone:  From that a**hole down there.  Quick. Get a grip. Tense up. Spasm-up. Seize-up. I’m sending.

            Wham, boom-bam, slam-a dam-do!

Spine goes bonkers, sends the pain up to the brain, the brain goes double, triple bonkers. All organs now in concert, a Pelvic Pain Concerto, prestissimo purgatorio.

That is the journey my pain took, in that order. At night in bed lying on my back I felt the pain make those very moves from one juncture to another. Dr. Mulcahy would disagree; he saw it taking a different direction.

Who to blame? Tight Ass verses Tight A**hole verses Penis

With a sympathetic, condescending smirk Dr. Mulcahy asked me if I ever heard of a “tight ass” His exact words.  “You know what a tight ass is?” he asked me.  That’s what he suggested, I might have, a tight ass, take Valium, that might calm things/you down.

He insinuated/suggested that I very well could have been the tight ass who was responsible for the tight a**hole.  My psyche was the possible source of the referral pain; the supporting evidence he drew upon, I’m sure was my disclosure to him of the pain I experienced during my first cystocope with Dr Anthony J Schaffer. Dr. John J Mulcahy was not about to give me the benefit of the doubt given Dr Schaffer’s status as a doctor, my status as a person, my status as a cry-baby  Once again a doctor points the finger my way.

All coincidental says Dr. Mulcahy.

The fact that the initial trauma, the acute sharp pain, the initial stab of pain, first occurred when the devise was activated and I went for a run; the fact that it occurred right where the cuff embraced the urethra  — all that coincidental says Dr. Mulcahy.  He looked me straight in the eye and said with conviction, “yes it’s a coincidence.” The device, the artificial sphincter had nothing to do with the chronic pain.

zap-04Coincidental my tight a**hole. Dr. John J Mulcahy, you’re a highly respected surgeon and urologist; don’t use your credentials to bullshit me. It’s my body — I know where the pain began and where it resides. He was not about to suggest that the AMS Artificial Sphincter 800 possibly have kicked off the pain cycle; medical paranoia; might leave him open for a lawsuit, that’s understandable. No matter. I’d without reservation recommend Dr. J Mulcahy and the Artificial Sphincter to anyone that wanted to control incontinence. It’s a sane solution, it works and Dr. John J Mulcahy is one of the top specialists to install it.

The injury not found but the pain knows, the pain lives on.

No one else, as far as I know, has had my experience with the AMS Artificial Sphincter 800; checked on google, called the manufacturer; possibly I’m the only one to have it removed. What ever happen to me was a fluke, a happenstance, not part of the norm, but know, no doubt, that it happen with a — from a — devise that a surgeon installed. The invisible wellspring of pain, a mystery for the ages to reveal. Or possibly Dr. John J Mulcahy knows but is not talking. The injury not found but the pain knows, the pain lives on.

As it was the Chronic Pain Center would not have treated me unless the artificial sphincter was removed. They believed that the cause of pain could only have originated from the device as I was running. They had to know if I’d feel pain once it was removed. So did I. Chronic pain was the answer.

Medication Trials.  Reaching somewhere into the confines of my penis, amid cellular activity, looking for the on and off button.

Concurrently along with pelvic floor treatment are the medication trials.  I believe that all or most of my chronic pain group experience medication trials.

My first drug Gabapentin (Neurontin) is a broad-spectrum analgesic, it cover a range of problems: migraines, seizures, depression, complex regional pain and then some; has minimal side effects if any.

The next day on a minimal dosage of Gabapentin all the exhaustion, fatigue, body aches gone.  The pain level dropped to a 5 or 6.  I gradually increased the dosage to maximum but the pain level plateaued and began to climb back up.  So keeping the neurotin on a minimal dosage, because it effectively dealt with my fatigue/depression, I was then put on nortriptyline, part of the class of drugs known as tricyclic antidepressant. It often is used with neurotin.

Once again I’m indebted to the female gender for my recovery. First as previously described the pelvic floor treatment originally developed on a women’s behalf.  Then a thanks for postpartum depression a woman might have gone thru after giving birth. A tricyclic was given to treat depression. But as you would have it, the tricyclic also suppressed any pelvic pain a woman was experiencing along with depression. Nortriptyline is a class of tricyclics that somehow blocks the pain message to the brain.  It works for a woman. It worked for me. After reaching the maximum dosage I felt no pain  — zero pain level and I remained at zero.

The Final Treatment

On my last day at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago’s Center for Pain Management I was given a certificate, call it a diploma, stating proof of proficiency. Proficiency at what? I was surprised, amused when I first read the certificate. I “successfully” graduated from the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago’s Center for Pain. I’m an alumnus of pain.  What it was, my diploma, was the final act of therapy from the Chicago’s Center for Pain — it brought on a big warm grin that percolated throughout my psyche, confirmed my pain experience and my victory over it. I covet the certificate.  It reads as follows:

This certifies that

Howard Blume

has successfully completed a course at the

CHRONIC PAIN CENTER

REHABILITATION INSTITUTE OF CHICAGO

PAIN PROGRAM.

Presented this

(DATE)

THE PAIN TEAM

 

My Pain Team.

The therapist, nurses, doctors that were involved in my treatment sat around a table with me at the far end, the center of their attention. A staff nurse, vocational therapist, recreation therapist, physical therapist, pain psychologist, attending physician, biofeedback therapist: each in turn told a Howard story, some part of their experience with me in relationship to their specialty.  They then congratulated me, handed me the diploma, a t-shirt and sent me off into the sunshine pain free. I was beaming as I left the pain center hosting within my crotch a male guard, a diaper, it super compressed beneath 3 layers of snazzy super snug underwear, the diaper securely in place, hugging, smothering my genitalia for dear life.

♦ ♦ ♦

EPILOGUE ONE Living pain free: I’m taking my meds, taking my side effects, taking my men’s guards and kettlebells, all 90LBS worth to the grave with me. I’m pumped.”

EPILOGUE TWO Male Pelvic Pain: It’s Time to Treat Men Right.

EPILOGUE THREE When the touch of a feather feels like the flame from an acetylene torch. If you never had chronic pain you really don’t know what your missing.

Deciding who shall kill the children.

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Excerpted from the book: “The Good Old Days”  The Holocaust as seen by its Perpetrators and Bystanders

1 SS-Obersturmführer. First lieutenant of the SS

2 Paul Blobel (August 13, 1894 – June 7, 1951) was a German Nazi war criminal. SS-Standartenführer (Colonel).  During the German invasion of the Soviet Union, he commanded Sonderkommando 4a of Einsatzgruppe C  that was active in Ukraine. Following Wehrmacht troops into Ukraine, the Einsatzgruppen would be responsible for liquidating political and racial undesirables; that would include the 90 plus Jewish children describe above in SS-Oberstrumfuhrer August Häfner telling. Blobel was also responsible for the Babi Yar massacre at Kiev.

3 The Waffen-SS ( Armed SS) was created as the armed wing of the Nazi Party’s Schutzstaffel (“Protective Squadron”), and gradually developed into a multi-national military force of Nazi Germany. 

4 Feldkommandant: a local military command responsible for the administration of the territory it occupied.

5 The Wehrmacht:  (Defence Force)— from German: wehren, to defend and Macht, power, force. Was the unified armed forces of Germany from 1935 to 1945. It consisted of the army), the navy and the air force.

ON THE KILLING OF THE CHILDREN AS TOLD BY SS-OBERSTRUMFUHRER1 AUGUST HÄFNER … Then Blobel2 ordered me to have the children executed. I asked him, “By whom should the shooting be carried out?” He answered, “By the Wafffen-SS3.” I raised an objection, “They are all young men. How are you going to answer to them if you make them shoot small children?” To this he said, “Use your men.” I then said, “How can they do that? They have small children as well.” This tug of war lasted about ten minutes … I suggested that the Ukrainian militia of the Feldkommandant4 should shoot the children. There were no objections from either side to this suggestion … I went out to the woods alone. The Wehrmacht5 had already dug a grave. The children were brought along in a tractor. I had nothing to do with the technical procedure. The Ukrainians were standing round trembling. The children were taken from the tractor. They were lined up along the top of the grave and shot so they fell into the grave. The wailing was indescribable. I shall never forget the scene throughout my life. I find it hard to bear. I particularly remember a small fair-haired girl who took me by the hand. She too was shot later … The grave was near some woods. It was not near the rifle range. The execution must have taken place in the afternoon about 3pm or 4pm. It took place after the discussions at the Feldkommandanten … Many children were hit four or five times before they died.