The Chemo Chairs


They are lined up against both walls, like weird little robots designed to hold up wobbly human beings, some the byproduct of high energy X-Ray radiation. I find myself sitting in one of these chairs. Fortunately for me my chemo ward is on the third floor. I get to look at the distant west hills of Beaverton while radioactive entities pour into me. Little comfort to this. I am wondering all the while a few things mostly at the same time. How am I going to feel after this? How is this going to affect me later on? Is this really going to put my life back to normal. Well to the last question I can answer no. One never gets back to normal when we take this excursion near death’s camp. It’s pushing the limits of humanity maybe not in medical terms but certainly in psychological terms, at least it was for me. I feel so hollow right now. Like a strong wind could blow me into oblivion like I’m made of so much balsa wood held together with clothespins and thread. I’ve just completed a stint of radiation therapy next door to this ominous sounding gadget called a Gamma Knife.
All this stuff did was to kill all the cancer cells in the tumor I had and reduce its size beyond physical or tactile discovery. It also took its toll on my energy, and my drive. I felt like sleeping a lot, and not doing much else. It also made me sore as hell in some parts I’d rather not divulge in this note. Now I get another whammy to my system. Chemo. I get to take this stuff called five FU.  My oncologist tells me I won’t get sick from it or lose my hair. That’s a laugh really I don’t have much hair to lose anymore no how. So I sit there. A nice woman comes over wearing a nurse uniform. She asks me if I’m cold. Yeah sorta. She lays a blanket over my legs. It’s not uncommon for people doing this sort of thing to have their metabolisms shot to hell. It’s not like getting a flu shot. I have this deal above my heart installed before any of the other Frankenstein deals they did to me; they call it a Porta Cath. It is a main line into a large vein that is near the heart. It’s covered up with a patch of your own skin. It feels like a button off of an old Navy coat. They stick this big needle into it and they can pull blood out of you or put chemo back into you whichever they want to do. And yes it hurts when they stick you with this. Of course mine was also problematic and I started feeling like a dart board after about three attempts to get the damn thing to give up blood samples. After a fashion it would.  They would use this port to give me my chemo as well. During my first round on this stuff they had me on this portable pump. I never got to sit in the office, I came in to get this thing installed on me, then was sent on my merry way. They took it off of me over the weekends. Thanks that was big of ya. I felt more like a member of the Borg Collective. This pump is about the size of a 1965 transistor radio, complete with aquarium clear plastic tubing running from the pump into my Porta cath. I also got to sleep with this piece of shit flopping around in bed with me. I was amazed that I never crushed it while sleeping. This was my first go round with chemo. Then I had my two operations which were spaced about a month apart. After I got done with both of those I got to go back to the chemo theater and sit around under an IV drip into my Porta Cath. I sat in there all by myself looking at some poor souls a hell of  a lot worse off than I was. I remember an old lady that was in there. She was so beat up by this whole process that she could barely navigate. She was embarrassed by her inabilities; I could tell she was a proud and noble woman before her cancer ran her down. She kept looking at me and smiling. So the next time I came in I asked one of the nurses if I could sit next to her. I got some strange looks until I told them I wanted to talk with her. She came in just about the same time I did. So I got there a bit ahead of her and they put me looking out the windows at Mt. Hood. When she came in the nurses smiled at me and sat her down right next to me in the chair to my left.  She looked worse now. This process was catching up to her in leaps and bounds. She realized who I was and I saw a really amazing thing happen. A bit of sparkle came into her eyes and a smile came across her ancient lips. “How are you?” she asked me in an almost whisper of a voice.  “Well I’ve been better!”  I told her. “Me too!” she said with a laugh. She told me her husband had died of the very same thing she had. I saw some tears in the corners of her eyes. Her hand was on the edge of the chair and so I reached over and took it in my hand. It was kind of cool and I felt that it would break if I wasn’t real careful. She squeezed my hand. God I felt so sorry for her. We had some really splendid conversations, and I had her laughing during her visits. The nurses even came by and sat down to listen to some of our stories. Once you get everyone plugged in and turned on there isn’t really much to do except keep track of the bottles hanging off the IV racks. I’d rather talked to this human event recorder than read any worthless Better Homes and Gardens magazines anyway. She was way more fun. So that’s the way the remainder of my chemo treatments went.  I never did get her name. I wish I had. I got there one time and she must have come in a little earlier because she got to leave before I did. After she was gone one of the nurses came over and asked me if I knew this woman from someplace else. I told her no. She told me she thought this was nice what I was doing. I told her “it’s the least I could do.”  It really was. Had I been an Empath I’d have snatched the cancer out of her.
So I came in for one of my last treatments. I got hooked up and was looking forward to seeing my lady friend. Her chair remained empty. The nurses put no one else in the chair during my stay there that day. When I was being unhooked the nurse told me that my lady friend had passed. She was just a bit too fragile for this. I decided right there that I was sure as hell not gonna let this get the best of me. Sometimes cancer just doesn’t give you that option. My doctors of whom I had three all told me I could beat this. I was not about to sluff off and feel sorry for myself, and I sure as hell wasn’t going to let cancer take me like it took my lovely older friend. At first I felt a real loss, I still do at times. I wish I knew who she was I’d go put flowers on her grave.  This brings me to another point. Finding out her name was one of life’s little things. We tend to consider these things unimportant when in reality they are some of life’s most important things. I learned lots of things about life in the chemo chairs.  I learned that the little things in life should always be addressed with as much energy as you can give them. Little things like telling your wife, husband, kids, dogs, cats and gold fish how much you love them and how much they mean to you. Life is fleeting, and it comes and goes with the blink of any eye. Once someone is gone all the welll wishing in the world can’t convey all your well wishes you also wished you would have told them. Those of you going thru chemo, have gone thru it I salute you. It is more than a healing process for cancer. It’s also a healing point for your thought processes and your future behavior. At least that’s what I took away from it. The chemo chairs are a lonely place to be, it’s no damn fun and it sort of emphasizes that you got some potentially deadly disease, and that you are gonna feel like hammered dog shit for a while. But I say to you, use the time to think about all your good people in your life, and what you  are gonna do with your life when you are cancer free again. Even if you have a terminal diagnosis there is still some time to get your ducks in a row. I’ve found this sort of thinking therapeutic and comforting.  I feel cancer is on its way out. It’s had its way with the human race way too damn long. I see advances today that are truly mind boggling. I will make a prediction that in ten more years we will see some strains of cancer eradicated.

          Cancer will put you in touch with God, it will put you in touch with all the things that are really important in life and all the stuff that isn’t. You will be amazed at how unimportant some of the stuff really is these days. It will make you less tolerant of selfishness and bad TV, it will bring you closer to music, to your family and pets, and this is as it should be.



The Thompsons


My family originally lived in Gladstone, Oregon. We moved out to Willamette when I was five. Before this, my parents had some California based friends named the Thompsons. I don’t recall how my parents came to know this family. Anyway this is a story about people you never forget. Everyone has a story like this I suppose but I had a dream about one of the girls in this family the other night and when I woke up I was amazed by it. 

        Let me introduce the family to you so you can see what these people were/are like. Don Thompson was the man of the house. He had a pencil thin mustache, and was tall and skinny with enough nervous energy to run all the electrical needs of Portland for a decade. I’ve never seen a human being with this much nerve activity. His synapses must have been worn out for all the activity his brain sent their way. He was married to Margaret Thompson. Don’t know her maiden name it doesn’t matter. Margaret was unbelievable. She was gorgeous, had these flashing eyes, blond hair, beautiful row of teeth in her smile, a body most men would make fools of themselves over. She was riddled with sexual energy too. Bear in mind I was a mere 5 years old and could smell it on her. I didn’t even have a clue about the birds and the bees at that age but I remember this about her. I guess it’s a biological deal between the sexes perhaps?  I was fascinated by her. She could charm the porcelain off of a spark plug I’m not kidding. Maybe this is why Don was so nervous? I just loved watching her, she was a wonderment in motion. Middle aged even then with no strikes against her for that. She even affected my Dad, to which he admitted as much to me on a later fishing trip when I was about 13.

        Don and Margaret had two girls, Donna and Mara. Donna was the oldest, my age in fact. I think Mara was two years younger. Donna was a pistol just like her Mom. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree as they say. It sure didn’t in this family. Donna had the same mannerisms as her sexy Mom. Same flashing eyes and smile. I never paid any attention to this while in Gladstone but they came to visit a couple of times later on when I was almost a teenager. By that time Donna was really something to look at. She flirted with me every chance she got. She used to call me “Daisy.” Yeah I know because I’m male I shouldn’t be admitting to this. Makes no difference to me, she could have called me shithead for all it mattered. Donna was/is the most dynamic woman I’ve ever came across. She got it all from her magnificent mother. I remember Mom and Daughter getting into some more than heated arguments. Margaret would try to enlist Don’s assistance in enforcing something she wanted Donna to do. Don had a strict rule of non-interference. I don’t blame Don one bit either. I wouldn’t want to be in between these two, sorta like getting wedged in between two beautiful Velociraptors. My stars!  

        I don’t’ know what Don did for a living. I guess parents didn’t figure that info pertinent for youngsters. He had this Jag don’t know if it was an XKE or not but he was real fond of it. He kept telling Dad how “fast the engine turns over” in his words, and the fact that it had a tachometer in it. I think just about every single British car at one time had a tach in them. My Dad didn’t even know what the hell a tach was until I asked them and Don explained it to me with his pencil thin mustache curving around his smile. He was a cool guy married to a nest of high energy females.

        Mara was also a cute little blonde gal. Physically a bit smaller than Donna and Momsy. I think she had a bit more of Don’s DNA than did Donna. She was really cute as I remember her. She was the one I had the dream about too. I barely knew this little lady, so why was I dreaming about her instead of Donna or better still Margaret? I don’t know why I dream the crazy stuff I do anyway. I don’t think any of us really do either and the psychologists are full of shit when they interpret our dreams for us. Just my uneducated opinion here.

        Every time the Thompson’s would visit I got to hear about how great southern California is. It’s like everyone from California thinks everyone in Oregon is hanging on their every word about California. I felt like Lil Abner when Donna got done with one of her many spiels about California. Gee Donna we got indoor toilets here and electricity too!  I had some other friends from Southern California that JR knew that went by the family name of the Butchers, like Donna they were full of bullshit about California as well.

        Be that as it may, I am wondering about my very first girlfriend Donna Thompson. She’s been married a long time by now; don’t even know where she is or if she’s even still alive. I hope so. Gals like her and Margaret need to be around just to remind all the men of how wonderful the opposite sex can really be and how far off center they can be as well but all in  a fun way.  If Donna were to knock on my door one of these days it wouldn’t surprise me in the least, but I’d probably need a cherry picker to put me back on my feet again. It’s been so long since I’ve seen these people they almost seem like denizens of a dream than real people.

        When I’m going thru some old boxes of long lost photos maybe I’ll come across a picture of Donna. She had one picture of her taken with a most falourn look on her pretty face. She was in her tap dancing regalia when it was taken at the ripe old age of 12 perhaps?  She sure as hell was cute. I think she had a small dot sized mole on her right cheek bone. It did all the right things for her. Hell every atom in her body did all the right stuff for her. Margaret’s atoms did triple duty for her! Had she not married Don we’d probably have known her for screen films. She was that good looking. It takes more than just looks, you have to be almost four dimensional, and Margaret was all this and then some. So dynamic and just in full radiate 120% of the time. God I’ll never forget her. It was fun and a privilege to know her and the rest of the family.

        I hope I’ve been able to bring them back to life for my friends here.  When I write some of this sort of stuff it reminds me of having any one of a million and one conversations with the Rysers. Jerry will tell a story then it goes around to either me or Marlene. Lots of laughter usually. One of my most treasured past times talking with Jerry and Marlene two of my oldest and dearest friends, besides the Thompson family and then all of us neighborhood kids and the WLHS crew. These recollections are what makes life go around for me. I also think there are some people on this earth that don’t have these sorts of stories. I can’t imagine that. So thank you to all my friends for making me part of your history and letting you become parts of mine. It’s all I need.



The Hiring of Verne Lemon


Who the hell is Verne Lemon? Well this is a fun little story I remember from my days at Lavier’s Mobil Station. You can stop reading right now if you want and I wouldn’t blame you. But I remember this incident clear as a bell, and it was a study in humanity and generosity so I think it bears telling.

            It was one of those magical late spring mornings you know the type the air is cold but not uncomfortable. The sunshine was on full bright and the air had a magical quality to it. I was feeling pretty good as was all the crew at the service station that morning.  Lavier was in his usual fine form, smiling and joking around; he was even wearing his uniform this day because he planned on being a boss full time today. Dave’s other business interests kept him away  his station duties and it was always when he was away that all the screwballs came into the station, and there were lots of them that did. The station was some sort of magnet for these types.

            Anyway, about nine o’clock in the morning this guy rolls into the station. I didn’t’ see what sort of car he had, he came walking around the corner near the office. He was about 5’8” tall maybe 185 lbs. He had on a pair of swede brown cowboy boots, Levi Jeans, a big belt with a rodeo buckle in the middle of it, and a red and white plaid cowboy shirt on with fake pearl buttons. He had on a tan or buckskin colored cowboy hat under which straight jet black hair poked out like straw out of a bale of hay. He had these light blue piercing eyes and a great smile.

            I guess I was the first one to see him anyway his greeting to me was “Hey how ya doing? Is Lavier around?”  “yeah he’s in the office.” I said to the cowboy stranger. So in he goes. I hear pleasant sounds of conversation and laughter coming from Lav’ office. Pretty soon Dave and the cowboy came outside.  So the cowboy comes to the point of his visit, “Hey Lav I sure need a job!”  Lavier looks at him with his mostly constant smile and says, “I don’t need any more mechanics I got Pete and the Proffessor, (His name for me). The cowboy says , “well hell you know I don’t know nothing about cars, I mean I just want to pump gas.”

So Lavier says to him two words, “Yer hired.”  Lav was smiling at me and he introduces the cowboy to me after I just witnessed his hiring. “Verne, this is the Proffessor.”  Proff, this is Verne Lemon.” So Verne extends his beefy hand and shakes my hand and laughs “Proffessor?, really?”  Lav is laughing and so am I.  “Yeah I have Doctorate in cranky cars and skinned knuckles.” I told our new cowboy.  This elicited another laugh from Verne. I knew right away that I’d probably like Verne. He was just one of those guys.

                        The next day after his hiring Verne came in took off his cowboy hat and hung it up in the office on a hook that Lav had especially put there for his hat. He comes back outside where me and Pete were drinking a cup of coffee trying to get cranked up for the day. Mikey Stiles was also there putting in his words of wisdom.  First words out of Pete’s mouth were, “Well Verne you look like the cat that just swallowed the canary.”  “Hell yes!  The sun is shining and I got a job!”  It was a job that Verne was excellent at too, and it was one he could handle.

Verne was one of the best pump jockey’s I’ve ever seen. He loved people and he loved each and every one of Lavier’s customers which were manifold in exponential terms.  Verne would literally run out to the pumps, he didn’t have to, none of the other kids did. Verne loved his customers, he loved to talk to them, and he loved pumping gas into their cars.


I think Lavier’s business actually increased a small amount just due to Verne’s enthusiasm.  He’d wash their windows whether they were filling the tank of just five bucks worth, unless he had an entire island full which was usually the case. This guy was indefatigable. You couldn’t wear him out or run him down. His attitude was absolutely bullet proof.  I never saw him upset, sad or pissed off. Verne Lemon was a lesson to me in addressing life. He did some things off work I didn’t approve of like getting drunk as hell and not taking shit from anyone. Verne might have had another face to his personality but then alcohol puts lots of strange faces on people we think we know. Something I never saw any Mary Jane do to anyone. Yeah Verne partook of that particular herb too, he even came in slightly “toked” a few times but if anything it improved his already excellent work ethic. Lav and I knew it too but neither of us said anything toVerne, why spoil it when Verne was on a perpetual roll every single day? I never saw Verne off duty. My cohort Nancy Spicer used to visit the station and even worked there a short time, like most of us in West Linn did. She knew Verne quite well and told me one day of him, “I’m really surprised Verne is still alive.”  Well I never knew that side of Verne, didn’t want to know either. I liked the face Verne wore when he was around me. He’d come up to me when there were no customers on the pumps and watch me work on a car in the bay. He asked me once, “how the hell do you know that stuff?”  I asked him , “how the hell do you manage to do what you do on the pumps?”

“Well Proffessor, that’s easy , it’s just life man, just life.”  Well if I ever heard some cowboy logic that was it. Verne sure as hell wasn’t wrong about that and lots of other things too. He knew how to face down all the demons that find their way into people’s lives. He’d smile and flash those ice berg blue eyes at the demons and just go his way. 

            I am proud to say I know or knew Verne Lemon. I don’t know if he’s even alive still. He was a few years my senior at the station.  Verne was a 20th century cowboy, but he was a 20th century walking talking lesson in how to be one of the best human beings I ever knew. He just made you feel great being around him. It was impossible not to like Verne. He never asked me for anything except my friendship and conversation.  Cheap dues for what I got back in return. We need a lot more Verne Lemons.  I’m glad I met Verne that spring morning. I think about him every now and then. I hope he’s getting back some of what he gave to the human race, I can think of no other person who deserves it more.



The Witch of Whitney


A logging town of the nineteen hundreds.
The North Fork Burnt River watershed.
Feeds its meager few.
On underground aquifer flues.


High desert plateaus windswept and blown.
Her witch wind chills to the bone.
Lone cabins sit their wood silver and brown.
In this lonely lost ghost town.


There she rests silent as stone.
On a barb wire side road all alone.
Under pure pioneer skies.
The winds through the pines sigh.


Brooding and silent a moniker from the past.
A view back in time’s looking glass.
Has its hold upon me.
I return every five years to see.


The same buildings and saw mill.
Through this hall of the Blue Mountains Grille.
Sage brush in silver and green hues.
Huge tumbleweeds roll in and out of view.


I turn off of Route seven southwest.
Onto Whitney’s road in barb wired dressed.
I park my motorcycle and walk up the road.
And I wonder how many wagons this way rode.


The wind whispering through ancient bleached lumber.
Tells me she’s awaking from her slumber.
A vaporous apparition forming over the old railed jitney.
The wind whines “Tis the Witch of Whitney!”


I stand mesmerized at this gathering scene.
Her hair silver and sparkles with a brilliant sheen.
Flowing back from her face with predatory gleam.
Swirling in a silver mist she beams.


Photonic brilliance in the noon day sun.
Leaves me dumbfounded and undone.
Emerald green eyes boring into my soul.
Searches for some virtue to extol.


“Who are you?” She asks of me.
“You are unlike the others I see.”
“I am the story teller of this place.”
I say to her, feeling unworthy in her grace.


“And what is your name?” she asks.
Her piercing gaze takes me to task.
“I am David” I tell her.
“David?’ her voice sublimes to a purr.


“Hebrew for beloved.” She muses.
I detect a note of sadness colored by abuses.
In her beautiful emerald eyes.
Tears spilling from them as she tries.


To hold on to her fierce composure.
Born of this ghost town exposure.
“Well David my brave storyteller.”
“Tell them my story.” Her eyes becoming stellar.


Distant and lost.
Reliving the past they accost.
And I wonder at the cost?
And I wonder at what tragedy crossed?


This woman’s past.
To see these events cast.
“I once had me a man dearie.”
She awakens from her reverie.


“He went hunting one morning and never came back.”
And her silver hair became as sparkling and black.
“And every morning I would go to the trail he left on.”
“The wind would tell me, he’s gone Linda he’s gone.”


And so the wind blew into my face.
I could smell her ancient perfume and grace.
I could feel the tears on her face.
I could feel the pain in her heart.


And I could smell gun smoke.
And I could see what this smell evoked.
I was looking down the barrel of a murderer’s gun.
Watching this terrible deed be done.


And she whirled around and looked at me.
With a look in her eye terrible to see.
Her predatory nature had returned.
A ravenous fire within her emerald eyes burned.


“”You have witnessed his death?”
Her words now on an icy breath.
“I have seen this deed through the murderer’s eyes.”
“Your man’s bones in a valley there lie.”


I spoke to her with a trembling tongue.
I could see my words were hurtful and stung.
But she understood and she asked of me.
If I would fetch his remains for her to see.


 And so I told her I would do this for her.
Her eyes softened and became as they were.
So she told me that she could not leave this place.
My heart ached for the sadness within her face.


So I found the old trail and left that very day.
I came upon some bones along the way.
Moss and pine needles covering their catch.
I brushed off the skull with a rag patch.


Around the neck I found a silver locket.
With a silver chain through the socket.
And I opened the ancient cover.
This picture to my eyes discovers.


This picture of Linda the Witch of Whitney.
That lives under the rails of the old jitney.
And I knew that this was her man.
So I put his remains in the pack and began.


My trip back down the trail to the old town.
The wind whistled and sighed and blew down.
The trail from me into town.
And it made a wailing and mournful sound.


I came to the meadow behind the sawmill.
At the top of this gentle sloping hill.
I saw the Witch swaying atop the old jitney rails.
Swaying in the breeze her tatter shawl sails.


I took off my pack and laid the bones upon the ground.
And her crying made a sad and gentle sound.
An acquisition of grief down through the years.
I could not even restrain my own tears.


So I removed the locket and held it out at arm’s length.
And it became heavy and took all my strength.
She hovered over me and her tears fell into my hand.
And they washed away the years and the sand.


Until the locket shone in the bright sun.
But her tears still would not be done.
So she asked me to touch her hand.
In the middle of this strange lonesome land.


I did not think I could touch this ghost of Whitney.
I wondered about the strange things on this journey.
So I took her hand in mine, and it was warm.
And I found that it had human form.


The color returned to her hands.
But I could not understand.
Life returned to this woman in front of me.
And this wonderment happened for me to see.


And she said to me.
“Thank you David for you have set me free.”
“I can now leave this place you see.”
“Your concern for me was the key.”


So I took this woman into the next town.
And she smiled at me as she got down.
Off the motorcycle and stood before me.
A beautiful woman proud and noble to see.


“I will see you again some day.”
Her beauty roams the isles in my mind.
And at times I find.
I can hear her voice on the wind say.


“I am coming your way.”
And so I wait a little every day.
For this lady from Whitney.
I saw on this strange journey.


I see her in the full moon at night.
And I see her in the shadows of twilight.
She visits me in my dreams.
This specter from a ghost town seems.


Closer with each day that passes.
This lady from Time’s eye glasses.
Tonight this woman materialized in my living room.
Swirling silver mist in the gathering gloom.


Obsidian hair flowing in some astral breeze.
Her emerald eyes beaming to please.
Only to me.
Only to see.


Her peace of mind in those limitless eyes.
That no longer bear her tears and cry.
I don’t understand any of this.
“You don’t have to” from her breathy kiss.


And so dear reader a story from the rails of the old jitney.
About a Witch to a Woman from Whitney.
And I swear it’s all true.
I swear by my tattoos.


Dave Proffitt
1:22 AM



















Glistening gray and steely bright.
Glinting off an exotic fingerboard in the light.
Stretched to some determined pitch.
Vibration in tones warm and rich.


Slaves to the fingers of my left hand.
Biting back their presence demand.
 Callouses and pain I must stand.
Hard, flat and gray on my fingers brand.


Grooves of their likeness temporarily cast.
Into my four fingers fast.
A badge of effort for my endeavors.
An honor in pain for whomever.


Takes the time to see.
For the resolve in me.
A blending of humans and strings.
  Meditation makes the instrument weep, makes it sing.


Sometimes it speaks to you.
When you don’t have a clue.
And sometimes it would rather stay in bed.
Cares not for your interest or your head.


So we have to fool ourselves each time we play.
And we have to fool ourselves every day.
For this is the way of continuance.
This is what it takes in the musical confluence.


And I have fooled myself for fourty years.
Through disappointment, trials and fears.
Tis the nature of the brute.
Oft times dissonant but never mute.


Practice make perfect as they say.
I should be perfect after fourteen thousand and six hundred days.
But this discipline has a steep learning curve.
That does not allow detours or swerve.


Something not explainable to non-believers.
Who don’t understand the discipline of the receivers.
 Their desire to play is fed by fast food mentality.
Who don’t get the instrument’s hard reality.


Weeds out those that don’t have this heart.
Who are unwilling to work in this art.
It takes a little wizardry, a little magic.
A little construction, a little morphologic.


Making music with friends.
This musical exchange of ideas lends.
Pathways to melodies not yet explored.
Oft times discovered from a note or chord.


This musical sacrifice bears an inexplicable reward.
For those that have searched and explored.
For those that endured down through the years.
Always more than it appears.


But not to those in the know.
Who understand it dark mojo.
My brothers and sisters of musical propriety.
I’m proud to be part of this society.


Dave Proffitt
8:44 pm