Chapter 5 – Seriously Bad Hair

Chapter 5 – Seriously Bad Hair

February 6

So … I guess my hair is actually going to fall out.


Maybe not all of it. Currently, I appear to be shedding all the expensive high lights. Now, if it were the gray bits, that might not be so bad.  But no, only the long golden tresses appear to be surrendering to the evil force.  So, I must resign myself to an alternate covering for the winter. I might have to augment the earmuffs.

The real issue is, of course, how will I be able to identify myself sans my signature Buster Brown cut? I mean, I’m not sure the glasses alone are enough. And I can’t really promise to keep the tacky green dress forever …. Seriously, I can’t leave home wearing that … I must have some standards after all … Although that may become moot as time goes by.

Thus, it is that while others spend time working and battling the problems of the world, I find myself picking away at this truly irrelevant bit of a personal poser … How to draw myself … what one might call a non-problem problem … an ersatz problem … a faux and futile waste of energy.

I guess I find it comforting. You know … A small, manageable problem … Not the whole enchilada of what lies ahead.

Sort of like …

When you need to clean out your kitchen cabinets, you find yourself peeling off the old labels from pasta jars, and at the end of the day are left with a pile of soggy paper labels and 7 tidy glass jars that won’t fit in the cupboard because you never got around to that part.

Like that.

So damn the cabinets. I’ll deal with them later. For now, I still have some hair, and will wing it when the time comes.

Maybe a hat?


About the illustrations

In reference to my Buster Brown Hair cut, and the need to come up with a new hair style to use for my illustrations, please understand that, by this point in time, the challenge of depicting myself on a semi regular basis in order to illustrate my updates, had become something of a preoccupation.

In real time, the chemicals coursing through my body were corroding my veins and shutting down my ability to function normally. My hair was falling out …my sense of taste was shot … and I had trouble dealing with rashes and nausea … but I was otherwise occupied, as I continually tried to come up with a new way to draw myself.

With each illustration, I was able to use the same rather simple lines and motifs … the eye glasses … the little red lips … the Buster Brown hair … they were enough to start with, and the images grew from those motifs. But, as I was being changed by the chemo, so too, each day brought new alterations in what it was that I could use to accurately picture myself.

The interesting part of this process was that by trying to picture myself objectively, I was, apparently, identifying much of the bad juju that comes with chemo. It became necessary to isolate what it was that illustrated my situation at any given moment.

A drawing would quite often come before I knew what I wanted to address.

For instance, when I started the update to send out on Valentine’s Day, I had thought to send something nice and appropriate about heartfelt thanks … yada, yada, yada. But when I tried to draw myself, I could not seem to make it work. Instead, I kept drawing this rather bat shit image of myself. I looked demented … just shy of psycho. And as I clarified the image I realized it was indeed a cartoon of the real me … the me that was in a state of chaos. So, when I started to write the text, I was able to put it into a context that really spoke to where I was mentally at that point.

The result was much more compelling than the hearts and flowers might have been.

In some manner, the illustrations were like a clue to some unresolved conflict. But in other cases, once I started to write, the pictures would come from the content. So, the two pieces were, and are still, inextricably linked. Which came first … the image or the words … was never predictable, but each one had its own texture and addressed some aspect of my life at the time,

And contrary to how they appeared, those images … simple and straightforward as they seem … took a hell of a long time to create. But, that was no bad thing, because during the time I took to write and create, I was totally immersed and living in a different world … and oddly enough, it was a rather lighthearted world.

While I knew what I was experiencing was pretty grim, I felt it was all some sort of cosmic joke … you know, like

… payback for some unintended slight to Mother Nature,

or perhaps

… the wrong toe tag applied at the Carroll, Iowa Hospital when I came into the world …

or in general

… taking a wrong turn on the highway to life …

It was as if old what’s his name … would at any time pop up and say, “Smile! You’re on Candid Camera!”

The practical joke sensation of the experience never really left me, and I wanted to share that feeling with my friends. One of my friends wrote at this time concerned that I was trying to cheer up those around me, when I should be concerned primarily for my own welfare. I replied:

“There is a part of me that is really just observing all this and making notes for later drawings and reflection. That part is keeping me sane and normal. That is the artist part … my life as an observer.

The other part, the dark side of me, is lurking around in the shadowy patches saying, “Hah! Got you, you old hag.”

But please understand that most of me really does find the whole thing humorous in an odd way.”

I also found it was hard to take myself too seriously when I could capture the whole thing in a cartoon. I suppose that in some way the creative process removed me from the reality of what I was going through.

So, the Buster Brown haircut became a fist full of stray hair and, along with the eyeglasses and the lips, remained the same from week to week.  However, the cartoon portrait of me as a cancer patient … those random body parts I manipulated using my iPad and a stylus … those were adapted from week to week and became a sort of shorthand map to whatever was going down at the time.

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