Yaakov Sullivan


May 22

Today is one of those radiant days that makes one happy of heart to live in the Hudson Valley. The river shimmers, boats float by, the hills are full and verdant, gardens are abloom, including my front garden.
The transfusion I had a few days ago seem to have helped in giving me more strength. I had a wonderful garden lunch (precautions taken) yesterday with friends from Sweden, friends I met at my synagogue. Lovely people. Early next week we celebrate the Jewish festival of Shavuot, my favorite. I am teaching a lesson at my synagogue. So, so far so good. Still holding my own and full of gratitude.

May 20

It seems my last chemo really did a number on my hemoglobin. It had been fine but apparently over the past week it took its toll. Effects are trerrible malaise and weakness. Stairs a challenge. So no chemo this week. Postponed until next. Today blood transfusion. It seems so vampirish but it is meant to strenghthen me.And so it goes in the battle.

Reading an enthralling novel that so far, after 450 pages of 700 some, I am still captivated by his yarn. arl Melantes “Deep River” about Finns coming to Washington state at the turn of the 20th C. Be safe, eat good food,watch fubby movies and be content.

May 8

Has anyone ever used the sous vide method of cooking? On last Sunday’s America’s Test Kitchen they used it in cooking chuck roast that came out better than a standing rib roast. But the equipment seems quite expensive to purchase.

May 8

What could be better than a good “cuppa a tay” in the morning. Its brisk, aromatic hit gets one going. This morning it was a lovely cup of Assam, an excellent one from a box of bags I purchased in Sept from Herrod’s while I was in London. This week has been one in which I was blessed by gifts, surprise gifts, from my dear friends. A gift subscription to the NY Times from Lynn and Jim in Denver. Then an order of meaty beef and marrow bones to make my bone broth. That surprise ordered by the angels Cynthia and her beautiful spouse Yael. They
arrived from Grow and Behold, kosher, organic, grass fed, free range. Then yesterday, two parcels delivered, this from my dear friend, Rosamaria. One containing an assortment of gorgeous dahlia tubers for my front garden, then another also kosher free range organic lamb stew, beef sausages and the piece de resistance, two duck breasts!! And I can’t forget the two pair of trousers from Lands End sent by dear Mary Z. I had mentioned that all my trousers were 36 inch waist which I need to belt up. So…..two pair with 30 inch waist appeared andnow I can appear in puublic more natty like. when I take my strolls. What a week. I only wish I could share but the noxious beast that hovers above us prevents that.
On a sad note, my dear friend and neighbor, Deirdre Glann, lost her brother, Malcolm, two days ago, lost to the virus. Malcolm was an integral part of our neighborhood, a kind innocent man who will be missed deeply. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.. So, here I stand, less hair, residual discomfort in the abdomen but otherwise hale and hearty for one in my condition.Shabbat is a few hours away, a sacred time which I will enter in a few hours, comforted by the many blessings I have in my life. I am confident that those blessings have kept me going and I am forever grateful. Deo gratias Baruch Hashem.

May 6

Well, here we are in early May and I am still above ground. Undergoing a second round of chemo which I have been enduring well. end of this month will be another CAT scan to tell if the tumors in various organs have grown or has been slowed. My weight is 113lb which is up from 109lb. My eyes, blue as clear water under sunshine would still identify me, even though my form may pass you by if you should encounter me on Liberty St.
None of my friends have been struck by this plague, thank God, but we know NYC has been struck with a flaming sword. As for the stay in order, I am loving it. Gives me time to rest, cook, read my Peter Robinson mysteries, and listen to CDs I have not listened to in years. Friends here in Newburgh have been angels, dear Cynthia and her spouse, Yael, have been Sisters of Mercy, helping with my household chores, shopping and above all, setting up my internet. Kindness in abundance.
We have had a few days of sun and warmth during which I have taken walks and some planting in my garden. Another spring though with the rain, chill and damp, one could doubt it. But still breathing, walking, talking and eating is a blessing. I look forward to the day, washed in sunlight, when I can slowly meander down to Flor Shop and walk out with a pastry. In the meantime, Thomas the Feline and I am ever grateful. Good to be back.

Feb 23

Things to do before my upcoming trip to Florida. Make it to Macy’s. Use my $100 gift certificate to purchase a swim suit that will fit Twiggy. Perhaps a pair of ecru linen trousers (waist 32 rather than 36) (are you aware that you can no longer find trousers with a 28 inch length? Why is that?) some snazzy argyles, a Panama hat to replace the one I mislaid. When there, sit by the pool, walk all the seashore and worship the sun as if I were an Aztec. I am hoping it will refresh rather than exhaust so I must stay on best terms with the sun.

In the spring of 2018, I attended a writers conference held each year in Listowell, Ireland. I have friends here who have a home there and we went over together. While there I had the honor of meeting two wondeerful Irish writers, the grande dame of Irish letters on women and their issues growing up in the stifling clerical culture of Ireland in the 50s: Edna O’Brien. The next day I attended a lecture by the author of “Brooklyn” and The Master”, Colm Toibin. I bought his latest novel which he signed. We had a brief conversatiion in which I asked him to look into the life and works of French poet/writer Max Jacob.

If my memory serves me it was shortly after that encounter that I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, this, after having been diagnosed with prostate cancer three or four years before. Around April 2019, I read that Toibin had been diagnosed with testicular cancer. His article on his diagnosis (in The Independent) was humorous as he described having his right ball removed in Dublin.

He wrote later that the cancer had spread to his lymph system and liver. His description at this point was still filled with self deprecating humour but was tinged with a feeeling of anger and bafflement. I understood what he was saying and feeling, the sense of being out of control, of having something ravish your body; the weight loss, the chronic diarhea, witnessing a body that looks like a prisoner who just walked out of Dachau. It was a kind of comeraderie, a mutual brotherhood bound together by unexplained pain, discomfort and erratic eating habits. I wish him well and hope he has a network of friends who support him. He is a gay man and I am not sure whether he has a partner to help him along this journey. Fame does not help alleviate pain nor bring about a more hopeful diagnosis.

I’ve moved on from Immodium to Lomotil but food still cascades through me as if my system of of gastrointestinal pipes were as smooth as a stone on the seashore. My appetite has diminished, either due to psychological factors or something directly related to the cancer. If I don’t eat, my gut is calm, no gurgling, bellowing, no cramps. It’s a crap shoot.

Today, the air is warm, 55 degrees and the sun is bathing all of nature. So, I decided to take a walk down to the library and let that unseasonal sun wash over me. As I walked, I began to feel a pain in my right hip area, where the prostate cancer is sleeping. Is it now awakening ready with an approaching new season to cause havoc? Who knows. Our bodies are a mystery, an unfathomable intricate machine in which parts suddenly go askew and things spin off and break down . It’s the nature of things. I think of Colm Toibin, the Irish writer I met in Ireland and I wish him well. But I do think to myself: “at least I still have my balls.”

Feb 18

I really am hoping that I will be well enough to visit my beloved Milwaukee sometime in late April. I want to see all my friends. My primary group of Milkmainds, of course. But to see that shimmering blue of Lake Michigan dotted ith the bleached white sails of boats. Perhaps go out on the lake with my friend Barbara. Maybe have a soup made by Deborah Clifton, See Marie Koehler and her white house on the corner or one of her company’s shows. Nancy A and her bakelite collection (still too early for boxes of peaches) Mke Dooley who I may have to see in Paris, Mike Neville, Scott Howland, and thee king of my dreams, the mad every creative, spinning mind, Godsil. oh, so many things. That is my hope, to revisit where I came from. I may have crazy requests that no one else would think of. To visit a church on the southside, a Polish bakery for patczki, oh how I love ethnic Milwaukee, bringing back memories of the FolkFair every Nov. when I danced with the Irish group one yr and the Israeli the next. How I marveled at the Serbian dancers with the upturned shoes on the beat of the Balkan music, of tjhe Uklrainians and their red boots as the kazatzkaed to the floor, the womens shirts whoosh, then the pastries, poppyseed from the Hungarians nd custard like sweet rolls from the Austrians of Slovaks. I hope to feel it again this April. I will do my best. Hold on Milaukee and I hope to visit with you all.

Feb 18

Our nation is in the throes of a great sickness. Our president is a disaster, a national embarrassment and an international pariah. We have an election coming up and must do all we can to rid the country of this slob and the ratpack that dwells with him as well as the pack of sycophants that pollute the Senate.
I am exhausted from the ongoing nonstop drones of the pundits, of who is in the lead, of who said what 30yrs ago, of the oligarchy of Bloomberg and the rise of the nonpolitician in our national politics. Until now, I have ben rooting for Pete Buttigeig. He is a thinker with a mind and respect for the intellect, he has positions on important issues, critical issues ie, climate change, education, health care, the imperative need to reconsider the growth of our cities and the need for affordable housing.
I voted for Bernie last time but harbor the fear that he will not win over voters in the rust blet and center of the country. I may be wrong but that is my gut feeling. My gut feeling also tells me that we are vry soon to see an ascendancy of Bloomberg. He may well become the Democratic candidate. Oligarch vs oligarch. I also think he could pulverize trump on the debate stage. Yet, I don’t know. Of course if I am still on my feet with a pulse come Nov. I will vote for whoever the Democratic candidate is, but at this point, I am tired of it all, exhausted from the pundity that I cannot seem to escape. I just want to get there, to have the WH vacated by its currrent troop and then have it fumigated and exorcized so that its next inhabitant can really, honestly say, after these past anni horrabili, let’s make this country great again, great for everyone.

Feb 18

I have begun a class in ceramics at a local studio. This morning was mythird sesssion and I was successful in throwing three pots. It is a wonderfu physical sensation to have ones fingers on the clay, shaping it, forming it into something perhaps unintended.. So many failures before getting to something that will stand. Like everything in life, centering is essential. If you do not center the clay to begin with, it will fail.
A learning experience at 73.

So, here I am, still standng. Reading (currently a biography on Teilhard de Chardin, along with a novel my Karl Marentes, doing the pottery class, my class with the rabbi at synagogue, watching my cooking shows, Sunday night with PBS (Sanditon and Vienna Blood) interacting with my neighbors, visits from friends who stay for the weekend (friend Bill Westenberg came in from NH this past weekend.) So this is good, a blessing, a grace.

Tomorrow, a session at the clinic on what to expect from my upcoming sessions of chemo. I hope to begin the chemo sometime in mid March, after my next CAT scan at Sloan Kettering on St. Patrick’s Day. I still continue to loose weight but I can’t put off the chemo much longer since the tumors can grow in the time lapse. We will see how I react to the chemo, how I will tolerate it. If I find it produces side effects that diminish my quality of life, then I wil ask to stop it. And I will continue to do what I can until I can do it no longer. A philiosophy that I am living with even now.

First week of March, I will be going to Florida. I will wear shorts and my floral shirts. I will adorn myself with lemons, oranges and coconuts. I will soak up so much sunshine that I will be a walking citrus myself. I will splash my feet in the sea, let them feel the salt water, making them soft and putty textured. Arlene will prepare stuffed veal breast for Shabbat dinner and I will drink a mojito. Then I shall return to Newburgh and present Thomas with kitty treats as a guilt offering for having left him in the care of friends.

So my friends, there you have it. A rare day at the library computer giving you an update Enjoy the rest of your week, prepare and consume something good and healthy, have a glass of what you enjoy and share it with whom you love. Smile and be happy even when you feel a fart coming on. And with that I leave you. Deo gratias.

Feb 3

Dance, dance, on your tiptoes, until you are so exhausted you can only dance in your memory. Embrace the face of life even while you know it is a Janus face and that eventuaally it will turn away from the sun like the sunflower at dusk. Nothing can prepare one for the brilliance that is to come, the Beatific Vision that will make all the suns of the universe seem like a black hle. But until that ime, dance, dance and grab hard at life.

On Saturday night,the interior of Palate Wines and Spirits, where I worked for four years, was crowded with friends and neighbors, former customers, who came out to celebrate my retirement.
There was wine and bubbly overflowing and plates of nibblies and orvy dorvies. A hummous annointed with Lebanese olive oil was offered by chef par excellence, Leon Johnson, his wife and angelic babe, Isabelle, the She Wolf of France. It was so good, that if it had been eaten by Israelis and Palestinians, it would have brought about true peace.

I was overwhelmed with emotion. It was unexpected and brought into focus the benefits of living in a relatively small community.
I spoke briefly, taking my idea from an article of a week or so ago, from the NYTimes. It related how two brothers, immigrants to Paris from Morrocco, were closing, after thirty years, thier little shop in the Marais. It had been a shop selling odds and ends, the kind of thing you pick up after work or late into the night. They had developed relations with the local Parisians living in the Marais. But they were closing due to the number of chi chi shops and chains that were opening in the district which now is thronging with tourists looking for boutique items. Enterprises where personal relations between shopkeeper and customer, between neighbors, would no longer be possible. What I tried to bring to Palate in my 4 yrs was precisely that recognition of the personal qualities of my customers. They were not merely consumers but individuals whom I had come to know, who they were and what they did, what their interests in life were and, of course, what they liked in wines and spirits and what I might introduce them to for a change in their imbibification habits.
It was a splendid evening. And the lemon poppyseed cake with a buttercream frosting was absolutely Elysian.
My friends Irving and Betty came down from Montreal and they were joined by so many others. Glasses clinked and laughter was heard. People caught up with the news, pregnant women chatted with others who were due soon as well. What joy filled Liberty St. that Sat. night. Thank you to Philippe and Ellen and all those who turned the evning into magic. Deo gratias

Jan 29

Talented writer and denizen of Newburgh, whose novels have been reviewed in the NYTimes will be doing a reading and book signing of her new book at Bowell’s in Milwaukee sometime in April. Her name is Danielle Trussoni. Be sure to put thae date on your calendar. She is the friend who dropped off “Leading Men” for me.

Jan 29

I braved the blasts of winter this afternoon enwrapped in my Harris Tweed overcoat from the 1950s. True, it made me give off the appearnce of a beached urban whale walking but it kept me warm as I sauntered down to the local library (oh, I wish I could be referencing “local” as the pub).
I passed my 73rd with a small group of friends and neighbors who had brought over some bubbly and my favorite lemon poppyseed cake. Deo gratias for friends, those near and far who are all by my side during this battle with the invading armies.
My weight has continued to drop. As it does, the skin sags and droops as if mourning bygone days when up to 70 or so my physical form was still of this world and I want to add that I was not “butt dead”. I was proud of the fact that I had reached this age and still held firm orbs at my derriere. Ah, tempore, ah mores. Hopefully, what I have lost in the physical I have gained in the spiritual. As for attire, well, I can’t recall at what age I was a 32 inch waist but whatever period it was, it has returned. Svelt as a skeleton.
Another toxic bloom has recently bloomed in my colon, having recently joined its kind in my liver. The most recent doctor, this one a colonretal man (that word has a certain kind of cha cha rhythm to it I think)informed my of that development. Also the lining of my abdominal cavity seems to possess little cancerous cells, like twinkling stars adhering to the surface of that filmy lining. Eventually, they will unite and form a constellations of their own.
So, I take it day by ay as the cliche goes and do what I can until I can’t do it any longer. I enjoy quiet things, like laying down on my big bed with my cat, on Sat. or Sun afternoons, listening to Live from the Met or John Pizzarelli and Jessica Molaskey. I read the NYTimes which my dear friends Lyn and Jim got me on the weekends. I fantacize about cooking exotic things as I paade down the aisles of local supermarkets. I read, just having finished “Leading Men” by Christopher Catellani. Loved it. About Tenesseee Williams and his lover Frank Merlo.
This Sat eve, there is a retirement party for me at the wineshop. Looking forwad to that. And then there is Florida, then springtime in Milwaukee and if God grants it, a sejour back to Paris.
And so it goes, as do the impeachment proceedings. We hope the one in the WH will be gone soon. May God preserves me until that day in Novemember when we shall see Humpty Dumpty crash to the ground never to rise again.
Think happy thoughtsuntil we meet again. Tomorrow I will be going to Macys and see what style trouser they may have for me, 32 inch waist, of course.

Jan 3

Now thaat I am no longer working at the wine shop, I am infrequently on this site. So here is an update.

The battle continues. New obstacles rise up after certain victories have seemed certain. But then, having terminal diesase does not allow for permanent victories.

My recent days have been replenished by joys. The grey, dull winter patina that lingers over heaven and earth was transformed recently by a series of events that brought light and laughter into my life and environs, the two best elixirs for banishing midwinter shadows. First, was my visit to Denver to spend time with my dear friends Lynn and Jim and their family. Lighting the menorah in front of delighted children, sharing a video of Lynn and my days with Clavis Theatre from the 1986 or 1987 fund reaiser. Young, svelte and unlined we were and possessors of fine talent. Good food, laughter, joking with Jim, deep talk with Lynn. Just simple good communicaated with friends of more than three decades. Deo gratias.

Two wonderful films that brought focus off self and help delineate the commonality of shared human experience. Two Popes and Little Women. Hopeful portrayals, no whitewashing in this time of such despair and relativity on every question.

An intriguing theatre performance seen with my friend Hannah. Playwrites Horizons: The Thin Place. A drink before at the classic Chez Josephine, begun over three decades ago by one of Josephine Baker’s adopted children. A piano player is just a pleasure.

Most recent CAT scn showed that a very small tumor has taken up residence n my liver. Not the news I wanted to hear but as I well know, there is truth in the Jewish proverb: Man plans and God laughs. Before they can begin chemotherpy I must be rid of this months long chronic diarhea and weight loss. I have an appt with the gastro man at MSK on Mon. Then we will see what they find, hopefully a cause. Then a birthday. I will be sponsoring a kiddush luncheon at my synagoge and preparing it myself. Then a glass of bubbly which I find I can tolerate rather than mere white or red wine. And it will be a bottle of good champagne. So, I still sing, as I raise my sword built of strongest hopes and prayers and battle on as the molecular changes continue on in this thin body that I inhabit.

Last edited by Godsil.   Page last modified on June 29, 2020

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