Nope. I’m Still Here.

For a while there — several weeks or so — I very seriously believed that I was all done; as a writer most immediately, and very nearly corporeally.

It was the first of February, just over seven months since I was told that I had six months left to live — yes, I know, provocative math — and I’d just posted the latest installment in Howard’s Divine Comedywherein, via 3rd-person narration, I proposed the possibility, however fantastical and unscientific, that once I completed that 10th Canto and clicked on the big blue Publish button, I will have completed the whole work, the Comedy, yes, but also my life’s work in entirety, and thus, the button pushed and my words transmitted to the interwebs, I would die in peace.


Surprise and alas, here I am, embarrassed in no small measure, even a little disappointed that the ending I’d come up with for this online travelogue charting my journey towards death — a kind of non-violent writer’s suicide that I was rather tickled with, thinking it playful and clever and bittersweet — was, finally, no ending at all.

Nope. I’m still here. These words I’m typing right now are not the product of a literal Ghost Writer, and though I never was a very ambitious person, in pretty much anything I’ve ever done, I’d be lying to you, dear reader, if I said I had zero interest in pulling something like that off, a likely unprecedented feat of posthumous blogging. I mean, come on! That’d be cool, right?!

Anyway, for days on end after posting the 10th Canto, it felt to me that there was nothing, absolutely nothing, left for me to say. The few times I even considered simply opening up my laptop, to see if some idea or another might present itself once face-to-face with a blank page, the laptop was ultimately left untouched.

So, you might ask, what changed, and what, after all, was there left to say?

In short, I’m currently writing under the influence. (No, not like that: Devastatingly, my ALS-ridden body can no longer tolerate any recreational mind-altering ingestibles. I even have ready access, thanks to the mercy of hospice care, to a wide range of otherwise tightly controlled — for good reason, a nationwide addiction and overdose epidemic — opioids, all of which, however, sadistically and unbearably nauseate me. And yet, the simple fact is that what I miss and long for the most is easily: crisp, cold pints of hoppy craft-brewed India Pale Ale from any one of the dozen or so local breweries here in Bellingham.)

No, the influence of which I am under, well, I just read the skimpy, 4-book oeuvre of my favorite author, J.D. Salinger, for the third time in my life, and the roof beam was once again raised high on a kind of mystical-literary temple, inhabited by a voice that I intrinsically understand and, perhaps more accurately, feel; a voice in a temple that I first encountered as a senior in high school, a voice that somehow opened up and revealed to me a pathway to my own voice, a pathway that beckoned me to exercise said voice in the written word. Salinger’s prose — a marvelous, utterly human mix of informal, conversational, sometimes stream-of-consciousness language; weighty and yet often comical subject matter; uncompromising honesty; bleeding heart compassion; a kind of aspirational non-denominational spirituality; all presented with an exquisitely loose narrative structure — inspired and influenced me more than any other writer, and rereading him this past week, especially his more abstract books, Franny and Zooey, and Raise High The Roofbeam, Carpenters – Seymour: An Introduction*, reminded me that I don’t always have to come up with some hook of an idea, a catchy title, a burning question I’d been wrestling with, a tidy little blog-post composition with an introduction, exposition, and conclusion.

(*The reference to Seymour: An Introduction, specifically, begs some parenthetical elaboration, for of all of Salinger’s work it is the most abstract, quite nearly, for me, opaque; entirely devoid of plot, a long, rambling ejaculation of monkey mind that — if it wasn’t in his voice, wielding his professorial lexicon of references, if it didn’t include his sensitivity and sense of humor — would be eminently skippable, so much so that, I confess, I never actually finished it the first time, barely made it through — though remained mostly puzzled — the second time, and yet the third time and its proverbial charm seemed to be uniquely suited to reading it and finally fully appreciating it in the seventh month after a six-month pronouncement of my life expectancy. This time, I experienced numerous moments throughout Seymour where I’d reach the end of one of its epic run-on sentences, rather like the sentence that precedes this one here, and I found myself setting the book down and looking about the room to reorient and recall where, exactly, I was, what time of day it might be, what the weather was up to, who else was in the house with me, etc. And it occurs to me just now, as I write this, that — as I’m quickly approaching my death, with no way of fully knowing whether or not there is an afterlife — there’s a certain serendipitous, even subversive, comfort in reading, at this time under these circumstances, this unhurried, meandering Introduction.)

Bottom Line: I’m a dying writer, and if all I do from here on out is simply write whatever the hell I want, when I want and am able … well … that’s all I’m gonna damn well do. I’m not kidding. I really mean it.

16 thoughts on “Nope. I’m Still Here.

  1. Hey Howard! Dang, I need to let you know that I am reading this, following along like I always do, and yet usually have no words to leave. That is pathetic, considering the herculean effort and courage that it must take for you to face each day.

    I any case, I am thrilled that you are still here, even though it is a point of confusion for you at the moment. Keep writing, dude! I am absorbing each word and feeling. That doesn’t sound right (this isn’t about me) but I am loving to follow along on your journey and that of your thoughts, words and life.

    Much love to you!


    Liked by 2 people

    1. I love your comment SO much, Randy! 🙏🏼🧡

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Oh Howard, I wasn’t aware of your most recent diagnosis. I am glad you’re still here and inspiring us all. Doctors are often wrong, so keep on extracting and giving your beautiful essence, intensely funny sense of humor, musings on this wild incarnation of life here on Earth.
    So glad to have met you and your wonderful family, friends …your stories will resonate through the decades.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. So kind of you to read, and thanks for the kind words. 🙏🏼🧡

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Howard, I’m so happy to have connected and to be a recipient of your posts of you’d blog. I love reading them my recurrent thoughts are always along the lines of “damn….I wish there was time to get to know you as a friend (as opposed to the long standing other relationship that we had over the years”. Thank you for letting me join you in what you are experiencing.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. So glad you are still writing Howard! Also glad you are still here. ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Howard! This was sort of the first post I read on your blog so I was mind blown at first (I have thought of you now and again, especially during the awfulness of COVID, and hoped life was good). Kind of like entering a room during a serious conversation that I wasn’t expecting. I wanted to say that I went back and read your Divine Comedy, and it’s among the best things I’ve read in a good while. Brought me both tears and laughs, the complete package. Hope you’ll keep writing and sharing (as long as you feel like it)! “Power of the Paw”/good vibes to you from me and my three cats.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, Kate! What a nice surprise hearing from you. I have such fond memories of working with you and miss Western SO much. Thanks for reading my writing and your kind words. 🙏🏼


  6. Thank you for the read – I’m following closely. Did you receive my email? Praying daily for all of you, -K

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I say ramble on brother! There’s all kinds of gold in there when you stop to consider it. I admire your attitude and honoring your need to create! Keep it up! ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Hi Howard,
    I know and I’m glad that you are still here because I’ve had a spoiler -I’m moving backwards through my feed and so have landed here after reading your latest post!
    I plan to take some time to check out your Fish And Bicycle blog.
    As for Salinger, which is your favourite work by him? The promise of the new stuff being released has gone on and on.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, Andy, for reading! I wish I had the energy to reciprocate more, but I am looking forward to reading some more of your blog soon. As for favorite Salinger, it’s a cop out, but I gotta say that I simply can’t single out a single work. I always think of his published works as a precious whole, an entity in and of itself, because I’ve always consumed it all in one, chronologically in the order the volumes were published. Even right this moment, I’m tempted to say that one of the “Nine Stories,” perhaps “For Esmé—with Love and Squalor” is a good representation sample, containing most of the elements and characteristics of Salinger’s style, but by the time he wrote “Franny and Zooey” his writing had evolved significantly. Sorry for that non-answer answer. 😊🙏🏼

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for your thoughts. I plan to revisit his stuff this summer. Similarly Capote, too.


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