Saturday, October 29, 2005

Daily Briefing

Would you trust a Chief of Staff named Scooter Libby? Sounds like a minor character from the Andy Griffith show. And his last name is the first name of my first wife, ecch!

To more serious matters, if I can seriously engage you in a serious discussion about seriousness, which should be taken seriously and by no means should be subjected to any superficial dismissals of its abiding importance, which I herewith most seriously aver, confirm, and opine.

To speak seriously is to speak from the mind and heart and balls, but as I am incapable of Matthew Arnold's "high seriousness" (which is why Milton and Wordsworth bore me), I shall likely remain a very minor poet with a very good sense of humor, however dark my humor may be--which may mean I should be taken seriously for my dark humor.

How dark is my humor? I find death exceedingly funny. Though a Christian I even mock God. Why? Because the Bible says, "Be not deceived, for God is not mocked." If God cannot be mocked I cannot mock him, therefore am committing no sin. My chief complaint of God is that he has much too much faith in us, as if he's gambling our fate on drawing to an inside straight.

My poor hypochondriacal daughter, Rachel, used to ask me when growing up what this or that bump or pain meant. As a doctor, and with a straight face, I would say: "I think it's cancer, dear." Afterward she'd yell at me. So I afflicted my very own spawn with my dark humor.

Seriously, while some rise by their gravity I seeme to sink by my levity. (I stole that line from a curate standing futilely under the miter-tree).

Now, if you'll just bear with me, I'll come up with some truly serious comments as a challenge to my basic flippancy.

On Iraq:

We cannot leave Iraq now or the future troops who die will be robbed of the honor of not dying in vain, like the heroic Halliburton chess pieces that have gone before. How could we deprive them of this honor? It's simply unpatriotic. We must stay the course in order that more may die to prove others did not die in vain, though I have not come up with a precise number yet--I leave that to the Pentagon. (I stole this basic idea from Doonesbury).

Nevertheless, I did write a serious poem about the Vietnam Memorial, which I'll paste in below to prove I can be serious to all serious doubters of my seriousness.

At the Vietnam War Memorial

Black granite stretches its harsh, tapering wings
up to pedestrian-level grass but sucks me
down, here, at the intersection of names.
I forgive, I must, though I wish something
could heal this gash in the earth.

Behold, all theorists, the price of theory:
extreme unction by napalm and blood,
buried whole or in pieces.
The VA grants prostheses
but not minds free of horror.

In jungles tumescent, through villages
of straw, by the Mekong where catfish
sleep in mud-heaven, we tramped,
disarmed mines and flushed tunnels,
shot women and children for potential collaboration,
smoked Thai-stick until stuporous
and still the sound of Charlie
played on every frond.

Beat against this polished rock, America,
this vast projective surface for your sins,
wear your heart out. It's not how many died
but that they died in vain, achieving
nothing except our grief for them.

It's said you cannot write a good poem
until recollected in tranquility.
Let this be a bad poem, bad as the war,
dividing author from reader and reader from page.
Let it drive a wedge between fathers and sons:
let fathers mistake rebellion for disloyalty,
let sons mistake honor for stupidity,
let senators mistake appropriation for commitment,
let mothers confuse waste with sacrifice,
let sisters turn to prostitution to forget,

Let teachers suicide in public in partial recompense,
let preachers castrate themselves for passive assent,
let everything in America that breathes
hang its head in irrefragable shame.
Here is the legacy of your assumptions,
here the necropolis of your dark-suited wisdom:
A city set in a pit cannot be hid..

(published in the Adirondack Review)

Now go have a drink and consider writing a letter to your congressman to get the hell out of Iraq and let the civil war begin until another strongman restores order.

Doesn't anybody at Foggy Bottom read history? I guess they're more interested in writing it.

Seriously Thine,

C. E. Chaffin

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Great Comments!

As you can see below, my blog generates many unselfish comments, witness the two appended to yesterday's note:

bigsat05 said...

"Magdalena Movie In Works Scott Mitchell Rosenberg, chairman of Platinum Studios, and Gale Anne Hurd, founder of Valhalla Motion Pictures, announced that they are developing Magdalena , a spiritually themed film based on a Top Cow ...

3:41 PM

accordion-5061B4 said...

"Great Blog! I also have a site about Nestle toll house chocolate chips. You can check it out at Nestle toll house chocolate chips. Also, as a thank you for visiting my site, I'd like to tell you about a great site that is giving away a FREE DVD Camcorder! Just click the following link and enter your Zipcode to see if the promotion is available in your area! FREE DVD Camcorder"

So, the commercial engines are already out there, hawking cookies and movies and camcorders on other folks' blogs, and human contact decreases--or should I say machine-human interaction increases?

Yes, I do have the option to limit comment on this blog by selecting a filter, but I won't. Comments by self-promoting software are better than silence.

And to think these programs care more to comment than my own friends and family!

Hey, I'm not proud, I'll take what I can get.

I mean, I didn't complain when I ordered a garlic bagel today and they brought me something else. I did cuss at a woman who cut in line at the U.S. Consulate, however, only to discover she didn't speak English. I assumed she did because she looked like a norteamericano. Afterwards she explained in Spanish and I apologized. But I think some English speakers in the neighborhood gained a new respect for me.

I am so bored. So, so bored. How bored? Look at what I've written. We are here in San Miguel against our will; our lawyer's number was busy today, as were our friends'; I did, however, receive a package from daughter #2 today which I have yet to open, my first birthday gift, I presume. Keturah is such a trooper, real Erickson blood. But if I open the package, what can I look forward to? Another Astros loss tonight?

Maybe I'll end this note with a stream-of-consciousness attempt:

Woe unto the disenfranchised sons of lost time dwelling in the dust of Guanajuato where the silverfish thrive and the eagles are brown, where the parasites are many and the clean water scarce, where sugar skulls are sold to honor the dead and promote Mexican dentists, of which there are too many, but this is hardly streamofconsciousness as I planned-- magnolia butter on a half shell shrimp barbacoated in delicious bacterial membrane lifted from the remains, remains of the day, day of the remains, Day of the Dead, we're all dead and dying, frying, trying to get inside our own heads, blank chambers without bullets, hot lead injection in the medulla oblongata, whatyougotta, Jake LaMotta, middleweights, featherweights, feathers of Quetzacoatl hanging from my unclipped nose, colorful nosehairs, the candy-colored clown they call the sandman.




Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Late Night Movies

Hey blogees!

Last night I watched two movies: first, "Everyday Lives" (Robert Altman), which I'd never made it through before but really enjoyed. Kathleen even turned the light off to desert her latest novel and watch the Spanish captions because she liked it so much.

Unfortunately I had a depressive dream later, haunted by that horrible red-headed singer who featured so prominently in Altman's movie, though she would have been equally at home with David Lynch. Perhaps she reminded me of my first wife, who knows? But depressive dreams are no fun and are always a warning of the storm to come, and it scares me because my meds are already pretty much maximized.

Anyway, the horrible husky-voiced cigarette-smoking narcissist supposed jazz singer is all I remember now from the depressive dream. When it woke me in the night I took half a Zyprexa and watched TV until I fell asleep, and Lo and behold!-- I watched another movie with Roy Scheider and Olympia Dukakis I had never seen, one that reminded me very much of "Mosquito Coast," a movie that came highly recommended from my sibs (long ago) in view of the family illness.

In the movie a long absent father returns and turns his wife and family of adult children into a survivalist cult until they see through him. Interesting if not outstanding, only because it's another study in a crazy but well-meaning father.

We're getting close to the point of simply bailing here and giving a friend power of attorney to recoup our stuff, it's just the dog that's the sticking point, don't want to leave without him... may have to... and I don't want to return... may have to... can't hold out much longer.

Kathleen and I had margaritas and ceviche and shrimp cocktails for lunch at one of our favorite restaurants here, curiously named "El Viking." Must be for the seafood, though there are plenty of flies, as well as two hairless dogs who live on the roof, the very kind the Aztecs used to eat. Why we order seafood there.

All the retirees here are simply extreme. Beware of people who can do what they want, like the idle rich. They may try to make CDs or bar-hop only to find you and bore you, or focus on conspiracy theories, or make everyone call them "Colonel," or claim to be ex-wives of Greek shipping magnates, to name but a few types.

All for today (in a light vein, I hope).

And don't forget your flu shots!


C. E. Chaffin

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Zombies and Kilometers

I started this blog because I had to--just to post at another friend's blog, the usual pyramid scheme for mailing lists and advertisers.

If you go back to the archives of this blog's beginnings you may notice I began with an attempt at humorous essays (with my signature yoking of implausible connections in a myriad of subjects, ancient and contemporary). I liked "Neulasta in My Pasta" a great deal, for instance.

The blog then degenerated into an autobiographical account of our newest troubles in Mexico and our struggle to return to the states.

I called our lawyer today, and of course, she might know something manana.

My birthday, described below, is one to envy I'm sure.

I don't know which is worse sometimes; the disease or the cure.

But as my father was fond of saying, "None of us are going to get out of this alive."

Except Coleridge and zombie fans might argue, the living dead.

And there are many busy dying and not being born.

"Oh how I don't want to be in their number."

And I have kilometers to go before I sleep.

Just a note for today.


Craig Chaffin M.D. FAAFP
Editor, The Melic Review
Doctor-at-large to Gringos who suffer from the treatment of Mexican doctors and all-around nice guy and choir boy.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Happy Birthday

To me!

Keep those cards and letters coming.

If it's not about me I don't want to hear it.

(The problem with this world is that there's too much "me" to go around.)

At 51 I'm almost playing with a full deck!

I spent my birthday, yesterday, in bed with intestinal problems, took the cure for amoebas and salmonella, couldn't drink much because of it.

Still off cigs!

I watched a lot of TV yesterday because I wasn't feeling well, but God was good. I got to see three Law and Order episodes, one which I hadn't seen before, two that I had perhaps seen only once. And I fell asleep during The Fugitive. That's good viewing on Mexican basic cable.

My faithful Kathleen spent the day with me.

No epiphanies save slight nausea and a fullness in my abdomen and that I hate Mexico. But you knew that.

Just de-wormed myself a few weeks ago, hope I don't need that again.

I have to take more medicines for parasites than a dog.

Thanks, daughters and friends, for the nice e-cards. I especially like Rachel's, wherein she correctly identified me as the black sheep of the family.

If your life is so boring you stopped to read this, well, what can I say?

"Keep coming back!" as in AA.

Soberly Thine,

Dr. Chaffin, aging neophyte

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Mexican Justice

The oxymoronic title is only a loss leader.

Yet the wheels of justice do move slow, though I think no more slowly than the wheels that have long come off the American system.

I met with our lawyer yesterday, and she told me that now the investigative portion of the case had been completed, similar to an indictment, and the case will be given to the prosecutorial branch, which has three days to review it before she will start pestering them.

On another note, I have been a friend and occasional doctor to a number of folks here, one of whom just died of lung cancer and whose wake we will be attending today at Finnegan's. Yes, in San Miguel there are Irish Bars, German Bars, even two Sushi bars. (Not to mention chocolate bars and bars to progress.)

Today I'd like to thank Brother Chris for his encouraging message and daughter Keturah for my first e-birthday card.

Hard to make jokes about cancer and the dead. I was the lucky guy he went to to ask the inevitable question, "How long do I got, Doc?" Munching my carrot, per usual I was overly optimistic for obvious psychological reasons, though I urged him to get his affairs in order.

The late Jim Bolen was a smart, generous man and a good friend I wish I'd known longer. He was a retired decorator from San Francisco who overcame the stigma of his heterosexuality to succeed in a very competitive field.

And a non-smoker. Yeah, death's a lottery, all right.

And as my younger brother said, "It seems to run in our family." (I fear us Chaffins will certainly die of terminal uniqueness some day.)

On a happier note, I still have the most hair of my brothers and have achieved somewhat of a backwards comb-over, kind of like Jack Nicholson when he was younger--not the horrible side-parted variety. This is what passe for achievement in my life?

Off to the wake. In Mexico the dead are happiest, and they are still with us. In fact, their special day comes up Nov. 1, when the Mayans actually disinter their ancestors and clean their bones with brushes while having a picnic. One of the things I like about Mexico. Who's gonna brush my bones when I am gone? I think that might make a good country song.



Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Brief Update

Brief because the damn computer already ate my long blog entry for today.

The dog was not returned Monday. Kathleen wept mightily but recovered, even though we told each other It's Mexico beforehand so as not to get our hopes up.

Her eyes are still a little puffy but she certainly deserved a good cry.

I did, however, get a favorable child support ruling for our youngest, Sarah, today, as she has moved in with her sister, Keturah, in Long Beach, so my first ex- is not longer entitled to any money! Whoo hoo! (I participated long distance by phone like the disembodied voice of Darth Vadar.)

Meanwhile the Mexican prosecutor is supposedly issuing a warrant today for our evil former maid's arrest. She's hard to miss at 5', 210 lbs., with the face of a monkey, kind of like them flyin' monkeys in The Wizard of Oz that used to scare us as kids.

Thanks Val, Sharon, Elisa and Teresa for your encouraging letters!

I've had to cut back on my new antidepressant regimen because I felt myself transitioning to hypomania last night and today. Seductive illness, this manic-depression. And if my disability insurance company is reading this blog, rest assured I am not treating myself but following Dr. Craig Ross's express instructions.

I'm 10,000 words into my last essay in my series on Eliot, regarding Four Quartets. The previous essays can be found at for anyone interested. I should have a book-length manuscript when I'm done, then hope to find an academic publisher.

Thine as ever,


p.s. My birthday is October 17 if anyone wants to send me an e-card!

The Never-Ending Story

Well, well, well.

The dog was not returned Monday. Instead Maria moved it somewhere else, so that we can no longer comfort the poor puppy with treats and paw rubs under the high, solid steel doors of his prison not far from our digs. Of course, Kathleen wept Monday night and there was no cheering her. I had told her not to get her hopes up because "It's Mexico;" she had told herself the same, but hell, she deserved a good cry-- she's been separated from her hearing-ear dog for nine months and counting. Hell, that's term gestation for human grief!

With pressure from my private lawyer, the prosecutor promised to issue a warrant for Maria's arrest today. They even joked together that she would be hard to miss, since I estimate her cuerpo at 5', 210 lbs. Supposedly this should bring our case up on the judge's docket more swiftly, but It's Mexico.

Thanks for all the encouraging e-mails from Elisa, Valerie, Teresa and Sharon. It's much easier to hit the button and e-mail me below than have to register for your own blog.

I was slightly hypomanic last night and today, so accordingly reduced my antidepressant regimen this morning and am not moving as fast as I was. The key to this illness is balance. Being a Libra, this is the task God has appointed me (in this life) through Nancy Reagan's astrologer. (My 51st birthday is October 17 for any interested. You can always send me an e-card!) I suppose Bush must have direct access or at least an e-mail address for the Big Guy. And certainly our president is a living example of Christ's forgiveness.

Myself, I remain a fan of Henry Kissinger and Realpolitik. Foreign policy isn't, cannot be about morality, rather the balance of power and trade between competing selfish nations (see Machiavelli and Adam Smith, it's all in there).

Then, as some said to me about becoming a doctor, "Who would want to be president?"

Oh well, the alternative, Gore or Kerry (apologies to all my Democratic friends), might not have been any better.
My only question for Bush is whether or not he can achieve President Carter's great watermark: Stagflation and national malaise!

I'll sign off now to go root for the Astros and Angels.

Thanks for all your support!

BTW, I'm 10,000 words into my essay on T.S. Eliots Four Quartets as of today, and expect to reach 20,000, which will complete a book-length critique of Eliot's poems that someday, if I put my mind to it, might be published in book form. You can read all my previous essays on Eliot at

Thine in Truth and Art,

C. E. Chaffin

p.s. My 51st birthday is October 17 for any interested. You can always send me an e-card!

Monday, October 10, 2005

More on dognapping; Slamming Mexico!

Dear Coterie of Continual Fans,

Yes, following my emergency therapy for acute depression I am nearly officially out of it, though the ground remains a little thin under my feet.

Dr. Paul Tournier once wrote that "The tragedy of modern medicine is the fact that patients often get better before they understand the meaning of their illness."

I couldn't disagree more. Biological depression should always be treated as an emergency and stamped out like a cockroach.

The good news is that Kathleen's hearing mold arrived, courtesy of sister Elisa, and upon attaching said apparatus to her external ear, her first remark was: "God, the world is so noisy! Imagine the solitude of the deaf. It could at times be blissful, I suppose. But I'm so happy that she can hear me now when I tell her I think she's cheating at rummy. (Rummy?)

Another piece of good news is that armed with two private lawyers the ADA folded and the police finally forced our former maid, Maria, to open her house for inspection. Our list of possessions was confirmed. The ADA then called Maria and insisted she return Kathleen's hearing-ear dog, Kenyon, today. Some personal possessions may follow in a week or two and then, perhaps, we can finally be free of the clutches of Mexico which has been holding on to my ass like the jumping cholla cactus or the dreaded prickly Mesquite.

Bad place to visit but I wouldn't want to live there.

Then I'm in central, not coastal, Mexico. I did like Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan. Don't know how long I could take it there, though.

Come to San Miguel de Allende if you want:

1) Terrible smog, traffic congestion, and lethal diesel fumes from unregulated buses.

2) Theft of anything not tied down.

3) Constant attack of amoebas, worms and toxic bacteria, endemic to the area, and spread mainly by the fecal-oral route. Since some are also in the l0cal water supply, washing your hands is not sufficient, and amoebic cysts can live for days on a bus rail. We carry alcoh0l-iodine gel around and I refuse to shake hands with any0ne, including Gringos, instead rapping knuckles as I say: "No amoebas."

4) Worse Mexican food than you can get in LA. Haven't had a decent tamale or taco yet, though the carnitas are good.

5) Rapidly inflating house prices and prices of pricey goods due to the invasion of North Americans, now at least 10% of the population here, mostly retired but still functioning alcoholics, the women of which have gotten cheap face lifts. Call Madame Trousseau.

6) A surrounding ecosystem practically devoid of animal life save birds; I think the Mexicans have eaten everything, though I have seen one lizard and a turtle in over 2 years. Also the mixed catcus-scrub-mesquite flora lacks any verticality; when I visit San Diego even am so relieved by the trees--not to mention the lack of dust and the clean air.

7) The literalism and concrete thinking of the natives, as well as the pretentions to art by retired Gringos who suddenly think they can paint or perform as they pay for classes by other equally inept artists. I try to be polite but wish I could shout: You all suck, suck, suck! (As artists, I mean, not persons.)

Then the booze is cheap--except our favorite form, wine, which is overpriced, and some of the women are beautifully exotic.

I may plaster these points on walls here before exiting.

I've been off cigarettes 40 days and Kathleen for near 20. God bless America and invisible Doonesbury Centurion President Shrub!

My my, if we pull out now we will have wasted all those lives. So let's stay for years than more will not have died in vain.

Thine as ever, over and out,

C. E. Chaffin

Tuesday, October 04, 2005


Yes, the black cloud of clinical depression has finally descended on me after a year-and-a-half of bad luck. I know from experience that once my brain chemistry is adequately adjusted, my wife's dear face will look familiar to me again, but one symptom of depression is derealization--the sense that everything is foreign, even the chairs at the restaurant this morning (where I didn't eat), as if every object in the world were new, entirely inexplicable and vaguely sinister.

The last time I was hospitalized for depression, January 1996, I remember how daunting it was to tie my shoes. It took much study, but after a while I managed it. However, the whole process of tying my shoes seemed as if I'd never done it before.

This is one reason I tell folks that ECT is a whole lot better than depression. My memory has been more damaged by depression that my one course of ECT, which restored it back in 1983.

Anyway, in writing about this I escape the feeling for a while. In the formation of words we are forced to ignore inner weather for a moment, perhaps because of the very demands of logic placed on the left hemisphere where depression is mainly centered.

Recent studies also show the use of antidepressants may keep the brain more agile over time, contrary to earlier fears.

I'll share with those likewise afflicted my rules for depression.

First, and above all, be evaluated biologically and enter treatment with the proper medications; wait for the worm to turn, it always does eventually. And if medications don't help a serious depression within two to three months, especially for manic-depressives, I think ECT a very good choice.

Now, behaviorally, here are Dr. Chaffin's rules:

1) It is better to do something than nothing.

2) It is better to do something active than something passive.

3) It is better to be with or around people than alone.

4) Try to set a modest goal each day. Mine is: "I'm going to try not to hate myself too much today."

I try to follow my own advice. Here I am writing, right?

As for the lawyer thingie planned yesterday, the public prosecutor is absent and won't be back until Thursday so we couldn't go.

Kathleen ate some excellent Eggs Benedict this morning. I had one bite and made a lame joke about the current Pope--as close as I came to humor.

I can still read. That's a good sign. When worse I can't concentrate enough to remember what I'm reading.

Here's a poem about depression:

Eternal Recurrence

Psychologists call mania
a defense against depression
but I find that silly.
There is no defense
against depression
and no adequate metaphor
for its recurrence, but I'll try:

You love someone with all your heart.
They are brutally murdered.
After an interminable grief
they magically reappear
and you fall down on your knees
and thank God with tears.

The second time is worse.

After the third funeral
you dread their resurrection
as much as their death
and love becomes a poisonous thing.
You would drive a stake through their heart
if only you could.

Here's a link to where it was published along with others, in Tryst Magazine:

All for now. Thanks for listening.



Monday, October 03, 2005

More stuff

Saw a third private lawyer today, he said the process will likely take months, he's going with me to the public attorney tomorrow to evaluate my progress and make recommendations. Meanwhile Kenyon has been moved to some other house and we can't greet him under the door, hope he's safe, likely is as he is the kidnapper's trump card.

Apparently Maria Martinez, our former maid, now rich landowner by inheritance, thinks we're made of money. We have at present about $3000 to our names. Time was I would have just forked the $9000 over. But not now. And I'm not asking for contributions! Yet the pursuit of Mexican justice has just that sort of Quixotic ring to it that has characterized my life, like being a manic-depressive psychiatrist. Symmetry and irony abound.

Here's the rub: If this takes too long my pension may again be endangered since I must see a doctor within six months back in the U.S., and I don't want to have to return to Mexico for the rest of my natural and sometimes unnatural life.

Also, I have a child support hearing this week where I have to be patched in by phone to Orange County Superior Court. I had hoped to be back for that.

Kathleen's hearing aid mold and tube still haven't arrived; I basically have her sedated at this point as she can't take much more and my Brylcream tube has nearly run dry. Just don't have the energy to grease life anymore. Feel like a pencil stub gouged with teeth marks. Or a butt you steal from a hotel ashtray in a moment of weakness as an ex-smoker. Or a junkie who eyes his fix and says, "Why bother?"

Eeek! Dark similes.

Take out an 'i' and you get SMILES. And Krusty the Klown is a great guy! He's for kids, not ratings!

Maria also has my three nearly complete Simpson Christmas train sets from the Franklin Mint. One was for my Grandson. Oh well.

It may come to our leaving and leaving things in the hands of a Mexican lawyer, which is like storing your antiques on a termite farm, I fear.

Oh well. I don't ask for pity, just understanding. It's therapeutic to type into the void and think someone out there is reading. And you can always e-mail me in commiseration or with worse horror stories at

Thanks, Ralph and Phillip for writing me!

It really helps. I'm not much of a phone person.

Thine as ever,


Unexpected Light

Unexpected Light
Selected Poems and Love Poems 1998-2008 ON SALE NOW!