I am told by certain knowledgeable authorities that I ought to write a ‘blog’, although I am not very clear, even now as I attempt to write one, what exactly a ‘blog’ is supposed to be. I might well change my mind about the nature of what follows as it follows, but for the present moment, at least, I am assuming it to consist of some kind of open letter or public journal designed to be read by anyone with the vaguest interest in me, or possibly in any form of text for its own sake. I do not see myself capable of addressing this latter category in any meaningful way – a shortcoming I regret – so this fumbling attempt at blogdom is probably going to resemble a letter to those few in the former category, whose loyalty, largely expressed to me in the form of book royalties over the previous two decades or so, has been very deeply appreciated. So here goes.
As you may, or most probably may not, know, I lost my eyesight some five years ago. I am ‘legally’ blind, which means that I have about seven percent vision in one eye. This, in turn, means that I can no longer do such quotidian things as drive a car, or read – this latter a handicap not so much for the writer as for the reader. Not only can I not read what I have written, I cannot read what anyone else has written either, although I can hear it read to me, either through courtesy of my tirelessly patient wife, or by way of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind’s extensive, if somewhat erratic, selection of mailable or downloadable audio books. I should note here that only a sighted and computer-savvy individual will be capable of navigating the CNIB’s incessantly password-demanding and haphazardly categorized website. These topics, as well as the farcically macabre details of blindness as a medical process may be expounded later, or may not. They are by now subjects I have recounted so often that they seem to me stale, like the routines of borsht-belt comedians who have played the Catskill circuit a decade too long. Should this so-called ‘blog’ indeed have any readers, I might consider requests for more detailed descriptions of what happens when you go blind without warning at the age of 58. Suffice it to say for now that the retina in both eyes detached, tore and bled, and, after five operations by scalpel (no anesthetic possible, by the way – think of Le Chien Andoulu), and countless laserings, the result was what the result is.
How, you may wonder, does someone react to this? Especially someone whose eyesight was always fairly perfect, and whose favourite activity, in work and leisure, was reading. The answer, my friends, is not at all fucking well. I would not have made it onto Oprah as one of those people who overcame seemingly insurmountable odds through courage and tenacity. My tactics consisted of self-pity (enormous doses), drugs (doses as enormous as I could obtain or afford), alcohol (as much as I could consume before falling unconscious – and I mean litres of whiskey, not a few dry sherries), then bouts of raving insanity, about which I recall mercifully little, of course, beyond the fact that, after being found nude in my front garden, my wife and a friend, upon sound medical advice, had me incarcerate myself in the Toronto Centre for Addiction and Mental Health – more of which, possibly, later, yet not a place I would recommend for those seeking instant assistance, though perhaps ideal for anyone searching an evening’s offbeat entertainment.
Once you have incarcerated yourself in CAMH, via a process of bamboozlement and seemingly kindly coercion it is not easy to get out again for at least 72 hours, with medics, many of whom looked no more than twelve years old, constantly saying redundancies like, “So, Paul, we’ve been drinking too much, have we?” Or Big Nurse figures, evidently there because they enjoyed totalitarian power over the mentally disturbed, telling you that you would not be able to leave their power until they decided this to be advisable. Once beyond the outer precincts of diagnosis and pseudo-psychiatric interrogation, the place is literally a prison, with locked steel doors and warders disguised in scrubs, who dole out one Ativan every three hours to people who need three every ten minutes. All I wanted to do was sleep, and perhaps to dream, for in that death-like sleep what dreams may have come involved me still able to see. I was able to spring myself from this Bedlam within 36 hours, however, and vowed never to return, at least not voluntarily.
Next, for reasons still unclear in their totality, my wife and I moved to a remote spot in the Laurentian Mountains, some 90 minutes from Montreal. I have been here now for three years, possibly convalescing, yet definitely recovering sufficiently to begin writing another book, some chapters of which have been well received and may even be shared in part here. I don’t know. Just as the novice blogger, the virgin public diarist, does not know the appropriate manner in which to conclude his opening effort. So I will simply say that you can confidently expect more soon, and that your comments or requests will be greatly appreciated and, within reason, perhaps even catered to. I sign off for now, sincerely, as always.