Last Friday, my doctor's nurse called. I'd had blood work done the day before and she informed me that my kidney numbers were up and that I should see my nephrologist soon.
The news shook me up. I suffer from chronic kidney disease, apparently the consequence of the bacterial meningitis I survived in November of 1999. Whatever the cause, the consequence is that my disease is a slow one and that my numbers have remained constant for over the last eight years or so. I didn't like hearing they have changed.
I needed solace.
Put another way, I needed the solace that comes from escape.
I live a fairly serious life. Because I teach English, both writing and literature, I help students work their way through the serious questions raised in the reading we do and I read a lot of very serious essays. To prepare my courses, I read a lot of serious literature and the movies I enjoy the most are very serious ones.
As I've written many times in this blog, I don't enjoy escapist movies all that much, so when I need to escape, when I need the solace that comes from escape, I don't look to movies.
No, I go to the casino.
Last Friday, upon hearing the news that my kidney numbers were up, I needed to get away. I needed to get in my car, drive for an hour, and play some machines, and clear my head.
That's what going to the casino does for me. The gambling part of it is fun, but I find solace in being where people are having fun, often whooping and hollering, where the people who serve soft drinks on the floor and the people who service my player's card are friendly, and where there are a lot of people my age who are relaxing and enjoying the suspense that comes with the random gratification slot machines provide.
Last Friday, I drove the sixty miles from Eugene to the Three Rivers Casino just east of Florence and I relaxed. I would have plenty of time to think about my kidney condition and plenty of opportunity to feel the dread that comes with chronic disease.
I just needed to chilax, enjoy the visual and aural stimulation of the machines, chat with some other players, and enjoy the friendliness of the casino.
When I'd spent all the money I'd budgeted for myself, I sat for about twenty minutes and watched others have fun and listened to all the sirens, bells, foghorns, and chimes that go off in a casino. I watched people throw their arms up. I watched others bow their heads in disappointment. I took a stroll. I absorbed what I enjoy about the place.
As I drove back home, my head was clear. Saturday, I was ready to start dealing with what the news from the nurse might mean. I talked with my wife, the Deke. I started to sort things out with a clearer mind.
I know, it's an odd way to find solace.
But, us guys from Kellogg aren't always like everyone else.
I wrote a poem about the solace to be found in a casino. It's entitled "Peace". The written version of it is here. Using the player below, you can listen to me read the poem.