Thursday, February 28, 2008

By popular demand...

...I must confess that the paramedics did not use the ambulance's siren while hauling me to the hospital a day ago. Used 'em coming down here; I remember hearing them as I sat on the porch.

I wasn't entirely clear on the reason why. There were two choices: the first, of course, was that they were convinced I wasn't in any real danger. Or it could have been that they had decided it was all over, and were just being polite by not pulling the blanket up over my face just yet.

I was thinking about both possibilities.

I've had more than my share of "oh, ****" moments in my life. Most were in situations where I had at least a small amount of control over events. In such cases, there is less fear than adrenalin working; as events unfold, you are coping and -- perhaps this is because I walked away from them all -- never really just hang it up and await the inevitable.

Yesterday was not like that.

After hooking me up to their portable EKG machine (I still have red marks and some missing chest hair from the sensors they stuck on me) the paramedics apparently knew I wasn't having a heart attack. I didn't know that. What I knew was that the air that was plentiful for everyone else wasn't getting to me. I knew the sun was damn hot on my face. I knew I wanted to be unconscious. I knew all sorts of bad emotions that had been building up over recent months were surfacing, and I knew I was embarrassed that I couldn't control them.

You have no control when strapped to the stretcher.

I never got to the "heavenly light" stage. In fact, I was conscious every moment, angry because all the miserable crap that makes me unhappy had to get wrapped up in all this. Everything bad fed on everything else bad.

But I'm still not able to write about what was going through my head in detail.

I had nightmares last night. But at least I slept.

I'm feeling slightly better today. I can breathe, anyway.

But something broke yesterday. And I don't know how long it will take for the break to heal. If it ever heals.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Something new every day...

...and, as has become routine, the "new" was something I could have done without.

After all these years, I got my first ride in an ambulance this morning. It was not fun.

I have had occasional episodes of shortness of breath in recent days, which I chalked up to stress. This morning, I simply could not breathe. I went outside, hoping that fresh air and perhaps a little activity would help. A neighbor, God bless him, took one look at me and called 911.

By the time we got to the hospital, I was, to put it mildly, a mess, physically and emotionally. They started me on oxygen, drew blood and took X-rays, and the neighbor (who came along to the hospital), paramedics and various hospital types tried their best to calm me down.

The verdict: a near-lethal mix of stress and pneumonia. Under it all, I'm in fairly decent physical condition, better than I expected. Only my lungs and the wiring in my head were causing trouble.

After four hours there, I was released and am now home again. When I feel a bit better, I have to run out to pick up some prescriptions meant to lower my blood pressure and clear out the lungs.

Just freekin' great, Jim.

Now I have the added pressure of paying the bills for paramedics, hospital stay and medications (none of which will be exactly cheap), on top of all the other money I would be shoveling out to various people if it would just show up.

"Don't worry about it," said the neighbor, paramedics and the nurse who was covering my arms with needle marks. "Just get well."

I worry about it.

I mean, I really worry about it.

There are things that come to mind in situations like this, feelings no one should be forced to deal with, and they are not nice.

I'm not going to talk about them, at least for a long, long time. I need to try to push them out of my head, something I have not yet been able to do with their milder counterparts who pop often into my mind.

This stinks.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

It's not working...

...and I'm too worn out to force it.

What I'm referring to is my ability to come up with something for this space that makes sense and doesn't totally bum me out while I'm writing it.

I've already deleted one long reminiscence that I often have looked back on with some fondness. It was easy enough to write down at first, but the closer I got to the happy ending the worse it made me feel.

That's what happens when happy endings have vanished from your life.

I can remember being admonished to "think good thoughts" when I was young. I did, most of the time.

But today's good thoughts are more-or-less squashed by the very realistic notion that if I've already experienced them I am unlikely to have similar adventures again. And if they are thoughts of what might yet be, they are 100% meaningless.

None of that stuff is under my control these days.

Tomorrow is, of course, another day. Another day in which any decision I might make or action I might take depend almost entirely on the responses of people who almost certainly don't give a rat's ass about what I think, want or need.

Reality can sometimes be a drag, man, and this is one of those times.

Sorry about the deletion of good anecdotes. If I hadn't suddenly awakened to the fact that the last of those no-strings happy moments is now almost nine years old, I probably would have posted them.

Saturday, February 23, 2008


...or is it panic? Regardless, it has been attacking me relentlessly since early January.

Frankly, I always classed "anxiety attacks" with those made-for-TV "syndromes" that irritate bowels, give people problems sleeping or otherwise bug them, and can be cured by the little blue/pink/red/purple pill the ads try to get people to bug their doctors for.

I do know what the common symptoms of anxiety attacks are, though, and I've lived with them for more than 50 days straight. It's no faux disease, Jim.

And please don't tell me to go to a doctor. My medical insurance (a/k/a checking account) won't allow it.

I've been working like a madman this year (and in November and December, for that matter), and have earned enough to stop the tidal wave of sewage that is about to engulf me.

No, make that: I would have earned enough, had payments arrived as they do for workers in any legitimate business. Thanks to the joys of "payment-on-publication" (and sometimes uncertain publication dates) plus the editor of a magazine that is about to cease publishing not letting me know the news before I began initial work on several articles that he would neither be accepting or paying for, I am, as we literary types say, screwed.

Well, there's a more appropriate term, but it's not family friendly.

Attempts at horizon-broadening have borne no fruit. I've found that while I might be interested in doing new and better things, the number of those willing to hire me to do said things is hovering right around zero.

The fact that I am just over a month away from hitting the big five-eight and most companies prefer younger -- and cheaper -- employees might have a little to do with that.

To be honest, I have simply run out of ideas.

A few people -- including one very good friend -- have known about the impending crash for a while. D., the photographer, thinks all I need to do is keep working on the shit articles based on old photos he pulls from his files and sends en masse to editors. The fact that clients who fall for these elderly images -- when any do -- are the same ones who underpay/late-pay with sickening regularity means nothing to him. His girlfriend pays his bills, and more.

Others, who have long called on me for freebies, don't seem willing to exert themselves when I'm the one looking for advice and contacts that might put me in the way of reliable employment.

From this, I can only conclude one of two things: a majority of the people I know are, at best, fair-weather friends, or I am simply a worthless lump of dung who doesn't deserve their time or concern.

I tend to think the first answer is correct.

But, especially in the past few days, I have come to put some credence in the second....

Aside from the discomfort -- both mental and physical -- this year has brought so far, I have been forced to cancel my trip to Detroit next month to see my friend R. perform in concert. It was the one just-for-me thing keeping me sane. R. did not take the news very well; he was looking forward to our reunion as much as I was.

I should be angry. Instead, I am simply too worn down to feel any emotion at all.

That's a good thing, actually. Considering the traumas the next few days and weeks may -- probably will -- bring, numbness may be a blessing.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


Yup, it's one of them ol' total lunar eclipses, and it's still going on even as I type this.

Sadly, clouds are moving through and the air is hazy. I fired off a number of photos, and this is the only one that was worth bothering to look at.

And it's none too good....

Maybe someone will get a good shot of the next one. In 2010.

PARENTHETICAL ASTRONOMICAL NOTE: Yes, that little white blob in the lower left is a genuine, zillions-of-miles-away star. It moved during the long exposure. They do that.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

So what's new... Where The Ghetto Meets The Sea?

There's a new duck in town. Seems comfortable, too...

The seagulls and pelicans were out in droves...

I'm somewhat ornithologically challenged, but I'd be willing to bet these are red-tail hawks, something I have seen only once ever in this area...

I think we know why this "harbor" is snug...

And I enjoyed seeing this boat-loving neighbor's redecoration of his yard. The gate is very cool, though it looks somewhat flimsy...

So now I'm back at the old stand. All that fresh air and a pot of green tea (you were right, "Maryjane") helped. Can't taste or smell garlic any longer....

Not again...

...yes, again.

I'm sick as the proverbial dog this morning. But at least this time I know exactly what caused it, and will take the lesson learned to heart.

A neighbor and his girlfriend invited me down to his apartment for what he called "stir-fry" last night.

Actually, it was more like "stir-boil," and the general consistency was, well, pretty indescribable.

I could endure that. But it was immediately evident that he had simply emptied the contents of his spice rack into the gelatinous mess. There was, as I was to reminded often during the ensuing hours, enough garlic powder mixed poured in to wipe out a tour-bus full of vampires.

Without going into details, it was a long night. And I woke up this morning with the granddaddy of all stomach aches and a distinctly poor attitude.

PARENTHETICAL WHEN-THINGS-GO-WRONG NOTE: The phone rang, not much after midnight, waking me from my fitful doze. I grabbed it, but whoever was calling hung up before I could croak out a response. Checked my Caller ID this morning, and didn't recognize the number. The name under it was "prison." Weird. It would have taken more than an hour to get back to sleep if I had seen that at the time....

I'm going to go for a walk now, hoping the garlic fumes won't offend too many people I encounter on the street. No sense in sitting here feeling cruddy.

Let me add that I consider my own culinary creations to be one small step above the "toxic waste" class.

It's nice to know some people do worse. Much worse.

Friday, February 15, 2008


Actually, I'm talking about these boobs, as reported in the Los Angeles Times:

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power came under fire Thursday for paying specialists to show new and expectant mothers at the utility how to properly breast-feed their children.

The plan to issue another DWP-funded "lactation services" contract drew howls from taxpayer advocate Walter Moore, who pointed out that the utility's five-member board voted just last week for a package of new water and electrical rate hikes.

I admit I haven't spent much time around mothers with newborn children, but a nurse friend tells me most hospitals will clue the new mommy in on what to do. That seems a long way from having the DWP pay to have its employees shown the, ummm, ropes.

This, on top of the city's incredibly generous maternity leave policies and fancy insurance plans....

It's an issue of separation of mommies and state, if you ask me. Or mommies and city, in this case.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

News in brief.

Managed to get the necessary interview yesterday, and finished the article on which -- as usual -- I had lavished too much research and writing time. Good interview. The guy was nice, cooperative and we spent a good part of the two hours of phone time talking about people and places (all in the past) we have in common.

Got a Valentine's Day card in the mail today, from a lovely and considerate lady. Also, a warm message from another whom I adore for her tender heart and heartfelt words.

Everything else in the last two days has been crap. Some frustrating, some simply depressing. Unpleasant happenings, unpleasant memories.

But if I write about all that, reliving the strain and pain will simply bring me down even more, and I already feel lousy.

Good night.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

If I used tranquilizers...

...I would have overdosed on them li'l puppies today.

It was the kind of frustrating day that just shreds me.

Late yesterday, I heard from the guy I wanted to interview for a story. He'd love to talk about the subject, had a lot of stories to tell, and would call me this morning. He's a busy guy, and his schedule was over-full yesterday.

So I spent some time last night reworking parts of the story so his impressions and stories would have maximum prominence, as they should. All that would then remain was to plug in his words, and ship the damn thing to its editor.

The inevitable happened: no call this morning. Or this afternoon.

So I sat here, catching up on the news -- which was also incredibly irritating when not outright depressing -- waiting for the call that never came.

I'm not exactly mad at the guy. After all, he's busy, and will be doing me a favor by adding unique information to the story.

But I essentially wasted this day. Completely. And I can't afford that.

My whole plan to extricate myself from the sewer I'm in depends on things happening. Unfortunately, I can't control all of them. I still have to depend, to a big extent, on others. And time grows short.

All I can do is try to calm myself down tonight, and hope I get the interview tomorrow.

After all, I can't tell each person I need to get assistance from, be they people who can help fill complete articles or clients to whom I want to sell my work, that I'm clinging onto a fraying rope here.

Not good for the "image," you know.

Monday, February 11, 2008

For once, I'm grateful to politicians...

...because the dumb bastards are making it possible for me to not write about the miserable night I had last night, and the worse day that followed.

I mean, who can compete with Barack Obama, The Messiah (whom Teddy Kennedy once called "Obama Osama" in one of his daily drunken moments), the man who has excited religious fervor among his followers without saying a damn thing?

Or Hillary (the weeper) Clinton, who finally seems destined to be cast into the obscurity she and her disgusting husband so richly deserve by a charming black dude with one year of experience in the U.S. Senate?

Caroline Kennedy, who was as I recall all of three years old when her daddy was assassinated, compares Obama to JFK. One difference: while he was getting down with various not-his-wife women and hanging with celebs, the elder Kennedy at least had some eight years of national political experience under his belt. Yes, he caved to Castro and the Russians in Cuba, but what the heck? Everyone's entitled to a mistake here and there.... Never mind that crooked ol' Lyndon Johnson came in afterward to pass all the "Kennedy legacy" legislation JFK (and, for that matter, Dr King) couldn't manage.

History seems destined to repeat itself. We are soon to be blessed with a president whose image and oratorical skills far outweigh substance. Obama brings unsubstantiated "hope" to the people. Forget that his eager Latina supporters in one of his Texas headquarters hung a Cuban flag (with a portrait of Che Guevara superimposed) right next to their Obama poster. Forget that he says nothing of any substance, has never done anything of substance....

PARENTHETICAL I-DON'T-KNOW-NOTHIN'-ABOUT-NO-INTERNET NOTE: You can see the image mentioned here. I wasn't able to copy it directly....

Please don't think I am some rabid right-winger because I think Obama and Ms Clinton deserve to be cast into the dustbin of history as soon as possible. Never mind that they are hideous socialist cretins who will drive the country into financial disaster, throw the borders open to a horde of welfare-sucking illegals and will offer "free" health-care and other giveaways to all those who "deserve" it (i.e. support them) while sucking up to terrorists.

The Republican choice is almost as bad.

The really sad aspect of American politics these days is that it involves, regardless of party affiliation, pandering.

If you are downtrodden (at least in your own mind) and you feel it's time to Screw The Rich, the Democrats are there for you. If you are part of Big Business, and want a free pass to rip off everyone else in the name of Profit, you have to go with the Republicans.

There is no middle ground any longer.

For a short time, I thought Ron Paul might be the answer. But he turned out to be a deluded and demented crackpot, too.

If you ask me -- and no one does, of course -- what this country needs is a reincarnation of Theodore Roosevelt, with a healthy dose of Abraham Lincoln and the later Barry Goldwater mixed in.

It would take someone with those traits to repair the damage George Bush has done, and save us from the destruction Obama or Clinton seem eager to wreak upon our poor country.

In a way, I'm almost hoping that the prophecy of last night's dreams will come true, and I won't be around to see what today's hideous losers in the political arena can do to destroy the country I was brought up to cherish.

It was inevitable, I guess. The age of greatness is over. And now, all we have left are pygmies.

Your problem, people. I don't expect to be here to suffer through the inevitable destruction.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Not a good day... I'm sitting here with an incomplete article I wanted to send off. I need to do an interview to finish it properly, and after spending a considerable amount of time hunting down the individual involved, I still haven't been able to make direct contact with him. There's no reason I know of or him not to talk, but he's staying incommunicado. And without his comments, the story will be far less than it should be.

After finally giving up on work for the day -- a decision that panics me, as I have to keep working lest the vultures get me -- I went for a walk, and then went up to the roof, where the landlord has grudgingly provided a fenced-off area where we can sit and gaze at the scenery.

It was an unusually warm day for this time of year, though plenty breezy.

And the "deck" gives an unusual point of view: it's strange to look down at seagulls sitting on telephone poles...

One of my neighbors decided to fly a kite from the roof...

...and it worked out pretty well...

But the people hanging up there know me fairly well, and could sense, as they have for some time, that all is far from well with me. One was especially curious, but I had to hold back, since part of my problem -- aside from work, which has become hellish -- involves an individual all of them know. What I know about this person (and it brings me sorrow to know it) is none of their business.

Even when I have people around me, I am alone.

And, in all honesty, I don't know how long I can survive in that situation.

When I need a support and sympathy (and encouragement) more than anything else, I am defeated by my code of honor.

I'd say it's not fair, but I no longer have any concept of what "fair" means.

And I am positive it does not apply to me.

Doesn't leave me much to hold on to, Jim.

Friday, February 08, 2008

I'm too angry... write much tonight.

There are several people I want to yell at.

And one or two actually heard me today. Not that it did any good.

And I'm mad at myself. I worked hard this week, and it got me nowhere.

Just know I won't be in the headlines as one of those who have snapped and committed violence. That's not my way. All the anger turns inward, and those who deserve a ration of crap get a free pass.

I just got an email from a friend, and it sums things up pretty well:


I was testing the children in my Newfoundland Sunday school class to see if they understood the concept of getting to Heaven.

I asked them, "If I sold my house and my car, had a big garage sale and gave all my money to the church, would that get me into Heaven?"

"NO!" the children answered.

"If I cleaned the church every day, mowed the yard, and
kept everything neat and tidy, would that get me into Heaven?"

Again, the answer was, "NO!" By now I was starting to smile.

Hey, this was fun! "Well, then, if I was kind to animals and gave candy to all the children, and loved my husband, would that get me into Heaven?" I asked them again.

Again, they all answered, "NO!" I was just bursting with pride for them.

Well, I continued, "then how can I get into Heaven?"

A six-year-old Newfie boy shouted out, "YOU GOTTA BE FUCKIN' DEAD"!

My friends really know how to cheer me the hell up, Jim.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

A brief moment of anticipatory joy...

...this afternoon, while I was trying to work. I had the radio on, volume turned low, as I often do, and heard a newscaster announcing indictments against a bunch of individuals with strange nicknames.

I wanted to leap from my chair and shout in sheer exuberance! At last, I thought, this year's elections will have to be canceled, and we'll have to start all over to find decent candidates!

It all seemed so right. Without the Black Man, the Woman, the Maverick, the Conservative, the Fundamentalist -- and the recently departed Ambulance-Chaser-With-Heart -- the political parties, which seem about as relevant to me these days as Mad King Ludwig, might actually have to reach out and find some humans to put up for public office.

My hopes were quickly dashed, of course. The real guys nailed by the Feds were listed here.

The nicknames were, naturally, better than those given the knavish crooks in Washington (though I gotta give a tip of the hat to Larry "Wide Stance" Craig).

Now facing trial for their misdeeds are a whole list of Family Guys including "The Greaseball," "Bobby the Jew," "Tommy Sneakers," and "Mike the Electrician." Some arrestees, like Gambino captain Leonard DiMaria, even have multiple nicknames. DiMaria, the indictment notes, is known alternately as "L," "Lenny," "The Conductor," "Nike," "Uncle," and "Fatso." Ditto one Nicholas Corrozo, who is also called "The Little Guy," "Seymour," "Grandpa" and "Grandfather."

One name in particular from the story struck me. I was once taken from Midtown Manhattan to JFK in a limo being driven by one of the guy's former drivers, left jobless when his boss did previous jail time. Heard some fascinating stories, too. I was glad traffic was heavy; I could have listened for hours.

Naturally, I'm not saying who.

But I will say that had my driver been the ex-wheelman for Clinton (either one), Obama, McCain or Romney, all I would have said was "Yo, get me to the airport and shaddup, willya?"

It's a sad commentary when organized-crime figures are more interesting -- and often more human, even (in their own strange ways) more honest -- than politicians....

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

I have to admit....

...that I'm enjoying not writing here every day.

Part of that, of course, is because engaging in the writing I have to do is taking more out of me these days. That, in itself, is a pain, as it means I'm spending more time on each story I'm allegedly paid to write than it is worth.

Nothing new, there.

But not using this as a confessional also means I'm not getting the usual "you're a dumb sh*t" comments from people who seem to know exactly what I need to do to straighten out my pathetic ass.

Does it surprise you that I don't need that?

No one knows the mistakes I've made better than me, Jim.

And if I choose to shelter one or two people (one, mainly) from full disclosure, that's simply me being a nice guy, which I have always tried to be. There are two people, whom I trust, who know what has gone on recently in my life. I'm perfectly happy to keep them in the loop, but I have no desire to make the really sad stuff common knowledge.

It'd titillate the heck out of some of you. The entertainer in me kinda digs that idea.

For now, however, I'd prefer to have the rest of you think of me as a dumb sh*t.

It's a role I have played for much of my adult life.

Not what I wanted, of course, but it seems to be the role I've been assigned.

And that's about all I can say about it. Someone has to take the fall, and I guess I'm the one.

Monday, February 04, 2008

I've been writing...

...just not here.

You need to understand that while the dung has well and truly hit the fan and I have been in the grip of looking at my own considerable mistakes, errors and misjudgments, I can't let myself either sink into a coma or rashly jump ship and try something new.

While I search for new options, I have to keep doing the same crap I've been doing for years: writing articles for clients whom I tend to dislike either for their payment policies or attitudes. Or, in most instances, both.

And the writing, while necessary, ain't easy. I've written some 4500 words in the last seven days, and have had to force myself to like them enough to push the button and ship 'em out. It was, in fact, research that took up the majority of my one instance, I needed to be convinced that the subject of the article wasn't counterfeit. I ended up planting a few strong caveats in the piece....

In between, I've tried to work out the "what's next?" question. At times, that has brought me to a screeching halt. Some of the alternatives aren't pretty, and all depend on the cooperation/good will/good sense of other people to some extent. It must be said I no longer feel particularly good about that, but it's reality.

PARENTHETICAL SOME-PEOPLE-ARE-GLORIOUS-EXCEPTIONS NOTE: One individual did something for me that was above and beyond, well, any kind of friendship I've experienced in recent years. I'm not sure I would have done it had the roles been reversed, but I'd like to believe I would. It is far from certain that any good will come of it for me, but the gesture was magnificent. I'm delighted to feel obligated to this person.

Beyond the total balls-up of my own life, I've had to pay some attention to to the elections, as tomorrow is voting day here. Turns out it's quite simple: I will walk into the booth, vote "no" on every damn proposition and measure the foul greedheads in government have put on the ballot. Since I am what California calls a "decline to state" (party-affiliation-wise), I don't have to vote for any of the presidential candidates who, in my opinion, are, without exception, the most dangerous bunch of liars, schemers, power-grabbers and knaves we've ever had to deal with. It amazes the hell out of me to see people actually cheering for and supporting any of these fools.

I wish I could say I haven't had time to feel lonely. It is times like these when the feeling is most intense and painful.

But since there are elements of this situation that I have never written about, and never will, I'm not going there.

It just sucks to be me, Jim.

The best I can say is I have survived up to now. That's none too reassuring.