Sunday, March 30, 2008

The usual suspects...

...were all out when I went for my walk. It was cold and windy, necessitating a jacket, but nonetheless beautiful.

There were people washing cars...

And, of course, cats...

A squirrel enjoying a morning snack, no doubt filched from someone in the park...

And bikers lining up at a local joint for coffee -- yeah, that's it, they must have been drinking coffee...

As always, the ocean breaking against the shore...

A fine day for a walk, made less invigorating perhaps by the occasional twinge of loneliness. I hope that doesn't last much longer....

Of course the twinges from complaining back and leg muscles didn't help much, either. I'm still not back to 100% when it comes to energy and muscle tone.

And yet, it's a beautiful day. I'm glad to be here.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Getting old!

My next birthday is still a week away, but I don't need it to remind me that Father Time is kicking me in the nether regions. The last few days have done that quite effectively, thank you.

Originally, the plan was to drive down to the Saturday car show this morning, but when the alarm went off, I knew that the simple act of getting out of bed was all I could face. Folding myself into a low-slung car was not on the menu. Instead, I've chugged a couple of aspirins and am waiting for relief....

I guess it began on Thursday with several loads of laundry and a change of bedsheets. A few hours later, I decided the kitchen needed cleaning. Scrubbing of stove, refrigerator and countertops followed. Fair enough, but it rapidly became painfully apparent that the scrubbing of the (cheap) tile floor in kitchen and dining room was necessary as well. So, on hands and knees, with a brush and a bucket of vile cleaning solution, I set to work. After moving the dining table, etc.

Inevitably, I was a bit of a mess when I finished, though the kitchen was clean and sparkly.

Could I possibly sully my clean bed with a grubby, sweaty me? Nope. Especially since I would be messing up the extra-nice, make-me-feel-good sheets Holly bought and put on my bed while I was in hospital.

When I went into the bathroom, I immediately noticed that it was a bit scruffy, too. So: clean countertop, scrub floor, scrub tub and glass doors, scrub the toilet. Much more hands-and-knees stuff. I barely had enough energy to hose myself off afterward.

Add to this eight days (so far) of slithering in and out of a car designed to appeal to young, flexible yoots, plus an afternoon of entering and exiting an even tinier ride while photos were being taken, and my poor spine woke up this morning howling in pain.

PARENTHETICAL POETIC-LICENSE-TYPE NOTE: Okay, so it was me howling in pain; spines have no vocal cords. Don't be so damn literal, okay? I'm being "creative" here....

Doggone it.

What I really need is a good massage. But I know my fantasies of that are simply that -- fantasies -- and so am hoping a couple of Bayers will restore me to some level of functionality.

Otherwise, I seem destined to spend my natal day flat on my back, whimpering to an empty room.

Okay, I know the alternative is worse, but this is bad enough. I'm ready to go to work in Paris ringing the bells at Notre Dame. Won't even need a Lon Chaney makeup job.

Getting old is a real drag, Jim.

Thursday, March 27, 2008



...which reminds me of a snippet of conversation:

Neighbor: Look at the gulls, Sam!

Sam Goldwyn: How do you know they're not boys?

I haven't been posting much lately, I admit. But there hasn't been much going on that has been worthy of note. I've been working and walking. That's about it.

The work is still a struggle, for a variety of reasons. I plod along, though.

The walks? Delightful, also for a variety of reasons.

Back to work....

Monday, March 24, 2008

While I was out walking today...

...I encountered some friends...

Yes, that's the very same paramedic wagon I had the none-too-pleasant trip in. And a couple of the firefighters who were out walking/jogging along the street today (they come down here pretty regularly to do that and enjoy the fresh ocean air) were among those who bundled me off to the ER three weeks or so ago.

They were a bit surprised to see me, I think.

Obviously, I look different now.

I'm no less grateful to them now that I can breathe and move around on my own.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Toys I'd love... have in a huge garage (which I also don't have!), as seen this morning.

For making a dignified arrival, what could be better than this late-1950s Bentley, replete with unique custom coachwork?

And what collection could be considered complete without what the Brits used to call a "bubble car?" A BMW Isetta "300" seems ideal...

In fact, a pair of these tiny two-cylinder runabouts showed up today. I've always found the rear view of same somewhat amusing...

But if I had to settle for a single set of wheels, this 1966 Ferrari 275 might well be the one. I was smitten with the 275 coupe when I first saw one back in the day, and still am...

Still, it would be tough to resist a 1955 Jaguar D-Type, a phenomenally successful racing car in its era. This one belongs to a friend, who happily (and without problems) drives it on the street when the spirit moves him...

Wonderful cars like these tend to render the modern machines on display invisible, at least for me. Watching the crowds who show up each Saturday throng around the classics, I'm guessing I'm not alone in feeling that way.

I may have to go back next Saturday, just to see what newcomers appear.

Back to the routine...

...and a trip down to Orange County for the weekly Saturday car show. It's always a good time, even if it involves getting up at the crack of dawn and driving straight into the rising sun...

Aside from the regular run of new "exotics" -- your basic horde of Ferraris, Maseratis, Lamborghinis, Corvettes, Porsches, BMWs and the like -- there are always some interesting pieces on display. The owner of this '55 Chevy has put nine years of part-time work into converting it into a duplicate of the memorable '55 Chevy "Nomad" show car, which was based on that year's Corvette. He did a superb job...

Not far away was one of my favorites, a '65 Corvette Sting Ray roadster...

And there was a fine example of America's most famous factory-built "hot rods," the 1956 Chrysler 300B, complete with powerful "hemi" engine...

Plus another favorite (especially for Californians of my age group, who grew up seeing them carting surfboards to the local beaches), a '48 Mercury "Woody" wagon...

I didn't get to see as many cars as I wanted, forgetting that the people who put on this show -- and some of the attendees -- were among those most concerned about my recent health problems. I had to spend more time than expected recounting the details for people who were simply glad to see me present and moving under my own power. It's still not easy for me to talk about it, though their concern was heartwarming, to say the least.

Despite my concentrating on American cars here, there were some neat little machines from Over There on display. I'll post a few pics of them later.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Phobic and frustrated.

I guess I'm dealing with some very mild form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or something. It might also be that I'm simply nuts, I don't know. But I'm facing this Friday evening in a not-so salutary mood.

Short version: a little fallout from my stay in hospital -- and the events that took place there -- remains with me, and I'm not liking it at all.

For starters, I still get freaked out when I hear sirens. That's a regular occurrence here; it would be unusual not to hear them multiple times daily. No matter; when the Fire Department is headed this way, their sirens are no longer background noise as they were before the end of February. As they get louder, I fall into a kind of flashback state, replaying the unhappy moments before -- and during, and to a certain extent after -- I got my ride in the paramedics' ambulance. It's not so vivid that it causes physical pain or makes me want to hide under the bed, but is enough to distract me from everything else.

I'm just grateful I haven't been talking on the phone or dealing with anyone in person when the sirens sound. So far, at least.

Equally bad: I'm still having trouble writing for work. The concentration that requires continues to be difficult to maintain. I can do it, but slowly and with more interruptions than I'd like. It's just not the same these days.

What's the deal here? I can come up with the kinds of elegant phrases I need to provide, but connecting them into a sensible whole takes real effort. Having dealt with people who had speech impediments or other conditions that kept them from expressing their thoughts, I now understand their frustration. Completely.

There have been a few times when, awakening in the darkest, loneliest hours of the night, I have wondered what else I might have lost, what other little surprises are waiting to strike in an unguarded moment.

I know my energy levels have not risen to the old "normal." Yes, I walk every day -- always at least four miles now -- but feel a certain lassitude afterward. I still need to rest (not necessarily sleep) briefly in the afternoons, still have a disrupted sleep schedule.

These little quirks have a cumulative bad effect on me. They have made me, to a new extent, afraid. I don't want to repeat my recent experience and, worse, they have left me with the worry that I will not survive any further health problems, large or small, undamaged.

More positive distractions might help, but they are in short supply right now.

But I try. Tomorrow morning, for example, I'll go to the Saturday car show/get-together I've missed attending for some time. There are always people there I enjoy seeing and hanging out with, and I might take a photo or two if inspired.

In the afternoon, I have to go to a photo shoot -- we're doing it locally, thank goodness -- for yet another story I have on my to-do list.

PARENTHETICAL IT-COULD-BE-WORSE THOUGHT: At least this article requires only my perceptions and ability to get them down in words. No research. I might be able to crank it out with something approaching my former facility. It'll be an interesting experiment.

I write these things here because what I put down is unlikely to be read by existing or potential clients, all of whom would drop me like the proverbial hot potato if they thought my "powers" had diminished.

And I have to tell someone. Bottling up the feelings and fears has not been productive. Just the opposite, in fact.

I wish I was an investment banker...

...since our government, in its finite wisdom, has decided that firms whose sole contributions to life are shuffling paper and rewarding their executives with seven-figure (or more) annual compensation should get cut-price loans to "help the economy."

"...large firms averaged $13.4 billion in daily borrowing over the past week from the new [taxpayer-funded] lending facility..." says an AP story on the latest giveaways to big business.

What did they do? They screwed up, is what they did. They let greed trump any kind of sound business sense, jumping into (among other things) mortgages for stupid and unqualified homeowners. They manipulated stocks to increase their own incomes. In short, they did the kinds of things that would bankrupt you and me. Or land us in jail.

But they get easy access to our money to keep their Ponzi schemes and snake-oil sales activities afloat. None of them will lose their private jets, fleets of expensive cars and multiple homes.

Moreover, idiots in the government are now talking about ways to bail out the greedheads who went out and got mortgages they couldn't understand or pay for so they, too, could live the unearned good life.

Now I am as big an idiot as anyone. Just ask my creditors and all the women in my life. I'm not alone. A lot of working people are sinking under the weight of debt, high prices and jobs that pay poorly. But the government has no plans -- besides a stupid "rebate" scheme that will, in the end, cost us far more than we'll get, since it is financed by borrowed money -- to help us out.

I don't even need billions. A couple hundred thousand scoots would give me a chance to get back on my feet and even take the vacation I've been putting off for 20-plus years. With a million bucks, I could do all that and own a house.

But I haven't seen any offers to bail out my poverty-stricken butt.

It's bad enough to be me and contemplate paying off all my mistakes and bad moves. It'll take a long time, if I manage it at all.

Now I -- and you -- are expected to jump in and bail out the people who made the current economic mess in the first place.

Gotta love the politicians and "economists." When it's time to leave the sinking ship, they have control over who gets the lifebelts.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Spring is here...

...and one of the local felines seems to be enjoying it...

Me? I didn't notice, the weather hasn't changed much in several days; it has been sunny and, when the wind dies down, warm.

Everything else is the same as well. Which is why I will end this entry now instead of lapsing into the obscenity-laden rants about work and certain individuals I'm all too ready to indulge in writing.

Besides, complaining would be a waste of our mutual time.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

You don't want to know...

...which is a good thing indeed, because I don't want to tell you.

It's not a good day, and I no longer have any ideas to help me deal with any of the excreta that has been flung at me.

Believe me, if I did have the slightest concept of what I should say/do/believe to put things on the right road, I'd be doing it, and not writing short, grumpy journal entries.

When my laundry gets out of the dryer, I think I'll head off for a nice, long walk.

That way, no one can contact me and the most complex interaction I'll have with people is saying "hello" to my fellow walkers.

Yes, all the unpleasant stuff will be waiting for me when I get back.

But at least I'll have had some outdoor time to think about nicer things.

Have to grab a little relaxation and relief where I can.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

I was asked... long it takes me to walk four miles. Never thought to check, but today I did.

It took me one hour, 11 minutes. And, since the one who asked is almost certainly enamored of precision to an unusual extent, 21 seconds.

There are few things I enjoy as much as answering questions when finding the answer is that easy.

Just don't ask me about how work is going so far today, please. The walk put me in a good mood, and I'm not ready to have the bubble burst yet.

Ahead of the curve...

...yes I am, by jingo, and the rest of the world is only now catching up with me.

This story proves that one of my long-held ideas actually works:

Neurosurgeon Henry Marsh used a 9.6 volt Bosch drill — which cost him $65 — to perform the emergency operation on Ukranian Marian Dolishny’s head while travelling through the woman's country.

U.K. newspaper the Daily Telegraph reported that Marsh was unable to find a suitable anesthetist — so his patient was only given a local anaesthetic to cope with the pain.

And, when the cordless drill’s battery died, Marsh was forced to finish the operation by hand to save Dolishny’s life, the newspaper said. Marsh said he kept talking to his patient throughout the surgery to make sure he wasn't causing any brain damage.

“I'm not recommending that we should all use do-it-yourself drills in England, but it shows how with improvisation you can achieve a lot,” Marsh said. “I couldn't bear to stand by and do nothing. A Ukrainian doctor told me I couldn't do anything to help but I wasn't prepared to accept that.”

Yes, more than once I've looked at my trusty cordless drill -- a Craftsman, by the way -- and have thought, "damn, I could drill right in there and pull out the bad stuff that's messing up my brain's wiring!"

Hmmmm. The kindly Dr Marsh drilled open someone else's noggin to save her life. I'm thinking of it more as a do-it-yourself thing. And I'll keep my even-more-trusty hand drill close by, just in case.

I'm still ahead of the curve!

Guess I'd better go put that puppy on the charger. This could be a good day to operate....

Monday, March 17, 2008

A non-day...

...which is a hell of a thing to say on St Paddy's Day, isn't it?

I could have been out drinking green beer and tipsily singing "Danny Boy." Well, if I had staggered into a particular Irish bar in New York City, I wouldn't have done the latter: the bartender there decreed a ban on singing "Danny Boy" and got himself into the headlines for it.

I had two connections to the good saint's day. When I went out for my walk this morning -- four miles -- I noticed that the clerk at the Happy Hindu market was handing out stick-on sparkly shamrocks. She gave me one.

She looks Irish, anyway, something her boss, Singh, and his brothers, cousins and sons who work there definitely do not.

Not much later, the day plunged into the toilet.

I spent a fair amount of time scouring some websites that were recommended to me as having lots of job leads -- still doing what I do, but with luck covering different subjects for different clients -- and came away with eyestrain, but no leads. I appreciated the suggestion, and will return to the sites again, but the first foray was disappointing as hell.

After that, it was time to attempt some contacts via telephone. Again, no success. None of the people I was hunting are Irish, so should have been in their offices. No matter; they are unreachable on most days, anyway,

And of course the mailbox was empty.

There were a few moments of human contact. The first was photographer D., reporting that he had no luck getting hold of anyone we do, could or should work for. The other was my friend R., reporting on the weekend in Detroit. Talking to R. was, as always, a pleasure; D. just depressed me more.

The day flew by. Unproductively. I dislike that. When conditions are right, I love to work.

At the end of the day, when I was craving a good, stiff shot of (Irish) whiskey and a cigarette -- both of which I resisted, as I have since getting back here -- a neighbor knocked on the door. He had cooked an Irish dinner for his family, and brought me some: corned beef, boiled cabbage, potatoes and a cupcake with green icing. All served up on a green plastic plate.

Funny, he looks about as Irish as Barack O'bama. But he can cook anything. Deliciously.

I hope all you Emerald Isle types had a lovely day.

For me, it was another day I could easily have done without.

Oh, well. There's always tomorrow. And Wednesday.

Where's my leprechaun? I'm not greedy; not asking for the pot o' gold. Silver would do.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

It rained here after all...

...a day later than the forecasts predicted, and in quantity sufficient only to spot the pavement. Clouds formed late this afternoon, spat some wet stuff, and are now dissipating.

They created a colorful sunset, though...

I'm feeling a bit grim tonight, I must admit. I've spent the afternoon wrapping up an article for a client I've spent four largely enjoyable years working for. Unfortunately, it's the last piece I'll be doing for them, as the editor -- the third or fourth I've worked with during that time -- convinced the publisher my regular space could be better filled by something of more "local interest."

Excuse me while I disagree, but it's not my decision to make.

This didn't bring in much money, but these days the loss of any income is not good. Moreover, it was a straightforward bit of work I could do, and do well, without any particular drama or problems.

The email telling me I've been broomed from the magazine's pages was waiting for me when I came home from the hospital. I haven't been able to work up the energy to put in any time on the final piece I owe them since them.

But the copy deadline is now a mere four days away, and I'm not missing that. Hell, I've never missed a deadline with them. That's one of the reasons -- aside from pretty fine writing that never needed editing -- they liked me. A previous editor once told me that my articles were the best in the magazine. Having read some of what else they've published, I have to agree.

Being the best isn't enough to save my gig, though.

And that brings me down.


One foot in front of the other... I resumed my get-Scrib's-ugly-butt-in-shape program, walking three miles after two lethargic, wasted days.

It's a beautiful, picture-postcard kind of day: sunny, cloudless, warmer...

But on my way back from the 1.5 mile turnaround, I decided to explore one of the walkways that leads downhill, away from the street. Squint at that first picture (or, better still, click on it to enlarge), and you can see the path.... I ended up looking back at the point from which photo #1 was taken, but maybe 50-75 feet below the road...

There, I found a little bit of paradise, a picnic area nestled into the cliffside...

Another stairway led from there down another 30-50 feet to the water's edge, but I decided to save it for tomorrow's walk...

And headed, past all the familiar local spots, back to the pad...

I'm feeling much better today. Except for the occasional mild episode of nasal drainage, quite normal, in fact.

A pot of green tea is capping the morning off quite nicely, thank you.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Nothing... what I have to report tonight. The day began with a mild disappointment and suddenly it's 8:58 p.m. and that's all I can really say about it.

The weather has changed. It's chilly and windy here. The predicted rain is moving by some miles to the north; the skies are generally clear.

Thus the disappointment: I shortened my morning walk because I don't enjoy walking into that cutting wind off the ocean. There were a couple of added disappointments, but they have become almost routine. When checks are so long overdue, why waste energy getting upset when they don't arrive yet again?

Worst of all, I have a mild cold. Nothing to do with the recent unpleasantness, but the same dumb damn cold I get whenever there is a radical change in temperature: stuffed sinuses and weepy eyes, and a loss of energy.

I'm hoping it will be warmer tomorrow. The only thing I know to do against feeling lethargic is to go out and push things a bit. Walking five miles would do it, but I'll be happy with three. I get angry with myself when I give in and sit around idle, as I did today. I don't need to be mad at me; I'll leave that to others.

Fortunately, I noticed a good book on the shelf this afternoon that I haven't read in years. Time to give it another go.

And that's the way it is.

Friday, March 14, 2008

All things considered...

...I'd rather be in Detroit right now.

Did I just say that? Considering what I've seen of the ex-Motor City (numerous burgs in Tennessee, Alabama and other states challenge for that name now, along with a few sites in Canada and Mexico) over the years, that's roughly like saying "I'd rather be in Tehran."

But it's true, nonetheless. This coming Sunday is the day my friend R. puts on a concert there, and before my recent financial and health meltdowns, I'd planned to fly back for the show and some pre- and post-performance partying and music-making. A suitable group of players, including R.'s beautiful wife, had been assembled to make it even more fun.

Heck, I even bought an extra memory card for my digi, and had a pile of blank CDs ready so I could bring the various performances (which R. will be recording) home with me.

PARENTHETICAL IT'S-NOT-A-TOTAL-LOSS THOUGHT: He has promised to burn a set of discs of music and photos for me anyway, and send 'em out here. A good guy, as I've so often said.

So now I'm feeling a bit morose. I really wanted to be there. The man is fast becoming a giant musically; even if we weren't great friends, I'd want to hear him. That goes double considering the instrument he'll be playing, which I heard "live" back in 1967 and fell in love with.

R. is too kind to say so, but he might be breathing a small sigh of relief. One staple of his performances is letting the audience request tunes they want to hear in addition to his own predetermined tunelist; I never got totally specific about what I might call out for, but hinted at one point that he might consider doing some woodshedding on Frank Foster, some of whose great tunes written for Count Basie's orchestra might be a bit of a stretch for any solo artist, even him.

One day, I'll get my chance.

But not this weekend, doggone it, and I was looking forward to it, big-time.

I have a zillion recordings -- including some of R.'s best work -- but there is nothing in the world like being on the scene when great music is being made.

And to think there was a time when I took that for granted, because I had the incredible good fortune of spending a great deal of time around two of the greatest musicians ever to sit down to keyboards. I almost got used to hearing them.

No more, Jim. It's a musical desert out there now, and I'm thirsting to hear good sounds from top performers.

A substitute trip to R.'s home grounds is being planned, but that can't happen before midsummer at the earliest. Too far away.

Nonetheless, I hope R. rocks the paying customers on Sunday.

I know he will.


That would be me....

Curious about how some unfamiliar visitors got to this here space, I checked and found that I am currently #4 on Google's list when people search for Lefkos Hajji (see previous entry).

It amuses me, anyway.

But then I'm easily amused.


I sometimes feel as if I have problems with women.

No, make that: I always feel as if I have problems with women.

But this isn't about me.

Consider the sad plight of a Brit called Lefkos Hajji. (I don't know why all male Brits are no longer called "Sidney" or "Reginald" or "Simon.") His story was reported by Reuters:

LONDON (Reuters) - It is the one moment every man wants to get right -- and which London floor-fitter Lefkos Hajji could hardly have got more wrong.

The luckless 28 year-old's dreams of giving his sweetheart, Leanne, 26, the ultimate proposal have literally vanished into thin air.

Hajji, of Hackney, east London, had concealed a $12,000 engagement ring inside a helium balloon. The idea was that she would pop the balloon as he popped the question.

But as he left the shop, a gust of wind pulled the balloon from his hand and he watched the ring -- and quite possibly the affections of his girlfriend -- sailing away over the rooftops.

"I couldn't believe it," he told The Sun newspaper.

"I just watched as it went further and further into the air.

"I felt like such a plonker. It cost a fortune and I knew my girlfriend would kill me."

But, in the British Bulldog tradition, Hajji persevered. No, he didn't fight on the beaches or fight in the streets, but it did take him a long time to surrender. It is reported that he spent two hours driving around the area looking for the errant balloon.

Sadly, good intentions and perseverance did not warm the heart of the intended Mrs Hajji.

"...I had to tell her the story -- she went absolutely mad. Now she is refusing to speak to me until I get her a new ring."

I sympathize, Lefkos. I really do.

At least you got farther than I have. In recent years, my dreams of proposals have always deflated long before the balloon went up (so to speak).

I feel like such a plonker, too. On a regular basis.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Two weeks ago today...

...I was looking at this same view, had my hands on the wooden porch-rail you see...

It was different today.

Today, I could breathe. I wasn't listening for the sounds of an ambulance headed this way.

And I didn't have Holly and Ernie trying to convince me I wasn't dying.

When you get right down to it, it's a pretty damn nice view, all things considered. Mainly because I was here today to enjoy it.

I'm pretty grateful for that. To the hospital, the paramedics, and all the wonderful friends who made me realize that it really does matter that I'm here.

But mainly, my gratitude to Holly and Ernie is steadfast. Stronger today, in fact.

About "Jim."

I try to work Jim, the anonymous offstage pair of ears to which one can direct comments (usually complaining, despairing or sarcastic), into my act whenever I can.

He's had one hell of a history.

I'm not as versed in the world of Old Hipsterism as I'd like to be, but I know Jim was out there during performances by Redd Foxx, Lenny Bruce and several other comedians. He didn't work with Moms Mabley as far as I know, but she had a rich cast of her own.

Likewise, I have reason to believe he sat in on some Cab Calloway sets, probably when Cab was feuding with Miles Davis.

PARENTHETICAL DAMN-I-FEEL-ELDERLY-THIS-MORNING THOUGHT: Are you hip to any of these people? Do these names ring any bells in your consciousness? They all helped make me who I am today, and are as unknown now as Earl "Madman" Muntz and eight-track audio cassettes. Feh.

I know Jim didn't hang with Samuel ("a verbal contract isn't worth the paper it's printed on") Goldfish -- formerly known as Schmuel Gelbfisz; later Sam Goldwyn -- but he should have.

You can't imagine what it's like to have a dumpster of a mind that is never emptied of trivia. Some of what's in there, such as my fluency in 1920s-1930s "jive" talk and its subset, musician slang, and Yiddish -- have atrophied from non-use. If I could hang out with the studs who spoke that way again, it'd all come back. But I can't, since they're all gone to the big Nite Club in the sky.

So much color, gone forever.

I only mention this because my friend JohnO blamed Jim for some typing errors in comments he left here, and I know damn well Jim never claimed to be able to type.

There was a guy who had an invisible white rabbit named "Harvey" to talk to. I've got Jim. And if I'm the last cat to keep Jim in his routine, so be it.

Gotta tell you we're playing to a tough audience here, Jim.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Any landing you walk away from... simply one hell of a good "teaser" to use for a title.

Actually, my return to "professional" life went off hitch-free today. I was nice, I did what I had to do, and the story won't be all that hard to complete. I think D. got some good photos, too.

I found myself not worrying at all. It's like riding a bicycle, in a way. The most difficult thing is to "read" the people you have to work with. In this instance, one was a nut-job, excessively fussy about what I needed to do to get necessary information, fairly reluctant to cooperate beyond being short, the rule more than the exception in this part of my game.

The other was a jewel. A genuinely nice guy, with enough perspective (and sense of humor) to make my work relaxing. Heaven knows he should be the model for people I have to deal with.

My memory is intact, enough so that I remembered where in my masses of research material I needed to look for data. All that is now piled on my desk -- forget what I said earlier about getting my apartment cleaned up (especially the office) as I can't worry about neatness when I need to have stuff readily at hand.

I was right to be concerned, in the sense that I honestly didn't know whether I still had the intellectual powers, emotional stability and some recently unused skills to actually be as good as I want to be. To my relief, all seems more-or-less normal.

It must be said that I wasn't quite as eager as before. That comes from a changed outlook and a wish to set new priorities for what I do. Doesn't mean I can't do what I have to do, for as long as I have to do it.

Today was a day when I encountered exceptional beauty in my neighborhood. More than usual, for sure.

One example I can show you is this stranger that happened to cross my path...

The streets Where The Ghetto Meets The Sea are not filled with 1960 Ferrari 250 GT coupes, doggone it.

Give me that lucky lotto ticket, and there would be another one around here on a more regular basis, Jim.

It was a very, very nice day today. I have hopes for tomorrow.


Yes, I am.

In less than half an hour, photographer D. will stop by, and we'll head off to put together the first article I've taken on since, well, the events of the last two fun-filled weeks.

I'm not sure I can handle it. I expect no problems, but until I actually start taking notes, asking questions, being Mr Nice Guy to the people who are helping out and applying my ability to analyze and turn impressions into words, I have no idea if I'm going to do it right or drop the ball. In this instance, the latter could have serious consequences.

The confidence issue is a strange one. I've mentioned the suspicion that my brain got altered somehow during the recent trauma, and that I am less capable as a result. Now I'll have some proof. The feelings are not as clear as suddenly finding that radishes look blue or the sky is green; no, it's the subtle hints that have me wondering.

No one sees this but me. It has been said that my writing may actually be better now than it was in my past life, but those who say so base it on my journal-writing, which is as different from actual writing-for-a-living as chalk is from cheese.

The biggest curse of age or any serious illness, seems to me, is a diminution of one's ability to do what earns one a living or is most enjoyable.

Has that happened? I'll know in a couple of hours.

Right now, though, the possibility is making me more than a little crazy.

Morning update...

...which is, simply stated, that I walked only three miles this morning.

No pictures.

It was warm, but somewhat gray and gloomy.

And I am smiling.

What a nice, nice morning!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Melancholy... what I am today. I was planning to write about it, but what the hell. Been there, done that, and couldn't explain it properly if I tried again.

So instead, some photos from this morning's walk (4.5 miles!), views which distracted me momentarily.

The weather was slightly different from that of the past two mornings. The color of the light had shifted, and the ocean (including fishing boats) was enveloped in an eerie haze...

Some parts of my neighborhood remind me a little bit of the Mediterranean. Or is that just me wishing I could be strolling the narrow streets of Palma, Mallorca again, this time with a lover to be named later...?

But it's also a nice neighborhood -- and was a nice day -- for peacocks...

And if Buick Rivieras must die, what better place for them to meet their end?

Even when I'm sad, it's a pretty place.

Eliot, you dumb schmuck...

...or, just another self-righteous do-gooder getting his tail caught in a crack.

There's a kind of smarmy pleasure to be derived from watching a sanctimonious bastard like New York's governor taking a fall, isn't there? His schtick has gotten close to being a cliche for politicians, evangelists and anyone else in the public eye: Mr Do-Right, the pillar of rectitude, guardian of your morals, suddenly revealed as a plain ol' grubby low-life.

Yup, you have to love it. Although I surprised myself a bit when the scandal broke yesterday: I realized that my usual knee-jerk reaction -- one based on seeing political leanings I oppose being held up as hypocritical, a desire to see those who flout morality get stomped and the normal desire to see arrogance take it on the chin -- just wasn't happening.

I'm getting tired of seeing people hurt other people, I guess. Spitzer's family doesn't deserve to get caught up in all the drama. And I'm saddened by the glee that people who feed off of politics -- the bloggers, the talk-show hosts -- are displaying. As if not a single one of them doesn't have their own grim little human foibles locked away behind a facade of morality and "rightness."

Oh, I do. I mean, I haven't ever signed up with a prostitution service or anything like that, but I've been in life too long to consider myself without sin. You swim with turds, you get smeared.

But at least I don't suggest that I have some better notions of how people should think and live than they do.

Moreover, I'm too familiar with the stereotypical reactions to want to hear them again. Everything from "he's a godless Democrat, whattya expect?" to "he's male and therefore thinks with his schwantz." I've heard all those reactions, and more, and frankly am tired of 'em.

Let it not be forgotten that, while Spitzer was getting jiggy with some high-dollar noffka in a hotel room, said female was not exactly Miss Innocence: she was raking in the big bucks and stands a good chance of clearing quite a few more from similar future horizontal and tell-all activities. We all know politicians and pillars of righteousness tend to be both whores and patrons of whores, all at once. Where's the surprise?

So there we are. I think Spitzer should haul butt out of public office instantly, and never again make any pronouncements on what anyone should do. I disagree with damn near everything he stands for, and suppose by reason of having accepted a life in the public eye he deserves to go in the tank when he screws up.

What it all comes down to is this: I judge you, you judge me. It's human nature. I try to take the sting out of it by being forthcoming about the basic fact that I have feet of clay, but it hurts like hell when people find me wanting in important areas. Even less-important ones.

I know how easy it is to slip up in small ways. I suppose if I had the access big-shots do, I'd find out about slipping up in big ways, too. Since I'm sick of being dismissed for my less-than stellar qualities, I'm putting a lot of effort into not judging harshly when the mighty -- or the not-so mighty -- take a dive. If Spitzer can't see how monumentally he has betrayed those close to him, it's not my place to tell him. I've been where his family are now, and I have heard all the rationalizations. And I've dispensed a little pain here and there as well.

I remember a line from a Kurt Vonnegut novel: "God Damn it kids, you've got to be kind."

I'm not all that swell at it myself. I'm trying.

And if those who think themselves above acting morally and kindly don't like it, it would be a favor to our unhappy world if they would simply go away and spare us the fuss.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Did I ever thank all of you?

No, I did not. At least not adequately. And I can't even do it now.

Cards, messages, calls, flowers, visits...all appreciated, all cherished.

I would not know how to begin to express my appreciation without sounding stupid, disingenuous. And I'd hate to leave out a single person.

You are great, great people. And that goes especially for those who say "wish I could have done more." You don't know how much you actually did.

I believe, with so many of you, that this outpouring represented what friendship should be. But I have to say it's also what friendship seldom is.

In that sense, your responses were a wake-up call of sorts for me. My greatest enemy for those first crucial few days was an overwhelming feeling of loneliness. It couldn't stand up to the assault of kindness.

So accept this as my inadequate but sincere expression of gratitude to each and every one of you. It's overdue, but I hope will be accepted.

It's that time of year...

...and, as I have for the last seven years of apartment "living," I'm wishing I had a house with a garden to dig in.

Especially one where there's a guard for the hose...

Where the desert...

...meets the sea, at White Point Park.


Set out for this morning's walk and, when I reached the turnaround point at 1.5 miles, it was such a beautiful day that I felt compelled to go the extra (half) mile. So I did.

There are some pretty unusual aspects to this little part of the world. First, despite the best efforts of William Mulholland back in the day and all the idiots in local government now, this is still a desert (and a relatively fragile one, at that) running right down to the the water's edge. Many of the artifacts that "define" SoCal -- such as palm trees -- were imported. Native vegetation tends toward the kind of scrubby, nasty stuff you see in dry, hostile environments.

From my perspective, knowing that water is indeed available as needed, there is a magic to those rare days when you can feel the desert's influence in the relentless sunshine and in the weight of the air, take in its dusty odor -- it's not all man-made pollution, no matter what the greens tell you -- and almost taste a unique tang of ocean salt and desert sand.

With the temperature up close to 75 and a brisk walking pace, I managed to work up a good sweat. Damn near perfect, I'd say.

Oh, yes. I did take a couple of photos, but the Blogspot photo server is being "difficult" so I'll put 'em up later.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

The week ahead... now only a few hours away, and there are already some hitches in my so-called "plan."

I had intended to do nothing much at all (except for cleaning, walking and relaxing) through at least Thursday. I figured no one would deny my the chance to have two full weeks of recovery time, right?

Nuh-uh. Wrong.

I have two articles to put together this week, and will have to make sure my, well, "motor skills" are back to 100%. I knew I'd have to break down and do one, but photographer D. -- who was, it must be said, very kind to me while I was laid up -- went ahead and set one up for Wednesday assuming I'd be wholly functional and ready to go by then.

I'm not exactly saying I'm afraid to get back into the world. But a few things happened while I was "away" that will make life more difficult, and of course there are new financial and other hurdles to surmount.

There's a different "me" here, too, and for those who would minimize the effect of this time and the various physical traumas involved, I can only say I'm not sure how I will react to some of the issues ahead. That bugs me. Even if not always the sharpest knife in the drawer, I have long reacted to whatever came along in ways predictable to me. Not so now. This is the most bothersome aspect of what lies ahead.

There's no panic in my head, but rather a kind of what-the-hell acceptance of whatever gets lobbed my way this week.

I mean, It's all small stuff. The really big things, the ones that will have considerable effect on the quality and duration of my life, aren't even on the radar this week, or are at most the smallest of far-off blips.

Strange to me that the simplest part of what I have to do, what I have been doing for what seems like forever -- which is to punch out a couple of rhythmic, elegant strings of words for editors -- is bugging me in a completely new way.

I'll be interested to see how I do.


...another day of intensified beauty and heightened sensitivity to what is around me. More, I fear, than my camera can keep up with...

From this morning...

Had to do it...

...after very little time spent on cleaning, I had to get outdoors. It was one of those perfect mornings here: slightly cool yet with warm sunlight, a little fog around the edges and those pretty airbrushed clouds above.

I'll go for a walk, I thought. Wake up those muscles.

And I did.

I'm pretty proud of myself: it has taken me a mere 10 days to go from being apprentice compost to walking three miles nonstop and feeling absolutely no ill aftereffects. In fact, I didn't feel this loose and relaxed after similar walks back in the day. Must be the aerodynamic advantage of being beardless...I just slice through the air....

Photos to follow in a bit. Need to get onto the cleaning trail before I find another excuse to slack off.

Spring ahead!... ass.

The transition to (or from) Daylight Savings Time always weirds me out, and today was no exception. I woke with the dawn, but now it was somewhere around 7:00 instead of my more normal 6:00. So I was mad at myself for staying in bed so late, even though I needed only to look at my watch (which I forgot to reset last night) to remember how the "late to rise" bit came to be....

I'm not what you'd call good at doing mornings anyway. Oh, I was, and the conditions that once made me so could be so easily duplicated once again, but the plain fact is that I start grouchy and work my way down from there.

In another 40 minutes (it being 8:20 right now) I can start the Big Cleanup. Much bumping of furniture and dragging of trash necessities from place to place while I scrub away the underlying gunk.

This offends me. Part of the reason for the mess is that the environment here is simply foul, and if you are like me and prefer to live with windows open, you will end up living hip-deep in diesel soot, dirt, dust and birdshit.

Of course the fact that I have, for various unacceptable reasons, been too damn depressed to keep up with the cleaning for the past six months or so factors in as well.

If I could afford it, I'd hire someone to come in here and sanitize the whole ugly mess while I went off and sunned myself at the beach. But if I did that, I'd have to then have them hit so they couldn't talk about what they saw.

Or I could just throw in a match and clean the place out that way.

Several ways of tying this all together and bringing a kind of sense to it come to mind, but in the interest of avoiding having anyone asking "what did he mean?" and forcing me to thus come up with answers sufficiently evasive/diplomatic to keep them from worrying or getting cranky with me, I think I will go have my bowl of morning Healthy Goodness and psych myself up for some good, old-fashioned Mindless Labor.

I'm already an hour behind schedule, you know.

Saturday, March 08, 2008


Yup, having to wonder how -- if ever -- I wind up the series of entries about the recent upheaval in my life. There are a number of experiences at the hospital I've avoided getting into, for a variety of reasons, including not being certain I remember some of them correctly. Amid a lot of unhappy times and unhappy people, perhaps the occasional moment of amusement, but I'm not even sure about that.

It occurs to me that I will never be through with writing this post-death saga in a way, as altered perceptions have changed everything for me. So the post Feb. 29th Me will have a far different take on things than the Old Version. This is a source of both wonderment and confusion for me. I don't like some of what I think and say now, but on the whole the New Guy is a better package.

I have to say that, given my druthers, Scrib II would have been a little more forceful, a little more demanding, and a little better equipped to get people to do what he wants instead of acquiescing to their wishes with as much grace as he can muster while watching personal dreams and desires fade.

Oh, what the hell. I'd probably screw up as badly as an unprincipled jerk as I do as a would-be Nice Guy. So forget that.

My attention span seems to have shortened a bit, and I'm betting that's rooted in some kind of organic damage. Well, no, I'm not entirely sure of that. What I don't do well now is things like listening to radio commentators, reading pompous opinions on issues that don't affect me or accepting "conventional wisdom" that seems unfounded, distorted and cant-filled. That means I don't listen to politicians as well as I did, say, nine days ago.

And I have yet to finally have the 100% breakdown that has threatened since a week ago Thursday. It starts, then stops. Could come in the next minute, week or month. Damn, I feel sorry for the person who happens to be around when that load of excreta hits the fan.

Just had nice organic vegetarian pasta for dinner. Amazing. A five-minute walk could put a bag of BBQ-flavor potato chips in one hand, a pack of Winstons in the other but I haven't even felt that much of an urge. Yet, anyway. I am so damn proud of myself!

When you have premonitions that the important good things -- beyond the victory of survival -- will elude you, you gotta pat yourself on the back for not doing bad things, no?

I just read this. Although it represents my train of thought accurately, I see it is unlikely to make sense to any rational human. And I'm sober, too. Honest.

Enough. Bedtime.

Tomorrow begins the Big Apartment Cleanup. I love the smell of carpet shampoo in the morning....

It's warm and pretty...

...the weather, that is.

My little unofficial rehab program goes on. I managed to walk roughly 1.25 or so miles to the park and back today, on a roundabout route including some uphill walking, with less shortness of breath than I expected and no other potential problems I could find.

My legs ache, though. Tough beans to them.

Still, I couldn't go much farther, and feel satisfied with this pathetic jaunt. Yeah, I, who used to toss off four-mile walks as if they were nothing. Wimp.

Took my camera, too, but found little to aim it at...

I need more warm and pretty in my life. And that's all I have to say on the subject.

It's no coincidence...

...that the first three letters of the word "diet" are d, i and e. I mean, I've had doctors tell me to make changes in my ingestive habits before, but since there really seemed no downside to continuing in my evil ways my efforts to obey were, at best, desultory.

It's different this time.

While not given an actual list of things to delete from my eating and other habits, enough was said to make things pretty clear. No cigarettes, no alcohol (or, at best very moderate consumption), minimal salt, minimal fat, bleep-de-bleep bloop-de-bloop.

I'm gonna be one a them new-age yuppies eating rabbit food and paying double for "organic" fruits and vegetables that look like rejects from factory-farm output.

The change has begun with breakfast, once an irregular but hefty meal for me. The Old Me would have enjoyed (emphasis on the word "enjoy!") a big, gooey cheese, avocado, bacon omelet at a local restaurant. With home fries or hash browns on the side. And an English muffin. This morning? "Woven multigrain" cereal, dusted with organic brown sugar and soaked in 2% milk.

I allowed myself a cup of coffee, though. Cuban espresso roast. It's impossible to abandon every last addiction.

I've been eating very lightly (for me) and remarkably well, a process that began with paying attention to those "nutrition information" panels on various food products. Not knowing what I'm doing, I simply avoid stuff that has noticeable quantities of nastiness (sodium, fats, etc.) and trust to luck.

The good news is that I've always liked so-called "natural" foods, though my mother was a lousy cook and stuff with more additives and unnatural flavors tended to taste better.

The bad news is I also like crap foods. So far, the no-smoking thing has been easier than expected, but I'm jonesing for Mexican food and that wonderful greasy, MSG-laden Chinese takeaway. The wrapper for an In-n-Out Burger would probably undo all the health gains I've made since coming home.

The best news is that while I graze through all my new, healthier food, my diet is getting a wonderful supplement in the form of a friend's decision to treat me to some of her cooking while I recover from all the hospital crap and get re-oriented. She's been into this good-eating stuff for a long time, so I know all the veggies in her dishes were slaughtered humanely, and all cows had their meditation and yoga classes before joining the food chain.

Ah, God, such delicious meals!

I have lost considerable weight in the last nine days -- not eating for five days will do that, especially when followed by hospital food of stereotypical awfulness -- and that has made me feel better. I don't know how much good quitting smoking has done -- no lectures, please; I'm talking real results, not that smug "doing what's best for me" bilge -- but muscles that have less lard to carry around seem happier.

Would I give up all this better-living stuff, the increased health, weight-loss and other benefits for a gooey omelet or even a handful of Chee-Tos? Damn skippy I would, buckaroos.

Oh well. Breakfast is over, and I can plan my midday feast. Probably tandoori bread spread with vegetarian hummus, with a cup of green tea to wash it down.

And all I can think of are the words of the immortal Redd Foxx:

"I know some of you don't smoke, don't drink, don't eat pork...'cause you wanna live. You gonna feel like a damn fool lyin' there in the hospital dyin' from nothin'."

There's a part of me that agrees with him completely, even now. And all of me laughs.

A night of rare beauty...

...and I decided to head out for a stroll around the block. This was my sixth lap today; the strength is building, so slowly.

The night sky is incredible. Clear save for some light clouds, despite the heavy glow inland the stars appear to be a million deep tonight, and you feel as if you can see every one. The ocean is calm, and the lights of a few small fishing boats rock in the gentle swells.

Some neighbor (don't know who) left a pot of fine-smelling stew at my doorstep. People just won't let go of me.

Wish I felt well enough to walk all through the beautiful night. I can't remember seeing one so fine here before.

So why -- aside from my current fragile condition -- do I feel simultaneously elated and sad? There is no "aside from;" all is part of all else. It's just the joy of existing in a gorgeous night-world, and the sadness of something I don't want to talk about.

All I can do is head off to sleep, and hope the next magic night like this one does not lack its key ingredient.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Not going to go for the details...

...but I had a look at myself in the mirror after taking a shower today, and I'm lookin' pretty darn ugly.

Not the usual ugly, but I'm still covered with odd bruises, scrapes, welts and, worst of all, a zillion little circles and rectangles of left-behind adhesive that doesn't seem to want to scrub away. There's a patch or two of missing body hair as well.

It's not as if women have ever lined up for a chance to behold me in glorious living nudity, but I'm feeling like 10th Prize in the "Date the Swamp Thing's Exact Lookalike" contest.

Oh, yeah. I shaved my beard off within an hour of getting home from the hospital the other day. Until I get enough sun to blend in some patches that hadn't seen light for some three decades, I have an odd simian appearance about the mouth and chin.

It was a symbolic thing, if you care. I decided the guy who died on Feb. 29 was the bearded one. Weird, I know.

Surly to bed, and surly to rise...

...makes you like me. I'm angry, depressed, frustrated and generally feel like a piece of dung today.

Oh, you say, I should look on the bright side, right? I mean, I did manage to walk a whole two blocks today before jacking it in. It's a lovely day, too.

But I'm not entirely willing to be satisfied with what is, you know, even though some very wise people have counseled me to take that approach.

One of the casualties of recent events was patience. We could have a interesting discussion about "somedays;" my outlook was never very good in that regard, and has now worsened markedly.

Still, my plan is to relax for a while and then try strolling another two blocks. Thinking is off the list for a few days, so I'll try to avoid that.

And I'll try to think positively.

Hey, it works! I'm positive I'm in a bad mood!

Thursday, March 06, 2008

R. I. P. Me.

I've been wanting to write about this. I've been dreading writing about it.

Last Thursday, sometime during the late morning (I think), I died in the emergency room of a local hospital, with doctors, nurses, paramedics and two friends in attendance.

People here and in so-called "real life" (which is a somewhat small piece of turf for me these days) have been asking what it was like to punch out for the last time.

I'm going to try to tell you. It won't be easy. Some of what I know is second-hand (I was comatose), some of it wasn't pretty; some of what was beautiful then has turned ugly since. Some of my attempts at "humor" may offend, some of my views will surely offend some religious folks.

Believe me: while writing this, I will be laughing and weeping, reliving the experience, Hope with me that I hear no sirens, lest I hit the delete key; it's a sound that wigs me out now.

You must know that my attitudes about many things have been altered as if by an earthquake. Much of what I think (or "know") has not formed fully yet. I am a changed person; not sure what I have changed into as of now.

I'll report. You decide.

Or not. This is more personal, I think, than anything I've ever put in a journal. I know it's affecting me just to think about what to say.

It really began when I was loaded into the paramedic ambulance. The same guy who rode with me on the trip the day before was there today. I could tell he was in a much bigger hurry this time, more intensely concerned with my state.

I told him, as I told Ernie and Holly, that I was dying. I know I told the paramedic to just take me to the Alpo plant so I could be useful. I didn't want to die, you can bet; I was in considerable discomfort. But it seemed a done deal.

And I will say that the fear I saw in Holly's eyes hurt worse than my own knowledge of my impending demise. No one should be treated to an ugly display like that. I was sure I was dying, sure I felt guilty about doing it front of anyone who mattered to me.

Inside the ambulance, the tech kept telling me to relax and I'd be okay. I told him I would not. I kept trying to pull off the oxygen mask (not just a nasal tube like he'd used the day before). It felt as if it was sucking air out of my body.

I remember our arrival at the hospital. It was warm and sunny outside. As the doors to the E.R. opened and I was pushed inside, I wanted them to turn the gurney around. I wanted to die in the open air. The darkness inside was going to kill me.

I remember nothing else for a while. I have no recollection of the nurses cutting off my clothing, inserting an airway, starting all the drugs and fluids flowing that keep people alive. I did not see my eyes gyrating, my chest heaving for air denied to it, my death-pale skin, the last struggles of muscles about to surrender. Those things were seen and reported to me later.

One final look into Holly's eyes, filled with fear, sadness and -- I hoped -- love, and I was gone away from that room.

I couldn't describe where I was. Call it a void; no shape, no color. It certainly had nothing to do with the "experts'" tales of golden light, heavenly choirs and Jesus-as-game-show-host welcoming you to the Happy Hereafter.

The first thing I saw was Hobbes, my cat who died last year. He was alive, looking at me.

The I saw my music teacher, also now alive again. Finally, I saw my sister, felled so many years ago by an aneurysm. No sounds, no nothing. They were there. They existed. If I wasn't also dead, I wouldn't see them. I understood that clearly.

And then -- to use an unfortunate cliche -- all hell broke loose. Hobbes and the two people about whom I cared so much vanished.

Again, I can offer no physical descriptions of what I "saw." Allow me yet another cliche: you wouldn't understand if you didn't see it, would if you did. That's not me making a judgment; it's what is.

I have a sense that more than one person -- or at least the "conscious" (soul, if you want) of more than one person -- was mad at me, indeed. I was being shown a kind of highlight film of my greatest mistakes. If I ever lied, hurt, offended or cheated anyone (and I did), I got to sit through it again.

In the background, there was a sound. I couldn't tell you what it was, couldn't discern pitch, but it was getting louder, a monstrous and frightening sort of humming. Trying to relive (so to speak) the moment, I have a feeling now that once the volume reached a certain peak, whatever was "me" -- that business of souls and consciousnesses is damn tricky -- was going to cease to exist.

I won't tell you (or anyone else, ever) what misdeeds I was taking the most heat for. Be assured that this was not a court of judgment; it was a place to kick the shit out of whatever self-respect I had.

And then it all stopped. Nothing. Over.

I have a vision in my mind of seeing, but being unable to hear or speak. I'm told I was revived, on a ventilator, in a room in Intensive Care. I opened my eyes and saw Holly's lovely eyes looking at me with love and concern. I felt her hands on mine, saw her lips move: "I love you." I sense her pulling me, somehow. I'm convinced I would be somewhere -- or nowhere -- else without her.

PARENTHETICAL NOBODY-CAN-UNDERSTAND EXPLANATORY THOUGHT: I am quite convinced Holly is thoroughly irritated with my adoration of her. I loved her before, but that certainty of her saving my life -- and not in a vague metaphorical way -- works so deeply into one's system that the feelings it evokes transcend anything to do with sex appeal or any other elements of normal "relationships."

No matter what she says or does or doesn't say or doesn't do from this day on, she will have a full measure of my devotion and love. It's as if she has a prepaid phone card from the soul. Doesn't mean she ever has to see or talk to me again; hell, she can throw rocks through my windows. She has done her good deed, and I can't imagine anything changing my positive view of that or of her.

But I will always be no more than a call away. I mean, she saved my life. You don't forget little things like that.

Okay. So there were a few moments of relative clarity, in which I understood that I was a) alive and b) feeling pretty damn miserable. Basically, I have no conception of time at all between the moment of death on Thursday and some time on Sunday.

As soon as I regained a reasonable amount of consciousness, I was convinced that I died. I have since received some pieces of proof.

What did I learn? Not sure I believe in God, but I surely know there is some kind of creative force behind the universe and everything in it.

If there is a God, I'm gonna say He is more like the Old Testament God of sometimes unrighteous and unjustified wrath, hellfire and brimstone than the sanitized Mr Nice God the happy-clappy churches try to sell.

If what I was in was a sort of Purgatory, I know a lot of people who will zoom through in the afterlife's equivalent of '59 Cad convertibles, sipping tropical Adult Beverages from glasses with little umbrellas on 'em,, while others will have a much worse time in the molten-lave hot tubs than I did.

Yeah, that's all been reduced to crappy metaphors. Because my sense of the whole thing is once you've done the crime, you will do the time, and there is no such thing as "forgiveness." Pay up, then vanish.

I think I've stepped on damn near every major religion there is by now. Sorry. But it was not a pretty sight and doesn't fit in with any known theology I've checked into.

Well, maybe Judaism. I kind of hope so, because it means there's a good chance that all of you will run into this dude with a robe who looks like Jackie Mason and will say something like: "Oy, him you listened to? What a schmeckele he was, so we dumped extra-heavy on him. From nothing is what he knows. You want a Yoo-Hoo or a Dr Brown's soda with your Hebrew National kosher dog?"

FINAL PARENTHETICAL NOW-THAT-I'M-ALIVE THOUGHT: You'll have to decide for yourself that I'm full of BS or telling you the true story. You'll have to read between the lines a bit, too, here and there. We all ultimately make our own judgments about everything.

I know three things:

1. I was dead. It was not nice.

2. I am now alive again. Alive is better.

3. I am considerably different from the Me who died a week ago today, in ways and to extents I can neither understand nor explain.

To prove or disprove my experience and beliefs, you'll have to die and come back with a full report. I, for one, would prefer you all remain happily alive.


...what a cool word, no?

The dictionary defines it as a conference -- what people do at a confab -- but I have also been told that "to confabulate" is (or at least used to be) a term of art in psychiatry, denoting someone who, perhaps because their internal gears aren't meshing tightly, makes up nonsense words or phrases.

PARENTHETICAL MUSICAL-EDUCATION MOMENT: My favorite example might be the Slim Gaillard song, "Ce-ment Mixer, Put-ti Put-ti," with such lyrics as:

Ce-ment Mix-er, Put-ti Put-ti
A puttle ti-voot a puttle-ti vout a puttle ti-roonie

But then, Gaillard might've just been indulging in onomatopoeia.

I have a reason for thinking about confabulation. I've heard before that some people who experience traumatic events feel a desperate urge to talk, talk, talk. Or, perhaps, type, type type.

I now know it's true. I am fully possessed by that urge.

But it is perilous. I am simultaneously possessed by the urge to not say or write things that, while entirely truthful and positive and "good," might push someone's wrong buttons. I may have already done that today.

My emotions run strong these days. Not your problem, but it gets a bit unnerving for me.

And I still gotta talk.

Just sayin'.

The other side of a bad thing...

...that I have written about so many times. All y'all have read my whingeings about being lonely, about the misery I feel waking up alone every morning and missing out on intimate contact -- mental and physical -- which is as vital a part of life as breathing.

Okay. I still feel that way.

But damn, was it wonderful to wake up alone this morning!

Oh, I woke up at 1:15 am, 3:30, 4:00 and 5:30, just as I did the last few days. It's gotten to be routine.

The difference today was that no one jammed one of them fershlugginer electronic thermometer probes down my throat, jabbed me with various needles (for fluids going in and out), made me breathe vapors from a tube or wrapped a blood-pressure cuff around my arm.

PARENTHETICAL NOT-EVERY-NEEDLE-JAB-WAS-BAD NOTE: One or two of those injections were morphine. Kinda got me into a Marvin Gaye bag, you know..."Mmmmmm, let's get ree-laxed, bay-beh...."

And I was in my own bed, too, which knows the contours of my aging body much better than the Adjust-O-Matic hospital beds. When I got home yesterday I noticed said bed had new sheets -- far nicer-looking than any I've ever owned -- and a lovely warm blanket on it to welcome me home.

Yeah, you can probably guess who was responsible.

So the being-alone bit didn't seem so bad last night, even though I still want it to change.

I'm alive. And a lot of people love me.

I hope the Universe will forgive me for insisting that I still want it all....

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

This time with sirens...

I went back to hospital last Thursday as the now well-known Holly has told you.

As she said, it was not a good time. In fact, I died briefly while in the ER. Had Holly, my neighbor Ernie (who called 911, tried to comfort me until he paramedics came and was a constant presences at the hospital) and the medics known of my instructions regarding "heroic measures" I would now be, as Bill Handel likes to say, "completely dead." Instead, after being on a ventilator, intubated and virtually comatose between Thursday and Sunday, I'm still here.

And I'm going to rewrite the parameters for allowable emergency care speedy-speedy, Jim.

Words can't express my appreciation for all your responses, concern and good wishes. They were unexpected; when Holly walked into my room at the ICU with a thick sheaf of papers with your messages, I frankly could not read all of them at once, so moving was the experience.

Naturally, I am incredibly grateful to the doctors and nurses who made the right choices and saved my sorry ass, doing such an effective job that I was released this morning and am now home.

Most of all, though, I feel the direct I-owe-my-life-to-them connection with Ernie and Holly. People just don't get any better than that.

Much more to say. Can't say it now. Later, probably.