Archive for February, 2010|Monthly archive page

February 24: The Active Me

In Uncategorized on February 25, 2010 at 2:34 am

     I managed to get in a few mornings in court last week, but contracted a bug.   I was already a paradigm of vim and vigor (assuming vim is a giant leach wearing a bathrobe and vigor is his tailor), but the bug exacerbated the effects of the peridarditis and left me dragging.  I’ve had to line our short hall with chairs to be able to walk from the den to the bedroom.  I’ve been thinking of hiring a “Beulah,” as in “Beulah, peel me a grape,” to help me eat.  A new antibiotic prescribed  Monday started kicking in Tuesday night, and I’ve been gradually improving.  I figure by Friday I’ll feel about as Red Bullish as I felt in say, my 93rd day as an embryo.


     One of the features of my moribund time is that it has virtually coincided with NBC coverage of the Winter Olympics.  Unfortunately, afternoon coverage consists of live broadcasts of sports NBC doesn’t dare show during prime time. Like nordic skiing.  Excuse me, but watching cross-country skiing, even when the competitors carry rifles and shoot targets for God knows what reason, is about as exciting as watching Carolina basketball this year.  Maybe you can put lipstick on a pig and let her appear as a pundit on Fox news blather shows, but short of letting the competitors shoot at each other, I don’t know of what you could do to help out nordic skiing.

     And is it me, or does Olympics coverage this year seem too chock-full of heart-string strummig, tear duct tapping, emotional and inspiring human interest stories.  You’re almost afraid to turn on the TV lest you hear some competitor is braking the bobsled for a brother with acne or is spinning on ice for a sister who spilled wine on her prom dress or is half-piping for a favorite dog that only has three legs, but never complains.  I am starting to develop a fondness for excessively perky people in reruns on the Food and Travel channels.

     It strikes me that James Cameron might offer a good solution to the problem.  Let’s do some nationwide polling, and let everybody describe the plot lines that tug at their hearts the most:  parent with leukemia, sibling with Guillame-Barr, cat with enormous hair-balls.  Tally and summarize the stories that are likely to make Americans use boxes of Kleenex every day.  Give ’em to Cameron and let him do his “Avatar” thing with the results, crafting a virtual 2014 Winter Olmpics broadcast, depicting not only the events’ participants, but also the back-stories of those participants for the faux announcers to gush and goo to death.  Broadcast the product as a virtual Olympics for those who cannot tolerate sports except as they embody the “up from adversity” aspects the mush-brained among us like to believe constitutes everyday life.  Let the real Olympics be enjoyed by folks who prefer their sports to be sports, not some saappy soap opera derivative!

Ciao, dudes!


A Random Observation

In Uncategorized on February 19, 2010 at 4:39 pm

     Not many headlines catch what receptors still work in my eyes when I scan the morning newspapers.  One this morning did.  It seems that an avowed atheist has formed at company that will provide, for a one time payment of $113.00, after-Rapture care for the pets of Christians who might be suddenly abruptly plucked and deposited in Heaven.  With such evidence that our entrepreneurial spirit still thrives, can full economic recovery lag behind?

Talkin’ ‘Bout My Generation (And Peace in the Middle East)

In Uncategorized on February 19, 2010 at 4:28 pm

“People try to put us down….”

         My generation has a lot to answer for. Some of us fought bravely in Viet Nam, while others smoked reefer in Haight Asbury and stuck daisies in the barrels of rifles. Most of the fighters returned home to sheer indifference, or worse, disparagement for their sacrifice. Many of the reefer-smokers swirled away in a harder drug maelstrom, while a few actually consider the greatest accomplishment in their lives was attending a 3 day long music festival.

        We ate the first TV dinners and watched the first man land on the moon. We burned Detroit, the South Bronx and other cities, rioting when things did not go our way. We gave the world Bruce Springsteen and ABBA, Sid Vicious and Michael Buble. Either we, or our children, applying the values we instilled, have been responsible for the savings and loan crash of the ’80s, the dot-com bubble-burst of the ‘90s, and the recession we are currently trying to escape. Worst of all, we infected the world with Disco, a virulent plague that we may never completely escape or eradicate.

        We lack identity. One reason why is that our only label is a demographic convenience. “Baby Boomers,” we are called, simply because we represent a spike in population that occurred after the end of the Second World War. Needless to say, that spike occurred not because of anything we did, but because our parents had vigorous libidos.

        Another reason why we lack identity is that we lack a celebratory chronicler. No one has anointed us with a unifying title, as Tom Brokaw did when he so unctuously and profitably called our parents “The Greatest Generation.” If we stifle a grin as our parents eagerly embrace this label, it is only because we know what the label is really worth. After all, it was “The Greatest Generation” that raised us to fear an eternally ferocious Russian bear which, in the end, has proved to be an enormous, but utterly empty piñata. Though we might clap a little skeptically in the ovation for our parents, we secretly crave some applause for ourselves. But what can we expect if our parents can claim the title as “The Greatest Generation”? Dare we hope, at best, to become known as “The Generation After”?

        The most significant why we lack identity is that we lack distinction. We have no singular achievement, such as winning a world war, on which we can hang our hats, wigs or toupees. Every fat plus is offset by a chubby minus. Deal me a wall reduced to rubble in Berlin and I’ll discard a wall being built along the Mexican border. We seem to waltz according to dance studio diagrams, always returning to the spot where we started. Of course, that’s not wholly unexpected from a generation that produces and watches “Dancing With the Stars.”

        In reflecting on our generational malaise, I have developed an idea which, if achieved, would not only give us an achievement to be reckoned with, but also cure the worst of the ghastly messes bequeathed to us by the generation that went before. I am thinking of, in particular, the nasty conflict in the Middle East, and in a broader sense, the dangerous state of our relations with Islamic nations.

        The dismal state of our current ventures in the Middle East is, of course, a trans-generational responsibility. The two men most responsible are elders: one is Donald “Rummie” Rumsfeld, the techno-Torquemada who has had the good sense to drop from sight and mind in the last few years; the other is the foremost living argument against the Theory of Evolution, Dick Cheyney, who persists in spewing his venomous bile in speeches and on TV at every chance he gets. Ironically, the creature Cheyney most resembles is a dinosaur, the Stegosaurus, a lumbering beast with a brain the size of a gerbil. The comparison does not stop there, however, as a Stegosaurus had a tiny, second brain in the tip of its tail.* Not for nothing do people with functioning hearts suspect that Dick Cheyney often thinks with his ass. Sharing responsibility, to the extent any stem-baby can be said to be “responsible,” is perhaps the paradigm member of our generation, George W Bush. In Bush, Rummie and Cheyney found the perfect, agreeably vapid and utterly empty vessel in which to pour their policies and inflict them on the world.

        Those “policies” remind us of Red Adair, whose fictional counterpart was so memorably portrayed by Duke Wayne in the movie, “The Hellfighters.” Adair put out oil well fires, which he accomplished by detonating explosives at the heart of a blaze. The ensuing blast would suffocate the flame. Similarly, and for too long, in the Middle East we have tried to fight fire with fire, only to find that, though simple principles of thermodynamics work well enough when applied to oil and fire and air, they seldom work at all when we apply them to human beings.

        What I propose would be such a radical reversal of current policies that many will find it inconceivable, or worth at best a hearty laugh. It is so breathtakingly simple that few in history have had the gumption to try it: early Christians in Rome, Gandhi, Martin Luther King. It is that we answer hate and aggression with peace, and that as a first step, we should replace our warriors with a Legion of the Harmless.

        Recruiting the Legion would be the easy part. My generation is growing older and living longer, and we are straining seams of the nation’s health care system. Hundreds of thousands of us are partly debilitated, mortally or seriously ill or otherwise incapacitated to some degree. To this group we issue not a “call to arms,” but instead a “call for operable appendages.”

        At mobilization centers set up all over the country, we can muster troops of gimps, gawks and geeks, the elderly, the aged and aging, the slightly decrepit, the halt, the infirm and the lame, those teetering and those tottering, folks in wheelchairs or mobility chairs, those with pace-makers, prosthetics, stints and shunts, asking only that those who report are genuinely ambulatory. We gather as many C-140’s and other types of transport planes as we can find, dispatching half of them overseas, half of them to the mobilization centers. We begin loading up the planes with the Legion and with troops who are stationed in harm’s way, returning the latter group home and replacing them with the Legion.

        Feeding the Legion will be easy. We need only gratefully send them on their way with plenty of sliced turkey on white bread and egg salad sandwiches. Nor should crowd control present much of a problem. We can move them where we want with judicious placement of signs reading “Cafeteria,” “Restrooms” and “Freebies.” As positive reinforcement, it wouldn’t hurt to provide some genuine freebies; the sorts of stuff that cause cane and unable riots around campaign tables at festivals and county fairs: combs, packets of tissue, emery boards and “vote for …” pencils.

        As we deplete combat troops and near repopulating the bases, we commence the second phase of the plan. We begin dispatching members of our Legion to begin dispersing throughout the hostile world, landing them in Tehran, Beirut, Dimasqh (Damascus), Mogadishu and other places unlikely to receive them with welcoming arms. Of course, at this stage in the plan, nothing is more critical than that we are televising and broadcasting live throughout the world exactly what we are doing. We blog, tweet, twitter, You-Tube and Facebook every plane, taking advantage of the web and cell phone networks to reach every person and household in the world that we can. Some of the planes will be shot down by hostile governments. Some will be permitted to land, and only then will their passengers be attacked or worse, tortured for all to see. It’s at this point that our Legion begins proving its mettle.

        At this point, I should point out that the success of the plan will depend on some assumptions, which I am certain will eventually prove correct. First and foremost concerns the numbers of people who would comprise our Legion of Peace.

        Whatever else you might say about my generation, we love our country. Moreover, we love our children and would be willing to risk degradation, deprivation, torture, humiliation and death in order to spare their lives and leave them with the hope of a more peaceful future. I have no doubt we would swamp and threaten to flood the mobilization centers as long as we were needed to serve.

        Second, I believe that, in time, enough planes will be permitted to land to allow their passengers to begin dispersing throughout their unwilling host countries. It might be the third plane to arrive in Tehran, it might be the thirty-second, but eventually a plane must land, if only so the leaders can satisfy their curiosity about what might happen. Besides, I do not think that any government can survive being revealed to both the world and its own people (remember the broadcasting) as willing pointlessly to massacre droves of the peaceful, harmless and well-meaning.

        Third, I count on the Koran as really meaning something to the people who profess to believe it, and this simple precept must mean that the Prophet’s commands about hospitality will at some point be observed. Eventually, hostile citizens will have to confront the invading force that is gradually dispersing through their land: Bob Johnson, an old Viet Nam “tunnel rat” with a claw arm; Sadie Lefkowitz, a retired teacher with a colostomy bag; Khaffir Smith, whose activities have been restricted because of a heart condition and Copts; and Vera Shanker, a widow eager to have an adventure before she kicks the bucket. It will be here, over cups of coffee and tea and steaming kettles of lamb stew that that our enemies will begin learning a simple truth about us. We are not the satanic imperialists that their leadership depicts, but a nation of average Yusefs and Saleahs who care about our children and their futures, and who need to go to the bathroom a lot. And our gimps and geezer Legion will begin learning the same lessons about their reluctant hosts.

        In time, somebody will have to start talking. I can’t imagine that the people and government of, say, Syria, can long tolerate having hoards of needy, yet well-meaning and ultimately harmless people swarming about in their cities and towns. Nor do I believe that the generation that follows us will long be able to take seeing Uncle Reuben and Aunt Molly loaded on transport planes. We will have to start talking about the care or repatriation of the Legion. In talking, and listening at least as much as we talk, we crack open the door that may open wide to vistas of lasting peace.

        Is this a pipe dream? Well, sure, absolutely it’s a pipe dream! But I am sure Gandhi was told he was smoking a pipe when he imagined applying the speculations of a back-woods scribbler from Massachusetts to free India from the grip of the British Raj. Ask Nelson Mandela. It only takes a little luck and lots of faith, perseverance and sweat for pipe-dreams to become once unimaginable realities.

        And if it all blows up in our faces, what the hell, at least we tried something new, learning a new lesson instead of stale lessons from repetitive failures of the past. However it turns out, at least we will be known as a generation of “Peacegivers” or the “Generation That Tried.” Wait, listen… you hear something that sounds like music fading in the distance. Oh, that’s only me, walking over a hill towards the east, whistling “Over the Rainbow” as I go.

      *Paleobiologists currently believe that the organ in the Stegosaurus’s tail, previously believed to be a second brain, was instead a different sort of organ regulating chemical disbursement through the body.  I am guilty of a deliberate error, not an ignorant mistake.  In my defense, I ask only, “Why let the facts get in the way of the perfect image?”


In Uncategorized on February 18, 2010 at 11:34 am


I had a follow-up visit with the surgeon yesterday. He said my head looks great regardless of what strange developments may be happening within, and that my recovery goes well. He also shed some light on the abrupt concern of the head honcho doc on my recovery team with the drop in my sodium levels last week in the hospital.

It turns out that what looked to Deirdre’s and my laypersons’ eyes like a minor stagger, was according to medical scales, a precipitous plunge of nearly epic proportions. Without going into too much detail, let me say that 7 points doesn’t seem consequential in an imagined scale of 200 points or so, but it’s a big deal in a scale of only 30. As the surgeon put it, my sodium level had dropped within a couple of points of a score “incompatible with life.”

You could have blown us over with a gasp or knocked us over with a feather plucked from the tail of a Chickadee. Had we known and appreciated the seriousness of the doctor’s concerns, I would have agreed to stay in the hospital until the capture of Osama Bin Laden. The lesson for idiots like me: ask more questions. The lesson for health care professionals: take time to explain things.

You may or may not be happy to learn that my blood chemistry this morning revealed sodium levels back safely in the normal range. The fears we might have had would have proved unfounded. Every other blood measure of my health also continues to improve. The brief drop in my sodium levels is almost unquestionably attributable not to any serious condition, but to some benign aspect of my bout with pericarditis. Still, on the whole, I hope that yesterday morning is the last time I ever hear the words “incompatible with life” ever mentioned in connection with my health.

Semi-Update, February 16

In Uncategorized on February 16, 2010 at 4:54 pm

      Not much is happening here except I continue to improve, at least in tiny, incremental portions.  At the moment, it’s like visiting the barber and getting a haircut, which he executes by snipping a single hair each visit.  I expect the pace will gradually pick-up as I go.

      I have heard from an old friend who has also suffered pericarditis, so have a better understanding of what I am going through and a better idea of what to expect.  I don’t expect to be running a marathon in the next couple of months, but have never expected to any way.  I think I’ll take oboe lessons or something.

      I did spend about 45 minutes at the office this morning, and ran into a lawyer bud while leaving.  He said that on hearing I’d been admitted to the hospital last week that he thought, “Damnit, Ben’s going to die without my ever telling him how much I liked him.  If I see him again, I’ll tell him first thing.”  It’s refreshing to have someone be so ungarded about my health in conversation, and not a bad thought to carry through the day,  I told him I planned to live long enough for him to learn that before I die that I’m really a son-of-a-bitch!

     Keep the faith!

Elaborations on a Surprise Hospital Overnight

In Uncategorized on February 13, 2010 at 12:29 am

  When I said in my last post that, after going to bed with a tension knot between my shoulders and achy upper chest, shoulder and neck, but woke up in the wee, wee hours of the morning of February 9, 2010 in excruciating pain, I mean that I actually might have considered breaking a Sinatra LP or burning a book for some relief. Nothing helped. I could not sit, stand or lie down without feeling that thousands of needles were piercing every inch of my too, too mortal flesh. Had Bill Clinton of the famous “I feel your pain” quote had a chance to feel my pain, he’d have curled up in a fetal ball and whimpered, “Mommy, please help me.” Had Mother Theresa felt my pain, she’d have begun clubbing orphans to death. Had Florence Nightingale felt my pain, she’d have injected wounded soldiers with gangrene, and then watched with her face locked in a rictus of lascivious glee as they suffered and died. Had Hippo crates felt my pain, the Hippocratic Oath would require doctors not to heal, but to torture, maim and mutilate every patient that they see. In other words, I mean to say that the funky one was hurting!

 Any time you complain of pain nowadays, doctors have you rate it on a scale of 1-10. This is another attempt on the part of the medical establishment to quantify what are essentially subjective judgments. It helps not at all that the scale has no average, which would be 5.5, but then again, what is considered an average pain? Average to a heroin junkie might melt the teeth of a defensive tackle in the NFL. To help you understand my plight, I share with you the scale of Beno Pain:

 1: The scrape or scratch you don’t remember happening.

2: A splinter that is starting to fester.

3: What happens in your ears when you accidentally tune in hip-hop or easy listening (with thousands of strings) on the radio in your car.

4: A deep gash in your hand or being forced to look at baby pictures of slides of someone else’s family vacation.

5: An ingrown toenail.

6: A broken arm, leg or heart (when you are between the ages of 16 and 30).

7: Serious dental work such as a root canal or receipt of a plumbing bill.

8: A spinal tap, a genuine migraine, or the Beno pain on Tuesday morning.

9: Labor pains or natural childbirth (I know, it’s nothing I’ll ever experience, but in this one area, I chose to concede one point to the women in my life).

10. Being forced to listen for an hour to Sarah Palin talk.

 Luckily, the pain was concentrated in my upper chest, shoulder and neck. Had more of my body been involved, I can’t answer for what I might have done.

 When Deirdre woke up, she persuaded me to go to bed. I suppose “seriously tired” can whip “seriously hurting” since I actually napped for a couple of hours. Also luckily, the bit of sleep sanded the sharp edges of the pain, at least to the extent I was able to move around without snarling at photographs on the wall or Matt Lauer on TV. The hematology/oncology clinic agreed to see me as soon as I could come.

 Blood work done (had it been a report card, I might have might have averaged a low “C”), vital signs taken (my blood pressure, at least, remained its usual low average), I learned that I had a temperature of 101.4 and that my heart was “racing” at 120 beats per minute. Whereupon, the oncologist proceeded to scare the Bejesus out of Deirdre and me. Possible causes of my many symptoms: blood clot, heart attack, pneumonia, or a sudden explosion of my earlier shrunken and dormant tumor. He was arranging as we spoke for my admission to Baptist.

 After a quick trip home to pack a hospital overnight bag (have I mentioned that I had not yet received anything to relieve my pain?), Deirdre and I hit the road north. I reclined my seat-back and kept my eyes closed, but could feel that it was not an easy drive. I suppose that Deirds must have kept shooting worried and fearful glances in my direction. At this point, it was even odds whether she would arrive at Baptist with an ailing husband, Ben Grimm or Sam McGee beside her in the car (those who do not get the references should consult Marvel Comics and the poetical works of Robert W. Service).

 They rushed us through admissions, then asked us to sit in the waiting area (have I mentioned that I had not yet received anything to relieve my pain?). It was like arriving too early for check-in at the beach – housekeeping was not yet finished preparing the room. After about two hours, they wheeled me up to a nice room in the Janeway tower. We settled in and began waiting some more.

 After another 30 minutes, we packed up so I could be moved to a better more high-tech room in North Tower, where we could be day dreamers, walking in the sand, looking after rainbows……..oops, no, that’s North Tower, the beach music group, not at all the same thing as the North Tower at Baptist Hospital. At this point a doctor dropped by and advised that soon, because of all the possible causes my oncologist had already worried us with, they would soon commence giving me tests (have I mentioned that I had not yet received anything to relieve my pain?).

 In short order, I received (in room, no less) an EKG and a chest X-ray. In olden times, an X-ray was something special, done with a 3 ton machine, in a lead-lined room, by a nurse hiding behind a lead screen, and it took an hour to develop the resulting pictures. It impressed you with the seriousness of the event. Nowadays, they do X-rays digitally, with a cute little machine they roll around on a cart, and it’s just a simple procedure they do like any other. They rolled me downstairs for the ultra-sound scanning of my heart (have I mentioned that I had not yet received anything to relieve my pain?).

 I actually enjoyed the ultra-sound, feeling something of the same thrill that an expectant mother has at seeing the new life she is bearing in her womb. In my case, of course, what I was seeing resembled a raw oyster that throbbed almost rhythmically (and at a mere 110 beats a minute, no less). I couldn’t help by feel affection for the shadowy, ugly thing.

 About 10 minutes after I returned to the room (have I mentioned that I had not yet received anything to relieve my pain?), the doctor returned with a big smile on his face. My problem, he said, could already be diagnosed as nothing that Deirdre or I, my oncologist or “treatment team” were most worried about. Instead, it almost certainly was pericarditis, an inflammation of the sac around my heart, and fairly easily treatable with anti-inflammatory drugs and pain pills, though they would want to keep me overnight on a heart monitor and do periodic blood work, while regularly checking enzyme levels in my blood, urine and stools to make sure. He left and we sighed in relief, and need I say that I finally received something to relieve my seemingly unending pain? One pill and 15 minutes was all it took. Now, why couldn’t something have been done earlier?

All in all, my overnight was pleasant. Hospital folks tend to treat you with extra care if there’s even a whisper of a risk of a heart episode. I must admit, however, that I would rather be puffed and pampered in a place where I am not hooked up to a heart monitor, where I don’t have an IV needle in my arm (just a precaution, in case they have to inject me with some heavy-duty stuff in event of emergency), where my pain-free bliss is not interrupted every 6 hours by a lab-tech sticking a needle in my arm for fresh blood samples, or every 6 hours for some cute young things to have me inhale lung medicine through a tube, or every 4 hours to take a new batch of pills, where they don’t want me to pee in a plastic bottle, and where certainly they don’t expect me to defecate in a plastic bucket of a size a 2 year old child might carry on the beach.

 Now, I will try with all my euphemistic ability to discuss this in terms that will not offend. Be warned, however, that I am about to mention some seriously “adult stuff,” mainly of the sort guys love to talk about when they’re sure women are not around. But I must say, that the Beno was somewhat daunted by the prospect of having to crap in a small container. Lesser men might perform easily under such circumstances, but not I, who am renowned among my friends for the sheer art and volume of my nether end productions. Nor does it help that I am equally well known for occasionally explosive performances. There is a hotel on the West coast of Scotland that was closed for a month by the hazardous materials police because of the unexpected, yet supremely satisfying consequences one morning of an over-abundance of mussels consumed during dinner the night before. Fatz and I had to sneak out of town. Under the circumstances, the sight of the cup was a sphincter tightener.

 Still, the Beno is not nothing if not game, so I gave it the college try. Twice during the night, I squirmed and strained, but managed to produce nothing, not even a streak that might warrant medical appreciation. Only later in the morning did the spirit move and I answer its call with sufficient vitality to create an excretory deposit. Beaming like a proud 3 year old in potty-training, I called the nurse. Wouldn’t you know it, I was too late – they no longer wanted to take any crap from me.

 I wish I could say that my discharge from the hospital (as opposed to discharges within hospital walls) proceeded without a hitch, but it didn’t. In short order in the morning, both the familiar doc and a 3d year medical student member of my treatment team both visited and told us I would be freed upon completion of my paperwork. Around 11:00 PM a nurse came in to ask if anyone had said anything to us about hooking up the IV and a second night’s stay. No, we said, nobody had, but we would like to speak with someone about it first.

 Finally, the head honcho on my treatment team, a formidable but pleasant woman with an unspellable and unpronounceable Greek name, dropped in to say she (alone, as it turned) had some concerns about a drop in sodium levels revealed in my blood tests that she wanted to check out. It really wasn’t really all that big a drop (from 3 points above low normal to 5 points below) and there could be a simple reason for it (like having been placed, God knows why, on a carbohydrate and salt restricted diet by the cafeteria; and have I mentioned that a spike in heart rate – mine was below 100 by now – could be triggered by stress, like the stress that usually accompanies serious pain?). And my sodium levels could be monitored easily enough with regular blood work on an outpatient basis at home. She would discharge me if I really wanted. I told her I really wanted to go home. She said to think and talk about it for awhile and let her know.

 Deirdre and I pretended to think about it for maybe a New York minute or two. We spent about 25 minutes speculating about such burning questions as whether, if God forbid we ever visited the doctor’s home, we would find the backyard studded with salt licks, and if barbecue take-out tube packs of salt were what caused the pockets of the doctor’s official white doctor coat to bulge. Then we buzzed the nurse to tell the doctor that we really, really wanted to go home. At 3:45 PM, the paperwork finally arrived.

 I wish, while writing these elaborations on my earlier post about the experience that some profound insight into my latest hospital stay had arrived. Nothing doing! Perhaps time, or a lot of Scotch, will afford a deeper perspective. As for now, I will leave you with a thought that is neither incisive nor insightful, and certainly not even original. With a nod to W C Fields, I would suggest when it comes to hospital stays, on the whole, I’d rather be in Philadelphia.

A Surprise Hospital Overnight, The Short Story

In Uncategorized on February 11, 2010 at 2:30 pm

Chronology of a short hospital stay, starting on Tuesday, February 9

1:00 AM: Wake up in excruciating pain in upper chest and ribs, shoulders and neck.

6:30: Tiredness overcomes pain enough to allow a 2 hr nap.

8:30: Wake up with pain abated slightly, enough so I think I can move about without carrying a baseball bat to take out my pain on wheelchair patients and toddlers.

11:30: Doc advises he is checking me into Baptist because of temp of 101.4 and racing pulse of 120. Possible causes of those items: heart attack, blood clots, pneumonia, reactivation of domant lung tumor, and probably some other causes I have forgotten, but who really cares, since what he said was already more that enough to scare the hell out of us?!!

1:00 PM: Check into Baptist.

3:00: Admitted to room, then soon moved to more high tech room.

4:00: Test frenzy, including EKG and lung X-ray (done in room with portable machine – ain’t technology grand?), and ultra-sound of heart, watching which was more entertaining than any TV show I have seen recently.

5:30: Doc drops by and advises they have almost certainly identified the problem, which is pericarditis, an inflammation of the protective sheath around the heart, which is easily treatable and no great cause for alarm. They do, however, want to keep me overnight for monitoring signs to be completely comfortable other causes are not in play. I am hooked up to heart monitor and finally given pills to ease my pain. Regular blood work ensues (with a fresh needle every time), and they begin checking not only my blood, but also urine and stools for heart enzymes and other such stuff.

6:oo AM, Wednesday: Doc drops by, says there is no evidence of other feared problems, and that I would be discharged soon.

8:00: 3d year med student, also a member of my “treatment team,” drops by and repeats what the Doc had said, and tells me to expect visit soon from entire team.

11:00: Nurse comes in, asks if I had spoken to a doctor about being hooked up to an IV and being kept another night so they could monitor and check for a cause of a slight drop in my sodium levels. I said, no, please first let me talk to the doctor.

111:30: The head of my treatment team, a woman with an unspellable and unpronouncable Greek name, visits and says that she would really like keep me overnight to find the cause of the slight drop in sodium levels. She does say, however, that it could be easily monitored on an outpatient basis. Also, none of the possible causes sounded paticularly worrisome (for example, stress could cause both an increased heart rate and a drop in sodium – and my heart rate had already dropped to 103).

12:00 Noon: After pretending to think about it, Deirdre and I tell the nurse to tell the doctor we are ready to go home.

3:45PM: Discharge paperwork is finally complete, so we sign and are set free.

4:30: Arrive happily and blissfully home.

9:00-11:10: Stay mostly awake and watch Carolina play a good 37 minutes of basketball against Dook. Unfortunately, those missing minutes happened to be the last 3 minutes of the game. If the boys will just trust Roy, and play offense like he wants them to at the end of a game, there is at least hope of few upsets before the season ends.

11:15PM-6:00AM, Thursday: Slept well for the first time since I can’t remember when.

Well, as Bill Murray said in “Stripes,” “Dat’s de facts, Jack.” Expect commentary sooner or later on the blog. At the moment, am feeling well even though Regis & Kelly are on TV. So keep the faith!


Update, February 8

In Uncategorized on February 8, 2010 at 9:18 pm

      Be warned that I am typing this directly onto the blog.  Blame spellchecker if you encounter any nonsense words, Somalian grammar or argot from Irkutsk.  Damn Bill Gates and all corporate souls that sell us software that presumes to think for us and is, often as not, wrong.  If I type “Morpheus,” I mean “Morpheus,” not “Memphis” or some other pathologically inane substitution.

      I am happy to report that I spent this morning  handling cases is criminal superior and district court.  It felt good to start working back into work, and if I do not push myself too hard, I may be able to resume at least the semblance of a normal routine within a couple of weeks. 

     I have an appointment with the neurosurgeon on Wednesday afternoon and expect to be cleared for more activity as I grow stronger.  Meanwhile, I have resumed my daily “maintenance” pill.  In all respects, I am improving and doing well.  I will post on any new developments.

      And, well, as Porky Pig would say, “Ahbedih, ahbedah, that’s all folks!”  I leave you for the moment utterly delighted with the thought that I might just have caused spellchecker to short-circuit.

Off The Road

In Uncategorized on February 3, 2010 at 4:55 pm

  Anyone who knows me well can imagine that not being able to drive, even down to the Frosty Keg on Talbert Boulevard, strikes at a core activity of my being. I won’t bore you with all sorts of blather about Kerouac, “Then Came Bronson,” Bob and Bing in Zanzibar, but I was infected with romantic nonsense about “The Road” at a very young age, and the fever has never broken. Simply knowing that, if things ever got too tough, I could hit the road and go somewhere – anywhere – has been the ultimate, psychological pressure valve. Realizing that now, if I need to escape, I need to hire some lackey to take the helm, hardly offers comparable comfort.

In college, I was notorious for taking midnight drives across the mountain from Lexington, VA, to Clifton Forge. Cruising a mountain road at night, when headlights warn of any car approaching around a tight mountain bend, is about as much pleasure as a crazy driver can expect. And, yes, I admit I have been a crazy driver.

At lunch one Friday in college, a frat brother mentioned that he would be able to borrow his sister’s car for awhile if someone would be willing to drive him from Lexington, to Memphis. My response was, “Road Trip!” provided we could make it back in time for the big party on Saturday night. (These were faraway days when men were men, Schlitz was a commodity still stocked on store shelves, and fraternities were still wild circuses of inebriation and misbehavior, not the prissy squads of socially-helpful neatniks that they are today (I hasten to add that the frat bro who needed the ride, who would probably prefer not to have his name mentioned in this particular context, was one of the few sober, serious guys in our crew)). Need I say that my co-pilot and I made it back in time for the party? And though I remember little else of the trip besides crossing the Mississippi and seeing in Nashville, lights lit in a tall bank building to spell out “Jesus Saves,” I do not think my co-pilot had to take the wheel for more than an hour or so.

My dear friend, Jim Nance, a large-hearted soul if ever there was one, has, with the exception of my wife, logged more time in vehicles with me than any person alive. Together, we have driven to Key West, Jackson, WY, Los Angeles and San Francisco, and every single nook and cranny of New England and upper state New York, alert to any entertaining diversion along the way. We have dug Wall Drug, climbed Mt Washington (in a Chevy Vega, no less), been to the Levee Bar in Dallas (where we saw Charlie Waters of Clemson and Cowboys fame down pitcher after pitcher of beer to no apparent effect, while the two defensive tackles with him were reduced to blubbering mass by a pitcher apiece), and we have seen Tom Mix’s Packard! Jimbo also survived my driving in Ireland with little lasting psychological impairment. And in all our diverse travels, I was usually behind the wheel.

Let me interject that the Memphis jaunt may actually been prearranged for sever days and that Jimbo may have driven more than half the time during our forays through the Great American Landscape. Memory fudges, alters and enhances stuff over time in order to enhance what we want it to enhance, and there is nothing we can do about the process except to recognize that it inevitably occurs. Rather than suffer fact-checkers nit-picking through The Painted House, John Grisham allowed it to be published as fiction, though the book is really a memoir of his early childhood during World War II as the son and grandson of sharecroppers in the Arkansas delta country. Stories can be completely true without being entirely accurate.

So when I say I like to drive, I mean that I really like to drive. When I give illustrations of how much I have driven in my life, I mean to say that I REALLY, REALLY LIKE TO DRIVE! Accepting that I cannot drive, at least for awhile, is proving something of a psychological challenge.

I have always had a sentimental streak wide as the North Fork of the Yadkin River. My list of movies that make me cry is triple the length of the next guy’s. Harry in devious moments will sometimes slip Kermit the Frog singing “The Rainbow Connection” into the CD player just to watch a few papa tears flow. One symptom of my current state, however, that my sentimental streak has suddenly grown as wide and as powerful as the mighty Mississippi. Thankfully, it remains unmoved by things as mundane or tacky as kittens or the “art” of William Mangum. It is triggered by some sinister stuff. Last weekend, a torrent of tears left me unable to watch an HBO documentary on Ted Williams, go figure! This morning, the mention on the news of Punxsutawney Phil ignited a circuit of mental associations that lead me to Bill Murray. Mere Thought of the movie, “Groundhog Day,” opened the flood gates again.

It should be obvious why I worry I am losing my edge. For all I can tell, I may already be dull as a butter knife honed on bar of Dove soap. My celebrated wit may be bland as the color selections in a Mennonite paint store. I fear that I may start enjoying the music of Celine Dion and Kenny G, not to mention Andrew Lloyd Webber.

As a first step in learning how to ask for help, I ask for help from everyone who reads this blog. Post a comment, give me hell. Rag me for anything that comes to mind, fairly or unfairly. Bend, fold and mutilate me, excoriate me, give me grief. Be snide, dismissive, and utterly ruthless. Inspire me with the inventiveness of your invective. Particularly welcome would be any suggestion that my not driving is a good thing for humanity, regardless how it might affect me.  Give me something to duel with and recover the Beno edge. In this way you can best help me avoid becoming just another reststop on the highway of life.

I do ask that you refrain from comments that are borderline or completely obscene. This is, after all, a family-oriented blog, primarily dedicated to the moral instruction of young children, so avoid anything that might corrupt unformed minds. Now, get to work!!