Friday, May 30, 2008

Mine are better than Van Gogh's .......

Holly is a big fan of lilac's, and while I am not huge on flowers per se, I can appreciate certain ones. We have irises in our front and backyard's, and they are a bumper crop this year: (There are many more that have not bloomed yet.)

I don't know about Van Gogh, but I'll take mine any old time........

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Weapons of dental destruction.

So, in between hacking, coughing, and general lousiness, I did have to take a scheduled trip to the dentist yesterday. We transplant recipients have to be careful about many things both medical and dental, especially since some of the medication we're on can cause issues when it comes to the latter. I take a small dosage of Prednisone, which is a steroid, and while I won't be hitting longer home runs, it can cause problems with bone loss if you are on it for long periods of time. (I've been on it for 11 years come this August.)

As such, and for other reasons, good dental care is a must. I went yesterday, feeling like death only partially warmed over because to reschedule would have meant a longer than a month wait. Good thing the techs who scale and clean my teeth wear masks and this case for their sake, not mine. All went well, I won't be required to leave my teeth in a glass at the bedside table anytime soon, and I was given some new dental tools in which to keep the choppers in a minty fresh state.

First, there was this nifty little device:

Now, aside from looking like a tiny tree on a stick, this little device gets in between the teeth to get at the places where, if you tried doing that with your toothbrush, would require several thousand dollars worth of orthodontia, not to mention a gross of pain medication. It really does work quite well...

Now next, we have this:

Maybe it's just me, but this looks suspiciously like a toothpick. It is made of wood, is flat instead of round, and you won't find them on the table at your local diner. In fact, aside from your dentist, you can only get them at the local pharmacy. (Chemist, for my Brit friends.) Of course, this means that these fancy toothpicks cost more money and you get less of them. (They are called Stim-U-Dents, as their purpose is to stimulate the gums.)

If of course, you want to have the appearance of being environmentally friendly and save the life of a tree, you can now use these brand-spanking new devices, fresh off the assembly line:

These do the job of the aforementioned stimulator's, but are probably more expensive, as they are new. We'll see. I have the choice of killing a tree, or putting more plastic into landfills, as these are not biodegradable or recyclable. So many choices! ;-)

So that is all from the dental front, but oh, just to update you on my scoping of a few weeks back; everything turned out fine. As a matter of fact there actually has been improvement. The new drug they put me on for the colitis last year is working nicely, and there is less inflammation than in the past. My GI doc was very pleased, and I was as well.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The best payback..........

In between coughing fits, I did find time to laugh hard......which then made the coughing worthwhile......The moral of the story below? Living well is the best revenge.
All women should live so long as to be this kind of old lady!

Toward the end of Sunday service, the Minister asked, 'How many of you have forgiven your enemies?'
80% held up their hands.

The Minister then repeated his question.

All responded this time, except one small elderly lady.

'Mrs. Neely?'; 'Are you not willing to forgive your enemies?'

I don't have any.' She replied, smiling sweetly.

'Mrs. Neely, that is very unusual. How old are you?'

'Ninety-eight.' she replied.

'Oh, Mrs. Neely, would you please come down in front & tell us all how a person can live ninety-eight years & not have an enemy in the world?'

The little sweetheart of a lady tottered down the aisle, faced the congregation, and said:
'I outlived the bitches.'

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Mr. Nighttime becomes Mr. NyQuil........

In between sneezing fits and hacking up a lung, I will try to get something up soon.

I knew that the luck of not having a cold for over a year would run out at some point, but did it have to be this past holiday weekend when the weather was so nice? Oh well, I watched everyone else enjoying themselves from under my covers.........Bloody ingrates..........How dare people enjoy themselves when I am keeping Kleenex and Robitussin in business single-handedly.......

No, it's not "man-flu," so don't even go there, ladies...........

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Ecclesiastes on a rooftop.

I thought that for those who have never seen, or possibly don't remember Blade Runner very well, a little insight to this blog's tag line might be in order.

To be certain, there is a reference to the things I have seen when I worked as a paramedic for 22 years. I saw things that most people should never have to see, ever, and I saw them with a frequency that most folks couldn't comprehend.

The literal reference however, is to a scene towards the very end of Blade Runner, after Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer) has saved Deckard's life, and is now confessing to him atop the roof of the building they have just jumped to. It is one of the most compelling speeches in all of filmdom, and one of the most repeated.

Batty is baring his soul, and freeing it at the same time. He is an organic machine, without empathy, that finds empathy in his last moments of life. The symbolism of the dove flying away should be fairly evident, and has been talked about by Blade Runner fans incessantly, as has the argument over whether or not Deckard is actually a replicant. (Oh, but that is for another post!)

For now, here it is:

Friday, May 23, 2008


Not again.....Please not again..........

In my last post, I mentioned how Brooklyn had been eating itself alive in the time I spent there. This was from the mid 1980's to the mid 1990's. Crack had taken the entire city by the throat. During the summer months, you had a hard time distinguishing the gunshots from the firecrackers. In the summer of 1991 however, Crown Heights exploded with a wave of racial violence that pitted Jew vs. black, religion vs. race. This was a full year before the LA/Rodney King riots in, and while not on the same scale in terms of size, it was just as ugly. (The Wikipedia article is pretty good, and explains things well.)

Everyone was afraid that these riots would spread. If you worked EMS in that area during that time, you put large swaths of tape over the driver's side and passenger side windows of your ambulance if you had to respond to a call in there. If someone were to throw a projectile into them, the hope was that the tape would minimize the spray of glass particles. You just had to hope no one put something through the windshield.

When riding through Crown Heights back then, it was as if you stepped into a Czechoslovakian revolution. Riot police were everywhere, being taunted by Orthodox Jews and blacks alike. Madness had gripped Crown Heights; madness that was just as potent as the small white rocks that were smoked in glass pipes in alleyways and homes. The old prejudices of fear, religion and race were stoked, and the fires that blazed from the overturned cars and trashcans made you wonder if perhaps a mini-Armageddon was being witnessed.

Everyone was fair game. EMS, police, FDNY, what-have-you. An EMT unit from my station had a brick thrown through the driver's side window of their ambulance. ("Bus," in NYC-EMS vernacular.) The tape did its job, and the both of them escaped without injury. I got lucky, and nothing happened to me during that time, save for being screamed at by protesters when being escorted by police into a building on a call.

If there was any good that came out of the insanity of those days, it is that the Hasidic and black communities started talking to one another after the violence ended. It took a long time, but good relations were established, and it appears as if the report today of the Hasidic boy that was assaulted and robbed was the victim of a gang initiation as opposed to the start of a wider display of hatred. (At least, this is what the video report from NYC Ch. 2 would seem to suggest.)

I hope so. The very idea that the Heights would return to the old bigotries is not something I would like to hear about.

New: Then again, I might be wrong....

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Wringing out the mop....

I still shake when I think about it. I still wonder if I will ever screw up the courage to confront it. Do I read it, or see it? Which choice is the lesser of two evils? I know what I am facing, or what I will be faced with. It will force me to relive certain things that I have only recently come to terms with.

In 1996, Joe Connelly wrote "Bringing Out The Dead," a novel based on his experiences as a paramedic in Hell's Kitchen, the area around Times Square. Frank Pierce, a burnt out paramedic is haunted by the life of an asthmatic he could not save. Frank is a symbol for many of us who worked EMS in NYC, myself included. He is a fictional character that by all accounts, based on what friends of mine that have read the book said, is as true-to-life as it gets. The book was made into a movie with Nicholas Cage, directed by Martin Scorcese.

When it first came out, my first thoughts were, 'Oh, great. Someone else thinks they know how to show what it is like to work the streets.' I must admit I was a bit jaded. There was a book that I reviewed ("Paramedic.") for the professional journal I wrote for back in the 90's, and while it was non-fiction as opposed to fiction, it was a piece of garbage, and I said so in the review. I was not expecting much when I heard about this book, but then, snippets of opinion from colleagues started filtering in. They were all positive, and I was encouraged to read it.

I chose not to.

My reasons were simple. I lived the life. I did not need to relive it in a book. I did not need to know about a paramedic who was on the verge of suicide because of events that haunted him. I already knew a paramedic that went over the edge, in no small part due to the job.

In 1992, six NYC paramedics/EMT's committed suicide. One of them was a guy I worked with. We were not steady partners, but I knew him well enough. He had a monkey on his back from the age of 15. He already took time off once to get clean. We thought he had really beaten it back this time.

Then I got to work one morning, and the first thing I was greeted with was that Bill was found on the side of the FDR Drive with a needle in his arm. Devastation is too mild a word to describe how we all felt. There were those who said it was an accidental overdose. Those of us who knew Bill knew better.

I worked Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights in Brooklyn. As bad as Hell's Kitchen might have been, Brooklyn made this section of Manhattan seem like a suburban house party. Brooklyn was a war zone back then. Brooklyn was Beirut. Brooklyn was Belfast. Brooklyn was LA 2019.

What we all had in common was the sheer volume of calls that would descend upon us during a given tour. It also had the effect of wiping any naiveté from you very quickly. The young EMT's that would come in, full of that "I am here to save the world" attitude had it chipped away. There are those that could adapt, and there are those that never could. I watched some come through my hospital and stay 6 months or less; they simply could not cope.

"I realized that my training was useful in less than ten percent of the calls, and saving lives was rarer than that. After a while, I grew to understand that my role was less about saving lives than about bearing witness. I was a grief mop. It was enough that I simply turned up."

The above was what Frank comes to realize about what his job was all about. (I found the line on IMDB, from the movie, but I believe it is in the book as well.) It sums up what I did, what Joe did, what we all did in a way I have never seen expressed before. It is exacting, and painful at the same time.

This book/movie has become my Balrog. It is the thing I have yet to face. It is the demon from the depths of my brain that while I have contained, I have not yet conquered. Even if I do face it, what will it do for me? Will it help me come to terms with my own set of memories that still haunt me as they did Frank? Will the fiery whip come and pull me down again into the pit that I fell into once before? I made a promise that I would never venture down into that hole again.

I'm forced to wonder though, if one day I will have no choice but to face that Balrog once and for all.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Am I missing something here?

I'm not quite sure what to make of this one.

I can certainly understand the need to protect parishioners, but it makes one wonder; how is this an example of Christian compassion? Certainly there had to be another solution than to take out a restraining order.

The Catholic church wonders why it is losing people in droves. This kind of behavior does not exactly help its image any.........

Who the hell took my spring????

Okay, so it is 49 degrees outside, the wind is whipping up a storm, and it is going to pour cats and dogs later.........This is spring?

If (man - made) global warming is indeed a reality, then Rochester must be an oasis.......

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Fourth Estate expresses itself.......sort of....

Professional journalists doing what they do best...........

I wonder if they offer classes on this style of presentation in journalism school?

Et tu, Brute?

They say that one's destiny is etched in stone. In the case of Julius Caesar, it appears as if more than that was forever encased in stone. French divers trained in archeology came across an incredible find; a life size bust of Julius Caesar, dated to about 46 B.C, found in Arles - the French city that he founded.

You can see from the picture the power that sculpture can have, even more so than painting or photography, in my opinion. You can look into his eyes, and as the article points out, it is the first to show him at a later stage in his life. His face seems to reflect the wars, politics, and other experiences of his lifetime. His life has been etched out in the marble that was used to carve his likeness. This man ruled over the civilized world over 2000 years ago. You can just about see the toll it took on him.

In London, there is a remnant of the stone fortification that used to encircle the city of Londinium, as the Romans called it. I remember seeing it for the first time, looking in awe at something that we as Americans have trouble fathoming. We simply don't have anything that old here. Here is the man that ruled over that city.

One is simply left to wonder what he was thinking at the time this was made, and what he would think of the world today.

Monday, May 12, 2008

My Kingdom for romance.

A very interesting piece from the NY Times, that was posted through the International Herald Tribune regarding the youth of Saudi Arabia that I read about here.

The article followed two cousins, Enad and Nader, and is a fascinating look into a closed society, highly religious and patriarchal, and one in which women, by Western standards, are highly oppressed.

I would also suggest heading over to Saudi Jeans, a blog that originates from Saudi Arabia, and that has some interesting takes on this subject, and others related to life in this very wealthy, very enigmatic world. Yes, one could go on all day about oil, the US - Saudi relationship, etc., but that is best saved for another day.

Saturday, May 10, 2008


18. This number represents certain milestones. For someone my age, it represented being able to drink alcohol legally. It meant that I could sign (most) legal documents as an adult. It meant graduating high school and starting college.

For this woman, 18 represents quite a different milestone. She has 17 kids, and number 18 is in development.

She is 41 years old.

I have read certain things in history regarding women who would bear this many children. The results were often not pretty. Now granted, medical care has advanced greatly, and women can be closely monitored and cared for in such a way that reduces (but does not eliminate) their chances for a successful and healthy pregnancy. Still, being pregnant 18 times does give one pause for thought. Having one child can be hard. I can't imagine what having 17, and soon to be 18, can do to a woman physically. I helped deliver enough babies as a paramedic to see firsthand what women go through. However, as Robin Williams once said, if men want to experience childbirth firsthand, they should try passing a bowling ball through their ass.

Perhaps as A) I am not a woman, and B) My wife and I do not have kids, I am ill prepared to comment on this. However, it does pose an interesting question: Do women (and by in turn, couples) who chose to bear this many children face the same kind of stignma as couples that chose to have no children? I ask this as, for a great while, we would face a certain degree of scrutiny, my wife and I, over the fact that we made a conscious, well thought out decision not to have kids.

I would suspect that the same kind of decision making goes in the opposite way, with folks like Mrs. Duggar. At least I think it would. Reading the article however, I am not quite sure. There is a sense of them playing "roulette" in a way.

"She and her husband, Jim Bob Duggar, said they'll keep having children as long as God wills it."

I wonder when the time comes to stop wondering what God wills, and to start exercising that free will that we were supposedly endowed with. I don't fault them, or chastise them for their belief in God. I do wonder if they take into account the physical toll all this is having on her.

In the end I suppose it all comes down to their own personal choice, just as it was our own personal choice. I just wish how people would stop saying how life and marriage is not as fulfilled without having kids. We still hear that from time-to-time. Life and marriage is what you make of it, kids or no kids.

Then again, my wife is just happy she can keep the plants alive...........

Friday, May 9, 2008

In through the out door........

Today is the day for my yearly trip to the GI clinic where I get my innermost innards scoped, cleaned, and given a good once over. One of the other things that afflicted me in addition to the liver disease was a case of ulcerative colitis, requiring a yearly visit to have my pipes inspected.

Anyone that has ever been through this knows that the procedure itself is not bad, especially with the fun sedation that they give you. It is the best legal high I have ever had, especially as they give you Fentanyl as part of the cocktail. I first encountered this wonder of modern medicine while in the ICU after my transplant. Simply put, you can get hit by a truck while on this stuff and just not care.

The not so fun part is that you have to practically starve yourself the day prior, save for stuff like broth, tea, etc. You also clean yourself out......thoroughly. This involves something akin to flushing a car radiator. You drink this concoction that winds its way through you, causing a war inside your large intestine, resulting in multiple trips to the porcelain god.

I always prepare well for this by having large stacks of reading material in the john at the ready.

So, please think good thoughts for me as I go off to be given the yearly seal of approval......and what I wouldn't give for a corned beef on rye about now........

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Creature feature.....

(Today's scribbling has been inspired by the ever so loverly Anna Pickard, (no relation to Jean-Luc) who recently played Pied Piper on the streets of Boston.)

Growing up in the Bronx, (pardon, da Bronx) the idea of "wildlife" usually takes on a vastly different idea than if one grows up in the country. A pigeon becomes a city boy's idea of a falcon, while squirrels and rats will often be big enough to challenge you to squatter's rights upon the ground which you might be standing. Of course, they have a serious attitude problem, and on more than one occasion, I could have sworn I saw some of them scurrying about with a Mohawk, mouthing the words, "You tawkin' to me?"

Pigeons, on the other hand, are simply rats with wings.......

So, it will come as no surprise that it took some adjusting on my part after moving here to the wilds of upstate NY, (yes, the real upstate, unlike most NYC folk who think that as soon as you step across the Bronx line, you are in upstate) to get acclimated to the far greater variety of fauna that populate these parts. Up here, I have been privy to animals that heretofore were simply pictures in a tourist pamphlet, or a page of National Geographic. (Yes, the same issue that would make you go blind, with naked pygmies on it......)

My first experience with what I only could describe at the time as a "rat on steroids," was not long after moving here in 1999.

The apartment we were renting had a laundry room at ground level, so one fine day I take my load of laundry to perform my spousal obligation, lest I feel the sting of the lash. There was a window that faced out into the courtyard of the apartment complex, and whilst I was loading my wife's unmentionables into the washer, something in the window caught my attention. I turned to my left, and saw something that, quite simply put, made me feel as though I stepped into the Fire Swamp. This was indeed a Rodent Of Unusual Size.

Struggling to keep my eyeballs from popping out of my head like a Warner Brothers Merrie Melody cartoon, I immediately looked for something with which to defend myself against this vile creature, though admittedly, I was fascinated by it. It was, to my estimation, the biggest rat I had ever seen.

The creature just looked at me, sniffed the air, and then ambled away. I was still standing there, terrified at the apparition from hell that I just witnessed, thanking the Buddha, Allah, Gilgamesh, Baal, and whatever appropriate deity I could call upon for saving me from what would surely have been a fate worse than death. Feeling my legs again, I ambled upstairs to the apartment. My wife saw the pasty look on my face, and with the caring, loving display of emotion she is famous for, inquired sweetly; "You did put fabric softener in, didn't you?"

All I could muster was a stuttering, drooling response. "Rat.....big.......really big......."

I was able to provide a description of the creature, hoping to regale her with a proud display of my manly bravery in driving off the beast. Her response was brief, and to the point. "That was no rat." she intoned. " That was a woodchuck."

"A what?" I said. (No clue what it was.)

"A woodchuck. You know, a groundhog."

"Wait," I said 'You mean those things that see their own shadow and forecast the seasons at the beginning of February?"

"Yep, same things." she said. (Unlike me, my wife did grow up in the wilds of upstate, and was infinitely more familiar with these woodland creatures.)

It was then and there that I knew I was no longer in Kansas. Well, or at least not the Grand Concourse.

This was the first of many a new experience in creature features. Not long before we moved to our house, I spotted a fox in the same courtyard, this time from the safety of our apartment window. I knew it was a fox, as I looked it up in the Boy Scout field manual I stole from the neighbor's kid. He didn't need it. The little bastard grew up here. He should know what a fox looks like anyway.........

My backyard now abounds with woodchuck, and as I came to find out, they are actually the largest member of the squirrel family. They like to dig holes. Big holes. In my backyard.

Oh, and looking at them headfirst, they also look as though they are saying, "You tawkin to me?"

Nice to know there are constants in the universe.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Burn baby, burn

“We don’t do that! It’s a sin!”

If there is ever a sure fire way to piss off your mother, just bring up the topic of religion, or rather one’s own lack of it. (As in mine.) Of course, if you really want to get her knickers in a twist, (Is it even proper to say that about one’s mother?) try telling her that you are going to do something upon your death that goes completely against your religious upbringing, and hers for that matter.

My mother is not the most religious individual in the world either, but she does have a belief in God, and I do respect it. When it comes to the concept of cultural Judaism, well, that runs very deep in her. So, some time ago we stumbled on to the subject of burial customs, as in what to do with our bodies when the mortal coil has shuffled off to Buffalo. I think the only reason we were discussing it in the first place was because I had been hounding her about making some badly needed, long delayed changes in her will. Aside from the fact that if anything happened to her I would be doomed to living with an Aunt I am less than fond of, there are no provisions in it for what she wants to have gifted to her granddaughter. (my niece.) Besides, at my age I think going to live with my Aunt is not something she (meaning my Aunt) would want either.

As an offshoot of this conversation on probate, the subject of funerals came up, and I stupidly informed her that I did not plan to be buried in the ground, as is mandated by Jewish law, but that I plan on being cremated. It is a personal choice on my part, and one that reflects my own personal belief that I do not want anyone coming to my grave, year after year, (also a Jewish custom) and feeling depressed. I would rather that people have a big party, scatter my ashes over a yet to be determined place, and then remember me without the need to come to a depressing place.

Needless to say this did not sit well with her.

She knows full well that I am, in the strictest definition of the word, an atheist, though I do have a spiritual side. I just don’t believe in a personal God in the Judeo-Christian sense of the word. I would take it a step further; I do not believe in the idea that one is born Jewish, or born into any religion, for that matter. One might be raised in the tradition of one’s parent’s religious beliefs, but to me, the idea that parentage determines a child’s religious nature is ridiculous. In Jewish tradition, if the mother is Jewish, so is the child, no matter what religion (or lack thereof) the father is.

This has been a sore point of discussion over the last year or so, and it is something we generally avoid talking about. It got brought up again today, as she finally made these long overdue changes to the will, and she needed to tell me what was done, and whose responsibilities are whose, with regards to my brother and me. During the course of the conversation, funerals and burials came up again, and this time the cremation conversation really heated up a notch. I finally had to make it clear that as this was my body, I will decide what will, and will not be done to it upon my death. She finally realized that this was a fruitless discussion, and fell back on her safety net of “Well, I’ll probably be dead long before you anyway.”

I don’t expect her to understand, and I hope that it never comes to the point that she would need to actually see it happen, but my wife knows full well what my wishes are. At the end of the day, I know she will fulfill them, and I take comfort in that.

My only hope is that the urn doesn’t get spilled, and I avoid being Hoovered…………