TODAY FROM AMERICA:
POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN CALIFORNIA:
Fear and loathing in ICU: Part II.
After a night of drifting between fitful sleep and stark terror, as the grey dawn light filtered into the room, I dimly overheard a conversation between two nurses as they busied themselves with things on or attached to my body or in my room.
“He lives in Thailand,” said the clearly recent arrival from the Philippines.“Is that in Southeast Asia?” “I don’t know” responded the other. Now obviously, although both nurses were exceptionally competent at their jobs, they were woefully ignorant of geography. So, that got me thinking about useless knowledge and that, in turn, led me to Sherlock Holmes. In one of the stories, Watson informed Holmes that the earth revolves around the sun. Holmes acknowledged that he did not know that and now that he does he will immediately dismiss it from his memory since there is no occasion that he could see that that information could help him to solve crimes.
I suddenly realized that through most of my life I minimized and devalued information usable in my daily activities, while reveling in useless factual tidbits. I decided, I did not care.
While I was contemplating this, a strange-looking gentleman entered the room. He was quite skinny, a bit hunched and wearing an exceptionally ill fitting greenish suit. He had a long relatively unkempt beard that extended halfway down his chest below which was pinned a badge that said “chaplain.”
If I had seen a roman collar, I would have expected a bunch of olive oil to be smeared over my body accompanied by some mumbling as he administered extreme unction. Or if he were wearing saffron robe, I would have expected some chanting to go with the mumbling and maybe the burning of a little incense. Both I could probably tolerate. After all, a little ritual to send you on your way couldn’t hurt. But this strange-looking individual with sad feverish eyes, I suspected was aiming at nothing less than a death-bed conversion. I immediately became wary and annoyed.
He said, unnecessarily, “I am the chaplain.” Added, “sometimes patients would like to ask me some questions.” I did not respond. He nodded briefly, continued, saying that in that case, he had a form that he identified with one of those poly syllabic words that end in y, like infinity or serendipity that when used by religious people could mean everything or nothing at all. He said, “usually one pays a lawyer to draft one up but that I could have this for free.” I took the form. Said, “I will read it later.”
“OK,” he said and stared at me with those wet sympathetic eyes. Eventually asked me, “is there anything I can do to help you.” I think I shook my head. He sat there a few more moments, said “OK,” again, wished me good luck and left. I looked at the form. It was a reasonably well done authorization for whomever I choose to turn off whatever machines were keeping me alive at the time.
He was followed almost immediately by another bearded gentleman in a white coat. His beard was long but not as long as the chaplain’s and slightly better barbered. When he spoke his accent identified him as a recent arrival from the South Asian Indian sub-continent. He told me that he was my new doctor, replacing the smiling Syrian. I do not know what became of the Syrian and did not care much; probably he went to the same place the happy Indian lady disappeared into. It was difficult for me to tell whether he was smiling also or whether his face had solidified into a grimace caused by some unbelievable shock he experienced in his early life. He spoke as though he was always on the verge of hysteria and told me what I was to expect my life to be like for the next day or two.
After he left, I turned to stare out the window where I first noticed that my view was filled by a magnificent huge valley oak tree, three or four huge twisted limbs crossed the window in great black slashes from upper left to lower right. In between the limbs the space was filled by the chaos of tiny branches typical of the species. It made me think of my daughter Jessica’s photographs. Most people, myself included, when taking a photograph tend to concentrate on focal points or design elements in the composition. Not Jessica, hers exhibit a sublime sense of anarchy; the design elements that one looks for always hovering just beyond reach. Then it registered that the diagonal thick branches were the design element that attracted me and I realized that she would probably ignore them and focus instead on the filigree of tiny branches that filled the spaces in between. What did I know?
While zoned out on my artistic musings, my first real visitor arrived. It was Joey, or “Papa Joey” as Hayden referred to him. I was very pleased that he took the time to come by and visit me. We mostly discussed his new venture. His environmental safety firm, that has offices in DC, Palo Alto and LA intends to start a franchise programs whereby his firm will provide the technical backup and regional marketing and the franchisee, the local sales and marketing.
Later that day a four person ambulance medical team arrived to transport me to another hospital where a titanium umbrella would be inserted into a vein in hopes that it would catch any additional blood clots before they reached my lungs and surely killed me. This was necessary because, as either the smiling Syrian or hysterical Indian repeatedly warned, the next clot would be fatal. The male members of the team were named, appropriately, Jason, Mark and Jeff.
Jason was the supervisor. He did not do much other than ask me if I was feeling all-right. Jeff was the driver and Mark the muscle. In the world of hospitals, white anglo-saxon males do the pulling, lifting and driving. They seem excluded from pursuits requiring greater mental capacity. They do appear slowly to be breeching the “glass ceiling” in the phlebotomist and nursing trades, although I suspect these pioneers were mostly gay.
They were accompanied by Cindy a middle-aged registered nurse who was there, “just in case something went wrong.”
It dawned on me that I probably had expended more money in medical care in the past two days than I had during the entire rest of my life combined.
They told me to relax, they were going to do all the work. They lifted me from my bed on to the gurney and wheeled me through the hospital halls. I lay back and watched the ceiling rush by like those shots in those television programs focused on the lives, loves and hi-jinks of those mostly post adolescent beautiful people who work in hospital ER facilities. Mark lifted me all by himself into the back of the ambulance. I guess the ride to the other hospital could be added to my bucket list; a ride in the back of an ambulance while still conscious.
At the second hospital I was delivered to another UN medical strike team appropriately dressed in blue scrubs. The operating physician was definitely more loquacious than Dr. Greenberg. The Dr, whose name I forget, proceeded to explain, at length and in great detail everything that was going to happen to me in the next thirty minutes. His description in fact was so remarkable, that I overheard a masked member of the UN strike team tell one of the ambulance personnel that he had never heard it done so clearly and at such great length as on that night. The Dr. gravely explained that after about a month, I would have to return to have my throat slit and a catheter inserted into the thus exposed vein that would grasp the umbrella by a hook and pull it out of my body. If I did not do this, I would die. He also explained that some people forgot all about the umbrella for as much as a year before they died. He did not recommend this course of action.
The operation was anti-climatic since I saw and felt nothing following the slight pinch in my groin that accompanied administration of the local anesthetic. Then it was back to the ambulance, return to the first hospital and the lifting of my body back into bed. Everyone congratulated everyone else and I thanked my team profusely (I had begun to view them as my team). They left and I settled back into the unique rhythms of life in ICU.
I no longer remember precisely what else happened that day (or perhaps even the next) other than that night (or perhaps the next) at about 2 AM one of the nurses gave me a full bath while I laid there on my bed in the semi-darkness. I thought it was pleasantly erotic. It made me happy.
The next day all I really recall was my bout of Stockholm Syndrome. You know, the effect experienced by those kidnapped who become so dependent of their captors, they fall in love with them. I fell in love with my nurses and wanted to marry them. I told them so. I never saw them again.
The next day was the NFC and AFC football conference championship games. The SF 49ers won. For those who saw the game there were several moments of high emotion for those who become emotional about things like that. At some point near the end of the game, the room suddenly was filled with doctors, nurses and technicians. Apparently all my monitoring equipment had gone haywire. My blood pressure went through the roof and my pulse escalated to about 125 BPM. EKG,s, X-rays, emergency blood tests were called for. A lot of serious faces and head shaking. About an hour after the game all my vital signs returned to normal. I wonder if I should consider skipping the Superbowl? Go Niners.
A few days later at about two in the AM a nurse pushing a wheelchair entered the room and announced they needed the bed. I was wheeled off the ICU floor and into another less mechanically appointed room where I was left alone. The next morning a new Arab doctor came in and announced that they needed the bed for this room as well. They would discharge me in an hour. I begged him to let me stay until 5PM when Dick could pick me up without missing a day of work. He agreed with a shrug of his shoulders. I was left alone until about 4PM when a nurse came into my room and said that, to her, it appeared I did not want to leave. After she left I thought about that for a while. Maybe there was something to it. After all, some of my best friends are here.
At 5PM I was discharged. Dick and Hayden picked me up. Besides the wheelchair pusher, no one else was there to see me off.
We went and had dinner a Panda’s Express. After dinner we went home where I immediately went to sleep and did not wake up until the following morning.
JOEY’S NEW MYSTERY NOVEL:
ENTER THE DRAGON
Some people call me Dragon, not because of my fiery breath or temperament or even because I might be sitting on a pile of gold, which I definitely am not. I got that name for the perfectly pedestrian reason that my real name is Matt Dragoni. And, as with most nicknames you go with it or try to hide it out of embarrassment. I can live with Dragon. It beats, Matty, Drags or Goni Gonads.
I am part-time attorney and private detective working out of San Francisco and Bangkok Thailand. When I am not doing that, I mostly spend my time like today, sitting at a sidewalk café in San Francisco’s North Beach or some other place like that, sipping espresso, working on my novel and staring off into the distance. Mostly the latter. As for my novel, I began the current draft, my sixth or so (none either finished or published), about four months ago. I have reached the middle of page seven. I have however accumulated 35 pages of notes, clever sayings and obscure facts, that I am convinced some day I will integrate into the novel and win me a literary prize.
I used to be what many people call a success, a euphemism for asshole, but now I am mostly a bum. So it goes. I have a small stipend from what is left of my investments and I work now and then as a private eye and attorney hoping to eke out $1000 or so more per month to keep me in whatever it is at that moment that I crave.
Anyway, I was sitting there contemplating the appropriate simile with which to end a series of sentences that began, “[I] stood there is the shadows. It was freezing. My frozen nuts clanged against my thighs like….” I began considering something like, “ice cubes striking a cocktail glass” but was sure something like that had been done before. Suddenly a woman walked up and stood in front of my table.
If this were a noir mystery novel she would be a tall willowy blond with legs extending to heaven or some other improbable place like that. Given that when I was in my dream space my ability to switch back into reality is somewhat impaired, the appropriateness of a contest to decide the suitable metaphor or simile for where those legs actually did end up flashed through my mind.
Alas, she was not a tall willowy blond no matter how her legs connected to her body. She was short and sort of skinny. Decent breasts pressed against her jeans jacket. “Tits on a stick,” my friend Gary would call them. She also had a shiner around her left eye.
She had short spiky black hair. Actually, only some of it was black the rest was red, yellow and green. A spike in her nose holding what looked like a tiny dog biscuit (do they still do that?). The jagged edges of red, blue and green tattoos snaking up her neck above her collar and peeking out below her cuffs. Black leather leggings, metalled joints and motorcycle boots or Doc Martins, I could never tell which is which. Her face was heavily freckled and she had a small pinched nose. She looked a lot like the woman in the first two Indiana Jones films who always got into trouble that Harrison Ford got her out of and then screwed at the end of the picture.
I thought her look had gone out of style a few years ago. But, hey, this is San Francisco, weird dress never goes out of style here. Today I saw two men wearing berets and there are whole neighborhoods where people still sit around complimenting each other on their tie-dye T-shirts.
She said, “Can I sit down?”
“Depends, I am not good-looking enough or rich enough to expect an attractive woman to walk up and sit at my table. What’s up?”
“You’re The Dragon right.”
“Dragon, is enough. And, yes I am some times called that — among other less savory things, but you still did not answer my question.”
“Pino said you were a private detective.”
Pino was one of the shills that line Columbus avenue trying to entice passers-by into restaurants to eat generally atrocious, over priced, pretend Italian food.
“Pino is a fat asshole, and yes I sometimes do some detective work, but I am not very good at it.”
“That’s what Pino said. Can I sit now?” Which she did without waiting for an answer.
I looked over at the smiling Pino leaning against the parking meter and mimed a pistol shot at his head.
“Would you like a drink?”
“If you’re buying.”
She ordered a glass of Barbera. I signaled for two.
“How much do you charge?”
“$100 a day, plus expenses. Seven day minimum. Half up front and the rest when the week is up.” In other words $350. At my level, I figured I would never see the rest of the fee or the expenses.
“That sounds reasonable”
“Like everyone seems to agree, I am not very good.”
She chuckled, said, “What are the expenses.”
“You know transportation, telephone calls , cocaine. Things like that. The usual.”
Chuckled again. “Ok, except for the cocaine.”
“What’s your name,” I ask?
Thought, “who the fuck names their kid Mavis today.” Said, “Your shitting me, not Dawn or Sandy?”
She ignored me said, “I would like you to find my friend. He has been missing for a week.”
The drinks arrived. I took a sip of mine. She did not touch hers. Said, “Why would you pay someone like me? Why not go to the police? They have a department just for this.”
“Yeah, but they never do anything but wait and tell you to let them know if he ever shows up.”
“Did he give you that'” I said pointing at the shiner?
“Uh, no I fell at work.”
“Do you drive a Harley,” I asked?
“Huh?” “In fact I do. How did you know?”
“I’m a detective.”
“Ha, more likely a lucky guess. What happened if I said no?”
“You would be lying, and even if it were true I would have said I knew it all along.”
“So,” I added, “I know bullshit when I hear it. It is your right not to tell me what you do not want me to know. Your information as well as your money are what you pay me with. You get what you pay for. Why do you want to find this guy?”
“Don’t you want to know his name?”
“We’ll get to that. This is more important now.”
So she told me her story about their being lovers for a while. The last few weeks he being nervous but he would not explain why. Something about an import-export deal with Clarence Reilly. Then he disappeared and the usual, “he would have told me if he were going away.”
In my past life I had dealings with Reilly. He billed himself as an “investment advisor.” You know he took your money and told you what you wanted to hear. If things worked out, he took some more. If it didn’t he still had your money but did not want to know you anymore. A gangster without guns. Reilly was up there among the hall-of-fame assholes. I hoped I would not have to deal with him. It would take weeks to wash away his stink.
“Tell me, do you ride your bike in the Gay Freedom Day Parade?”
“What what does that have to do with it,” she said reddening slightly?
“Yes” she said staring defiantly in my eyes.
“You drive or ride postern?”
“Drive. My girl friend rides behind.”
“So you have a boyfriend and a girlfriend?”
“This is San Francisco, and what does that have to do with him being missing?”
“Nothing I guess, this is San Francisco.”
I took her information and entered it into my computer; his name and address, work address, friends (he did not seem to have many), same information about the girl friend and a bunch of other bullshit things to make it seem as though I had a lot of work to do. I also got his name. Mark, Mark Holland.
I asked her for photographs of Mark and of her girl-friend. She fished in her back pocket pulled out a wallet and eventually handed my two photos. The first, a little out of focus, showed a young man, a little too much hair on his head and a little too little in what passed for a mustache and a beard. He was young man thin but already showing the signs of the bloating that was to come. He was flexing a poor excuse for a bicep to accentuate for the camera the spiky dark tattoo; something abstract, nordic, who the fuck knows. I hate tattoos. I took him for about 30 years old and a big time stoner.
The girl friend was another thing altogether. Lilly Park was her name. She was as they say drop dead gorgeous. She appeared Eurasian. I wondered how many more generations in the city it would take for these racial identification characteristics to disappear. Already, most of the teenagers I see around the city had lost any distinguishing visual racial markers that I had been brought up with that identified whatever it was they were supposed to identify. Another separation from life’s comfortable moorings. Probably a good thing that it also goes wherever it is that ethnic jokes went.
The photograph looked like a publicity shot. Taken from slightly above it showed blond smokey eyed beauty revealing plenty of cleavage. Said, “Those must have been some threesomes.”
Got the bitch look in return. You know the pupils crash down to pinpoints and the body goes rigid. That’s one of the differenced between men and women. Insult a man and it takes him time to work through his slow-thinking mind whether he was insulted. Then even more time to figure out whether he can take you or not. That usually gives you time to run, make a joke of it or hit him first. With women their reaction is instantaneous. You no longer have options.
Rather than risking further damage, I told her that I would take the pictures with me now and when I get home scan them into my computer and return them tomorrow. Actually I do not have a scanner. I said that just to avoid any protest from her in the matter.
Finally, I got her cell phone number and email address and asked where she works.
“I own Marky’s Tattoo Parlor on Columbus. I worked with Marky for years. He gave the place to me when he retired. Marky was a real artist.”
Thought she must have a thing for guys with that name. Said, “Oh, I was unaware that sticking needles in someone was considered an art form now.”
I smiled, “so they say,” and collected the $350 fee.
I watched her walk off, skinny ass swinging in a tight, almost prissy, determined rhythm.
“I like them with a little more meat on their bones,” I thought.
LIVEBLOGGING WORLD WAR II: JANUARY 22, 1943
WASHINGTON, Thursday—”I am back in Washington and today am flying down to christen the new “Yorktown.” I christened the first one and she acquitted herself well and I am proud that they have asked me to christen the second one. As she goes down the ways, I shall pray that she will see the end of the war and will be used in the future for peaceful patrol work. Whatever happens to her, I feel sure that ship and men will live up to the traditions of the Navy, which are becoming more glorious day by day.”
A FLOTUS for the ages.
Of course my right-wing correspondents will eventually email me their opinion [accompanied by appropriate photographs] that Ms. Roosevelt as well as Hillary Clinton, are not “pretty” enough to be taken seriously. This, of course, will be proven, in their minds, by pointing to Franklin and Bill’s extra-curricular activities. Why do you think conservatives so firmly believe a woman’s value and abilities reside in her vagina? Could it be because their brains reside in their tiny penises?
“a gun kept in the home was 43 times more likely to be involved in the death of a member of the household than to be used in self-defense,”
Art Kellerman, Emergency Room Doctor and researcher.
The reason we keep guns in our home, we are often told, is to protect us from being shot by someone we do not want to be shot by. That is unless you are a Second Amendment gun-nut, who believes we keep guns in our homes because it is our constitutional right to shoot ourselves.
I understand that, really I do. But what I do not understand why you would not want the police or emergency services personnel to know you have the gun, given that you will most likely be calling on their services sooner rather than later.