Tuesday, December 29, 2009

run-up to amateur night #1

I worked three of the final five days of Xmas. For the first time in several years, we had neither a suicide nor tragic death, nor a last-minute fire to ruin a family's holiday. So that was good.

Things I will leave blank since it's obvious what venom would follow:

idiots trying to blow up planes...
the illogic of the travel-safety oxymorons in after-the-stampede barn door shutting...
holiday travel in general, dubious logic of
stress and its malcontents
the pleasantries of getting where you're going and being with your people
'black' Friday (yes, that one STILL has me fuming)
the folks who've turned street-plowing into a devilish torture of those they're 'helping.'
chopping ice to protect people from falling down 13% grades to the sidewalk from the ice floe on my curb...
getting a nasty gram from the city seven minutes after the trash truck has complained that I hadn't shoveled a wide-enough lane, yet no love at all when their plows make the sidewalks/curbs/alleys inaccessible...

My first New Year's Eve at Station Five, we tailed a drunk driver, giving Dispatch updates of the driver's location. She asked, finally, if we were following the driver in our fire truck. 'Um, ... no...' Several hours later, we spied a drunk face-down in the snow outside the station. We went to check on him and called a squad to get him to detox and a warm bed. He was bemusedly belligerent and foreswore our help. Then he fell again and proceeded to crawl along the frozen, icy ground. We tried to help. He mightily fucked us off, so we let him be, standing across the street. If not for the pathos, it would have been humorous: his deliberate, almost campy insistence on crawling across the street--to spite us, he said. Except he couldn't crawl up the two-foot snow/ice drift. Up and down, up and down, up and down: he crawled up then slid and rolled back down. We went to help him when he rolled into the street, for fear a car (likely driven by a drunk) would crush him, thus ruining his awesome plan to spite us. Finally the police squad approached and our man jumped up and began waving impatiently for the cop. 'About fucking time,' he said. We looked at each other: rarely do people, no matter how drunk, diss us for the po-po. He told us off and started to tell the cop about how shitty we were. The cop sidestepped his embrace and slammed him against the hood of the cruiser, frisked him, and shoved him into the backseat. THAT'll teach him to spite the best non-judgmental social service he's got at two a.m. on amateur night... No love for the cats in blue, eh?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Ammoniac reveries

When I became a firefighter, I had a rough idea of what the job entailed. I knew that Minneapolis, like most cities, had drastically fewer fires than in the past. I knew Mpls firefighters responded to medical calls.
It takes a long time to really learn how to fight fires. Truly a hands-on job, with the caveat that to learn well, one should also get good, instructive post-fire explanations and evaluations to better understand what exactly happened in the dark and the smoke. This is not often the case, so there are many people very skilled at doing the same thing they've always done: floundering about in the dark. I have many extensive thoughts and opinions about this crucial flaw in the traditionalist learning process. Another entry...

During rookie school we went on ride-alongs with Hennepin County paramedics. My first one, on Friday night, 1 April, 2000, we had a range of calls. One was a young Latina who was pregnant and scared. Neither of the medics spoke any Spanish. I do/did, but I wasn't up on my Spanish medical vocabulary. 'Pre-natal care'? 'Months since last menstrual period?' 'Complications?' 'Allergies?' etc. It was comic and painful. After a decade, I'll still have catastrophically inept conversations, generally at middle-of-night calls when I'm barely coherent enough to make clear English sentences, let alone wrap my salty tongue around Spanish idiomatic expressions.

We toured the ER, too. Learning about how it worked and interacting with patients. It's important to be able to touch people in this type of work. You wouldn't necessarily think about it, but we spend a lot of time in people's personal space, pulling up or off their clothes, helping them when they've fallen in the bathroom, etc. In the STAB room that day there were a couple acute cases. The STAB room is where critical or marginal calls come before either being dead or going to surgery or ICU. There were a couple heart attack people, and a mother-daughter pair who'd been in a car accident. The mother hadn't been seat-belted and had tossed around the car when it rolled, resulting in neck and head injuries & lacerations, teeth knocked out through her lips, and a broken ankle. Her daughter was belted. She had trauma from her mother smashing her as the car rolled. If both had been belted, this wouldn't have happened. The daughter's left arm had been snapped, however, when the car rolled--caught in the open window and the ground. We were watching through the overhead monitors as the doctors and nurses work on it, and I was looking at her arm as they cleared the blood and broken skin away, showing the protruding top half of her broken humerus bone (upper arm). I turned very, very pale. I stepped back and sat on a chair. The paramedic leading our tour did a double-take, grinned, and got me some water. My two classmates were utterly supportive. Not.
So, I know I don't like to see exposed bone without preparation. On calls, at least, we have a general idea of what we're going to, so there's a chance to anticipate all the potential things that have happened to the body.

We learn quickly--or we should--how to assess scenes. Asking the standardized list of medical information questions, sure, but also taking in myriad other--often more telling--clues and cues. Unlike the paramedics, our face-time with patients is relatively brief on most calls, allowing us to maintain a warmer, more-compassionate, or at least tolerant, disposition to the endless non-emergency 911 calls. The force of energy shifting from the medics and Fire when we respond to a 'possible heart attack' call and a guy is sitting in his armchair, breathing fine, full of healthy, oxygenated blood (but for his smoking habit) and says he's had a cold for a week and had a pain in his back, near his heart, ie, on the left side of his body, for about a week. And then he says it's about a nine on the 1-10 pain scale.

We have seen horrible trauma. I NEVER NEVER NEVER want to get to a real-scale level nine or ten. Never. When I strained my lower back at work and couldn't bend w/o a sharp, shooting pain, I told them it was about five. When I dislocated my shoulder, sabotaged by physics and gravity while biking in the snow, I was gasping with the surges of pain, but that was about four. I'm superstitious like that.

Blood, open wounds, viscera aren't as bad for me as the bone playing peek-a-boo through the ruptured flesh.

What they didn't prepare us for in rookie school was the smell. Or, smells.

Gastrointestinal bleeds involve the body turning septic from within, and the patient vomiting and shitting rancid bloody liquid. That has a singular, potent odor.
Nursing homes smell of old people, urine, and bleach.
Drunks can smell really rank, and we get Listerine or paint thinner mixed with that.
Vomit is vomit is vomit.
Shit is shit, by the way. A drunk on a binge who's been drinking and shitting herself for three or four days is going to smell similar to the poor old fellow who fell and couldn't crawl to the phone so lay on the floor for three days, shitting himself.
Incense that covers dope smoking.
Pungent spices of ethnic food; those same spices and foods when the stove has been forgotten and the entire building is choking with acrid burned whatever.
Septic wounds.
Decomposing bodies discovered after a couple days, of course.

The smell that made me want to demand a training warning in rookie school is this: the accumulated reek of long-time urine soaked into clothing, skin, furniture. There's a heavy tang of ammonia that digs deep into one's eyes, nose, and stomach. The stench comes from everywhere, not just the person or his/her clothes, but the rug, the couch you're leaning on to help lift the person up, the air is heavy with this. Which is why nursing homes use so much bleach.

There are many, many calls we return from with sour expressions and unshakeable visceral sensations in our noses, mouths, minds.

And we sit back down and eat our dinner.

Monday, December 7, 2009

So long ago; so late & so far away

Tomorrow (Dec 8th) will be the 20th anniversary since I quit drinking. It's also the day John Lennon was murdered. I didn't have anything to do with that, drunk or sober. Throughout the past months, I've had low-grade tremors of 'Hey, it's been 20 years since...' and some random memory of late '89 will pop into my head. Hard fall leading into a fierce winter, leading (briefly) to Boston then to Chattanooga, then to Mpls via a summer in NYC.

I'd left DC post-graduation & summer teaching with an acute awareness that I needed/wanted to stop drinking--that I couldn't sustain the amount of besottedness I'd been achieving for month after month, steadily gaining momentum since I was young. I saw a future for myself of teaching, being a drunk, waiting for something to happen. Something bad, stupid, unnecessary, self-fulling/sabotaging. I saw it, as I saw it happen to many of my mentors. No mystery to our bad decisions.

I tried to stop, heading west after more silliness in that heart of whiteness, Ohio. Made it a week, then resumed. Did a loop of the Southwest & California w/ Talal, Slyder, warm beer and warm, cheap tequila. A fortuitous accident in Gilroy (not so lucky for the poor dog) caused us to miss the Northridge earthquake; we had literally just walked in the door at Bucky's place at Stanford when the foundations started shaking. We drove through a decimated SF three days later. Ended up back in Colorado, hooked up with Will Wilson. T ditched. Will & I were low rent ski bums for the winter. I decided to stop drinking--told myself I'd drag myself to rehab if I took another drink. And I didn't. We played foosball for hours, read big famous books, were misanthropic wage-workers in Vail's retail center, spent hours and hours on the mountains.

I didn't know what was coming next, but I didn't want what I had. Will was a prince. Fortunately, he--like most people--preferred me sober to drunk, so he supported my change enthusiastically.

During my rambles in California, I went to lunch on the Santa Monica pier w/ my dear aunt Lindsay. We didn't know each other very well, but there was an affinity. It was that connection, truly, that gave my compass the swing toward true north. I connected with her, and she said, in passing, some minor observation that resonated profoundly. Gave me disproportionate quantities of clarity.

And from there, as dear dead Ray Carver said, the rest was gravy.
Except it wasn't, of course.

Chattanooga 1990-1994... I thank Hank Lewis, Paco & Ann Watkins, & Dave Feldman for dealing with me, being good friends, living through it. Then I say (as they might, were they reading this): 'Holy fucking shit! That's twenty years ago?' Times makes a monkey of us all.

Steve B has been there for it all, providing constant enthusiasm (if only to make me pissy) and true support.

Once I cleaned up and started to figure things out for myself, I've felt so lucky that it's silly. I miss drinking, the taste and experience. I miss being drunk, I suppose. The rawness that propelled my through my youth has been relieved of its urgency. I've figured out some stuff. I still don't think it's a bad thing that I'm sober.

Seeing cats who're still on the sauce, the crackups, fuckups, messups and sorrows--I don't miss it. I have my family and that is every reason/reward for living clean. There is no mystery to drunk dialing, drunk driving, drunk fighting/fucking. I am amply expansive and verbal without liquor to loosen my tongue...

Twenty years ago, my adult life began. Ten years ago, my true life unfolded. The decade I've had w/Annie & the girls has been everything & then some.

I am grateful.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

disposable heroes of hip-hoprisy, redux

A few years back, Jay-Z's song '99 Problems' was a big hit. It also provoked mild social tumult for its lyrical content, primarily its hook/chorus: 'if you're having girl problems, I feel bad for you, son. I got 99 problems but a bitch ain't one.' He goes on to explicate and refract the connotations of 'bitch' in successive stanzas: literal girlfriend; music critic; po-po/the man (actually, a narcotics K9, too); snitch or back-biting rival.
Clever word play and standard-issue rap/macho sexist posturing.

It's a catchy song. So, for that matter, is (pre-teen-marauding) Kanye West's Gold Digger (featuring & building on an additionally pre-teen-marauding Jamie Foxx's hook as Ray Charles). 'I ain't sayin' she's a gold digger, but she ain't messin' with no broke nggrs.' etc.

Many guys went for the beat, the rhymes, and humor. So did many women. A good number were offended--which seems exaggerated; maybe it should be 'bothered' since it's hard to take personally such low-grade, myopic fabrication of the games between men/women.

Both songs are on the list of tunes I have to ffd past when the kids are in the car. I don't think the songs increase or condone my disrespect of women (far less than 99% of what's on t.v. daily), and I don't see myself doing either number acapella at the next Vulva Riot open mic.

Now, in our pseudo post-...society (post-rational seems most fitting these days), there's a new song that travels in the metaphoricalizing of women as commodity. It's also catchy. It has a better video, too. 'Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)' has become ubiquitous, and, fortunately for the Knowles-Carter (or, I guess, Z-'ce) household's struggling finances, very popular. The spoof videos are clogging YouTube and my daughters both fill their empty moments singing it.

Great. Good clean fun. Finally, a rap song that grandma can dance to. Matter of fact, check out our new video (it's called 'Long Acres Rest Home cafeteria line 'Single Ladies' dance.' Or something).

Except, to get all grammatical and whatnot, to which antecedent is the 'it' of Miss Knowles' ring-putting exhortations?
In the video, she shakes her finger (among other appendages), signifying ring finger, marriage, commitment from her trifling, wandering-eye & -hand man. 'If you like it, you should have put a ring on it.' She upbraids him for not appreciating her and for getting jealous when another man filled the void (of attention or physical) her man left: he shouldn't have dipped.

Yet the song is barely winking a reference to what the ring-on-finger sanctions: by committing, we promise, and reserve, our sexual selves to each other. Age-old dynamic, and paradox: men want the physical/sexual, and give the ring to gain the body; women must protect the chimerical virtue, holding out/off the sex until securing the ring.

Taken this way, this is a more-sassy version of the standard Sandy Dee heartbreak song. That 'it' takes on far a more adult, carnal antecedent. I'm not sure there's a ring big enough to fit that 'it.'

But it's a bit funny, and disturbing, to watch my grandmother, and yours, join with our school kids to try that hit dance... Oh oh oh, oh oh oh, oh oh oh, oh oh oh. Molly Bloom's Yes, Yes, Yes, done for 2010 generation.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Dias de los muertos & las gracias

One of the facets of my job is I spend many hours with my crew. Co-existence can be grating, and all the usual human dysfunctional behaviors manifest themselves. But we also forge bonds over the mundane and the spectacular. If we go to a particularly crazy call, we will forever refer to 'the house with the pigs in the bathroom' or 'the woman with really, really swollen ankles' or, of course, 'the guy with the weight plates constricting his testicles.'

We go out in all weather and we are there until we're done. Very cold, very hot, shitty storms. There's a bond that forms in such misery or absurdity. We are not the military: those men and women face true danger a regular and constant intervals. But we do experience some intense stuff together.

When fortunate enough to work with dedicated, highly competent, compassionate people, as I have been, there's a pleasure that balms the sting of rough calls. We all have bad days, but in general we click. I trust my life with these people, and we rely on each other.

I also see so much tragedy and deep ruin that it's bracing. I come home after EVERY shift (even the one where I wiped out, hit the post, and smashed my shoulder) so incredibly psyched to see my girls and Annie. I appreciate so deeply and dearly what wonder I am privileged to enjoy as my normal life. It's humbling. It's refreshing and motivates me to try to share my excess joy with those whose life, whether temporarily or permanently, sucks.

Live your life right, as it's all we know we have. (PS: guilt is a total waste of time, energy, talent.) And for the love of the whale's tail, do NOT go shopping on Friday. What the fuck would you do that for?
Gobble, gobble to one and all.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The humor of the silly, plus some leaping lizards

Granted, I provide ample fodder for mockery in myriad ways, but when I saw this yesterday, I just had to put down one hand-held device, pause my in-drive dashboard movie, slide the fondue set to the passenger seat, and grab my other hand-held phone (which I'd been playing Scrabble on, as traffic was pretty light) to capture this:

So, I took a camera-phone photo, the resumed my Scrabble, fondue, in-flight movie, and typing furiously on the vintage Underwood I have just for commuting. Until the next light, where I just had to pull aside them to see (to confirm my suspicions): two twenty-year-old white college kids with IRIE I as their license plate. I suppose 'Jah Rastafaria' was too long for the Critical Habitat plates. And 'Honky Lips' has been taken for years.

Meanwhile, in the build-up to my long-awaited critical analysis of the influences of Belgium on various US sports subcultures, I captured this clip of Shrike doing a wall climb during training. In Mondio Ringsport, as in Belgian and French ringsports, there are three agility components, in addition to the obedience, retrieve, scent-discrimination, and biting exercises. The hurdle is about four feet high. The long jump twelve to fourteen feet long. And this, the palisade, gets over seven feet tall. We don't get to practice it very often, but he's getting the motion down nicely.

Monday, November 16, 2009

damage that men do

It's a brutal challenge to have daughters. How to maintain some of the myth of the romantic process--and, actually, why?--while also cautioning & preparing them for the enslaught of male-female relations. Sure, we played Indigo Girls and Tribe 8 to them in utero, but they seem ambivalent toward early Sapphism. So, having male-oriented girls, how do we in good conscience prepare them for the horrors of adolescence and beyond?

I wasn't a bad guy when I was younger, but I was an asshole at times. I was certainly clumsy if not brutal with girls' feelings. I never forced anyone to do anything physically, but how many girls, facing the crucible of 'do it or lose the boy' made decisions contrary to their hearts--ones they regretted? In Housekeeping, Marilyn Robinson has a great line about the amnesia of adulthood. HOW can we forget all we did & endured, solely to give our children their shot at a myth we all know doesn't exist?

I teach my girls to respect themselves. I try to instill core self-confidence. Healthy inner voices and external scrutiny of situations and people. An awareness that people do and say things w/o considering the impact they have on others--don't take personally the shit others throw at you; conversely, be aware that others aren't always looking out for you.

Fair enough. But the next step? Do I say that, in early (and later, I guess) dating, the boys are clumsy, desperate, awkward, insecure? There is seldom love on the basement couch or in the minivan--but there are bruises and pregnancy and--these days--video cameras uplinked to internet. Do I teach them to defend themselves--and why? Would I rather they seriously hurt a boy who is 'just being a boy'? I know too many women who, as girls & young women, suffered horrendous physical and psychological and emotional damage at the hands and pricks of guys who 'were good guys'; who 'didn't mean anything'; who 'just made a mistake.' I don't want my girls scarred for life because of a 'good guy's' 'accident.' Better he gets his windpipe severed.

But, how to instill this w/o pre-scarring, and scaring, them pre-emptively? I see the college kids and remember all the boorish stupidity we did. I know it hurt many feelings, fucked up how some girls saw themselves. If we can't better train boys to be more sensible, and stop girls and boys from buying the shit they sell in the magazines, then we might teach the gals to stop it for real.

Friday, November 13, 2009

'I am a patient boy. I wait I wait I wait...'

Last night my older daughter refused to go to bed because we couldn't find a Calvin & Hobbes anthology I'd mentioned to her. We looked around thoroughly, then let it go. Except she didn't. She kept poking in bookshelves, under woodpiles, behind the clown shed. In part she was dawdling; she was also being doggedly persistent. I laughed and pointed her toward bed, finally. Hard to scold her for my own behavior replicated in the flesh.

I've for years claimed my mantra was Patience & Persistence. Well, claimed to myself; no one else really cares. But that's how I thought of myself--as patient & persistent in conjunction. Someone recently complimented my patience while training Shrike, a crackhead on uppers if there ever was one. She added, and patient isn't something I'd ordinarily ascribe to you. I gasped. 'What? Me? Not-patient!? Are you high?' Then I pondered it.
I'm about as non-patient as they come.
I am a persistent son-of-a-bitch, however.
My persistence can appear patient only in that I will doggedly pursue whatever it is I'm focused on--I will. I will. I will. Tenaciously persistent. Which, for my adult life, I've misinterpreted as patient. I assumed the two were interconnected, when, really, I was impatiently, inexorably pursuing whatever my obsession was. Hah! Maybe the new motto should be 'persistent & persistenter...'
Speaking of sitting in the waiting room:

I started to write about the Balkanization of our culture, but I've got fish to fry. Meandering and prolix as my thoughts tend to be, I find myself constantly amazed at our tendency--and moreso the root of our tendency or need--to dualize people and things. Politically, one is either 'with me or against me,' to quote our recently deposed idiot savage. Knee-jerk shorthand makes for blurry abstraction and no one actually knows anything. It's like a lit theory class gone wrong.

But it's in the personal that I'm surprised. How many serial killers, when discovered, are described by their neighbors of being 'just a good guy, quiet, kept to himself, really spent a lot of time on his yard.' As if liking horticulture and sociopathology are mutually exclusive. I tried to pass a referendum that we were no longer permitted to be surprised by the private deeds of our relatively unknown neighbors. (Actually, it's the other side of our conditioned racism/xenophobia: we grant far more credibility to bland white folks because they resemble us, while exposing non-whites to excessive scrutiny for not-being white like us.) Sadly, too man people got defensive and refused to vote for my referendum, thus we still see the dope on the news saying, 'Gee, he always seemed really friendly, and we all loved his holiday lights.'

Extrapolated from murder, why are we surprised that people--men especially--compartmentalize? Dollar Bill Clinton was a great leader AND a sophomoric skirt chaser. Many people in power have bad boundaries. Doesn't mean their public works are devoid of value. If my children's teachers are into S/M, that doesn't mean they're bad teachers. If they're into child porn, they should end up at the bottom of a dumpster. There IS a difference.

We seem to require such simplicity of character--which goes against everything in our own actual life experience. I can be a good father and WC Fields-esque about children and small dogs in general. Our increasing inability, allergy, to complexity leads to more hypocrisy and stupider public discussion.

more anon

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

'how's that hope-y change-y thing working out?' you ask

Back on the bike again today. Safety conscious, except I generally am safety conscious (with a permissive approach to stop signs etc). In fact, most mornings I commute to work, I remind myself to be aware of ... everything. We never leave the house intending to get hurt.

Stopped in at Twin Six HQ to pick up some gear. Stuffed my three-pocket backside with swag and pedaled away happily. Wended my way through the paths of the city, again, happily and safely (whatever that means: twigs spell disaster if rolled at correctly wrong angles). Midway around Calhoun, I felt something spill from my back. Stopped and collected the bag, checking behind to see if anything else had dropped. Finished my ride and found a deliciously cool, speed- and stamina-improving pair of socks were missing. Orphaned! They must be so scared, out there all alone, I worried. Some nice person likely saw them--perhaps got entangled with them as they were blading along: again, we never PLAN for accidents--and took them home to their family.

It bugged me, though. Damn, a new pair of socks lost stupidly. 'Patience & Persistence' is my motto, so I perseverated about the lost socks (plus I hate wasting more money than I've already wasted.) Wave-particle duality & Shroedinger's (sp) cat: they might be laying on the side of the bike path, or they were long gone. Could be either; couldn't be both. So I took Shrike and drove back to Calhoun, parked, and retraced my route.

Reader, it was fruitless. Luck was a scorned bride, or merely scornful of my weak rescue attempt. We walked a couple miles, noses to the asphalt and leafy grass. Shrike's nose is longer and stronger than mine, but he didn't know which socks I meant when I commanded, 'Find the socks! Fetch 'em!'

I was lurking a bit close to the edge of the path, but aware of on-coming cyclists, bladers, and a posse of teen long-boarders. Some folks were disgruntled nonetheless; I'll steal from bsnyc and call them nonplussed. Still, the pup & I covered lots of ground. Even w/o sock rescue, it was a glorious day for a walk.

Someone made a comment that I inferred was a snidery at my t-shirt, which got me thinking of the faux-debate on health care and politics in general. My shirt? (see below) A gift last year from Francis Metcalf, wonderman extraordinaire. Barak Obama done in the style of Bad Brains' Banned in DC (okay, music heads: BB's seminal Banned in DC). I've seen a couple of the 'how's that hope-y change-y thing working for ya now?' bumper stickers around. I resist smashing in the windows of those cars to engage in sincere dialogue about the politics of stupidity.

How offensive was my shirt? It was horrible. I had the audacity to still support the president, rather than hiding my head (and stickers/t-shirts) in contrition and shame.

I wanted to say that, actually, my hope and change were doing damned fine. My faith in many of the people filling the streets and airwaves was gravely wounded. (Who am I kidding? My default mode is despairing idealism, with messianic demagoguery as a baseline; like all capricorns, I believe the world would be fine if people just understood why my way is preferable.)

The petulant hostility, entitled scorn and effrontery directed gratuitously toward Obama (ignoring the outright racism and homicidal creepiness) is so bankrupt and divorced from actuality that it OUGHT to be silly, a lampoon of shallow reactionary paranoia--except it's the lingua franca of the fucking country.

Our health care system was a hostile, insurance-industry driven, doctor-pimping labyrinth before Obama was sworn in (fewer than ten months ago). Tea Parties? Get fucked. 'I'm about to go on Medicare next year. I don't want the socialist government to take my money for their socialized medicine programs!' Yeah, socialized like Medicare, you tumor.

Seriously? The entitled anger is so depressingly infectious. We have minor social mishaps (bumping into someone's unsupervised child on a sidewalk while heeling one's dog, say) and both sides are half reaching for their lawyers and half going for their conceal-carry sidearm.

Too much comfort, too little satisfaction. Very sad.

Veteran's Day has more weight & immediacy to the general public now that we're actively fighting on several fronts and it's not enough to stick a sticker on the truck. I support those who serve and am wary of the falsities trumpeted publicly post-9/11 to make it easier for the nation to let the war dogs of Cheney et al's hubris loose. I've heard too many armchair patriots who mocked or called for extermination of war protestors turn around and bitch about angry veterans who challenge the authenticity of the war's debut, as well as the myriad problems with the execution and post-involvement for the troops.

We will see wounded soldiers for decades. Our country appears incapable of having adult conversations w/o throwing tantrums, so I worry how up to the challenge of truly supporting and owning the problematic & complex consequences of the bumrushed patriotic-acted wars we as a nation will be.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

redux, minus aural distractions.

Typing with too much noise behind the screen doesn't help me.

My point is/was that many people aren't particularly engaged in their own lives, their choices. The 'normal' path provides illusion of safety in the known, but we can each and all get gobsmacked at any moment. Further, those who (over)-analyze their choices and paths can still find themselves in muddleland.

I've had opportunity to consider (from the outside) the situations of several close friends. What they thought they were getting into, what they thought 'it' would signify and entail, where they thought they were going... And where we all end up: somewhere else on the road, or on another path altogether.

Cognizance isn't limited to mental acuity, I'd suggest. Knowing AND doing something about...that's the challenge and the rub. ('I know I have a drinking problem' is step one--and it buys lots and lots of temporizing time.)

Anniversary season: been a great twenty years for me. Fall of Berlin Wall, Nov. 89, I was on road w/ a couple buddies, living on tequila and warm Bud Lite. Bad things happening--though it was the terminal leg of my debaucherous self-negation. Somewhere in Colorado, we'd drunk ourselves stupid and ugly, again, and one guy had awoken to the relentless sun cranking through large windows and thin air. On t.v. he'd watched the footage of the rabble at the Wall. When the rest of us staggered from the dung heap of sodden sheets and sweatshirts, he told us there'd been a jet crash in the Pacific. The survivors had gone looney, become cannibals, and then were fighting off would-be rescuers using the femurs of their departed & eaten cohort.

That image is excellent and has remained entwined with the actual Berlin Wall footage: crazed, tattered crash survivors wielding meaty femurs like cudgels from atop a heap of jet wreckage and human remains. It took us most of the day to realize he was making it up.

Monday, November 9, 2009

long long way to the end of the universe

I taught junior & senior high school in Chattanooga when I was 23-28. Two schools, both college prep, former military schools, evangelical Presbyterian day/boarding places. Insanity.

One of the most stridently reactionary, bullying, racist/homophobic/sexist administrators had a rare moment of clarity/wisdom while we were discussing a messed-up kid: 'If you want to get all tattooed up, or follow the Grateful Dead, of whatever old thing, at least wait until you get your high school degree. It's not much, but at least you've got something when the partying stops.'

Kids have no sense of time, of the future. That's genetic, biological development. Just like their lack of compassion or understanding of consequences. Thus the teenage drama. The hysterical excess about...prom, homework, making the cheerleading team or winning j.v. baseball. And thus: teen suicide, homicide, pregnancy, bad early tattoos, dropping out, etc. If we can make it through those years, much of the sturm/drang retreat in rearview. And we go on to the rest of what life holds.

A good friend was trying to counsel me about relationship stuff once, and said not to worry, 'things would get better.' The issue was something significant. I told my friend that I couldn't just hope, or expect, the thing would go away over time: if I did, and things didn't resolve, I was fucked. Or I unfairly would blame the other person for my disappointment/'betrayal.' I had to decide to stick it out, and work on things, and be clear that it was a conscious choice. Or end it.

That's cool, and noble, and all. Yet we don't--we cannot--know what that will mean over time. Five years of hard relations, ten years, fifteen: if one partners with someone with a disease, say, and commits earnestly to the cause early in, s/he has no way of knowing what it will be like over time.
It's a reminder that each day we have the opportunity, the chance, to make changes in ourselves and/or our dynamics (relationships). Doesn't happen much. Too much happens, the weight of the quotidian sandbags us, but that option remains available to us.
Because there's no way of knowing what twenty years of broken will do to us. It doesn't have to be that way. Bigger things happen along the way: sickness, children, life. There's seldom a convenient time to re-assemble the inner workings of your life, or heart, or mind, but that's your job.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

marvels of modern medicine

Today is Harper's sixth birthday, three weeks after her sister's tenth (the day I dislocated my shoulder riding home from shift, quasi-ruining her special morning...). Both girls were healthy while in utero. Annie had wanted to do home births but our midwife/nurse was licensed through the hospital so we didn't.

Something interesting, and perilous, happened with each girl's birth. With Flann, Annie had sudden-onset toxemia/ecclampsya (sp?), which meant she went from dancing at Lucinda Williams (and scaring the roadies with her tumescent belly) and running stairs at Powderhorn to stimulate labor, to--without any warning--being gravely, suddenly ill. They did an emergency c-section. The young doctor was whiter than her lab coat. The midwife shit a brick. So, I trust that it was truly emergent. She had no obvious signs of being ill. Had we been at home, she would have birthed Flann, then hemorrhaged and died.

With Harper, she had contractions for seventy-two hours. I didn't have sympathy contractions, but I held her hand for the brunt of that time, getting my paw crushed with each seismic rumble of her uterus. When we re-re-returned to the doc's, they measured and found she was STILL only one cm dilated. She was exhausted. They did a c-section this time, and this time discovered that the umbilical cord was wrapped around Harper's neck. It had been acting as a bungee: each contraction pushed her downward toward air and fresh coffee, and the cord pulled her back. Again, at home, Annie would have labored until she dropped, and Harper would have been entangled and at serious risk.

End result: two healthy daughters and a live wife. Good things all around.

A separate discussion is merited by what it's like to stand by your beloved's head while the docs play around with her innards on the other side of the little sterile tent they erect so the patient can't see her own kidney and pancreas and what-not plopped onto her belly.

Happy birthday, my dears.

Friday, November 6, 2009

freedom for hyperbole; freedom from reality

From a global view, it might be argued that America, united States of, is akin to an adolescent boy: hormonal, self-satisfied, short on perspective and/or compassion for others, immune to the analogous lessons of those who've come before. We are coasting on the glory of WWI & II, conveniently ignoring some less-glorious achievements during same time.

If a nation is spared from learning to listen and debate, to think and respond--if, in short, it's shielded from the realities of the greater world--that nation is primed for a self-sabotage. That our political 'leaders' are so a-historical that they can toss incendiary inaccuracies in public (sound bites trump wisdom or truth), then claim they're merely representing their core constituents, while insulting the common sense & legitimate achievements of others, we're being lead by morons or devious demagogues. Sadly, there isn't a grand plan: Michelle Bachman wants to be where Sarah Palin sits. Sarah Palin wants to keep having her phone calls answered. If the election were this year or next, the pride of Eagan would likely out-Palin Sarah herself. There is no vision, just more soundbites. We cannot live by saccharine trust alone.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

helmets for the brain buckets; belts for the passengers and the arms, necks, heads, faces

I didn't regularly wear a bike helmet until I was 22, so I'm not unaware of the process of smarts-acquisitions. Then again, my mother-in-law smoked and drank through three pregnancies, kept her first born in the top dresser drawer, and let that same kid 'ride' in the steering wheel. No one in the front seat wore seatbelts, really, and definitely not in the back seats.

I go to lots of collisions, crashes, mashups (non-disco types), obliterations. I can say confidently that 99% of the injuries sustained by those wearing their seatbelts would be exponentially worse if they hadn't been restrained. I see so many smashed faces: teeth embedded in dashboard or steering wheel (or merely poking through the gouged lips), foreheads and scalps encrusted with windshield glass, facial trauma due to airbags meeting unrestrained body, eyes crushed by force of impact against window or door columns. Then there're the ejections. Enough said there. But in-car damage is significant. Libertarian il/logic fails when considering that the freely un-buckled become projectiles. Flying around the passenger area like a bony rag doll is dangerous for yourself AND the others in the car.

'Mommy arms' won't stop the beloved child from shooting from the parent's grasp and eating the windshield or ceiling or dashboard.

Helmets won't save your life, but they protect your head from many head injuries. That is obvious. I wiped out three weeks ago. Dumb and clumsy, I was, as gravity and slickness worked against me. I dislocated my shoulder against a steel barrier. My head struck the barrier at an angle. I was dazed, briefly. My helmet absorbed the blow better than my shoulder.

We never leave the house expecting the have an accident. That's why they're called accidents...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

beats playing golf

My long-suffering, wiser-but-shorter half has long suggested I get my own cable access show. Mostly, she suggests this so I'll stop pestering her with early morning, late night, mid-sneeze ramblings. I used to be a school teacher, then I became a firefighter for Minneapolis. The fire department is sort of like spending 24 hours at a time in a faculty lounge populated solely with gym coaches.

I've spent the past five years studying and practicing performance dog training. Recently, I have become interested in the local cycling world. All subcultures have similar hallmarks, just different argots. Cyclists seem far less paranoid and reactionary than the doggers. Not that they're not insane, just more civil and literate, and lower BMI.

I take a lot of photos, mostly tormenting my daughters, but of action as I see it. Below is a link to my facebook album of cyclocross MN/WI this fall.

Enjoy the distraction from whatever's not getting done while one is reading this.