Friday, October 5, 2012

The End of Something Sweet

Two nights ago we attended the annual open house and picnic at Stella's pre-school in Louisville. It's so hard to believe this is the third one of these we have been to, and the last, at least at pre-school. She was two when she started this school, and is now four years old. A big girl, one of the older kids in the school. Just two years ago we didn't know anyone in town, really, and she was afraid to talk to anyone, even her teachers. Now she proudly showed us where she plays, we talked to her teachers, and I feel like I was at last year's open house just a few months ago. Something about kids, they age you in dog years, in a good way. After the open house we brought our picnic dinner across the street to the playground. It was a perfect late summer/early fall evening, cool, the weather held out, so no rain. But warm enough to not need a jacket. There were maybe 50-60 kids there, and their families. We set up our blankets next to a new family we have gotten to know, and near our older friends, the Kolers. Stella is classmates with the daughter of the new family, a sweet little girl named Rhia. (I am not sure about the spelling here.) Rhia's parents are lovely, warm people, as are so many of the people at Stella's school, from the principal to the teachers, to the other staff, to the other parents, to the children themselves. We feel so blessed that we have been able to give her this gift for the past two years, this time at this little oasis of sweetness and kindness. Mr. John Gage, one of Louisville's treasures, a wonderful folk singer, set up his guitar, sat down in a chair, and began to play. The children danced, ran around, or played on the playground. The light began to fade, and I wished I could freeze time right there, for just about ever. Or, at least, take it for a moment, bottle it, this sweetness, and open it up on a cloudy cold day when Stella's 13, or leaving for college, or whenever we need it. The children ran, sang, listened, the parents talked, and reclined. The food was eaten, the drinks were drunk, and you could really understand, for a moment, why Holden Caulfield wanted to be the catcher in the rye after all. Why do they have to grow up? Why can't it always be like this? I ran up to Stella and she chased me, then, asked to be swung in the little kids swing, for old time's sake. I obliged, but it wasn't too long before she wanted to go back to our blanket to finisher her macaroni and cheese. I took off my shoes, she did the same, but left her pink and white kitty-cat socks on. Soon she played on the jungle gym in just her socks, but we made her choose. It was either shoes, or barefoot, not just socks. She chose to play barefoot, in the early Autumn night, climbing, sliding, being just her wonderful self. All too soon John Gage played "Puff The Magic Dragon," a song all about a child who grows up maybe just a bit too much. I looked at Randi. "This has to be one of the all-time bummer kids songs," I said. Randi looked back, so sincere: "I know, but I just love it." The truth is, right then, right there, the song almost made me cry, despite myself, as I saw Stella start to slip, in a moment, away from being just a child. Into something better and bigger, but a door was ever so gently being closed, and by having her in my life, I got to experience it again, and remember my own far lost young childhood, and my own late, late summer nights, nights that still held the waning power of summer's magic, but were bordered by the beautiful melancholy of autumn.

Thursday, August 30, 2012


(I know I've been delinquent with this blog. We'll just have to let it go at that.) So, we bought a house. Which is something in a long line of things I never thought I would say has got to be near the top of the list. It's like this. Back when we lived in Brooklyn we once saw a two bedroom apartment, where the parking space was $80,000. I heard that and knew, right then, that we would never be able to buy in NYC, except for like a fix-me-up in, I don't know, Brownsville. (Good schools!) But then we moved to Louisville, Ky., and it was like a weird time warp. A time warp to a place that seemed a bit familiar to me. Closter, NJ in the mid-80s. Prices were about the same here as they were in New Jersey, where I grew up, almost 25 years ago. I don't know how this is, I don't know how the idea of a middle class place to live, and my town was middle class, meant plunking down $100,000 cash for a deposit, but it happened, and apparently there are just crap loads of people who are way richer than I thought you needed to be to be considered middle class. Louisville is like the idea of middle class that I had from when I was a kid. You can live on a nice block. Your kid can go to a decent school, or, let's dream, a good school. You can have a yard. Your house is not built out of matchsticks, or on an abandoned Indian cemetery. The house is very nice, maybe a little bit bigger than what I thought we would get, I'm being honest, but it's essentially what I see as middle class. In a middle class neighborhood, basically, in a middle class city. Some of our neighbors, of course, are much wealthier than we are, which is fine. But we all get to walk under the same sky, on the same tree lined streets, go to the same parks. The mortgage will be a little bit of a stretch for now, but after I finally secure full time employment again it will be okay. That's the only touch and go thing about it, really, but we have money saved, and plan to live frugally. Maybe we can be even more frugal than we had been. But I'm happy with this move, and love my new area. The block seems to have a lot of kids on it, and Stella has a new pink bedroom, and a playroom. (This playroom is also going to be our guestroom, assuming we can ever afford to furnish it. But for now it's Stella's playroom. And, believe me, she loves that. She looked out the window of her playroom many times yesterday, our first full day in the house, jumped up and down, screaming "I have a playroom!") We've quarantined her toys in boxes, and told her we don't have TV here. (We do.) What did we find, she's playing just as happily with the few toys we do have out that she had mostly ignored before, like the $80 kitchen set we bought almost two years ago that she never gave a crap about before. Well, guess what? She's really into it now, now that there are no other toys out. We sit on little blue plastic stools, and she makes tea for us. This means taking empty plastic tea cups, and putting them in the oven of the plastic kitchen set. And then when they're done, in five seconds, we clink mugs, and drink our tea. Here is a typical conversation. Stella: "Daddy, this tea is PINKALICIOUS!" Me: "I think it's owl-flavored." Stella: "No! It's not!" Me: "This definitely tastes like owl-cream. Which is ice cream ... made from owls." Stella: "No! It's not owl-flavored! It's not! Stop that!" Me: (Taking one more sip) "No, you're right. It IS pinkalicious. I was wrong. Thank you Stella!" Rinse, lather, repeat. Anyway, so this is our new home. I think it's really nice.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

It's The End Of Rush Limbaugh As We Knew Him

The era of big Rush Limbaugh is over.

It’s been almost a week since Limbaugh hurled vile insults against a private citizen who had done him no harm, Sandra Fluke. As is well known by now Limbaugh likened her to both a “slut” and a “prostitute”--I thought those terms were antonyms--for her opinion that contraception should be considered part of general health care. To top it off he then suggested that women who want such services should first submit sex tapes.

The general repulsion against Limbaugh’s comments was immediate and visceral. So far 11 major advertisers have left his show and two stations have dropped him. Perhaps the image of Rush Limbaugh drooling over amateur porn was too vile for them to stomach for an additional minute.

Limbaugh broke with his all-bluster style to issue a classic non-apology “apology.” He said his choice of words “was not the best, and in the attempt to be humorous, I created a national stir … I sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke for the insulting word choices."

Wow, so your choice of words were really “not the best” Rush? Calling a law student a slut didn’t come across the way you intended? You apologize for your “insulting word choice” but not for the actual insult? No wonder your quarter-loaf mea-culpa is a non-starter.

So that’s the past, but what about the future? I think this episode represents the moment when it is revealed to all that the times have truly left Rush Limbaugh behind. First he doesn’t seem to know beforehand that you can’t simply call a woman with a different point of view a whore. Then he and his supporters ignore the problem for a little while, and only when his wallet starts to get a little thinner, if only his wallet, he issues an apology that is as insincere as it is late.

And, now there is some circling of the wagons taking place. Look on the web, it’s all there. If you try not very hard you will get to see remarks like these: “Sarah Palin and her family have endured far worse than the professional agitator Fluck and CNN has remained silent. If liberals didn't have DOUBLE STANDARDS, they'd have NO STANDARDS!” That’s from the comments section of an excellent piece written by David Frum on As if Sarah Palin had anything to do with this at all.

Or this one from Rush’s Facebook page from a guy named Richard Paris: “Dear Mr. Limbaugh, There is no need for you to apologize to that liberal "lusting" Sally Fluke … This Ms. Fluke aka ho-bag is paying over $252,000.00 to be indoctrinated into the ‘progressive’ agenda. She's a ‘plant’, not a ‘fluke’!” So, Fluke's a ho-bag? No, she's a law student at Georgetown University, one of our best schools. And what are you again?

In Politico’s story about Rush the comments section ran 1212 responses long. And there were many like these from a person calling themselves Kilowatt: “Maybe if you had really heard the testimony instead of of just jumping to your liberal conclusions,you would realize I wasn't talking about her using contraception but the way she portrayed her insatiable sexual appetite and loose moral character. In other words she ADMITTED to being the promiscuous slut that she was called.” Funny, I have a hard time imagining Fluke's personal testimony lived up to the "Scarlet Letter"-inspired masturbatory fantasies of Mr. Kilowatt.

They are not the only ones defending Limbaugh: Newt Gingrich’s PAC, Winning Our Future,--which, by the way, is not winning Newt's present--had stepped up its ad buys as other advertisers flee. But it would be a mistake to think that this is a minor tempest, and that Limbaugh’s lame non-apology is going to make this all go away. The only thing going away is Limbaugh’s air of invincible influence over Republic party discourse, and, by extension, America.

It’s already happened. Look at the shambles we call the Republican primaries. It’s no secret Limbaugh despises Mitt Romney, yet Romney soldiers on, seemingly despite himself, and Rush. Limbaugh can inveigh all he wants, but all he’s accomplished is a historic disunity in the GOP. He’s helped lead it down the cannibalistic path toward what Barbara Bush has called the worst campaigns she’s ever seen. And she's seen more, way more, than a few.

But, on a more primal level, Limbaugh is just the latest example of a person who has been isolated from the real world for so long that they have lost touch. As we’ve heard a million times before, he just doesn’t get it. And when people of his stature don’t get it, “it” in this case being a world that’s changed, they really don’t get it.

Limbaugh doesn’t seem to grasp that you can’t call a woman the vilest things imaginable and expect people, not just women, to not be offended. He then didn’t get that his usual doubling down on a bad bet and bluster would not get him out of it. Then he didn’t get that when he apologized for being so gross he actually had to mean it.

It’s also like he didn’t get that women are an extremely powerful and massive part of American life, growing more powerful every day. And they don’t like their desire for safe, affordable reproductive control to get them labeled as town whores, like we were all back in a bible-belt high school in the 1970s. That’s considered offensive. This should be obvious. But he’s happy to write off more than half the American population.

Think women, as a group, don’t go the mat for their right to reproductive choice? Ask the Susan G. Koman people.

We’ve seen this scenario play out time and again. It’s the moment when someone powerful comes up against a problem that they used to be able to wish away. Then they no longer can, and are unable to comprehend that things truly are different.

We saw it with Joe Paterno. Completely believable allegations of horrific child abuse were brought his way. He passed the buck and forgot about it. More kids were likely abused by his negligence, and when it all crashed down he looked as clueless as a newborn.

We saw it with another radio host, Don Imus, who didn’t get that you can’t call a team of female college student nappy headed ho’s.

We saw it with Michael Richards, aka Kramer, who immolated his career, by hurling a bunch of racial insults an audience member in a comedy club. But Richards didn't seem to understand that this wasn't the Friars Club, and that people now have smart phones. After that Kramer was never welcomed into America’s living room again.

Will Rush make a full recovery? Maybe, but probably not. His divide and conquer tactics have reduced his potential number of future listeners again and again. I can’t imagine he’ll get a whole lot more new female ditto-heads after this all blows over. And they make up, again, half the country. His Captain Ahab-like political brinksmanship has likely isolated him from what used to be called “Reagan Democrats.” Instead he is left with a hard core of conservatives. It’s a huge core, of course, but don’t expect it to grow. Already Rush is less influential than he was two weeks ago.

Once this primary season is over and his enemy, Romney, gets the nomination expect Limbaugh’s influence to diminish even more. He won’t go away over night. But over time he will fade in power and influence, inexorably, his name immediately leaving a bad taste in people's mouths. He will end as he began, a lonely man in a radio booth, shouting at the air.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

My Heart Attack Pt. 2

So, it wasn't a heart attack, but that didn't stop Randi from almost having one herself. You see she had been told that I was having a heart attack, of course, so she was terrified. In turn she then told my family that I was having a heart attack, and told her own family.

For my immediate family this was devastating news, for obvious and not so obvious reasons. Obvious, because they were afraid for me. No so obvious because my beloved Uncle Herbie had, unfortunately, died far too young as a result of heart disease. It was and is one of the great tragedies to ever befall our family.

My sister immediately flashed to that when she got the news, which was horrific for her. And you can imagine how it went for everyone else. My Mom was not told about any of this until later, when I told her, which was the right move.

I was wheeled into my own room in the Cardiac Care Unit at Baptist East. Dr. Dillon, whom I immediately liked, told me that I would probably be the healthiest person in the unit, but since I'd had something wrong with my heart, we didn't know what yet, that was where I would go.

The room was comfortable. My daytime nurse was named Russ and we immediately hit it off, as we are both bit science fiction fans. My evening nurse was named Virginia, and she was also excellent. They were both attentive, knowledgeable and good at their jobs.

Soon we heard the clicking of high heels and another doctor entered the room, Dr. Wojda (pronounced voy-ta). She was, and is, an elegant European woman, who always seemed, to me, to have their air of someone either on their way to or from the opera.

But what she really is, I learned, is a leading infectious disease expert. (I was to discover that Dillon is also one of the leading, if not the leading, cardiac doctors in Louisville.)

We talked about my various physical problems, and focused on the staph. She took a look at the boil on my hip and quickly intuited that I almost certainly did not have strep, but staph that had penetrated into my blood stream. She said the boil would be drained the following morning, Friday, and that I would get an MRI in order for them to see what was really going on with my heart.

The rest of the day passed with much blood drawn, my blood pressure and temperature taken what seemed like dozens of times, and my first official hospital meal, some kind of spaghetti thing. "Wow, this looks like a bad version of something good," I joked, But I ate it anyway. It was okay.

My brother-in-law Jason, who is a bigger fella, made a particularly funny joke that I later heard. After hearing that I, of all people, had a heart attack he said, "you know I've been meaning to talk to him about his lifestyle."

I spoke on the phone with my brother, dad, sister, and eventually Mom too. Of course they were all concerned, but happy to hear there was no heart attack, as was I. In fact, my go to line--when someone would ask me how I was--was this: "A lot better now that I know I'm not having a heart attack!"

There were some fringe benefits to this near-death experience too. Ever have an argument with a friend that you can't quite get past? Scare them with a heart attack and soon your disagreement will seem pretty small.

The following morning I was scheduled for my MRI. I was strapped into yet another rolling bed, and taken to Jewish Hospital. (My little joke, I was being taken to Jewish hospital, where all the patients are probably baptist. But I was a patient at Baptist East, even though I am one of Louisville's 10 Jews.)

The MRI is a Kubrikian sort of thing. A narrow, white tube, into which you are inserted. You aren't allowed to move at all while it is in operation. Ala "2001" it is sleek and white. At any moment I felt kind of like screaming "open the pod bay doors HAL!" But you also can't move, ala "Clockwork Orange" when he is forced to watch the movie and can't wipe his eyes.

The took dozens of magnetic photos of my ticker and then I was released. Randi and her mom were in the waiting room.

My wife was amazing during this whole ordeal. At my side as much as she could be, but she also took care to keep everyone else updated. She brought me things to read, food, and gave me 100% total sympathy and love when I most needed it. I realized then, and still realize, how lucky I truly am to have her as my wife.

Her family was almost as great. Her mother, Judy, watched Stella for four days in a row, which Stella loved. And Randi's sister Nora, along with Judy, cleaned our apartment top to bottom. It is currently cleaner than when we moved in.

My brother in law Kerry and his daughter Claire sent me chocolates and some flowers to cheer me up, and Jason, and his wife, Nicole visited me in the hospital, spreading cheer. And Nora's husband, Brian, was kind enough to take Stella, and his own kids, out to lunch so they could have a little fun.

I was also visited in the hospital by my friends-since-moving-here-but-good-friends-just-the-same, Marcus and Yancy, whose very presence cheered me up.

We also received a surprise visit from Cantor David Lipp from our temple, Adath Jeshurun. This was a pleasant surprise, and it was a lot of fun to see him. He also arranged for a temple volunteer to share some challah and grape juice with us that night, Friday evening, for shabbat. It made my hospital room seem a whole lot more like home. I was grateful.

And Randi posted about me on her Facebook page, garnering dozens of responses. It made this sick guy feel a whole lot better.

Stella freaked out when she first saw me. She entered the room, and started to cry. "I want to be with Mamaw!" (That's her name for Judy.) But then we started to clown around, and she had some fun. But the gown was kind of a hurdle.

"Daddy's in a funny dress!" She said this at least a dozen times. Another time she felt the fabric, and said solemnly: "Daddy's dress is soft."

That night, last Friday, when Judy tucked Stella in she said this little nugget before bed. "Daddy is in the hospital, so he can feel better. Daddy has on a funny dress." And then she passed out.

Eventually a doctor came in to drain my boil. A nurse, female, also came in. The boil had gone down in size, and the nurse was a bit letdown that there wouldn't be much of a show, so to speak.

"Oh, you should have seen my last surgery," the doctor, a thin woman, said. "It was like a softball!"

No, my little boil just kind of bled a lot, and then they packed it up with antiseptic gauze. A culture was removed from it, and then sent to a lab, to see what kind of staph I had.

There were a few things to get used to. I perpetually had a line running out of my arm into a tube, and little monitors on my chest connected to something about the size and weight of a Walkman.

Initially they wanted to monitor my urine count, for some reason. I am amazed to say I pee almost exactly 200 mg every time. The things you learn.

The majority of the stay was uneventful, almost relaxing. Randi and I spent a lot of time together. And while it might stretch the definition of "quality time" we really hadn't gotten to spend this much uninterrupted time together, with no real responsibilities, since before Stella's birth. But I wouldn't want to repeat it, you know?

I got oddly used to having people do stuff for me. The nurses would get me a drink if I wanted it, move stuff, turn on or off lights. It felt weird initially, but I learned to let them help me.

Overall it was kind of like a nice hotel room, only with constant interruptions, poor cuisine, and a whole lot of sick and dying people all around me. I guess that's kind of like living in gated community in Florida.

By Monday they had determined that I had staph for sure, it had poisoned my system, but I didn't have the worst kind of staph, known as MRSA. (That's the kind that is resistant to most antibiotics.)

As for my heart, I had been short of breath because it was inflamed, in a staph-related condition called endocarditis, which is basically an infection of the heart. I was told that with proper care, and a thorough course of antibiotics, I should be back to normal, 100%, although not right away.

I was given a PICC line, which is kind of like an IV that is placed inside your arm, and told that I would need to return to the hospital every day for 24 days to get the medicine I need. I was also told to not exert myself too much, and that I wouldn't be 100% back to normal until around Easter, whenever that may be.

Overall, I have to say I was stunned by how good the staff was at Baptist East. I saw both Dr. Dillon, and Wojda a lot. I even got to know them a bit. Dr. Dillon reminded me a bit of a hard-core version of Ed Helms, with a great dry wit. And Dr. Wojda, I learned, is from Eastern Europe, where my family is originally from.

I have heard horror stories of how people have had serious problems in big city hospitals, and they feel ignored by their caretakers. I can't say that was the case for me at all at Baptist East. I saw not only the doctors, but the nurses all the time. It truly felt like first world healthcare.

So, I am not 100% better, but I am much better than I had been even a week ago. My temperature is normal, my blood pressure is down, I can breath, and I am getting more healthy not more sick. I have love, family, friends, and meaningful things to live for. I am grateful for my life, my wife, my daughter, my immediate family, and the friends that I love. I am grateful for the beautiful notes and messages I have received online. It all could have been so much worse.

So if you see me this month ask to see my PICC line, it is on my right arm, and is a tube that snakes out of the crook of my elbow. It makes me feel cool, like a cyborg.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

My Heart Attack Pt. 1

I hadn't been feeling quite up to snuff for several days. Starting 10 days ago, roughly, I felt a bit off. My energy was lower. I wasn't sick, but I wasn't quite myself. I always felt like something was wrong, but I couldn't put my finger on it. It was like a constant, mild, indigestion, or heartburn, that never quite went away.

We went to a party for one of Stella's classmates Saturday, January 21st, and it was fun. But I was grumpy on the way there, a real crab, more than usual. Once there I hung back, and couldn't really play with Stella or the kids, didn't try to.

Sunday, the 22nd, was more of the same. We went to a playground, and I just didn't feel like doing anything. I didn't feel sick, again, just not good. Not even tired, just annoyed, like I was having my period, or what I imagine my period would feel like if I were to have it. Randi agreed. I was being kind of a pill.

Then Sunday night came, and I had a harder time than usual, I'm an insomniac, getting to sleep. By later Sunday evening I had a mild fever, and couldn't sleep in our bed at all. I had sweat through my pillow, and sheets.

I slept on the couch, and sweat through it as well. I had fitful bouts of brief sleep, maybe 40 minutes at a stretch all night, amidst some chills, and aches in my limbs and joints.

The next day Randi went to work, and I dropped off Stella at school. I came home, and my fever exploded past 102, then past 103. It finally peaked at 103.1. I had barely enough energy to make it down the hallway of our apartment.

I had a pretty disgusting, but thorough, bowel movement, which I thought would make me feel much better. It did not. Uh oh.

Randi came home, and we discussed that I should go to the ER. I didn't want to, but knew of nothing else to do. At 7:30 p.m. last Monday night, a week ago, I went to the ER at Baptist East hospital down the street from our apartment.

I signed in, and they took my vital signs. But then hours passed, as I shivered in all my clothes in the waiting room. Finally past midnight I saw a doctor, and he took cultures from my throat. Randi had said strep was going around her school, so I was convinced this was what I had. My throat hurt a lot, so this only made sense.

After a couple of hours more the diagnosis came back: strep, and a urinary tract infection. The latter of which men almost never get. Just my luck.

I was pumped full of IV fluids, and given prescriptions to fill for antibiotics, and made it home by 3:00 a.m. Tuesday morning, wiped out. I had a strange craving for hot chocolate, which I satisfied. I had just completed a three week "cleanse" with Randi, and having never felt worse, kind of was like, screw it!

I made it to bed by 3:30 a.m., and slept fitfully, only to awake early the next day to drive Stella to school again. I was wiped out, all the way. I dressed her with one eye open, and barely made it to her school.

Then I became worried that I might have something more than strep. I had a breakout on my legs and butt the prior week. It wasn't too big, but over the years I have learned to become concerned about staph infections. I've had them in the past, and even though they never really hurt me I was concerned that it could.

My mild breakout consisted of a few small boils, almost like a rash. I looked up "staph infection" on the Mayo clinic's website, and looked up what can go wrong. When staph goes bad it becomes something called "sepsis" which is blood poisoning. When it gets worse you go into septic shock. And from there, if untreated, you die.

Even by the time it gets to the septic shock stage, even if you do treat it, your odds are not great. Septic shock is no joke.

I looked up the symptoms. They were just like the symptoms for strep: fever, aches, fatigue. But also shivering, which was not a symptom for strep.

Worried, but on the trail, I thought, I called my dermatologist. I would see her Wednesday, the following day. I told the receptionist I was specifically worried about sepsis.

Randi came home with Stella last Tuesday, noting that I had not dressed her appropriately for the weather. It was cold outside and I had put her in some kind of nylon yoga pants that were wide open at the ankle like bell-bottoms. Stella had been cold, as it was in the 30s. Initially I was defensive about it but had to concede Randi had a point. What was I doing, sending Stella out into bad weather dressed for spring. I told Randi I had been worn out from the prior night's ER visit but this wasn't a satisfying reason, for her, or, really, for me. I must've been really out of it, I concluded.

I saw my nurse practitioner dermatologist, the following day, last Wednesday, and told her I was concerned about sepsis. She looked at my legs and determined I probably did have staph. I also told her about my ER visit, and my strep diagnosis.

She prescribed a topical antibiotic ointment, and told me to see her in a week. I asked again about sepsis, and she said that if I did have it there would be no question. I wouldn't really be able, even, to walk into her office. I would know I had it, and it would be very, very bad.

After my new prescription was filled out I applied the antibiotic cream to my legs, hoping it would do the trick. But I knew it would take a few days for any improvement.

Overall, though, I felt better than I had since before going into the ER. The antibiotics must be doing their thing, I thought. I spoke to my mom that night, and told her I was on the mend, though I had been worried about staph. I told her about the ER visit, and she sounded appalled. Why didn't I go to my doctor? If your doctor can't see you in an emergency you have to get another doctor, she concluded.

I didn't love getting second guessed like this, as I am almost 40, but it must've made an impression, as I soon headed her advice.

The following morning, last Thursday, I awoke, feeling alright, not too bad. As I got myself into the car to drive Stella into school my side, where I had a boil, hit the side of the car, and it exploded into pain. I dropped Stella off, and went home, feeling a bit short of breath.

Once inside the apartment the shortness of breath continued. Now it was joined by a feeling of slight pressure on my chest, like someone had placed their palm on my sternum, and pressed down lightly.

I called my doctor, as per Mom's advice. They couldn't see me at all, no space, and told me to go to the ER. I was resentful of them, and didn't go.

Then the pain continued, and, feeling a bit foolish, a bit like Chicken Little, I made my way back to Baptist East. I expected the same four hour wait as last time.

I signed in, and wrote my symptoms were shortness of breath. That's it, I didn't even mention the chest pressure.

This time I was immediately put into a wheelchair, before, it seemed, I could even turn around, it was that fast. They didn't take my vitals, my insurance, nothing, I was quickly wheeled inside, urgently.

From here things moved very fast.

I was put into a room, and my blood pressure and temperature was taken, and they asked me how much pain I was having from 1 to 10. I said 2, but told them about my chest pressure.

Immediately an EKG machine was wheeled in. I thought this was absurd, but they took the reading anyway.

Within five minutes a doctor came back. "Your EKG reading was unusual," he said.

Soon a team of nurses swarmed me, alongside the doctor, whose name I can't remember.

Needles were urgently put into either arm, I was given three baby aspirin to chew, I was given two more big pills, not to chew, that I chewed anyway by mistake, and the room had about 12 people in it, all focused on me.

The needle wouldn't enter my left arm, because it had just been needled so much from my prior ER visit. With no time to waste they put the needle into the back of my left hand.

"Wow, this is how Layne Staley must have felt," I joked. No one laughed.

Within another few moments a second doctor, with a surgical mask entered.

He got on my level and looked me in the eye.

"You are having a heart attack," he said. "We have to operate on you now."

The nurses were still trying to put various things into my arm or take things from my arm, but this new doctor, Dr. Dillon I was to learn later, closed the door on all that.

"No, we have to do this NOW. Let's go."

In other words, he kicked ass.

Srep, a UTI, and now a heart attack? "This really hasn't been my week," I joked to the closest nurse. Again, no laughter. I guess it really isn't the best medicine after all.

As I was wheeled down the hall I was able to call Randi. She had already been called by me when I entered the ER, and was on her way, so I got her voice mail.

I sounded amazingly like myself, I thought.

"Hi babe, it's me. On my way to have them check out my heart. They tell me I am having a heart attack ..."

Here three nurses corrected, in a way that is not so different from when Stella corrects me.

"No, you ARE having a heart attack," they said in unison.

"Okay, I am having a heart attack. I am being well taken care of, and I am sure they will do everything they can. See you soon."

I hung up the phone and realized that, just maybe, my life could very soon be over.

What about all the things I never got to do, I immediately thought. The book I have been working on forever, it will never be finished. Too much time wasted.

But then I thought of all the people in my life. And how I had loved them, and let them know I loved them, and how if I loved you, or cared about you, you knew. I let you know. My life was one of love, and openness, and treating the people that I loved as well as I could as much as I could. And I felt better. In fact, it made me feel not bad at all. It made me feel good, if you can believe it. I love my family, I love my friends, and it's been a good life. I could live with that.

I was asked what the pain was again as I was wheeled into what I suppose is the surgery room. I repeated, about 2. "I thought a heart attack would feel a little different, I guess."

I was told a catheter camera would be inserted to examine my heart.

Oh great, I thought, right up the penis.

I hope they use numbing solution.

In truth the catheter was placed in my wrist, and the observation was over before I knew it had begun. It's a miracle, isn't it.

Quickly they determined that I was NOT, in fact, having a heart attack. The second this was said the tension exited the room, as did most of the people. I was rolled down the hallway. And put into a waiting area.

Here things get a little strange. I can't really remember the next hour or so.

Randi soon saw me, and was terrified. I looked grey, she said. I am sure we hugged, and I told her I loved her. Because I do, and did.

They still didn't know quite what was wrong with me, but we knew, if nothing else, that it wasn't a heart attack. And that was something, you know?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Sh*t Jews Say To Other Jews

(My low-tech, all text version of the current meme. All things I've either heard, or said.)

1. Ugh, so hungry! (Only said once a year.)
2. Me? I always tip 20%.
3. But his brother’s a doctor.
4. Hitler? Part Jew. I know!
5. Wait, what's a Methodist?
6. Jesus? Jew.
7. If he existed.
8. Goys.
9. It’s like they think we’re all Woody Allen.
10. His new movie? Pretty good!
11. We marched with them, but now they hate us?
12. I’m disappointed with Obama over Israel. (Substitute any president here.)
13. Israel? Best army in the world!
14. I mean, yeah, I’ll date them, but ...
15. Wait, when’s Chanukah again?
16. Do you spell it with Ch or H?
17. The year? 5770 something?
18. Me not so much, but I have Orthodox family.
19. I’m thinking about being kosher.
20. A glass of milk with meat? Gross.
21. I’ll have the cheeseburger.
22. We used the paper plates.
23. I thought about the Israeli army. In high school.
24. We weren’t rich. Upper-middle class.
25. How about the matinee?
26. Don’t make a scene.
27. Where I grew up was pretty diverse, Jewish and Italian.
28. It’s like if you’re not a doctor, lawyer or Wall Street guy they don’t even look at you. (For the Jewish guys out there.)
29. (While eating a bagel.) You just can't find a good bagel anymore.
30. She was hotter before the nose job.

Why Rick Santorum Can't Win: He's Catholic

Look, I'm sure Rick Santorum, within the sanctuary of his friends and family, is a perfectly lovely guy. In fact, I have nothing against him as a person. It's just that, you know, he's unelectable. I mean, after all, he's Catholic!

I know he probably thinks he was born that way, and there's nothing he can do to change it. Heck, maybe he doesn't even want to change that. But the truth is, being Catholic is a choice, it's a lifestyle. And one rejected by the majority of other God-fearing Americans. Maybe he can be re-educated. After all, has he ever really tried being not Catholic?

After all, I wouldn't want Santorum to face the kind of prejudice that is so rife in this world if you are an aggrieved, long-abused minority, still fighting for equal rights and treatment. It just wouldn't be fair to him.

To prove this point I have culled a long list of horrible, bigoted, anti-Catholic remarks from the Internet. These are actual things people have said in public denouncing Catholicism. I guess we could call these folks Papal-phobes.

I fear the day Santorum should be confronted in public by people spewing hateful statements like these:

1. “Is anyone saying Catholic couples can’t love each other? I love my children. I love my friends, my brother. Heck, I even love my mother-in-law. Should we call these relationships marriage, too?”

2. On Catholic adoption: “A Catholic woman came up to me and said, ‘why are you denying me my right?’ I said, ‘well, because it’s not a right.’ It’s a privilege that society recognizes because society sees intrinsic value to that relationship over any other relationship.”

3. “I certainly would not approve of [a bill moving through the California legislature compels the state to add Catholic history to the state education curriculum], but there’s a logical consequence to the courts injecting themselves in creating rights and people attaching their legislative ideas to those rights that in some respects could logically flow from that. So I’m not surprised.”

4. “I have no problem with Catholicism. I have a problem with Catholic acts. As I would with acts of other, what I would consider to be, acts outside of traditional Christian relationships. And that includes a variety of different acts, not just Catholic. I have nothing, absolutely nothing against anyone who’s Catholic. If that’s their orientation, then I accept that. And I have no problem with someone who has other orientations. The question is, do you act upon those orientations? So it’s not the person, it’s the person’s actions. And you have to separate the person from their actions.”

6. “If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual [Catholic] sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything… In every society, the definition of marriage has not ever to my knowledge included Catholics. That’s not to pick on Catholicism. It’s not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be. It is one thing.”

7. Discussing Catholic marriage: “This is an issue just like 9-11… We didn’t decide we wanted to fight the war on terrorism because we wanted to. It was brought to us. And if not now, when?"

8. “[Catholic marriage] threatens my marriage. It threatens all marriages. It threatens the traditional values of this country.”

9. “I would argue that the Catholic community has not made the argument. They may have made the argument as to why they want it, but they have not made any arguments as to why this is beneficial for society. They have not made any argument – convincing or otherwise, that I’m aware of – as to what the impact would be on normal, Christian marriages and what the impact would be on children …We’re into, in many respects, an unknown territory.”

10. “Priests, like all of us, are affected by culture, ... When the culture is sick, every element in it becomes infected. While it is no excuse for this scandal, it is no surprise that Boston, a seat of academic, political and cultural Catholicism in America, lies at the center of the storm.”

11. "Would the potential attraction to Catholicism by simply having a Catholic in the White House threaten traditional Christianity by leading more Americans to a church that some Christians believe misleadingly calls itself Christian, is an active missionary church, and a dangerous cult?"

12. "I don't want to make Catholic people's lives better by giving them somebody else's money; I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money."

Of course the truth is Santorum made all these statements above, only I switched the word "gay" for "Catholic."

It's amazing a guy who is from a minority that was discriminated against so heavily for so long could be so dismissive of equal rights for other minorities. After all, it just a little over 50 years ago that people thought John F. Kennedy wasn't fit to be president because he would be a vassal of the Pope in Rome.

And even today in some of the more isolated, evangelical, parts of this nation they still think that Catholics aren't actually Christians.

Note: Not all the statements above were originally about gays. Number 10 was a slam on secular Boston, where I replaced the word "liberalism" with "Catholicism." Which fit pretty well.

Number 11, was a slam on Mormons, and specifically his opponent Mitt Romney. Sounds a lot like the things people used to say about JFK, right?

And number 12, of course, was originally a blast against black people, and "welfare." Or whatever Santorum imagines welfare to be.

In other news, happy Martin Luther King day Rick!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Steve Jobs, great entrepreneur, failed person

Hi All,
I do realize that Steve Jobs, as a subject, has been beaten into the ground, but I just can't let go of one thing.

I just finished reading the amazing Walter Isaacson biography. It was as good a job as I could have hoped for from any book about such a recently departed icon. And throughout Jobs is a completely captivating figure.

One thing that really stuck out was his complete ability to focus. If he wanted to do something nothing was going to get in his way. He could literally bend heaven and earth. And time and again in the book there are examples of how he was able to move mountains to get his way. To do the impossible, to bend the will of people, institutions, whatever it took. It was one of his defining characteristics.

His feuds were legendary, his successes epic. And it seems that each one of them was accounted for, in some detail, in the book.

Yet there was one area that was deemed so trivial by either Isaacson or Jobs that it wasn't even discussed in the book at all, which shocked me. And that is Apples' long black history as a perpetrator of inhumane working conditions in its Chinese factories.

Not even one mention of this, not even one paragraph.

And yet it is one of the things that defines Apple as a company, and Jobs as a human.

This is amazing, this lack of concern for other people. Jobs was so obsessed with every aspect of production that he spent hundreds of thousands of dollars, and wasted hundreds of man hours, making sure the factories where his NeXT machines were built were painted the exact right color.

This he had time for. But there was no time, or concern shown, for the thousands of Apple laborers in China who make those amazing machines that we all love.

Either this was an epic failing of Jobs as a person, Isaacson as a writer, or both.

Look, I know I am not treading on any original ground here. The monologuist Mike Daisy has done more to publicize this issue than I ever could. Yet I still can't go over it.

Jobs was such an obsessed, involved perfectionist that he argued about the placement of a period on a business card for days. He chose the exact shade of blue, from the exactly right stones, for the floors in his Apple stores, and would accept nothing else. He sought to control every aspect of design, and the user's' experience, for his projects. Every single one.

Yet when it came to the working conditions of his factories he just didn't give any sort of good god damn at all. How vexing this is. How inexplicable. How impossible to understand in any way.

Did he not know? Why was he content to cede control of his production in this one area? Why did he not even seem to care even when these things were pointed out to him? Why was Apple so behind the curve time and again, when it was revealed that the working conditions in their factories were so hellish? How could Jobs allow the reputation of his beloved company to be so besmirched, when he, if anyone, could have changed things?

And he if took a stand for things to change for the better he would have gotten his way, because he almost always got his way. Nothing could stop him, except his total lack of a heart for the abused workers, some children, that made his iPods, and iPads.

How could a man who seemed so enlightened fail so hard in this one area that is so important?

Apple workers committed suicide, the conditions were so bad. Why didn't Jobs care? Why didn't Isaacson? Why was Jobs not confronted about these obvious atrocities?

Jobs cared about the user experience with his devices in an intimate way. Why didn't he care about the people who made these devices in any kind of way at all?

And why didn't Isaacson call him on it?