Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Good-Bye, Joe

May he rest in peace.

Joe Bageant:

If you haven't read his book Deer Hunting With Jesus, Dispatches From America's Class War, please go out and buy a copy today, preferably from an actual bookstore. These are dying off and I'd like to see them get all the support possible. Or download it to your eReader. To each their own.

While the book is essentially about people "whose TV set that works is sitting on top of one that doesn't," it is beautifully written. Bageant always maintained a genuine compassion for the people he described in this book, though he certainly wrote with a clear eye for their foibles and tragic flaws.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Aeger Eger, Gravatus

My nose and lungs are filled with more snot than the Arizona Republican party. I'm dead tired because I haven't been sleeping much due to coughing and sneezing. I haven't been able to use my wonderful CPAP machine because of nasal stuffiness.

(Not a picture of me. I stole it from the web.)

I am sick.

And because I am sick, I am guilt-ridden. Missing work causes me great anguish. Nurses are not the sick ones, you see. The patients are.

They let me leave work early yesterday. The only reason I even went in was because I was out sick on Thursday and I felt I should try to shake it off and show up.

Before I finished up a few things and left I told them how guilty, ashamed, and troublesome I felt for being sick.

Andy said "But what if it were me instead? Wouldn't you want me to go home?"

"Yes," I said.

"If I were still sick wouldn't you want me to stay home tomorrow too?" she asked, and again I replied in the affirmative.

Over the course of an average 12-hour shift I probably wash my hands a hundred times. But bacteria and viruses are sneaky and insidious. They can get around. I masked up and wore a gown for things like doing dressing changes. I always wear gloves if there's the least chance I might be in contact with fluids of any kind: body fluids, IV medications, tubing, whatever.

But I was recently out-of-state. Maybe I picked up something during the flights or while I was on the island. What if I contributed something new to the local Arizona germ pool?

That might be bad.

Yet still I feel horrible about missing work. I fantasize that my boss will punish me. Fire me, even.

In the not-so-distant past, American workers agitated for paid sick leave. They struggled for me. I thank them. I am fortunate to have it. So are the patients who did not have to have a sick nurse care for them today.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Fronte Praecipitium a Tergo Lupi

Tobias Wolff

Jhumpa Lahiri

Jorges Luis Borges

Raymond Carver

Katherine Mansfield

When I was little I discovered short stories. This was probably about when I was in third grade, because I remember finding the spot in the Lafayette School's library where they kept the books containing myths. I read Greek mythology and American Indian myths, most of which were in short form. Things just took off from there and I have always had a soft spot for stories.

Later on I indulged in novels and I read many of the usual culprits; Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Margaret Atwood, Melville, John Hersey, Chinua Achebe, Vonnegut, Nabokov, and of course Hesse. When I was in college you pretty much had to read that stuff and much more, and I did so even though I did not take literature classes.

It just seemed like those thing were part of a shared culture. I had friends who stayed up late reading Faulkner just for fun.

"What did you read over the summer break?" my friend Larry asked me one autumn upon return to Crane.

"Euripides," I replied. "How about yourself?" I asked in return.

"Joyce," he said.

"Oh, which book?" I asked.

"All of them," he replied.

I had a radio show once a week when I was at Binghamton. It started at 10 p.m. with a fifteen-minute news-break at midnight. After that I would read a short story and then finish up with more music until I got off the air at 1 a.m. I read a lot of stories then as "research" for my radio show.

Those were the days. Our college station also featured a show called "Words" whose jock engineered for various people reading a variety of poetry mostly. I was very impressed by that. Radio is such an excellent medium. It's my favorite of them all.

Our lives are stories.

Stories need to be told.

You can tell me yours anytime.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Interludium Telefonica

Each shift we are issued not-so-little phones at work which we carry on our scrub-belts or in our pockets. If a doctor or another unit calls, the secretary can transfer it directly to one of us. It's meant to be a convenience but because it so often interrupts our care these are generally reviled. If us nurses had our way we'd toss our phones out the windows and they would lie in various pieces scattered about the patio areas and streets that surround the hospital.

There have been instances in which I was trying desperately to thread an intravenous catheter into a tiny little evasive vein in some poor old lady's arm when my phone would ring, blowing my concentration and sometimes the vein I was trying to access. Or maybe I was into something really filthy like a very messy bed; I'd have to stop and quickly wash my hands so I could take the call.

You have to take the call. Otherwise how can you prioritize it? Maybe it's just my spouse wanting to tell me that they love me. Maybe it's a doctor inquiring about a patient. Or maybe it's one of the nursing assistants calling to tell me that another one of my patients just fell and pulled out a chest tube. You never know.

I went up the the desk at the nurses' station. My charge nurse and the secretary were there and they seemed to be in-between things. They were just chatting a little about this or that. Charlie Sheen, some dumbass thing one of their husbands did, or whatever. I waited for a break in their conversation.

"There's something wrong with my phone," I said. Andrea the secretary asked me if I had put a fresh battery in it, and I said that I had a different problem.

"Look at it, " I said. Andrea wanted me to hand it to her and she checked it out. She used her desk phone to dial it and it rang and when she picked it up it was working okay.

"No, that's not it," I said. "Look at it." They both examined it and said there was nothing wrong.

"Of course there's something wrong!" I claimed. "The zero comes after the nine. Zero doesn't come after nine. Ten does. The zero belongs before the one!"

They agreed and then started talking about how it was the same on old phones that actually had dials. You never see those anymore.

I'd like to have an old phone that has a dial. I think it would go well in our house, which has a sort of step-ahead-into-the-sixties modernity to it. Maybe a Princess phone in some groovy retro color:

My child and I were out exploring the various old-stuff shops once and came across a Mickey phone. They really really wanted it, but the store person said it wasn't operational. We would want to actually use it, so we didn't buy it. It was totally cool though.

"Soooo," said Andrea. "Shrimp, when did you first notice this about the zeroes? They've always been that way, you know" and she smiled that sarcastic way she always does.

"Really?" I asked, baiting her.

"Well yeah, you big dork-burger! You mean you've never noticed before?" she asked.

"I guess I haven't been paying attention," I said mischievously and then I walked away to go back to work.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

More of Our Thursday Morning Stroll

You could rent yurts, camping spots, and little huts at this privately-owned area between Kamehameha Highway and Maleakahana Beach. Free WiFi!

Feral peacocks also wander around the rural areas along the east shore.

Typical local home, showing its age. Nice location, though!

I stood in the driveway of our rental and looked one way...

Then I looked another way!

Thursday Morning Walk

Morning surfers at Maleakahana Beach.

There are thousands of feral chickens roaming around the windward side of Oahu.

An old cut-down telephone pole that has decided to grow.

Windmill farm on the northeast corner of the island.

This moth on our screen has about a three-inch wingspan. He stuck around all morning.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Tuesday, North Shore

The waves were high today. Way high. Sunset and Banzai Pipeline were closed altogether. They were taped off like a crime scene. Waimea Bay was closed to swimmers. There were only a few surfing gurus out there, but still the lifeguards were on their bullhorns. Shark's Cove was all froth. The Young Amphibians were a little disappointed because they couldn't go in the water.

The surfers coming in said it was "different." They didn't seem to have had much fun.

The waves out on the reef in front of our rental were also high. The water gets shallow there; it's only about five or six feet deep even a few hundred yards away from shore. The waves don't break on the beach, but way out on the reef. I don't think people surf there at all. If they go under (and the waves can hold you under for a while, like minutes,) you could get torn up. It's great for snorkeling and splashing around, though, and safe for the Y.A.'s because it's calm from the sea-wall on out to the reef.

We cooked up food that we bought at the roadside places. The best things to eat here are not found in stores or restaurants, but from trucks. There are shrimp ponds on the northeast corner of the island at Kahuku and we passed them several times as we went back and forth from the famous beaches on the north shore. Open stands sell fresh fruit, too.

I have seen no Hispanic nor native southwestern faces here like you do in Phoenix but there's a great mix of people out and about. There have been several waves of immigration to Hawaii; from China, Japan, Korea, the Philippines, and the mainland. I've read that there are only about 9,000 people on the islands who are of original Hawaiian descent. As in Phoenix you hear a variety of languages; but unlike there, no Spanish.

Signage tends to be hand-painted.

Much of the housing here is in some mild state of disrepair upon close inspection. It's not an upscale area. As I mentioned before: think "chickens in the road." The climate must be rough on wooden homes, which is what they're almost all made of. Peeling paint, rusty vehicles, mud, but with lush tropical greenery. The beaches are immaculate.

Lava stones are used for outside walls that function as fences, but not as walls for homes. That's too bad because it's obviously a plentiful local material and quite beautiful.

There's a cute little medical center nearby. It has eleven(!) acute-care beds and ten long-term care beds. I currently work in a hospital roughly thirty times bigger than that. I don't think they need my services as a nurse here anyways.

I'd have better luck opening up a professional sign shop.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sunday Going About Gathering

While the Young Amphibians were spending the morning splashing about in the shallow reef-protected waters in front of the place, we went out by ourselves for a bit. A short drive south at Kahana Bay is an ancient (by Hawaiian standards) fish pond, built some time ago for harvesting fish.

There's a low spot in the tightly-fitted lava-stone walls which allows tidal currents to come in bringing fish. Then the people could wade around within the shallow sandy-bottomed artificial cove to catch them.

While we were visiting the site there was a brief sea-surge which flowed into the enclosure. Over a few minutes the water level rose five or six inches. Then, just as suddenly, it receded. I had checked tide charts earlier; we may have witnessed its peak for the day.

We drove up past our rental and stopped at a roadside fish-stand. They had fresh mahi-mahi (the "fish so good they named it twice,") ahi, and marlin. They gave us a sample of ahi they had just cooked up in a bit of butter and garlic. Good enough for Anthony Bourdain! We also got a couple containers of poke.

It's ceviche-style, raw and buttery, with garlic and chunks of the most tender ahi. Melts in the mouth, it does. Sweet chili style and sesame style. We got one of each for snacks, or even full meals, later. Five bucks a pound. (The marlin was four dollars a pound.) Amazing stuff. It was fun chatting with the vendors.

For dessert we got mochi at the stand next door. It's a rich cakey pudding.

We went back to wait for the tide to continue going out and washed down our snacks with local sodas.

I had the Lilikoi, which tasted a bit like a fizzy lightly sweetened mix of watermelon, peach, and strawberry. Passion fruit, I guess. They use cane sugar, as you would probably expect, but it's actually rather crisp. Later I'll have the pineapple.

The reason we're waiting for the tide to get to its lowest (at about three this afternoon,) is so we can wade out to Goat Island.

It's a bit over seven-hundred feet off the beach at Malaekahana. The water's only about five feet deep at the most, but the waves come around both sides of the island criss-crossing together at right angles just at the narrowest place to wade over. If it's too rough we may have to wait for a calmer day. (We did end up making it out to there. The water was only thigh-deep at that time but the waves did knock us around some.)

This is not a resort area. Hau'ula is basically a few scrappy old wooden houses dropped dropped by the side of the two-lane highway that rolls along the eastern coast of Oahu. It's literally a chickens-in-the-road sort of place.

North of here it's different. Laie, a few miles up, is a Mormon stronghold that has a Brigham Young satellite campus. We stopped there briefly yesterday because spousie had a yen for ice cream. There seemed to be a preponderance of young closely-groomed white people there. Many of the women were either pregnant of carrying very young children. My surmise was that they were Mormon girls who had come to the college, hooked up, and married early to start families while the freshly-domesticated husbands finished school.

The ice cream shop was at a decent-sized strip mall that would not have seemed out-of-scale for Phoenix, but it had no bar nor a restaurant that served alcohol. Not that I care; I'm not much of a drinker at all myself. I think, though, that this was because of the general Mormon bent of the whole town. The whole place closes up on Sundays.

Laie also is home to the Polynesian Center, a tourist trap if ever there was one. Just looking at it while going by makes me puke.

Though I am certainly no expert, the way I size up recent Hawaiian culture is thus: Island people got here only about nine-hundred years ago. Later, Europeans and Americans discovered the place. The usual things happened. The newer explorers took land, resources, commerce, and dignity away from the locals and in exchange they gave them religion.

A lousy deal.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Morning Walk

The mountains are as interesting as the ocean.

Walking back along the beach I found a bowl of water.

The little store is a few feet down the highway from this place. If you can't buy it there, then you really don't need it that much, to paraphrase Garrison Keillor.

Back at the rental I cooked up home-made waffles for the Young Amphibians. The money we don't spend on eating out makes this trip a little more affordable on a nurse's pay. I've nothing to complain about as far as that's concerned; for my level of education I think I'm paid rather well. It simply baffles me that there are people who are insanely rich who would like to see that working people could never afford to do such things as this.

I think I'll take the surfboard out to the reef and try not to break my neck.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Vidi Turbam Magnam

Ruth Laredo, my favorite Scriabin player.

Horszowski was 94 years old when he made that recording.

Ingrid Fliter, presently owns Chopin.

Maria Joao Pires, another great Chopin player.

And finally Horowitz. I heard him play once when I was in college. He did the "Funeral March" sonata by Chopin, some of his signature Rachmaninov, some Clementi, and several encores. That was probably the single greatest concert I have ever been to, out of hundreds and hundreds.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Victus Coram Deo

Shawna Forde, the woman on the left, has recently been sentenced to death for murdering Brisenia Flores and her father during a home invasion in 2009. Defense lawyers contend that Forde, like Charlie Manson in the infamous 1968 Tate-LaBlanca slaughters, was not present for the slayings, but the jury found that she masterminded the spree. Others will be tried soon.

Brisenia's and Forde's faces are the faces of Arizona's border wars.

Let there be absolutely no doubt about that. Hate feeds hate. It inevitably escalates unless, like a disease (and strictly speaking it *is* a disease,) it is treated, preferable by incarceration and silencing those who funnel such hatred into the minds of their radio listeners, website readers, and television viewers.

Forde, a self-styled leader of a rabid pack of violent crazies called the Minutemen American Defense, had some idea that there were drugs in the home which they could steal and sell to finance their anti-immigrant schemes. Isn't that special. The victims were, however, American-born and no drugs were found. Instead the murderers made off with some cheap jewelry.

Chris Simcox, leader of the equally unsavory Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, apparently considered Forde too nuts even for their bag of loons so they kicked her out in 2007 because "she was pretty unbalanced." Minuteman Project founder Jim Gilchrist however maintained ties to Forde right on up until he found out about the shootings.

Shawna Forde, Jim Gilchrist, and Chris Simcox think like lizards. As does Russell Pearce. As does Janet Brewer. As do their supporters throughout the state and country. Bill O'Reilly even lied about young Brisenia, with his on-air statement that she was an illegal alien. But that's nothing new; O'Reilly lies every fucking night on his television program. That's what he's paid to do, though many others are quite willing to do this for free.

Arizona harbors others of its other own special brand of various lizard people too:

The church, at 7901 N. Central Ave., had appealed a hearing officer's decision that feeding the homeless at a place of worship can be banned by city ordinance. In November, retired Arizona Supreme Court Justice Robert Corcoran, serving as a hearing officer, ruled that the city can restrict where the homeless and poor can be fed and that zoning regulations apply to everyone equally.

More here.

Such wisdom. A judgement coming straight from the corpus amygdaloideum. Such are our laws.

Ultra Posse Nemo Obligatur

Friday, March 04, 2011

Visibilium Omnium et Invisibilium

When I first saw her she was tied to the bed. Wrist restraints and a posey vest. We can do that here in Arizona. In New York, "double restraints" are illegal. Even closing the patient's door is considered to be a restraint. When I lived and worked there, the doors to patient's room were always open unless a clean procedure was underway, such as peritoneal dialysis, and you didn't want someone to enter and waft germs through the air.

At one time she was a respectable cardiologist but her mind had been eaten away by Alzheimer's disease. She apparently had been pulling at her Foley catheter, and the bag of urine dangling from the frame of her hospital bed was wine-dark red. Not all that an unusual occurrence. Confused patients pull their catheters all the time. They also pull out intravenous lines, nasogastric tubes, and whatever else they can get their hands on. It's only natural. But it can make treatment impossible, so god said "Let their be restraints! Tie unto them their wrists of fury! Hedge their catapulting torsos with vests of strong fibers!" and his merciful angels did apply them abundantly.

She had devoted family members. I always undo restraints when family members are at the bedside. They can come tell me if the patient is pulling out something.

I had a day off and when I returned to work the patient was still there, but I was not assigned to her. Her room was just across the hall from the medication room, and yesterday morning when I was going to fetch some nasty poisonous very expensive drug to administer to some poor sick bastard who probably wouldn't live without it and who couldn't afford it if he had to pay for it himself (he was an engineer,) I saw one of the Alzheimer's woman's daughters go into her room.

"You've got to cut that shit out," I heard her say to her mother. "You can't pull on that anymore. That shit's over."


I was going to speak to her nurse about it. But I was busy as all hell and I never had time to do so. I hit the floor running at 6:30 a.m. yesterday, took a 15-minute lunch at 3 p.m., and finished up my charting at 9:30 last night. I got my ass kicked.

Besides, the woman *did* stop pulling her lines. The physical therapists had her up in a chair and later walking in the halls. She was smiling that unknowing but happy Alzheimer's smile; you know, the "Reagan smile." Clueless and empty-headed, but genuinely happy about the way things were happening for them.

She went home before the shift ended. Content in her own bed, unrestrained except by her own plaque-ridden brain, home. While I was still typing up notes trying to remember all that I did for my own patients that day.

I was so busy I had forgotten to hang an IV mini-bag of Magnesium on one of my patients, and I apologized profusely to the oncoming nurse. She told me to relax and that she'd take care of it, and she called Pharmacy for the dose.

As I was waiting at the elevator to finally leave, she came up to me and said "Shrimp, you *did* give that Mag. You signed it off at 1 o'clock. I don't have to give it."

I didn't remember doing it. Not a clue. Just an empty spot.

Finally I got home at 10 p.m. You know what I did?