Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Grand Opposition and Its Friends

There's always a ton of things to write about; happenings at the Great Muffin Factory Institute of Some Freakish Misunderstanding of the Basic Elements of Health Care, trips to here and there, new musical experiences, and maybe the odd bits and bitters down in the caliche supporting Phoenix life. Sometimes, there's even time in the day to put things down to pixels, bits, and bytes.

Some mornings I have been writing three or four pages. Real pages, on a legal-pad sort of writing surface. With a pen. I like "clicky" pens, as do all nurses. We do not have the time to uncap a pen, write, and cap the pen again. Even a momentary click to raise the writing point from the barrel of the pen, when added up over thousands upon thousands of times, assumes mountainous proportions.

It eats away at your time like radioactive decay chewing off Carbon-14. A persistent hound nipping my ankles, this very weak beta decay to nitrogen-14 with a half-life of approximately 5,730 years tears a little life away from me each moment I live and work. Good quick read. Pretty cool basic article, the kind of thing my child and I can share.

My Kid, Part 415: For a while they were interested in old stuff like H. floresiensis. That was back when I took them to meet Donald Johanson. The man! Can you even imagine this guy? He's fresh out of university on some lonesome dig in a slowly disappearing triangle of the world when he finds The Findingest Find in Finding History of Finding Finds, Ever:

Now shrimpbowl seems more interested in far-away stuff like the recently-documented star-collection 13.1 billion light-years away. (More here.)

So they're this kid and they've met this skeleton-discovering guy who basically invited them to come study at the Institute of Human Origins which is, quite luckily, rather nearby. Already they've had a taste of The Edge.

My lead doctor right now says to tone it down on stuff like this at work. This doctor thinks; and as I consider it too, quite rightly, that I myself have had something of an "exceptional" life. With my history of anxiety, PTSD, depression, and general disturbitude I've never been one to seek input at a merely acceptable level. It had to be more or it would not hold me. And I needed to be held. Held over. Held into. Held back. Held onto. Held from.

I liked music so I auditioned at and gained entry to a New York music school. I had three finger-picking lessons with a local guy back then (he taught me "Freight Train!") but I basically taught myself classical guitar. One summer at a music camp before my high-school senior year I met a musician named Roger Harmon and he set me straight on a lot of things classical guitar-wise.

Then I studied early music with the woman who wrote the definitive music history textbook of that decade, Edith Borroff. I learned to play renaissance lute "thumb-under" style by looking at the facsimiles of old lute books on microfiche at the fine-arts library. Sight-reading the special notation used by lutenists; at the least the "French" style tablature used also by the many wonderful composers of the English Renaissance, is actually a little easier than reading traditional music notation once you get the hang of it.

Not mention stuff like that. People think I'm bragging or something when actually I am marvelling at such fortune and; well, stuff. As if it happened to somebody else, not me. I was just there, or something. Maybe in some ways I wasn't.

Martin-Logans. If you're going to listen to music at home, save save save until you can get something like these. I saved a few dollars a week for like a freaking decade to get these.

Down the listensities: I worked summers at SPAC back then where I heard *everybody* on top of the classical-music orchestral/concerto scene and saw all the George Ballanchine NYCB choreography. One summer was a Stravinsky Festival.

None of my coworkers has ever seen a NYCB performance. I've seen many of them several times over. A whole week of Coppelia. Can you imagine? And who gives a fuck about the two weeks of Ravel? Nobody I currently know.

I shouldn't rub their faces in it. But I am that. But this lead doctor, my EMDR specialist, suggests I can that personal stuff, float through the workday maintaining light and casual interest in my coworkers, and leave my freaking intense esthetically hyper-life out of conversation.

The nursing we do on my little unit is different too. One of my coworkers is very fit and she does triathlons and such. She says that we do "X-Games Nursing," like "Extreme Nursing," because few people get to do exactly what we do. That's why I never mention it. You'd know who I am immediately because I'm one of rather few nurses in The Valley that get to work around the types of patients I do.

I'm not proud. I don't have to try to get myself into these intense little M-space wormholes. It's the way my life works. The way a tree grows, some droopy like a willow, some sway like a pine, some immobile against an ancient sky, it grows me and I grow it and We Are All Together HeeHeeHee HahHahHah HoHoHo.

Maybe your life's like that too. Gonzo. Then you know what I mean.

Doc Hanson gave me an ever-growing appreciation of long musical forms and motivic development. The way Shostakovich turns over that D-Eflat-C-H(B-natural) musical proto-idea in his 8th String Quartet. He never specifically discussed that with us, but we did get a good understanding of fugue, sonata-form, rondo, da-capo arias, binary dance forms, and all that. Later on I sort of independently applied this to manner of invention to analysis in other fields that caught my attention, such as architecture (ohmygoddon'tgetthemgoingontheirhousewiththekoiandmarblefloorsagainstuff,) literature, science, and people.

Then the chess thing. I got so involved in learning opening theories that I don't need an actual board to play the game. I can move the pieces in my head. My housemate G. used to call me at work and tell me moves over the phone and we'd play on-and-off the whole day that way. She'd have a board set up in the living room of our shabby-chic little second-story apartment we shared with a third college woman. I still occasionally drift off into Grunfeld Defenses or whatev.

Then there was the running thing. Not content to take up jogging, I had to enter races. This culminated in six consecutive Boston Marathons and an Empire State Games gold medal for 10,000 meters. I met my spouse in a running club.

Because of my history of childhood abuse (not generally violent; I wasn't hit much but... ) I was in my first three-way when I was 11. Then they got my brother into it and it really got weird. I kid not. Only with EMDR have I even been able to openly admit this without collapsing into bails of clorox tears. Then I was ignored. Then I got hungry. That's probably why I've lost 40 pounds since my peak, most of it over the past four months, neatly coinciding with my recent assholishness and consequent assumption of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy, I may be wired a little bit differently from your average bear.

I'm not proud.

I'm not even grammatically identifiable.

Just sayin'.

It's like this life-thing I have has taken me way out of Beavis-and-Butthead Land. The air is different here. The sky is the other Lucy's sky. It was playing on the radio in the camp during the time Johanson found the renowned fossil. Yep. That story.

I had to hear Cecilia Bartoli at The Met. My spouse took me years ago. Awesome. Like when I got to hear Horowitz play. And Siouxsie and the Banshees came to my town! I adore her. Who wouldn't? That was the same day Ice-T broke out Body Count and "Cop-Killer" after a set of hardcore gangsta-West-Coast rap. I got to hear "Cop-Killer" again a year later played by SoundGarden. That was after Ice-T officially withdrew it.

FK Binding Protein 5 single-nucleotide polymorphisms might just be a partial contributor to it, but at this moment I do not know that at all. I sure as all ever act like it, though.

Some people just dance and good on them for it. They are fortunate. Once King Sunny Ade came to Burlington and we had front-row seats. The band members, starting with a very tall man playing a very small hand-drum, came out riffing one by one on that ju-JU signature rhythmic dig until about fifteen drummers, guitarists, dancers, and other variously Dashiki-sporting extremely cool guys were all ON IT.

Then they stopped. It was confusing. Ade came to his microphone, paused, surveyed us (remember this occurred in Vermont,) and gently asked us to, (he smiled,) "Please... Danser!" and the band kicked it back in just as if a switch had been turned suddenly on, the house rose to its feet, the roof opened up, the June stars doubled over Lake Champlain, and then we danced.

A year later we were driving around Montreal looking for something to do when I heard a voice, a voice I loved very much, and a guitarist who outsparkled all the Ponies in FairyLand, with a drumkit and bass, frolicking some real live SouKous. It was freaking Nyboma and Dally Kimoko. Spousie and I were actually arguing at the time, really bad, and my spouse was basically kicking my non-French-speaking ass out of the car onto like Rue St-Catherine and when I opened the door I heard the HighLife music and yelled-


They found a spot right away and we ran down to the street stage-front where the band was playing. It was Festival FrancoPhone, et le voila! Nyboma! This music known to me from long-playing vinyls put out by Rounder Records back in the day. I had a beloved copy of Double Double that I made everybody listen to. My god how some days I wished I had been born into a family of Zairean electric guitarists of the Soukous variety, wooden spoon in my mouth but silver Stratocaster in my hand.

That was dancing, too.

Everything is such a big deal to me. I have to go wild with everything. (If you want me to go there I gladly will, but I dare not go voluntarily. For that I will require provocation. And much, much else.)

James Joyce ended it right about there once. So the fuck can I. Because that's the way I am. Over the cliff and yet my foot is slamming the gas pedal against the floor, revving the engine into madness. Over and over again. My spouse asks me to stop it, but I keep crashing the car again and again, like I'm on an intense carnival ride.

It's a bit like bumper cars. But for me it's my life.

I push other people. Other wise they will not show me the devil inside them, and that is what I most need to know about them at the soonest possible time. It makes a lot of sense to me and quite frankly I do not understand how people can abide one another without dispensing with this formality right off from the start. My spouse sort of gets this. That's why I married them.

Two-thirds a rope-length up an anorthosite vertical face on a rainy late April day in the Adirondacks, thunder rolling, clouds rounding up black as bootsoles, lightening over the peak, belayed by my spouse. We scrambled and got to the burger place before the downpour hit. This helped me to get by.

I have looked back and shared things with you that seem to have been essential to my survival, if indeed that word even applies in my special case.

I got called into Some Yahoo's Office at work a few weeks ago because my intensity sometimes applies to my boss and this is not typically accommodated in the workplace. That was uncomfortable. Three against one. In other circumstances another like-person such as myself but less committed to non-violence might have decapitated one of them at the beginning of the meeting, just to set the proper tone. Just to be fair to all parties involved. But people don't see that. They see the fire, not the many firefighters controlling the seething temperament contained in the tall flames.

Later during a kiss-and-make-up session which I initiated myself one of my torturers told me she thought that I was "all over the map and very focused" as if I were supposed to know what the fuck that means because it doesn't make sense really, but I was in "Charm Mode" not my usual "Opposition Mode," so I let it go and smiled. She smiled back, I tilted my head down and a bit away to my left, and said, "yes, I can be like that when I'm a little stressed."

As if.

"Good morning, I'm shrimplate and I'll be your nurse for the next interminably long twelve hours of your life as you're ever likely to face. Five chest tubes? This one is labelled "inferior." That doesn't seem right. It looks just as good as all the other chest tubes..."

And so it goes, as Mr. Vonnuget wrote.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Ave Verum Corpus, Brother Jerome

Oh my goodness he was a big guy. I shouldn't have been surprised because the St. Vincent brothers had a reputation for savoring life's many good things. Brother Jerome was nothing if not well-fed... and also very good-natured. I could hyphenate a thousand positive adverbs and adjectives yet still not have said but a fraction of the nice things that could you could say about that jolly man.

I was a nurse aide back then, working on a 40-bed(!) medical-surgical unit in an upstate New York community. I still have friends in that town. I visited there last year to hear some music, too. Garrick Ohlsson playing the Rach Three with the Phillies. Awefreakingsome. Anyway, St. Vincent's was a local retirement facility maintained by that church. It was a rest-home for elderly brothers and priests. Once in a while one of the brethren might get sick enough to be admitted to us for a bit.

"Are you a Catholic child?" asked Brother Jerome one morning as I was nurse-aiding him with something.

"Actually no," I said with a smile, then added, "Why? Do I look Catholic?!" (I have a naturally distinctive type of hair not associated with Catholicism, let us say.)

He smiled back but continued. "Do you pray? Would you pray with me?"

"Brother Jerome, every breath I take is a prayer," I replied. He beamed. He was delighted. He didn't give a fuck what my religion was, nor even if I had one. He just wanted to know if there was anybody around who was familiar with some of the literature. It was a great way to start the day.

I firmly believe that a therapeutic nurse-patient relationship is of considerable importance. Without that not much can be done. For example, if your patient is a drug-seeking psychopath with no conscience at all then you as a nurse will never be able to establish such an arrangement. Unpossible. Don't even bother trying. Be prepared for a shift of games.


The evilist most deadlieristical molecularational stuffy-stuff ever:

Do NOT be fooled by the innocent appearance!

Yeah, it's a killer alright. No. Not really. Not at all.

I was outside one of the many "clubs" that have sprung up in the wake of Proposition 203. This one is right down the street from the hospital. There's also an evaluation clinic across the street from the hospital campus. They usually feature a doctor who will, for a mere $150, fill out the forms necessary for you to obtain the State-issued card identifying you as a medical user. So... out of the club putters an old man with the most severe neck stoop I've ever seen. Though walking upright his neck was near-parallel to the ground even with his soft neck-brace in place.

"Excuse me sir," I said as I approached him, maintaining the appropriate distance out-of-doors. "I'd like to ask you a few questions if that's okay. I'm a blogger and I've been interviewing medical marijuana cardholders and anonymously writing about them. For a book maybe."

He turned his head like a turtle, smiled, and said "Fine!"

"Well first off, what is your condition and how did you aquire it?" I started out.

"I read the Torah for forty years."

I was puzzled. I am sure he meant to play me a little, and it was fun. He wasn't cat-and-mousing me. He was making me think.

"You stooped over the pages all day long for decades and decades," I said.

"Yes," he replied, "Indeed."

"So how does medical cannabis help you?" I asked.

"Oh, it's not for me," he went on, "I'm a caregiver. I don't have a user card. This is for the Hospice where I volunteer."

He's like about 90 years old, bent over sideways, walks with a cane while looking straight down at the ground, he volunteers at a Hospice and not only that, he gets them their medical marijuana.

Awe. Some.


"Don't you know
In this new Dark Age

Andy Partridge and his uber-pal Colin Moulding, often accompanied by many other swell people.

Drop whatever you're doing RIGHT NOW and go purchase as much XTC music as you possibly can. Every one of their collections has several songs that you would consider to be The Best In The World and the others aren't just filler. They just take a few listens to get your ears around them.


My conversation with the elderly man outside the club continued:

"So, do you take a cut?" I ventured. I couldn't believe I was so bold, but he had that New Yorker thing about him and I knew he could more than handle himself.

"You mean am I dealer?" he asked. I was expecting a question in response to mine. That "the city" thing. It's pretty cool. I dig it totally. They call it "the city." And that it is. The greatest city the world has ever seen.

"Oh, I don't know if that's quite my first choice of a word," I said. "But..." I trailed off.

"No, I don't take a percentage. Many people do. They are dealers. Me? I'm just a mule."

"A mule!" I laughed. He gave out a little "heh." We exchanged cheerful "shaloms."


Another person exited the club, a woman some pounds overweight by corporate standards but nonetheless pretty. I smiled and with my body language indicated that I'd like to approach. She smiled back so I did. I explained to her that I was interviewing medical cannabis users and added that I'd like her permission to ask her a few questions on the record, though anonymously. She agreed.

"What is your condition and how did you get it?" I started the usual way.

"It's for my PERIOD!" she replied. Kinda over-the-top I thought.

"How does medical cannabis help you?" I asked.

"None of your damn business!" she hurled back at me.

Oh well then, I thought. Perhaps I should not have been taking up her time.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

"A-83," or "Transfigured Night Part CXXIV"

In the college logic course I took so many years ago we studied Venn diagrams. A lot. More than enough for it to have changed my life forever.

It is perhaps inaccurate to say that Venn diagrams changed my life; because in fact, Venn diagrams became my life. Or rather, I realized that this simple model upon which we can build, arrange, and especially analyze relationships, had always been there and I had just been notified of this development. And everything is a relationship. Relationships define us.

Maybe the subatomic particles that make up the building blocks of our quantum universe are also just relationships. They may as well be, they're so damn tiny anyway. It isn't like they're "stuff." They're smaller than "stuff."

My spouse is faultless. The whole package. Athletic figure, intelligence, humor, style, and various talents. We met because we both belonged to the same local running club. My dear spouse was actually married to another when we first met, and we'd "seen each other around" a lot, like for years, before we ever spoke to one another. That wasn't a solid marriage and I had nothing at all to do with its failure and break-up. It was an opportunity I acted upon quickly, though.

Ours has been a great marriage and we have the most interesting child, one with features that would gain them entrance to modeling or acting but they currently express great interest in astrophysics.

When you meet another person and have some sort of relationship with them it is sort of like a Venn diagram. You're one circle, I'm another, and we overlap on this blog at this moment.

That may be all.

Or there could be more.

Well of course there's more, stupid! simply because there are so many people. (I speak to myself here.)

shrimplate is like that. Sort of a composite, as if it were being written by a collective rather than an individual. More people. Unlike many other shrimp, shrimplate has these tentacle-like thought-ribbons that can reach round the globe to make visits. shrimplate knows "others" who can similarly unfurl a riband across the greatest span.

shrimplate often steals and borrows from other nurses. One in particular makes repeated appearances, under deep cover, which is sorrowful because they work in a specialty unit at one of the big medical centers here and if I discuss their specialty it will expose them. Not that many people do what they do and it's the only such program in The Valley. They have however made a request...

I hesitate to answer to that request for surely it will likely betray them... so I will not.

Hence, a sketch: (heh)

"It isn't like we were BFF's or anything. We didn't hang out outside work, but sometimes we talked and since she's going back east I've actually revealed quite a bit of myself to her," they told this writer, "But I am surely going to miss them a great deal" they continued. Normally the chatty one they said that they ran out of words when confronted with good-bye.

Why? We don't know, we decided after discussion. You miss the rising stars. They step out of your Venn circles and in a whisper, away. Just away. Nothing else. The sort of "away" that is as far away as you can get. Gone. But you need them! Good nurse STAT! But they're really, really gone.

Except in memory.

Yeah yeah yeah it's a small world but I don't think so.