24 May 2017

Still Alive


I
 am now back from the hospital, considerably the worse for wear, but alive. Which I wouldn’t have been if I hadn’t gone and had them install small devices inside me to hold my arteries open so that my heart could continue working. I want to extend my most profound thanks to the doctors, nurses, food suppliers, cleaners, technicians, administrators, and other unseen staff of Emanuel Legacy that made this possible. Thanks to their efforts there is a reasonable chance that I will continue to write and function as I have for at least a few more years. How I’m going to make the necessary lifestyle changes I don’t know, but at least I have the chance to do it.

23 May 2017

Grand Tour


A
t some point in late May—not necessarily 23 May 1963—we sixth-graders took a tour of Lewis Junior High School. Let’s just say that at the end of the tour I was not looking forward to going.
Actually, although I don’t have the exact date of either event, both my mother and I got (separate) advance notices of the horrors of Lewis Junior High. Mine was a tour of the school undertaken by all sixth graders; Ruth’s was a “meeting for prospective parents of students at Lewis Junior High.” (“I am not a prospective parent, but I went anyway, because my son is in the sixth grade, and because he brought me an invitation; I thought they probably meant parents of prospective students. Now, of course, I realize that they did not know what they meant and that none of them would have been capable of making the distinction, so it doesn’t matter.”) My memories are faded and colored by actual experience in this institution; Ruth’s were fresh, but don’t always match what I remember as significant. Between them, however, I can sort of triangulate my impressions, both first and second hand.
The place seemed bewilderingly large at first, especially compared to John Rogers, but really came down to only three buildings—the original school building, with a design similar to our own school, the massive main building with the office, library, and cafeteria, which had two wings, shop on the one side and home economics on the other, and the small but modern-looking science building. I noted that there were two gyms, a crappy old building for the girls and a shiny new one for the boys. The band and choir rooms (in the home economics wing) were terraced, so to speak, for the convenience of the singers or player, depending.
What they couldn’t wait to show off, as I remember it, was the equipment. And my mother observed that “What they were chiefly peddling … and what they seemed to feel made all else right, was gadgets.” Her immediate notes match my half-century old recollections.
To start with they had a decent science wing, equipped with microscopes, test tubes, Bunsen burners, a van de Graf generator, a Tesla coil, an orrery, and I don’t  know what all. I will note that in practice these things were for the teachers’ use in demonstrations, and not for the students, but still—a big improvement over John Rogers, which had absolutely nothing in the way of lab equipment.
The audio-visual lab was actually fairly impressive, though I don’t think they did anything more than point it out to us on my visit. In my view it was definitely under-utilized; its main use was in language classes where tapes of (say) Spanish phrases would be played for students to repeat into a microphone, while the teacher randomly listened in on various students, possibly occasionally interjecting a correction or suggestion. Ruth says that her guide during her visit said that only he and another teacher used it as the rest of them were scared of it. That matches my later experience—only the German and Spanish teachers put it to any use.
The industrial arts wing was (as far as I can recall) very well equipped with tools, but I never took shop as such, so my experience was limited. The tools we students were allowed to touch, however, were pieces of absolute crap, unfit for any serious work, dull and broken. But the machines were lovely to look at—planes and lathes and saws and drills and I don’t know what all—and maybe advanced students got to use them or something.
From here it’s downhill. There was a fairly decent P.A. system as part of the stage that sat between the gym and the cafeteria. They used it for assemblies and to play horrible music at us during lunch. Ruth wrote about them promoting the “divider wall[s] that can be folded up to make two classroom size rooms into one lecture-auditorium sized room” in the science wing but in my experience they were seldom if ever used. Ruth also wrote about the overhead projectors that many of the teachers used instead of a blackboard. It does seem like maybe they showed them off, but without Ruth’s contemporary note I wouldn’t remember them as anything special.
One thing that was emphasized repeatedly is that we would not be seeing the same people in our classes that we’d been seeing in grade school; because of the size of the institution it was very unlikely that we would be in the same class with any of our old friends. (It was still all right for us to associate with them outside of school they assured us graciously and condescendingly.) No, we would find our new friends at Lewis among the classmates the authorities had assigned to us, and everything would be just peachy. (My mother doesn’t really say anything about this, though I suppose it could have been covered in the part she alludes to about “peer-group identification”.) And there would be many activities for us to perform, hoops to jump through as it were, that would let us get to know each other much much better.
There were, we were told, many activities we could take part in. There were inter-scholastic sports like football, baseball, basketball or track, as well as intramural sports like volleyball and softball. There were organizations like the Girls’ League, the Boys’ League, the Activity Council and so on, that performed various unnamed but important functions, and by taking part in them we could earn points towards a Citizenship Letter (parallel to the Letter given for taking part in the various sports). On a scale of one to ten my interest in this concept was less than zero, so I never really did get the hang of it, but it seemed to be important to the people showing us around.
Each grade had its own conslur, an official who would be there to help and guide us throughout our time at Lewis. That is, the seventh grade conslur this year would be the eighth grade conslur next year, and so on. According to the handbook he “is prepared to support teachers in their primary role of aiding individuals to learn efficiently and effectively. He is also prepared to help the students themselves discover and develop their learning potential and capacity for self-direction through the various levels of the educational program.” From the pronunciation—which was universal at Lewis—I thought it had to have something to do with the old Roman consuls, but no—the word was spelt counselor. To jump ahead a bit I will note that conslurs did not, regardless of the spelling, actually offer counsel or the like; you got sent to one when you got in trouble of some kind, and detention, suspension, or expulsion was in the offing. I think I once had a conversation with mine, possibly over the intramural thing. At least various authorities were constantly pressuring me to drop piano lessons in favor of intramurals, since I shouldn’t let “outside activities” interfere with school—but I’m not sure if my conslur was one of them. And to skip a bit further ahead, the position was abolished at the end of my seventh grade year, due to budget cutbacks.
One thing that was emphasized repeatedly to us was that we would have a great deal more freedom in junior high than we did in elementary school, and we would have to learn to use it wisely. As it turned out, this was true only in the Orwellian sense, but I had no idea what to expect on that front.
There are two things I remember my mother saying about her visit, both of which are confirmed in the letter she wrote just after. One was that somebody had said that he had “lots and lots of busy-work for those quick kids.” From the letter I gather that he meant that he had puzzles and games for kids to do that finished up quickly, maybe as a sort of incentive or something. I pictured it as still more assignments of the same goddamn crap if you finished up quickly—a sort of disincentive. The other was the story of the would-be Latin students who ended up taking shop and home economics because there weren’t enough people to fill a class. That exactly matches my experience, except that there was no “counseling” involved; you signed up for Latin and ended up in shop. And yes—I did want to take Latin, very much.
As a final stage in our orientation we were assembled in the cafeteria and given ice cream. I can’t stand the stuff, so I refused it, but they served it anyway. I thought glumly about this dystopian future, and consoled myself with the thought that if I did end up going to this hellhole at least Bruce and Wyn and Steve would be along for the ride. I watched the ice cream melt in front of me and listened to idiots babble about my future.

22 May 2017

Street Scene [1979]


[passage from a letter, 22 May 1979]
I
 am extremely burnt out today. Across the street the bar is emptying; downstairs the dogs are barking at the activity, as usual. There’s one major difference about living in a city—many nights at Fourthplainland I would hear the dog telegraph in action; it doesn’t happen here—the dogs all seem to go off at once. The window in front of me faces north, looking directly down Interstate. I can see four sets of traffic lights and at least half a dozen neon signs. Orange and blue appear to be the prevailing colors in the neon signs; they blink on and off, each with a separate beat. The traffic lights cycle from green to yellow to red and back to green. There is an incredible amount of activity down there, all of it inhuman, mechanical. An occasional car comes over the hill, or out from a side street, like a ball in a pinball machine. I have to admit, the whole thing is flashy, but it seems singularly pointless. Who, or what, is keeping score?

21 May 2017

Today’s Adventure in the Real World


A
nd I’m still here at the hospital. Tomorrow I’m (probably) going to have an angiogram to determine if I have heart damage and to what extent, or something like that. I can’t eat anything tonight, and I will have to lie quietly tomorrow while recovering from it. So that part I’m not looking forward to.
On the other hand today was relatively quiet, the main excitement being getting my roommate off to work successfully at long distance via Facebook messages, and making sure that somebody could walk my dog Harry while my roommates are at work. I am really tired and out of it. I have high hopes, however, that all will be accomplished in the long run, if not in the short. Selah.

Dying Happily Ever After [2015]


[Originally posted 21 May 2015]
W
ords continue to fail me, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t write them, I suppose. It’s not as if anybody actually reads what I write. If I’m merely yelling into the desert winds, well, it doesn’t affect anybody but me.
At some point I have to come to terms with ruin. Actions have consequences. Misplaced trust leads to—what? Apathy? I know there’s a train of thought in there somewhere, if I could only entice it to come forth.
The followers of al-Baghdadi, neither Islamic nor a state by any reasonable definition, ride roughshod over their little piece of the world stage, and occupy an inordinate (and unwarranted) space in my mental terrain, along with such unlikely forms of life as mad tea partiers, libertarians, criminals and thugs of all descriptions. Hoodlums ye shall always have with you, as Jesus might have said, but ye shall not always have me. There’s the limit to it all, that ineffable wall there’s no reaching however many successive approximations are undertaken.
One of these days, should I live so long, I’ll have something to say again. In the meantime I’ll recycle old hits and spin gold cobwebs out of nothing.

20 May 2017

Still in the Hospital

5:00 a.m. or so--I'm in the cardiac unit now, being monitored 24/7 and wishing like hell I was home. They have managed to get my blood pressure down well within normal range--they actually overshot and had to bring it up a bit--and my overnight levels are looking good. As far as I know I still have an angiogram scheduled for Monday, but we'll see what else the fates have. I still can't access email or facebook or the like, and I still don't have my laptop, but things are looking pretty good as far as I can tell. I'll try to keep everyone informed through my blog, since I can get onto that, and we'll see how things develop from there.

Everybody has been really helpful here, and the food is actually pretty good. I had a breakfast scramble, a turkey sandwich for lunch, and (I think) turkey and mashed potatoes for dinner. There are sides of pico de gallo, grapes, a banana, dinner roll, even a salad, and blueberry muffins or chocolate chip cookies for desert.  (There are other options, but these are some I've had.

5:27 a.m. PDT--Somebody just came through to draw blood for some test or other; I think that's the only thing on my schedule for the moment, though breakfast should happen in a couple of hours. And somebody will check my blood pressure again, no doubt. No medications at the moment, since my blood pressure is in a reasonable range.

7:03 a.m. PDT--We've just had the shift change, and Lisa (I think her name was) will be replaced by Kim, who was running things yesterday. One encouraging sign from my point of view; Lisa asked me about my access to medications and whether my home situation would work out, giving me some hope that they are thinking about discharging me at some point. (I am still scheduled for that angiogram on Monday, however.) Breakfast should come soon, I think.

8:15 a.m. PDT--I've had breakfast (another scramble) and my morning medicines (aspirin and something given as a shot in the stomach) and it looks like that's it until eleven or so when there will be another drawing of blood. If things continue to look good that should be the last blood I have to have drawn.

10:07 a.m. PDT--Somebody came by to ask what I want for lunch, and I ordered another sandwich for noon. With luck I will have the blood-drawing over with before then. It's kind of dull here without people constantly coming by to give me tests. I guess I'll just have to see what happens.

11:58 p.m. PDT--It's still fairly quiet here; somebody did come by to draw blood (presumably for the last time barring adverse developments) and I've had my blood pressure checked. I have been informed that there will be a further test of some kind, but it hasn't happened yet. For the moment the main thing on  the horizon is lunch.

12:50 p.m. PDT--And lunch has come and gone. I don't know what happens next. I had a chicken sandwich and I still feel sort of hungry, but that seems to be how it goes here. My brother is supposed to come by with my laptop and charge cord for my phone, so maybe I'll be in a better position to get things done than I am now. I'm not counting on it, however.

19 May 2017

Update

I am in the hospital right now and unable to update my blog here as I would like. At the moment I believe that this is nothing too serious, but that may be my hopes and wishes rather than any reflection of reality. Even as I write this somebody came by to do an EKG, so things are happening. And I guess my doctor will be by relatively soon.

If I can I guess I'll update this as things progress.

8:47 am or so--Well, I've had another consultation with the doctor and things are still kind of up in the air.  I may need to stay here for a bit, apparently. We could be talking medication, minor procedure, and/or surgery. So I guess I'll just have to wait and see how the tests look.

And I've just been informed that they're moving me to a different room, so even this tenuous link with the outside world may be lost.

11:05 am PDT--I've been moved to a room in the cardiac zone of the hospital, and at this point I'm scheduled to be here at least until monday. I guess I'm going to try at least to get my laptop here so I can work on stuff, but how things will play out I don't know right now.

12:10 pm PDT--Well, nothing is happening while they try to get my blood pressure down. I think I've got something arranged to get my laptop here, and maybe to get my dog looked after. i feel like crap.

5:55 pm PDT--I've had two EKGs now and an ultrasound, and my doctor says the results of the EKGs are looking good. They've been trying to get my blood pressure down all day, and finally have it in the normal range. (They got it a little too low at one point, but have now brought it back up.) I gather that the results of the ultrasound are not in yet. I'm scheduled for an angiogram on monday. And that's where things are right now.

18 May 2017

Please Stand By


T
oday is the anniversary of the Mt. St. Helens eruption, and I intended to write something about that, what with me and Mt. St. Helens having a sort of personal relation and all, but I’m feeling like crap, and I think I’m going to head off to the Emergency Room instead. I hope I’ll be back in some capacity soon.
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