Archive for December, 2012

And Now, A Happy Christmas Eve Memory from 2007 in ICU.

Posted in Uncategorized on December 24, 2012 by tom

Other than having an overabundance of snot and snot-related products in my head, I’m doing okay at 0500 EST, 24 December, 2012. I’m lying here in my bed, underneath a green NyQuil fog, and the cat is beside me, keeping my elbow warm. I try to be good about taking “one day at a time.” I often fail. For some reason, I’m great at marking off anniversaries of things. The past couple days have been–and the next few days will be–a bit odd for me. Five years ago right now–Christmas Eve morning–I was doing the same thing I’m doing right now: writing a blog post (also, secondarily, trying to find my missing sense of style and cadence). That world was Vox, may it rest in peace. I didn’t have many friends on here, for I was a blogging newbie. For two years after I “went to that special resort ;-)”, I couldn’t write more than a check. I missed it so much. Then my friend Ali (ama_duende) forced me to sign up for Vox. I met a few people through her, then moved on through friends-of-friends of hers. The neighborhoods. Damn. I don’t know how many people I now count as good friends, even though I don’t know our blogs collided back in Vox. I digress. This is what I wrote five years ago this moment. To everyone who sent me kind words–or an extraordinarily kind video (you know who you are)–I thank you. For all the thoughts and prayers and “healing light,” I am grateful. Tonight, I still have bad depression and a cold. Five years ago, I wasn’t 100% sure I’d be around Boxing Day. I made it to Boxing Day and beyond, thank God, and I’m glad to be with you still. Here’s what I wrote five years ago this moment. Sorry about the typos in the title and the body: I was trying not to die at the time. In 2007, Christmas Eve early morning was Sunday into Monday, btw, and I think I might have started this at home before I knew for sure I was going to the hospital. I was pretty out of it, so I just picked back up apace. Anyway, I wish you and your loved ones–human and non alike–a very safe, healthy, and Merry Christmas. Love, ts)

I shalll keep Christmas in my heart, if I ever get out of St Anthony’s ICU

Posted in Uncategorized on December 24, 2007 by tomzone

It started with the fever, and I battled it back with NyQuil.  It broke on Tuesday, only to be replaced by something more horrible: cellulitis.  Cellulitis is a rather vile infection of the skin, and it usually responds fairly well to treatment.

Or it doesn’t, and you end up having to have big parts of your carcass pared away like a Thanksgiving turkey.

So now I have the fever, and this massive infection, which not only hurts, but also requires that I take Levaquin, a drug that rivals NyQuil for intensity of coma-dreams.  Add the fever the NyQuil and the Levaquin together, and I haven’t had a sane thought in the past 36 hours.

Except when I heard the helicopters buzzing my bed.  Turns out that was actually real–they were spraying the mangroves out back.

Late Thursday night I was walking down one of those grimy dream streets, and the devil-bitch (my ex) was berating me for something, when lo and behold Cap’n Crunch came to my defense.  He gave her a stern talking-to.  She rolled her eyes.  He drew his sword, tapped her with it, and she disappeared with an audible “pop,”

…as the poison released and the swelling in my lower body grew unbearable, and finally, I acquiesced and went to the emergency room.

“What’s the matter?”
“Bad cellulitis infection; going septic.  Here’s my information form.  I’m going to pass out if I don’t sit down.”

Lots of people in scrubs take information and fluids from me.  Other people in scrubs put pills and fluids and new information into me.

I’m taken in to another room.  I just want the hurting to stop, the poison to flush away somehow.

In this last room it’s very cold and bright and clean, and I can only see people’s eyes.  They put a mask over my face, and the air gets fake fresh & flowery like a used dryer sheet.  I wake up and they’ve cut away lots of the bad parts, like the burnt part on toast or a charred hamburger pattie.  How do you feel? I feel better, thanks.  Are you sore? Yes, ma’am, could I get a Motrin or something? Push that button if you have pain, and it’ll put stuff into that tube in your arm.  What stuff? Dilaudid.  This  button was it? And I push and I feel better, like when I click on one of those websites and give some homeless family 50 lbs of cornmeal or a pig, or a can of dog food to an animal shelter.

A sporadiic parade of people in scrubs and masks come in and introduce themselves to me, as if I can see anything to remember them by.  “Remember me? We met while you were lying in a hospital bed, tripping on Dilaudid? You had a giant open wound, and I was completely covered from head to foot in green cotton.” One man comes in and gets angry looking into my giant open wound.  He points out just where the other surgeon should’ve carved more of the burned spot off the hamburger, more of the mold away from the cheese, more puss-oozing necrotic tissue away from my little hellpit.

And now, they took away my Dilaudid button, because I wasn’t using it enough.  I don’t understand.  But I’m sore from Dr McGrumpy poking around my woundpit, so I ask Nurse Dolores to bring me a Motrin or two.  She comes back ten minutes later with two Percocets.  Docter Nice Guy doesn’t want you to have any NSAIDS before tomorrow.  Tomorrow? Yeah, tomorrow at noon, remember? That’s when they’re taking you back up for more surgery.  Christmas Eve knocked out, carved up, then brought back here to my new home in the ICU.

The night nurse brought me two more Percocets and a ham sandwich.  No food or drink after midnight.  There’s a packet of mayo–fat free.  Tomorrow afternoon, I’ll have my Dilaudid button back, but they don’t want me to have regular mayo? God bless them, anyway.  My eyes are tired after watching Spiderman 2, which I enjoyed more than Carrie tonight.  Then again, she wasn’t on Percocet.  The nurse took my sandwich wrapper and left me half a pitcher of water.  “I’ll take that at midnight, so make sure you’re all done.”  After midnight, no more food or water until after…
noon, more fake fresh flowery air and cold, and more abrupt waking from a dreammless sleep.  And then more poking and prodding, just to see whether they got all the really nasty bits.  To see if I might be alive to see New Year’s Day.  Melodrama sucks, but the lead surgeon told me that.  “If you’d waited even another 24 to 36 hours before you came in, you wouldn’t have been saveable.”

Merry Christmas from ICU.  Pulse: 69; Resp 17.  O2 Sat: 98%. BP: 118/65.  Small lighted tree: 1.  Somehow this makes me happier than anything else because my friend Bill brought it up here.  Lots of friends and family have seen my tree today.  It makes me happy, the tree and the people and the idea that hopefully someday next year or two, I will still be around to take a little plastic tree to some poor schlub friend of mine stuck in the hospital on Christmas Eve.


#100 “Franny and Zooey,” by J.D. Salinger

Posted in Uncategorized on December 17, 2012 by tom

(Five stars out of five)

I’m not sure why it is, but every time I read “Franny and Zooey,” I find myself ridiculously moved.

“Franny,” the short story that opens the book, tells of the eponymous college girl, aged 20, who meets her phoney boyfriend in his horrible Ivy League town, for a weekend of drinks, parties, and a football game. She faints in a restaurant, shortly after he meets her train. Their conversation has been mostly him talking about a paper he’d written deconstructing Flaubert, and how awesome his paper was, and how his professor thought this paper should be published.

“Zooey” is a novella. Zooey is Franny’s brother, five years older, a famous television actor. He still lives at home in their family’s large apartment, and it is there that Franny comes to recover from the nervous breakdown she seems to be having.

The book deals with more than just this pair, however. Every member of Franny and Zooey Glass’ family is extraordinary. Their parents, Les and Bessie, were popular Vaudeville entertainers. All of the children–from the eldest, Seymour, down through  Buddy (who narrates the “Zooey” novella), Boo Boo, twins Walt and Waker, Zooey, and Franny–starred on a long-running, successful network radio program called, “It’s a Wise Child.” They were precocious, to a one. Seymour and Buddy took responsibility for Franny and Zooey’s educations, filling them with Upanishads, Epictetus, Socrates–everything scholarly and wise, at a time most kids would be reading about the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew. Indeed, one image in the novella describes the chaotic array of books in the living room where, in fact,  Nancy Drew actually does sit on a shelf next to Epictetus, or somebody similar.

At the center of Franny’s nervous breakdown is The Jesus Prayer, as found in a small book called “The Way of a Pilgrim.” This small book talks about a beggar, who wanders the Russian countryside, trying to find somebody to explain how to pray without ceasing, as advised in Thessalonians. He meets a cleric who tells him to pray The Jesus Prayer. Eventually, the cleric tells him, he will find that The Jesus Prayer will weave itself into his being, even having his heartbeat tied to its simple refrain: “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.”

So many family dynamics play into “Franny and Zooey,” including some things more easily understood if you’ve read more about the Glass family. Almost all of Salinger’s published books–with the exception of “Catcher in the Rye”–deal with the Glass family. The guy who commits suicide in “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” from “Nine Stories”? Seymour Glass, just as an example.

The family members are extraordinarily gifted, but in being so, seem to have missed out on learning how to live outside their rarefied world, or how to deal with “normal” people.

Franny didn’t get disgusted by her boyfriend’s non-stop harping on his wonderful paper because she didn’t understand what he was saying. She was disgusted, because she was ten times as smart as he’d ever be, and saw just how unduly arrogant and silly he was being.

And she grew sick of thinking that way, of trying to keep her mouth shut while destroying lesser intellects in her mind. She’d just grown weary of it.

“Franny and Zooey” gets me. Maybe because I’ve always felt like I had to be smarter than everyone else–and I’ve acted like it. It’s an arrogant self-loathing, if you forgive the contradiction. Maybe it’s the longing for a simple kernel of faith, something like The Jesus Prayer, that could fill a void inside. Maybe it’s just the huge amount of information, empathy, and realness Salinger packs into this compact book.

For whatever reason, I’ve loved this book since I first read it, my sophomore year of college. Since then, I don’t know how many times I’ve read it–20? 30?–nor how many unique copies I’ve owned, how many times I’ve had to re-buy it, because I’d lost or (more frequently) given away my copy.

The book has never failed to move me, though it may do so in different ways depending on my current circumstance. There are two things I know, and in which I take comfort. First, no matter how many copies of “Franny and Zooey” I’ve owned, the covers have all been the same. And second, once I read this book, I realized I couldn’t stand that whining slacker Holden Caulfield ever again.

(This is why I bought yet another new copy, and why I made it my 100th book of the year, fulfilling my 2012 Reader Challenge)


Posted in Books 2012 on December 17, 2012 by tom

I love to read. For me, it’s an escape into another reality, maybe a completely fictional one. Other times, a book transports me into a different time or place, even into another person’s life.

When I started my 2012 Goodreads Reading Challenge, my goal was 52 books–one a week, right? Before long, I was so far ahead, that I upped it to an even 100. I was kicking ass, too, reading like crazy through mid-April. That’s when my little brain thing happened.

I read four books in May, three in June, one in July, three in August, and two in September.

Today, I read “Franny and Zooey,” which marks #100.


It sucks that the months when I was deepest down, I couldn’t read. It was nearly impossible to focus from paragraph to paragraph. There were odd days where I could pick up a book and read sorta-normally, but they were rare. As I healed from the depression–slowwwly–I began to get back my old reading skill. One day, it was like a dam burst, or somebody cranked-on a dripping tap, and I was able to blast through books again.

It’s not like I cured cancer, brokered lasting world peace, or did anything of great empirical importance.

But it felt so damned good to read “Franny and Zooey” this afternoon, and know that–no matter how much this year has absolutely sucked for my brain–I was able to put down my completed book, high-five myself, and know that I managed one little victory in a year of defeats. Here’s the list

One hundred books. Fuck, yeah.

‘Twas Eleven Days Before Christmas

Posted in Uncategorized on December 16, 2012 by tom

I had an odd, random thought earlier: what kind of hell is it going to be to return that X-Box or new laptop–for which a parent braved a Black Friday mob–because the lucky boy or girl was shot and killed at school?

“And why are you returning this?”

“Oh, my kid was shot three times in the head with a military assault weapon.”

“My Lord. I’m so sorry! Was he in Afghanistan?”

“No. She was in her first-grade classroom.”

Emilie Parker, Age 6, Deceased

Emilie Parker, Age 6, Deceased

I don’t know what drove Adam Lanza to go on his murdering rampage. I don’t know what the cherubic Emilie Parker did to deserve three bullets shot into her brain.

If somebody came up and shot me, know what? I’d be angry and scared, but some part of me would also be thinking, “While this DOES suck, and it really hurts, there HAVE BEEN some definite sins in my past. Anyway, it’s been a helluva ride,  and I’m not afraid to die.”

No way Emilie Parker had time to commit as many sins as I did, and even I don’t deserve to be shot.

We’ll never know what Emilie would have done with her life. She was teaching her four year old brother how to read, so maybe she’d have been a great teacher. She was really good at drawing, so maybe she would have been an artist. She had an air for the flamboyant (and she was beautiful), so maybe she would have been an actress. Or maybe a forklift operator at Home Depot–it doesn’t matter; we’ll never know. She will never get that chance. She was shot to death by a man she didn’t know,  just because she went to school like she was supposed to do.

There was a lot of talk on the Interwebs yesterday about our country’s lack of adequate mental health services for the indigent. This guy wasn’t psychotic–he had Asperger’s, at least according to those who knew him. He kept to himself, rarely talking to anyone, but he was an honors student. Nobody really seems to know what happened to him. He apparently quit going to class.

But the guy wasn’t living in a refrigerator box somewhere. He lived in a nice house. His mom had trouble working, but she was able to squeak out an existence on the $240,000 a year alimony she received. For $20,000 a month, she could have paid for a shrink.

Adam Lanza was not a street-living psychopath, unable to afford his meds. He was withdrawn from society, as one writer put it, “walking through life leaving very few footprints.”

We can’t blame our country’s indifference to psychiatric patients who have no insurance. (We can and should blame our government for this egregious situation, but we can’t use Adam Lanza as an example)

The gunman had Sig-Sauer and Glock semi-automatic pistols, and a .223-caliber Bushmaster assault rifle. The coroner  said the murders were committed with the rifle, and the resulting damage to those tiny bodies was the worst thing he’s ever seen. The Bushmaster is not designed for hunting squirrels or anything. Ronald Scott, a former head of the Massachusetts State Police’s firearms lab, says, “…the weapons are designed for combat. ‘There’s really no other use for them’.”  (

The American Revolution was fought with flintlock muskets that took forever to reload after every shot. The were only accurate to about a hundred yards, and if you missed, your best chance to survive was to use the bayonet attached to the end of your musket. The Revolutionary Army didn’t have .223-caliber Bushmaster rifles. Thank God, neither did the British, or we’d all be speaking English today.

Strike that last bit.

There’s a wonderful exchange in a “West Wing” episode. Sam and Ainsley are arguing the Second Amendment, and why Republicans (Ainsley) are so anti-gun control, while the Democrats (Sam) want strict gun control. Ainsley says, “It’s not that you all hate guns. You hate people who like guns.” I don’t know why I thought of that.

I guess it’s that this is the denouement I foresee. Once the memorial services are done–once the networks finish broadcasting those tragically small coffins being lowered into the ground–this tragedy will be grist for political grandstanding on both sides. Both sides will huff and puff, and bloviate about how “banning assault weapons would have prevented this tragedy,” to which the other side will say, “If the teacher in the classroom were armed, the gunman wouldn’t have succeeded.” (The “armed teacher” thing has already been suggested–I can’t remember which dickwad said it, though)

Amazingly, speaking of dickwads, according to a New York Times article I read, Mike Huckabee actually said that if we allowed school prayer, this wouldn’t have happened.

Words elude me as to how stupid a statement that is, unless you had U.S. Army Rangers and Navy Seals leading the prayer. “And lead us not into temptation. And deliver us from evil. As well as from crazy armed guys bursting in here and killing us during our spelling lesson. For Thine is the Kingdom…”

“Experts” will appear on talk shows, and explain why the killer’s parents screwed up, or how the system failed the shooter. Networks will milk this until the Inauguration gives them something fresh to besmirch.

I hate what happened in Newtown, CT. I hate it with a passion. Those children and adults were people, not actors in a bad TV movie. They were not pro-gun nor anti-gun activists, and yet in death, that’s who they will be, the masters they will serve.

I’ll do my best to ignore the bloviating (although, I do love using the word “bloviate”).

This crisis boils down to one thing. This:

Emilie Parker, Age 6, Deceased

Emilie Parker, Age 6, Deceased

I hope the motherfucker who robbed the light from those impossibly blue eyes suffers the most agonizing afterlife imaginable, so torturous and painful that Satan himself gets queasy and pukes.

I  wish the Newtown community Divine Peace, rapid healing, and  that all the media go the hell home soon.

And to all those victims, adults and children alike, requiescat in pace. For indeed, “The streets in Heaven are far too crowded with angels tonight.”

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