We Don’t Rent Pigs

Rainy but warm Spring Sunday morning. Coffee is good. Papers have been  skimmed. The dog is fed and back to sleep. 

Interesting thing about ole Pops. When we get up in the morning and I am dressing to go for our walk, he is right up on me. Begging for attention and generally in the way while I try to get dressed. So this morning after we got back and he was fed and in his bed in the reading room, I went in with my coffee to read the papers. I often sit in the living room in the mornings because there is more light and it is a nice start to the day. But today I went in to the room where Pops had planned his morning nap. As soon as I sat down, he got up and moved to the other room. I guess he also likes solitude on occasion. 

A true master of craft has passed.  In the lexicon of American novelists, it really doesn’t get too much better than Larry McMurtry. McMurtry was a hero of mine for many years now. I started reading his books in high school and never left him. If he published, I read it. Often multiple times. He had a way of developing characters that were quirky and immensely lovable and familiar. His characters become so familiar it’s easy to forget they are from his imagination and not based on real people. I know at least two people who named their sons ‘Gus’ from the character in Lonesome Dove and my brother named his dog Gus for the same reason. 

Terri, my sister, is also a big fan and it was a point of bonding for us–to discuss Larry’s books. When I was around 22 or 23, I had surgery to correct a deviated septum from a hard knee to the nose during a poorly executed tackle in a rugby match. I laid on the couch of my friend Sandra in Astoria Oregon for 3 days and watched Lonesome Dove while I recovered.

McMurtry wrote his entire life and was enormously productive and successful. He studied for a time under Stegner, at Stanford, where he also became friends and peers with Kesey. 

It’s a natural thing I know. As we age, our mentors and heroes and eventually family and friends start dropping off. Jerry Jeff and Prine this year and now Larry. 

So it goes. As ole Kurt Vonnegut would say.

There is a new documentary coming out about Hemingway that I will make time for at some point. When reading the advert about the movie, it came out that much of the source material was Hemingway’s letters. He wrote as many as 10 letters a day. I suppose were it not for the blog, I would be burdening my friends with a lot more letters. Words are written, however vainly, to be read. And the desire to write has always been there for me. I also wrote long rambling letters to family and friends when I was young. It’s cathartic. Story telling and delivering personal news and simply communicating with others.

Once, in Rome with some friends when were 20 or 21, I made a cassette tape for my sister who was in the middle of a difficult pregnancy and bed-ridden. John-Lee, Deano, Mark, Casual Jeff and I all contributed. Commenting on the surroundings and sights and sounds of the city as we went about exploring. Our equipment was a small hand-held cassette tape player/recorder that we carried with us. It was, I am sure, juvenile and silly, as we were at that time. But it was a sincere effort to bright Terri’s day a little.

The always interesting hospital experience. 

I was in a meeting on Wednesday and suddenly starting having some pains in my chest. Not acute at all, but pretty uncomfortable. Probably 3-4 on the medical self evaluation pain scale but definitely annoying. And slowly got worse and I got light-headed. I was facilitating the call and it started to become apparent that something was wrong so I made apologies and exited. 

After about 15 minutes or so it started to dissipate and within an hour I felt pretty normal. Maybe a little residual cloudiness. So I sent a note to my doctors office and to my sister who is a very accomplished cardio CNP. 

Sister said go to emergency room. Doctors office responded by email and said to make an appointment to go in to see my doc. So I called and could not get in  to see Dr. Janet, but her colleague was available next day. So I scheduled that and took the bus home while taking a call. Then had another call at home and then my doctors office called and the nurse practitioner there said they recommended I go to the emergency room. Better safe than sorry. We bantered a little back and forth and she finally said ‘if you were my husband I definitely would take you to ER‘. And, since I live alone and Pops is totally unreliable when it comes to dialing 911, I decided to go in. 

The closest Cleveland Clinic hospital, which his my provider, is not far away. 7 or 8 miles. 

To my absolute delight, there was not a single person waiting to be checked in. I had brought a fat book, expecting a lot of reading and waiting time. I filled out a few lines on the check in sheet and was immediately taken back to a room. I got there at 6:00 and at 6:05 was in a room.

In came the troops, in order of their experience and skills starting at entry level. Someone to get my credit card for the co-payment and verify my insurance. A lady put in the IV and strapped on a wrist band. Then  temperature and blood pressure. Off with the shirt and shoes and on goes the gown. Hooked up to O2 monitor on the finger and probes on the chest to power the tv screen with my vitals. The nurse took a few vials of blood. Another nurse hooked up all the probes for the EKG. Another dude wheeled in a big ass mobile x-ray machine and shot my chest. By 6:40 the doctor was in. EKG and x-ray was normal and first blood work was fine. Then he left. They all left. I read. Made two work calls. Read some more. At 7:50, I decided I needed to bust out. 

I pulled the 02 monitor off which set off an alarm. After a minute or two the nurse came in and I told her I’ve had all the fun I can stand and need to get home. I had not eaten since a small salad at 11:30 and was hungry and needed a drink. She had no power to negotiate so she got the doc. He wanted to see one more round of the blood tests, even though he was 99% sure all was well in my little heart. So, we compromised and agreed they would pull the blood, but I would not wait the 40 minutes it takes to get the results. I told him I would be eating dinner in the bar the restaurant just down the street. If he saw something he didn’t like after seeing the bloodwork results, I would come back, although definitely with a couple of glasses of wine in me. 

Overall, not a bad ER experience. Outcome was good. Check in was good and easy; little lag in the testing regime but when I intervened they were fine and agreeable. 

It’s interesting that I literally felt completely fine soon after this little incident. But the medical protocol is go to ER. I’m always cognizant that the medical establishment makes money only when people are sick, or potentially sick, and using expensive equipment and analytical services. I had talked myself into not going, but just to staying home and going to the appointment tomorrow. But then, living alone, means I perhaps think about things a little different than I might if someone was lying next to me and presumably willing to call for help if necessary. 

If I lived in most any other country, I imagine, because I felt fine, I would have been advised to take it easy and monitor and seek additional medical help if it recurred or got worse. Certainly I have noticed during my time in England and Australia that they have a slightly more conservative approach to medical treatment. Or that is my impression. And they also do not have significantly different outcomes.

I do trust my sister but she does make a good living and not because people are not going in to see her. 

But what are you gonna do? If I died in my sleep they would have won. The would have said ‘we told him to go to the ER.’ And I can’t take being proven wrong with me gone and unable to defend myself.  So I did my part to make sure the nurses can pay their kids college tuition and the doctor could afford a high quality hooker at the next medical conference. 

Just a cog in the wheel of the big dysfunctional American medical system. But I am safe for the moment and lucky enough to have good health insurance so don’t need to sell a kidney to save the heart.

Busy busy week. Lots of work drama. I put the visit by Eric and my trip to Pittsburgh to catch up with Amy on ice. Amy’s son is home from uni and he has COVID right now. Amy has her shots so probably okay, but best to be sure. Eric has his shots but he’s packed in a classroom all day with a bunch of 4th graders. So I will see them both after I see my parents at Easter and after my 2nd shot. 

There is a gas station near my house that reminds me of being in Africa. It is always busy–partly with customers and lots of people just hanging around. Every car that pulls up has loud music playing that makes you want to dance. People, mostly old men, are standing around or sitting on the curb eating or drinking from a bottle in a paper bag. Just hanging out man. Seeing what’s happening and enjoying the moment in a busy little corner of the neighborhood. 

If a pretty girl walks up, she will be whistled at and she knows it. People getting gas or items of convenience linger a bit to chat. It’s community. I feel welcome even thought I am a bit of an outsider. 

On the motorcycle the other day, rolling through downtown, I stopped at a red light just next to a female cop on a huge black horse. The horse was so big that the pretty lady cop was looking down on me from very high up. The horse was black and its mane was braided. His feet were the size of large hams. I said ‘wow. What a magnificent beast’. She replied ‘nice bike’. We chatted a minute and it was cool. If time were more convenient we might have stayed there and talked for a good while. Alas, the light changed and off we went. Me at speed limit and them clop-clop-clopping slowly down the street. 

I don’t know much about horses, but I really like them. I don’t really want to ride them; I just like to look at them. Maybe rub their ears and neck a little. Especially in the west, when you see a herd of horses with the mountains as a backdrop. Very iconic. I’m told they are smart animals and have distinct personalities, but I’ve never really known one well enough to comment. 

Fun night at the poker table on Thursday. Matthew joined but did not play. Ashely dialed in for a bit to drop a bit of sunshine on us. Allen and I were in a long slow duel to the death after everyone else dropped out. We finally only finished with me on top at 11:30. So I was a little hungover next morning, but it is always a nice evening with friends and great conversation.

Friday night Martini at Bratenhal Bistro, after watching the superb rugby match between Scotland and France at the Old Angle Tavern in Ohio City.  

I am deeply uncomfortable in the restaurant tables. I know it makes no sense, but I am a bar guy. So I ordered my martini at a restaurant table while waiting for a table to open in the bar. I could see the bar easily from where I sat and I looked longingly into the lounge, like a sailor left on the pier might look at a departing ship.

Fortunately these are old people and they turn tables quickly. So soon enough I got a table in the bar and all was well with the world. 

The rugby was terrific. Scotland came out on top 27 – 23. A very exciting match to watch. The magical French flair could not quite equal the dogged persistent excellence of Scotland on this day. France needed to win and score 4 tries to win the tournament. But since they lost, Wales is the reigning 6-Nations champion for 2021.

There’s a very sad story in the paper tonight about a young black man who was shot and killed in DC. A tragic story. Another young man killed seemingly randomly. In a country that cares more about the right to own guns than the lives of humans. Children’s and adult bodies riddled with bullets is the price we pay for the right to own war machines in our homes. More than anything, what bothers me most is the persistent and arrogant lying by the gun nuts. Their constant insistence that guns do not make the world less safe. It would be better if they were just honest. If they admitted that they will willingly trade human lives to satisfy their desire to play soldier with deadly weapons.

So anther black mother burying her son needlessly. 

When I was young, my mother I would guess worried about me doing some stupid thing or getting hurt in a more organic way. I was fearless in sport, so perhaps she worried about my getting a concussion on the football field or a fastball to the head in a baseball game or injured playing rugby. Or, perhaps a drunken driving accident which is common in rural America where drinking and cars and bad roads and stupidity collide. 

But surely she never worried about me being shot by a random strange or a policeman. But every black mother in America knows this fear more than any other.  We live among people who not only tolerate this evil blemish in our society, but actively vote to sustain it. 

The painting lady came by for a few final touch-ups. I asked her if she had decided for sure on getting COVD shot or not. She said she wasn’t planning to get it. When I asked her why, she said because her mother personally knows 3 people who got the shot and then died. ‘Really,’ I said. That is remarkable. That seems like the kind of thing you might read about in the news.’ She said the news is mostly fake and so cannot be trusted.

No other news of note from this untrustworthy source.

Humbly submitted.

‘Backward is just not a natural direction for Americans to look — historical ignorance remains a national characteristic.’

                                                                                             Larry McMurtry

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