Sunday, October 5, 2014

You Only Live Twice PT. 5 (Is that a catheter or are you just happy to see me?)

"Diabetes is a lousy, lousy disease."- Elaine Stritch

Hello Blogiteers!

Do you hear that?

Those are the forceful, yet calming, Winds of Change. Granted, they're a bit tardy in getting here, but it's nice to see them eventually show up, nonetheless. With all that's happening in the PAS, I'm hoping they hangout a while, and keep things on track to a better and shinier future.

Besides... those bitches owe me a fitty, as 50 Cent likes to say.

Speaking of owing somebody, I offer my apologies to those of you I haven't got back to in regards to your Emails. I was crushed by the reaction to the last three blogs I wrote, so I'm a bit behind the metaphorical 8 ball, as it were.

But I promise to address whatever you've written me about- I just need to either stop time, or find a way to take two weeks off, which I can assure you, will not happen anytime soon. But I'll get those last missives squared away ASAP, no matter what.

It has, to be honest, been a very draining couple of weeks- the last three pieces of writing comprised a total of 13,701 words, which let me tell you, is a LOT of freaking vocabulary to issue forth. So it should come as no big surprise that I'm a tad bit on the burned out side, and looking forward to finishing up my tale of being hospitalized back in 2009.

In fact, I can't wait to get started. Seriously chomping at the bit, as it were. Raring to go. Full of hellfire and brimstone. Once more into the breech. Up and at them. Geronimo. *Allons-y!
*[Dr. Who fans will get this.]

But first... I have to touch base on a few things. Seems the Peter Bugg/plagiarism thing just keeps getting more interesting the longer time passes. I've been wondering why SMoCA didn't even bother to do the merest of checks in relation to what I wrote or the troubling question I raised of his "alleged" plagiarism in regards to his winning a SMoCA grant.

As it turns out, there's a rumor that I'm attempting to vet that Peter Peter the Idea Stealer from time to time actually does work for SMoCA, photographing their events and the like, which if proven to be true, would sort of make him an employee, albeit one that might be classified as an independent contractor. I know I may be splitting hairs here, but wouldn't having someone who works for you being allowed to compete for a grant you're sponsoring constitute some version of a conflict of interest?

Hear me out: if you work for the state lottery for instance, you're generally disallowed from winning the Powerball, and while the SMoCA Good N Plenty grant is only $1000.00, would it be ethical to allow an alleged employee to compete for it?

I'd say no, but I'm kind of an old school stickler when it comes to rules.

However, if this rumor does turn out to be accurate, it could explain why SMoCA [in the personage of Lesley Oliver] blew me off with a boilerplate politico's non-answer. A protection of one's own, as it allegedly were. As she stated in her letter, "we consider the matter closed" a stance which strikes as odd, since doesn't the matter at hand have to be actually open first before it can be closed?

I'd say yes, but then again- I happen to be a straight to the point kind of guy, something that seems to be a rarity in this town. And since I am, I'm planning on firing off an Email to SMoCA's top kick in the next couple of weeks or so, to see what he has to say about this topic. I'm sure it'll go one of two ways: either he'll ignore it [what I expect to happen] or he'll dismiss it (also a distinct possibility) as curtly as Ms. Oliver did.

Although her tacking on a sales pitch at the end of her Email [the section which I didn't publish, because really?] was brassy as f**k, I still consider her position to be cravenly due to two things, the first being her lack of even attempting to acknowledge or debate the obvious similarities between Peter's "concept" and the Artist he "allegedly" stole it from, and the second: if I was wrong in my original summation, why not just flat-out say so?

Granted, you can only say so much as a representative of a so-called professional arts organization, but even still, wouldn't it be easier (and smarter) to prove me wrong? Once again, I'd say yes, but there's a whole lot of wobbly happening where SMoCA's unofficially official position is concerned.

Keep in mind, I asked these questions first on SMoCA's Facebook pages, and was met with stony silence for two days. After the blog dropped, they were removed [with no comment given] and I was "blocked" from all their sites. Let me tell ya, nothing says "we got nothing to hide" better than refusing to answer a few simple questions and hiding under the Internets' bed like a 13 year old girl.

Thank God for Yelp and Travel Advisor, where I gave a short but sweet summation regarding their lack of interest to address this issue and advised those who might be curious to see one of SMoCA's attempts to redefine Art for the worse, to perhaps spend their money elsewhere.

What can I say? I'm all about helping out the occasional wandering traveler.

Besides, the PAS could use that money so much more than a faux-arts temple that charges a fee to see pyramids built out of slowly rotting fruit. Hint from me to you: save the ten bucks, and go visit your local Safeway. On the upside, they have reasonably priced beer and sandwiches, as well as a totally bitching candy aisle.

And some advice: do not start drinking and eating before you pay. They just hate that.

Getting back on track, if there isn't anything "allegedly" shady going on, then why delete my rather tame comments at all? I wasn't vulgar, heck, I wasn't even rude- I was direct. And if you're going to claim that you serve the community, shouldn't you then? Keep in mind, I received over 200 total emails and FB messages in regards to this issue, and there were only six negative* responses.


*[And one fake FB profile created to attack me anonymously. On a related note, I miss you so much, "Gordon Bradford"... why don't you call? I promise I won't get too clingy.]

Remember this- I'm not the one that noticed the similarities in the two projects until one of my readers brought it to my attention, so I can't (and won't) take credit for that, either. And if someone else noticed this, it's not an unreasonable stretch to assume others probably may have too, they just haven't commented on it, due to either social fear, politeness, or not knowing what to do.

Speaking of comments, this little gem was FB messaged to me recently, and it made my week:

"You are forthright with your opinion & that is admirable. That means people always know where you stand. It's the wishy-washy fuckers you have to keep an eye out for."

Damn straight. I despise wishy-washy people too, as I do get that not everybody is wired like me, willing to go to the wall for what they think is right- most people sit down and wait for somebody else to do the hard lifting first. So in that regard, I'd surmise SMoCA does know it's audience- that being people who think that 3 canvases painted the same unbroken shade of white that's virtually indistinguishable from the wall they hang on is truly the pinnacle of pure artistic expression and enlightenment.

You know... morons, idiots, blockheads, dunces, ignoramuses, simpletons, halfwits, imbeciles- in a phrase, stunted cretins who think they're art savvy. Call me a snob, but if your "art" can be easily duplicated by a toddler having a colic attack, or a gibbon in a zoo, I'd suggest that perhaps your ass needs to get back to art school/the streets/the public library/a real artists' studio to see what art actually is, and maybe this time, let the relevant info stick.

And on a correlated note: f**k Richard Serra too. Preferably with Damien Hirst's skull.
Either the diamond-studded sculpture* or his real one. I'm really not gonna split hairs over which.

Gah. Done with this. For now, at least. So.... what else is on the table?

Ahh, yes- Joe Brklacich, my fellow artist who implied that he wanted to "punch me in the f*****g face" for what he perceived as my insulting his good friend Lesley Oliver two blogs back.

Fortunately for me, there wasn't a playground nearby, so I was able to stave off his grade school chest thumping with a flippant chuckle and the turn of my back. But if there had been a swing set in the vicinity, rest assured that I'd have been morally obligated to get my best kindergarten poker face on, something I haven't had to do since... well, kindergarten.

So, what's been going on with that situation?

Well, just like the inside of Joe's studio and his all too familiar art hanging on the walls, nothing.
Nothing at all. Figuratively, metaphorically, and literally. Simply zilch. Zero. Nada.

Sorry. I did my best to see if I could get his head to implode, but I've heard through the grapevine that he's been distracted lately by a particularly shiny set of keys, so I guess we'll just to have to wait and see how it all turns out in the end.

My take? If he throws a punch as well as he debates, then I'm fairly confident that I'll be in my grave two decades before his fist ever reaches my ruggedly handsome face.

Gah. Also done with this. For now. So then... what ever shall we talk about?
Wait a minute, I have an idea- how about I finish my tale of touching the Bunny Slippers of Death?

Trust me, it's gonna be a really good read, and the ending will be both touching and infuriating.

However- despite my love of being an earnest yarn-spinner, I find myself forced to reveal one major spoiler about my narrative due to an unusually thick email I received in regards to it, which in it's pure essence asked me this:

"So what eventually happened? Did you ever leave the hospital, and come out okay?"

Let that sink in for a moment. Savor the level of the density, and know that this person is allowed by the laws of this great land to have the right to both vote and breed, and yet you still wonder why I sometimes think that Noah and the Ark needs a sequel. Unless Heaven has one hell of a Wi-Fi, I think the answer is quite apparent.

Now here comes the standard boilerplate: if you hate knowing major plot points before the end of a story, I'd skip ahead a few paragraphs and pick up my account there, lest ye be tempted to foresee the end of my tale. I'm only adding this disclaimer because what I'm about to reveal is such a twist that knowing what it is might just ruin the story for you, and I would never want that.

Here it goes. You still have time to skip ahead, you know. Last chance before I open the box and let Schrödinger's cat out of the metaphorical bag, which raises the question: why would he be in a bag when he's already sealed inside a box?

Question for another time, I guess.
Back to the spoiler!

The spoiler that is about to be revealed, the secret of my tale, the ending to my narrative is this:




So... there's that.

I know, I know, I just gave away the ending to the movie, and I'm truly sorry. But let's face it, you're not here for the all-singing, all-dancing Disney ending, you're here for the pathos, the drama, the reality of my tale. The Lifetime mini-series, as it were. I'll try not to disappoint you, but remember... you're getting all this for free, so you've got very little room to bitch.

Where were we? Ah, yes- the Hospital.

At this point, I was starting to slowly come out of the med-induced haze they had been keeping me under, but I was still not out of the woods yet- not by a long shot. I was legally blind, due to the amount of high blood sugar distension my corneas had suffered, could barely raise my arms above my waist, and my favorite man part was attached to a catheter.

I have previously mentioned the catheter, right? Sorry, but it's just this: while the rest of my physical symptoms were definitely no bowl of chilled Ding Dongs, that whole catheter thing just sucked. As I stated in Part 2 of this tale, that in the future, let it be widely known that if given a choice for what method to use for voiding my bladder, I'm perfectly fine with a bedpan. Or an open window. Or a pickle jar. Or the mouths of any of the GOP's top politicians.

Just saying.

However, I was at least on the road to making a full recovery, and that's always a good thing. On the downside, every channel was seemingly blasting "news" about the death of Michael Jackson, so I'm now way more informed about his life than any skinny straight white boy should be.

Don't get me wrong, he's definitely one of my top five for Entertainer of the Century, ranked just slightly below Freddie Mercury, but for a go-to babysitter, not so much.

Please don't make me explain why.

I kid you not, one station showed an aerial shot of the hearse parked outside the funeral home on and off for almost two hours straight, all while the anchor-people repetitively discussed their
love of the iconic "Thriller" album over clips of the "Thriller" video.

[Ok. That video is still a creative masterpiece, but even so... give it a rest, would ya?]

Know this: if there's one thing more painful than watching really elderly people trying to figure out how to program an I-phone6, it's watching an over-bleached version of Ken and Barbie wax poetic about an album that came out while they were going to high school back in November of 1982.

Plus... did he really have to die that week? He totally stole my thunder, and I just hate that. Sure, CNN in all probability might not have covered my stay, but now we'll never know, will we? And it's all thanks to that amazingly talented moon-walking schmuck picking the wrong check-out date.

*sigh* Some days you just can't catch a break.

Conversely, the History channel was playing a marathon of documentaries that focused upon the colorfully vibrant [AKA; violent] era when organized crime was just starting to come into it's own.

Now we were cooking with gas, let me tell you. And a fair amount of bullets, as well. Genteel businessmen these Thompson carrying mooks were not. After three days of exposure to all
this trivia, I'm fairly certain I could easily kick Alex Trebeks' ass when it comes to gangster related questions.

Go ahead... ask me anything.

The Saint Valentine's Day massacre?
A Capone fronted attempt to kill his rival, Bugs Moran. The out of town hitmen dressed as police missed Moran due to his arriving late, and his seeing the faux cops pull up [whom he thought were real] led to him quickly hiding in a close proximity coffeehouse- but they did succeed in killing off most of his gang and their mechanic, whose dogs name was "Highball".

How did Lucky Luciano get his nickname?
He was taken for a "last ride" by rival mobsters in the 1920's which he survived, despite being severely beaten and having his throat cut. As an aside, he's also considered the most powerful American mob boss of all time, and is credited as being highly instrumental in developing the National Crime Syndicate, which is not to be confused with the Mafia, as they are two distinct things.

And people say you can't learn anything by watching TV. Pshaw! Says I.

But in between the hysteria concerning Michael Jackson's death and learning the art of how to smuggle Canadian Whiskey into Chicago, I was making small steps in regards to my health. The first hurdle I had to overcome was the loss of strength overall. You wouldn't think that being in bed for four days would affect your weight and stamina that much, but oh golly gee, it seriously does.

I could barely sit myself up, let alone stand, and when you take into account that I had also lost close to thirty pounds as well, I was in no shape to do virtually anything physical. I pretty much looked like Iggy Pop after a four day bender in Thailand.

True story: I exhausted myself taking a drink of water. Seriously. Took a sip, and it felt like the glass weighed 300 pounds. Almost immediately I fell asleep due to the strain, and woke up to an unexpected visitor looming in my hospital doorway- my estranged younger brother Chris, whom I hadn't seen or heard from since my Opa's 100th birthday party in New York City back in 2005.

As you might have surmised, we ain't exactly close. The Reich clan is scattered far and wide, and when people talk of us, the term "touchy" would be the most likely used by way of description. We're not warm and fuzzy, nor are we the kind of family that likes to hang out with each other on a regular basis. Let's just say emails and phone calls are the main way we stay in contact with each other, and leave it at that.

So seeing my brother in the flesh (of which he has a lot) was, to be fair, a bit of a shock to the ol' system, as you might imagine. Also, seeing how Chris is not known as being the "funny" one in the family, his opening gambit was surprisingly witty, especially for him.

To quote: "Yes, it's me... and no, you're not in Hell." Immediately followed up by: "If you wanted a family reunion, you could have just called, you know." That kids, is pure comedy- I don't care what anybody says. He then settles in, as we proceed to catch up for the next thirty minutes or so, until my GF Ashley shows up and not surprisingly, is stunned to see him sitting there.

After he introduces himself, he then proceeds to converse with her "rack" the entire time, staring with an intensity I've only seen in people who cut diamonds for a living. Yep. That's my family.

When we decide to give you the worst first impression, we go full throttle.

Don't get me wrong, my girl does have a great rack and all, but it's usually not what I'd refer to as a conversationalist, and if I were to get all caveman here, I'd have to point out that I happen to be renting it with an option to buy hopefully soon, so please keep your eyes to yourself, ok?

After this awkward conversation ends, Chris leaves, followed by Ashley, as she had a long day at work, leaving me alone with my day nurse, whose name was Eric. Now by all outward appearances, Eric seems like a nice guy. His scrubs are usually adorned with cartoon animals, and as a rule of thumb, he's quite upbeat- all of which hides the fact that at his core, he's actually a sadist.

A cartoon clad, mildly perky, somewhat amusing and relatively easygoing sadist, to be sure, but a sadist nonetheless. All that's missing is the dungeon and standard issue leather-clad gimp playset.

How can I say this with such a degree of certainty? Because while I was hovering on the edge of life and death, he made me exercise. No offense, but typically when given the choice between dying and working out, it's usually a coin toss for me. I loathe working out- not because of the truly physical challenge, but because of all the idiots you have to put up with at the gym.

And believe you me, Spandex does have a limit as to what it can safely contain.

See, here's the deal- one of the perks of being in the ICU ward is that people don't expect much from you in general. You get to lay around, watch tons of TV, and sleep quite a bit. It's a lot like being a government employee, minus the pajamas and IV saline drip.

So, because I was getting comfortable with this setup, I obviously wasn't expecting to be doing any Tai-bo or working out to a Richard Simmons DVD anytime soon. By way of example, my night nurse would come in, give me a shot (or two) of morphine, and leave me be.

Eric on the other hand, wants me to be up and about, and goes to great lengths to make sure that I am. He sets up chairs every ten feet or so all around the perimeter of the ICU ward and tells me he wants me to walk at least one full circle, no matter how long it takes, which at the time, was forty-five minutes for me, versus three minutes for a healthy person.

Naturally, I tell him I'd love to do so, especially since I can barely move, but gosh darnit.. this dang catheter is in the way, so I guess I'll just have to take a rain check on that whole exercise thing, which I just feel terrible about.

Really. You have no idea the guilt that was eating me alive. Unfortunately, this isn't Eric's first time at the rodeo, so he just looks at me and says: "Oh, I can take care of that." And then gives me a smile.

A big, way too happy, shark-toothed, James Bond villain stroking a white cat kind of smile.

Future note to self: learn how to keep your mouth shut, especially when you have a tube running up your spawn hammer. Charitably, I don't remember them putting in the catheter as I was really out of it when I was checked in, but now I'm fully aware and conscious of what's going on.

Oh, great goody gum drops of freaking sunshine, am I ever aware.

As I'm laying there in my bed, weak as a kitten, Eric tells me that he'll remove the catheter "on the count of three", so I start psyching myself up, secure in the knowledge that I'm in the best of hands and that he's a true professional, even if his Spongebob scrubs are somewhat disconcerting.

Know this- I'm a real man. I may be intellectual and urbane most times, but I can take whatever's thrown at me. Go ahead... pour boiling water down my throat and I'll belch ice cubes. Bad Pizza? Bring it. Circus clowns? I'll drink mead from their severed skulls and mount their giant floppy shoes in my den. The Tea Party? Since logic is like kryptonite to these people, I'll just read the Constitution out loud and watch their heads explode.

A PAS wannabe dares to get up in my grill? Oh please. I'll climb up inside and hollow them out like a chocolate Easter Bunny. I'm not afraid of much, to be quite honest, and as proof of that, I also eat at Taco Bell... on a regular basis. Like I said, I can handle anything. Everything that is, except a certain back-stabbing, under-handed, black-hearted, treacherous, soulless, deal-breaking bastard pulling the tube out on "two", and not "three".

To be fair, the removal didn't hurt nearly as much as the insertion, which apparently required my having to be strapped down to a gurney [so I've been told] but it's not something I ever want to repeat in my life. As a rule, that's one part of my body I've tried earnestly not to expose to anything boiling, sharp edged, sparking, freezing, sizzling, metallic, burning or internal.

I know, I know... I'm way too boring.
But this cautionary approach has served me well, and I'm not abandoning it anytime soon.

As I traverse through the ICU's version of musical chairs, hell-bent on getting back to my not so comfy bed, I take notice of the other rooms within, and recall a conversation I had the evening before with my night nurse, whose name was (I kid you not) Angel.

She comes in, checks my vitals, administers my regular dose of pain killers and sleeping agents, and then tells me how she was just bragging in the nurse's lounge that as her patient, I was going to survive and eventually walk out. Noting my somewhat shocked reaction, she states:

"We usually don't have a lot of wins- in the ICU you take the victories where you can."

Granted, I can see the logic behind this unique worldview, but at the time, I was just hoping she hadn't placed any bets on me, as I really don't perform well under that kind of pressure. Especially when it's fairly obvious that I'm not going to see a cut of the vig in the end.

I think I need to get a better agent to handle these details.

There were 12 rooms (AKA: "pods") in the ICU unit that I was convalescing in, and at that particular time only I and one other person [a car crash victim] were expected to leave under our own power, versus being carried out in a human-sized Ziploc bag.

As you might imagine, there's not a whole lot of joy to be found in a land that has a perpetual death watch, so I came to interpret the nursing staffs black humor as a self-imposed form of protection from the depressive aspects of what the job demanded. It brought to mind something my dear departed Oma might have said in relation to the overall vibe of the place:

"It feels quite a bit Catholic in here, doesn't it?"

Oddly, I'm at my best in a place with that sort of attitude, as I tend to deal with stress by being sarcastic, so I fit right in with nary a hitch. Just like when I travel, I try to be a good and gracious guest. You know the basic rules- keep your room neat, clean off your plate, and don't be a pain in the ass to your host, no matter what the situation is.

And if the circumstance calls for you to don lederhosen, I say go for it.
Sorry. Let's get back to the story.

As I was slowly traversing what was the great circle of the ICU, the reality of all those families hoping against hope that their loved ones might just survive their personal trauma was humbling. In retrospect, I got damn lucky, and the only reason I survived what should have killed me was a simple luck of the draw- no more, no less.

I don't believe in miracles. I'm too much of a realist. If I can't see it, touch it, or rub it all over my body in a fugue of joy, then it doesn't exist.

Understand that I'm not being negative, I'm being realistic.

I credit the fact that despite his arrogance and lack of verticality, my doctor knew his chops and had one hell of an ICU team behind him to aid in my recovery. Add in the fact that God apparently needs me to serve as a bad example, and you can see why I'm not planning on checking out anytime soon.

Speaking of checking out, I believe this would be an excellent time to take a break, as I and most likely you, are starting to nod off. And let's face it, a well-rested reader is a happy reader.

And when we come back...

This tale concludes with gang-bangers and kidney stones, visits from warring friends, I finally explain my obsession with John C. Lincoln's vanilla pudding, enjoy some illicit Taco Bell, and discover the true cost of wanting to go home.

"It's no longer a question of staying healthy. It's a question of finding a sickness you like."
- Jackie Mason