Sunday, February 18, 2018

American Carnage

Too soon?

That's what we hear every time some heavily armed psycho gets hold of a terrifying weapon of personal destruction and kills innocent people.

While the victims' friends and family are still reeling from the unimaginable loss of their loved ones, the gun lobby and their whores in congress swoop in to make sure nothing ever changes.

It's too soon to talk about gun control, they say, it's disrespects the victims. We can't politicize this tragedy, they say, as if they actually give a shit.

And so the story fades from the news cycle, the dead are forgotten, and the scene is set for the next horrific attack.

But don't worry: these brave souls are ready to take action against the real villains here-computer games and movies. Yes, of course, that makes perfect sense.

Except when you realize that American movies and computer games are viewed and played all over the world and these countries don't seem to have the mass shootings that we do.

Gee, do you think it might have something to do with the guns? Nah….

The latest slaughter was in Parkland, Florida on Wednesday, where Nikolas Cruz allegedly gunned down 14 students and three staff members using the mass shooter's weapon of choice, the AR-15.

Cruz, who was photographed wearing a "Make America Great Hat," espoused "racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic views and displayed an obsession with violence and guns."

There's a brief cell phone video of students screaming and cowering in a classroom while the sound of gunfire rips through the air. Looking at this footage makes me ashamed to be an American.

The Las Vegas bump stock slaughter was in October, a month later we had the Texas church shooting, and here we are again with the funerals, the images of the fallen, and the sobbing survivors.

Gun Play

Oh, yeah, and of course, we get the "thoughts and prayers" routine, which for some strange reason don't seem to prevent these slaughters. Hard to believe, right?

The scumbag in the White House-I refuse to call him "President"-regurgitated some dribble about working with state and local leaders "to help secure our schools and tackle the difficult issue of mental health."

Why don't we start with yours?

Putin's hand puppet visited some of the wounded before dashing off to his compound at Mar-A-Largo, probably to play a few thousand rounds of golf and get his marching orders from Russia. It's a tough job, but somebody has to do it.

Making things so much worse was the news that FBI had received a tip last month that Cruz had a "desire to kill," access to guns and could be plotting an attack but failed to investigate.

And that scumbag in the White House is actually trying to use this screw-up to get out from under the Russia scandal. But what's really depressing is that you know there are vast numbers of idiots who believe him.

I would like to think that it's different this time, that the anger has grown to such a level that even those NRA stooges will be shamed into actually doing something in response to all these beautiful lives being snuffed out.

There are a lot of young people who are tired of seeing their classmates being gunned down and they're promising to make some changes.

I want to believe all that, I really do. But we've been down this road many times before and I still believe the pistol-packing pussy grabbers will stall and filibuster until the next massacre.

And then it'll be too soon all over again.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Future World

This never happened on Star Trek.

It was Thursday night and I was trying to attend my most fabulous writing class via Skype, but I couldn't make the magic happen.

I'm still wearing these awful leg braces from December's surgery, so riding the subway to my instructor Rosemary's house in Park Slope is out of the question.

But my classmate Joan, who is in New Mexico, and I were getting all 21st Century so we could join in without actually being there.

Or at least I was trying to join in.

However, I was having trouble getting online and the Skype calls kept crashing with this obnoxious noise that sounded like someone punching a heavy bag.

Rosemary called me to guide me through the process, but all I got for my efforts was another phantom punch in the ego.

Video conferencing has been around for ages, but to a techno-thal like yours truly it's something akin to voodoo and Buck Rogers. This seems strange, since I was such a science fiction fan when I was a kid, but then the computers in the books and movies were cool, not complicated.

I've been forcing myself to stretch my fossilized knees and I'm not the calmest fellow on this side of the ocean to begin with, so this latest run-in with the Internet was twisting me in all the wrong directions. I was seconds away from losing my Shatner.

Where's the transporter room when you need it?

"Just think positive thoughts," Rosemary said.

If only. While I think I've been making some progress with my anger management efforts, there's something about me and misbehaving machinery that just strips my gears.

I guess it's the feeling of helplessness. We're so dependent on this equipment that when something goes wrong we're pretty much screwed.

Captain's Log

And the fun really begins when you call tech support and find your warranty has run out and if you want any help you'll have to crack out the credit card. This never happened to Mr. Spock.

During the last few days I've also been battling with my TV remote and my printer, which decided on Saturday that it didn't feel like scanning documents anymore. It's a good thing phasers aren't real.

I got a rather disturbing example of my computer-driven rage when I was listening to an earnings call webcast and the sound suddenly croaked on me.

Naturally I did the mature thing-hurling F-bombs like they were beads at a Mardi Gras parade. The sound returned a short time later, but I kind of doubt if all that cursing was the cure.

I would've forgotten about my outburst except I was playing back the meeting on my digital recorder to check some quotes when I heard this psycho cursing and fuming.

And he sounded mighty familiar.

"What the fuck!" This freak shouted. "What the fuck is going on?"

Hearing myself freak out like that was unnerving because, honestly, I never really hear myself in a real time temper tantrum. I'm too busy savoring all that allegedly righteous anger.

I wonder if I should get another tape recorder just to keep track of my outbursts-a kind of captain's log where I essentially Watergate myself in the act of being a short-tempered loon. Fred the Shrink suggested a voice-activated device that would only switch on when I flip out.

I suspect that recorder will get quite a workout.

I never did conjure up those positive thoughts on Thursday, but Skype came to life nonetheless and the class was fantastic.

I was concerned that I wouldn't be able to write anything due to the odd conditions but once Rosemary read off her lists of prompts I picked up my pen and wrote myself into a frenzy.

I was so glad we got Skype to work. Of course, my technophobia still hasn't abated. I'm going to take another run at scanning some documents and if the printer doesn't work I'll give that buggy little bugger the Vulcan nerve pinch so hard it'll spew 50 dollars bill.

Did you get all that?

Sunday, February 04, 2018

The Good Life

Now comes the hard part.

I went to see my doctor this week, six weeks after he operated on both my knees, and got a new, more flexible set of leg braces.

My physical therapist had warned me not to be shocked by the sight of my emaciated legs, but I have to say it was quite a jolt seeing these two toothpicks attached to my body.

Still, my PT guy says the muscles will return just as quickly as they disappeared.

As my doctor examined my knees, a stray thought sailed across my mind like a shooting star on a summer night.

I've had a good life.

That sounds rather strange coming from a chronic complainer like yours truly, but this awful experience has taught me a lot about gratitude-or it can, as long as I allow it.

Before the accident I went to work, went to the gym, did some (but not enough) socializing, and worked on my writing. While it wasn't the perfect life-what life is?--I was doing well.

But I wasn't really happy. I was always worried about something, always rushing somewhere, always upset, annoyed, or angry about things in the distant past or possible future. I didn't spend enough time in the present being grateful.

Now that my life has been thoroughly disrupted I can finally see how good things were for me. I suppose it's better late than never for such insights, but I'd rather not live my life looking in the rearview mirror.

Shake All the Blues Away

Part of me believes that if I say I'm satisfied with my life, then I'll stop trying to improve. Last year I wrote in my New Year's Day post that I'm looking to achieve a state of striving gratitude, where I'm thankful for what I have, but always looking to better myself.

Maybe this accident will help me reach that goal.

My doctor wants me to stretch my knees and my PT guy has put me through a series of torturous routines designed to bring me back to normalcy.

I'm trying to do what he says, but I'm afraid of damaging my knees all over again. The therapist assures me that this won't happen, noting that the fear is holding me back.

I've been sitting in a chair for my morning meditation with my feet flat on the floor and it's been a real struggle.

On Saturday morning I was so down I wondered if I'll ever get back to where I used to be. Of course, that kind of talk pretty much guarantees that I won't get back to where I was, but it's hard to be positive when I look at these two wasted pins of mine and feel that agony in my knees whenever I try to sit down like a human being.

I came across an old quote I had posted on Facebook a few years back, but obviously didn't absorb.

It said the "The vibration of gratitude attracts more positive things into your life" and I have to say I am fascinated by this concept of vibration.

"Every thought, word and action carries its own vibrational frequency," according to the website Forever Conscious. "It comes back to the Law of Attraction- whether you 'ask' for it or not, you are drawn to situations, people or objects that are in line with your vibrational resonance."

The post says fear gives off a low vibration while love is much higher. In a list of the top 12 ways you can boost your vibration, guess which one holds the top position-yep, gratitude.

Now I'm going back to work tomorrow for the first time since Dec. 14 and I'm nervous as hell about that. And I'm worried about my recovery.

But I want to drive out these debilitating thoughts and boost the good stuff until I'm vibrating like a two-ton tuning fork.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Spirited Away

I once had a therapist who very succinctly explained to me the dangers of being indecisive.

"Sitting on the fence," he said, "gets you nothing but a big red mark on your ass."

I'm doubt if Freud would've expressed it this way, but I'm sure he would agree with the sentiment.

I've given up far too much of my time agonizing over decisions about all things great and small and all I've gotten out of this emotional fence-sitting was a big red mark on my psyche.

No decision is a decision and I would rather do things than allow inaction make the decision for me.

While I would like to think I've made progress in this area, I did have a minor but disappointing incident occur recently that's still bugging me.

I was sitting in front of the TV one Saturday night-like I do most nights after wrecking my knees last month-thumbing my remote-control unit into a coma.

I do a fair bit of channel-surfing, but I was especially bad on this particular night. I couldn't-more like wouldn't--decide between watching a UFC fight card on the Spanish language station or taking in The Ghost & Mrs. Muir, a fine old movie with Rex Harrison and Gene Tierney.

Now I pay for digital recording services from my cable company, so this shouldn't have been a problem at all. But I didn't want yet another item sitting on the virtual shelf unwatched and forgotten.

Instead I elected to bounce back and forth between the two programs and wound up, of course, not particularly enjoying either one.

I'm getting a little too sensitive for combat sports, especially any competition where the participants kick each other's legs. After double knee surgery I wince at the thought of this kind of abuse.

Surf's Up!

But I lingered on, trying to figure out what the announcers were saying while heavily tattooed athletes bashed each other from hell to brain damage.

Whenever a commercial came on I'd hop over to see the 1947 movie where Gene Tierney plays a widow who moves into a seaside cottage and finds that its haunted by the ghost of a departed sea captain, portrayed by Rex Harrison.

I had never seen the film and my only knowledge of the story comes from a sitcom version of the movie that ran for two seasons starting in 1968 and starred Hope Lange, Edward Mulhare, and Charles Nelson Reilly. It was rather lame as I recall.

The source material is better executed-at least the portion I saw. I enjoyed seeing Rex Harrison in this gruff, but tender role and, of course, Gene Tierney is just lovely.

The film also starred George Sanders, a very young Natalie Wood, and a host of golden age character actors whom you know but can never name.

But I refused to sit still for this and quickly jumped back to the cage fighting.

The fights weren't particularly interesting or entertaining. I was still feeling poorly from this lingering cold and since I can't leave my apartment, I guess I needed to move in some way-even it was just around the dials.

I finally got fed up with the fights and stayed with the ghost until the end, which was so sad it made me cry, though that's hardly news to anyone who knows me. (Honestly, what don't I cry at?)

I ordered The Ghost & Mrs. Muir on Netflix and I plan to watch properly-no interruptions. I'll be sitting down to watch, but I won't have any red marks on my ass.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Night Walker

My auntie shared such a lovely dream with me on Saturday.

She has been suffering with a bad hip for a long time now, so the simplest actions-like walking or standing, for instance-are now incredibly challenging.

But all that changed in her dream.

"I was walking," said my auntie, who will undergo surgery in the coming weeks. "I couldn't believe it. I told people around me, 'look, I'm walking!'"

It was so painful to hear this because she walks with such difficulty now. I can remember when she was hiking all over Manhattan, but now it takes her so long just to pick up the phone.

Dreams provide fertile ground for wish fulfillment, of course, which is all well and good until the cruel light of day breaks in and ruins the dance.

I wake up most mornings expecting to get up and walk around my home like I've always done and then I realize that I'm wearing these massive leg braces and that every single move has to be planned before being put into action-and that action has to be quite slow.

I'm feeling a little better, a relief from last week's abominable cold, although I'm still watching too much TV. I've also had all sorts of people visiting my apartment.

A physical therapist has been stopping by to work with my imprisoned legs; a home health care aid helps me with cooking and light cleaning, and a few nurses have come by to see how I'm doing.

Come On Up

I think I've had more people here than I've had since I moved into the place seven years ago. I've got a lock box hanging on the front door with a set of keys so people can come upstairs.

I remember when my parents had health care aids to help them around the house. I like to tell myself I'm not in their age bracket yet, but then I see this guy inching around the apartment with a walker or a cane and I start to wonder.

I've always talked about getting out more and I've done a fairly good job doing that-with the occasional wonton soup Friday night in front of the TV-but I really see how uptight I've been most of my life.

Whenever I go on a trip I'm always worried something bad will happen to me while off I'm in some distant location. Yet this accident is arguably the worst injury I've ever suffered, and it happened five blocks from my house while I was coming home from the supermarket.

I look back to when I first got hurt and I see how fearful I was. I couldn't imagine that I'd be able to walk up a flight of stairs, dress myself, or go to the bathroom without a nurse watching out for me. Yet I'm doing all these things now.

Once I'm free of these braces I really want to get out there more. Even if that means just walking up to one of the local bars to listen to the jazz band. It's better than hiding in my apartment.

I've threatening to take make a short film for decades now. Enough talking. Also, I'd like to take a stand-up comedy class. People tell me I'm funny. Maybe I should try being funny on stage.

It's time to do less dreaming and more living.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

The Guy on the Third Floor

“When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions.” – William Shakespeare

I’ve been home from the hospital for 8 days now and I have to confess this new year is getting old real fast.

While I’m trying to accept the fact that I’m a virtual prisoner in my own home, I took some solace in the fact that I was reasonably healthy.

I have a walker, a cane, and a grabber, a little mechanical claw that I use to pick up the mail and anything else that might be out of reach.

Going to the bathroom when you can’t bend your knees is a bit of a challenge—I’ll spare you the details—but I’m managing.

And it’s not like I have nothing to do with my time. I thought that I’d take advantage of my forced imprisonment by taking a run at my creative to-do list.

I’m working on my next book project, organizing my notes on an idea for a TV pilot, and reviewing the draft of a screenplay I finished last year.

And the weather has been so harsh lately that I figured I’m not missing much. If you’re going to be stuck in your apartment for weeks on end, it might as well be during the dead of winter.

But all that positive energy went straight to hell on Thursday when an apparent allergy attack turned into a full-on plague complete with a fever and hacking cough.

Slings and Arrows

I’ll be honest with you: this situation sucks monkey balls. I’m really depressed. I can’t work out, I can’t even go for a walk.

My poor sister is running around like a loon doing my shopping and picking up my laundry. Avoiding illness was one of the few things between me and full on lunacy.

I’ve been so crabby and negative in the last few days even I can’t believe it. All these awful memories and negative emotions have been ricocheting around my mind like buckshot in a blender.

I haven’t done any writing or reading in days. I just stretch out in bed, switch on NPR, and turn off my brain.

Things got a bit dicey on Friday when I seriously considered going to the doctor. Of course, I just can’t pick up and go, thanks to these leg braces I’ve been forced to wear.

First, I’d have to get down the stairs, then somehow get into a car—an action I haven’t quite figured out yet—get to the doctor, and then get back home.

And if the doctor writes me a prescription, that means I have to stop off at the drug store, get back into the car, and get home.

Apparently, there are doctors who actually do house calls, but I held off and today I’m feeling marginally better. But I’m still depressed.

Okay, I just got out of hospital, which is a breeding ground for disease. And I’m in a weakened state due to the surgery and thus open to all kinds of nasty germs.

But I was hoping for a break, as if the surgery and lengthy recovery period was enough grief for the moment. It sounds ridiculous now that I say it aloud. There are no guarantees in this life and expecting things to magically go your way only opens the door to a lot more heartache.

I’m going to give myself another day or two to feel better and then I’ll get back to work.

I hate being laid up, but I’m not going to give up.

Sunday, January 07, 2018

Home Again, Home Again

I slept in my own bed last night for the first time in nearly a month.

It felt strange not having a nurse walk in at 5AM looking to take my vitals or make me swallow a handful of pills.

I didn’t have to listen to my roommate’s television blaring out quiz shows, infomercials, and football player interviews at all hours of the day and night, and I didn’t have to suffer through the pre-dawn shrieks of “Help! Help! Help!” from that crazy old bastard across the hall.

There are no more daily rehab classes with those wonderful people in the gym, no more hospital meals, and no more blood tests. And I don’t have to wear those hospital gowns anymore.

That’s all behind me, God willing, and now my rehab begins at home.

I came out the hospital on Saturday the same way I went in—riding in the back of an ambulance. The two lovely crew members rolled me out into the blistering cold weather—my first taste of outside air in weeks--loaded me up into the bus, and zipped over to my street.

The only view I had of the world during the ride was through a pair of caduceus-branded rear windows. Lots of snow out there.

I live in a three-story walk-up and I got the chance to practice the stair-climbing technique the rehab staff taught me during my stay. It went pretty well, if I say so myself, except for one misstep near the top. And the ambulance people were right on top of me at the first sign of trouble.

“I know you’re going to get better,” one of them said on the way out.

This Tired Old Body

My apartment is frozen in time, virtually untouched since December 14, the day I wrecked both my knees after a pair of falls in the snow.

I’m still wearing the massive braces my doctor first put on my legs after the surgery and I have to see him in three weeks where—I hope—he’ll open them up 45 degrees. I’m praying that by spring I’ll be able to sit down and walk normally.

I’m can’t leave my house now, given the hideous weather and my constricted condition. My poor sister is running around town doing all the simple tasks I used to do for myself, like shopping and dropping off the laundry.

I have to do everything in slow motion--getting up, sitting down, walking around the apartment—things I once did without thinking now require planning and extreme care.

I’m still wearing my yellow hospital bracelet that tags me as a “Fall Risk.”

Going to the bathroom is a challenge when you can’t bend your knees and I have to skip the shower in favor of a body wash at the sink since I can’t get these braces wet.

I’m trying not to do the “Poor Me” routine, but it hasn’t been easy. I’ve been screaming at my computer all morning in response to several failed attempts to log onto my bank account. I suspect that some of my neighbors would’ve preferred I stayed in the hospital.

I’m trying to remind myself that there are people in much worse shape than I am, including several folks I saw nearly every day at the rehab gym. Anger and self-pity will only slow me down, but those sons-of-bitches are so hard to resist.

I have a lot to do going forward, but right now I’ll focus on the immortal words of John Denver and remind myself that, hey, it’s good to be back home again.