Archive for February, 2010

bring me home, Seger

You are longing for your youth, feeling lost, trapped in circumstances you just want to run from, looking for answers. You want to listen to music to match your mood. What do you listen to? That’s easy – Bob Seger.

Maybe it’s a guy thing, but if “Like a Rock” doesn’t make you way too aware of the crappy shape you are in, both physically and mentally, then you are probably suffering from Alzheimer’s. And if “Night Moves” doesn’t cause pangs of pain over passions past, then either you are one lucky man with passions still intact, or you lived a very dry youth.

Stuck in one place and ready to blow your brains out? Try “Roll Me Away” for your escape fantasy. Tired of being on the road? Then it’s “Turn the Page.” Remembering the restlessness of your younger days, but stuck with the knowledge that it all fades to nothing in the end? “The Fire Inside” is your song. Never have life figured out and are still running around trying to get there? Well, you’ve been running “Against the Wind.” And finally, ending on a note of hope, you’ll be fine “In Your Time.”

These are just some of the songs on the Bob Seger – Greatest Hits album. You have to go to the individual albums to get all of the other good songs. Not only does this music usually fit with my mood, it’s just great classic rock. And no, I’m not shilling for Seger. I’m just an appreciative listener.

from my mouth to my knees?

I went to the dentist today. One of the first questions the dental hygienist asked was, “Have you had any surgeries lately?” After responding with the appropriate “no,” I added that I am planning on having surgery this coming spring to replace my old, arthritic knee. Now I know why they ask that question.

She explained to me that if I have a surgery like that, the next time I come in for dental work of any kind they will have me take a rather massive amount of antibiotic an hour before any work is done. Apparently, with the large amount of bacteria that is usually present in the mouth, even cleaning your teeth can get some of those bacteria into your bloodstream where it will most likely go directly to the place on your body most susceptible to infection, in this case a replacement joint.

Sigh.

One more thing to worry about as I get older. Even the things that are supposed to help fix you up create potential hazards. Heck, just replacing the knee alone involves all sorts of risks. There’s a risk of infection, blood clots, nerve damage, poor healing, limited knee movement and other things, too. It almost makes you want to skip the whole thing.

On the other hand, the dentist said my teeth look good and to keep up the good work. I’m grateful for that. It looks like I will most likely be able to forego the false teeth that my parents needed as they got older (although my mother only required a bridge – something they don’t seem to do anymore). Then again, it would seem that my son is going to have even better teeth than I. At the age of almost thirty, he has never had a cavity in his life. I wish I could say the same. Ah, the benefits of advances in dentistry.

everything is a heart attack

It seems that the older I get the more I worry about my health. That may sound like a “duh” statement, but bear me out.

I just spent a couple of days recovering from . . . I don’t know what. Something? Anything? Obviously something, but I could not come up with a self-diagnosis. Friday morning I was tired as heck and even had a hard time keeping my eyes open at work for the first few hours, which actually is abnormal. I felt kind of draggy all day, but just before my lunchtime the big boss in the company came to me for some information on a job we were producing as we spoke, and the information would not be available if I didn’t move quickly on it.

I paged the plant supervisor to ask him about the status of the job and he came to my office and told me they were just finishing it now, and if we hurried out to the plant we might be able to catch it in time. Now, he’s younger than I am and in much, much better shape, but as we walked way to the back of the plant I tried to keep up with him. What a laugh. I was practically running, and with these ol’ knees that’s not an easy thing to do. By the time we were eighty percent of the way there I had to start falling back. By the time I got the information I needed and got back to my office, my heart was pounding and I felt a bit lightheaded. Christ, I am out of shape.

The rest of the day I just did not feel well. Not anything definitive, just “off.” Later in the evening I had what I can only describe as a fleeting panic attack, where all of a sudden I felt like the world was going to end and I didn’t know what to do. It passed in only a few moments, but was very disturbing and concern over the episode lingered.

As usual, I went to sleep in my armchair with the television on. I woke up around 3:00 in the morning and reached for the remote control to turn the volume down and a wave of what can best be described as nausea swept over me. Not the kind of nausea that makes you want to puke, but the kind that makes you feel like the blood has drained out of your body. It was very, very weird, and I started wondering if I was having a heart attack.

This is where we get back to my opening statement. When I was a young man, I would have figured that I had a touch of the flu or something, but now that I am older, every little ache and pain that cannot be diagnosed specifically is translated into “Oh, oh, am I having a heart attack?” It’s like I’m just waiting for it to happen, as though I know it will. This should be no surprise, given that my mother dropped dead from a heart attack and my father went through two by-pass operations for his heart.

Every time I feel this way I battle with myself over whether I should go to the emergency room to have myself checked out or if I am really only suffering from something like the flu. I don’t want to delay having it checked out like my mother did and then die because of that decision, but I also don’t want to be an idiot and go have my heart attack diagnosed as indigestion.

The problem is that I just cannot seem to figure out the best way to handle this. Living alone adds to the concern. If I suddenly become unable to call for emergency help there is no one else here to do it for me. That puts the pressure on me to try to diagnose whatever I am feeling ahead of time to hopefully avoid that situation.

Maybe when I really have a heart attack I’ll know for sure, but the information about heart attacks says that not everyone experiences all the symptoms and not necessarily in the same way. This only adds to my indecision when I’m feeling crappy. I only hope that when (and note that I’m not saying “if”) the time comes, I’ll be able to figure it out in enough time to save my life. Of course, fate will play its little joke on me and I’ll be killed in a car accident and all my worrying about a heart attack will be for naught. At least I won’t be able to kick myself for having wasted time worrying.

earthquake!

It was an interesting awakening this morning. Having started out in my bed, I had moved to my chair in the living room for the remainder of the night. At almost four o’clock exactly my eyes popped open as things started shaking and rumbling. Now, we have had earthquakes here before, but they have been tiny little twitches. Granted that the one we had today was nothing compared to Haiti, California, and other places, it was still the largest I have experienced in my lifetime (although 1968 was close).

With the snowfall we just had, I at first assumed that it was a huge snowplow going by the house, but it was much louder and stronger than any vibrations I had ever felt because of a snowplow. When the pots and pans hanging on the rack in the kitchen started to chime I knew that it was an earthquake. The amazing thing to me was how long it went on. The previous quakes I have felt took maybe three seconds to pass. This one went on for at least seven or eight seconds, perhaps as long as ten. I kept expecting it to stop, but it kept on going.

Apparently the center of the quake was near Sycamore, Illinois – approximately 30 miles away from my house. Gratefully there doesn’t appear to have been any major damage anywhere and no one was hurt. I turned on the radio and the television but they were still in their normal programming. At 4:30, WGN put their normal 5:00 a.m. show on early to report about the earthquake, so at least I only had to wait a half hour for confirmation of the event.

It amazes me that there were many people who slept through the whole thing. I’m not sure how they could do that because it sure woke me up in a hurry. Our number one normal disaster worry here in northern Illinois is tornadoes. Let’s hope that earthquakes don’t become number two on our list or, worse yet, number one.

stupor bowl

To each his or her own, and I’ll gladly abide by that, particularly in regard to the Superbowl. For those who are unfamiliar with this event (which means you don’t live in the U.S. and don’t give a rat’s ass about American sports), this is the final professional football game of the season, pitting the top finishing team in each conference against each other in a commercially orgasmic event.

First, I have to admit that I have absolutely no interest in sports at all. Never have and I doubt I ever will. Watching most sporting events is just about the equivalent to me of watching paint dry. There are elements of strategy that might interest some, but if I want that I might as well watch a chess match, and I don’t care about that either. Otherwise, take away the limited amount of strategy and what you have left is pretty much big men running into each other. Now there’s a thrill, eh?

Other than that, you get to see a bunch of new commercials that are usually a cut above the normal fare. However, sitting through a whole Superbowl game just to see the commercials is kind of like driving fifty miles through a snowstorm so that your kid can sled down a hill for five minutes before complaining he is cold and wants to go home. It’s a damn long trip for very little reward. (I’m open to ideas for a better analogy than that, if you have one.)

Anyways, enjoy yourself if you’ve plunked your ass down in your recliner to watch the game with a bottle of bear in one hand and potato chips in the other. I’m sitting here in front of my computer, which is a hell of a lot more interesting. But that’s just me. Go. Enjoy. Just don’t expect me to care. And please spare me the details. Unless, of course, someone has another major nipple slip at halftime.

The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution – by Richard Dawkins

An excellent book, particularly for those of us who do not have as broad an education in evolution theory as we would like. Included are interesting arguments against the idea of intelligent design, though I have an issue with the supposition that humans think like “God” would think. Then again, the same could be said for those of the religious persuasion who are convinced that “God” thinks the way they think. A recommended book.

(Finished 2/3/10)

groundhog day!

Today is Groundhog Day. Yes, it’s a silly holiday and there are some people who think we should just take it off the calendar. But why? We all know that it has no scientific validity. It’s just something inane to help break up the dead of winter for us here in America’s snowbelt, as well as an excuse for some people to party. Besides, if we didn’t have Groundhog Day, we wouldn’t have had the movie (yeah, I know that any day would have sufficed for the movie, but work with me here).

Groundhog Day is one of my favorite movies. I must have watched that thing a dozen times. If you haven’t seen the movie by now (and how the hell could you have not seen it by now?), here’s the spoiler:

A Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, television weather man – Phil Connors – is sent to Punxsutawney (also in Pennsylvania), along with his producer and cameraman, to cover the Groundhog Day celebration there, it being one of the more “official” celebrations of the day. Phil is a rather arrogant, perhaps even nihilistic, person who has absolutely no desire to cover such a stupid event.

After he does his story on Groundhog Day they attempt to return to Pittsburgh, only to find the roads are closed due to a freak snowstorm. They are forced to return to Punxsutawney and stay the night. The next morning, the clock radio comes on in Phil’s room announcing that it is Groundhog Day, at which Phil scoffs, until he finds that, indeed, it is once again Groundhog Day. To shorten the story considerably, Phil finds himself stuck in a time loop, living the same day over and over again, and he is the only variable in the day; all other people do the same thing day after day except for where they interact with Phil.

For a good part of the movie Phil struggles against his fate, killing himself many times, manipulating people around him to achieve his ends, doing pretty much whatever he wants within the limits of Punxsutawney, with each new morning bringing another repeat of the day with Phil being no worse the wear for the previous day. Eventually, Phil starts to reexamine his life and makes changes. Then one day he appears to finally put it all together. Having become a decent, functioning human being, he is released from his time prison to go on and live as a changed man.

Yeah, that took a bit of telling, but I don’t think I can shorten it any. While the movie is cute and potentially thought-provoking (some might say that it is just an old fashioned morality play), the thing that tweaks my imagination is what I would do if I were in the same situation.

So I set it up in my mind as it appears in the movie – day after day, each day is much the same as the day before. You personally have the option to change your behavior while all around you pretty much follow their own daily routines. As I was thinking about this, it suddenly occurred to me that this is my life. Holy Smokes! The only thing missing is that I am getting a day older each day, while Phil did not.

Ah, but there is what fascinates me. What if we had all the time in the world to do whatever we wanted to do? Think of all the learning and experience you could gain? The way the movie is set up, the only thing that transfers from one day to the next is Phil’s memory of the previous days. This is his blessing! He cannot retain a single physical item that he didn’t have when the whole thing started, but he can learn and retain that learning. In the end, that is his salvation, and it is something that I kind of envy.

On the other hand, we have to deal with reality. No one is going to stop the clock for us. We get older every day, as does everyone around us. And as in the movie where Phil could not change everything that happened around him every day, neither can we. Nor can we really count on retaining the “things” we have. All we really ever have is what is in our heads! So why do we waste our time on acquiring things and not learning and experiencing to the fullest of our ability?

Damn good question, eh? Maybe that’s something for us all to keep in mind tomorrow morning when we wake up. We have been given one more day on this earth. Are we going to waste it, or use it to grow? Sometimes I think I should watch this movie every week to be reminded how lucky I am to be alive and how I am squandering the greatest resource any of us has – time.

the aegis has crumbled

Pretty much every one of us was born into this world crying; our only means of protesting our displacement from the comfortable place where we didn’t have to do a thing to survive to the place where life is a constant struggle. If we had been left alone to lie at the spot where we were born, our lives would have been very short indeed. Instead, for most of us, we had our basic needs provided by others for many years. At some time, though, each of us reached the point where we decided to take on the responsibility for our own survival and our own lives.

I am fifty-nine years old – almost sixty – and somehow I feel that I have never faced that responsibility squarely and accepted it. It seems that my entire life has been a constant effort to deny reality; to pretend that actions have no consequences and that things will always work out for the best in spite of my actions or inactions. Not only have I lived my life this way, through my actions I have encouraged and allowed others within my sphere of influence to live the same way. Now the proverbial pigeons have come home to roost and it ain’t pretty.

In theory, in seven short years I should be “retiring.” In reality, because of my profligacy I will never be able to retire. I have come to accept a truth that I have always wished to avoid. Not only will I never be able to retire, if circumstances arise that force me to leave the working world, the quality of my life will fall to the point where the will to survive may disappear.

Can I, at this point in my life, actually take control of my life? Am I able to take responsibility for what remains of my future? And, perhaps more importantly, am I able to allow those who have depended upon me to assume responsibility for their own lives, their own decisions, and their own actions or inactions? I’m not sure.

Perhaps it is very presumptuous to think that I have not allowed others to run their own lives. Well, actually, it is very presumptuous, but the truth is that my financial support and my involvement in their lives has allowed those people to make decisions and act in ways that they would have otherwise been unable to do, or at least would not have chosen to do. I accept the fact that I may have encouraged other people to make bad decisions by giving them the means to do so, but now I am faced with the fact that I can no longer provide those means and I feel guilty about not being able to do so.

Logically, I can accept the fact that every individual makes their own choices and is responsible for those choices. I accept that in my own life. I may not be happy with the results of the choices I have made in life, but I cannot blame anyone else for the choices I have made. I accept full responsibility for my current state in life. It ain’t no one’s fault but my own.

It is quite another thing to accept that the people I care about and love will have to suffer the consequences of their own decisions. My natural inclination is to protect and shield those people from as much unpleasantness as possible. Of course, this all assumes that I know what is best for them. It means that I have been trying to protect them from what I see as bad situations. It means that I have considered myself the arbiter of what is right and wrong in their lives. What in the world ever made me think that I had the authority, or the knowledge, to do so?

As I said earlier, I feel guilty about not being able to continue to provide for the people I care about. It is almost as though I consider any person unfortunate enough to have become involved in my life to have become my responsibility, and my failure to be able to support those people in the fashion in which I assume they need to be supported weighs mighty heavily on my conscience. Perhaps this is why I have no friends; it would be too great a responsibility to feel this way about everyone who comes into my life.

I do not like to see other people in pain. My reaction to someone in pain is to want to put my arms around them and shield them from whatever is causing that pain. I know that I cannot do that for everyone, but I have tried to do so for the very few people I have let close enough to me that I accepted that responsibility. Now, when words are not enough to compensate for what money can do, I am powerless. I will have to let those people suffer the consequences of their financial decisions and there is nothing I can do about it. I cannot protect them anymore, and I don’t know how to handle the pain that causes me. I have failed them and can find no succor in the idea that, in reality, only they can be responsible for themselves.

It looks like I’ll be going out of this life crying as much as I did when I came into it.