Sunday, May 31, 2009

My trip to the hospital

It reached a point where I gave up hope. My stomach was hurting so bad I made my way over to a City Council aide. Noting her name tag, I asked if there was any first aid room in the building. I was having trouble functioning on my own. She contacted security and they called for an ambulance.
It was about 4 o'clock on a Tuesday afternoon when my stomach was starting to hurt. I was waiting for the bus heading to a Housing Levy meeting at Seattle City Hall. I figured since I hadn't eaten all day I'd feel better when I had a meal downtown. That wasn't the case. Then I figured if I went to the bathroom I'd feel better but I was in pain when I attempted to do that.
I sat down in a chair and tried to get comfortable. I closed my eyes but didn't fall asleep. Then I heard the ambulance (what some people in Seattle call an `aid car.') in the distance. The siren stopped but I wasn't seeing any help arriving. Turns out, Mayor Nickels was presenting awards to high school students down on the second floor and one of the main entrances was closed. It took the ambulance people about five minutes to reach me. Was this the mayor's plan to get even with me for writing for less than flattering things about him on my blog.
After talking to me for a few minutes the ambulance workers proceeded to lift me on to the stretcher. For the first time in awhile I had a humerous thought. I had just watched Season 2 of the Get Smart TV show. All I could think of was the ambulance workers who put Maxwell Smart on a stretcher and then tipped him over. Those guys also stood him up to get through swinging doors and he fell on his face. I was luckier.
We headed on the elevator to the bottom floor and the ambulance guys weren't sure how to get to the parking lot. A guy who looked vaguely familiar gave them what turned out to be the wrong directions. Watching TV the next weekend I almost had another attack when I realized the unhelpful passerby was none other than Tim Cies, a Mayoral assistant called by the some, ``the Mayor's hatchetman.''
I arrived at the hospital and my confusion continued. I was told I was going to Cherry Hill but now saw Swedish Hospital towels hung up on the wall. How could I get home if I didn't even know what hospital I was in. A kindly orderly explained that Cherry Hill was Swedish's emergency room. Or something like that.
Wondering what would happen next, a doctor came in and explained that I had a hernia. He lifted up my shirt and I saw that a piece of flesh was growing out of my stomach, looking like a thumb or a thimble. He was able to push it down and the ice and introvenus apparently helped.
I was feeling better now. A friendly male nurse came by; perhaps a bit too friendly, as he immediately started to pull my pants down. At times like this you start thinking like your mother, ``is my t-shirt clean? Are these the shorts with the hole in them?'' I knew what was coming next though; he was going to stick a needle into my arm; and like a vampire, suck blood from my body.
The nurse started looking for a vein, and started to wipe my arm down, ``so you won't feel a thing.'' I try and not pay attention when someone's sticking a needle into my arm, but then the nurse started doing play-by-pay. ``Here it comes now. 1, 2, 3...'' Jeez, how could I NOT pay attention to that. Fortunately, I was able to settle in after that, listening to some nurses outside my room discussing the movie, Borat.. ``Now Borat, is he supposed to be retarted?'' one asked.
I've had some tightness around my belly button for a while but that grotesque-looking third thumb hasn't returned. For the record, I have an Incarcerated Umbilical Hernia. I saw my regular doctor and now I'm waiting to hear from the specialist. Like the wheels of justice, the wheels of medicine turn slowly. But except for some bloating I've been feeling good. It just goes to show, you don't know what'll happen next?
I did have a little bit more pain that night. The cab from the hospital to my house about five miles away, was $25.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Jailhouse rots

David Simon, the creator of the HBO TV show The Wire recently appeared on Bill Moyers Journal on PBS and gave the best reason I ever heard for making drugs legal. Simon, a former Baltimore Sun reporter painted a bleak picture of modern-day society when Moyers asked him what he would do to solve today's problems. ``I would decriminalize drugs in a heartbeat. I would put all the interdiction money, all the pretrial, all the prep, all of that cash. I would hurl it, as fast as I could into drug treatment and job training and jobs programs.'' If I could paraphrase Mr. Simon, deal with problems at the start and not at the end.
That makes me think of an initiative I'm involved with in Seattle, I-100. Basically, the initiative states that instead of the city (i.e. Mayor Greg Nickels) deciding to spend $226 million on a new jail it would go to a public vote. If we get enough signatures by the end of the month, I-100 will go on the ballot for the next election. The initiative also talks about analyzing ways to decrease incarceration rates; analyzing whether investments in social services will lower crime and arrest rates; and develop a strategy to address racial disparity in arrest and incarceration rates.
There are some who might say this will lead to just more committees as opposed to decisive action, AKA the Seattle way. Not true, according to Lisa Fitzhugh, the Chair of I-100. ``Twenty-five years ago we made the choice to invest in recycling over building a new waste incinerator. Today we have a world class recycling system. Ten years ago, we made the choice to invest in treatment and prevention programs for juvenile offenders over building a new juvenile detention facility. It required King County to re-evaluate every aspect of its system. We averted millions in construction costs and increased public safety.''
I don't know if Simon and McHugh have ever met but they have the same concerns- programs for the mentally ill being reduced to fragments; pre-arrest diversion programs to treat non-violent drug offenses going by the wayside; but here in Seattle, we're building a new jail, screw the budget crisis.
The complete name of I-100 is, A Citizen's Initiative To Promote Efficiency and Fairness in Public Safety. Who can be against public safety? I urge anyone who stumbles on this blog and is a registered Seattle voter to sign the petition.
And for more info contact the Committee for Efficience and Fairness in Public Safety, 2129 2nd Ave., Seattle, WA 98121 (206) 441-3247 X206.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Advertising Lullaby

Another George Carlin clip. Sort of the companion piece to the Modern Man. Jon Stewart said he watched Carlin rehearse this when he was about 66 years old. He didn't screw up a word.

Monday, April 13, 2009

What comes after Ball 3

Courtesy New York Daily News

The first week of April has become one of my favorite times of the year. I stop worrying about everything else for a few days and enjoy the opening of the baseball season. All is right with the world.
I used to watch a VCR of Game 6 of the 1975 World Series between the Boston Red Sox and the Cincinnati Reds the day before the regular season began, considered by some the greatest game ever. The game was played before the heydey of VCR's, but the Boston PBS station showed it as part of a fund-raising drive in the `80's. Everybody remembers how the game ended, Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk waving his home run smash fair; I watched the tape so many times I remember the first play of the game - Carl Yastrzemski making a sliding catch on Pete Rose's sinking liner. Announcer Joe Garagiola said ``nobody plays the outfield like Carl Yastrzemski plays leftfield in Fenway Park.'' But alas, after a few moves, including one cross country, the tape has long disappeared.
Another way to celebrate the opening of the baseball season is to re-read Jim Bouton's Ball Four. For the unititiated, it's hard to explain why this book is considered by some one of the best books ever, not just one of the best sports books. Bouton was a former star pitcher barely hanging on in the major leagues. Most of his 1969 diary involves the Seattle Pilots, the only major league team of the 20the 20th century to last only one season (it's stadium is now a Lowe's Hardware Store).
The baseball establishment was shocked by the book - players looking into women's hotel windows, playing in games drunk, and playing kissing games in the back of the bus. Bouton even said that the game's best player -Mickey Mantle- was a drunk and mean to little kids who asked for his autograph. It was a real-life MASH, or Animal House.
As the years went by, people weren't too upset with Ball Four anymore. Mickey Mantle even had fun with his boozing image. I'm sure high school and college players who read Bouton's book figured the major leagues were pretty cool.
Jim Bouton also pitched in the first major league game I ever saw- Red Sox-Yankees, Fenway Park, September 1967. Bouton didn't pitch that well in an 8-1 Boston victory. The RS third-string catcher, Mike Ryan, hit a triple off him. Time-wise this was around the low-point of Bouton's career. He spent most of the next season in the minors. Ironically, the Red Sox winning pitcher that day, Gary Bell, would be Bouton's roommate on the Pilots two years later. Bell won 13 games in `67 and would pitch in the World Series.
The 1967 RS pitcher coach was also on the Seattle Pilots in 1969; Sal ``The Barber'' Maglie, a former star pitcher with the Brooklyn Dodgers who always had a day-old beard before anyone ever heard of Don Johnson. When pitchers whould go over opposing batters in meetings, Maglie had the same response on how to pitch to about half the major league, ``just smoke him inside.'' Gary Bell did a great Sal Maglie imitation. Players appreciate that.
I met Jim Bouton at the Society of American Baseball Convention when it was held in Seattle a couple of years ago. I told him about seeing him pitch against Gary Bell. He liked it when I said I was 10 years old at that time but that he (Bouton) now looked younger than me. Jim Bouton wrote an inscription into my copy of Ball Four that day. ``To Ray, Smoke Him Inside.''

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Another World

These have been unhappy times for newspapers. Following on the heels of the Rocky Mountain News, the Seattle Post Intelligencer, around since the 1880's, called it quits this week. And who knows, the famous P-I globe may end up on E-Bay yet.
Also a company I worked for back in the 1980's and `90's, the Journal Register Company, became the first newspaper chain to file for bankrupcy a couple of weeks ago. JRC, based out of Philadelphia, owned a dozen newspapers in Pennsylvania, NY, Connecticut and Rhode Island.
Unfortunately for JRC, the Connecticut Attorney General must have woke up last week with a burr in his butt, and exclaimed that JRC executives shouldn't be getting 1.7 million bonuses (chump change of course by Bernie Madoff standards) when they owe all kinds of taxes to the state ($21.5 mill, just in corporate taxes).
Fortunately, I was low enough down in the food chain to be left alone. But the CEO at the time I was there fired publishers as often as he changed his shirt. The rumor was that he actually had a bodyguard in case he ever ran into a former (or current) employee who had gone over the edge.
As a company, I don't have much sympathy for JRC, but when newspapers close shop I have sympathy for people who lose their jobs. In the case of the P-I, until recent years when the Seattle Times and P-I became almost interchangable, it was usually considered the better Seattle daily. Tom Robbins wrote for the P-I; so did Frank Herbert, who wrote Dune; they even named a street after one of their reporter-editors, Royal Broughan.
The P-I did more investigative reporting and won more awards. I'll miss the P-I because it actually covered Seattle. The Times is liable to have a story on Enumclaw or Western Washington on its front page than one about Seattle.
It's a different world today. When I was growing up in Rhode Island, I'd wait for the paper boy. He'd deliver to all three floors in my house, two floors next door, and a couple of papers across the street. He'd deliver 20-30 papers in a block. Now, I live in an apartment building of about a dozen people. I've never seen anyone reading a newspaper, and most don't watch TV news either, which is crimes, fires and car accidents anyway.
News is moving more to the Internet. Paper is getting too expensive and I've written a few things myself that a tree shouldn't have had to die for. But people at the P-I seemed a little embarassed to compare their on-line ``paper'' to the actual paper. An on-line paper just doesn't employ the amount of people that an actual newspaper does.
No doubt, these are interesting times. Some of the smaller suburban papers are still doing well. They don't have the overhead and people will always want to read about their own kids hitting home runs in Little League. There are easily a half dozen web sites trying to fill the P-I void and there will be more. I don't know if anyone knows how it's all going to turn out.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

There's Roller Derby and then There's Roller Derby

When it looked like the Seattle Sonics would be the leaving the northwest for the filthy lucre of Oklahoma City it was suggested on various websites and in chatrooms that one ideal tenant for the Key Arena would be the Rat City Rollergirls, the city's all-female Roller Derby league. This year, those skating affecianados get their wish - the league will be skating all of its bouts (as they're currently called) at Key.
I attended the Roller Derby tournament at Key Arena a couple of years ago, featuring teams from all over the country, as part of the Bumbershoot Festival. It was a good way to spend the day but when it comes to Roller Derby I'm a traditionalist. Some would say a conservative.
To me, Roller Derby will always be the game I watched on TV as a child - the San Francisco Bay Area Bombers led by Charlie O'Connell and Joan Weston. The women would skate the 1st, 3rd, 5th and 7th periods and the men would skate the 2nd, 4th, 6th and 8th. The Bombers would take on teams like the Northwest Cardinals, Northeast Braves, New York Chiefs, Midwest Pioneers and Southern Jolters at the Kezar Pavilion in San Francisco. In later years, the Chiefs and Pioneers would start playing home games and I saw the Chiefs several times at the Providence Civic Center.
Of course, there was a certain degree of showmanship and the dirty little secret was that the star pivot skaters like O'Connell, Bill Groll and Ronnie Robinson (son of Sugar Ray) knew how to control the game and keep the score close.
The current game features leagues all over the country that skate under basically the same rules. The game's are ``on the level'' which means that team's can theoretically beat their opponents, 120-1. The new league gets its' share of criticism as well. The women wear low-cut tops, shorts, and fishnet stockings. The Westons and Ann Calvello's of my childhood have been replaced by skaters using names like Atilla the Nun and Lucille Brawl.
When I attended the ``bouts'' at Key Arena the guy sitting in front of me turned and asked, ``what are the rules of this game besides cheering when a girl on the visiting team gets knocked on her ass''? At times I wasn't sure myself of some of these new-fangled Roller Derby rules.
However, I did find a YouTube clip explaining the rules in Bay Bomber-style Roller Derby. It's not the greatest clip in the world, but it shows the final period of the 1968 championship game between the Bombers (with O'Connell and Cliff Butler) and the Northwest Cardinals (led by Ken Monte and ``Wild Man'' Bobby Seever) at the Oakland Coliseum Arena.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Wither Nickelsville

I reently attended a meeting for Nickelsville to discuss the future of Seattle's homeless encampment. Residents have to leave their current home, the University Congrational United Church by March 5, and currently have nowhere else to go. This is the Nickelodeons second home in the U District.
There were about 75 people in attendance and one thing was made the clear, Nickeleville isn't about to disband. According to Peggy Hotes, one of the on-stage speakers, a permanent site REMAINS the number one goal of the Nickelsville residents.
That was also the feeling of just about everyone who spoke from the floor. People in the hall did vote for finding a temporary home as the next thing to do but philosophically they want Nickelsville to find a permanent home.
I said there were plenty of places for Nickelsville. There were 39 proposed sites for the jail, and 34 of those were in South or Southwest Seattle which is where the city wants to dump such a facility. The Nickelodeons are a little more open-minded; they're considering the entire city, and are still looking into sites not owned by the city.
I think my comments from the floor made one of the Nickelsville leaders nostalgic. ``The first site we had (at Marginal Way and Highland) was being considered for a prison spot. That was a great spot for Nickelsville.'' Well I remember that Thursday night, two days after Nickelsville opened, when people came from all over, building a kitchen, a sign-in house, and putting up pink tents. And then the next morning, the city came and destroyed it.
There was also one guy in the audience who said Nickelsville should change its name because it was too political and scared away support from some housing groups. The response from the rest of the gathering was a resounding no. My friend Margaret, who's an outsider (she cooked one time for Nickelsville), was the hero of the day. She gave a passionate speech about why Nickelsville should keep its name and stay in Seattle. I think she said something about corrupt politicians as well. She received the loudest applause of the afternoon.
As for Nickelsville's namesake, supposedly there's a poll in existance that shows former City Council president Peter Steinbrueck ahead of Nickels in the mayoral race. What an irony it would be: Nickelsville, which they said would never last, lasting longer than Mayor Nickels.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Modern Man

This week George Carlin was posthumously presented the Mark Twain humor award at the JFK Center. Carlin found out about the award a week before he died saying, ``Twain's people contacted his people.'' George Carlin would have been a great journalist. He was a keen observer of people and loved and respected language. The above was shown as George's ``acceptance'' speech.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

F-U to G-A-U

Picture courtesy of Seattle Weekly blog.

I'm dating myself here but there was a joke in the `60's and `70's about the guy who said, ``my friends told me if I voted for Barry Goldwater the Viet Nam War would last another eight years. Sure enough, I voted for Goldwater and the war lasted another eight years.'' The modern joke, at least in Washington state, is about the guy who said, ``my friends told me if I voted for Dino Rossi, GAU would be cut. Sure enough, I voted for Rossi and they're cutting GAU.''
Christine Gregoire, she's the women who looks like she had too much Mexican food in the picture above, handily defeated Rossi for governor in November and in her new budget the kinder, gentler Gregoire announced she was cutting the state's General Assistance program.
GAU's a program for people who can't work because of health problems and they receive a grand total of $339 a month. It costs Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels more to sweep a homeless encampment on Beacon Hill. Someone told me that GAU was $333 a month 12 years ago. That means it's been raised a grand total of $6 in 12 years. People on Social Security got a $40 cost of living raise last month.
A few years ago I went with Real Change vendors and volunteers to the state capitol on Martin Luther King day. I was able to get an interview with Speaker of the House Frank Chopp, who was a bit of a hippie in his younger days. I set Frank off, which isn't the hardest thing to do, when I asked him about the state cutting GAU. Chopp said that was Dino Rossi and the Republicans deal. And they'd have to cut it over his fallen carcas.
I returned to the state capitol on Monday for another MLK Day and another opportunity for a lot of poor folks to meet with their legislators. A pleasant woman in Rep. Zach Hudgkins office told us that a lot of Senators and Representatives were unhappy with the Guv's budget proposal.
Of course, Gregoire may be playing some politics here. By putting GAU on the table she might be hoping that there will be such an outcry about trying to cut it, that the Republicans will never be able to go after it again.
Now some of you may be thinking, ``anybody who's living on $339 a month is probably homeless already and saving GAU isn't going to save the homeless.'' Of course, GAU should be much higher just like the minimum wage. But when I was on GAU I was able to get subsidized housing by putting down $339 a month as my income. Then my rent was fixed accordingly (CPC didn't make a lot of money off me). If GAU gets cut what happens when people put a big 0 next to their income?
Just another obstacle in preventing people from getting a roof over your heads. It's enough to make you feel like the Governor looks. Pass the chilli please.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Friday, January 2, 2009

The best of `07 in `08 (or `09)

This time of year many media outlets rank the top movies of 2008. But since I watch most movies on DVD most of the movies I saw this past year came out in 2007 which was an outstanding year for movies. So to be different, here's my list of the top films of 2007.

10 Tie (ties for 10th are always good). Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. Outrageous and vulgar this movie with the double entendre title was laugh-out-loud funny. The poor guy almost got hit in the face with a penis.
Persepolis. I didn't think I'd ever watch a cartoon about a girl (autobiographical cartoonist Marjane Serepi) growing up in the Middle East. But this engrossing film will teach you more about Iran than you'll ever learn on a TV newscast.

9. In The Valley Of Elah. There have been several movies about the Iraqi war (all of which have bombed at the box office) but this was the best thanks to a standout performance by Tommy Lee Jones. Tommy Lee's character lectures a school janitor early on about how the American flag is only supposed to fly upside down if the country's in a lot of trouble. When you see him walking towards the flag at the end of the film it's pretty powerful.

8. The Waitress. A small, independant movie about the trials and tribulations of some small-town waitresses. The movie's also about pies: The I Don't Want To Have A Baby Pie - quiche, egg, brie and smoked salmon; or the I Hate My Husband Pie - bittersweet chocolate and caramel.

7. Sicko. American health care sucks; Europe's is better, and this Michael Moore offering (his best movie) sends Sean Hannity into apoplexy. The DVD interview with Che Guevara's daughter is a must for socialists.

6. Before The Devil Knows You're Dead. The bungling partner movie of the year. Philip Seymour Hoffman cons his brother (Ethan Hawke) into doing all the work. Said brother always screws up. Movie begins with a full-screen shot of Hoffman's bare butt.

5. Juno. During a trip to the video store last summer I realized that everyone knew Juno. Even people who hadn't seen the movie. Some of it was the poster but Juno was a unique character and none of the movies characters made predictable decisions. Washington state's Kimya Dawson provided the funky music.

4. Gone Baby Gone. One of the things about living in different parts of the country is that you realize how pronounced regional accents are. Even if Gone Baby Gone (adapted from a Dennis Lehane novel) wasn't a good story these are the best Boston accents in the history of movies. That's because director Ben Affleck cast actual Bostonions who really did ``drive their caas to Dorchestuh.''

3. Across The Universe. A musical comprised solely of Beatle songs was probably inevitable and this movie will also get higher points from (some) Beatles' aficionado's. Also kudos to the movie's producers for using some lesser known (at least to me) Beatles' songs such as Across The Universe, Dear Prudence, and Happiness Is A Warm Gun. However, the male lead is still named Jude.

2. Michael Clayton. An underrated movie that focuses on three characters played by George Clooney, Tom Wilkinson and Tilda Swinton. The message here is that corruption is there but sometimes we just don't want to see it. And if we do see it, Michael Clayton (Clooney) will ask if we've stopped taking our meds.

1. No Country For Old Men. Speaking of interesting characters this Coen brothers' epic stars Javier Bardem as the stoic killer with the Moe Howard haircut. Despite criticisms of being too violent, No Country is reminiscent of the quirky, unpredictable movies of the `90's (some made by the Coen brothers). The only movie made in the last few years that may be considered a classic.

A trip to one video store showed that only Gone Baby Gone and Sicko aren't in the new movies section. I went to one movie in theaters this past year - Burn After Reading - and spent $17 on the movie, popcorn and soda. No doubt, I'll be watching most movies at home again this year.