1.31.2009

M.C.F.A.T. XXV Answers

Last week I posted the TWENTY-FIFTH batch of the M.C.F.A.T., or Mysterious Cloaked Figure's Astonishing Test questions. The following brave souls answered the call(and questions):

B13.

Lorna.

Kev Bayer.

Darrell.

Sean.

And as for moi:

1) Where were you when America's new president was sworn into office? I know not everyone voted for the guy(I didn't), but it's hard not to notice the historical significance, and as much as I was dealing with in my personal life this past week, I definitely saw the effects of the inauguration on those around me, and I'm sure we all have interesting stories to share.
I neither agreed with nor liked Bill Clinton. I don't agree with Obama, from his stance on abortion to his proposed economic plans, but it's hard not to like the guy. He's a comic book geek and he has definite presence and charisma. The day of the inauguration, people began vanishing from their cubicles as we got close to noon, much to the chagrin of one supervisor who walked by and wondered where everyone went. Most gathered around the flatscreens in our dining area, watching in awed silence. I kept working, but I did get a streaming video up online in the corner of my monitor. I tried calling my parents at the nursing home but no one was answering the phone. I listened to more of the ceremony in my car on the way to lunch, and sat in a pizzeria watching as the new president led the old one to his helicopter. There was a genuine sense of history in the making, of a renewed sense of patriotism and inspiration. No president lives up to his speeches and promises, and reality always sets in, worse for some than for others. I genuinely hope this one turns out as good as people think he is, and only time will tell.


2) Who is your favorite legacy hero and why?
Legacy heroes are more common in DC Comics than Marvel. They've been around so much longer, they often have new characters take on the mantle of predecessors. The masks and powers might be the same even if the person underneath changes. I've heard good things about Captain America's replacement, though I haven't read any issues firsthand. Back in my collecting years, I could argue that Quasar was a legacy hero, in that the quantum bands that gave him his powers as Protector of the Universe were passed down to him. Other notable successors included Thunderstrike(Thor's replacement before making a name for himself after the thunder god returned), War Machine(who wore the Iron Man armor for a significant period of time before getting his own distinctive suit), and Spider-Man 2099(who had the distinction of a great science fiction origin that gave him, among other abilities, organic webbing, a concept the publisher would eventually adopt for both the screen and print depictions of the present-day character).

My absolute favorite legacy character is Terry McGuiness, Batman Beyond. This was a hip and stylish animated series that passed the hero's mantle on to a young rebel who grew into the role over the course of 52 episodes, mentored by his predecessor.


3) What was your best concert experience?
A week ago, I would have said Pearl Jam. They were my favorite band back in college, and up until recently the only major act I'd ever seen. It was an amazing outdoor show at Randall's Island, and I still have the t-shirt I bought as a souvenir as well as my favorite sunglasses, which flew out of my flannel shirt pocket while moshing along with my ticket stub. I could only grab one thing, and it was the stub that vanished in the mud and grass beneath the surging crowd.

Flash forward about a decade to Metallica, and now I'm not so sure Pearl Jam was my best experience. I was closer to the stage, younger, and outside, but there was something about seeing legends in person after so many years that was epic. It also marked a return, since they had a slew of subpar albums since the black album, the album I listened to the most when commuting back and forth to college in Queens. The set list was phenomenal, playing the perfect mix of new stuff and the best of their first five albums, completely ignoring the bad years. There were lasers and black beach balls and multicolored jets of flame and I still have a mild ringing in my ears. Life is inevitably full of regrets, and I'm ecstatic to be able to cross “never saw Metallica live” off of my list.


4) You're piloting a plane when geese fly into your engine; what do you do?
If I don't wake up from that nightmare, I run screaming from the cabin, “IS ANYONE HERE A PILOT?!” Hopefully, Chesley Sullenberger is on board, or we're all going to die.


SPECIAL BONUS QUESTION: Can you name all the GoBots in the following questionable clip?

I'll admit right now that I can only name two off the top of my head. Freaking GoBots....

Leader-1(and a doppelganger), Crasher, Cop-Tur and Herr Fiend. For the record, Leader-1 and Cop-Tur were the only two names I didn't have to look up. And though I couldn't recall her name, I did remember Crasher, the evil girl robot you know is a girl because of her lipstick. Freaking GoBots.

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1.30.2009

stream of metallica

Thursday night was INSANE oh my god. Crazy day. Two meetings. Three projects demanding my full attention. Computer monitor goes gray. Restart! Computer sounds like jet engine. Restart! Don’t Panic.

Make it through the day. Get It All Done. Shut down, sign on door. Out Friday. Stop at King Kullen, get a six pack of Coronas for my friends. Have driver’s license ready, which of course means it’s the one time the cashier doesn’t ask to see it.

Get to my friends’ house. Avoid the ice on the steps they both warned me about. Get tackled by their massive mastiff. Pet dog, smooth wrinkles on her forehead, make new friend. Stop petting; she makes sad eyes. Have to pet her until other friend and pizza arrives.

Pizza and beer good. On the road, blasting Death Magnetic. Friend’s wife lights up cigarette; asks if I mind. Their car; I don’t mind. Soon wheezing, but don’t care; on the road to METALLICA!!

Road to coliseum packed with traffic. Glad I’m not one of the guys walking out in the cold selling t-shirts. Find parking a mile away by Hofstra. Long walk. Cold walk. Icy walk. People still arriving; clearly no one cared about the opening acts. Inside a sea of people. Crazy. Packed shoulder to shoulder with metalheads from 18 to 50; not fun. Find the entrance to our section, no line. Find a bathroom, line extends three gates away from where we’re sitting. By the door someone tries to cut; I hold the line. Inside, cutting asshole starts suggesting people relieve themselves in the sinks. I’m not a violent man. I’m certain I may throw a punch before the evening is over.

Inside, reunite with friends, find seats. Great seats. Up high, but not all the way at the top, and perfectly centered on the long side of the stage with a clear view of the band and the pits. In the pit, I see a fist thrown and a shirt torn. Security swarms, a sea of yellow blazers. Security scatters, a flurry of fists. Drunken a-hole vanishes again beneath overwhelming odds.

Lights drop. Guitars riff. Lasers dance around the stage. Lights around the stage are attached to giant coffins, mimicking the design of the new album. Shadowy figures take position amid the lasers. Someone is screaming “METALLICAAAAA!!!!!” and doing a great impression of my voice. I’m level with the speakers and the sound is filling me. With each song I feel energized and alive, like I have the power to do anything.

I’ve never seen them live before. They play a few songs from Death Magnetic, then kick back to older stuff, mostly Black album. But then helicopter sounds herald One from And Justice for All, and they follow with Master of Puppets. The mosh pit is going insane. Hetfield encourages the crowd to sing along. He tells us Long Island rocks; we believe every word. Different colored fire jets erupt from the stage around Lars and his annoying receding hairline. The strange urge to throw a punch returns, but it could be from the kid next to me who shouts for them to play St. Anger. I hope he’s kidding.

Kirk is an artist live, given the spotlight more than once to let his fingers dance the strings. Rob is a beast, a solid bassist with arms like tree trunks and an energy that complements the others. James and Rob have dueling riffs up on the boxes that were jetting flames moments earlier. I fear the worst, but no one gets burned. James gives the others a break as he addresses the crowd, asking who’s seeing them for the first time. He’s talking to me. My arm shoots up as do many others. James thanks us and asks what took us so long. The “St. Anger” punk protests that he wasn’t born yet when they started. I still feel like hitting him, but I also feel old. James asks who the veteran fans are and the uproar is even greater.

They play Cyanide, my favorite song from the new album and insane live. Every time I’d listen to it I’d imagine how it would look and sound live; it exceeds my expectations. My friend’s wife is surprised because she’d checked the song list before the show and Cyanide wasn’t on there; we’re all happy for surprises. There’s nothing like recognizing the opening strains of a favorite song, the excitement and anticipation of realizing what’s coming. Kirk fiddles in the spotlight for a few moments before transitioning into Nothing Else Matters. They’re bringing the energy down now, preparing people for the inevitable end. We still get some heavy stuff, even older stuff like Damage, Inc. and Kill ‘em All. They completely avoid songs from every album that sucked between the black album and Death Magnetic. Amid the smoke and fights and fires and lasers I’m engulfed in an experience that will be with me forever. The show goes into overtime and we get one last encore, a rendition of “Seek and Destroy” that demands crowd participation. I won’t have a voice left in the morning. From catwalks, a crew drops black inflatable balls for the crowd to bat around as the band reaches its big finish.

By the time we get back to the car, some of my hearing has returned. We sit in the parking lot forever, and I enjoy one last Corona. I’m so glad I decided to go. When I was being crushed in the lobby then waiting on the insane bathroom line, I was hating every minute and realizing why I haven’t gone to more concerts in my life. But for two and a half hours I forgot all of that, and I was alive.

Back home tired, typing out thoughts as they come to me, not bothering with links or normal sentence structure. Trying to recapture the energy of the moment before it fades completely. During “One” I called my mom’s cell phone which is always off; I can’t wait to listen to that four or five minute voicemail. I hope that doesn’t get me in trouble, but it can’t be any worse than the hundreds of digital cameras I saw held up filming the entire set. Most of all, I’m glad I took Friday off.

Metallica ROCKS. Wow.

1.29.2009

Hindsight Beyond Sight

If I thought my office was going to be open on time, or at all, on Wednesday, I would have woken up earlier and called the emergency number sooner.

If I knew the snow was definitely going to turn into rain later in the day, I might not have spent an hour shoveling a driveway that regained an inch of snow by the time I finished getting rid of the initial 2 or 3 inches.

If it occurred to me that my bosses would all encounter the same weather related days as I would, I might have taken the time to shave or eat breakfast instead of running in, showering, and running right back out.

If I wasn't in such a rush, I might have taken an alternate route and avoided a particularly challenging and slick hill that my car almost didn't make it to the top of.

If I didn't rush out of the cafeteria to a meeting an hour early because I was mistaken about the time, I might have had a more relaxing lunch.

If I looked and had seen tar or grease on one of the wheels of the wheelchair I sit in when I visit my dad at the nursing home, I might have avoided a black, sticky palm.

If doctors had surgically removed the ganglion cyst from my father's shoulder when it first popped up four years ago, he might have avoided the life-threatening infection that he's spent the past month battling.

If the new Knight Rider had started out with the streamlined cast it now has after last week's status quo shaking KARR episode, it might have had better ratings.

If everyone who bailed on Lost as far back as the first season had stuck around, they would have been rewarded with huge twists and mind blowing revelations.

If I sat down at the computer and started writing sooner, I might have had time to prepare a post for Friday as well, since I don't know how late I'll be getting home after the METALLICA concert!

And of course...

If Woody had gone straight to the police, none of this would have ever happened.

”Hindsight is always 20/20; looking back it's still a bit fuzzy.” -Megadeth, “Sweating Bullets”

1.28.2009

PBW: Quest for Zog

At the risk of jinxing things, my dad got some good news on Tuesday. It seems this Friday he will complete his course of antibiotics, which means there will be no reason for him to remain in the nursing home. Since there are no discharges on weekends, he's looking at coming home on Monday. I thought this was great, but he was sulking because he was hoping the meeting he and my mom had on Tuesday with an administrator meant he was getting out on Tuesday, not remaining there for another five days. Considering the possibility that he might have had to stay there until March, my mom and I are taking the news a lot better than he is.

As hints of life returning to normal begin to surface, I'm slowly making my way through various things that have fallen by the wayside, including the images for this week's Photo Blog Wednesday. Taken the weekend before my dad was admitted to the hospital, they chronicle my quest to find the ruins of King Zog. I tried once before to find the remains of a castle on Long Island once inhabited by the ruler of Albania before vandals did irreparable damage and nature reclaimed most of the land. This time, when I finally did locate the crumbling concrete structures resembling the environments of Resident Evil, I wondered how I'd missed it the first time. It was huge. Look on the ruins of the mighty and despair:




















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1.27.2009

Happy Birthday, Ma

The world is full of events and stories. Some should remain secret, and there are things some of us will take to our graves. Others should remain secret, but are too good not to tell. This is the latter. When it was all over and we were heading home, I joked with my mom about putting the story on my blog, which elicited a stern “Don't you dare!” But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Twelve hours earlier, I was on my way to work. I'd given my mom her birthday presents, and she was on her way to her knitting group before going to see my dad at the nursing home. The sun was shining, and life was better than it had been in weeks. At the office, I confidently took on a new assignment before going to lunch, and then had another meeting to present a design which I knew, based on precedent, a certain marketing person would change. I might as well have gone in with a blank piece of paper, but that happens in this business and at some point it stopped fazing me. The trick is to always have a plan B, and be ready to come up with a C, D, or E on the spot if that fails. Starting sentences with “OK, well what if we--” is essential.

After work, I went to the gym, my third visit since returning last week. I pushed even further, and my legs didn't feel as rubbery afterwards, although the occasional glimpse of myself in a mirror was still depressing. I'm not worried about getting back in the shape I was in; I just hate the fact that several months of hard work can melt in a few weeks. It takes longer to get up there than it does to fall back down. Still, I am glad that I've reached a place where I can get through a work day, get a good workout, and still work my way over to the nursing home an hour or so before visiting hours end.

My dad sat on the edge of the bed, taking in his second daily dose of antibiotic. My mom sat in the chair nearby, multitasking as she watched sitcoms, read a magazine, and napped. I took the wheelchair as has become my ritual, and I'm getting really good at controlling it. Some nights I go the entire visit without using my legs, rolling out of the way when nurses come in, rolling to the garbage when I throw something away for my folks, etc. Maybe I can get my arms to bulk up and match my legs, although it's the gut and spare chin that are my real problems. In any case, rolling around passes the time.

As the 8 PM deadline approached, my mom got up to refill my dad's water bottle, vacating her chair over which was draped her long winter coat. A few minutes later, footsteps heralded not the return of my mother, but the arrival of my godfather. I offered him my mom's seat, wheeling back to give the tall old man with the cane plenty of room to maneuver. When my mom got back, she sat next to my dad on the bed.

The old men talked for nearly an hour about everything from automobile repair to the good old days to the time honored subject of “Hey, you know who died?” As our visit crossed into overtime, I slipped my coat back on from the back of the wheelchair, and replaced my hat. When he had a moment between thoughts, my godfather asked if I was cold before tumbling back into his train of thought and resuming his original topic. My dad, who had been dozing himself earlier, was actually alert and awake, his old friend an energizing presence.

My mom finally stood and stretched, which served as more of a hint than my hat and coat. My godfather boisterously leapt to his feet, bid us goodnight, and left the room. As my mom took a step forward to take her coat from the chair where he’d sat, she froze, noticing the same thing that had me frozen at that exact second as well. In the front and center of the seat on the jacket, was an oval wet stain about two inches wide and four inches long.

“That's not...” she began.

“Is it?” I leaned forward, miming sniffing, which I had no intention in hell of actually doing. I jumped back in my best spastic Kramer impression. “It is! Uncle Dean peed on the coat!” The Seinfeld reference made the situation slightly easier to process.

My dad gave his buddy the benefit of the doubt, certain he was holding a cup of water and had probably just spilled it. I didn't recall him having a drink, and I really wasn't going to ascertain the true nature of the wet spot. The “good” news was that it was small, and on the outside of the coat toward the bottom. My mom blotted it with some paper towels before putting it on, and when we got home that thing went straight downstairs to our washing machine without passing “go” or collecting $200. If it was mine, I probably would have wanted it burned. But, maybe my dad was right. Or maybe Uncle Dean had some snow or ice on the bottom of his coat or back of his pants that simply melted. We may never know.

“Well,” I quipped, “At least he got you something for your birthday.”

1.26.2009

Phantasmic Links 1.26.09

Sunday was the closest our family has had to a normal day in about a month. My mom called my father in the morning, who impatiently asked where we were, expressing his eagerness to come home, even though it was about an hour before the time we said we'd be picking him up. When we got to the nursing home, he poked his head out of the room, hopefully in response to approaching footsteps and not because he'd been doing so every five minutes. He already was dressed, just waiting for the coat and shoes we were bringing. Signing out proved an easy task as well once we located a nurse; he just had to sign a piece of paper and tell her what time he'd be back.

And so, instead of napping in a nursing home he was able to nap in his favorite chair in the living room. I was able to go shopping on my own for the first time in a month, and we all had dinner together in the kitchen like a normal family. He was actually eager to get back for his second antibiotic treatment, as though he would miss it if he wasn't there. I doubt the nurse would just toss the IV bag if the bed was empty. He paced the room when they were a half hour late, and was a little more relaxed once he was hooked up. It's nice to see his attitude shifting from defeat to impatience; he even admitted that a few weeks ago he was “ready to pack it in” but now was not. I'm exhausted, but happy with these first steps toward getting back to normal. And now, insert clever segue here to this week's PHANTASMIC LINKS:

(1) You don't mess with the Ninja Kitten.
Hat Tip: Darrell.

(2) Hilarity ensues when Transformers and GoBots cross paths. This is probably my favorite video of the week.

(3) This plant is so sensitive!
H.T.: B13.

(4) Lunch Bag Art chronicles what one father draws on his kids' paper bags before sending them to school. I think my mom usually just wrote my name, maybe added a happy face.

(5) We still don't have teleportation, but we continue to do cool things that are very close to teleportation. Of course when I say “we”, I mean people way smarter than I with a better budget and actual scientific equipment.

(6) I wonder if this blog of Superuseless Superpowers will ever include my own improbability ability? It's probably improbable...

(7) Check out this Super Mario Bros. 3 Drum Medley! There are some really specific things to be found on the internet...
H.T.: B13.

(8) Just because all twelve have now been revealed doesn't mean you can't enter a contest to design a Steampunk Cylon.

(9) Heath Ledger wins Screen Actors Guild Award. Well deserved and earned; hope to hear of more victories for the late actor.

(10) The Dark Age is a ridiculously addictive strategy game, and while I don't recommend playing any games at work, I especially don't recommend this one. Three hours can disappear very easily, hypothetically speaking of course...


Have a link to a game, movie, article, or anything else you think might be “phantasmic”? E-mail me and it just might appear in an upcoming PHANTASMIC LINKS!

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1.25.2009

Return of the King

My dad gets to come home for a few hours on Sunday! For those just joining us, after starting the year off in the hospital with a bad shoulder infection, he ended up in a nursing home with a “sentence” of 2 to 6 weeks of intravenous antibiotics and therapy. We've learned that insurance will only cover something like 21 days, so hopefully the medicine will have had enough time to do what it has to do by then. His fever has stabilized, the swelling in his arm and hand have gone down greatly, and he's been a lot more like his old self, despite the depressing surroundings. With my mom's 70th birthday coming up on Monday, he really wanted to be free to take her out to dinner. And since the nursing home allows people to sign out for a few hours if their condition allows it, he'll be getting his wish.

There's been a lot of snow and ice lately, and I've done the best I could to manage it between going to work and visiting my dad. One advantage of the nursing home is that it forces him to recuperate and take it easy, as much as it drives him crazy to sit there. “I don't think it's working; is it dripping? It should be dripping faster.” God help us all when he figures out how to speed up his own IV. But his impatience is a good sign, and a lot more like the man who raised me than the guy who was talking about being “worn out” and “finished” a few weeks ago. If he was home, he wouldn't be able to sit idle while there was still ice in the driveway or Christmas ornaments up around the house. I've done a little bit at a time, and Saturday morning got the driveway completely clear so he'll come home to asphalt. The weather warmed up briefly just when I needed it to.

The home isn't all that depressing, though it is sad to see the condition some people are in. An old man drooling in a wheelchair in the hallway turned out to be our old mailman. We all spoke to him for a few minutes, though he didn't recognize who we were right away. Even when he said we looked familiar and then that he remembered us, I'm not entirely sure he did. For some reason he thought my name was “Christopher”, which we all know it is not. There's another guy who always says hello when he's sitting out in the hall. I returned his greeting, and now can't walk past his room without hearing “HEY BUDDY! HEY! HEY BUDDY!” I think John Dorian once had a similar situation with one of his patients. I've never seen any family visit the guy either, which is kind of sad. He did have a visit from my overly friendly godfather the other day, who wandered in to the guy's room to chat while a nurse needed more space to work on my dad.

My dad's roommate is an interesting case as well, an old Italian guy who feels he can eat anything he wants after multiple bypass operations. He shared a giant mozzarella sandwich with my mom the other day that his family had brought him, and on Saturday he just wandered out because he was sick of the food there. Eight hours later when he still hadn't returned, we asked one of the nurses who told us the guy owned his own restaurant, and was always coming and going. So there's definitely a wide range in attitude, capability, and freedom among the population.

It will be nice to have my dad home. He hasn't set foot in his own house since January 5th; in 78 years I don't think he ever went on a vacation that lasted more than three days. The cats will certainly be curious and sniffing the ankles of the familiar “newcomer”. The hard thing will be bringing him back, but since he has a stent installed in his arm that will eventually have to be removed, he knows he's not quite done with the doctors. The tough thing too with any infection is explaining to a person that, although he or she might be feeling better, it's important to finish any prescribed course of antibiotics to eradicate the bacteria completely. The evil little bastards might not be gone completely, only weak, and might come back with a vengeance if given an opening.

This is only halftime in the big game, not a true return, but a welcome prelude to that day and a sign that the battle is closer to being won.

1.24.2009

M.C.F.A.T. Volume XXV

It's 2009, and the TWENTY-FIFTH edition of the M.C.F.A.T., or Mysterious Cloaked Figure's Astonishing Test is the first of the year! I can't believe January is almost over, but this has been an insane month for the Whorenelli clan.

If you're just joining us, this test practically explains itself. Just answer the questions below in the comment section or on your own blogs, and check back in a week or so when I link to your answers and post my own:

1) Where were you when America's new president was sworn into office? I know not everyone voted for the guy(I didn't), but it's hard not to notice the historical significance, and as much as I was dealing with in my personal life this past week, I definitely saw the effects of the inauguration on those around me, and I'm sure we all have interesting stories to share.

2) Who is your favorite legacy hero and why?

3) What was your best concert experience?

4) You're piloting a plane when geese fly into your engine; what do you do?

SPECIAL BONUS QUESTION: Can you name all the GoBots in the following questionable clip?

I'll admit right now that I can only name two off the top of my head. Freaking GoBots....


There's no right or wrong, and you can't fail if you answer. Good luck!

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1.23.2009

The New Routine

Old habits die hard. All week, as I've watched shows I'd normally watch with my father, I've had to restrain myself from shouting, “IT'S BACK ONNN!!!” after each commercial break, as though he were still just down the hall or in the kitchen. Once, in an exhausted state, I actually got out the first few syllables, eliciting a confused inquiry from my mom in the next room.

I also miss explaining plot points to him on commercial breaks. Sometimes he'd ask questions during a show which could be grating, but for the most part he'd wait for an intermission. I told him on Wednesday to feel free to call during the premiere of Lost, but he insisted he wouldn't watch it because his roommate at the nursing home would be trying to sleep. I pointed out that the little speakers next to his bed wasn't as audible on the other side of the room, especially with the curtain partly drawn, but he was also worried that the light from the television would keep the other guy up. Mind you, the other guy was still watching his television and we couldn't even hear it, but that's my dad, always thinking about the other guy. We could all learn a lot from him.

We're slowly settling into a new routine, adjusting to the change in our lives. The visiting hours are different at the home and, unlike the hospital, my mom can't spend every free second of the day there. I can't get in to see him before work anymore, which only leaves a three hour window after work. My mom's starting to get back into her morning routine, running errands and taking care of things around the house while my dad has his therapy sessions. On Thursday, they apparently had him pulling small objects out of clay which irritated him since he has no feeling in his fingers, but I could clearly see how that was the point, to work on getting some of his dexterity back. Therapy doesn't work right away, but I am encouraged by the direction they're going in.

I finally went back to the gym on Thursday night. I left work right around 5, only did 15 minutes on one cardio machine, and strength trained on only three machines in the circuit. I think it may have been my first trip there this year, and hopefully a little exercise is better than none at all. I still had time to see my dad, and when my boisterous godfather dropped by, he pushed the limits of visiting hour by a good 45 minutes. He also hit on one of the nurses, telling her he thought she had 3 kids instead of 2 because he “counted [her] stretch marks”. I hope the staff has a sense of humor and doesn't blame my dad for his friend.

I'm starting to adjust and learn that it is possible to deal with this situation and lead some small aspect of my normal life with minimum guilt. I have an opportunity to see Metallica next week thanks to some friends with an extra ticket, and I'm still wrestling with it. On the one hand, I've never seen them live, and I haven't been to a concert since I saw Pearl Jam back in 1996. On the other, the concert is right after work so I wouldn't get to visit my dad that day. He keeps telling me to live my life and go, and I keep trying to figure out if that's sincerity or sarcasm. I think it's the former since my dad isn't remotely the sarcastic type. I am taking off work the day after the concert, so I could make it up to him by spending more time with him then.

A new routine is slowly forming. I'm back to going directly to work, pretty much on time. On a day when I can leave on time, which is the majority of them, I can fit in a short workout and still see my dad. Visiting hours end at 8, so I still get home in time for most of my shows. And while I wasn't able to discuss 24 or Lost with my father while they were airing, I was able to provide recaps for him the next day. Lost was especially complicated with the added element of nonlinear time travel akin to a record needle skipping. To my surprise, my dad seemed to follow everything I told him. Maybe I made sense of everything by putting the disparate elements into a more linear order. Maybe he was just nodding, not really listening as he was enjoying the background noise that helped him pass the time until his latest dose of antibiotic drip was complete.

The picture forming with Lost's overall plot right now seems to be about course correction, about things that are not the way they should be, the consequences of that situation, and the slow journey to set things right. Life is like that right now. My dad shouldn't be sitting in some strange room with strange people hooked up to strange beeping machines. My mom shouldn't be sleeping in a chair next to his bed, and I shouldn't have anywhere to go after work other than the gym, my house, or some social event like a concert or a happy hour. That's the way life should be. We're working around this new routine though, and eventually everything will be as it should once more.

1.22.2009

Another Kev Bayer Meme

Time, as explained by a physicist on the season premiere of Lost, is like a street. We can drive forward on the street, and we can drive backward, but we can't change the street. As best as I can understand that analogy, the show is going with the classic time paradox that doesn't allow for divergent alternate timelines. Whatever happens, happens, and if someone from the future interacted with someone in the past, it's something that already happened. Is your brain dripping out of your ears yet? Mine is fairly close, reeling from the possibilities of the best time travel epic since a West Coast Avengers arc I read back in high school. Anyone who knows me or that obscure reference to a story in which a team of heroes are trapped in the past with a time machine that only goes backwards knows that I'm issuing the highest praise. I think, once they start tying things back to mysteries of past episodes, anyone who criticized the show for not having an apparent plan is going to realize how meticulously planned in advance the whole saga actually was.

Of course, after a long day of work, visiting my dad at the nursing home, watching a surprisingly good episode of Knight Rider(given my specific love of certain robots), and the aforementioned two hours of mind-melting Lost, it's a miracle I have the energy to string this many (allegedly) coherent words together. So with apologies, I'm once again taking the easy meme route out, and drawing 20 questions from the coherent Kev Bayer:

1) What are your nicknames?
Did that “Bubsta” thing ever catch on? In high school some people called me “Heat”, although that's hard to explain without giving away my true secret identity. There were the mean nicknames like “troll” or “hobbit” and a bunch of other ones, but “MCF” is probably the most common name I go by when not going by my actual name.

2) What's your Chinese Astrology sign? Be specific, with the element and stuff!
Apparently, according to http://chineseastrology.com/, I was born in the year of the Wood Tiger, which for some reason makes me think of golf. Mysterious. Adjectives from the description of that year which might apply to me include “tenderhearted” and “creative” while others like “adventurous” and “fiercely independent” are way off. I have trouble with astrology because these things always include such a range of attributes that some portion will apply to any given person.

3) What's the last book you read?
I can't remember, but I think it was Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which means I went through 2008 without reading a single novel. This is in great contrast to the year 2000, in which I'd read about 10 or 11 books before the year was half over. I was watching fewer DVDs back then. Maybe it's time to revisit some of the series I've let fall by the wayside.

4) What color shirt are you wearing now?
Red.

5) Are you an introvert or extrovert?
Introvert is my natural state, unless I've had too much to drink, which fortunately(or unfortunately) only happens 2 or 3 times a year.

6) Mozilla Firefox or Internet Explorer?
Firefox all the way, especially since IE hasn't been supported for the Mac in years. I also use Opera, which loads some sites better than Firefox does.

7) Do you nap a lot?
I don't nap as much as I'd like. When life is normal and I get to gym after work, that usually perks me up. I've been known to lose 2 or 3 hours on a Sunday afternoon, and I dozed more than once this past weekend sitting in a nursing home with my dad.

8) What was/were your favorite childhood toys?
Transformers! And LEGO, with which I often made my own Transformers.

9) What's your current fandom/obsession/addiction?
To simplify I would say the internet itself, through which I find message boards and blogs relating to television shows, movies, comics, and pretty much anything I've ever been a fan of, obsessed over, or been addicted to.

10) What are you currently reading?
These questions, and my answers as I write them.

11) What was the last thing you ate today?
A really thick chocolate chip cookie.

12) How long does it take you to get ready in the morning?
A little over an hour, though with the addition of shoveling the driveway, closer to an hour and a half.

13) What websites do you visit daily?
This one, several connected blogs, Newsarama, Armor Games, Television Without Pity, and an addictive undisclosed popular social network.

14) What's the last movie you watched?
Cheaper by the Dozen 2. Don't judge me; it was better than it looks. Still, I really need to get to the stack of DVDs I've fallen behind on of late.

15) Do you like to clean?
The weird thing is, I actually do like to clean, especially vacuuming or washing windows, but I don't actually do it. I do laundry every Sunday which I enjoy and occasionally wash dishes, which I don't enjoy.

16) What time is your usual bedtime?
Between midnight and 1 AM.

17) Do you read any web comics?
Just Questionable Content, which could also count as an answer to #13. I've fallen behind again on the Heroes Graphic Novels. Usually what happens is I let those go for a few weeks to a month, then read several in a row and catch up when I remember.

18) What is your favorite weather?
I hate extremes. I hate freezing, driving in snow, and chopping ice. I hate sweating if I just blink. Give me Spring with clear blue skies and blooming flowers, or Fall, when the leaves are changing color and the heat wave is over, but the big chill hasn't hit yet.

19) Iceland is going bankrupt. If you ended up buying it at the auction, what would you do with it?
I would make the world's biggest margarita, the size of a village, and waste away in it looking for my lost shaker of salt....

20) Where would you see yourself in ten years?
I'll be right here, wherever here might be.

1.21.2009

PBW: Just Gotta Get Out

As dated as some of the furnishings and decor in my father's nursing home might be, it's nothing compared to some of the abandoned asylums I've come across in my journeys. A few weeks ago, B13 and I were stopped by a security guard at one such site, and told we couldn't enter the buildings(obviously) and that we shouldn't take pictures because of “patient confidentiality”(less obviously). Apparently some sections were still in use, so it's probably better that the cop found us before some random roaming mental patient. In any case, we set out for another collection of abandoned buildings in a place where photography and exploration was allowed, and thus I got all the material I needed for another Photo Blog Wednesday:













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1.20.2009

AlphaBreak

I think everyone, including myself, could probably use a break from the constant play-by-play about my dad. I'll try to get the blog back on track as best as I can, though it should be understandable if my focus is elsewhere these days. And I won't stop reporting on his condition until he's finally back home. The biggest development on Monday other than the start of his physical therapy, was the ill-advised move of giving my dad a Percoset when all he wanted was a Tylenol for his shoulder pain. Apparently a nurse said “Oh, this is better” and he took it without asking any questions. He was fine when I spoke to my mother at lunch, but by the time I got to the nursing home after work, I found him drowsy and out of it. My mom told me about the pill, and how afterwards he was very dizzy and slept most of the day. We made sure the staff noted in his file that he has an adverse reaction to that, especially since he already had a similar experience when they gave him one while he was in the hospital. Pain medication should be used sparingly as needed, since it's a form of management and not a cure. In some cases, such as this one, the side effects are worse than the ailment. Unbelievable.

Meanwhile, back in the regularly scheduled blogging world, Kev Bayer posted the meme below. I'm going to be lazy for a change and not bother linking all the proper names; right now I barely have the energy to format.

A
- Available: Single? Yes. Free? Not these days.
- Age: 34
- Animal: Cats

B
- Beer: I had a few near the end of November, so I think I'm overdue for a few more.
- Birthday: November 4th
- Best feeling in world: Relief.
- Blind or Deaf: Deaf. I couldn't bear it if I couldn't see the beauty in this world, and while being deaf would hinder my musical career I could function otherwise in every other area of my life.
- Best weather: Moderate, warm enough to be outside without a jacket but not so hot that I sweat if I just blink.
- Been in Love: A few times, all unrequited except for one. I'm pretty sure she felt the same way, at least for the first year or two of the relationship.
- Been on stage: Yes.
- Believe in Magic: I believe in illusions.
- Believe in Santa: No, and I was always suspicious. One year I set a “trap” by leaving talcum powder around the fireplace and my folks, God bless them, had to go along with it and leave fake boot prints for me to find, to sustain the illusion.

C
- Candy: Kit-Kat
- Color: Red
- Chocolate/Vanilla: Vanilla for ice cream, though with a touch of chocolate like a fudge swirl, cookies and cream, or rocky road. With candy and cookies I lean toward chocolate more.
- Chinese/Mexican: More or less even, with Mexican having a slight advantage in the spicy department.
- Cake or pie: I LOVE Apple Pie, but there are a lot more varieties of cakes I enjoy.
- Continent to visit: I used to fantasize about going to Italy someday, maybe going to Venice for my honeymoon. Realistically, I probably won't ever leave North America which reduces the odds of my plane crashing or my ship sinking. But where MCF is concerned, does that reduce the odds enough?
- Cheese: I'm smiling; take the damn picture already!

D
- Day or Night: Night.
- Dance in the rain: Rain? No. Street? Once, after too much vodka and karaoke...

E
- Eyes: Both.
- Everyone has: Pain.
- Ever failed a class? Never. A few tests, most notably my first road test, but never an entire class.

F
- Full name: Michael Wayvid Whorenelli-Alba
- First thoughts waking up: “G*ddamnit...”
- Food: Too much for my own good, especially when nervous or bored.

G
- Greatest Fear: Death of loved ones or a slow painful death for myself.
- Goals: Owning my own home, earning a six figure salary, marrying a beautiful woman who shares and/or accepts my eccentric interests, siring a male heir so my family name lives on.
- Get along with your parents: Most of the time.
- Good luck charm: I carried the very first thing my ex-girlfriend gave me, two buttons from Starbucks, in my pocket every single day for two and a half years, and she still dumped me. Me and good luck don't mix.

H
- Hair Color: Black
- Height: Short
- Happy: Most of the time; it helps to have a good sense of humor.
- Holiday: Memorial Day or Independence Day. Nothing like parades in the morning and barbecues in the evening.
- How do you want to die: I don't, but I still haven't figured out how to upload my consciousness into the internet, so I'll go with peacefully in my sleep while dreaming happily.

I
- Ice Cream: Cookies ‘n Cream
- Instrument: Baritone Horn

J
- Jewelry: I used to wear my crucifix regularly, though the last few years it just hangs on a hook in front of my bulletin board. The less I have on me to lose the better.
- Job: Art Director.
- Write a journal: A journal? What kind of loser writes about his life every day? Oh, wait...

K
- Kids: I'd be happy with two, overwhelmed and broke with any more than that.
- Kickboxing or karate: I haven't fought in years, but I think my fighting style would best have been described as “Kringing”....

L
- Longest Car Ride: Five hours to Rey's wedding in Cornshucksbergtonville, PA.
- Love: Aesthetics.
- Letter: X.
- Laughed so hard you cried: Hanging out with my college buddies.

M
- Movies: Action, Sci Fi, Comic Book, Comedy, Romance, Horror, and more and I STILL haven't seen everything. I need a chip that instantly downloads movies to my brain.
- Music: Rock mostly, especially grunge, metal, and alternative, with some rap.
- McD's or BK: BK. McD's makes me ill and weak, though my BK tolerance is also not what it used to be.

N
- Number of Siblings: 0.
- Number of Piercings: 0.
- Number of Tattoos: 0.
- Number: 69. That was the answer to life, the universe, and everything, right?

N
- One wish: Unlimited wishes, duuuh.

P
- Perfect Pizza: Pepperoni slices that turn plates transparent with grease.
- Pepsi/Coke: Pepsi

Q
- Quote: ou fool! You fell victim to one of the classic blunders! The most famous is never get involved in a land war in Asia, but only slightly less well-known is this: never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line!” Vizzini, The Princess Bride

R
- Reason to cry: Loss of a loved one or a sad movie or television show. Sometimes it doesn't have to be sad, only moving, and sometimes it catches me by surprise. I felt a lump in my throat at the end of this week's How I Met Your Mother and had to stop myself. Stupid cliché romantic airport gesture...
- Reality TV: I don't like reality, not that the scripted trash on television with all the wanna-bes and used-to-bes qualifies as REAL.
- Radio Station: K-Rock 92.3 FM, or Q-104.3.
- Roll your tongue in a circle: I thought everyone could, but I've heard otherwise.

S
- Song: Too many to list; my brain is always on shuffle, often sticking on the last song I heard on the radio.
- Shoe size: 10-10.5
- Salad Dressing: Russian or French or Caesar.
- Sushi: Ugh. Apart from Tuna and once Flounder, I've never really liked seafood; why would I want it raw?
- Skipped school: Twice in college I skipped a class, once for an art club event and once because I didn't feel like going and decided to cut with Rey just so I could say at least once in my life I played hooky. I never missed an entire day of school in my life.
- Smoked: No, I like breathing.
- Sing well: Not remotely, which is a shame since I enjoy it so much.
- In the shower:
- Swear: As needed. I avoid casual swearing, but sometimes a situation just merits a profanity.
- Strawberries/Blueberries: Strawberries

T
- Time for bed: Between midnight and 1 AM, depending on when I finish writing and when I force myself to turn off the computer and call it a day.

U
- Unpredictable: I'd like to be, but I'm not.
V
- Vacation spot: My room? I guess for me, the further I am from civilization and people the more clear my head is. Give me trails, beaches, and my camera, and I'm happy.

W
- Weakness: Laziness, shyness, fear.
- Which friend acts like you: I tend to act like my friends
- Who makes you laugh most: Mel Brooks, Leslie Nielsen, Steve Carrell.
- Wanted to be a model: ROFL.
- Where do we go when we die: I'm praying for heaven, but I honestly won't know where I'm going until I get there.
- Worst Weather: I want to say heat and humidity, but right now all I can think about is the constant snow. This 1-2 inches every other day bull has to stop already.

X
- X-Rays: Teeth, lungs, guts, and once my hand.

Y
- Year it is now: 2099
- Yellow: Ledbetter

Z
- Zoo animal: Axolotl!

1.19.2009

Phantasmic Links 1.19.09

Life has become surreal. I spent Sunday morning shoveling snow so we could get up to see my dad in the nursing home. It was a nice day in which I watched a football game with my old man. The evening was a little rough when we had trouble with his demented roommate, who usually just smiles, stares, and only speaks when someone tries to get him to eat. As I sat next to my dad who was receiving his antibiotic drip, my mom let out an “oh jeez”, and left the room. I turned to see the other old man was standing up and pulling down his diaper. My mom got a nurse, who helped the old guy back into his clothes and into the bed. Not two minutes later, he was out of bed and sitting bare-ass in one of the visitor's chairs. I will never, ever sit in one of those chairs again. They decided to wheel him out of the room over to the nurse's station, the better to keep an eye on him. I was really nervous about him knocking over my dad's IV pole. As we sat there, this smiling face appeared in the door as the wacky guy wheeled himself down the hall without the nurses noticing. He got violent when she tried to wheel him away, gripping the door and screaming that he wanted to go to bed. Don't ask me where the energy came from since he wasn't eating. And, after they gave him a sedative and put him back in bed, don't ask me why the accident he had when he was pulling off his pants again a minute later stank so badly. I suppose it could have been worse, and I did feel sorry for the guy, but I'm glad the man's daughter told us he was being released on Tuesday. I'm not sure my dad, or us for that matter, could take a few more days of that let alone a few more weeks. We didn't have a problem with the guy the first few nights, so hopefully it was just a fluke.

My dad meanwhile, cannot wait to come home. I was concerned with the stricter visiting hours. They actually come around and kick us out at 8 PM, whereas the hospital was more lenient in letting us stay until 10. I had been stopping by to see my dad every morning before work in the hospital, but in the home no one is allowed in before 10 AM. “You don't have to come in the morning,” said my dad, “It's not like I'm dying anymore, not yet.” That's probably the most positive thing he's said about this whole situation in weeks, and went a long way toward putting my mind more at ease. I realize it might have been said for my benefit, and even if his attitude has changed he's neither immortal nor in control of his ailments. But I do know that a person's state of mind is important in winning any health battle, and I'm seeing a fire in him that had been absent for a few weeks there.

But, I'd better stop writing about all this before my jinx powers kick in again. Let's get to this week's PHANTASMIC LINKS:

(1) What if The Dark Knight was made into an 8-bit Sunsoft game like the original Batman game for the NES? I spent hours mastering the original back in the day, and I would totally play this one if it were real.
Hat Tip: Darrell.

(2) I have a feeling we won't be seeing this Durex condom ad on network television anytime soon, but the concept is genius.

(3) GET TO THE CHOPPAAAAA!! I shouldn't admit to headbanging and singing along at my computer, right?
H.T.: B13.

(4) Hacking your brain: no drugs required! I so want to try some of these...
H.T.: Darrell.

(5) These Polish movie posters are more than just posters; they're art.

(6) The Earth: noisier than you might think...

(7) Cloaking device? I wonder if I can somehow get royalties...

(8) I have NO idea what's going on here, but it stars Hulk Hogan and a song that will now be stuck in my head...
H.T.: B13.

(9) Generate your own movies... Here's mine.

(10) T-Zero Turbo X is a race in space. The description says the race is over a “fiery planet”, which to me looks an awful lot like a sun...


Have a link to a game, movie, article, or anything else you think might be “phantasmic”? E-mail me and it just might appear in an upcoming PHANTASMIC LINKS!

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1.18.2009

Saturday Minutia

8:00 AM: The sound of my cat “typing” on my computer keyboard tells me it's time to get up. Either the furry little genius turned it on, or I left it on overnight. In either case, I find and watch the latest episode of Battlestar Galactica. Holy Frak.

8:52 AM: I decide to tackle the Christmas tree before my mom gets up and we go to visit my dad at the nursing home. She wanted to keep it up until company came over and saw it, or until my dad came home to see it. He wanted the thing down and out two weeks ago, so I know he wouldn't be too happy to see it up in March.

9:15 AM: My mom runs frantically into the kitchen, shouting about how she's overslept and demanding to know why I didn't wake her. She swears she may have slept 4 or 5 consecutive hours, and I point out that she needs that much rest and more; one sick parent is enough of a crisis right now.

9:27 AM: With the ornaments and lights all off the tree and properly boxed, I manage to lug the whole potted plant out into the yard. I lift with my knees and use all my strength, and I wonder how an old man with no rotator cuff and the early stages of what would become a serious infection managed to get the thing into the house in the first place. It's probably another one of those contributing factors toward why this thing hit him so hard. I'm honestly the only person I know who's more stubborn than that man.

10:03 AM: The sun is shining, giving the deceptive illusion of warmth, so while my mom eats breakfast I grab the strongest shovel I can find and fight the sheet of ice covering our driveway. I win a few battles, but the ice ultimately wins the war.

10:57 AM: I've finally had my breakfast, and gotten cleaned up and dressed. My mom is just about ready to leave when the phone rings, a sound that has us both jumping lately. I answer, and it's her oldest brother, my Uncle Ciro, checking how things are going. I relate the tale of our dire first impression, and he agrees that while we need to give the place a chance, we definitely shouldn't hesitate to get my dad out of there if things don't improve. He then tells me his tale of misfortune. Apparently, in the 2 or 3 hours he was at the hospital visiting my parents on Friday, someone smashed a window in his house, located in a very nice area mind you, and stole a ton of stuff, including his digital camera, his checkbooks, and some of my late aunt's jewelry. He has alarms on all the doors, but not those windows. I'm just glad he was with my folks and not home when it happened, although it's just as likely the thieves had been watching and chose to enter when no one was home. The guy spent a month in Florida not long ago without incident, but in just two hours he became the victim of a smash and grab. I didn't think people on my mom's side had that kind of luck.

12:01 PM: Of course my mom has to talk to my uncle once she hears what happened. I tried mouthing the words to her while I was on the phone, but she kept asking “Robert? What happened to Robert?”, so I finally gave up. Meanwhile, I dismantled the wall “tree” she makes every year by taping all the cards we've received together in ascending size order from top to bottom. At the nursing home, we find my dad sitting up and alert, answering the questions of a therapist. The place looks much different in the daytime, with plenty of sunlight streaming through the windows. The decor is still off by several decades, but seemed brighter and cleaner. The therapist was breaking down what they would be doing to keep my dad active, to keep the circulation going with a few sessions a day so his arms wouldn't lock up. She even promised to show him things to make his life easier once he was home. With his arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome, he sometimes needs our help with buttons, shoelaces, and other challenging aspects of getting dressed. As you can imagine, this is a great pride issue and while we're here to help him, he prefers to do it himself. More than once he's sighed in angry frustration when I'd take a utensil or some other item wrapped in plastic from him in the hospital to open it for him. The therapist told him about these hooks he could use to button his shirt, strings that could help him pull on socks without having to bend as much, and shoes with clasps instead of laces. All in all, it was very positive, planning for the future and focusing on the “when” and not the “if”.

3:30 PM: There's something about the air in a nursing home, perhaps the way they crank the heat up to “11”. After pushing my dad through the building on a wheelchair tour, I find myself dozing in a chair in his room, losing consciousness on more than one occasion. I even have a weird dream in which I'm driving at night through a desert, and an alien bug smashes on my windshield. I freak out because I'm right on the other side of the glass, lying across the dashboard rather than sitting behind the wheel. As the car goes off the road and hits bumps, I try to roll over the steering wheel and into a seat, only to find my mom shaking my arm to wake me because a nurse can't get past me. We decide to leave and get some errands done before mass.

4:15 PM: After leaving my mom at a store, I fill up my gas tank and try to put air in a tire that looked low. The bell on the pump isn't dinging, and I'm pretty sure I'm letting air out. I pull a gauge out of my pocket and check, and while I haven't lost air I haven't gained any either. I give up, get my mom, hit a few more stores, then head home to feed a couple of starving cats and check the answering machine.

6:00 PM: It was really weird hearing my dad's name, which is also my name, read when the lector prayed for the sick in our parish. I imagine he had a similar experience seven years ago when it was me everyone was praying for. Back at the home, my dad is happy about the dinner he was fed, which is excellent contrast to his roommate who smiles and stares at everyone but refuses to eat no matter how much his wife and kids implore him. My father isn't remotely there yet. We stay until he gets his second dose of antibiotic for the day, and he actually dozes off and seems to be sleeping comfortably. I glance from his bed to his wheelchair, where my mom sits with her head back, also snoring. They're almost twins, and it's such a cute scene ripped from some Sunday comic strip that I'm probably going to end up drawing it when I have a moment to breathe. I doze off myself for a bit, half hearing what sounds like a new Joe Rogan game show on the television. I assume I'm dreaming again.

8:45 PM: “WHERE'D YOU PARK YOUR CAR!” shouts my dad's slightly demented neighbor, breaking the silence and addressing his son. “Huh, what?” asks my groggy mom. “Huh, what? I didn't say anything?” replies my bewildered dad. We're 45 minutes past visiting hours, and I'm starving, so I don't feel too guilty in suggesting we call it a night. I've been toying with the idea of getting a small portable DVD player so I could keep up with my movies, maybe watch them during the week on my lunch hour in my car, or bring headphones and watch in the nursing home when my dad is napping. I figure I can kill two birds with one stone on Saturday night by stopping at a Target near a mall with a food court, and treating my mom to Arby's, which is very rare around here. Other than that food court, I only know of one other in Queens. We used to have a lot more when I was a kid.

9:25 PM: In Target I see one or two demo players that I like at decent prices, but the shelves haven't been restocked and the store is close to closing. My mom picks up a few boxes of graham crackers for my dad, and we check out and head over to the food court, to discover Arby's has been walled up as though it never existed in that corner of the food court.

10:15 PM: I end up driving 15 miles back to my home town to the same damned Burger King I eat at nearly every Saturday. My eyes are bigger than my stomach and after a day of not eating, I order one or two sandwiches too many.

10:25 PM: I find messages on my home answering machine and via e-mail from college friends I hear from once or twice a year, inviting me out to see Notorious. There's no time or theater specified, and as much as I'd like to see my buddies I probably wouldn't be right in taking off with everything that's happening right now. I'm also exhausted and full of fast food, so I return their messages thanking them for the invite and explaining my family's current focus.

11:35 PM: I sit down at the computer and, after checking my usual haunts, start typing. Hopefully I've made some sense of the day.

12:45 AM, SUNDAY: Spell check, post, sleep. Repeat some steps tomorrow....

1.17.2009

Speaking Too Soon

I should rename my blog “MCF's Father of Improbability”. I have this habit of saying things like “everything is going to be okay now” or ‘that wasn't so bad”, and that usually backfires on me. Apparently, I have the power to affect my immediate family as well, so perhaps I should move on to other topics soon.

My dad was supposed to be discharged by 4 PM on Friday, free from a nearly two week hospital ordeal only to spend another 2-6 weeks in a nursing home on antibiotics, also receiving therapy for his arm, swollen and immobilized from the lack of a rotator cuff and the damage done from his infected shoulder wound. They installed a shunt in his arm to make hooking up an IV much easier. Then they did an x-ray to make sure it was in correctly. When the ambulette driver arrived to pick up my father, the x-ray results came back, showing the thing was in wrong. So they had to adjust it, and make the driver wait. Then they found out the paperwork wasn't complete and the nursing home didn't have the antibiotic yet. So the hospital had to get one of their bags and send it over with my dad.

Somehow, the whole mess got sorted out, and by 7 PM I was wandering in to a nursing home with no idea where my parents were. Outside, two old men lounged in wheelchairs and smoked cigarettes. I suppose at some age, quitting a bad habit becomes moot. Inside I found no security, and a decor that was a cross between the Overlook Hotel from The Shining and the hospital from Silent Hill. The front office was closed, with a sign advising visitors to take the elevator to the first floor and find the supervisor. I found an empty office, and various rooms with the elderly napping, staring, or both. In an alcove, I tried calling my mom's cell phone which to my surprise, was on. But she didn't answer, because she apparently didn't know how. I couldn't leave a voicemail, because her inbox was full. I'll need to show her how to empty that. But, I discovered that she had left me a message as I was calling her, and the room number she gave me was about three doors down from where I was standing. In a movie about my life, I would totally have filmed that scene from outside so people could see through the windows and see how close we were when making our calls.

My dad was sitting up, impatiently wondering when someone was going to get him antibiotic. I've never been happier to see him impatient; he's now gung-ho about getting healthy and getting out of that hellhole. I feared a Ben Stiller in Happy Gilmore orderly might be lurking. Instead, a nurse walking past the room did a double take, said, “Oh THERE you are!”, and informed us we were in the wrong room.

In the correct room, my dad's roommate slept by the window, his television blaring. After a while, as my mom held the collar of her sweater close to her nose, I began picking up a scent, kind of a mix of urine, dead animals, and some kind of industrial strength cleanser. It was worst in one particular corner, and didn't seem to be coming from the roommates side of the room. In the hall, there was no scent at all. My dad, thankfully, has no sense of smell and sat oblivious to what was upsetting my mom, who kept asking, “What have I done?” over and over. I was a bit concerned with the place as well, but reassured her that the smell was something that could be handled, and would not be indicative of the overall experience.

Cyrus, the chief nurse, stopped by to interview my dad, and immediately picked up that something was wrong. We pointed out the smell, which he didn't notice, or admit to noticing, but he acted quickly in having one of the staff contact a janitor. Meanwhile, he pulled a hamper from the corner of the room, and took a look inside. “What is that?” he wondered aloud, as I silently wondered if there were forgotten soiled garments, a dead rat, or some horrid combination of the two. In any case, the smell faded once he removed that container, and the janitor showed up to mop the entire area, threw down some powerfully strong blue stuff, and pretty soon had the place smelling clean. I meanwhile, in my infinite improbability, rued ever making the case that a nursing home would be a more sterile environment in which to recuperate than our house. My dad, surprisingly, was in favor of giving the place a chance. “I can't give up after just an hour,” he reasoned.

I have to say, once the smell issue was resolved, and we had a chance to speak with Cyrus, I felt a bit better. He was very thorough in his interview, and patient when my dad couldn't hear or understand some of the questions. At one point, one of the nurses took my dad to be weighed, and exclaimed, “Oh, he walks GOOD!” I have to believe she either deals with a lot of old people who aren't so fortunate, or that she didn't check the chart to see that he was in there primarily because of a shoulder problem. If she only knew the man walks for miles with various bands, sometimes as long as twelve hours at a time.

I'm a little afraid to say things are looking up, or that everything is going to work out fine. I have to stop twisting probability. It doesn't matter if I get hurt, but I can't be responsible for the misfortune of others. My mom seems more shaken up by the whole thing than my dad, who seems happy to be out of the hospital and hasn't realized he's in a hospital from the 1970s, complete with non-electric beds that adjust using cranks. He'll have the use of a gym and meet regularly with a physical therapist, who will assess his capabilities, and that at least is one thing he wouldn't have here at home. When we left him, he looked comfortable in the bed, and hopefully will be able to rest a little easier. My mom insists she won't be able to sleep while he's there, and keeps beating herself up over the decision, while I remind her that she won't be any good to anybody if she doesn't take care of herself. The nursing home didn't make the best first impression, but we'll see in a few days whether or not we're going to stay on this course of action. As for me, I'm going to do my best to cut back on my jinxing predictions. I think we all know how that is going to turn out...

1.16.2009

The Decision

Supposedly, with wind, the temperature on Thursday was 5. It felt like it too when I went outside to start the cars and, after two weeks sitting at the base of our driveway, I decided to start my father's car and drive it further up, to make room to shovel snow. The inch or so of dusting we got was definitely going to make the remaining ice underneath a problem. Unfortunately, for some reason, not only did my dad's car not start, but turning the key made the trunk pop open. The first time I thought I'd accidentally mashed the button on the keychain, but by the third time it happened, I realized there was some electrical problem, especially since his clock had reset to noon. Before going in the hospital, my dad feared a starter problem, but this seemed to point to a dead battery. He insisted I wouldn't know where to find the battery let alone jump start it, and advised replacing it instead, something he also thought I was incapable of. I admit I'm apprehensive, and I've never liked the big sparks that fly off active jumper cables, but I know I could do it. I've never changed a battery, but I have jumped one or two in my time. Still, with ice being a good conductor and the car not really being used right now, we can wait.

I wasn't sure if telling my dad when I went for my morning visit before work was a good idea, if he needed something else to worry about. But it definitely lit a spark in his eyes, and got the wheels of an ace diagnostician turning about something other than what was wrong with him. There were some stains on his gown where his wound had leaked out during the night, but that was to be expected. When I called my mom at lunch, I learned that his dressing had been changed, and the drains, which were basically a pair of straws, were removed. He was healing nicely, and getting stronger. Movement in the arm was limited, but the swelling was greatly reduced. Most of the blood work came back negative for whatever they were testing for, although we still don't have the results on the bone biopsy, and don't know if he'll need additional surgery to clean up a bone infection.

The doctor had good news and bad news for my father, none of which came as a surprise to me. His initial symptoms of a fever and a rash were so general that I found a number of horrible things it could have been, ranging from infection to some kind of blood disease. Focusing on the most obvious problem, his shoulder wound, let to the most logical conclusion. Thus, the bad news was something I'd read about and not shared with my father. The good news was that he was going to be discharged from the hospital, perhaps in the next day or so. Also good was that the infection was something entirely treatable with antibiotics, which led to the bad news. The only way those antibiotics would be effective would be intravenously, over a period of weeks. My research showed typically 6 to 8, to be exact.

And so, a decision had to be made. If my dad wanted to come home, the hospital could supply all the equipment and medication needed, leave a shunt in my dad's arm, and train my mom how to administer the medicine through his IV. Despite the many safeguards, I have this fear of air bubbles, and I've probably seen one too many shows in which a mobster or some other bad guy offs someone by injecting air into the tube. I freak out if my mom goes near the equipment. The other option, which was covered by my dad's insurance, would be to spend the next few weeks in a nursing home. There he could receive care from professionals, receive therapy to get the arm moving again that he wouldn't receive at home, and have a staff on hand to check his vital signs and test his blood regularly. In some ways, this second option seemed like trading one prison for another, and we want my dad home as much as he wants to come home. In other ways, it would be a step up from the hospital. Not only might he have his own room, but things like wearing pants again would help him to feel human.

It was a lot to ponder, and I leaned toward the nursing home option. It would be easier on my mom, and it would be a more sterile environment than our house. I imagined one of the cats clawing at my dad's line, or him forgetting the shunt in his arm and bumping in to it, which he did a few times in the hospital. There would be no call button in our house, only a telephone, so the response time would be a lot less. The other danger was that, feeling better, he'd overestimate his condition, and my mom couldn't watch him 24 hours a day. It wouldn't be long before he was up on a ladder changing a bulb or lugging something heavy up or down the stairs. I feared if he came home, it wouldn't be long before we were right back where we started. Just the other day when I asked him if I could take the garbage out from now on, if he minded waiting a few hours until I got up at 7 AM, he grumped, “I'm not making any deals!”

Since a nursing home wasn't a hospital and my dad wouldn't be visited constantly by a team of doctors, he wouldn't need my mom there constantly to translate the words that didn't piece his hearing problem. And since he'd be on the mend, she might feel less obligated to hover. We'll see what happens, but hopefully we can adjust our schedules to better balance taking care of the house and my father. I'm knee deep in laundry, and I might visit him an hour later over the weekend so I have time to catch up. It's either that or quit the biggest time waster of all, sleep. I'm also just donating money to my gym and Netflix these days, neither of which I've had time to see.

If my mind wasn’t made up already, the nurse on duty on Thursday convinced me. Something was wrong with my dad's line, and the machine kept beeping. At one point she flushed the line with a saline solution that my dad said burned, and at another I noticed the machine wasn't running at all. “No, it's on,” said she when we paged her, despite the fact that the display said “STOPPED” and I could see there was no drip. My dad wanted to use the rest room, so the nurse unplugged the device so he could wheel it in. That's when she knocked the damned thing over, and I shouted “OHGAWD!!!” The nurse leapt back as it crashed to the floor, while my old man meekly apologized as though it was his fault, sitting in the chair doing nothing. I watched in horror as the nurse picked it up, then noticed a crimped and cracked line I could spot from across the room. “Oh...” she drawled, “This musta broke when it hit the floor...I'm get you a new one...”

Granted, it was an accident, and granted the night shift includes the incompetent as well as the competent-except-when-exhausted. It could have happened to anyone, but if a trained “professional” could mess up, how would my mom fare? I trust my mom with my life, but if a situation arose in which something went wrong, would she know how to fix it? Even told what to do, would she have the speed needed? More importantly, as a not-so-healthy senior citizen herself, did she need to shoulder that burden alone?

So, it looks like we're picking out a nursing home, one of three options in the area. I voted for one that bears but a single digit difference in phone numbers with our own. Maybe when they get a wrong number looking for us, my dad will actually get a call. My mom ruled out a second because she heard they had rats, while a third seems to be a decent choice. We might check them out over the weekend if we can, and at this point my dad is willing to at least try. If he came home and it was too much for my mom to handle, we would lose the option of sending him to a nursing home; he has to be sent from the hospital. But if he goes to a home and absolutely hates it, we can always bring him home and go that route. We could have a nurse visit the house, but not daily according to their plan. Meanwhile, I'm playing up the positive aspects, talking about how he's getting upgraded to a luxury suite, and how he'll be able to dress and shave and be a regular person again. At 78, he'll probably even be the “kid” in whichever place he stays.

It's funny how people hear news in different ways. My dad probably heard that his sentence had been extended, but all I heard was that my dad would be getting better, something I doubted more than once these past few weeks. At best, he'll be home in two weeks, at worst he'll be home in six, but most importantly, eventually, he will be home.