Archive | September 2020

Leave it to Cheever

This is John Cheever.

This week I bid adieu to Paris and the best Tour de France in about a century. Utterly awesome. This week also, I imagined God welcoming home his good and faithful servant, RGB. A blessing in life, and inspiration for the ages. And smiled at the thought of Sam McBratney, who although he didn’t live to see his sequel arrive this Tuesday, is playing eternally with his Nutbrown Hares.

The cover of Guess How Much I Love You.
Cover of Guess How Much I Love You. Art by Anita Jeram. Walker Books

This week too, I was able to get outside to take a walk as the air quality was only moderately bad. I actually saw the stars again, and the sun in a blue sky! They’ve all been AWOL for a couple weeks because of the surrounding fires.

I talked to Gran’s new neighbors across the street. Nice people. They aren’t moved in yet. They’re doing renovations first. Um, doing those themselves. They started by taking out a load bearing wall between their living room and kitchen. I wished them well with that daring adventure.

I saw a few more houses in the neighborhood up for sale. Some are on Gran’s street, and belong to long-time residents. Not sure where they’re going, or why. I ran into a long-time neighbor, a great guy. He really cares about the community. He’s typical of the sort of the older white republicans you meet around here.

WNS: CA015.11 (Definitives - Baby Wildlife - Polar Bear)
Young white voter for climate action now.

He’s retired on a city pension, got full medical, a paid off house, and kids that are grown and flown. His view of life, and the pandemic, is not the long view of a younger person, but the short view of an older person who has all their personal needs met for their foreseeable future. And I understand that. I wish all older people had lives so plush. I wish all younger people could assume that their lives would end thus.

I’m respectful of people who are older or hold different views from my own. My job as a follower of Jesus is to love people. And I do love him. Like I said, great guy. So when he says: “I don’t know what people are so worked up about. 500K people died of the Hong Kong flu and we never shut down the economy.” I just listen. Appalled at the idea 500K dead Americans is okay with him. It would do no good to explain to him science has moved on in understanding since 1968, or that SARS 2 is not a flu.

When he goes on to say: “What do you think about people saying if the Democrats get in this pandemic will just disappear?” I understand immediately, he’s got Fox brain. I could say, “I imagine that’s 100% true as Democrats will follow the science from day 1.” But I say, politely, earnestly, “You know, I wish that were true. If it were so easy as changing administrations to immediately stop tens of thousands of people dying and the horrible grief families are going through.”

And that’s where we leave it. We both smile and walk away. But in my mind, as I walked toward the rising dawn, I kept thinking of The Comedians. About absent friends, dead or that I’m parted from by distance. It’s closing time. One by one the lights, Rep. John Lewis, Rev CT Vivian, Rev Joseph Lowery, Rev Robert Graetz, SC Justice RBG, go out. My neighbor, my friend, he doesn’t understand. He literally can’t understand. He can’t empathize. His brain has been hijacked.

I see him take “his” hand and walk away. Walk away.

It’s just sad.

Moving on. The cardiologist switched Gran to some drug that is so little used the pharmacist had to special order it. Nifedipine? He straight up said, not many studies of people in their 90s taking BP meds. Really? No kidding? So we’ll go conservative here. Sure, ok.

I don’t think it works as well as the drug they sent her home with from the ER, but that was a short term fix. Cardioman said to give the a couple weeks. We go back to the cardiologist next week. I guess we’ll see what happens. Frankly, every day alive and under stroke out numbers is a win.

My Da sent me a KardiaMobile 6L to keep a check on her heart. It’s easy to use but, dang, almost every reading is “inconclusive.” Not normal, not abnormal. It was supposed to reduce my stress level. But inconclusive? That’s stressful. You can’t do anything about inconclusive. I may ask for 24 cardiac rhythm at home monitor test. But I’ll keep giving the KM6 a shot though.

Buy Canada #2604-2607 - Baby Wildlife Definitives (2013) P (63¢) + $1.10 +  $1.34 + $1.85 | Arpin Philately
Cuteness, possibly toxic levels of.

Minka has been super stressed. Her routine was all off schedule. Bad AQ and then triple degree temps kept her in. Mutti brought in a beeping microwave! Gran vanished to the ER. I get it. She was vomiting all over. I had to put her on raw milk and bain marie warmed canned food. And, I make sure she goes out with me in the morning for a few minutes each day to feed the birds and squirrels, and do laundry. She’s slowly getting back to herself.

Mutti was working remotely FT while caring for Gran. So, the house, the yard, kinda slid. I get it. But Minka slid too. She didn’t even get her flea treatment. When I came back, she glued herself to me, including on the bed, and the first night, I woke up covered in flea bites. So flea dip for her, and flu shots for Gran and I were high priorities. And the car needed a new fuel cap. And the house finances needed doing. Mutti’s f-stop was a bit high.

Yesterday I was feeling a bit beleaguered looking at my “still to tackle” list, but a cylindrical mail tube care package arrived, covered in wildlife postage stamps, in the post. The significant other swears he mailed it 1st Class Sept 12, but….US Mail these days. The package contained my special project and some tools I’d planed to bring with me. But I left in such a hurry I didn’t even have time to think about it. But the SO…..

He always has my back. I’m a lucky, lucky gal. He’s got family coming to visit in October. I’m glad he won’t be alone. Though they will have to go through 2 weeks of quarantine. I’m guessing he’ll give them the house and live in the basement suite for 2 weeks. By then his mother will have rearranged the entire house. Restoring order before I get home will be his fun project while I’m gone.

I’ll probably tell you about my project next week, once I’ve got stuck in. But today, looking at my cache of wildlife stamps, I’m going to discuss beavers. Way back in the 15th century, Germans began killing beavers, harvesting their waterproofing glands, and rubbing that gland’s contents on their aching bodies. And they felt better. (Please don’t call PETA. They don’t do this anymore.) You might be thinking, placebo effect. You’d be wrong.

Beavers, which eat willow bark as part of their daily tree felling activity, end up with acetylsalicylic acid (aka aspirin) stored in their waterproofing glands in high concentrations. So, 15th c Germans were actually using a version of Aspercreme before they understood what it was or how or why it worked. But, admittedly, the beavers were paying a high price and a as a keystone species, once you kill all the beavers…..

Beavers - Baby Wildlife - Canada Postage Stamp | Baby Wildlife - Definitives
Let me help you with that, Mum.

Some centuries later, Europeans arrived in North America. Native Americans introduced them to willow bark, to chewing it or using a poultice of it applied to the body, as a curative. The Native Americans had been using it successfully for thousands of years. The Native Americans, who were clearly smarter and more scientifically advanced, knew they didn’t have to kill the beavers, just had to use the bark beavers ate.

Willow bark cures became a European thing. German science didn’t get around to isolating the important components of aspirin, from willow bark, till around 1850. And it took till 1899, for Bayer (a German company), to crack the case and develop Aspirin. Aspirin then became widely prescribed, and it still is today.

Aspirin is one of the most widely used medications in the world , with an estimated 40,000 tonnes (50 to 120 billion pills) consumed each year. It’s on the WHO’s List of Essential Medicines. In 2017, it was the 42nd most commonly prescribed medication in the US, with more than 17 million prescriptions, and that’s in addition to the over the counter.

Aspirin & Stroke—A Prevention Combination - Balance
You can still buy willow bark today.

Hippocrates knew about using willow tea for pain way back in 400 BC. And there’s indications, from bits of texts, human knowledge of “aspirin” in it’s rough form goes back a several thousand years in Middle East. You’d think a 1000 years after Hippocrates, the Europeans would have cracked aspirin and had really advanced medicine by 1400.

But a funny thing happened on the way to developing health improving, life saving science, pagan people in politics needed an army of people to keep their throne. So they hit upon the idea of hitting up converts of a new religion to hang to old power. You fight for me, I’ll have my empire become Christian.

Turned out the new religion didn’t want pagan cures, uneasy times for science ensued. Things go to the point where churches were happy to sell water from “holy” wells or all sorts of “holy” curative trinkets, but real medicine? Science based? That was pushed way back. You had to find an old woman in the woods, a “witch”, if you wanted that.

As for the folks in power? Kings had no issues with fleecing travelers coming to check out “relics” and trade – hence the number of London churches dedicated to St Botolph, patron of travelers, aka pilgrims. Hence pilgrimage trails as trade routes.

Old South Church in Boston | ArtsBoston Calendar
The Old South church, Boston. Not as well known as Old North.

Boston, MA, where the very into trade Puritans (aka pilgrims) encamped at the end of their travels, was actually originally called “St Botolph’s town.” But the name got shortened to Bo’ston. (It’s amazing how few people who read Cheever’s work understand this.) No doubt Puritans as soon as they were instructed by the “pagan savages” on what willow bark could do, understood they could make a buck off it and began trading in willow bark.

Willow bark becomes a curative in Europe in the 18thc, Germans investigate it scientifically in the 19thc, Aspirin is born in the 20thc, Aspirin is a world wide drug in the 21stc.

So, to recap, the beaver killing Germans’ folk cure? It was real science. Before modern science understood why it was real. The Native American willow bark cure? It was real science. Before modern science understood why it was real. Hippocrates willow tea cure? Real science. I’d argue Hippocrates would tell you he was a scientist. And I’d argue the Native American healers, and German healers were scientists as well.

There’s a lot of cultural bias, religious bias, gender bias, racial bias, political bias, financial greed, that goes into holding back or distorting science. But none of it stops facts being real (science = real facts). Willow bark works. If you find something works, why wouldn’t you use it?

Masks work. Please, use them. Unless you want yourself or your loved ones to end up in a very different kind of mask situation.

Patient wearing oxygen mask lying on hospital bed - Stock Photo - #20404033  - PantherMedia Stock Agency
Isn’t this really the mask you should be afraid of?
This entry was posted on September 25, 2020.

Just Chute Me Now.

Stillness in the Sky: One of the World's Top Skydivers, Angela Tara Hsu,  Takes Her Yoga Practice to the Clouds
Fun is where you choose to find it.

Once upon a time, I dated a paratrooper. It didn’t last long. I realised he was dating an ideal mental construct that he’d layered onto my visage. So it ended, but I learned something all the same. Something about men’s capacity for self-delusion, and something about ripcords.

I’m going to talk about ripcords.

When you fall (jump, or are pushed) out of a plane, the ground seems a long ways away. It’s not. So while you’re falling, it’s good to take a beat remember there’s still time to take action. You can pull your ripcord. You need to pull your ripcord.

When you pull the ripcord, it’s going to (hopefully) release a parachute, and that’s going to yank you up, hard. That might hurt a bit, maybe even leave a bruise, but small matters if it saves your life. Right?

Skydiving Glossary - Safety -
I get by with a little help from my friends.

You’re still going to hit the ground, but not fatally. Why? Because pulling that ripcord deployed your chute and that gave you the time and space you needed to slow down and save yourself. And that’s the purpose of a ripcord. In normal life, you don’t need it. In dire situations, you do.

Because you pulled the ripcord, as you drift down, you get time to think. Time to position yourself a little better. Ripcords don’t prevent hitting reality. They prevent being smashed into it and splattered across it. They give you a chance to gain perspective, process what’s happening, recover your core orientation and choose a better way forward.

You still fall out of the plane, but you have a chance to maneuver yourself away from, say, a croc-infested river to a field of lounging kangaroos. Sure, you’re still going to have walk out of the bush, and that might entail avoiding the poisonous snakes and venomous spiders.

And okay, yes, you’ll still have to hitch a ride back to civilization with some drunken crazy miners, because the wind blew you way way way away from where your friends parked your chase vehicle. But, you didn’t smash into the earth or get splattered by crocs in a river.

10 Types of Skydiving | SkydiveFoz
It’s all good.

Sometimes all the things that work for you when you’re in a normal bad situation, don’t work when you find yourself in an extreme or enduring crisis situation. In exponentially higher or prolonged levels of stress and danger, you might need to use extraordinary means to cope, to save yourself.

You might need a ripcord.

When all your usual coping mechanisms fail all you can see is ground speeding towards you as jump from the plane, you might find the only way you can slow the descent in your brain is to set your sights on finishing a triathlon next summer in Hawaii. Even though you’re 50lbs overweight, don’t have a bike, never learned to swim, and can’t afford a loaf of bread let alone a trip to Hawaii.

Triathlon race day looms in a sweltering Hawaii
The journey begins with one step.

Whatever the ripcord is that when pulled snaps you out of plummeting and yanks you up into a drift descent so you can regain some control and make a soft landing, it’s good. Don’t judge yourself (or let others judge you) for opting to pull that ripcord, whatever it is. Trust that when you pull it, God, the universe, the Fates, will step in and things will shift a bit. Because you shifted your brain from Ahhhhg! to Ahhhh.

You can’t spend 24/7 being wound up by people that make their living off winding you up. You certainly don’t want to spend 24/7 winding yourself up. Maybe 30 min of local news a day is enough. Maybe it’s time to close the Facebook account or at least hit pause. Or use the block button on Twitter. Time with crazy people will make you crazy. Walk away from the crazy makers. And vote them out of office.

I know a ripcord that works for me, and whenever I find myself falling out of a plane, I pull the cord whether or not anyone else is upset by that. I do it because I know it works for me and I choose to live, and not let anyone make me crazy. The CDC is saying we have to hunker down and survive the winter. But maybe we have to do instead is pull some collective ripcords, stand up for what’s good and decent and right, and thrive in the winter.

It’s what I plan to do.

Ripcord – Simon Dunn
Just pull it.
This entry was posted on September 18, 2020.

Last of the red hot dramas

That was the plan.

Hmm, so….I told my family not to drag me into dramas during my “away time” at the cottage. And they didn’t. Of course after the 4 hr drive home Tuesday morning, I found a frantic message on the house phone. It’s a landline, with VM. So people can’t reach us without really, really wanting to reach us. And we can really, really be unavailable.

The plan was I’d serve a second tour, Sept 15 to Nov 30, to spell my mother taking take care of Gran. And added bonus, Thanksgiving with family. Then home to 2 weeks of quarantine, after which: Christmas, New Year’s and Valentine’s with the Significant Other. Then back again, for a third tour of duty, Feb 15 to May 30. Then back home to 2 weeks of quarantine and another summer of love.

See no one in my family, no one I know, thinks there will be a SARs CoV 2 vaccine till at least March. And then normal people, not in congregate settings, not frontline workers, not first responders….they’re not going to be first on the list. So maybe normal people will be able to get a vaccine that actually has some efficacy in June of next year? Maybe August or September?

Accept reality and deal with its challenges accordingly. - The Arbor Inn
So true it hurts.

I’d be lying if I said this plan made me happy or sad. It just is. I accept it. This is reality. I can’t change it. I can only change myself, my attitude, and pray that all the sacrifices are seen at the throne of God and somehow someway, the financial hits will can be made up over time.

Personally, the repeated economic crash and burn that the rich enjoy, because it makes them richer… I don’t see that Samsaric cycle stopping. I mean I hope it does. I mean I think the rise of Black Lives Matter and other consciousness-raising events will lead to a fullness of time. Probably no coincidence Kali is the fullness of time, that destroys evil, and is widely thought of as Black.

Memorable crashes at Tour de France | NBC Sports
Sometimes, breaking the cycle means people get hurt.

The SO and I talked it all out when we got home and heard Mutti’s VM. It was a good talk. We came to some positive decisions. He keeps my car. I’d fly down and use Gran’s. That’s a win, given winter is not kind in northern climes and a motorcycle is less than adequate protections against the vicissitudes of the road.

Given the nature of things in the world, I’d make a major concession. I’d apply for dual citizenship. I don’t believe in dual citizenship, but it’s the only way to guarantee a life on both sides of a boarder when one country is politically chaotic. I’m talk about the US under the GOP and the potential the GOP continues to exist after 2020.

It’s just easier that way. I’m sure Joe Biden with his skills in governance will pull every lever to right the ship of state and steer it out of Covid and recession, if he’s elected, but I can’t count on that, or on consistency from the US down the road over the years to vote Dem. So, it just makes sense.

Sinking the ship of state - SFGate
I’m keeping the cat and jettisoning the gator.

It’s easier businesswise too. The SO can’t take dual citizenship. My having it, means he can give me a perfunctory elevation to a (silent) place on his board, which means his biz will always in good hands, even if he gets stranded in the EU and it drops into my proxy mitts. It provides him with a sense of security.

And there’s personal security as well. At one time I thought we might, in the distant future retire to the US, maybe buy Gran’s house and live the So Cal dream. But our life is not US based. Neither of us likes the hot weather. Trips to the EU will get more frequent in years to come, for business and personal reasons.

Politically I feel safe in California. It’s got good governance. It’s stable Dem. But given the continuous cycle of devastating economic crashes brought on by federal GOP administrations, that impact the entire US, the entire world, I doubt we can afford to retire, ever. So, the EU or Canada are ultimately where we want to be.

No Plan B!
Plans B – Z available on request.

Anyway, having a plan makes me feel a little better. Even though I understand plans can change. Like they did on Tuesday. I thought I’d be home for week, my last precious week. But no, Mutti was tearing her hair out. Gran was doing really badly. She never really got stable after the incident at the end of May.

Gran’s GP wanted her to go to the ER, but she was refusing. Would I please come? As we heard the message, together, the SO looked at me, I looked at him. He picked up the phone and asked about flights, I went and packed my 3 monastic outfits. He closed the door of my studio. While I sobbed on the pets.


The Dawn Patrol (1930) - Feature Clip - YouTube
A covid free plane. Just drop me there.

I arrived in the dark hour before the dawn. When I got to the house, the sun was coming up. My mother was awake, and pretty much beside herself. I understood. She’s too emotionally involved. I can detach. Thanks, Buddhist friends! She said “I don’t know how you can get her to go to the ER.” She’d been trying to get her to go since Sat night. I said, “don’t worry about it. I’ll take care of it.”

At 10am I got Gran up. She was happy to see me. I got her dressed and gave her breakfast. While she was eating I called the medical transport and asked if they could take us to the ER. They said they could, in about 30 min. I said great. I let Gran finish her breakfast and watch Drew Carey, then sat down beside her and said.

“How do you feel?” “Lousy.” “Well, you aren’t getting better by sitting here. Your doctor wants you to go to get blood tests and an EKG and maybe a 24 hr cardiac rhythm test.” “I don’t want to stay in the hospital.” “Ok, what if you we go and do the blood tests and EKG in the ER. Maybe they’ll decided you need the cardiac test in hospital. And even if they think you do, you don’t have to agree to stay. We can still leave.” “Okay.”

The Easy Way Out - Raven Performance Group
Take the easy way. Always.

Seriously, it was that easy. The van showed up 10 minutes later as I put on her shoes and gathered her paraphernalia. I told Mutti to just chill out and go to bed, I’d handle everything. And we went to the ER, and Gran didn’t have to stay after all. They did a bunch of blood tests, chest x-ray, and EKG. She got a crap load of blood pressure meds (to be fair it was 244/110 when we got there). And with 4 hours, we left with a referral to a cardiologist for today.

Yes, I’m awesome. And the nurses and doctors, awesome too. But I’ll tell you this I wouldn’t recommend going this ER. Gran’s GP said it had great COVID protocols. I’m sure it does. Problem was, they weren’t following them. It was bad. Really scary bad.

We got there and a big sign said, “wait here.” “Wear a mask.” They let us in and the covid screening was “Do you have…. a fever, cough, chest pains, difficulty breathing?” No one was actually checked for a fever. There was a sign that said use the hand sanitizer on the way in and out. The screener didn’t point it out or make us do this. Uh, yes, it was a bad omen.

Are These Petri Dishes Coughed On With and Without a Mask?
With a mask is better

We waited on the far side of the waiting room. Socially distanced. We look out at a tall 20-something, white, well dressed, drinking from a large water bottle and coughing so hard his body shook. He could clearly afford a mask, everything on his body was branded and pricey. But he have one.

Eventually, they let him in, WITHOUT a mask. As he walked through the waiting area, past a woman draped over a chair already with an IV in her arm, who was talking to an admissions billing clerk standing at her mobile desk, he passed in back of my gran, 6′ away. He chose that moment to hack into his hand like a barking walrus, and then went into the bathroom.

I said to the admin, “Uh, that guy has no mask and he just coughed right there behind my Gran.” And she shouted, literally shouted, 20′ to the screener. “Hey, this woman here says that guy coughed and has no mask. That’s what SHE claims.” as if I was a liar. Part of me wanted pistols at dawn.

So You Tested Positive For COVID-19? What To Expect From A Call With A  Contact Tracer | UPR Utah Public Radio

And the screener replies “That’s ok. I screened him. Bryan doesn’t have covid.” And I said, “Right, because there’s no such thing as Asymptomatic spread.” Idiots.

At which point, coughing boy, walks out of the bathroom and admin sees he has no mask and is coughing. And screener runs and gives him a mask and hustles him into see the triage doctor. After a few minutes, coughing boy comes out — with his mask around his neck. WTF?!

Bryan sits at the other end of the waiting room, not socially distancing, looking at his phone, and coughing all over. Booming loud cough. Into his hand. WTF?! I look daggers at the admin. She right away goes to the screener and says “He needs a room.” And they hustle him away into the ER. No one comes to decontaminate.

LYSOL Wipes 110-Count Lemon/Lime Disinfectant All-Purpos in the All-Purpose  Cleaners department at
Yeah, bring your own.

So, yeah. That’s not great.

As my Gran’s visit concludes and we’er in room, that isn’t a room but half a room separated by folding curtain, I say to the nurse, “Uh, no one from admitting came and got her info, for billing.” “Really?” “Really.” They right away send a woman in. She goes through all the stuff and I say “Can I have a copy of all that.” She says “sure.” I never get a copy.

She has me sign endlessly on an iPAD, while she disappears for 20 min. She’s very busy she says. Ok. Sure. I’ve been there when people are lying on gurneries in the hallway, while every room is filled, and cops try to taze and out of control addict on PCP screaming in another room. Trust me, you aren’t busy.

Eventually she comes back. She leaves with her ipad. Then we wait some more, for someone to come help my Gran up from the bed and onto her wheelchair. And we wait. And wait. 30 min go by. I ask the discharge desk guy, can he help? He’s busy. He’ll get there. He has other priorities. I get that.

Prioritizing your Schedule Vs. Scheduling your Priorities | by Aditya  Kothadiya | Medium
Sending discharge a copy.

15 min more go by. The Dr treating Gran walks by and says “We need that room.” Discharge says “I’m working on higher priorities, I’ll get there.” At that point, I closed the glass door and drew the curtain. Screw this. I took off all the leads and O2 monitor and BP cuffs and threw them on the bed. Then I dropped the railing and sat Gran up.

She still had a pick in her arm. Eventually her nurse shows up and removes the pick and transfers her to the chair. Takes all of 2 min. And we leave. Total amount of time trying to leave? 2hr. Equal to total treatment time. 2hr. So basically a 90 yr old covid vulnerable person sat in an ER for 2 hours more than she needed to getting exposed to …. whatever was there. Priorities?!

And this is a great hospital, with fantastic doctors. It’s a got awards and accreditations. But damn. I’d never go back to that ER in time of Covid unless I thought it was so serious I might die anyway. They got protocols. They don’t follow them. They don’t make people follow them.

Premium Chocolate Bars and Candy from CADBURY
Cadbury candy porn.

I didn’t tell the SO what happened, or my Mutti. They’d just freak out. I just came home, put Gran to bed, threw all her clothes and mine in the wash, decontaminted her wheel chair, our shoes, the car, everything. Then I ate a bunch of candy (don’t judge my vegan-lapse), and watched the Tour de France. Later I went and picked up Gran’s new blood pressure Rx. And more candy.

Gran was better the next day. Better than she’d been in 3 months Mutti said. And today, we’re off to the cardiologist. Where there will probably be some at home, wearable, heart monitor attached to her for a period of time. Hopefully the new meds will do the trick. And if the monitor turns up anything, it will be minor and and easy in office procedure to fix.

Tomorrow Mutti goes home. She really needs to. She looks frazzled. I get it, most of the “homeland” is a burning hell. She wants to be with Da in case. And unpaid caregivers of adults have a 30% “thinking of suicide rate” per the CDC. She wants her own life back. She just wants to do her job from her own home without the added burden of caring, but with the support of someone she loves. I 100% get that. It’s just not my reality.

This entry was posted on September 11, 2020.