Archive for the ‘Ramblings Off Topic’ category

incident on a plane

February 8, 2016

So I flew to Oregon last week (to make the acquaintance of my new granddaughter) and experienced a little excitement on the way. Our plane was still airborne, about a half hour outside of Portland, when a man came walking down the aisle. He passed me, and soon after I heard people shouting “Get him!” and “Don’t let his head hit the floor!” Then I felt this man fall against my shoulder on his sudden trip to the floor. (Would it be the “deck” on an airplane the same way a wall is a “bulkhead”?)

So there the man lay, in the aisle right by my seat, his eyes rolling back in his head as he groaned and moaned. He was a big, powerfully built man along the lines of a football player. Suddenly people were up and crowding around the man. (As much as you can crowd up in an airplane aisle.) One young fellow actually leapt over him and then knelt beside the man’s head to hold it. Turns out the aircraft was filled with nurses. At least a half dozen were there on the spot, acting and speaking authoritatively, but since the space was so limited, it was only the young man kneeling there and the young woman at the man’s feet who could actually administer any care. Even the flight attendants — for whom this kind of thing must be as close to a professional nightmare as it gets — couldn’t get near the man. The man drifted in and out of awareness, sometimes answering the nurse’s questions, sometimes not. A bag of ice was called for. A cup of water. An announcement went over the address system calling for any medical professionals to come forward, which they pretty much couldn’t since they already had.

Eventually a man who identified himself as a doctor was able to push his way through the many, many nurses jammed in the aisle, and he took the place of the male nurse who had gotten their first. This was all right beside my seat, so I was able to listen as the care was given.

The fallen man was questioned about his medical history, and his answers came sporadically. No, he was not diabetic. No, he had no heart condition or any other problems. No, he was not taking any medications. He gave his name when asked, but I think everyone missheard him because he tried correcting people several times as they repeated it. (They called him “Dan” but from what I could tell, his name was “Dain.”) The doctor had the man grip his own fingers and then try as hard as he could to pull his arms away from each other. The doctor had sized up the situation quickly (and correctly it turned out) that the fallen man had had a sudden, precipitous loss in blood pressure. Apparently, this effort to pull his arms apart while gripping his fingers would elevate his blood pressure. The man couldn’t do it though, in part because he was still somewhat delirious and in part because he had no room in that narrow aisle to maneuver his arms very well. Soon a blood pressure cuff was presented (because I suppose that kind of thing can come in handy on long flights in planes full of all kinds of people), but the man’s beefy arm was too big for it. The nurse had to ask the doctor to hold the cuff shut around the man’s arm as she took the reading. After several tries they were able to confirm that the man’s blood pressure was dangerously low.

The fallen man, by this time, was no longer interested in being the center of attention, and said he just wanted to get up and go to the bathroom, which was his original goal when he came down the aisle. The doctor would have none of that though and commanded the man to stay on the floor (deck?) and perhaps raise his knees if he could. Several passengers in nearby seats helped him do this, and the man reported that he almost instantly felt better. Then the doctor asked the nurse at the man’s feet to lift his legs. This nurse was a tiny person, and I imagine lifting and holding up the legs of this large man was a challenge. But in my observation, nurses are up for the challenge. When she did this, the man again reported that he felt a lot better. The doctor took this as a sign that his original assessment had been correct, and when they took the man’s blood pressure again, it had elevated to a better level. The doctor cautiously asked the man if he thought he could get himself into a seat, which the man felt he could, and the passenger across the aisle from me quickly volunteered his seat for the man. Getting this large, unsteady man easily into the small seat was a challenge the flight attendants were up for. One told the doctor to raise the armrest on the aisle seat just surrendered by the passenger. This is the aisle arm rest, not the one between the seats. I didn’t know you could raise this, and neither did the doctor who fumbled with the attempt. Finally, the flight attendant authoritatively barked to the doctor “Look at me! Watch me!” She then demonstrated on a nearby seat where to find the secret latch that allowed the arm rest to be raised. (Now I know how to do this too.)

By the time they got the man into this seat, the crisis was over. Even I could see how recovered he was. The doctor spoke at length with the flight attendants, who were filling out some forms and asking questions. And then the captain’s voice came over the address system, asking us all to be patient after we landed since the stricken man would be visited by EMTs and then escorted off the plane before any of us would be allowed to leave. By this time the man was mostly over the attack and was joking about how this was his secret way of getting off planes before everyone else and how it worked with every airline. (I noted that he never did get to visit the bathroom.)

After I got off the plane and into the terminal, I saw the man sitting on a gurney, surrounded by EMTs and security people. He looked dazed, but otherwise I think he was okay. I later saw him on his own at baggage claim, I suspect more stricken with embarrassment than anything else any longer.

Later, when I left the terminal, in search of a cab, I saw the two nurses who had first attended the man. (Apparently they were a couple.) I asked the man if he had any hesitation, literally leaping into a situation like that. He said he had none at all, that while he had no moral or legal obligation, he would have felt horrible if he hadn’t acted as he did, without hesitation.

My son and daugther-in-law — Elaheh’s parents — are both doctors, and they confirmed that they would have done the same. And I suppose I would too, if I ever found myself in a situation where someone needed some emergency wordsmithing.

I did not know that

January 13, 2016

Apparently it is accepted form to use a hyphen when referring to the novel Moby-Dick and not use a hyphen when referring to the whale Moby Dick. (If he really is a whale.) And apparently there is controversy about this.

I did not know that.

tavallodet mobarak!

December 28, 2015

So, for some unfathomable reason, both NBC and NPR chose not to deliver this important piece of news: my granddaughter, Elaheh Laurel, was born on Saturday, December 26, in Portland, Oregon. “Elaheh” is the Farsi word for “goddess.” A lot of texting and Facetiming has been darting about the intertubes, but I won’t get to see her in person until early February when my wife and I make a trip up there. In the meantime, the other in-laws are in Portland for a month’s visit, which is great since mom is recovering from the C-section delivery.

Also in the meantime, my grandson, Kenneth Gunner, is here in Kansas City for a three-week visit. He’s a delight, and I mean that in more than just a doting, grandfatherly sense. He is a happy, happy baby who hasn’t developed any stranger aversion. He’ll go to anyone and loves to play. He also loves to feed people (and dogs) his Cheerios. He’ll be here for his first birthday early next month, so that will be fun.

And then, come March, my next grandchild should make his appearance. Emmett Undetermineded-as-yet-middle-name is expected to arrive then. His parents (my youngest son and his wife) live about forty minutes down the road, so I’m sure I’ll get to see Emmett a great deal.

*   *   *

I’ve been experiencing an unexpected bout of creativity (or more likely motivation) lately. I’ve muscled my latest Fathers and Sons story, “Over, Under, Through”, into really fine shape. I like what I’ve done with it, and it’s already got me to thinking about the next story in the cycle I need to write as well as what subtle linkages I can pepper into the other stories already written or yet to be written.

Which leaves me with a bit of a quandary. While several of the unpublished Fathers and Sons stories are finished in my mind, and I’ve even shopped some around for publication, with each newly written story I find new connections with the others. This makes sense, of course, because they all occur to the same characters in the same universe. And I want to incorporate those connections, either by oblique reference or character development or foreshadowing or whatever. Yet if one of the stories gets published, I consider it carved in stone. And as such, I don’t suppose I can then tinker with it to make these connections that come to me from subsequent work. Thus the quandary. Do I try to get any more published as individual stories, or do I hold on to them so I can refine them as needed until they are all finished and the entire cycle is collected into single, no-doubt-prize-worthy unit?

*   *   *

Perhaps as antidote to this, I’ve begun making notes on a different story, one that is not a part of the Fathers and Sons universe or that is connected to any of my other characters. It will be a fun story, something like “Velvet Elvis” was/is fun, though it will involve a couple of love stories. I’ve had the kernel of the idea for this story for decades — literally — and it has to do with the two words “piece” and “peace.” I’ll leave it at that, and I still have plenty of story to think through before I can even begin writing it. But it does feel good to feel motivated.

“. . . ye sons of bachelors”

December 25, 2015

Get down your copy of Moby-Dick and read Chapter 22 today, Christmas day. You owe it to your fine self and to fine literature.

The Pequod (Ahab’s ship, natch) embarks on its voyage into history on Christmas morning “never mind how many” long years ago.

Peleg, the pilot who will lead the ship out of the harbor and then depart, urges the crew to get busy with weighing the anchor and calls them “sons of bachelors”, which I take to mean, illegitimate children: bastards.

twenty-dollar bills

December 7, 2015


The lake at my little cabin in the Ozarks was mostly full when I visited it over the weekend. This was a good sign since it will give the fish a better depth for overwintering.

The water leaks out of the lake under the dam (a consequence of being built in a gravel-filled valley), and there isn’t much I can do about it other than wait for the silt to sufficiently plug the bottom.

I did think that perhaps if I lined the bottom with twenty-dollar bills that might make the difference. Note that I would need to line the bottom with twenty-dollar bills rather than twenty dollar bills, which wouldn’t be enuf, of course.

still more progress

November 27, 2015

I’m making some progress with my story “Over, Under, Through.” I’ve added more than a thousand words to it in the last week. Considering that I’m not really sure what the story is supposed to be doing, I consider those thousand words real progress. Actually, my thoughts are coming together. I see what the story can do for the Fathers and Sons cycle, so all of my struggle is going in that direction. Whether that is the story I end up with, I can’t say at this point. But it is nice to feel progress in my humble writing efforts. It’s been a while.

 *   *   *

I finished Look Homeward, Angel the other night after a couple of marathon reading sessions. Wolfe really was a talented writer (despite his cringe-worthy, dated thoughts about those less fortunate), but he certainly needed an editor, and I think he needed even more editing than the extensive work he’d received. (But as I think I said, I read a “restored” version of the novel.) Some of the images he created, and the words he used to do so, are masterful and memorable. Nonetheless, I don’t see myself returning to his novels. I may look up some of his short story collections, but there are other books to get to first.

One of which is the book I’m reading now: Van Gogh: His Life and His Art by David Sweetman. I’m not very far into it, but I’m enjoying it a lot. Even this early section, most of which is about people in Vincent’s young life rather than Vincent himself, is interesting to me.

 *   *   *

And speaking of progress, my experiment of wearing arch supports in my running shoes seems to be working. Since I started doing this a few weeks ago, I’ve only had two incidents of the tight Achilles tendon after a run. My feet have grown accustomed to having the inserts in the shoes, and they don’t seem to affect my gait at all. Granted, I’ve been doing a lot less running since the marathon a little over a month ago (this week I will be lucky if I clock four miles), so that may also account for the better tendon. I’m trying to heal a sore hamstring in my left leg, so I’m backing way off the running, probably for the rest of the year.

esteemed friends

November 9, 2015

All around me, writing friends are celebrating their success at getting their novels published. I’m happy for each of them:

Me? A paltry few published short stories, a paltry few unpublished novels, motivation that seems to have contracted a wasting disease, with the days getting shorter and the nights getting longer. Hence the paltry few posts here. But there’s always a glimmer of hope somewhere.

  *   *   *

Currently reading: Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe. A gigantic book. Legend has it that Wolfe’s editor had chopped it down from 1,000 pages into something more manageable. The edition I’m reading is 500 pages — I’m about a third of the way through it — and it is apparently a “restored” edition in which much of the chopped stuff was put back in. Every word is delicious. I’m running to the dictionary constantly (or should be). The metaphors are breathtaking. The comedy is wry and satisfying. But Wolfe’s treatment of blacks, Jews, and poor whites makes me cringe with its outdatedness.

Wolfe was once esteemed in the same cohort as Fitzgerald and Hemingway (two authors I just don’t get the praise for), but in recent decades his star has descended. This novel, and You Can’t Go Home Again, have been on my list for years, nay, decades, but I think once I finish Angel (if I live that long), I’ll be finished with Wolfe as well.



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