Friday, November 27, 2009

The Non-Black Friday Random Ten

My wife braved the Black Friday crowds today. Not me. I start scouting deals from about August on, on-line. By Mid-December or so, I'm sitting there in the catbird seat, Christmas shopping done, no sweat.

We had the proverbial "Thanksgiving dinner that couldn't be beat" with our friends Guido and Wendy, a tradition that is now two years old. I actually love to cook and look forward to when school is done and I can do a Thanksgiving dinner here at our place. Until then, enjoy the randomness of my Itunes random shuffle.

1. Gary Gilmore's Eyes- The Adverts
2. Hands Off, She's Mine- The English Beat
3. Into The Mystic- Van Morrison
4. Anytime At All- The Beatles
5. The Rumor- The Band
6. Lord Grenville- Al Stewart
7. Because The Night- Patti Smith Group
8. I Left My Heart In San Francisco- Tony Bennett
9. Independence Day- Bruce Springsteen
10. It's Too Late To Turn Back Now- The Cornelius Brothers and Sister Rose

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Nursing School Update, Thanksgiving Time

I have class tomorrow for a couple of hours, and no clinical this week because of Thanksgiving. After that, a few more classes, then a cumulative final.

We had a test yesterday. A couple of my fellow students I talked to didn't feel good about it. Happily, I was not in that category. I knew I'd done well on it.

As my first semester of nursing comes to a close, I had some reflections.

At the beginning of the semester, I was a nervous wreck. Before tests and clinicals, I was nearly at the point of hyperventilating. The last two tests I was calm. The last two clinicals-- particularly my last one-- I've been good.

My clinical group is, except for one classmate, who missed it because her husband is being deployed to Afghanistan, in the picture at the top of the post. The instructor is the lady in the center. They are, as you can see, quite a diverse group. Eric, the guy at the left, top just graduated from high school a few years ago. I'm at the top right. At 48, I'm the oldest person in the clinical group (and the class).

I've ended up working with Karen, the woman at the top, second from the left, several times in clinical. She's a great partner-- we learned a lot from one another working together-- learning to read charts, doing "head to toe" assessments of patients, etc. She reminded me several times of something important: listen. I have a tendency to fill in silences. Sometimes with a patient, patience with a long silence ends up yielding valuble information.

In our last day of clinical we had a patient who was a 65 year old woman who was in for severe vomiting. We'd looked over her charts and seen the things we'd expect-- parentaral (IV) fluids, anti-nausea drugs and pain meds. After checking in with our instructor and talking to our patient, who was doing much better, we discussed clinical concerns. With vomiting and diahrrea, loss of electrolytes, particularly potassium, is an issue. We'd noticed before seeing her that her potassium was low. After talking to her, it wasn't clear to us that a potassium supplement had been given. We asked the instructor to open up the patients chart again so that we could check for the missing potassium supplement.

The instructor had a little smile when she opened up the chart for us. Later, I realized what was going on; we'd shown the ability to think critically. We knew what to look for in the situation. I realized later that when we went to ask her if we could go back and check on the potassium supplement, we'd passed our clinicals. Our instructor was confident in us.

And we did find the potassium supplement when we checked back on the MAR.

In a couple of weeks, we register for next semester's classes. It's done by lottery-- you get your choice of class assignment (and instructor) by your lottery number. I have number 59 out of about 115. I would prefer to have my current instructor, but may have to take my second choice.

Whatever class I end up in, I've had a good time with this group. As far as study partners, I've gravitated toward the two who share my general demographics, my clinical partner Karen and Cyd, bottom left in the picture. We're all married, in our forties and have kids. But the class, with 20 people in it, became a very tight group. We helped one another with studying, emergencies, missed classwork, etc. I've come to realize that over the years, as we finish school and head into the profession, we'll run into one another. There will be a special place in our hearts for the people who shared the very first steps of this journey with us.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Day John Kennedy Died

I was only two when John Kennedy was assassinated. I obviously have no recollection of it happening or the time around it. I do know though that it deeply affected my parents and most other people who were around then.

In 1983, I was a senior at Eastern Illinois finishing up my Bachelor's Degree in Political Science. My parents were still living here in Illinois, so I drove up to have Thanksgiving dinner with them.

One of the things I remember about the 180 mile drive back to Chicago from my school was that around Kankakee, about 50 miles south of Chicago, we could start picking up WXRT, the FM "progressive rock" station I'd grown up listening to. On that trip, not long after 'XRT came up on the car radio of my green Volkswagon Beetle, Lou Reed's song "The Day John Kennedy Died" was played. I realized that it was November 22, the twentieth anniversary of President Kennedy's death.

I've never forgotten that moment and that song. Reed's recollections of hearing of Kennedy's death while in college are sad and moving.

Later, when I discovered the music of Phil Ochs, I heard a couple more great songs about it, "That Was The President," and "Crucifixion." I found the Lou Reed song on Youtube. I was able to find someone doing a nice cover of "That Was The President," and a clip of Phil Ochs himself doing part of "Crucifixion" in Stockholm in 1969. I think that part of the despair that drove Ochs to suicide was seeing so many of his heroes-- Medgar Evers, John Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy-- murdered.

We don't live in a perfect society, but it's a hell of a lot better than it was in 1963. In 1960, John Kennedy's Catholicism was a big deal. 20 years later, in 1983, if someone had told me that we'd have a black president in my lifetime, I wouldn't have believed it. A lot of people paid the price to get to a place where a black President, a female Secretary of State, a latino governor, or an openly gay Chicago Alderman could happen. Today is as good a day as any to remember that.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Day Late Wi-Fi Cafe Saturday Random Ten

As my semester ends, my schedule's been crushing. Had my last clinical on Thursday, have a test on Monday, and then have to start getting ready for a cumulative final in a couple of weeks. I'm taking shelter from the preparations for a birthday party (my daughter's 13th) in a cafe with Wi-Fi, while I study and post this. I've got a bunch of posts running around my head, including some thoughts about school, and some current events as well. I'll try to post here and there until my holiday break returns my life to normal-- for a few weeks.

1. In My Life- Jose Feliciano
2. Hey Mister, That's Me Up On the Jukebox- James Taylor
3. Fifteen Minutes Too Late- The Caesars
4. Baby Should Have Known Better- Palmayra Delran
5. I Do- Lisa Loeb
6. I Wanna Be Your Lover- Bob Dylan
7. Goin' Back- The Byrds
8. Ruby Tuesday- The Rolling Stones
9. Streets of Fire- Bruce Springsteen
10. All The Voices- INXS

1. A lovely rendition of a song that was one of the most lovely ever to begin with.
2. Grew to love this song as a kid listening to my father's copy of "Mudslide Slim and the New Horizon."
3. A "Little Steven's Underground Garage" discovery.
4. This was "Song of the Year" last year on Little Steven's Underground Garage. It got my vote for sure.
5. Great nineties heartbreak song.
6. A Dylan outtake from the terrific "Biograph" collection.
7. One of many great songs Carole King has written, performed by others. A short list: "I'm Into Something Good," by Herman's Hermits, "Up On the Roof," by the Drifters and "Pleasant Valley Sunday" by the Monkees.
8. A song about a groupie.
9. This song is actually not in the movie "Streets of Fire," which is probably a good thing. The movie looked like a real stinker.
10. From "The Swing," which is, along with Prince's "Purple Rain" and Springsteen's "Born In The USA," one of my favorite albums of 1984.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Another Lucky Friday the 13th Random Ten

I've always laughed at the "13" superstition. I remember back in 1985, at the late great punk bar "Over Easy" at 63rd and Pulaski, on a Friday the 13-- they set up a ladder you had to walk under to get in the place. Of course, six months later, the landlord refused to renew their lease and the place closed. But for me, 13 has been lucky. My son had #13 last year, which was his last year in little league, and ended up not only playing the position he'd always wanted-- pitcher-- but pitching in the league championship.

Had a great Friday the 13th--I had no work, no school today. My father and I both finally figured out how to use Skype and webcams and had a nice long video chat today. My wife, who was laid off her old job in June, is starting her new job on Monday. And to top it off, Netflix sent me "You Weren't There: A HIstory of Chicago Punk, 1977-1984" today. It had been listed as being on a "Long Wait." I watched the first ten minutes and saw a dozen people I knew in it, including my old drinking buddy Johnny Mo, who worked at Le Mere Vipere, Chicago's first punk club. Can't wait to watch it tonight.

1. Vicious- Lou Reed
2. Glass Onion- The Beatles
3. Gary's Got a Boner- The Replacements
4. Money Changes Everything- The Brains
5. For The Good Times- Jim Reeves
6. A Boy Named Sue- Johnny Cash
7. It's All Over Now- The Rolling Stones
8. Bloodletting (The Vampire Song)- Concrete Blonde
9. I've Been Working- Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band
10. Birds of Paradise- The Pretenders

...and one more-- "Hell In a Bucket"- The Grateful Dead

1. This one was actually on the jukebox at Over Easy, the bar I mentioned at the beginning of this post.
2. From the fabulous "White Album."
3. When I was in college, we used to annoy my friend Gary by playing this song.
4. Cyndi Lauper did a nice cover of this, but the original is still my favorite.
5. "We have both kinds of music here-- Country AND Western!"
6. A huge hit for Johnny Cash. Written by Shel Silverstein. One of my favorite childhood memories was walking my 3rd grade friend Cathy home and singing this song with her.
7. I love the Rolling Stones' cover, and recently discovered the Valentinos' original-- Bobby Womack and his brothers.
8. Concrete Blonde, as always, good for some angst.
9. I would argue that the "Live Bullet" album, which this is from, is the best live album ever. Just my opinion.
10. From The Pretenders' second album. One of their lesser-known songs, but one of my favorites. "This is the life they say/That dreams are made of..." more-- "I may be going to hell in a bucket, but at least I'm enjoying the ride."

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Freedom isn't free. Someone always pays for it. Thanks to all who have served, including Skyler's Dad. He has a powerful piece he has posted the last couple of Veteran's Days about a friend he lost in the service that says more than I could ever say. Read it here:

Sunday, November 08, 2009

My Favorite World Series Moment

As the baseball season comes to an end with (yawn) a New York Yankees win, I thought I'd reflect on my favorite-ever World Series moment.

Since I'm a Cubs fan, and have been waiting for a Championship for 48 years, I've at times adopted other teams and cheered for them. I rooted for the Red Sox-- in vain, in the 1975 and 1986 World Series, but finally winning in 2004. Probably not a coincidence that I met Kim around the same time. I cheered for the Minnesota Twins in 1987 and 1991, partly because hometown hero Kirby Puckett was one of their stars. This proved prescient-- I married a Minnesota girl. My cheering for the Twins sure doesn't hurt my relationship with my father-in-law either.

Another team I started rooting for was the Toronto Blue Jays. It was partly because of the friendly manner my old friend Dan and I been treated by the residents of Toronto during our fabled road trip to Toronto in 1987. It was also because the Blue Jays believed in the abilities of one of my favorite-ever ex-Cubs, Joe Carter.

In 1993, the Blue Jays were playing the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series. It was a weird time in my life. I'd been told, unexpectedly, a few months before, that I was going to become a father. I had just been getting ready to go back to school to get my teaching certification, and wondered how this was going to affect those plans. In the meantime, I worked and waited-- literally. I was working as a waiter at NN Smokehouse, which served up some of the best barbecue in the city.

On October 23, 1993, I was working. It was a not-too-busy Saturday night, so I was able to watch the game. The Jays were up 3-2 in the series. As the game reached the bottom of the ninth, Philadelphia was up 6-5. Philadelphia brought in their "ace" reliever, Mitch Williams-- my least-favorite ex-Cub ever. When Williams was with the Cubs, he was called "The Wild Thing" for his wild and often erratic delivery. His pitching style was such that he'd nearly end up on the ground after each pitch. It prevented him from fielding the baseball-- a key job for a pitcher or any other infielder. Whenever the Cubs brought in Williams, I'd have to leave the room.

But now Williams, my least-favorite ex-Cub was up against my favorite ex-Cub. Williams had walked lead-off hitter Rickey Henderson. Devon White flew out, and then Paul Molitor hit a single that sent Henderson to second.

Williams got Carter behind in the count, 2-2. Carter took Williams' next pitch and cranked it out for a 3-run home run, winning the World Series for the Toronto Blue Jays. I felt vindicated-- I'd been furious when the Cubs traded Carter in 1983 (thought they did get Rick Sutcliffe in the trade).

Joe Carter's 1993 World Series Game 6 Walkoff Homerun

D.Bork | MySpace Video

As the game ended, I realized that it was, once again, the inevitable-- the end of the baseball season for half a year. It was, also, the end of one of the distractions to an event I was terrified of-- the upcoming birth of my child.

In March of the next year, just a little over a month before the beginning of the baseball season, my son was born. Ironically, a strike ended the 1994 season in August, and there was no World Series that year. That didn't stop my son, though. Despite his mother's insistence that he was going to play soccer, he was a baseball fan from the first moment he laid eyes on a game.

Looking back to that game, to that moment, I wondered if fate was trying to tell me something. I was very happy with the ending of that game in October of 1993. And despite the horrendous difficulties I had with his mother, my son's birth was the best thing that ever happened to me.

And one other thing that changed was that Carter's home-run became my second favorite-ever World Series moment. My favorite became, and always will be, watching the guy whose imminent arrival so terrified me that night, pitching in his baseball league's championship fifteen years later.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Movie Recommendation: "Protagonist"

Last night I didn't have to work and felt I could take a break from schoolwork long enough to watch a movie or two. I'd been promising my daughter I'd watch "My Bodyguard" with her. I was able to check it out at the local library, and we enjoyed it. I hadn't seen it since it was released in 1980, when I was a freshman in college. I chuckled when I realized that my first apartment of my own after college was right down the street from Lakeview High School in Chicago, where much of the movie was filmed.

Afterward, I watched a movie I'd Netflixed and saved to a hard drive to watch when I had time, Protagonist. This documentary, filmed by Jessica Wu, is about how four men, who follow wildly different life paths, each live out a Euripedean drama in their lives. Each of the four men are fascinating on their own:

  • Mark Pierpoint, a former minister who claimed at one time that evangelical Christianity "saved" him from his homosexuality

  • Joe Loya, a guy from middle class background who was physically abused by his father, and becomes a bank robber.

  • Mark Salzman (the husband of Jessica Wu, the director) who finds temporary salvation in martial arts

  • Hans Joachim-Klein, a German who becomes a terrorist

Each of these men find themselves playing out a role, and each of them are ultimately faced with truths about themselves and that role. Watching this movie, I couldn't help but look inward and think about the roles I play and have played in life, and the transitions I've made. I suspect that most people who watch this will do the same. I highly recommend this documentary.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Race To The Finish Line Friday Random Ten

Had a hectic, but productive week. I had a test first thing Monday morning, which I got an A on-- a first in nursing school for me. Work, household stuff, and then clinicals yesterday. I hadn't yet worked with a patient on "contact precautions," so I requested to work with one. I got it-- had to don gloves and gown to work with the patient, Also got to help dispensing meds, another first. I've got just over a month left to the semester. Can't believe how fast it's gone.

1. Bungalow Bill- The Beatles
2. Nothing To Me- Tinted Windows
3. Amarillo By Morning- George Strait
4. Children of the Revolution- The Violent Femmes
5. Valarie- The Monkees
6. New Kind of Kick- The Cramps
7. The Old Man Down the Road- John Fogarty
8. She's a Heartbreaker- ZZ Top
9. Maggie Mae- Rod Stewart
10. The Bottom Line- Big Audio Dynamite

1. From the Beatles' superb "White Album."
2. An Itunes purchase-- heard this one on Little Steven's Underground Garage.
3. George Strait is one of the last of the old-school country artists. "All My Ex's Live In Texas" is one of my favorite-ever songs.
4. Great cover of the old T-Rex song.
5. The Monkees were the "Prefab Four," but they had some terrific hits.
6. The Cramps' "Best-of" album had the greatest title ever for such a collection-- "Bad Music For Bad People."
7. From "Centerfield," John Fogarty's 1985 come-back album.
8. The 1976 "Tejas" album was one of the first records I ever bought, and I still love it.
9. Remember when Rod Stewart was a rocker? Here's a reminder of that time.
10. Mick Jones' post-Clash project. Heard this song in the clubs a lot in the mid '80's.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Halloween Pictures, 2009

I was fortunate to get Saturday night off of work, and we went to a Halloween party our friends Guido and Wendy threw. We had quite the great time with they and other friends of ours.

Both of the kids chose costumes that were clever, funny and topical; Adam was our former governor Blagojevich and Mel was uber-spokesman Billy Mays. Mel and Kim got a head start on us, and went trick or treating in the West Graceland neighborhood, one of their traditions. I had to pick up Adam from my ex's because he'd been at a debate tournament. We dressed him up in my old tux, and ran a copy of Blago's book off of the internet, and stuffed his pockets with toy money.

On the way to the party, we ran by Blagojevich's house, which is only a few blocks from ours, with the idea of snapping a picture of him in front of the house. When we got there, there was a crowd in front of it-- we weren't sure if it was gawkers or they were just handing out really good candy (or maybe Senate seats), so we just went on to the party.

Here's the full family picture. Kim is a sexy vampire, and I was Christopher Walken as producer Bruce Dickinson-- yes, THE Bruce Dickinson. Easy guys-- I put my pants on, just like the rest of you, one leg at a time-- except once my pants are on, I make gold records.

Our friends Traci and Christina had great costumes too. Traci was Holly Golightly from "Breakfast At Tiffany's" and Christina was Hermione Granger from "Harry Potter."

Anybody else dress up for Halloween?