Sunday, December 18, 2011

The New Job, Three Months In

So my blogging has been scarce, lately, largely due to my being exhausted, working insane hours. We'd lost a couple of people on our team-- one moved to Nevada and one went back to his old job. This week, I worked a more normal schedule-- only about 40 hours. A couple of people who were training came online this week, easing our workload a bit. I'll miss the overtime, but love catching up on sleep.

Where do I begin? My first couple of weeks were terrifying. No matter how many situations arose while I was training, there were bound to be things that came up that I hadn't seen yet. Fortunately, they are wise enough to make sure to schedule us "newbies" with a veteran dialysis nurse nearby for the first couple of months so that we can get some help if needed.

The first patient I did dialysis on my own was a bit eerie; he was born the exact same day as I was, May 11, 1961. It was strange thinking about the paths our lives took since that day-- here he was in an ICU with renal failure and a bunch of other problems, and I was the one treating him. It made me glad I have taken pretty good care of myself healthwise.

Since then, I have learned a ton. Things that were difficult or made me nervous have become routine. Problems that pop up have solutions-- I've seen them before. On Friday, I found myself helping out one of the new "newbies." Still, I've still got a lot to learn-- I'm still trying to master "cannulating" a patient when I have to use a needle to do the dialysis, rather than a catheter. One of the veterans, Jojo, gave me the advice that I'll feel fairly comfortable doing this when I'm six months in. I'm looking forward to it.

A month ago, something happened that I knew was going to happen sometime-- I just thought it would happen later, rather than sooner. I was called on my "call" night to do an emergency dialysis. I got there to discover that they had come close to cancelling the treatment. The patient was extremely unstable. Most of the family members wanted to forego any more treatment; only one, the woman's oldest child, a daughter, wanted to go ahead with treatment. I huddled with the primary nurse and a the physician. The physician had done a consult with a neurologist. The woman, who was only 48 years old, was brain dead. I asked the primary nurse, and experienced ICU nurse, if he believed that the patient was stable enough to undergo dialysis. He said he did.

The primary nurse gave the patient some meds to raise her blood pressure temporarily for treatment. I proceeded with treatment, but was still having trouble keeping her blood pressure up. The primary nurse, who was training someone, was in and out of the room a lot. About an hour in, I started having a lot of trouble with the blood pressure. The primary nurse popped in and looked at the cardiac telemetry and told me that the patient had "coded" the last two times she had shown the cardiac pattern she was presenting. I decided to take her off treatment. I hurriedly returned her blood, and as I disconnected her from the dialysis machine, the "crash team" descended on her. She "flat-lined"-- after I got her off the machine, fortunately. They got her heart going for about 20 minutes, but they knew she was dying. Family members were called in. I left the room to allow them in, and to go notify the night supervisor of what was going on. He reminded me to make sure all the paperwork was filled out to the nines.

The woman died right in front of me and 8 or 9 other medical professionals, and a dozen family members.

Later, as I filled out the paperwork, I had to find out the admitting diagnosis-- abdominal pain. It sounded to me like she might have had a ruptured aortic aneurysm. If that was the case, dialysis-- or almost any other thing any medical professional-- was not going to help her.

I was pretty shaken, but when the night supervisor asked if I would come out to where he was and finish a treatment for him, I jumped at the chance. This is what I do. I'm a nurse.

A lot of my patients are in bad, bad shape-- they have "co-morbidities;" other things wrong with them medically. For a lot of my patients, the dialysis I'm doing is only managing the end. Sometimes, though, something happens that makes you realize that you're doing some good.

About two months ago, not long after I finished training, I got called out to a hospital that's about 40 miles away-- the same hospital as my patient who died. It was a "stat" treatment-- one that needed to be done right away. I got there and assessed my patient. He was in "fluid overload." His kidneys, ruined by diabetes, could not take water out of his body. He was gasping for breath-- when someone is in fluid overload, the fluid backs up into their lungs. He was miserable. His family stood around his bed, obviously very worried. As I got set up, the family said good-bye and told him they'd come to see him tomorrow.

I'd only been in the hospital once before, while training, so it took me a little time to figure out where everything was. I finally got my patient on and treatment proceeded. About two hours into the treatment, I could hear he was breathing much easier. I was astonished at how much fluid I was able to pull from him. Toward the end of the treatment, he started chatting-- he was delighted to find out that I speak Spanish pretty well (he was latino). He even managed to crack a smile and laugh a couple of times.

Later that night, as I drove home, I remembered how irritated I'd been I'd been called from the hospital I'd been at, which was five blocks from my home, to a hospital 40 miles away. I thought of the family-- how happy they were going to be in the morning when they visit my patient and discover him to be feeling much, much better. And I realized that I was pretty happy to be in my profession.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The "Christmas Approaches" Friday Random Ten

Been busy as hell at work; worked 65 hours last week, 55 the week before. This week I came in at a more modest just-under-40. It's good to rest this weekend.

Got the last of my Christmas gifts ordered yesterday. It'll be nice to be sharing the overtime I'm earning with my family, who had to tighten the belt along with me while I went to nursing school.

1. Back On The Chain Gang- The Pretenders
2. You're a Big Girl Now- Bob Dylan
3. Cities In Dust- Siouxie and the Banshees
4. Hey, St. Peter- Flash and the Pan
5. Red House- The Jimi Hendrix Experience
6. Ain't That A Kick In the Head?- Dean Martin
7. Memories Can't Wait- Living Color
8. Kitty's Back- Bruce Springsteen
9. Fisherman's Blues- The Waterboys
10. California Girls- The Beach Boys

1. Imagine being a member of the Pretenders in the eighties-- they had a 50% death rate
2. From "Blood On the Tracks," Bob Dylan's divorce album.
3. Oh to be 25 again and in 1986 again and have this one blasting at the Exit...
4. Seventies New Wavy one-hit wonder by a couple of former members of the Easybeats ("Friday On My Mind")
5. I'm pretty sure this song got played by the band at every party I was at in high school in the seventies.
6. How I somehow missed this song until a few years ago is beyond me. Love this one.
7. A great Talking Heads cover by one of my favorite bands from the nineties.
8. From Springsteen's second record.
9. Title track from one of my favorite records of the nineties.
10. Just heard today that the surviving Beach Boys are reuniting for a tour.

Friday, November 11, 2011

To the Goalpost Friday Random Ten

I know I've been threatening promising to post more often, but as a guy with a kid about to go off to college, it's hard to say no to extra work shifts, especially when they go into overtime-- and time and a half pay. Just got a text asking me to come in, and am still deciding; I'm already working doubles tomorrow, Sunday and Monday.

But the work news is good. I had my 90 day evaluation a couple of days ago. I had forgotten about it, or I'd have been nervous; at the 90 day evaluation, they decide whether to keep you or not. They don't have to have any reason in particular to let you go. I think it's their way of being able to get rid of people who may be competent, but have personality problems or something. In any event, my phone conference with my boss was short and sweet. She told me I was doing a great job. It was nice to hear that.

After dealing with the crap I did when I was a teacher-- a principal who was openly hostile toward me for unknown reasons-- it is nice to be appreciated for taking my work seriously and constantly trying to improve. And after four years of horrendous financial stress, it's been nice to be able to do little things, like treat me family to Chinese take-out, go to dinner with my wife, give my daughter a few bucks when she's going out with her friends or take my son to a museum. Every day I'm reminded that I made the right decision-- and an investment-- when I made the decision to go to nursing school. With my positive 90 day evaluation, I've passed the last goalpost in that journey. I'm where I set out to be four years ago.

1. Pleasant Street- Tim Buckley
2. Long May You Run- Stills Young Band
3. Make Your Own Kind of Music- Mama Cass Elliot
4. Superstition- Stevie Wonder
5. Lean On Me- Bill Withers
6. Nebraska- Bruce Springsteen
7. You Can't Be Too Strong- Graham Parker & the Rumour
8. Mastercharge- Albert Collins
9. Always Something (There To Remind Me)- Naked Eyes
10. One Last Kiss- J. Geils Band

1. Jeff Buckley's father. Like his son, he has attained cult status and had an early death. Great book about them, David Brown's "Dream Brother: The Lives and Music of Jeff and Tim Buckley"
2. On the Decade collection, Neil Young dedicated this song to his first car and last girlfriend.
3. Got a soft spot in my heart for the Mamas and Papas.
4. Pre "I Just Called To Say I Love You" Stevie Wonder
5. One of R and B's great voices.
6. Title track from an album that is tied with "Born To Run" as my favorite Springsteen album.
7. From "Squeezing Out Sparks," one of my favorite albums of the seventies.
8. I was lucky enough to see Mr. Collins perform a couple of times while he was still alive.
9. Still love this song. It's on my daughter's ipod too these days.
10. One of the great break-up songs. Ever.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Two Weeks in and a Day Late Saturday Random Ten

I just finished my second week as an official working nurse. I've got some reflections on that coming. But for now, I've got to get my Friday Random Ten posted, a day late.

1. Telstar- The Tornadoes
2. Welfare Mothers- Neil Young
3. Deep Purple- Nino Tempo and April Stevens
4. Baby Love- The Supremes
5. Yellow Submarine- The Beatles
6. 1969- The Stooges
7. All-American Alien Boy- Ian Hunter
8. Hejira- Joni Mitchell
9. Come On Eileen- Dexy's Midnight Runners
10. Right Place Wrong Time- Dr. John

1. I heard on the radio a few months ago that the Beatles were not the first British group to have a #1 hit in the United States; it was this group with this one-hit wonder.
2. Love this rocker from "Rust Never Sleeps."
3. A sweet little one hit wonder from a brother and sister duo.
4. One of the many great Motown hits written by the fabled Holland-Dozier-Holland songwriting team.
5. Hey, they had to let Ringo sing sometimes, right?
6. Is 1969 okay, all across the USA?
7. Gotta add seeing Ian Hunter in concert to my bucket list.
8. The title track to one of my desert-island albums
9. This one-hit wonder might have been followed by other hits if singer Kevin Rowland wasn't such a dick.
10. One of many great songs put to good use on the "Dazed and Confused" soundtrack.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Johnny Yen's One-Hit Wonders: "Pillow Talk" by Sylvia

I'm apologizing for maybe the dozenth time for my dearth of blogging the last year or so. You've heard all the excuses already-- the second and final year of nursing school, now having two kids in high school, the unexpected move and the exhaustion from learning my new nursing job. No excuses today. I finished with my training on Friday-- on the floor by myself tomorrow. I'm in the last day of a three-day weekend. It's a beautiful, cold, sunny October day here in Chicago. I've got Little Steven's Underground Garage streaming on the computer, playing great tunes. No more excuses. Back to blogging.

Just to remind about the "One-Hit Wonders:" speaking of Little Steven, he once pointed out that it's harder to create an immortal three-minute song than to create an elaborate orchestra piece. Rock and roll One-hit wonders have fascinating stories; the stars align for just a moment in the universe, the elements come together, and a rock and roll gem is created.

I keep a list of future "One-Hit wonders" on my computer. The little Mac Powerbook that got me through two years of nursing school prerequisites and two years of nursing school itself crapped out just after the move. Fortunately, my friend Greg had shown me how to use "Time Machine," and I was recently able to retrieve my list. I decided my next one would be either Sylvia's "Pillow Talk" or the Kingsmen's "Louie, Louie." Recent events prompted me to do the former.

Sylvia Robinson's "Pillow Talk" was her only solo hit, but not the only hit song she was involved with. Born Sylvia Vanderpool, her first brush with the Top 40 was at the dawn of the rock and roll era, 1956, as half of "Mickey and Sylvia," with the song "Love Is Strange," which was written by rock and roll legend Bo Diddley, along with Jody Williams. Ms. Robinson continued until 1959 as half of the duo, when she went solo and married Joe Robinson.

She wrote the song "Pillow Talk" for Al Green who passed on it for "religious reasons," and ended up doing the song herself, releasing it in 1973. It hit Number 3 in the Billboard pop chart and #1 in the Soul charts. In retrospect, it seems like a no-brainer; Ms. Robinson's smoky, sexy voice was made for the song. The "climactic finish" anticipated Donna Summers' "Love To Love You" a few years later. The song is also cited as one of the first disco hits.

Robinson never had another chart hit of her own, but was hugely influential in the record business. She continued to write and produce music, founding Sugar Hill Records in the 1970's; Sugar Hill was a pioneer in hip-hop music. Working with Nile Rodgers and the Sugarhill Gang, she released "Rapper's Delight," the first big rap record. She also co-wrote and produced the socially aware rap song "The Message," by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five.

Ms. Robinson eventually divorced Joe Robinson, but remained in the record business. After Sugar Hill Records folded, she formed Bon Ami records, which had success with the group "Naughty By Nature."

Sylvia Robinson passed away recently, dying of congestive heart failure in Seacaucus, New Jersey at the age of 75.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Payoff Friday Random Ten

The last 48 hours have been some of the most hard-working, exhausting-- and rewarding-- two days of my life.

Yesterday, I worked 16 hours. Two patients, two different hospitals. Lots of problems, a good preceptor helping me deal with them and learn for future patients. I worked from 7 am to 11 pm. I had to go home and grab a few hours of sleep-- I had to be back at 7 am for my last day of training, and a test-- working with two patients at once. Since dialysis is pretty much like working in an Intensive Care Unit (in fact we work bedside with a lot of ICU patients), it's intense. But things that were difficult to do are now effortless. The voluminous paperwork and charting is now easy. And physical skills like changing a dressing or putting a needle in a patient to do dialysis are getting easier and easier every time I do them. Things that terrified me are run-in-the-mill now. At the end of today-- only a twelve and a half hour day-- I felt like "Wow-- I can do this."

I feel really good for not only having overcome fear, anxiety, money problems, out and out exhaustion at times, but have come to realize that this was great for my kids to see: that if you set a goal, and don't let difficulties stop you, that you can reach your goals, goals that bring great rewards-- financial, self-respect and just discovering just what you're capable of. And that is the payoff.

1. Shoot Out the Lights- Richard Thompson
2. Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment- The Ramones
3. I Keep On Dancing- The Gentrys
4. Norman- Sue Thompson
5 Play That Funky Music White Boy- Wild Cherry
6. Willpower- The Replacements
7. Louie, Louie- Motorhead
8. Can't Stop the Rain- The Washington Squares
9. Sausalito Summernight- Diesel
10. With God On Our Side- Bob Dylan and Joan Baez

1. One of the most brilliant, harrowing songs about a marital breakup. I also have a brilliant live cover of this one by Bob Mould.
2. Most groups would be happy to write one song as great as this one. The Ramones wrote about 25 of them. And they can all fit on one cd.
3. Rock Critic Dave Marsh listed this one in the "Rock Book of Lists" in "Songs That Have a False Ending."
4. A weird little one-hit wonder
5. One of the great one-hit wonders of the seventies.
6. From the great "Hootenanny" album.
7. I think I have about ten versions of "Louie, Louie" on my Ipod.
8. The Washington Squares were three people from the New York punk rock scene who formed a "Peter, Paul and Mary" politically-oriented group in the eighties. Their first album is wonderful.
9. Lots of one-hit wonders. This was from 1981 by the Dutch group Diesel.
10. Steve Jobs' obits mentioned that Steve Jobs had dated Joan Baez when he was young; remember reading that years ago, but had forgotten about it.

Friday, September 30, 2011

The "Overdue Day Off" Friday Random Ten

I was working yesterday-- in the midst of my third double of the week-- when I realized that I'm not actually done with my training despite the fact that I'm pretty much working as a dialysis nurse at this point. My unit is so short of people that they're trying really hard to accelerate training so they can get us on the floor working. Not a bad spot to be in. I like the job a lot; it's interesting and I work with a lot of nice people. And it sure is nice knowing I'm helping people in the process of making a living.

I was on overtime after about five o'clock yesterday, so I got a day off today. I used some of the time to catch up with an old friend on the phone, some of it to catch up on my errands and some of it to rest. It wasn't until I actually rested that I realized how exhausted I'd been; new job, tons of new skills, lots of hours. I still have a bunch of stuff to learn and skills to master. But I was showing a co-worker/trainee (who has himself shown me better ways to do things on many occasions) an easier way to put a tagaderm dressing over a catheter and had a moment where I suddenly realized what I'd done. I realized that I was doing things that I never would have believed I could have done just four years ago. I am trusted to set up a complicated and expensive machine and attach peoples lifeline-- their blood vessels-- to that machine and give them treatment that they would otherwise die without. It kind of blew my mind. And made me feel like I'd done something beyond making sure that I'd get a nice paycheck next Friday. And damn that's a good feeling.

And I have to admit that the financial aspect is something that's been satisfying. I have a nice little pile of debts that'll need to be taken care of in the next six months or so, and it'll get taken care of. But today I actually felt confident enough of my financial future to add internet listening-- at the cost of $2.99 a month over the cost of the basic service (which is $12.95 a month) to my Sirius/XM satellite radio. I got even crazier and signed up for the free trial of the New York Times on my Kindle; I anticipate being able to spring for the $19.99 a month for the service after the free trial is done in two weeks (it also allows me to have unlimited access to it on the computer). After four years of sweating about money, it's nice to be able to ease up a bit. And after 17 years of worrying about where my son's college money will come from, it's nice to stop worrying about that.

1. Twistin' the Night Away- Sam Cooke
2. Why Me?- The Planet P Project
3. It Isn't Gonna Be That Way- Steve Forbert
4. No Feelings- The Sex Pistols
6. Golden Slumbers- The Beatles
7. Time To Kill- The Band
8. I Hate Rock and Roll- The Jesus and Mary Chain
9. Pack Up Your Sorrows- Richard and Mimi Farina
10. Door Number 3- Steve Goodman

1. This song always makes me think of the movie "Animal House."
2. A nugget from the early eighties
3. Forbert had a hit with "Romeo's Tune," but has a bunch of other great songs, including this one.
4. God, that one and only Sex Pistols album still sounds great, doesn't it?
5. Great almost-instrumental from 1974 (there's a chorus by The Three Degrees at the end). "TSOP" is "The Sound of Philadelphia," and "MFSB" is "Mother Father Sister Brother." The Three Degrees would later have their own hit with "When Will I See You Again?"
6. From "Abbey Road," the last Beatles album (Though "Let It Be" had been recorded earlier and shelved, it was released later)
7. From the great "Stagefright" record
8. I always have to crank this song to "11" whenever I hear it.
9. Mimi was Joan Baez' sister. Her husband Richard was killed in a motorcycle accident on the way home from the party to celebrate the publication of his book "Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me."
10. Goodman wrote this comic take on "Let's Make a Deal" with his friend Jimmy Buffett.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Seriously, Let's Get A Grip, People

In the last couple of weeks, there's been a big hullabaloo over Netflix raising its prices. Let's put it all in perspective.

First off, to continue the plan I've been using, the ten buck "one disc out, unlimited streaming," will go up to 16 bucks. Okay, yes, that is a 60 percent increase. But let's put in perspective. I went out running tonight and ran 40% further than I ran last time. This meant, in reality, that this fifty-year-old ran 16 blocks instead of twelve. Sounds like a lot more when you say "40 percent," but in reality not much more. The fact of the matter is that at 16 bucks, my plan is still a great deal. My kids stream their South Park and scary movies and I stream my documentaries (many of which are only available this way), old television shows and artsy movies. And I can get my one disc at a time-- usually classics and more arty movies. And we can watch different shows at once, on our big tv connected to the Wii, on most of the household computers and even on our ipods.

I've followed Netflix-- and been a customer (as well as getting my folks started on it) for 6 or 7 years now. They've taken a daring business model and improved on it, as technology has changed. And they've actually been able to turn a well-deserved profit; according to Wikipedia, they turned a $283 million profit on a $2.17 billion gross, a healthy 13% profit. As they expand the percentage of their offerings as streaming, they'll absolutely have to pay more. That's the way the world works, kiddies; if they're offering more service, they'll have to pay a little more for it and so shall we. I still consider the sixteen bucks a month I pay for Netflix a bargain.

Friday, September 16, 2011

The "Quiet Night In" Friday Random Ten

I'm in my second month of training to be a dialysis nurse. In the last week, my preceptors have been letting me do most of the treatment. I've finally gotten the hang of setting the dialysis machine up, and connecting the patients up to it. Since most of my patients are "acute care," most of them have venous catheters, but some have "fistulas" or grafts, which entails putting needles in. I've gotten to do that twice in the last week. I don't find it terrifying anymore. I'm realizing that a lot of what I do would make a lot of people faint. It comes with the job.

They've been trying to rotate me through the hospitals I'll be working at so that I can know where equipment is, who I'll have to talk to and work with, etc. I've still got a couple of hospitals to go. Ironically, they're two of the ones closest to my home.

There was a lot of work this week. I had to leave work by 1:30 today, because I'd hit 40 hours; my manager doesn't want us to go into overtime while we're training. After we're done training, overtime will be no problem; we can work as much as we want or can handle. With a kid going off to college in less than a year and a ton of bills left over from nursing school, I'm okay with that.

It wasn't all work, though, this week. My old friend Larry was in town. We met when we were next-door neighbors in a dorm at Eastern Illinois University in 1982. I watched the last episode of MASH in his dorm room (he had a then-coveted color tv in his room). I found myself wishing that I didn't have to get up at 5am the next morning, and that I had about 20 more hours to talk to him. He lives in Connecticut these days and is hoping to move back here to Chicago, where he's from. I, for one, can't wait. He's proof that great friendships are like fine wine, improving with age.

In the meantime, as this week draws to an end, I find a bit of humor. I never thought that an eight hour workday would seem short. I never thought that being able to run a couple of miles without my knee screaming would be so thrilling. And I never thought a quiet night in some good tunes, a glass of Merlot and blogging would be my idea of a great night. But here it is.

1. Magical Misery Tour- National Lampoon
2. White Rabbit- The Jefferson Airplane
3. Breaking Us In Two- Joe Jackson
4. Gut Feeling/Slap Your Mammy- Devo
5. Senor- Bob Dylan
6. Chemistry Class- Elvis Costello
7. Long Time Gone- Crosby, Stills and Nash
8. The Stripper- David Rose
9. I Believe- Joe Satriani
10. I Got You (I Feel Good)- James Brown

1. A spoof of John Lennon composed of actual (and outrageous) John Lennon quotes that was performed by Tony Hedra, who is best known as Spinal Tap's road manager and his best-selling book "Father Joe: The Man Who Saved My Soul."
2. My son and I were just discussing this song last weekend. Love the scene with Benecio Del Toro in "Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas" revolving around this song.
3. This song takes me right back to my life in 1982.
4. From the first Devo record, which still blows me away when I hear it.
5. From 1978's "Street Legal." Not Dylan's best album by any stretch, but it has its moments, including this haunting song.
6. Man, "Armed Forces" still sounds great.
7. David Crosby wrote this after Bobby Kennedy's assassination.
8. I've actually got the 45 of this, which I got from my aunt in a big batch of 45's she gave me years ago. That seems very, very wrong, somehow.
9. Rock critic Dave Marsh, who I generally respect, called Joe Satriani one of the top ten stupidest rockers in his 1981 book "The Rock Book of Lists," but I love this song.
10. One of my earliest memories was being about four years old, at my neighbor's house, watching James Brown sing this song on the television. I was hooked for life.

Friday, September 02, 2011

The "One Month In" Friday Random Ten

Today marked the end of my first month as a nurse. We had three days of classroom training, ending with a final on Wednesday. I got a 93%, well above the minimum 85% I needed to get. I was happy to finally get into the field and work a couple of days as a nurse. I'll be working with a preceptor for the next month.

Yesterday, I had an experience that made me realize I'm beginning to know what I'm doing. My patient was doing well, then suddenly her blood pressure started dropping fast (we monitor the blood pressure constantly). She told my preceptor and I that she had a headache (a common side-effect of dialysis), and then I noticed a change in her demeanor and pallor. My preceptor, who obviously had a lot more experience than I, noticed it too. We tried a couple of interventions without result, and quickly decided to end the treatment. She quickly recovered. I was happy to realize that I had recognized this event that up until now had been just something we talked about in the classroom.

Today I was working with my first patient of the day, who had only recently discovered he had renal failure; this was only his third dialysis session.

When a patient is either new to dialysis or a temporary patient, we use a catheter to gain access to their veins; it's similar to an iv, but has two lines and is placed in one of the big veins in the neck or upper chest. We try to limit their use because they are prone to infections. This can be a real problem because they can spread infections throughout the body since they're placed in big veins. If someone will be getting dialysis for a long time-- even the rest of their life-- surgeons create a thing called an arterio-venous fistula or an arterio-venous graft. In the first, a surgeon connects a big vein and a big artery in the upper or lower arm, creating a place we can access for dialysis. In the latter, a surgeon uses either a donor vein or an artifical tube to connect an artery or vein. It doesn't look pretty, but it's way safer for the patient, with only 1/7 th infection rate of a catheter.

In any event, my patient was clearly scared and confused. My preceptor and I answered a few questions he had. Later, a young resident walked in and told him that he would go later for an ultrasound to map out his veins for a fistula or graft. As she blabbered, I could see the anxiety and fear level in his eyes rise. I tried as politely as I could, trying not to step on her toes, to suggest that a little "patient education" might help. She completely missed the cue. She walked out, and so I explained to my patient what fistulas and grafts were and why they were beneficial. His anxiety level dropped notedly.

I helped my preceptor set up the last patient of the day. He was obviously diabetic, and had lost a leg to the disease. A son and a daughter. who were in their forties, were there caring for him. The son had to leave for a while. As we were getting ready for the dialysis, it became clear that our patient needed his adult diaper changed. His daughter struggled to change it, and was going to call the nurse's aide. I told her I would help, and showed her how a little easier way to do it. She was very, very grateful. I realized later that she had appreciated not only the help but that I'd helped her father preserve his dignity. Between this moment and the others in the last couple of days, I realized that I was in the right profession.

1. Soul Survivor- The Rolling Stones
2. Baby, I Love Your Way- Peter Frampton
3. Crystal Ship- The Doors
4. Low- Cracker
5. Just Got Lucky- The Joboxers
6. Livin' In a Fool's Paradise- Mose Allison
7. Theme From Shaft- Isaac Hayes
8 You're On My Mind- The Dirtbombs
9. Morning Sky- Chris Hillman
10. Incense and Peppermint- The Strawberry Alarm Clock

1. The closing track on "Exile On Main Street," the greatest rock album ever recorded.
2. Was never crazy about this song, but reconsidered it after hearing Lisa Bonet singing it in "High Fidelity."
3. My son was telling me a year or so ago that he was surprised to discover that the Doors' self-titled first album was not a "greatest hits" package. A phenomenal debut.
4. Just have to crank this one when it comes up on the radio or shuffle. Got one of my top ten favorite lines in a song ever, "Don't you wanna go down/Like a junkie Cosmonaut?"
5. This snappy little single stood out, even in a year full of snappy little singles, 1983.
6. Heard this song a lot as a young guy, but didn't know who did the version I heard. Thanks to Youtube, I was able to figure out it was Mose Allison.
7. Issac Hayes had written lots of hits for others before he finally had one with this smash hit. This song was on the jukebox at the Gingerman Tavern in Chicago in the late eighties through the early nintie; it was played 25-30 times a night, and every single time, every patron (myself included) would shout "Shut yo mouth" at the appropriate time.
8. This was originally done by Ronnie Wood's old band The Birds (not to be confused with Chris Hillman's old band, The Byrds).
9. Hillman's a founding member of the Byrds (not to be confused with Ronnie Wood's old band, The Birds)
10. I never get tired of hearing this big hunk of psychedelic cheese.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Progress Report

Facebook has had a new feature-- either that or I never noticed it until recently-- in which it puts up a couple of posts from the same date a year or two ago. Today, one of the old posts was from two years ago; two years ago today, I started nursing school.

On Monday, my nursing license number was finally posted on the Illinois state website, meaning that it's officially official-- I'm a nurse.

A couple of funny things have happened in the last week. First, I was sent to a hospital in Evanston, Illinois, just north of Chicago. As I walked into the hospital, I looked at the pictures they always post of the big honchos at the hospital. I had a good chuckle as a I saw the picture and name of the chief of surgery at the hospital. It was Michael P., my high school nemesis.

Actually, he and I had run into one another in 1999 at our 20th high school reunion. It seemed like everybody at my high school had become either an architect or a physician (one high school friend, Fritz, had become an architect, then a physician, no joke.) I ran into Michael P., who was now a physician. He had, for reasons known only to him, deemed it his life's work in our freshman year of high school, to make my life miserable. At the reunion, he was polite and contrite. I imagine I'll run into him at some point. I'm glad we buried the hatchet more than a decade ago.

Running in to old enemies seemed to be a theme recently. In nursing school, I got on fine with almost everybody there. Okay, everybody but one person. "S." had some kind of chip on her shoulder about me. I never figured it out. But we just did not mix well. And of course, we always ended up in clinicals together, and were always stuck with one another, unwilling partners.

Yesterday, I was at St. J's, a hospital I love working at. As I was walking in, S. and I ran into one another. Turns out that she works there now, on the same floor that the dialysis "acutes" room I'll be working at when I'm at that hospital is. I had a good chuckle. We made our polite hellos, but I had to fight a smirk. Whatever her problem is, it's her problem, not mine. She's got to deal with me.

In any event, I'm digging the work. Dialysis is a whole bunch of problem solving. I'm a problem-solver by nature. It appeals to me a lot. I think that eventually I'll want to try other areas of nursing, but for now, this one is suiting me just fine.

Friday, August 19, 2011

A Good Exhaustion Friday Random Ten

I've just finished my second week of training as a dialysis nurse. The dialysis machines, which looked impossibly complicated two weeks ago are beginning to make sense. I'm starting to understand the medical difficulties of dialysis (more on that another time) and the management difficulties.

I'm working the last few weeks of the waitering job I worked through school. I was supposed to work tonight. I was not looking forward to it; I'm exhausted from my nursing job this week. It would be merely tiring as it were, but the huge amount of stuff to learn is making it even more exhausting-- but a good exhausting. Fortunately for me-- unfortunately for my co-workers who don't have another full-time job like I do-- it was dead. Not a good sign in a restaurant that was packed to the rafters on Friday nights before the change in ownership. I was glad to turn around, run home and take care of things that I didn't have a chance to do this week-- like laundry, post to my blog and relax over a glass of red wine.

I did make time this week to do something fun-- a parent always makes time for what's important for their kids. There was a revival of the musical "Grease" in it's original incarnation-- it was originally about "greasers" in the late fifties in Chicago's Norwood Park neighborhood. This was a resurrection of the original down and dirty non-Hollywood-sanitized stage version that played at the Kingston Mines, which is normally a Blues club, in the early seventies. I knew my daughter, who loves theater (she's entering high school in a drama program in a couple of weeks) would love it; it was a once-in-a lifetime experience. She did.

1. Cruisin'- Smokey Robinson
2. Then Came You- The Spinners (with Dionne Warwick)
3. Up On The Roof- The Drifters
4. Living In Hard Times- Wendy Waldman
5. 3/4" Drill Bit- Killdozer
6. (Cross the) Heartland- Pat Metheny Group
7. The Message- Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five
8. Our Love Is Drifting- The Paul Butterfield Blues Band
9. Find Somebody- The Young Rascals
10. In the Flat Field- Bauhaus

1. I somehow never heard this 1979 gem until the mid eighties when my friend Eddie played it at a party. I admit, I stole the record a few months later, but returned it to him as a wedding present a year later.
2. Might be a top ten song for me.
3. One of many, many incredibly good songs Carole King and Gerry Coffin wrote for many singers and groups.
4. Ms. Waldman's wrote a lot of songs for others, but this one, a favorite from the mid-eighties, is all hers.
5. Saw these guys live in a long-gone club, Crosscurrents, in 1986 with Scratch Acid and Big Black. We were hanging with our buddies Jeff Pezzoti, John Haggerty, and Pierre Kezcy (also known as Naked Raygun). I remember that the guitar player for Killdozer was wearing a Motorhead t-shirt. For pants.
6. I'm not a big jazz fan, but I love Pat Metheny's American Garage album.
7. I'm not a big rap fan, but I love this song.
8. Mike Bloomfield was busy in 1965, playing lead guitar on two iconic albums, Bob Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited and The Paul Butterfield Blues Band's self-titled debut album
9. The Young Rascals taking a slightly psychedlic turn.
10. My friend Ron was already one of my best friends, but turning me on to Bauhaus was a bonus.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Return

Yesterday I had a "field day" at work; when I was in school, we called them "clinical days:" a day in the hospital rather than the classroom.

When I was in school, I was terrified of clinical days. It meant doing a bunch of new-- and terrifiying-- things. Giving shots, hooking up IV's, giving a med through a JG tube (a tube that goes directly into the patient's GI tract). All of them were new to me at one time. But I survived them all, and more, and here I am now, a Registered Nurse.

I had been told that SJ's would be one of the hospitals that my company is contracted to provide dialysis care for. SJ's was my favorite place to have clinicals at. For one, it was where I had two med-surg clinical rotations with Ms. Beaumard, my favorite clinical instructor. She rode us hard, but it was for a purpose: to make us better nurses. It was also where I liked working with the staff. No matter how busy they were, they were always able to answer our questions. They seemed to remember that they were once nursing students too. And on top of that, it was also a beautiful location-- see the picture at the top of the post. When they built the hospital in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood in the 1960's, it was probably because the land was dirt cheap; Lincoln Park was then a fairly rough neighborhood. Nearly fifty years later, it's almost laughable; the view the patients get in the lobby/sunrooms that are on each floor are views that Chicagoans now pay a premium for. The sunrooms overlook Lake Michigan, the now-tony Lincoln Park and Belmont Harbor, where the richest of the rich pay to dock their yachts.

I was told to get to the hospital at 8 am. I parked, and went to the desk in the downstairs lobby to get my employee parking pass. The lady at the desk, who remembered me-- and remembered that I always bought the candy bars that she was hawking for her daughter's school fundraiser-- gave me the free "courtesy pass," rather than the already heavily-discounted employee's pass. I was reminded of my reminder to my kids to always be nice to everybody-- you never know who will return that to you. She was delighted to see me returning as a full-fledged nurse, and I was delighted to be returning as a full-fledged nurse. She told me that my friend-- my friend Alina, who I'd shared rides with there when I was in clinicals-- was working there. I told her that I knew that, and hoped I'd run into her that day.

I went up to the 11th floor ("Mine goes to 11..."), where the Acute Care Dialysis Room was, and waited for my preceptor. It turned out that she'd overslept (very likely she'd worked an 11 or 12 hour day the day before) so I hung out while I waited for her. While hanging around the floor, I discovered something I'd heard about while I was in clinicals at the hospital, but had never seen before: the beautiful chapel. Later in the day, someone told me that when the hospital was sold to a major hospital chain, one of the quid pro quos was that the chapel would remain.

My preceptor finally arrived and we got to work. We had two patients. One had an "AV fistula" and the other had a catheter-- two different means of hooking up the dialysis machinery. My preceptor was great, answering the many questions I had, and let me do as much as I was comfortable with.

My first patient was on the 8th floor, which was the cardiac telemetry floor; I had done a clinical rotation with my friend Alina on that floor, and knew she now worked on that floor. When we ran into one another, we were both delighted. Every time I run into her lately, it has been followed with good news. I had run into her last month when I got of the el when coming home from the NCLEX test (and passed it), and then had run into her a coupe of weeks later on the way home from my interview with this company (I got the job). It was cool to be running into one another on the floor we'd worked on as students.

And do you think it was cool to be working on that floor, running into nurses I'd pumped for information as a student, being able to tell them I was back, but this time as a nurse? Oh hell yeah!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The King and I

I had a busy day-- another day of on-the-job training, with a triumphant return to a hospital I had clinical training at. Post to follow.

Today, though, I was reminded, on the television and radio, of the fact that it was the anniversary of the death (or disappearance) of Elvis Presley.

On August 16, 1977, I was working a shift at my very first job, as a stock clerk at a Walgreen's, when a woman woman walked in and said that she'd heard that the King was dead. Since the tabloids (readily available near the check-outs at the Walgreen's) had nearly daily stories about the death-- or alien abduction-- of Mr. Presley, at first I dismissed the story. Soon, more customers came into the store with the same story. Alvina, our bookkeeper, turned the radio in her little office in the corner of the store to the news station and we gathered and listened. The King was, indeed, dead.

I have always been and will always be an unabashed Elvis Presley fan. His fusion of gospel, country, blues and of course good old rock and roll is irresistible. His magnetism, his kindness, the stories about him-- he'll always be a favorite. And of course, the infamous road trip some friends and I took to Graceland in the Spring of 1985 will always remain one of the highlights of my life. A couple of years ago, I reconnected with my friend Alan, who was the driver on the road trip. Recently, I mentioned that trip to him, and he commented that it was one of the favorite memories of his life. Mine as well.

There is one other memory of that date, in 1997, exactly twenty years after we lost Elvis. August 16, 1997 was supposed to be the date of my first wedding.

In the Spring of 1997, I was preparing to do my student teaching. I'd had to apply for it two years earlier. I was dating someone seriously, and embroiled in an ugly custody fight for my son, who was then four. I had asked the woman I was dating to marry me. I was crazy about her. My friends, I later discovered, were not so much. Maybe they saw things I didn't. She and I had planned to marry on August 16, 1997, specifically because it was the 20th anniversary of Elvis' death. With the custody fight and my preparations for student-teaching, we decided to move the wedding date up to April 19th. Had we known that it was the anniversary of the Branch Davidian fire and the Oklahoma City bombing, we might have reconsidered. It turned out that April 19 was a day of disasters.

As my custody fight got more heated and ugly, my wife decided that she didn't want to be a stepmom any more, and that she didn't want to be married any more. She asked for a divorce on July 4th, 1997. This led, of course, to one of my most infamous stories, and a life-long standing joke, "It's all fun and games until someone gets an eye put out... and then it's REALLY funny..."

But the irony was that it was on August 16, 1997, the day we had originally chosen for our wedding day, that I moved out.

I was to begin student-teaching, the last step to becoming a teacher, in a few short weeks. I had little time and even less money. And that's when people stepped up to the plate.

First was my lifelong friend Viktor Zeitgeist, my partner-in-crime in the July 4th story. He Fed-Ex'd me a check to cover the deposit for an apartment so that my son and I were not homeless. And then there was Mike.

Mike was my friend Tas' boyfriend. I had met Tas when I was working at a racetrack one summer. She was half British and half Pakistani, but had grown up in a suburb of Chicago. She's full of the proverbial "piss and vinegar," and is one of my favorite people in the world. Her boyfriend at the time (she's now married to a Chicago cop) was Mike, a Korean immigrant who defied easy categorization. He was a tech geek, stoner and the best rock guitarist this side of Hendrix. And he was the sole volunteer to help me move that day.

The only place I was able to rent a truck that day, at the last minute, only had trucks with manual transmissions. This was no problem. I learned to drive with a stick shift.

Mike and I loaded up the truck at the apartment I'd shared with my wife. As we finished, I noticed storm clouds brewing in the distance. As we raced to my new place, I looked in the side mirrors of the truck and they seemed to be following me. I parked the truck, and Mike and I furiously unloaded my stuff into the bottom of the covered back porch of the building. Just as we got the last boxes in, an epic deluge poured forth. I hugged and thanked Mike, who had to run off to a band practice.

Looking back to that day-- and the incredibly difficult days that were to follow-- I see that the storm clouds were foreshadowing. But that day, between Viktor and Mike, I had enough to get me through the travails of that day. Today, as I was driving home from my day of work, "Suspicious Minds," a song we played repeatedly on that infamous road trip, and a song that's been a favorite since I was a kid, came on. For a moment I thought about the long trip of this life. I remember back in 2003 when I turned 42, the age Mr. Presley had died. I'd always thought I'd die young. I passed his age, then made it to 50 this year. I feel like everything from here out is bonus. I feel like I've lived long enough to discover what I most love and am really good at, being a parent. I've lived long enough to find a career I really like and will allow me to provide for my family well.

In the course of the move, I've had a chance to re-organize my stuff. I've found things that got buried with old bills and other miscellania. One of the things I came across was the paper copy of a thing I started maybe 8 or 9 years ago. I've alluded to it before in this blog. It was inspired by a story I'd read in the New York Times about a woman who had been killed in the World Trade Center in 2001. Her parents, who were farmers, brought the stuff from her apartment home, they'd looked at the contents of her laptop and discovered a "bucket" list. I was fascinated-- and inspired-- by this. I've been looking over the list and starting to take some concrete steps to fulfill the wishes on it.

So remembering Mr. Presley this day, I think about the enjoyment his music has given me over the years, and will for life. I consider the fact that my genetics and dietary and exercise choices I've made over my lifetime have given me more years than he got, despite the fact that there were some hard miles in my case. I don't even dream that I'll ever sing "Kentucky Rain" remotely as wonderfully as he covered the Eddie Rabbit/Dick Heard composition. But I'll sing it nearly every time I pick up a guitar. I'll always dance a little when I hear "Burnin' Love" or "That's All Right Mama." He packed a lot into those short 42 years. His art and life give me joy and inspiration every day. He reminds me with both his life and death that you've got to dream like you'll live forever and live like you might die tomorrow. Thanks, Elvis.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The "One Week In" Friday Random Ten

Finished my first week as a nurse. It's all training right now, but yesterday, I was in a hospital, in scrubs, helping another nurse with dialysis. Today I got to hook up a dialysis machine, but it was just in the training offices. It'll be a bit before I will hook a person to one.

I have to admit that I was thinking a little about money. Things were so bad the last two months at my restaurant job, it was a relief knowing that there'll be a good paycheck soon. I don't feel bad about it at all. I worked hard to get here, and realize that dialysis nursing will be hard work.

Normally I would have picked my son up on the way home from work, but he's going with his mother to check out a college in Buffalo, New York. Hard to believe he'll be 18 in a just under seven months. Hard to believe I'll have two kids high school. Lots of transitions.

1. Lucky Man- Emerson, Lake and Palmer
2. Driving With Your Eyes Closed- Don Henley
3. Green Tamborine- The Lemon Pipers
4. Imagine a Man- The Who
5. Stubborn Kind of Fellow- Marvin Gaye
6. Theme From Valley of the Dolls- Dionne Warwick
7. Why Can't We Live Together?- Timmy Thomas
8. I Will Survive- Gloria Gaynor
9. Hashish- The Hair Soundtrack
10. The Ballad of Spider John- Jimmy Buffett

1. A subtle anti-war song.
2. From "Building the Perfect Beast," one of my favorite albums of the eighties.
3. I know, it's just bubble gum, but I like it.
4. "The Who By Numbers" was not only one of my favorite Who records, but had a great cover.
5. I never, ever get tired of hearing Marvin Gaye's music.
6. I love me some Dionne Warwick
7. Great little one-hit wonder
8. This song got lost in the disco shuffle, but I came to love it over the years.
9. Finally bought the original Hair soundtrack on CD a while back. It still stands up great.
10. Written by Willis Alan Ramsey, who only had one album. This bittersweet, heartbreaking song is one of my favorites, especially as done by Mr. Buffett. It's so good, in fact, that I can almost forgive Ramsey for also writing "Muskrat Love." Almost.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

A Dream We Dreamed...

For this is all a dream we dreamed one afternoon so long ago.... -- "Box of Rain," The Grateful Dead

Saturday morning, I got a message from my friend Cyd that she'd found out that she passed the NCLEX, the test that officially made her a nurse. That meant the the Three Musketeers-- Karen, Cyd and I, who frequently studied together, had all passed it. It made the fact that I started as a nurse today even sweeter. Karen is the second from the left in the top row of the picture and Cyd is seated far left.

Looking back to that picture, it's hard to believe it was only two years ago. I remember walking into that hospital for clinicals. It was, ironically, the hospital I was taken to after my motorcycle accident in 1988, when I was a younger guy. Three of the people in the picture dropped out the first year, but returned to repeat it-- successfully-- this past year. My friend Bisrat, seated just below me, far right, dropped out this past year in the first semester of the second year, but is returning to finish up this year. He dropped by my home one day last week so I could return his Ob-Gyn book, which he'd lent me, and so I could lend him some books that had helped me succeed in the program. We talked about how difficult the third semester, the semester he dropped out in, was-- it was the only semester I got a "C" and not a "B" in-- and I realized it helped him to know not to drop out if things were a little rough.

Today, I spent a day hearing about policy, OSHA, insurance, etc. It wasn't exciting, but I was excited nonetheless. I'd worked hard to get there. I ran into a school friend, Monika, who had worked as a tech for the same company, and was now going to be a nurse like I was. I asked her about her license; she told me that I should get an official notice that I'd passed the NCLEX along with an application for the license. I hadn't received it yet, I told her.

When I got home, it had arrived in the mail; it had taken the post office two weeks to forward it to my new home. I filled it out, including the "change-of-address" part, wrote out the fifty dollar check and walked it to the mailbox.

This is going to be a month of transitions. I've taken my first baby steps to being a nurse. About the same time I finish my training for my new job, I'll be working my last days at the restaurant I've worked at for 11 years. It's very bittersweet. At 50 years of age, I'm ready to not be a waiter any more. But there are many, many good memories there. There are couples who I remember coming in there on dates. Now they're married and bring their kids in. I remember when Joe and Don, who have been together since 1978, came in for their anniversary, and told me the sweet story of how they met. I'll miss Jim and Marybeth, who gave me a card when I graduated. I'll miss Steve and Margaret, and their son Richard; I remember when Richard first arrived-- they brought him into the restaurant. Now Richard is a fine young man. And there are my co-workers. I remember nights hanging out, probably a little too long, talking, drinking. That'll soon be done.

I remember when I got into nursing school-- I got the letter in April of 2009. We sat the kids down and told them what the deal was. I was going to be very, very busy for the next two years. But at the end of that was going to be a degree that would assure a job for me, and a lot more financial security for the family. I remember back to when I made the decision to leave teaching and enter the health care field. It was a huge leap of faith-- faith that I could pull it off financially (and that was no mean feat-- financial resources appeared out of nowhere to help that). Faith that I could handle the material. And faith in myself. That was, maybe, besides the financial security this will provide my family, the biggest deal. I did stuff that terrified me, stuff that I never believed I'd be able to do. I realize that I had been suffering a crisis in confidence back when I decided to change careers. In seeing this dream I dreamed so long ago come true, I feel really damned good.

Friday, August 05, 2011

End of the Rainbow Friday Random Ten

I got up this morning, checked my bank account and realized that when my rent check clears, there will be a little over 12 bucks in it. I dropped my daughter off at her Girls Rock camp and put some of what I made last night in the bank.

The changeover in ownership at the restaurant I work at has been a complete clusterfuck. We've lost about 75% of our regulars without anybody new to replace them. The money has been pitable. My friends Karol and Lauren have quit. My friend Aaron is turning in his notice soon. And I've turned mine in... because I got the first nursing job I applied for!

I had really gone on the interview just to get the experience. I didn't think they'd offer a job-- or offer a job with pay about 20% higher than I expected, plus great benefits. When the lady I interviewed with told me the pay, I jumped at it. Worse case scenario, I don't like it, I tough it out for a year, and I can put a year of being a dialysis nurse on my resume. I'll be providing acute care dialysis in a handful of hospitals near my home. I start training (paid training) on Monday.

So we have another few weeks of financial stress, yes. My training is 9 to 5, Monday through Friday for the next two months. Therefore, I'm going to work weekend for the next few weeks, through the end of August, to have some cash flow and to say goodbye to the many lovely regulars we have at the restaurant. And then it's off to the next phase of my working life.

1. Jeepster- T. Rex
2. I'd Like To Teach the World- The New Seekers
3. Takin' It To The Streets- The Doobie Brothers
4. I Go To Rio- Pablo Cruise
5. It's My Party- Leslie Gore
6. Don't Fence Me In- Willie Nelson and Leon Russell
7. That's Amore- Dean Martin
8. Let's Hang On- Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons
9. My Eyes Adored You- Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons
10. The Waiting- Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

1. "I need TV/But I got T. Rex..."- All The Young Dudes, Mott the Hoople
2. This became popular for being in a Coke commercial
3. Saw the Doobie Brothers at Chicagofest in 1982-- their supposed "Goodbye" tour
4. Also saw these guys at Chicagofest.
5. Ms. Gore has grown on me in recent years
6. Cole Porter never sounded better.
7. Dino's another artist who's grown on me in recent years.
8. I'm hoping that "Jersey Boys," the musical about these guys returns to Chicago, now that I'll actually be able to buy tickets.
9. Sappy, but I like it
10. Saw Tom Petty live in 1990. Hoping to see him at least one more time.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Cool and Rainy Friday Random Ten

This week's been a heat-fest here in Chicago. I've braved it in order to get our attic, which is a finished attic, and get it habitable. I'll actually be able to have my books out on shelves and not in boxes in the basement.

This morning, a brief storm front blew in and cooled things off-- it's very welcome.

Today, I put in my first application for a nursing job, at a dialysis center. A couple of nursing school friends work at dialysis companies and said they're always hiring. Since I'm a brand new nurse, I need to get my foot in the door somewhere.

In the meantime, I'm eager to move on from the waitering job that got me through nursing school. Not only do I not want to be working as a server at the age of fifty, things are getting weird with the new owners. Business has dropped off drastically, and they don't seem to be doing anything about it. I'm ready to move on.

1. Gomez- Nothing Is Wrong
2. The Call-Up- The Clash
3. Forgotten Years- Midnight Oil
4. In The Summertime- Mungo Jerry
5. They're Coming To Take Me Away- Napolean Bonaparte XIV
6. Just a Song Before I Go- Crosby, Stills and Nash
7. Nights In White Satin- The Dickies
8. Here Comes the Weekend- Dave Edmunds
9. Reason To Believe- Rod Stewart
10. Beginning- The Bubble Puppy

1. These guys had a hit with this one a few years back. Their record company rewarded them by dropping them. Fortunately, they signed with another and are still putting out fine records.
2. From the sprawling "Sandinista!" album.
3. Singer Peter Garrett is a member of the Australian Parliament these days
4. Great 1970 one-hit wonder
5. The ultimate novelty tune.
6. I think this song pretty much invented Adult Contemporary. I still like it.
7. Yes, THAT "Nights In White Satin." I may be the only one on the planet that's seen both the Moody Blues and the Dickies perform this one.
8. Rhino Records should win a Nobel Prize in something, if only for issuing a Dave Edmunds box set, which I got this one from.
9. A nice cover of a Tim Hardin classic. Back when Rod was still a rocker.
10. Discovered this little beauty thanks to Little Steven's Underground Garage

Friday, July 15, 2011

End of One Journey, Start of Another Friday Random Ten

This morning, while I was shopping and trying to distract myself from wondering about the NXCLEX (the test I took Wednesday), I ran into my old counselor, Tom W., at Trader Joe's. Tom figured in this old post about the terrible Our Lady Of Angels fire here in Chicago in 1958. I had seen him for a while in trying to deal with the double whammy of a divorce and the frustration I was feeling trying to get a teaching job. Now I was running into him as I was getting ready to start a new career-- a response to dealing with the fact that teaching jobs were becoming scarce. I felt it was a good omen.

At 2 pm, exactly 48 hours after I started the test (you can get your "unofficial" results 48 business hours after you test-- for a $7.95 fee), I checked the website of the company that administered the test, and it told me that my results were available. I paid my $7.95 and got my results: Pass.

I felt a little lightheaded. I texted my son (he can't get phone calls at work) and called my parents. I joked about my brother's layabout ex-wife, who somehow never finished her nursing degree that she started long before I started mine. They were, needless to say, delighted, as was my wife, who I called next. And then, of course, I posted on Facebook.

It stands as a tribute to the program I was in that so far everybody I graduated with who tested has passed. The program was a ballbuster, but we know our shit.

So now, time to find a job, and start a new journey.

1. Green Shirt- Elvis Costello and the Attractions
2. Castles Made of Sand- Jimi Hendrix
3. Take Me Home, Country Roads- Toots and the Maytalls
4. Sorry (I Ran All the Way Home)- The Impalas
5. Situation- Yaz
6. Jet Set- Joe Jackson
7. Rednecks- Randy Newman
8. It's a Long Way To the Top- AC/DC
9. Personality Crisis- The New York Dolls
10. Cruisin' For A Love- The J. Geils Band

1. Back when Elvis Costello was angry. A disco spoof.
2. A Hendrix song of dreams lost and found. Perfect for today.
3. A lovely reggae cover of the John Denver classic.
4. This was the song the boys kept singing in "Stand By Me."
5. Love this eighties classic.
6. Joe Jackson seems to come out with a great album about every five years.
7. An ironic song, frequently mistaken as racist.
8. First grew to love this song after hearing it at the end of "School of Rock."
9. This was the first Dolls song I ever heard.
10. The J. Geils Band was one of the first bands I ever saw, at the "Superbowl of Rock" at Soldier's Field in 1977. Still love them.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Here It Is

I've spent the day alternating between running the last errands from the move and studying from a couple books to help with the NCLEX-- the National Council Licensure Examination. If I pass this test, I will be an RN. I take it at 2 PM tomorrow, July 13.

Over the last month, my classmates who are my Facebook friends have reported that they passed. It's been very cool. My class was fascinating-- amazingly diverse in every regard-- ethnicity, background, age. We studied together, sweated test results, discussed which teachers to take. And in the end, it comes down to passing this test.

It was funny studying-- I stayed focused on content, but each question brought back memories of the people, the times.

Tonight, as I was approaching my limit in studying, my old friend Tim U. from when I got my first college degree, in Political Science, popped up on my Facebook chat. (okay, probably should have had that off). Tim and I were the Ebony and Ivory of Eastern Illinois University's Political Science department around 1984. He was a delegate for Reagan at the Republican National Convention in 1984. I have an FBI file for lefty activities from that very same time. Tim was a good ol' boy from a small town not far from my college town. I was from Chicago. Yet, we became great friends. We talked about politics. We had huge disagreements, but always kept it friendly. It was hard not to like Tim, and hard to be angry at him, even when you wholly disagreed with him.

We got back in touch through Facebook about a year ago. He's just about my age (I'm 50), but has just married for the first time, to a woman from China, and became a father for the first time just about a year ago. I love when he posts pictures of his new family; he clearly loves his wife and is clearly loving fatherhood. Thinking about it all, I had to laugh. For all the differences in our background, we've got a lot in common. Both of us got our degrees in Political Science together at Eastern so many years ago, but ended up in fields completely different-- video production in his case, and nursing in mine. We both parented kids who are half Asian. And both of us completely enjoy fatherhood.

So much work has gone into this, and it comes down to this test tomorrow. I've been pretty good about it-- my classmates have told me that in the end, given the rigor of our program, the test ended up feeling almost easy. Still, having Tim pop up on chat on Facebook was reassuring, as well as his promise to send a prayer my way. I'm an atheist, but I like to hedge my bets. It's funny how life is. If someone told me 25 years ago that I'd be enjoying being a dad to two kids, getting ready to take the nursing exam and still friends with Tim, I'd have laughed in their face. But here it is. Sometimes you have to go where the winds carry you.

Friday, July 08, 2011

The Last Piece Friday Random Ten

I finally found that piece I'd been looking for-- the last piece. I moved my old clunker bicycle that got me to and from both nursing school and work for the last few years, from my old place to my new place this afternoon, officially completing the move.

Remember that scene toward the end of "The Blues Brothers" when the Bluesmobile finally gives up the ghost? That's the way I feel about things. That clunker bike is in need of repair. And last night, my little Apple Powerbook that I hoped and prayed would get me through nursing school finally crapped out (though I may be able to revive it by restoring some software).

So tonight I'm up at in my attic office space, at a desk that my great-grandfather owned (and purportedly built) on a hand-me-down laptop. Despite herculean efforts, I still have a ton of unpacking to do, and then after that, I have to move a ton of stuff from the storage space I used to transition the move (books, dvd's, musical instruments, etc.)

I was a little wistful as I pulled away from the old place today. I raised two kids there. But on the way from running one of the bicycles from the old place to the new place, I ran into an old, old friend. My friend Lois, who was my lab partner in high school chemistry class, was out chatting with a friend. She and her husband come into the restaurant once in a while and I knew she lived in the area. I think that it was a good omen. I think my kids are going to love this new place. And I think I am already getting to really like it.

1. Smokin' In the Boy's Room- Brownsville Station
2. We're a Happy Family- The Ramones
3. Just the Way It Is Baby- The Rembrandts
4. Hold On- Santana
5. Lover's Concerto- The Toys
6. Bop 'Til You Drop- The Ramones
7. Hawaiian Island World- World Party
8. Back In '72- Bob Seger
9. Why Me?- The Planet P Project
10. The Girl With the Far Away Eyes- The Rolling Stones

1. Great seventies one-hit wonder
2. "Sittin' here in Queens/Eatin' refried beans..."
3. Hard to believe this song is over 20 years old.
4. Written by Ian Thomas, who had a one-hit wonder in the seventies with "Painted Ladies." He's also the brother of SCTV's Bob Thomas.
5. The melody for this song is based on a classical piece.
6. What's the only thing better than a Ramones song in your Random Ten? Two Ramones songs!
7. World Party was pretty much Karl Wallinger. The self-titled debut album is now 25 years old, and one of my "desert-island" albums.
8. Seger's on my "Bucket List" of performers I still need to see live. He played here in Chicago recently, but it was on the night of my "Turned 50/Graduated Nursing School on the Same Day" party. Maybe next year.
9. The Planet P Project was a solo project by Rainbow keyboardist Tony Carey. A while back, I heard the song on my shuffle and I was thinking about the lines:
The last man to be here was never heard from again
He won't be back this way till 2010

It sounded really futuristic back in 1983, but it was now last year.
10. I wasn't crazy about the "Some Girls" album when it came out 33 years ago, but it's grown on me over the years.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

At Last...

So yesterday, less than an hour after posting about waiting for my "ATT" (Authorization to Test) letter, that gives me the final go-ahead to take the NCLEX, the test that will allow me to become a nurse, the letter arrived via email. For the last month and a half, since graduating, I've felt like the main character, Joseph, in Saul Bellow's book "Dangling Man". I'm tired of being broke, tired of working as a waiter and ready to start working as a nurse. I felt like a thousand pounds was lifted off my chest.

I've scheduled the test for July 13 at 2 pm, at a testing center in downtown Chicago. For a small fee, I will be able to get the "unofficial" results from the testing company after two working days; I should, therefore, know by the end of that week. Two school friends who took-- and passed-- the test recently described the test as "easy," confirming what we'd heard about the nursing program we were in; that it's so rigorous that the test seems easy by comparison. I'm feeling confident that I'll do fine. I'm just glad I've got the go-ahead-- at last...

Friday, June 24, 2011

One Week Countdown Friday Random Ten

Today begins the one week countdown to the move. Yesterday, I was in the new place taking measurements for various things-- counters, a dish hutch we have, etc.

The original plan was to move our refrigerator, which I got as a family Christmas gift in 2007. It was actually as much a gift to me as them-- they got a bigger, cleaner more modern refrigerator that had an icemaker. I got an electric bill that was cut in half. The old refrigerator, of seventies vintage, was inefficient in its better days, and had not improved with age. It ran 24/7, greatly increasing my electricity bill. We talked to the new landlady about putting the refrigerator in the unit, which was pretty modern, up into the attic storage area and moving ours in. I talked to my old landlord, who offered to purchase our refrigerator (and washer and dryer, which we can't bring with us-- there's no hook-up for them in the new building, which has coin-op units), and we made the decision to leave the old frig. Even with the movers we're hiring, it's a headache to move. I figured out that I saved the cost of the refrigerator after a little over a year in electricity costs. The rest has been gravy.

So today I'll be packing up a few more odds and ends, but am nearly done. I'll be able to move some boxes in beginning Wednesday next week.

I'm still awaiting my "ATT" letter-- Authorization To Test. Most of my classmates waited a week after actually paying for the test, but some waited longer. It's been a little over a week; I may call later today to see if there are any problems. I'm eager to take the test and start looking for a nursing job.

Update: Got the ATT letter about an hour ago! NCLEX, here I come!

1. I Wanna Be Your Man- The Beatles
2. It's My Life- The Animals
3. The River- Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
4. Sixteen Blue- The Replacements
5. Penny Evans- Steve Goodman
6. She Has Funny Cars- The Jefferson Airplane
7. Stargazer- Rainbow
8. That's All Right Mama- Elvis Presley
9. I Can Dream About You- Dan Hill
10. Masters of War- Bob Dylan

1. Written by Lennon and McCartney, but a big hit for the Rolling Stones.
2. Our local prog-rock station used to play a great live Springsteen and the E-Street band version of this, with a long spoken intro by Springsteen, telling an angry story about his father. Wish I could get my hands on it today.
3. Greatly saddened by the recent passing of Springsteen saxophonist Clarence Clemons-- "The Big Man."
4. From "Let It Be," which is tied with "Hootenanny" as my favorite Replacements album.
5. A beautiful, melancholy accapella song about a woman widowed by the Vietnam War.
6. From the great "Surrealistic Pillow" album.
7. This song sounds like it could have been written for Spinal Tap's "Stonehenge" album.
8. Elvis' first record. And it still sounds pretty damned good to me still.
9. A great song from a terrible movie ("Streets of Fire").
10. Written around the most heated part of the Cold War-- Berlin Wall, Cuban Missle Crisis, etc. Still stands, nearly 50 years later, as one of the most powerful anti-war songs.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Final Stretch Friday Random Ten

I finally got the second-to-last "okay" to take the NCLEX (the final nursing test); I'm on the "approved" list to take the test. I paid for it, and am now just awaiting the "ATT" (Authorization To Test) letter to be emailed to me. Should happen in the next week or so.

In the meantime, I'm still filling boxes, getting rid of stuff and getting ready for the big move.

My ex- must be getting reasonable in her old age; she allowed my son to rearrange the custody schedule so he could be with me the whole weekend, rather than just Father's Day. Looking forward to it.

1. Gary's Got A Boner- The Replacements
2. We're Desperate- X
3. The Rapper- The Jaggerz
4. Don't Think Twice, It's All Right- Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons
5. A Strange Boy- Joni Mitchell
6. 1969- The Stooges
7. Esther Be the One- ZZ Top
8. Friday On My Mind- The Easybeats
9. We Can Work It Out- The Beatles
10. A Slow Song- Joe Jackson

1. My friend Dan used to play this one to annoy our friend Gary.
2. X played this one a couple of years ago when I saw them at the Double Door.
3. Jaggerz singer/guitarist Donnie Iris had one more hit with "Ah Leah" in 1981. He was also a member of Wild Cherry ("Play That Funky Music White Boy")
4. Yes, that "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right," and that Frankie Vallie and the Four Seasons. Recorded mostly as a joke, with an exaggerated falsetto, it actually hit the charts.
5. From the fabulous "Hejira" album.
6. My son, who's become a big fan of Iggy and the Stooges, has pointed out how the first couple of Stooges albums were way ahead of their time; they don't sound like something from 1969 and 1970.
7. Saw ZZ Top on the tour supporting this album, "Deguello," in 1980, at the Aragon Ballroom. When they played their second song, "Waiting for a Bus/Jesus Just Left Chicago," the place went up for grabs.
8. Great Australian One-Hit Wonders. One of the guys in the band was the brother of Angus Young of AC/DC.
9. I love Stevie Wonder's cover of this one.
10. The closing song on the great "Night and Day" album.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

I'm Having Trouble Letting You Go

"It's a restless world, uncertain times
You said hope was getting hard to find
But time rolls on, days roll by...

I'm having trouble letting you go..."

--"Letting You Go," Tom Petty

Today I got some great news-- I checked online and discovered that I've been cleared by the state of Illinois to take the NCLEX, the last test I must pass to become a nurse. I got on the phone and paid for the test. When I get my "ATT"-- Authorization To Test-- I can schedule in the test just as soon as I get that email.

In the meantime, the move is proceeding. I got most of the basement packed and stored and we've all been packing the rest of the apartment.

When I moved in here nearly 13 years ago with my four year old son and a girlfriend, my son wasn't reading yet-- he hadn't been to kindergarten. He hadn't yet learned to ride a bike. His favorite movie was "Them," movie about giant ants attacking Los Angeles.

Now he's 17 years old. He'll be a senior in high school and he's looking at colleges. He can ride a bike and drive a car. And his favorite movie is "The Big Lebowski."

He spent a lot of time this weekend packing, separating his stuff into boxes to move and boxes to take to the Salvation Army. I popped in on him a couple of times to see how he was doing and realized that I was having a harder time with it than he was. I had to restrain myself from waylaying "Ten Apples On Top" and "Frog and Toad Are Friends" from the "Salvation Army" box. I knew in my head that the books should go to the Salvation Army so that some other parent could get them for their young kid, but my heart wanted to keep them so that I could hang on to a little bit of his childhood.

He was smart enough to tape the boxes shut-- I think he knew I might fish some things out if he didn't. Yesterday, as I drove the boxes to the Salvation Army, I had a tightness in my chest. I realized that I'd felt the feeling before: the day before he started high school, nearly three years ago.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The "Everything Changes" Friday Random Ten

The last couple of weeks have been days of transition, and some of the busiest of my life.

First, the ownership of the restaurant I've worked at for the last 11 years changed owners recently. Despite herculean efforts on the part of the new owners, the first week was rough. The computer system had all kinds of problems. And of course, I took the patio on the first night. It was a beautiful night, and of course it was packed. I had a throbbing headache by the end of the night.

Last night was much smoother, and pretty lucrative. I'm going to need it-- I have to pay for the NCLEX, the big test to get my nursing license, for part of the move and of course the rent in the new place is significantly more than what we've been paying.

In the meantime, I'm busy packing and moving stuff in to the storage unit I rented. On moving day, July 1, we'll pay the moving guys to move the big stuff, and we'll move the smaller stuff out of the storage unit into the new place in fits and spurts. It'll turn a $1500 move into a $400 move.

In the meantime, I'm waiting to get the email from the state that I can take the NCLEX. A bunch of people in my class have gotten the notice, but a bunch, including myself, have not gotten it yet. I'm still waiting-- it's just one more thing that's changing in my life. I'll only have a few more nights sitting on the back porch I've sat on for 13 years, unwinding at the end of long day, enjoying a glass of wine. In a few weeks, there'll be a new one to sit on and do the same.

1. Groove Is In the Heart- Dee-Lite
2. Early Morning Rain- Gordon Lightfoot
3. The Bells- Phil Ochs
4. Country Bumpkin- Don Williams
5. Spindrifter- Quicksilver Messenger Service
6. Little Bit 'o Soul- The Music Explosion
7. Southern Nights- Glen Campbell
8. The Ballad of Jerry Curlin- The Angry Samoans
9. The Perfect Kiss- New Order
10. Human Fly- The Cramps

1. One-hit wonder from the nineties-- still love this one!
2. Been a couple of good covers of this one by Peter, Paul and Mary and Ian and Sylvia, but the original still is my favorite.
3. Phil Ochs was best known for his political songs, but he occasionally did things like this song, based on an Edgar Allen Poe poem.
4. Don Williams wrote a bunch of hits for others before he finally scored on his own this one.
5. Written by sometime Rolling Stone Nicky Hopkins, who played on this album.
6. Great sixties one-hit wonder
7. Love Glen Campbell generally, but this one took a long time to grow on me.
8. A punk band at my college co-wrote this one to rip on a hypocritical student government member.
9. This one always brings me back to the couple of years after I got out of college, when I hung around the kind of clubs they played this song at.
10. Anyone remember when Danny's in Bucktown had a jukebox and had this song on it?

Monday, May 30, 2011

Bubs and Johnny Go to Taqueria El Asadero

A few weeks ago, I was riding my bike home from my final test of nursing school, and I thought to snap a picture of this little taqueria by my home, and thought back to a moment just about three years ago.

Back then, I was still planning on getting a pharmacy degree-- my friend Leslie had just started working on me to consider nursing. If I had known that I would switch to nursing, I might have taken the easier 100 level Chemistry class. Instead, I was taking the much-more-difficult Chemistry 201, with, as I discovered, a notoriously tough teacher.

I walked out of the final knowing that I'd done well (I thought I had a "B" for the class, but it turned out I'd earned a rare "A" from this instructor). As I walked out the door of my school to where my bicycle was locked up, my cell phone buzzed. It was my friend Bubs. He and I had become friends in the previous couple of years; we'd been reading one another's blogs and realized that we had lots in common. We'd run in a lot of the same circles when we were younger (old Chicago punk rock scene) and were now settling happily into our middle age roles as husbands and fathers.

It turns out that Bubs, who is a policeman in a town near Chicago, had been at a law enforcement seminar in downtown Chicago, and had gotten out of the seminar early. He figured that since he was down here already, maybe he and I could grab lunch together and catch up, a rare treat for two very busy guys. I told him to meet me at my home, and we could walk to one of the many good restaurants near my home.

Less than hour later, we walked over to the Taqueria El Asadero, a terrific little taqueria near my home, across the street from Welles Park, where my son played little league. In the hour or so we had lunch, we caught up with what was going on in our personal and professional lives and delved into the sociological insights his and my jobs as cop and teacher, respectively, had given us.

When we parted ways later, I thought about the previous couple of years. Back then, my grief for my friend Mark, who had been murdered about two years before, was still very fresh. I'd started this blog in part to deal with that grief. In the end, though, this blog had done more than provide a means to channel my grief and frustration-- it had also provided with me a friend who I realized, as he took a moment out of his day to grab lunch with me, was going to be a lifelong friend. I was very, very happy, then, when he and his wife were able to make it to my recent "50th Birthday/Graduated From Nursing School" celebration. The bottle of Eagle Rare single barrel bourbon he got me was a big bonus too-- that and the fact that he's blogging again after about a year layoff. Welcome back Bubs!

Friday, May 27, 2011

"The Waiting Is the Hardest Part" Friday Random Ten

So I've got all my ducks in a row for taking the nursing boards. I'm just waiting to hear from the state that I'm okay. There may be one wrinkle, but some unexpected resources may take care of that. More on that later.

As if I didn't have enough on my plate, as I've mentioned before, we discovered we have to move by August 1. Having just finished nursing school (while my wife was unemployed for six months of that), we were not really in a good financial position to be putting down a security deposit and having our credit checked. Fortunately, my parents lent us the money for the security deposit for the place pictured at top. It's a building built in 1914, in the next neighborhood over from us, Lincoln Square. It's completely updated, with lots of big pluses. For starters, we'll have the second floor AND the attic, which is finished. The place is enormous-- 2,500 square feet. And there's two bathrooms. There's a nice backyard and plenty of street parking. The Lincoln Avenue bus has a stop right around the corner and there's an el stop a couple of blocks away-- my daughter will be able to take either one of them when she starts high school next year. The attic space will be just great-- we're putting the big LCD tv I got the family for Christmas up there, along with the Wii, Nintendo, etc. And I will be able to take my books out of storage and onto a shelf finally. It's almost perfect. The only thing we're missing is a washer and dryer hookup; there's a pay washer and dryer downstairs. I'll have to figure out what I'm doing with my ten year old washer/dryer set that still works perfectly. I'll probably try to sell them. I have until July 1 to figure it all out.

When I moved into this place, it was me, my four year old son and a girlfriend. 13 years later, it's me, another woman (my current wife), a 17 year old son and a 14 year old stepdaughter. As nice as this place is, we're ready for more space. This new place will deliver that in spades. It's all coming together, but sometimes the waiting is the hardest part.

1. Something In The Night- Bruce Springsteen
2. Your Saving Grace- The Steve Miller Band
3. Heroes- David Bowie
4. Wooden Ships- Crosby, Stills and Nash
5. It's Not Easy- The Rolling Stones
6. Self Control- Raf
7. I'm a Believer- The Monkees
8. Too Much Information- The Police
9. What's On My Mind- Kansas
10. Give Me An Inch- Robert Palmer

1. "When we found the things we loved, they were crushed and dying in the dirt."
2. The title track from a 1970 album
3. Co-written by Brian Eno
4. A tale of the post-apocalypse
5. From the great "Aftermath" album.
6. The dark, brooding original-- not the white-bread Laura Brannigan cover that was a hit in the US
7. Written by Neil Diamond
8. Even more appropriate in these internet days
9. A big hunk o' seventies cheese-- not that that's a bad thing...
10. From the late, great Robert Palmer