Friday, April 29, 2011

The "Dotting the i's and Crossing the T's" Friday Random Ten

It turned out that I had a pretty low-key week. My 12-hour, 7 am to 7 pm clinical I was supposed to have yesterday was cancelled due to the instructor's illness. We're supposed to have a six hour one on Tuesday, but that's up in the air. In the meantime, we doubled up on classroom work on Wednesday, meaning I don't have class on Monday. I have a test on Gerontology Wednesday, which is very likely going to be the least difficult test of the whole program; it's on diabetes, heart disease, hypothyroidism, and such-- all things we've covered before-- but applied to older adults. Toward the end of the unit, barely half the class was bothering to show up, since it was, essentially, a review.

I have a couple of assignments, already done, to turn in, and I have to do a quick rework of my resume, also to be turned in, and I'm done. I have three HESI tests to take, one next Friday and two on the following Monday. And then graduation on May 11th. Oh, and I also become eligible to join the AARP.

I wasn't going to get a nursing pin, but my friend and neighbor Jane, who is a nurse, convinced me to get one. She pointed out that I'm going to want to wear it to honor other nurses-- at retirement ceremonies, etc. And my feeling is that I'd rather have it and not want it than to later decide I wanted it, but not have it.

One thing I wanted for sure was to have my picture in the class composite picture (the picture at the top of the post was everybody's overwhelming choice out of the four shots I had). I know I'll stay in touch with a good number of my classmates, and I've become good friends with some. This last few years, especially the last two, have been intense. I'm very fond of the people who were by my side in that time.

So this last week or so is going to be tying off loose ends. I'd pretty much have to not show up for the last test in order not to graduate. It's a good spot to be in as I finish.

1. La Dolce Vita- Peter Gabriel
2. Hymn 43- Jethro Tull
3. Here Comes My Girl- Tom Petty
4. Sunspot Baby- Bob Seger
5. One Tree Hill- U2
6. Love Has Brought Me Around- James Taylor
7. So Far Away- David Gilmour
8. Time In A Bottle- Jim Croce
9. One Step Ahead- Split Enz
10. You've Got Another Thing Coming- Pat Boone

1. From Peter Gabriel's first post-Genesis solo album.
2. Not a big Tull fan, but love this anti-religion song.
3. Saw Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers perform in 1990, so they're not on my "bucket" list (performers to see before they or I kick the bucket-- Tony Bennett, Bob Seger, Tom Jones, Los Lobos are some of who are on that list), but I'd gladly see them again.
4. Speaking of my "bucket" list. Just a reminder-- Seger performing May 14 here in Chicago, and if anyone's looking for a birthday/graduation gift for me...
5. A song of grief and healing. I turned to it often after my friend Mark's murder.
6. An old favorite.
7. From a great solo album Pink Floyd guitarist Gilmour did in 1978.
8. A sadly prophetic song for Mr. Croce
9. These guys are best known for "I Got You," but this one is also great. And they mutated into another great eighties band, Crowded House.
10. Yes, THAT Pat Boone, and THAT song (originally by Judas Priest). From "In A Metal Mood," a tongue in cheek metal album Boone did in the late nineties. The deeply religious singer took grief from the funamentalists for it, showing he's got a sense of humor and fundamentalists are dicks.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Return To Life

It's a chilly late April night here in Chicago. We pretty much had all four seasons today. Just a typical Spring day here in Chicago.

I got most of the stuff I wanted done today-- didn't find the travel mug I looked for so that my wife doesn't steal mine-- getting her a pink one so that she can distinguish it from the earth brown one I use.

I even got a little schoolwork done. Very little. I have one last small project to turn in for my clincals, a "medications interview." I'm going to Skype my father tomorrow to do it. I had to get the interview questions ready, using the meds list my mother sent me.

Sitting here, with the Allman Brothers' "Dreams" playing over my shuffle, through the little battery powered speaker, sipping a glass of red wine, I had a lot of thoughts running through my head.

One thought was of disbelief. The obstacles I ran across through this journey were considerable. First off, I started out with the idea of going to pharmacy school. And with the idea that I'd work at a particular fancy downtown restaurant while I was in school. As my old friend Michael says, "You want to see God laugh? Show him your plans." First off, I was fired from the downtown restaurant after walking in on the manager doing cocaine in a washroom. He was apparently afraid I'd tell the owner, who thought he'd recovered from a bad addiction (his previous addiction-- not so previous apparently-- was public knowledge there). As I plugged away at the prerequisites, I took classes with my friend Leslie, who was also a co-worker in my other restaurant job, one I'd kept just in case. The place we worked at is a family place, and a pretty nice place to work. Nobody ever leaves. But just when I needed to go to full time there, two people left-- one finished college and moved back to his home country to run the family business, and the other moved to Vegas. This was serendipitous for me. And Leslie convinced me to consider nursing, a degree I could get in two years, rather than the 4 (plus two more years of prerequisites than I'd already done).

Last night I was waiting on one of my long-time regulars. I discovered for the first time that she's a nurse who works at a hospital that's on my short list of hospitals I'd like to work at. She asked where I was going to school and when I told her, she asked how many times I had applied. Once. She told me-- and I've heard this from others-- that there's a long waiting list to get in there. Many people apply three times before they get in, if at all. Again, a little disbelief that I was that lucky.

I was also lucky in having a fine bunch of classmates who have made this journey wonderful, even as grueling as it was. I can say the same about my instructors. I know that I will have lifelong friends among both groups.

In the midst of it all, my wife got laid off twice due to the recession. She managed to find jobs in a tough, tough job market; I considered dropping out of the program so I could work another job, but thanks to her persistence in finding a job, we didn't have to go that route.

And then there are my kids. I tried as hard as I could to make sure they got enough of me, both in terms of quantity and quality of time, but I know that they sacrificed. They are mature enough to understand how important this is to me-- that it will enable me to make sure they have the resources to go to college, and to follow their dreams in general.

This last week and a half, I started doing something I had mostly put off for ages: reading for pleasure. I'll write about both of the books I finished in the last week. And there will also be one other thing I'll be continuing-- blogging, and reading blogs.

In June, it will be five years since the worst week of my life. In the space of a week, I got laid off of a teaching job I loved and planned to work until I retired, discovered my dad had cancer, and discovered that one of my oldest, closest friends was murdered. I remember the weeks and months after that week-- mostly through a haze. I felt numb, dead even. Five years down the line, I feel good-- alive. I feel like my decisions-- to think outside the box, and to stick with my plan to change careers-- have paid off.

In the last five or six months or so, I've developed the habit of keeping a little notebook of blog post ideas. I'll be utilizing that soon. And I've been running some ideas about what I'll be doing besides working. I've got at least two book ideas. I'm also really hankering to travel-- there are some old friendships on the west coast that have had to wait because of school. I'm looking forward to getting out to bicycle more. To take my kids out to movies and plays. To having a glass of wine with an old friend. To watching movies. To return to life.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Spring Break Random Ten

I missed Friday. I'll explain. I had my spring break this week. It wasn't until about Wednesday that I realized how exhausted I'd been. This week, I caught up on the sleep I'd missed this semester, cooked, ate enough, tried to do a little less substituting caffeine for sleep.

I also took an always-lucrative Saturday night off of work last week; it was just Adam and I, and so we hung out, popped popcorn (in my old iron skillet) and watched "North By Northwest." He finally realized why I'd been trying to get he and my daughter to watch it with me for the last couple of years.

So in between all that and everything else, Friday floated on past me. No problem. I did a lot this week (besides catch up on my sleep). I caught up on my reading. I finally finished a book I'd wanted to read for years, Andrew Chaikin's "A Man On the Moon: The Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts." And started re-reading a book I haven't read since 1986, Rob Serling's "The President's Plane Is Missing." Rob was Rod Serling's brother, and a damned good writer. Last time I read it, I checked it out of the Sulzer Library, my local library since 1986. It's long-gone there; had to buy a copy on

Hard to believe, after this four year journey, that I'm heading into the last couple of weeks. Lots to do then-- fingerprints, the state nursing board, find a job, then start working. I think I'm ready.

In the meantime, I've still been taking notes in my little green notebook-- ideas for future posts. I hope somebody will still be reading by the time I have the time and energy to post regularly again.

1. Idiot Wind- Bob Dylan
2. Get Your Rocks Off- Primal Scream
3. Godzilla- Blue Oyster Cult
4. Hot House- X
5. Radio Free Europe- REM
6. No Home For You Here- The White Stripes
7. Old John Robertson- The Byrds
8. Whole Lotta Love- The Temple City Kazoo Orchestra
9. Ferry Cross The Mersey- Gerry and the Pacemakers
10. That's No Way To Say Goodbye- Leonard Cohen


1. I heard a couple of lines form this song in a Hootie and the Blowfish song years ago and wondered "WTF?" Turned out they'd taken the line out wholesale and Dylan's people sued and won.
2. These guys are amazing. Span a couple of decades and always come up with something amazing.
3. Not as big a hit as "Don't Fear the Reaper," and has no cowbell. But still awesome.
4. God, I love "X."
5. REM's first single, which pretty much created college radio.
6. These guys split up at the right time, recently, after having turned out an insane amount of great music.
7. My song reloaded his Itunes recently; I was pleased to see that he added a bunch of Byrds tunes.
8. Yes, the Zeppelin "Whole Lotta Love." All on kazoo. This was Rhino Records' first record.
9. I never, ever get tired of hearing this little gem.
10. I pity people who haven't discovered Leonard Cohen.

Friday, April 08, 2011

The "One Month Warning" Friday Random Ten

As of today, I have about four weeks left to nursing school. I had my first clinical day of my last rotation, Gerontology, yesterday.

I had taken the bus to the hospital in the morning, but my friend Alina offered me a ride home-- she lives a few blocks up the road from me. She also gave two others in the group, Shirley and Shazia, a ride to an el stop. As the four of us rode toward home, I thought about the work I've put into this, and about the friendships I've made. I've been reading Andrew Chaikin's book "A Man On The Moon," the book the mini-series "From The Earth To The Moon" is based on, in the minute amount of spare time I have. In it, the voyage of Apollo 12, which carried the third and fourth men to walk on the moon, Pete Conrad and Al Bean, to the moon. Bean later talked about how the marvel at the journey ended up secondary to the friendships he made with Conrad and the Command Module Pilot Dick Gordon. You form a bond with the people who shared the journey with you. My life came together for two years with these three friends, who hail from three countries, Romania, Pakistan and Ghana and three continents, Europe, Asia and Africa, to sweat this training, this degree, which will define the rest of our lives. It was cool, after an exhausting twelve hour clinical day, to have this moment of joy, camraderie and bliss.

It's hard to believe after these last two ball-busting years that I'm nearly done with school. I was telling one of my friends at school that though this degree is my lowest one-- it's an associate's degree, and I also have two bachelor's degrees and a master's-- that it was the hardest one. And ironically it's also the most marketable one.

There are a lot of changes coming up. My wife and I have talked of moving later in the year. For a while it looked like we might have to move; my landlord was considering moving his mother-in-law into this apartment. We had thought about moving as it were because we've simply outgrown the apartment. We now basically have four adults living here. It looks like the changes may either take longer or not happen at all. I'm hoping for some time. I need to finish school, get a job and then get cash together for a move.

Also, some work changes. The owners of the restaurant had been trying to sell for some time, and finally did a few weeks ago. The transition to the new owners is supposed to happen about the time I graduate. The new owners seem like stand-up guys and are claiming they won't change anything, but in 31 years of working in the restaurant business off and on, I've never once seen new managers or owners come in without changing a bunch of stuff. I'd hoped that the ownership wouldn't change until I was done with school. I guess I got my wish.

One last thing. I got a message yesterday, through the list-serve I set up nearly five years ago when my friend Mark was murdered, that the first Mark Evans Memorial Art Scholarship was awarded at Eastern Illinois University recently, to a senior art student from downstate. It made me happy. It's been nearly five years, but I still miss the hell out of Mark. It's nice to know that every year, a person like him, an art student at Eastern Illinois University, will be helped in his name. In honor of that, I lit a candle in the ashtray that's in the picture at the top of the post. He made it at Eastern, and it was always near his art table-- he used it when he smoked his pot. It was something I associated with him, and when his parents told us to take anything that had sentimental value to us, I took it. If you notice, it's cracked-- there's a funny story, involving me, of course, for why it's cracked. I'll tell it another time.

1. Cry, Baby Cry- The Beatles
2. Saturday Night In The City of the Dead- Ultravox
3. All I'm Thinkin' About- Bruce Springsteen
4. Run, Run Rudolph- Chuck Berry
5. Louie, Louie- The Kingsmen
6. Cherry Bomb- The Runaways
7. If The Kids Are United- Sham 69
8. All The Voices- INXS
9. Isis- Bob Dylan
10. Monday, Monday- The Mamas and the Papas

1. A gem from the great White Album.
2. From the "No Thanks" set of seventies punk and new wave.
3. Love this little number.
4. Great Christmas song. Keith Richards did a nice cover.
5. I was just reading about this song on Cracked Magazine online. I'll devote a post to it.
6. Got my daughter the Runaways movie for Christmas. Thumbs up all around.
7. More seventies punk.
8. From "The Swing," an album I bought and just about wore out the summer of '84.
9. On the live "Rolling Thunder Revue" version of this song on the "Biograph" collection, Dylan introduces this song with "This is a song about marriage." One of my favorites.
10. I grew up listening to my dad's copy of the Mamas and the Papas "best-of" album. Still love them.