Saturday, April 29, 2006


[WARNING! This post contains descriptions and images of nude skiing, and may not be suitable for children.]

You may have thought snow season was over. You were wrong.

Late Friday night I made plans with my new friends, the Hardcore Kids, to head up to Tuckerman Ravine at the crack of dawn on Saturday. At the last minute Hardcore Boy decided he needed to go pick up his new jetski instead (leading me to have second thoughts about the nickname I’d already chosen for him) but Hardcore Girl and I went up anyway. She had gotten pretty beat up skiing there the previous weekend, and my energy level was lagging, so we decided to leave the skis at home and just go for the scenery and camaraderie of the place.

Tuckerman, if you’re not familiar, is a glacial cirque off the west side of Mount Washington. It’s a place of rock, ice, snow, and extremes. It doesn’t look like the rest of New England. It’s a three-mile uphill hike to the bottom of the bowl, but on a gorgeous spring day that doesn’t deter a thousand or so revelers from packing in. Once there, it was one big snow party. People sat on the rocks in the sun and cheered. A guy marched into the middle of the bowl and let loose on bagpipes. A fellow behind me was playing “Tequila” on the recorder. Happy dogs were everywhere, most with names taken from local topography (I heard Madison, Cutler, Zealand, Pemi…) Intrepid skiers slogged up the ravine to the headwall, and launched themselves off. To great applause from the crowd, one man hurtled down naked. At the bottom, he was given a $75 ticket by the snow rangers (for what, exactly, I don’t know—but I overheard him say “Totally worth it.”)

It’s not a tame place, though, as the orange sign makes clear. The avalanche danger was “low” yesterday, but the falling ice was a notable hazard. Even as a spectator, you have to keep your wits about you, and be prepared to fling yourself behind a boulder if an icefall starts. And the skiing is pretty hazardous. We saw one guy on the opposite side take a fall in a narrow gully, bounce off rocks three times, then tumble 500 feet or so before sliding to a stop. After considerable help, he finally managed to stand up and hobble away, but he left a big blood stain in the snow.

Later, for contrast, we hiked over to Huntington Ravine, with its seven ice gullies and rocky lip. It’s not good skiing, and there was no one there but some birds playing on the chaotic thermals of the gorge.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Pyro Neighborhood

I pottered down the street this evening to watch the sliver of new moon rise over the river west of the Turbopalace. The air smelled like a forest on fire—one neighbor had lit up his charcoal grill for dinner, while another was stoking her new “California fire pit” on the patio. Further along I came across a repair truck from the gas company, parked at the curb with flashers on. Some residents were out on their stoop, with the gas man, pointing to an area of their property where a drunk driver had lately crashed through their fence, uprooted two shrubs, and excavated their small garden. “I can smell it right there”, the woman was saying. “And over here,” said her husband. I walked faster.

At the end of the street, where the land falls steeply away to the river, I watched planes landing at the Smallish International Jetport. As I turned for home, the Smallish City baseball team began shooting off fireworks. The iridescent colors filled the sky and reflected off window panes and car windshields. The pow! bam! pow! retort beat me back along the street. The couple and the gas man were still sniffing around. The domesticated infernos were roaring. I closed the door.

My neighborhood was one of the few to survive the Great Fire of 1866. I wonder if it feels a bit invincible.

Nonsense phrases

Why is "Now then," considered a normal thing to say? What sense does it make? When you ask people a question, why do they sometimes start their replies with "Yeah, no..."? What does that mean?

We shrinks know, of course, be we aren't telling.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

High and Dry and Pissed Off

Epilogue: As you'll recall, just yesterday the owner of that boat Limey and Stay of Execution and I had been asked to sail up from Tortola cancelled the trip. He said was having problems with purchase paperwork and the boat wouldn't be ready to sail by the scheduled departure date of May 15th. Apologized, barely, for the trouble he's put us through in organizing something that isn't going to happen.

Then tonight this popped up on one of the sailing websites I frequent:

"TORTOLA => N.Y. I need someone to deliver my Beneteau 411 from Tortola to New York City in a week or two. She will be ready to sail May 1st 2006 and would like to have her sailing shortly thereafter. Please contact me for more details. [jerko]@[dumbass].org (4/27/06)"

Yep, same guy, same boat, whole different story. I'm perplexed. I never tried to persuade this fellow that we were the best crew for this job; rather, he found me, and seemed quite eager to have us. Still, it occured to me that he might've found a crew he liked better, but this post doesn't support that theory. Various other mildly paranoid theories have crossed my mind. Is he running drugs? Maybe he thought we we asking too many questions. Is he planning some sort of boat disaster insurance fraud? That might explain his minimal attention to safety issues. Is he just a sociopath who enjoys toying with people?

A Green Acres Interlude

Patient: Did you see this necklace I made?
Dr. Turbo: Wow, that came out very nicely.
Patient: Asshole! It did not come out nicely. It came out perfectly.

Patient Exit stage left.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

High And Dry

Sailing small boats back and forth between the northeast U.S. and the Caribbean is a two-shot-a-year proposition. Going south, there’s a window of about four weeks in November/December when you might, if you’re lucky, miss both the tail end of hurricane season and the front end of winter gale season. In the spring, there’s a similar window in May.

You may recall that last fall, the day after Thanksgiving, I flew to Philadelphia to help sail a boat heading to St. Maarten. But I don't think you heard the rest of that story. I was picked up at PHL by the boat’s owner and another stranger, Limey. We drove to Maryland, suffered out a cold snap on board Arabesque, then spent several days hopping down the Chesapeake to Norfolk. There our fourth crew mate, another stranger, joined us. Then, in the midst of endless U.S. Navy operations, we sat at the dock and waited for a weather forecast conducive to crossing the gulf stream. We read books. We told tall tales. We told them again. We drank whiskey and finished bags of jelly beans. We started putting a dent in all the frozen homemade meals the owner’s wife had stashed away for our voyage. One of the heads exploded, and I had the decidedly horrifying job of cleaning the fallout. We replaced both heads. We waited. And the weather never improved. We discussed options. Motor down the intracoastal waterway to North Carolina, and wait there? Head offshore despite the warnings? Fly home and reconvene in a week? Ultimately, over our objections, the owner just gave up. He and the fourth crew cast off and headed the boat back to Maryland. Limey and I rented a car and started a 12 hour drive home. The depression was palpable. Instead of sailing to palm trees and turquoise waters, we were returning to December in New England.

But, we became good friends. I dropped him in Mystic and we swore we’d find a boat coming north in the spring. We’ve stayed in touch over the winter, and kept our ears to the wind for boats in need of crew. Late in winter, I was contacted by a fellow in New York who had just bought a 42-foot boat in Tortola, and needed it up north by Memorial Day. Could I help? You bet. Limey signed on at once. We recruited Stay of Execution without much persuasion. And we found a fourth to round out the crew. Things looked good. The owner agreed to pay our transportation and other expenses. He said the boat would be ready to sail April 20. We nailed down a departure date of May 13. I wrangled two weeks away from Green Acres. I checked with the owner about passage-making gear: liferaft, emergency beacon, sat phone, rigging cutters, storm sails, autopilot… We started daydreaming about sailing in past the Statue of Liberty on a warm May breeze after 1500 miles at sea.

Before long, though, we realized the owner wasn’t very responsive. He’d disappear from communication for a week at a time, then get back in touch and say everything was on track. He said he’d been down to the boat, had her surveyed, and was working on flight arrangements. Then he disappeared again. With less than three weeks to departure, we emailed him today and said we needed some answers. Finally, I got a brief message from him: Trouble with the broker. Boat won’t be ready. Have to put off moving her. Sorry for the trouble.

So here Limey and I are again, sitting on the dock. We’d turned down several other offers in the interim, and now they don’t need us. We’re scrambling around for any last-minute opportunities. But it looks like it'll be more shrinking, less fading...


Patients with psychotic disorders sometimes produce "neologisms", new words that aren't in the dictionary. This is considered a fairly classical symptom and often noted with interest by the treating psychiatrist.

In my experience, though, our staff produce as many, if not more, neologisms as the patients. A common one often seen in nursing notes is "flustrated", which I assume means some combination of flustered and frustrated. That is, a visibly manifested frustration.

Saw another this morning. We often describe a patient's mood as either stable or labile. This note reported "Mood: stabile." That's a perplexing lable.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

We Both Are So Excited 'Cause We're Re-u-nited, Hey Hey

Upcoming in a couple weeks is my 20th high school reunion. I went to a very small school, down in Major Metropolitan Area—so small, in fact, that until recently there were no “ class reunions” per se, just a big dinner once a year with all living alums invited at once. We did, however, have 40 odd people in my class, and I’ve been looking forward to seeing them. My Shady Grove School reunion a few years ago filled me with jitters and anxieties, because, well, my life there had been full of anxieties and jitters. But my high school experience was overwhelmingly positive, if decidedly weird, and I’ve been looking forward to seeing old faces.

So imagine my surprise when I checked the school website yesterday to see who’s RSVPed—and found only my best friend from those days, and myself. That’s it. And, BFFTD is the reunion organizer. So, for all practical purposes, I’m the only one who voluntarily agreed to come. What does that mean? Do they all know something I don’t? Is it considered really uncool to show up for school reunions? What happened to all the rah-rah school spirit types?

In consultation with BFFTD, we’ve cancelled the planned catered meal and will instead be going out to Aramando’s, the three-booth pizza joint equidistant from our childhood homes where we spent many hours (after Emma and Georgio, who made better pizza down the street, retired). Maybe we’ll play some tapes of Mad Hatter, our Clash and Sex Pistols cover “band” (loosely defined) of that era. I wonder what everyone else is doing that’s so damn important.

Monday, April 24, 2006

I Am A Boat Broker's Nightmare

I've been sailboat shopping on and off for four years, and in a dedicated fashion for the past 14 months. Here's what I've been aboard so far:

Allied Seawind II 32
Atkins 28
Bristol 29.9
Cape Dory 27
Cape Dory 30 (two cutters, one ketch)
Cape Dory 31 (four of them!)
Fuji 32
Luders 33
Pacific Seacraft Dana 24
Pacific Seacraft 25
Pacific Seacraft Orion 27
Pearson Triton
Sabre 30
Sea Sprite 34
Shannon 28
Southern Cross 31 (two)
Spencer 35
Voyager 26
Westsail 28 (two)
Westsail 32

Weren't ANY of these boats good enough? Well, I almost bought two of them. But they got away.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Welcome to my Dojo

The original idea, last year, was that I’d rent out the Turbopalace for the summer and live on the sailboat till fall. That didn’t work out too well because, as astute reader(s) will recall, I don’t have a sailboat. But I did wind up with a roommate named The Chipper for most of the summer, and that worked out fine. I actually enjoyed the company, and he kept a bottomless supply of Pabst Blue Ribbon in the house. That didn’t really make up for the fact that he drank all my good whiskey while I was off in the South Pacific, but I’ve almost forgiven him for that. He did leave behind a full box of Cheez-Its.

It was less shocking than I expected, going back from many years of living solo to having a roommate again. Probably somewhat ameliorated by the fact that 9 and I own the house, and so retain the right to pull owner rank on any significant issue. So I’ve had roommates over the winter, too, and am looking for a new one for summer (send any leads, please.)

It’s fun to google prospective housemates. One guy wrote to me today with a message that revealed little of his personality. But he had an unusual name, and when I googled him I discovered a page of reviews he’d written for One of these was for the film Fight Club, about which he raves. In fact, he says “I watched it 20-30 times”, and remarks “It has become my personal anthem”. Whoa. Do you remember this movie? You may recall it contains perhaps the worst housemate situation ever depicted in film. And that’s not to mention the violence, of course. This fellow is not rising to the top of the list. Another woman proudly emailed that she is at this moment driving cross-country to the Smallish State in her ’79 pickup. When I googled her, I discovered that this very pickup had been impounded by her local police last year. Drug bust? Doesn’t pay her bills? Gets drunk and can’t remember where the truck was parked? Hmm.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Charred Acres

It's no secret around Green Acres that I've been an advocate of smoking cessation, and of turning our facility smoke-free. We're currently the only psychiatric facility in the state that allows smoking. Even the jails and prisons (from which we admit patients if they demonstrate enough mental illness) are non-smoking.

But I stopped my active push to end smoking a couple years ago, after (1) my petition signed by every member of the medical, psychiatry, psychology, and social work staff was ignored by those in charge, and (2) I realized I was on the verge of receiving death-threats.

The evidence in my favor, however, keeps piling up. Or burning down, depending how you look at it. Last night, there was the third fire in a year due to cigarettes. I witnessed the first one from my office window: a large area of landscaping mulch was literally ablaze. It almost lit some bushes on fire. Interestingly, our Safety Officer did not send out any sort of communication after this event (though he usually sends a HIGH IMPORTANCE email for the most minor of safety issues). Later in the week I passed him in the hallway and asked if he was going to do any education in response to the conflagration in the parking lot. "The what?", he asked. "The fire", I said. "Oh. Well, you wouldn't believe how dry that mulch was that they delivered us. I'm going to make sure we don't get such dry mulch in the future." That was it.

So last fall we almost burned down the landscaping again, and again last night. But still, the puffing continues.

I'm going to push for beer at lunchtime. I don't see why not. It's legal, nonflammable, and you can't get liver damage from second-hand drinking. Plus, if we had a keg in the staff room, we could use it to put out fires.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Product Sort-of Endorsement

I was going to write a serious and probably seditious post tonight in honor of Patriots Day, in which I explore whether we (the U.S.) might have been wise to hold off on the American Revolution.

Instead, I am writing to tell you about the "Mr. Clean Magic Eraser". Recent roommate-moving-in activity has led to many ugly black scuff marks on my hallway walls. Actually I have no idea how they managed to create this mess; it looks rather like they put Indy cars sideways on the walls and "peeled out", or perhaps dragged blocks of coal back and forth. Anyway, ordinary cleaning products had no effect, and I had resigned myself to undertaking a paint job.

Then at the market I spied "Mr. Clean Magic Erasers", touted as a cure for "ugly black scuff marks". Also they carried the irresistible slogan, "Imagine the cleaning possibilities!" So I bought two ($2.99US). And, fact, they are magical. Bright white walls are back.

They are a bit strange. They are like white sponges, which slowly dissolve as you use them. Also, they turn the water in your bucket white. But it did not cross my mind that they might actually be poisonous, until I looked at the Mr. Clean website itself and found a page called "Get The Truth On Mr. Clean Magic Eraser". There, to paraphrase, I found the following information:

1) The reports that our product is dangerous and contains formaldehyde are false.
2) Sure, they contain formaldehyde-melamine-sodium bisulfite copolymer, but that is NOT the same as formaldehyde.
3) Well, okay. To be fully honest, "it is possible that formaldehyde may be present in minute, trace amounts" [direct quotation] but that shouldn't bother you. You can actually eat the stuff, no problem. But don't, because you might choke on it.

Sort of amusing, no? Anyway, the next time I use the Magic Eraser (and it will be soon) I may wear rubber gloves. And if I eat it, I'm going to wrap it in Saran wrap first.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Great Moments In Toast History, Part I

Film: The Graduate
Scene: The Braddocks' kitchen. Ben has just told his parents that he and Elaine Robinson are getting married, but that she doesn't know it yet.

Mr. Braddock: “Ben. This whole idea sounds pretty half-baked.”
Ben: “Oh it’s not. It’s completely baked. It’s a decision I’ve made.”
Mrs. Braddock: “Well what makes you think she wants to marry you?”
Ben: “She doesn’t. To be perfectly honest she doesn’t like me.”

Ben exits. Then four slices of golden toast pop up in the toaster.

Discussion: This brief scene in a classic film encompasses a wide range of human emotions and behaviors. Ben's parents aren't sure if he's a promising young man or a total degenerate. Ben himself is unsure. Here, he briefly delights his parents by leading them to believe he is heading down a path they laid out for him-- then suddenly disappoints them by revealing that he is, probably, nuts.

Toast plays a prominent role here. Throughout the dialogue, the gleaming chrome toaster is visible in the foreground. It is, in fact, larger than the human players-- establishing that the director believes toast is the sine qua non of this scene. The toaster, in its reposing perfection, represents all that is "establishment" and "normal" in the lifestyle of the senior Braddocks. Despite its size on the screen, most viewers fail even to notice it during the discussion between Ben and his parents.

Yet in the tense human stillness that follows Ben's strange words and departure, the toaster comes to life, commanding full attention and suddenly reclaiming its rightful place in the order of things. The bread springs forth from the appliance somewhat willy-nilly, at odd and careening angles. This reminds us that the Braddocks' lives, much as they wish them to be predictable and even, are actually anything but. Also, the toasts themselves are not evenly browned. This recalls to us Mrs. Robinson's body, which in a previous scene was revealed to be a distasteful patchwork of tanned public areas and pale private areas.

The clamor of the toaster's ejection should serve, of course, as a clarion call to the Braddocks, alerting them to their son's distress and the horror of his simultaneous entaglement with both Robinson women. As film is a visual and auditory media, this must be considered to be the principle message of toast here. Yet, seeing the toast, the viewer's mind cannot help but imagine its well-known calming aroma, and here we find a subtler, more assuring message, as if the director wishes to add "It's okay, everyone. Toast is here. Everything will be alright."

We would be remiss, too, in overlooking the double- (or perhaps even triple-) entendre of the phrases introduced by Ben and his father in dialogue. Mr. Braddock's use of of the cliche "half-baked" conforms with his "establishment" persona, while Ben's retort of "fully baked" brilliantly reflects his more more creative nascent rebelliousness. In the historical and geographical context of the film, of course, "baked" also refers clearly to the overuse of marijuana products-- a clear reference to the generation gap which divides Ben from his parents, and from the elder Mrs. Robinson. Ben and Elaine, we suppose, are fully baked, but their parents have little hope ever of achieving this status. Finally, of course, the use of "baked" ties directly to the image of the toast, bringing together the loose ends of the scene. Some critics have pointed out that baking and toasting are rather disctinct culinary processes, but it is exactly this sort of oblique artistic reference that hoists "The Graduate" to such a high level of acclaim. Had the Braddocks discussed an idea that was "fully toasted", and then the toast popped up, we would have slapstick, but not Art.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Not Enough Complaints

Sometimes I don’t know who’s crazier, my patients or the Green Acres administrators. I guess it should stand, or not stand, to reason that in a mental hospital many things would be done in a backwards, inverted, or upside-down fashion. Yet it never ceases to bewilder me.

Some while back, in the interest of promoting patients’ rights, someone devised a system of “grievances”. If a patient has a complaint about a staff member or situation, he or she fills out a form in triplicate carbon-copy and places it in one of the conveniently located “grievance boxes”. At the time, I had suggested that there should also be corresponding “compliment boxes”, where patients could comment on things or staff that were going or behaving positively, just so we weren’t constantly encouraging only negative thinking. This of course was before I learned to keep my mouth shut. The suggestion was considered either a joke or subversive, depending.

Anyway, on occasion the “grievances” are pertinent and accurate, but more often are pretty far-fetched, and sometimes quite amusing. Patients “grieve” each other at least as often as they “grieve” staff. It’s particularly interesting when a new person comes, raises wild hell on the unit for days or weeks, finally gets a little better, then writes vehement complaints about a new admission who is raising wild hell on the unit. Also there is a section on the form that asks, “What would you like done about this?” The patients are often very creative in the “remedies” they suggest doling out to each other.

Then, regardless of merit, each and every “grievance” must be screened by our wonderful and long-suffering Peer Support Worker, and passed up the chain of command for response. The other day he (PSW) had a particularly large stack of grievances (eight for one day), so I borrowed the pile to review during a meeting. They included such complaints as: “X and Y keep putting their heads up each other’s asses. They should be punished severely”, and, “Z is a total whore and I am a martial arts master. Someone should shut her up or get her out of here” and “W used witchcraft to break the whirlpool tub and then told me I couldn’t have a whirlpool. She should be fired immediately.”

Anway, PSW noted that our unit is, by far, leading the hospital in numbers of grievances—over two hundred in the past year. This immediately concerned me, partly because a few of them may have been valid, but also because I loathe drawing the scrutiny of administrators. That aphorism, “The nail that sticks up will be hammered down”, is very true at G.A. But PSW reassured me. “They’re actually really happy about it upstairs”, she said. “A while back they told us we weren’t gathering enough grievances, and we needed to get more. I’ve brought back way more than the other units, so they’re really impressed.”

See what I mean?

Friday, April 14, 2006

eulogy for belle

Belle the black lab (also known as 3), long-time companion to 2, died today following an ambush by two fierce pit bulls.

When I first met Belle five years ago, she was already an old dog, with silver muzzle and silver paws. She had lost an eye long before (to a run-in with a sharp stick) and almost lost the other (to a thorn). But being old and half-blind had little effect on her, and she carried on more or less as if nothing had happened. Two years ago she lost a hind leg in a freak skiing accident. She was out of commission for two days, then back to running, swimming, and generally behaving as if her fourth leg had been slowing her down and she was relieved to be rid of it. Belle astounded me with her resilience and make-do attitude.

She was also one of the sweetest and most tolerant dogs around. I don’t make many dog friends; she was a rare exception. Even 9 got along with her. There are many photos of Belle calmly displaying some article of clothing 2 had foisted on her—like a tutu, or a blonde wig.

She spent a lot of time sleeping, but she also liked to take periodic explorations around the neighborhood, and today her roaming apparently took her past some poorly contained, vicious killers. It couldn’t have been a remotely fair match—two young pit bulls against an elderly, one-eyed, three-legged lab. But the word is she put up quite a fight.

I had expected that the end of Belle’s life would be very different. I pictured her losing more organs and appendages--- one here, one there—until there wasn’t enough left of her to go on. Or, perhaps, just drifting off into her dream-riddled sleep some night, and not waking up on the other side. She was so gentle and unassuming that it is very hard to imagine her meeting death in such a wild, tumultuous way. But I think perhaps I didn't know her all that well. Now that I look back, she may really have been an Amelia Earhart type: a tough-as-nails girl adventurer who survived close scrapes and kept right on, until finally going out in a blazing crash.

We gathered in the lamp-lit darkness tonight and laid Belle to rest under a small bush in 2’s back yard. It was a very sad day but also one for remembering all the happiness she had brought others, her intrepid spirit, and the simple things that are more important than we commonly realize (such as sticks). Goodbye, Belle. We’ll all miss you.

I'd Like To Make A Toast. Maybe A Lot Of Them.

Earlier this week I was hanging out with 520, Lib, and Lib’s as-yet-un-nicknamed boyfriend. We had one of those dinners where no one has enough food in the house to make anything in particular, so everyone brings what they have and we see what develops. We wound up eating tofu with soy sauce, an omelet, toast, gingersnaps, wine, and sprinkles (aka “jimmies” around here).

While the toast was toasting, I recalled my previous musings on the powers of this simple, universally appealing food. 517 and I unraveled off, as we often do, into hypothetical consideration of business opportunities. It struck me, suddenly, that you can’t just buy toast on the street corner, the way you can get a pretzel or popsicle. Even in Manhattan, to the best of my memory, there are no sidewalk toast vendors. Yet what could be simpler? And wouldn’t people go for it? The wheels are turning.

517 (who, incidentally, has the same real first name as me) has a particular self-employment vision that involves driving a commercial van with the name of his business on the side. We envisioned our future vehicle, with bold lettering reading ‘TURBO & TURBO’S TOAST”. We both rather liked the picture. I think also in 517’s mind was an image of us using the van to go to the junkyard and get more Saab engines.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

I Can See All Obstacles In My Way

A few months ago, I became aware of some double vision in my left eye—just a ghostly outline of the real image, a little offset to the right. I probably didn’t even notice it until it started to interfere with my reading, with ghost letters crowding out the real ones. This caused me to panic momentarily. Having considerable background in neurology, and a little in neurosurgery, but none in opthamology, I immediately thought of the various brain tumors and degenerative neurological conditions that can give you double vision. Eventually I thought to check if I had double vision with my glasses off, which I didn’t, which was relieving.

So I made an appointment with my O.D., a likeable, bright, nattily-dressed woman of Middle Eastern descent. This is a routine I’ve gone through every year or two since third grade. Vision gets a little blurry, go to the eye doc, look at a bunch of letters, repeatedly answer the question (“Better 1, or 2? Better 1, or 2”?) and walk out with a new prescription that leads to crisp, clear vision.

The appointment, two weeks ago, went pretty much along those standard lines, until the very end, when Dr. N said, “Well, there’s something wrong. I can’t get your left eye as good as it should be.” There followed a battery of foreign tests: a diagram to look at with cross-hatched lines. A slit-lamp exam. A trip across the hall to the corneal topographer machine (a cool device somewhere between Sleeper and Dr. Seuss, which I thought would look good in my livingroom). A review of the print-out of my corneal topography. A furrowed brow. She couldn’t find anything wrong. She wanted me to come back in two weeks, to consult with their corneal specialist. In the meantime, she wanted me to use warm compresses and artificial tears, because there was a chance my “tear film” was inadequate and affecting my vision.

I didn’t buy that. Warm compresses are, surely, the opthomological equivalent of two aspirin and call me in the morning. I went home wondering if I’d ever see well again. I took some solace in my newly-minted disability policy, which pays automatic disability if you lose sight in one eye. But this didn’t seem like good news for skiing.

Today, after two weeks of placebo hot-packs and troublesome eye drops, I was back looking at the eye charts. This time, 20/20, both eyes. “You don’t know how relieved I am”, said Dr. N. “If this hadn’t worked, it was going to be a visit with Dr. L and a trip to Major Metropolitan Area for you.” She also noted, with a tone of pride, that my eye had gone from “two-plus crusting” to “no crusting” (I hesitate to share this detail, but there it is.)

High on this reprieve from blindness (and, worse, a trip to the medical megalopolis of Mjr. Met. Area) I drove by Boat #1 on the way home, just to have another look.

The Fish Are Jumping, And The Cotton Is High

Well, not quite. But summer is close by. The air today was warm, the sun radiant, the clouds started to pile into thunderhead anvils, and I saw the season's first New York license plate heading north on the Smallish State Turnpike. It won't be long now.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Green Acres We Are There!

As I bet some of you have already noticed, this “going to work” thing can really interfere with your life, not to mention your blogging.

Things are Green Acres have not changed much. Today was particularly hectic and unpleasant, as I had to cover for a colleague who was out all day in court, defending himself from a (spurious, in my opinion) lawsuit. So, all of his patients were distressed and acting up, and/or taking advantage of the opportunity of a “substitute teacher”. One of these had already sent three staff people (totaling about four times her body weight and eight times her age) to the emergency room by the time I got in. Later there was throwing of chairs, biting, and other unpleasantness. Meanwhile two of colleague’s patients, who had agreed to stay in the hospital voluntarily, demanded to leave. Policy dictates that I have to see these people within 60 minutes and decide what to do. When you have two such people at once, and it’s going to take at least 45 minutes to figure out each one’s situation and come to a decision, you have a problem..

Meanwhile, another of colleague’s patients reported to staff that he had tied a belt around his neck earlier in the day. People got concerned, because he has privileges to go outside unsupervised eight times a day, 15 minutes at a time (euphemistically called “free time”, but really used almost exclusively for smoking.) He freely stated that he is suicidal and planning to kill himself. Common sense dictates that a person with such a mindset, and who is actively tying belts around his neck, should not be roaming around outside alone. But, according to the patient, outside is the ONLY place he is safe, because smoking is a calming activity. In fact, he warned me, if I took away his extra smoke breaks, it would worsen his suicidality, and he would be dead before colleague returned (and, implied, it would be my fault).

Not knowing the guy from a tangerine, I really didn’t know what to do, but decided to restrict him to the unit tonight. Hope this doesn’t come back to me as a lawsuit.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Tax Break

Today 517 and I had tentative plans to go for the the season's third "last day of skiing", but he got involved in activities with future in-laws and I remembered I had a kayak in the cellar.

Actually I was sort of shamed into going out for a paddle by GeoGeek. It's hard to sit down here in the tropics and say it's too cold to kayak, while the Canadians are already out on the water. Then again, they are the largest single exporter of oil to the United States, so-- wait, that doesn't have anything to do with it.

The point is, the kayak went in the drink today. It was just slightly breezy at the TurboPalace, but the wind was pretty stiff out on Smallish Harbor. Nice little whitecaps, waves slopping over the deck. After a winter of lower-body exercise, the paddle felt like lead. Maybe I was tired from engine-moving, too. And my wetsuit is two sizes too small, which makes it hard to move at all. But in spite of all that, dipping hands into the water and feeling the rock and glide of a little boat made me smile.

Too much spray to take the camera out on the sea today, but someone requested a photo of the vessel. This will have to do. Now, back to the taxes/warmongering.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Big Heavy Things, Part I

Sometimes, after a week of cerebral work, your brain just hurts. When this happens, the only antidote is moving some big heavy thing.

Friend 517 has a minor mental health issue which causes him to buy multiple barely-running or non-running Saabs. One such Saab is in his garage with a "bad" engine and transmission. A reputedly "good" engine and transmission was waiting at the Saab Engine Repository (his parents shed). A transplant was ordered. Step one was moving the donor engine back to the Smallish City. Lucky for me, I was invited along.

We borrowed 1's truck, a come-along, some chain, stout planks, plywood, and wooden rollers. We managed to move the beast without losing too many fingers. We also went to the dump, and as payment for my services I was able to throw away my high school era skis and boots for no charge.

Now, the procrastinating ends and I go upstairs to do my taxes.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Pick The Pretty Boat

Dear Readers,

I would like your assistance in selecting a sailboat. These three models (in ancient artifact form) are all up for consideration. Which one is just plain best-looking? Please vote. If you don't know the first thing about sailboats, so much the better. Sorry about the crummy photos-- these boats were built before they invented film.
Cold, dark rain in the Smallish City. I drove by the shore on the way home from 518's place. The ocean seemed to be stashing away the grayness. Saving it for later, maybe. The ocean, here, is expected to maintain a stern, steely countenance all summer, even when the skies are beaming and full of bright puffball clouds.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006


Season pass to Big Corporate Ski Area, pre-season price: $369
New skate skis and boots from Open All Night Outdoors Store: $282
New Subaru to get to the mountains no matter what the weather: $20,943
Ticket to Florida when the sky won't snow and the sun won't shine: $322
Freak April snowstorm in the Smallish State: Priceless


Last night we had whipping wind and sleet in the Smallish City, but it snowed in the mountains. It snowed a lot-- the biggest 24-hour snowfall since December. Maybe I'll have to pull the winter gear out of the cellar yet one more time.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

A Green Acres Interlude

Dr. Turbo: So, how do you spend your time when you're not in the hospital?

Patient: Oh, I do a lot of volunteer work.

Dr. T: Well, that's very generous of you. What sort of volunteer work do you do?

Patient: Doesn't really matter. Anything that pays well.

Monday, April 03, 2006

How To Open A Bottle Of Beer Without A Bottle Opener, Part III

After a day at Green Acres, a beer is about all I could think about. Also, the posts on opening beer have garnered more comments than any other topic in the history of this blog. So I'm returning to that topic. Give the people what they want.

Adrift At Sea recently sent in a link to another beer bottle opening suggestion, a piece of jewelry that doubles as an opener. Clever. But still we do not have a viable method using only body parts. Unless you want to try any of the techniques shown in this video.

Speaking of beer, I wish I could tell you about the idea Co-Chief and I came up with today for my future. This was generated after reading just the initial few sentences of a bargain-table ($6.95) book I bought yesterday called "How To Find The Work You Love". The first paragraph said, "Write down what it is you really enjoy and can do well". So I did, and then my first instinct was to tear it up, because it seemed degenerate and unprofitable. But on further thought I had great insight, and emailed Co-Chief the idea. All I can really tell you is that it involves beer and writing. He immediately replied with a book title, which I have to tell you is a real winner.

I wish I could say more about it, but I can't-- I don't want anyone stealing the idea and/or dying trying it.


One of our nurses at Green Acres recently returned after spending the better part of a year in Iraq with the National Guard. I asked her which workplace she felt safer in.

She had to think about it for a minute, but she picked Iraq.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Day Of Boats

Yesterday 2 and I had a classic Smallish State day. We set off up the coast mid-morning, passed through a college town, and followed a little road down one of the long, rocky peninsulas that jut seaward from there. The sun was lavish and high, most of the ice gone. Here and there we passed men with brooms, sweeping away the road sand and other lingering detritus of winter. Small coves of aqua water flickered by, bounded by rocks and conifers. “Are you getting this?”, asked 2, “Are you getting how beautiful this is?”

She was making the point, specifically, that as coach of a smallish college sailing team this drive is now her commute to work. The drive also led to a little dirt boatyard, where we met a broker to look at an old sailboat I had an interest in. She (the boat) turned out to be a bit too big, too expensive, and too ugly. But while I was poking around the engine and chain lockers, 2 wandered around the yard and found a gorgeous relic of a vessel that seemed also to be for sale. (My working theory is that every boat in the Smallish State is for sale, if the price is right, unless it has a “NOT FOR SALE” sign on it—which you do occasionally see. For a while there was an old hulk in the Smallish City with “NOT FOR SALE” spray-painted right on the hull.)

So, after the broker left, we clambered on the even-older boat, our practiced boat-junkie eyes seeing past the cracked decks, peeling toerails, demolished engine-room, and heaps of leaves, pine needles, and dirty rags. Her lines were sleek and winsome. An unusual spiral ladder led below decks to a cozy and secure cabin, with artifacts everywhere to suggest a long and colorful history of significant voyages. We found the binder, present on any well-loved old boat, that is filled with the owner’s notes and sketches of his vessel’s idiosyncrasies and preferences. Imaginations leapt past a five year, hundred-thousand-dollar restoration to see the boat slicing through green seas, bound for Nantucket or Monhegan or Antigua. We speculated on her builder; I hazarded a guess and took some photos of potentially identifying features. (Later, researching back home, I gratified myself by being right.)

Afterwards, we went down to the docks of the sailing team, located at the end of a barely-there dirt road, on a mystical maze of little tidal coves. Lazing on warm rocks, we ate fried haddock sandwiches and a quart of onion rings. A couple of other friends joined us. I admired the sailors’ clubhouse and wished that I had had the sense to go to that smallish college and join that sailing team. I never would’ve studied, and I’d probably be a better person today.

Soon the team arrived. Like fast-flying geese, they had miraculously migrated from Florida to their cold-water summer home, and again I watched them spill into their dinghies and fly and spin in the wind. I mused that 2 has, perhaps, the world’s best job. She told me she’d hire me as the assistant coach, if the real assistant coach quits. She probably wasn’t serious, because I don’t know anything about sailboat racing. But boy, it sure sounds like a good offer.

The immediate reality, though, is that I’m back to Green Acres on Monday.