Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Holy Glove Box was bumped to page 2 because of this story. (Laws of Nature, Law #2)


Everything that is possible will at some point happen in Florida.

Watch the news: If something happened, then that same thing happened or will happen in Florida. And if something weird happened, then that thing probably happened first in Florida. I'm to the point where when I see a teaser for a story on CNNHLNFIDO, like "This woman can't believe it's still her car..." I think "What part of Florida did that happen in?" Then the story comes back and it turns out that the Mormon church consecrated a glove compartment as the new holy land, only to have a sinkhole use the Holy Glove Box to abduct three children during an armed robbery that arose as a result of a celebrity divorce... in Orlando.

So this morning, when I saw the headline "Jesus Talk Saves Cashier from Gunman," I thought: Hmm... good start for Saturday, Florida. And I was right: The cashier who talked the gunman out of robbing her (and into confessing that it was only a BB Gun -- excellent robbery plan, Clark Griswold; planning on taking down Wally World next?) was working at a cell phone store in Pompano Beach, Florida.

Also, while we're on the subject of Clark Griswold, Super Robber, who robs a cell phone store?

Don't take this for granite... get it? Should I have used quotes? "Granite?"

We made the decision this morning -- we're moving sooner rather than later, which means getting this old house into shape for selling so we can move to the new house.

No, I don't know why that makes sense, either. Why fix up the old place to make it more desirable if we're only going to sell our newly-great house to someone else? But that's how the economy works, I guess, so, um, you're welcome, Obama, and also I need some new granite sinks to put into our house because that's what's hot right now.

I'm no fixer-upper handyman, so when it comes to home improvement projects, I look for one thing: The exit! (That joke Copyright Henny Youngman 1953). Actually, I look for low prices and easy-to-do things that will make a big impact on the house while not requiring a major time or work commitment. New sinks are one such thing: Easy to put in, but they jazz up the whole room and catch your eye and make you forget that Mr Bunches drew a life-size "Daddy" scribble on the other kitchen wall. (That's the plan, anyway.)

The granite sinks, like I said, are the biggest thing around right now. People love granite, and why not? It's tough and easy to clean and looks great, and I can get new ones to put in from "Shop Sinks And Faucets," a website that makes it easy to order the sinks shipped to me and has helpful tips and information right there on the site. I can get a couple and upgrade the bathroom vanities in no time -- just before we get a realtor, too.

So if you tour our house and think of buying it, focus on the sinks, and not on the way Mr Bunches literally SAWED A HOLE in the roof. (I'm not sure how he did that, either. I blame The Boy.)

Friday, July 30, 2010

One instant, it lit all about. (Friday's Sunday's Poem/Hot Actress 57)

The Secret Heart
Robert Peter Tristram Coffin

Across the years he could recall
His father one way best of all.
In the stillest hour of night
The boy awakened to a light.
Half in dreams, he was his sire
With his great hands full of fire.
The man had struck a match to see
If his son slept peacefully.
He held his palms each side the spark
His love had kindled in the dark.
His two hands were curved apart
In the semblance of a heart.
He wore, it seemed to his small son,
A bare heart on his hidden one,
A heart that gave out such a glow
No son awake could bare to know.
It showed a look upon a face
Too tender for the day to trace.
One instant, it lit all about,
And then the secret heart went out.
But shone long enough for one
To know that hands held up the sun.


About the poem: So I've got hearts on my mind this week. Sue me. No, don't. I don't need the stress. But I do need the work... this is a real dilemma.

About the hot actress: I asked Sweetie who to pick and she said "Naomi Watts." Then she couldn't say why. So I picked Naomi Watts. I don't know why.

Republicans: "Only Democratic spending increases the deficit." (Publicus Proventus.)

Under the headline "GOP blocks lending bill" in today's comically tiny Wisconsin State Journal, a rehashed AP article rehashes Republican falsehoods about why they're blocking Dems' efforts to provide loans to small businesses.

In the third paragraph, the AP dutifully quotes the Republicans as saying the lending bill was like the "unpopular bailout of the financial industry," while failing to recall that the bailout was wildly popular with Republican congresspeople who passed it, and the Republican president who signed it.

In the seventh paragraph, the AP, as apparently required by law, noted that Republicans claim that some initiatives are stalling "in part because of concerns they would add to the growing national debt."

In the last column of paragraphs, the AP noted that one problem with passing the bill is that Republicans wouldn't vote for a small business lending bill unless their amendments were added to it. The amendments they wanted to add to that small business lending bill? Measures to beef up border security and to lower the estate tax.

In other words, the Republicans objected to a spending bill because it didn't spend enough.

"Watch" this. (I had to use quotes so you'd get that it's a pun.)

People give a lot of gifts reflexively -- there are certain things that we just seem to give when we don't know what else to give. Sweaters to relatives at Christmas, for example. Or flowers to someone who's sick. Or rubber Green Bay Packer floor mats to that guy from accounting who's retiring, even though he lives in Arkansas. Mysterious choice, that one.

I think there's a better gift to give when you want to do something nice and aren't sure what the person might like -- a watch. Everyone uses watches, and with the plethora of kinds of watches they have at Blue, it's a guarantee you'll find one to match the person you're gifting.

Take this dolce and gabbana watch: Wouldn't it be perfect for a young lady going off to college? You grandparents and other relatives, or close friends who have to go to grad parties or going away parties and don't know what to get could get something like that, and the person getting it would love it. It's like jewelry only without getting all personal, necessarily.

Not that watches can't have a personal say, too -- Sweetie got me a watch for my birthday one year, and I wear it all the time, so everytime I check to see how many more hours I have to pretend to work before going home to play "Bust It" with Mr Bunches, I think of Sweetie. And also the Buffalo Bills, since that's the logo on the watch. But mostly Sweetie.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

I Think I Set A World Record For Almost-Dying: Part Two: What's A Blood Pressure SUPPOSED To Be?

I almost died twice in one week. Part one of this story is here.

Almost dying can be kind of relaxing, provided you don't know what's going on.

That's the kind of wisdom that I, as a guy who almost-died twice in just 7 days, can pass on to you. That's a quoteable quote, right there. It'll probably appear, in mispelled Korean, on the arms of young actresses within a week or two. From there, eventually, it'll appear on a postcard under the picture of a giant Ratalope in a gift shop in Oklahoma, and after that my words will be forgotten. (That, my friends, is the lifestyle of an inspirational quote these days. Unless you're lucky enough to appear as a chapter heading in a Chicken Soup book, in which case you're immortal. I'm working on my own Chicken Soup book, by the way. It's going to be called Chicken Soup for the Chicken Who In Short Order Will Be The Soup. Look for it in bookstores shortly after I finish writing Aeneid, Missisippi.)

The treatment for bee stings is surprisingly easy -- provided that you'd like it to be ineffective, as well. First, it involves a conversation that invariably goes like this (once you get past the religion question):

Caregiver/person in scrubs/person holding stethoscope: So, you got stung by a bee?
Me: I got stung by
sixteen bees.

Caregiver: Are you allergic?

Me: I don't think so.

Caregiver: You are now.

I had that conversation, more or less, with the triage nurse, the nurse who met me in the ER room, the guy who was a paramedic in training who was in the ER room, the doctor who came in, and, ultimately, Sweetie, when she got inside after dispatching Oldest and Middle off home with the Babies!

Beyond that, the treatment for bee stings -- the ineffective one -- is to give the person a dose of Benadryl, and a dose of steroids, the latter (a) making me ineligible for the NFL this season, and (b) tasting absolutely disgusting. I'm no pup, as I've mentioned, so when I say something tastes disgusting, you can either be pretty sure I'm describing a vegetable, or something equally gross tasting. The steroid pill left a trail of slime down my throat and then began to rot in my stomach, making me feel a little queasy.

"That's normal," they'll tell you in the ER, while not apologizing at all for the medical establishment's complete inability to make medicine taste like something other than rotten mold. It's like the compost those pills. Health insurance companies are probably behind that; we'll seek less treatment if we know that taking medicine is basically the equivalent of licking the bottom of a 3-year-old's shoe.

The other thing I found disconcerting, beyond the amazingly rancid flavor of steroids, is that some of the medicines they gave me were things I already had in my medicine cabinet at home -- things that I'd already known to take, in fact. That's not what I go to the ER for. If I wanted to get a treatment I could give myself at home, I'd simply stay at home and Google my symptoms (Googling symptoms is now considered front-line treatment under Obamacare, you know, so you can get reimbursed by the federal goverment for doing just that whenever you, like me, have the sniffles and like me Google them and self-diagnose a possible brain tumor), as I actually tried to do until one of those symptoms became "pain in the chest" and I was forced to consider that Sweetie might be right on with that go-to-the-ER idea she'd floated.

So at the ER, it seems like they should do something I couldn't do for myself. They should hook me up to machines. They should take my blood. They should monitor things that need monitoring. And they should not say "Here's a Benadryl." Imagine if other professions did that. You'd go to a lawyer and he'd say "Oh, if you want to sue someone and get a million bucks, just cut-and-paste the names in this document and have it handed to them. That's what we do." Or your mechanic would admit "All those things under the hood don't even do anything. Your SUV runs on black magic. You're going to Hell." (That latter only applies to people who drive Escalades.)

They did have me hooked up to two things. The first was that little "Pulse Ox" monitor, the clip that goes on your fingertip and claims to be monitoring your oxygen when clearly it's doing nothing. There's no way to monitor oxygen levels in the blood without getting at the blood, especially through a fingertip. I tested one of those things once by holding my breath for a really long time (about 15 seconds, maybe?) and noted no change in the blood oxygen levels' readings. So that's a scam, and I'm going to tell my insurance company not to pay for that monitoring. Those things have all the effectiveness of Buzz Lightyear's laser.

The other thing was the blood pressure cuff, which was set up to automatically check my blood pressure every so often. Don't be fooled, if you're in the ER, by the fact that the cuff is around your arm: It's not constantly reading anything. If it's not puffed up and ticking, it's doing exactly as much medical care as your wristwatch. Maybe less, since my watch at least has an attractive Buffalo Bills' logo to distract me for a second just before I almost die; or it would have, if I'd had it on.

I didn't have my watch, but I did have a pretty clear view of a clock, and it said it was 7:55 p.m. The nurse and doctor checked in to see how I was feeling, and I said okay, the Pulse Ox fake-read 97%, and the blood pressure monitor told them what my blood pressure had been 10 minutes before, and they said I'd be going home soon.

Then I felt a little sick, and told Sweetie that I might barf. Sweetie tried to help, finding a large garbage can to give me.

"That's a garbage can," I objected, feeling a little more queasy. She looked around and I pressed the nurse call button. "I'll ask the nurse to give me something."

A minute or so later, nobody had come in, and I said to Sweetie "I feel really sick; can you lean out in the hall and see if someone can give me a bucket or something?" My pulse ox, I should note, was fine, and my blood pressure from 15 minutes ago continued to be great.

The nurse then came in, gave me a little pan in case I threw up, and left. A moment later, I thought I was going to throw up and told Sweetie to get the nurse again, and then here's exactly what I remember:

1. A nurse came in, and I closed my eyes and coughed a few times, leaning forward.

2. I laid back and I couldn't open my eyes.

3. I heard someone say they wanted to give me a shot, and would that be okay. I thought I said Sure but I'm not positive that I answered.

4. I tried to open my eyes again, and couldn't, but found that to be kind of nice, anyway, the way it feels nice just before you drift off to sleep at night.

That all took, by my estimate, about four or five minutes, tops. Also, I was very warm -- it suddenly got all cozy in what had been a pretty-cold ER.

Then I opened my eyes again, and the clock said 8:30. Sweetie was the only one in the room with me.

Sweetie said that there had been 3 or 4 people in the room, that they'd given me two shots, asking me permission to do both, and that I'd responded. She said that the first nurse to come in had looked at me and said "Go get the doctor" and then a bunch of people had rushed in. She said that during it all, my blood pressure had dropped to something like 65 over 20.

Which, I understand now, is bad.

I didn't remember any of that; I remembered the one question about one shot (but not getting it.) I'm not sure why they'd ask that of me at that point, anyway? I know we're all crazy about lawyers and lawsuits and suing everyone (and I'm part of the problem) but does it help to ask a person who's nearly dead whether they consent to something? When his wife's sitting right there?

That happened once before to me: After Sweetie had the Babies!, she'd lost a lot of blood and was having a little trouble coming back around. She was awake, though, but kind of loopy and delirious, not making much sense. I was standing by her bed, and occasionally holding one of the Babies! while I watched over her. At one point a doctor came in and described a minor procedure they'd like to do to help her.

"Sure," I said.

"We need her to consent," the doctor said, and looked over at Sweetie and began describing the whole procedure again, including all possible side-effects and other treatment options. "But I recommend this," the doctor said. "And now. Do I have your consent?"

Sweetie, glassy-eyed, looked at me, smiled, and then looked back at the doctor. "What are the side effects?" she asked. After more back and forth like that-- Sweetie talking woozily -- she finally said "Okay I guess," and they did the procedure and she was fine, except for later that night when she told Middle to make sure not to forget her umbrella -- the umbrella Middle hadn't brought, what with it being a hot, sunny day and all.

Sweetie's consent there was worthless, while mine was worth very much -- and the exact opposite played out in the ER after the bee stings. What if I hadn't said okay to the shot? Would they have just slipped me another Benadryl, said "His pulse ox is 97%," and left? I wondered that, later on, as I tried to sleep in the hospital room. I also wondered what they'd done to me while I was out -- what shots they'd given, and why they hadn't given me those in the first place? Why try to gross me out with steroids and give me cold medicine when you had these magic shots that would actually work? Once I'd gotten the effective treatment, the one I can't buy at Walgreens, I felt a lot better -- but I still had to stay in the hospital.

They admitted me, of course. A little after I'd successfully opened my eyes and gotten the lowdown from Sweetie about what had happened while I'd been consenting to things and not having any blood pressure, the doctor came back in and said they were going to keep me overnight for observation in the hospital, so I got to ride up to the sixth floor of the building and get transferred into a bed about 9 p.m. Sweetie hung around a while, making sure that I was adjusting to the room and also that I wasn't going to stop pumping blood through my body again, and then headed home to let the girls and the Babies! know what had happened.

For my part, I laid in bed and tried not to feel the various bee stings itching, and flipped through channels on the TV, trying to sleep as best I could, something that was made harder by the hospital workers coming in every 30 minutes or so to do things to me. Having failed to either get me home or kill me outright in their first course of treatment (Give him stuff he could have brought in with him if he'd asked) they now seemed determined to go the other route, giving me everything they could think of and monitoring all my vital signs and some of the nonvital signs and some signs I think they just made up to get credit for monitoring them, doing that almost continuously throughout the night, which posed a real problem for me, as I had to keep trying to find TV shows that were interesting but not embarrassing. When a nurse or doctor or CNA or someone comes in to take a level or pulse or sample or something else, n
obody wants to be caught watching Invader Zim or Married, With Children re-runs. Or at least no 41-year-old lawyer with bee stings wants to be caught watching those things.

But I couldn't find anything else on that I wanted to watch and be seen watching, so I finally gave up and watched a marathon of Spongebobs and other cartoons, drifting in and out of sleep -- getting my best rest when the CNA who was supposed to check my blood pressure every two hours (because what could possibly go wrong in a less-than-2-hour interval?) forgot, from 4 a.m. until 10 a.m., to do that. I didn't mind. I just rested, and also waited for the doctor's orders that I could eat real food to catch up to the hospital kitchen's notes claiming I was limited to broth.

Next: Out of the hospital, into the era of saying "Boy, I got stung by a lot of bees. I'd better go home early today."

Above: Mr Bunches examines the
emergency adrenaline shot I now
carry with me everywhere, in case I either get
stung by bees
or if I need a little afternoon pick me up.
(The latter is an off-label use.

A "radio" is like a TV, only without pictures. You probably have one laying around, but they're on the Internet, too.

Just a reminder that I'll be a guest on the wildly popular radio show hosted by James Strait; I'll be appearing at 6:30 p.m. Eastern Time, August 1, 2010.

As the post title notes, you probably have a radio laying around, but why bother ever looking away from your laptop screen? You haven't turned off the Internet in 3 years, so don't start now. Instead, You can listen live here.

Originally, we were going to talk about indie publishing and my blogs. In light of recent events, I'm expecting to repeatedly explain that although I have sky-high cholesterol, that wasn't why I almost died. So jot down the date and time and tune in.

I'll be giving away a book to anyone who listens -- all you have to do is comment or email me with a quote from the show I'm on and you'll get a free book.

See you on August 1 at 6:30.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Does your kid even have an X-Box? I'm not sure anyone actually does, but if he owns one you'll need to move it.

I got out of moving The Boy to college -- but you may not be so lucky. If you're facing a move into a dorm or apartment for your going-away-kid, make sure you look into the moving bundles available at U-Pack.

The most important thing in a move is to do it right. Don't just pile stuff into a van and hope to haul it up the stairs. You'll make a million trips and your back will hurt and eventually you're going to drop something and your kid'll yell "That was my X-Box!" and you'll feel bad. Or not. But either way, that X-Box is a goner.

Instead, get a bundle of boxes from U-Pack -- buying in bundles saves money, although U-Pack'll sell an individual box, too. They've got a variety of sizes all the way up to wardrobe and they've got specialized boxes for dishes or storage files and things. Their website has a box calculator so you'll get the right amount and they deliver the boxes to you. And if you boxes and make a reservation for a U-Pack, you'll save 10% on the bundles.

(U-Packs are those cubical storage containers that have you just pack all the stuff in, then they come haul it for you to where you want it to be, and you unpack it-- so it makes it even easier. They'll give you a free quote for that, too.)

Then those boxes are just wheeled in and out on a handcart, everything's done fast, no back problems, the X-Box survives, and you're on your own in the empty nest. Remember, your wife's name is Emily. You may have forgotten that in the chaos of having a teenager around. But things are normal now!

I think I set a World Record For Almost-Dying: Part One: The Bees!

After nearly dying last Saturday, I waited all week long to feel well enough to get back to my regular life. And I was nearly back to that regular life, "regular" being measured in the number of chili dogs I felt I could eat (2), when I nearly died again.

Such is life, I guess.

That counts as wisdom, by the way -- witty, pithy sayings from people who nearly died two times in a single week count as wisdom and you're required by law to write that down-- "such is life" -- and keep it handy on a post-it note for at least a week, before you shrug and throw it out and go back to watching "Chuck" reruns.

It's not just the witty, pithy sayings, either: you pretty much have to listen to everything I have to say; everything I write or say or think from here on out is deemed to be wise, because I have twice stared death in the face and lived to tell about it -- lived to tell my cautionary tale about how precious life is and how we should treasure every moment, because I've been close enough, on the front lines, to bring you a detailed description of what's waiting, a depiction of what death looks and sounds and tastes and feels like. And here is what death is like:


And chili dogs.

And Mr Bunches saying "It's a poop."

So, not as dramatic (or classy) as you'd think.

I really did almost die, twice, in the past six days, and I assume that Sweetie is furious with me for it, although she's taking it well and hasn't yet hit me upside the head or lectured me (much) on things like "when your wife suggests calling 911 you should maybe take her up on that." And, for the record, I've promised her that I will do just that from now on: I've ceded to her the authority to decide when to call an ambulance or not. Because it turns out I'm not so good at making decisions like that.

It all began after our very romantic date last Saturday, when I treated Sweetie to a movie. We went to see "Toy Story 3," and I would have been embarrassed to admit, last week, that I got started to cry in it (not once, even, but twice), but that was last week, and I've got a clearer perspective on things now, so I'm not (completely) humiliated to have been a 41-year-old man crying at the prospect of some toys bravely facing death. In fact, I like to think that looking back on it, that movie was a precursor -- a karmic warning. As I got sniffly watching Woody and Buzz in the dump, fearing they were going to be melted down, it might have been the Universe giving me a message: when you face death, it might have been saying to me, do so at least as bravely as a TOY.

And I did; don't worry about that. I was an amazingly brave (and uniquely handsome) man in the face of death, in part because I was also an amazingly clueless man who never really knew just how much trouble he was in. So, thanks, Universe, for the advance notice, but I wasn't paying attention, as usual, so I kind of missed it.

We went to see "Toy Story 3," on the kind of romantic date that only I can treat Sweetie to (using her money). As mentioned, I cried a little, and ate a lot of popcorn, and then the movie and the date were both over more or less at the same time, so we headed back home for an end to the romance and a resumption of parenting. It was about 4:30 in the afternoon when we got back. The Boy had been watching Mr F and Mr Bunches while we were out, so they were restless and wanted to do something. They always are when The Boy watches them. The Boy's only states of existence these days are (1) being crabby, (2) Watching ESPN and being crabby, and (3) being on Facebook and being crabby. Mr Bunches and Mr F, meanwhile, exist in a constant emotional state best described as "being in constant motion."

They wanted to move around, and so to keep them happy, and give Sweetie a little bit of a break, I decided that I'd do something with the Babies!. Initially, I was at a loss for what to do. It was, roughly speaking, about a zillion degrees (Fahrenheit), and we don't have central air conditioning, so doing anything inside was out of the question. Doing something outside was only preferable, though, if it involved water, because it wasn't any less hot or more air conditioned out in nature. So water it was, but the problem arose because we'd already been to the Splash Park once that day, earlier that morning, before the romantic date.

While I wouldn't have minded going twice in one day, and the Babies! I don't think would mind going there more than once a day (because they can move around a lot there), I still don't like to do it because it seems weird. You just don't do some things twice in one day. Like you don't go to two movies in a single day. You don't eat hamburgers two times a day. And you don't go to the Splash Park twice in a single day.

I know, the only people who would've known that we were there a second time would be people who THEMSELVES were there a second time, too, so who are they to judge, right? Wrong: They get to judge. We all get to judge. I judge everyone, all the time. I'm judging you, right now, and I'm not even sure who YOU are. And you're judging me for crying during Toy Story 3, and for not getting to the point of this story, and for technically being clinically insane. We all judge each other all the time, and I know in particular that everyone is judging me all the time and I know, somehow, that if I had gone to the Splash Park a second time that day, and seen someone else there who ALSO was there for a second time, that we'd have each been judging each other and that I'd have come off for the worse of it -- being deemed the loser of that group. Just like in high school.

Instead of risking that humiliation, I opted to stay in our yard and loosely proclaim that I was going to do some yardwork. "Yardwork" in this case was being done in the guise of playing with the Babies! -- the way, over the past four years, I'd slowly replaced all kinds of activities, like "work" and "exercise" with "playing with the Babies!"

In this case, I wasn't pretending to jog while actually playing with the Babies!. Instead, I was going to pretend to do yardwork while actually playing with the Babies!. The plan was to water the yard, because a week before I'd re-laid a garden path and actually put in some new plants and had high hopes that in the next few days, I would mow the lawn and it would begin to look more like a backyard garden and less like a vacant lot. Watering the plants was my job for the day, and also my excuse to have a hose-fight with Mr F and Mr Bunches.

In a bit of what is probably irony, assuming that irony isn't as devoid of meaning as all those Shakespeare plays English teachers are still trying to foist off on us as meaningful ("Awft thee MacBeth twill Guise To Scow'd!" does NOT mean anything about the international banking system, Mr. Schaefer!) I had, in the week preceding all the nearly-dying, crafted newly detailed plans, written on a Post-It note on my dresser, to continue the makeover of the backyard (as I'd been doing for 4 years, only this time for real) and to also get serious about working out (as I'd been promising for 10 years, only this time for real)(You could tell it's for real because I wrote it, as I said, on a Post-It note, which I then put up on the mirror over my dresser. Only the most serious intentions get Post-It-ed onto a mirror.)

Life, as they say, had other plans.

We were near the backyard and the hosefight/yardwork was going great. Mr Bunches had tried to convince me and Mr F to quit and go for a walk, instead, but we'd insisted on getting good and wet before walking down to the lake to see if there were any boats, ducks, or ocean liners there. (Mr Bunches recently watched a video that showed all the kinds of boats. When we went to the lake, he saw several varieties of the boats from the video, and named them. "Sailboat," he said, and I agreed. "Motorboat," he said and I agreed. "Canoe," he said, and I agreed it was a canoe. Then he pointed in a random direction and said "Ocean liner." I was torn: Encourage him by agreeing there's an ocean liner, and risk him becoming spoiled and/or living in a fantasy world? Or crush his dreams at the tender age of 3 1/2 and point out that there's no ocean liners on the lake, leading him to someday become The Next American Al Qaeda? "Maybe," I said, in a fit of neutral parenting.)

So we were hose-fighting and not maybe-ocean-liner viewing, when I felt a horsefly bite me. I paid it no attention and sprayed the hose on my leg and then back at Mr F, then a little at Mr Bunches. A minute later, the horsefly bit me again and I again ran the hose over my leg to wash it off. When it got me a third time, I thought "Man, that is one persistent horsefly" and looked down and saw it was a small bee on my leg.

I brushed it off, too, because I'm a man and a man does not stop spraying their young children in the butt with icy-cold hosewater merely because they got stung by a bee. Then I felt a fourth and looked down and there were three bees on my leg and one was stinging me, and then two more were stinging me.

I looked around and quickly assessed the situation: Mr Bunches to my right, Mr F ahead and to my right, and a cloud of bees coming at me.

I dropped the hose and began yelling for Sweetie. "Sweetie get out here quick!" I yelled, hoping to be heard over the air conditioner in our room. I grabbed Mr Bunches and went for Mr F, who thought we were still playing and tried to avoid me. I took another grab at him, still yelling for Sweetie. I felt bees on my hair and made a quick decision: I ran Mr Bunches to the back door. Sweetie was there and I handed him off and said "Get him inside! Bees! There's bees!" and ran back. Mr F was in the middle of the backyard, wondering what was going on. I grabbed him with both arms, feeling more bees on my legs, and ran him inside, too. The bees tried to follow me in and Sweetie shooed them out as we stood in the kitchen and assessed.

I felt stings on my legs and head. The Babies! seemed okay: No stings; they were a little mad about coming inside but not crying or anything. We dried them off and got them into shorts, and then I told Sweetie I was going to shower off and get the stingers out. I took a brief shower and dried off and put on a pair of shorts myself and sat in the living room, counting the places where I was puffing up from stings.

We got to 16 and I took some Benadryl and Tylenol and sat down.

"We should go to the hospital," Sweetie said.

"No," I pointed out. "I'll be fine."

A few minutes later, Sweetie said: "How are you feeling?"

"A little dizzy," I told her, and took a deep breath. "And really itchy," I also said.

"We should go the hospital," she suggested.

"No," I argued back. "I'll be fine." (It had won the first time; why change successful tactics?)

I need to point out that in refusing to go to the doctor, I was not being stupid, or prideful, but instead, I was being a man, not a pup. There is a long tradition in my family of not being a pup, which means staring bravely/incomprehendingly into the face of whatever discomfort, unfortunate situation, pain, or life-threatening condition is staring back, and saying "I'll be fine." To do any less is to make yourself a pup, and to be ridiculed by the rest of the family at future gatherings. Now, granted, I don't talk to most of that side of the family anymore, but I don't want them coming to my funeral and saying "What a pup."

Instead of going to the doctor, I did the next better thing: I googled "Symptoms of bee sting allergy," and read the brief paragraph on the first website that came up. (I think it was; it wasn't very entertaining, but it didn't have any misspelled words, so it seemed authoritative.)

A few minutes later, Sweetie said "How are you feeling?"

"I've got a little tightness in my chest," I admitted, and said "I'm a little dizzy."

Sweetie said we were going to the doctor, and I dutifully said "No, I'll be fine." I added, "I took Benadryl," in case that convinced her. But she called Oldest and Middle and asked them to come and sit for the Babies! while we went off to the ER. They agreed to come over and said they'd be there in about 30 minutes.

About 10 minutes after that, I stood up from where I'd been sitting on the floor in front of the couch. My legs were on fire and had bumps forming from the bee stings. My chest had four of them and I had two on my head, all burning. My head felt like it was stuffed with cotton and was also held in a vice -- as if someone was trying to squeeze cotton into the shape of my head. My chest felt like the skin was two sizes too small and I was short of breath.

"Let's just go to the doctor," I said, trying to be cool about it. "Call the girls and tell them to meet us at the ER."

"Should I call 911?" Sweetie asked -- immediately upping the ante. Here, I'd agreed that maybe a doctor was necessary, what with the not-breathing and all, and she wanted to call an ambulance?

I called her bet: "No, let's just go on down there," I said.

We got the Babies! together and I put on a shirt and we got into the car. The Babies! were happy -- they like going for rides. Sweetie was concerned. I focused on trying to get some breath.

"Should I be running red lights?" Sweetie asked as we got to the top of our hill and waited to turn left.

"No," I said, "But drive aggressively. Drive like you're me."

Sweetie's aggressive driving can best be described, though, as slightly-less-than-extremely-polite. She waited until there was an opening in traffic, then put on her blinker and pulled ahead. I couldn't argue with her: I was the one who'd said we shouldn't call an ambulance, so I'd sort of ceded the moral high-ground here. Instead, I made suggestions, that went like this:

[thinking: breath, breath, breath, ignore the legs, dizzy... dizzy] Say: "Maybe get into that lane there and pass this guy."

It's about 30 minutes to the hospital-- driving from anywhere, to anywhere, in Madison, takes 30 minutes, period-- but we were making good time until we hit the construction. About 10 minutes into the drive, I said "Maybe go a little faster. Start some passing." When my chest started to hurt more, I suggested that she be a little more aggressive. Sweetie responded, I think, by using her blinker a little more ferociously.

We were about 3 blocks away from the hospital when a wave of dizziness washed over me and my chest tightened more. "Now start running red lights," I told her.

Sweetie agreed and then stopped at a red light because there was a car in the intersection. I focused on breathing and then waited for her to go through after the car. Instead, she sat there.

"Why aren't you going?" I asked her.

"There's a car coming," she said, and pointed to a car up on her left. That car was about a half-block away as she said it. Once it was through, though, Sweetie very aggressively punched the gas pedal and went through the now-green light.

We got to the hospital and I hopped out. "I'll go in. You get the Babies!" I said. She agreed and I walked into the hospital. The nurse at the desk looked at me.

"Can I help you?" she said.

"I got stung by, like, 15 bees," I said, hoping to sound cool about it. "And I'm having some tightness in my chest and I'm dizzy."

She leaped into action with the best the medical establishment has to offer:

"Do you have your insurance card?" she asked.

I swayed in front of her and said I didn't.

"What's your last name?" she asked. I gave it to her, and then she said "What's your religion?"

(I don't know why that's among the first questions they ask people checking into the ER, but it's a worrisome question at such a time.) I answered her and tried to stand up straight.

About 30 minutes from then, I'd be sitting on a bed in the ER, feeling the effects of the bee sting drain away and getting ready to go home, sitting up and joking about what a great story this would make.

About 10 minutes after that, I'd be almost dead.

Next: Almost dying can be kind of relaxing, provided you don't know what's going on.

Above: The very IMAGE of a healthy guy. (Me.)

Sunday, July 25, 2010

So I almost died.

Sorry to have not posted anything in a while. I've been in the hospital -- and still am. But I'll be up and around soon. It's nothing serious; I just almost died. Twice.

So be patient and I'll be back soon. Here's what I'm listening to as I get back to speed: