Tuesday, January 31, 2006

ALS clinic visit

My sexy wife and I went to the ALS clinic Monday and my forced vital capacity (blow into this tube) was 84 percent of the value expected for someone my height, weight and age. I had someone else measure me. The score is 'up' 10 percent from the last time I was tested by the guy who always yells "Go! go! go!" and won't quit it even if you ask him, but gets emotionally wounded instead.

I weighed in at 131.7 pounds, up 1.2 from the last visit. The doctor who consulted with us was very clear in his opinion that the rules of thumb they use for when to get a feeding tube are just that, arbitrary and with no science behind them. The increased weight and the 'improved' breathing forfend the feeding tube for the nonce.

And we got to see the cute lady doctor in a skirt and boots, which was nice.

My speech rate was down to 158, as compared with several other prior scores around 190.

My suck score (MIP) was 72, as compared to prior scores of over 120. My peak cough flow rate was 510 as compared to previous scores of 600.

The speech therapist said I should ask my dentist for a referral to a dentist who makes prothetics, so that I can get a 'palatal lift' made that will improve the quality of my speech.

The doc also said that the ALS research software he has access to is called "ALS Care."

We also ordered the "ATM" wheelchair. Thanks, Jerry.

Monday, January 30, 2006


I like to think that this is a 'clean' blog. Using cuss words is not my style, verbally, and apparently not in writing, either. And I don't post about sex, not like some people.

And you, my readers, are used to that. However, a few months ago I posted about my lactose intolerance and how that led to 10 years of Kafkaesque suffering in my childhood. And you tolerated that.

I have another story, not involving suffering like that first one. This story is sexual. It's not the type of thing that brainhell usually writes about.

So I ask you, readers, should I post it? I promise to go back to being the normal brainhell afterwards.

Should brainhell blog about his sexuality?
I'd rather take an ice pick in the eye.
Honey, let me tell you: Sex just isn't that important.
Oh, I bet he'll find a way to blame this on George Bush too.
Go ahead, I'm leaving for Mars anyway.
Our third grade class is following your blog on a daily basis. You're the last 'clean' place on the web. Please, no!
Sure, go ahead and make up some stuff, just like you made up this whole 'ALS' thing.
You'll only be helping Osama if you do it. Shall I send you the dictionary definition of 'traitor?'
Wait! I'm not sure vomiting will cure my constipation.


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Sunday, January 29, 2006

Minimize extraneous vectors

Walking is getting to be more of a challenge. It feels like it might be at a critical threshold, but then, how would I know? I coach myself:

  1. Stay over your feet

  2. Minimize extraneous vectors

We hired a contractor to finish up the seismic sheer walls in the garage, and one to move the laundry facilities out of the laundry room and into the garage. The completion of that work should allow us to put some storage racks in the garage, move our junk out of the laundry room, and turn the former laundry room into a 'project room.'

Also, we can ask the nice lady at the ALS clinic to order that wheelchair for me that they said they could provide free of charge, thanks to Jerry Lewis and the MDA. We'll store it in the project room.

The addition is creeping slowly towards project start. But we don't even have a quote yet.

My hope is to get the port in and start Lyme antibiotics while I can still walk. The main thing is to avoid falls. I used my cane on an outing the other day. And I introduced the kids to the idea of me using the cane, last night when I drove to pick up some burritos for our dinner. They were fine with it.

I just need to be careful, and avoid falls.

Saturday, January 28, 2006


Mom was showing me a new kind of book.

"Poo?" I said, "His name is Poo?"

"Yes," said my mother, "Pooh. Winnie the Pooh."

"Is his name really Poo?"

"It's Winnnie the Pooh."

"Poo? His name is poo-poo?"

"Not that kind of poo," she said. "It's spelled differently."

Left grip is 21 pounds (21, 19, 15), right grip is 66 pounds (66, 54, 66).

Friday, January 27, 2006

Half nekkid at last

Yes, I know that today is Friday.

I could have sworn that around the time I was diagnosed, I had my superb wife take a photo of me flexing for the camera, with my shirt off. I had her take another of me on January 20, for comparison. Now, I cannot find that first photo. It's gone. Darn!

Anyway, if I look emaciated to you, well that's just the way I was built. The reason the left arm is held lower than the right is muscle weakness. You can also see the difference in size between the left and right biceps.

The reason for the great big red stars over my nipples is because many of you want to sexualize me, or already do, and I don't want to throw gasoline on your fire. This photo is posted purely for medical reasons, not to satisfy your lust.

Left grip is 20 pounds (17, 15, 20), right grip is 66 pounds (62, 66, 65).

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Vision work

I have been thinking about how to think about the prospect of the Lyme treatment making me recover. You may decide from the foregoing statement that I am a fear-driven, self-control freak. Well, but no. I'm just gifted with a multitrack mind and an invincible spirit. Plus, I'm modest.

Rationally I know that it's quite likely that I have ALS and Lyme, and that curing the Lyme won't stop the ALS any more than closing the barn door helps Uncle Reemus on date night after the horse has run out.

But I decided that it would be a bad move, in terms of strategic emotions, to center my expectations around the reality that Lyme treatment may not stop my ALS. I have decided, instead, to do positive vision work around the idea that this will save me from death.

You may worry that I am setting myself up for a big letdown if this doesn't prove to be the case. Well, prior to diagnosis I might have agreed with you. But my experience with ALS has taught me something that many of you have said, in one way or another, in comments: I am one strong, brave, admirable person. And modest.

I have faith in myself that I can do positive daydreaming about a recovery, AND deal with the reality of decline and death if the daydream does not come true. The past two years have taught me that.

The vision is this:

  1. The antibiotics will make me feel tired and wired. My metrics will continue to decline.

  2. I get the flu or experience some other health problem that makes me stop doing metrics.

  3. Once I recover, the metrics are even lower than before. This continues.

  4. Dr. Quack says that my blood work indicates remarkable improvement. I doubt his honesty.

  5. About three months later, I notice myself walking more smoothly, or with a greater sense of stability. It doesn't show up in the metrics.

  6. Over the next six months, the metrics begin a gradual improvement in one area but not others.

  7. After that, all the metrics save one begins to improve. I maintain a significant 'scar' -- perhaps the weak left hand -- but I begin to feel confident that the ALS has been stopped and is reversing.

  8. I speak out about this to doctors and patients, and the universal response from the experts was that I was misdiagnosed, but that their theory of ALS remains solid.

  9. One day I find myself running to catch a dropped envelope tumbling in the breeze.

  10. Several years after that I am jogging for exercise on a regular basis, slowly and weakly to be sure, but running.

Whether or not it comes to pass, I think it is healthy and wise of me to build this vision.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006


I saw my GP yesterday, and got a referral from him to see a vascular surgeon who can insert a port in me to receive the antibiotic infusions that Dr. Quack will prescribe. I made an apppointment to see the vascular surgeon on Feb. 6. I assume they'll insert it some other day.

Regarding the Lyme hypothesis, the GP said, "There are three kinds of doctors: Those who don't believe anything until it's proven, those who experiment, and those who are willing to consider the possibilities. I'm in the third category. I'm not Lyme literate, but I'm 'Lyme friendly,' let's put it that way."

So cool he is. And probably gay too.

They weighed me: 132 pounds. That's up over a pound from last time. Hooah. All those Boost, Ensure, Benecalorie, and smoothies have paid off. This news pushes back the prospect of a feeding tube a bit.

"Anytime you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so."

-George W. Bush, April 2004

Left grip is 24 pounds (17, 22, 24), right grip is 70 pounds (65, 65, 70).

This guy collects mugshots. They're great.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


I'm no statistician, so all I did was hold a ruler up to the computer screen, but it appears that at this rate, my left grip strength will hit zero about 950 days after diagnosis. That's 2.6 years after Jan. 13, 2004, or July, 2006.

It's hard to tell exactly, but the right grip should hit zero around 1300 days after diagnosis, 3.56 years, or June, 2007.

I'll still be handsome as ever.

On the UCLA story, it looks like the pipsqueak is backing down with a whimper.

Left grip is 20 pounds (15, 19, 20), right grip is 66 pounds (66, 66, 60).

Monday, January 23, 2006

Eight Air Force

For over a year I have been battling the Evil One, as you may know from reading this blog. I recently changed my regimen and have been experiencing some success. Instead of taking mineral oil every other day as I had been doing, I am now taking it every day. This is in addition to the nightly Citrucel powder (only one dose). I also resumed taking the probiotic every day. I had allowed that to slip during the Flagyl episode.

Things used to be so dramatic that after a low-level munitions dump in the porcelain pilot's seat I would announce (to myself) "Dresden lies in flames!" It wasn't long before I started saying this to my charitable wife. Yes, we're still married. The Dresden bit was a WWII reference. Over time I elaborated on this coded message. Now I say things like, "In a daring daylight raid, major elements of the Eighth Army Air Force engaged and destroyed the industrial and marshaling target of Dresden, Germany."

She'll say something like "That's nice, Honey. I'm glad the mineral oil is helping."

Me too.

I made an appointment with my GP to ask him about the port that Dr. Quack wants me to get. I'll try to have the GP schedule it because both Dr. Quack and my cool local neurologist are on vacation right now.

Left grip is 21 pounds (20, 19, 21), right grip is 66 pounds (66, 62, 65).

Molly Ivins is a hep cat who makes a good point. But after reminding you of the old joke...

Q: What's the difference between liberals and cannibals?
A: Cannibals don't eat their own young.

I'll just say that, while I do not expect to see Hillary as the nominee, she would be a whole heck of a lot better in the White House than George Bush. So don't let your "She's not perfect!" reaction sabotage her, and the Dems in general, in 2008.

Sunday, January 22, 2006


When I was about six, my sister and I were playing in the back yard, sitting, not on the fence, but near it. She said we should make a promise that whichever of us dies first should come back and tell the other if there is really a heaven.

"Promise?" she said.

"I promise," I said.

"You have to really, really promise. Do you mean it?"

"I mean it."


P.S. - Doing a little blog hopping today, I noticed a couple of blogs with their panties in a bunch about Brokeback Mountain, saying how sad it was that this boring film would lead young men astray. Anti-Bush politics will get this one multiple Oscars, but Ang Lee has made such better films in the past!

...The only thing is (in my opinion), even if there were NO gay aspect to this movie, and it were just about a couple of straight buddies, it would still be an interesting, compelling and engaging film. Boring hardly.

Left grip is 21 pounds (17, 21, 21), right grip is 67 pounds (63, 61, 67).

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Bkbk mtn

We went and saw Brokeback Mountain last night, and it's a pretty good flick. I wouldn't be surprised if it won an Oscar. Contrary to what you might think, it's not a Western that introduces rednecks to a gay-tolerant message. It's an ambush that promotes the redneck lifestyle to gay-friendly city dwellers.

Left grip is 24 pounds (19, 19, 24), right grip is 70 pounds (64, 66, 70).

Friday, January 20, 2006

Operation Pipsqueak

This pipsqueak Republican is trying to become the Atwater-Rove-Abramoff successor by intimidating 'radical' professors at UCLA. The method is to pay students to obtain recordings or notes of 'radical' speech in class. The group has already gotten press. I heard about it on NPR Thursday morning. The aim is to quash criticism of Bush and Republicans -- all in the name of quality, unbiased education.

We can't prevent political speech on campus, but I do object when McCarthyist tactics in the classroom threaten academic freedom.

I want your feedback on my idea. What if we collected money via Paypal and donated it to whoever was that week's "Radical of the Week" on the Bruin Alumni page?

It might make BAA founder Andrew Jones feel a little twinge of regret every time BAA labels a professor "Radical of the Week." It might also help show how many of us are tired of pipsqueak Republicans trying to intimidate faculty. And that makes a good news story which the outlets that covered BAA story might want to cover as well.

But here is my question: Gathering money via Paypal is easy enough, but how to distribute it to the professors in such a way that:

(a) There is some audit or verification mechanism so that donors feel comfortable that I am not spending it on iTunes music

(b) I don't have to do all the work of writing a check every week?

According to Paypal, you can send money to anyone with an email address. I bet all the UCLA faculty have email addresses. I guess I wouldn't mind doing that with a chuckle once a week. But what about (a)?

Suggestions welcome.

Clearly there is no need to criticize Bush, because he's handling things so well.

Last night, as part of Dr. Quack's plan, I started taking 100 mg of oral minocycline twice a day. This morning I woke up with a mild headache that I associate with antibiotics. Extra Strength Excedrin rode to the rescue.

Dr. Quack looks a lot like Dorman. Now there's a strange fact.

Left grip is 20 pounds (19, 18, 20), right grip is 67 pounds (66, 60, 67).

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Dr. Quack

Yesterday I drove an hour and a half to see my first genuine Lyme-literate doctor. In blog tradition I have to call him something. I decided to call him Dr. Quack. Not because he is a quack -- he may save my life, and I plan on helping him do that. It's not like, if he doesn't help me, then I'll have stuck him in advance with the right name. It's more like using the irony potential of the universe in my favor. I'll call him Dr. Quack hoping that the universe can have a laugh at my expense. And hoping that the moniker will become one of affection and honor, like being called one of Femi-Mommy's biatches.

Anyway, Dr. Quack is going to load me up on antibiotics, for which I will be getting a port, which is a permanent place in your body where they can pump in drugs. I'll blog the details later, but I may wind up on antibiotics for two years. I liked and respected that he told me two stories of ALS patients he had treated who died anyway. But Dr. Quack is hopeful in my case. The plan is to start the infusions in early February. He also loaded me up with recommendations regarding a wide range of foil-hat therapies, ranging from cells derived from shark fins (no thanks) to chakra massage. He shrugged and said he didn't know why some of these things appear to help some people, but they're worth trying.

I listened to Tom Waits on my night drive home.

Left grip is 21 pounds (21, 21, 17), right grip is 75 pounds (71, 68, 75), left leg balance is 4.33 seconds, and right leg is 30 seconds.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006


About a week ago I was doing puzzles on the floor with my daughter. She has been inviting me to join in puzzle projects and other games. My awesome wife brought me a smoothie she had made for me. She's been doing that a lot recently to try to put some pounds back on me. I think it will help, but I think that it will add fat, not muscle. And that's OK too. I feel like I've lost about five pounds of muscle from my once proud butt.

My stunning wife brought me the smoothie and my daughter wanted to know what was in it, and after I showed her, she urged me "Drink it!" The thing about the involuntary laughing with my ALS is that little 'stresses' (hard to even call them that) can set off laughing. One stress that I often have around my kids is that I love them so much. Seeing them gives me a strong positive emotion, and that can lead to laughing. Misbehavior can also make me laugh.

I often have mild stress when eating or drinking around the kids, because I worry about gagging or choking. Combine that with how cute and lovable my daughter was when he said, "Drink it!" and you may understand that I felt the urge to laugh. I stupidly took a sip of the smoothie. I should have put it aide for later.

I wound up laughing and drooling, and laughing and drooling more so because of the stress of trying to correct this lack of control. I tried to wipe my mouth, but I had no Kleenex. I am so weak that I couldn't gracefully rise from where I was sitting on the floor. It would have involved a dramatic struggle. I looked around for an exit strategy. I wasn't making eye contact. After a bit, I managed to say "Can you ask Mommy for a Kleenex for me?" While I was saying that, I made eye contact with her, and I saw a look of concern, almost pity on her face.

She went and got me a Kleenex, but that one look is seared in my mind. The last thing in the world that I want to do is create fear and confusion in my kids.

Left grip is 21 pounds (20, 21, 19), right grip is 75 pounds (70, 75, 70), left leg balance is 4.14 seconds, and right leg is 30 seconds.


Tuesday, January 17, 2006


A while back I wrote about a possible war with North Korea, and why it might be attractive to the craven chimps in the White House.

You remember the 'Axis of Evil:' Iraq, Iran and North Korea. Two of those countries had very active nuclear weapons programs, but Bush invaded the one that didn't, bogging down our military there to the point that we're less credible as a threat to the other two.

North Korea got the bomb during Bush's tenure, and Iran looks to be nearing completion.

The Bush people dislike multilateralism, and are more than pleased to let European Union efforts to control the Iranian nuclear program fail. In their minds, this failure will debunk multilateralism and justify unilateral military action against Iran. And in the minds of many dimwits and pro-Bush partisans, it will retroactively justify the deceitful haste of cooking up an excuse for a unilateral attack on Iraq in 2003.

There is already a model for attacking Iran's nuclear capacity. Recall that in a surprise raid on June 7, 1981, Israeli Air Force planes destroyed Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor, then 18 miles south of Baghdad.

The Iranian assets will be more dispersed, hidden, and hardened. I think that the US will use a series of air raids and Special Forces assaults in an attempt to destroy Iran's nuclear program.

A friend of mine from India once said that he thought that if the US ever invaded Iran, Iran would just immediately surrender. I think my friend's implication was that the surrender would be on the day of the attack, and the insurgency would begin the next morning. A columnist on the web has argued that war with Iran would be absolutely insane and very costly because, after all, these are the Shia -- the people who love martyrdom in the form of fanatical attacks on a vastly more powerful enemy. The Iranians have a very young demographic. 18-year-old boys are just perfect for martyrdom attacks.

There is a way for Iran to detonate a device ahead of schedule, which I will enigmatically call "Farewell Victory." But detonating one might be the trigger for an invasion by the West -- before Iran can build an arsenal.

Rather than an occupation, I foresee the aforementioned in-and-out raids. One problem is the Mogadishu Effect, where one unit gets in trouble and more and more forces are poured in to try to rescue them. Then we could wind up trying to occupy Iraq AND major portions of Iran. This would heighten not just the perception of, but the likelihood of, a global war against Islam.

All this will be carefully timed for greatest strategic effect against the enemy: It will come either right before the US midterm Congressional elections in 2006, or before the US presidential election in 2008.

Left grip is 21 pounds (16, 21, 14), right grip is 70 pounds (70, 68, 64), left leg balance is 3.43 seconds, and right leg balance is 22 seconds.


Monday, January 16, 2006

This bites

You may not be aware of it, but the muscles in your lips, cheeks and gums perform subtle movements when you chew which prevent your teeth from biting or cutting you. This function has become impaired in my body, and I frequently nip, slice, or pinch my lips, tongue, or cheeks. And of course, when you have a slightly abraded or swollen part inside your mouth, the teeth are that much more likely to catch on the rough part.

Also, I have been noticing frequently that my eyesight is blurry. As a small boy, my vision was about twice as good as the average person's. In 1998 or 1999 when I had it checked, it had degraded to 20/20, or perfect vision. No, I don't think I would have naturally aged into glasses ... at least not until my 70s. But I'm also not sure if this is related to ALS.

Sunday, January 15, 2006


Yesterday while my brilliant wife took our daughter to a music appreciation class, the boy and I played this board game called "Ticket to Ride," given to me by a BIL. On your turn, you either (1) draw cards or (2) spend cards to lay track. I started laying track almost right away, but I was pleased to see that my son accumulated lots of cards until he was sure he could lay his entire track (one route at a time). I like it that he had his own mind made up and didn't just imitate what the grown-up did. He stuck to his strategy.

Later in the day he and my daughter were drawing with their fingers in the condensation at the front window. When I looked at it, I saw that he had written a message backwards so that people on the street could read it. I took a picture of it and was going to blog that it all looked good, except that he spelled hello as "Hellol." However, when I flipped the picture to check his letter orientations, I saw that the extra "L" was really an exclamation mark.

He's a bright kid, and the daughter girl is too. I'm going to teach her chess this year while she's three.

Recently, I went to the educational supply store and bought the boy some school workbooks in different topics. I grabbed them semi-randomly and looked at the material inside. It turned out that all four books that I bought using this method were for 2nd grade.

I gave him one. Oddly, rather than becoming more rascally -- fixating on the book and refusing to do anything else -- it actually made him more cooperative. He's been doing the reading comprehension exercises, and he says it's easy. So far it looks that way. I told him that if he finishes the 2nd grade ones, I'll get him some 3rd grade workbooks.

Left grip is 19 pounds (17, 17, 19), right grip is 65 pounds (59, 62, 65), and left leg balance is 5.25 seconds.

Saturday, January 14, 2006


Quiddity rides herd on UggaBugga.

Recently, Quiddity wrote: "This blog has been on record for years asserting that al Qaeda is not a major threat. "

I responded:

"Would a Russian nuke detonated on a barge in New York harbor bother you?

The al Qaeda threat has been dealt with incompetently, but it's still major."

Someone asked me "Do you think that Russia's nuclear capacity continues to this day?" Someone else asserted that "'Al Queda' IS CIA."

Among other things, I responded:

The Russian nuke would be obtained on the black market.

> ..."Al Queda" IS CIA.

They have some origins there, but they're their own group now."

Quiddity weighed in:


I guess it comes down to what you mean by "major threat." I do not doubt that al Qaeda would like to kill people, but they simply don't have the means to do much beyond hijacking planes and detonating conventional explosives.

You have to make an evaluation of what their capabilities are. What about the Basques? They'd like to blow up Madrid. What about other terrorist groups? What about home-grown Tim McVeigh types? Why do you consider al Qaeda a major threat and not the others?

I'm assuming you make a classification based on some criteria that includes a look at the infrastructure and means at a group's disposal. McVeigh had virtually nothing. What does al Qaeda have? Look at their attacks so far: a small boat to attack the Cole; a couple of car bombs in East Africa; hijacked planes for September 2001. It would seem reasonable that the only real asset these guys have are humans willing to make suicide attacks - but that they don't have any potent weaponry.

I doubt that the international system would allow any non-state group to get ahold of any really potent weapons. In a way, the al Qaeda attacks are proof that all they can do is go outside the military weaponry route.

If it can be shown that al Qaeda got close to getting something really potent, then I'd be concerned. But I haven't seen anything to that effect, and at some point you have to let the empirical data - no WMD attacks for years - represent the reality of the situation.

To which yours truly:

> they simply don't have the means to do much beyond hijacking planes and detonating conventional explosives

They have plenty plenty cash, and the Russians have plenty plenty nukes and plenty plenty corruption. All it takes is one nuke in an American city (or maybe any city) for Bush to cancel the Constitution and suspend elections, and this country as we know it is done. Forever.

> ... Basques?

You just be joking. ETA has a pattern of NOT killing people.

> They'd like to blow up Madrid

They won't.

> What about other terrorist groups?

Gotta quash them too.

> ...Tim McVeigh types?


> Why do you consider al Qaeda a major threat and not the others?

It's hard to evade your rhetorical box canyon of "the others" -- in which I must take on all hypotheticals -- so I'll stick to the real world. Aside from the reasons stated above, other terror groups are a major threat if they get hands on a nuke. The group with the best funding and most likely to do that is al Qaeda. But it doesn't matter so much which group it is -- if we ever started to take steps against al Qaeda, then we'd learn some techniques to use against all of them. Some day we should start.

> McVeigh had virtually nothing

Agreed. And the threat from those types is nowhere near as great as from al Qaeda.

> What does al Qaeda have?

Millions of dollars, access to martyrdom volunteers, access to Russians and Pakistanis and North Koreans who might sell them a bomb, and two hot and happening causes: Palestine and Iraq. And a track record, experience and expertise.

> I doubt that the international system would allow any non-state group to get ahold of any really potent weapons

Let's hope that you are correct, and that no mushroom cloud pierces your doubt. I'd say you're whistling in the dark.

> If it can be shown that al Qaeda got close to getting something really potent, then I'd be concerned

I think I just showed that.

> ... at some point you have to let the empirical data - no WMD attacks for years - represent the reality of the situation.

These guys are very patient and plan and execute over a period of years. Data about nuclear weapons was found in their leavings in Afghanistan. Yes, I do think that the current administration promotes lies and misconceptions about al Qaeda in order to create an atmosphere of fear -- but I also know that al Qaeda is resourceful, capable, and determined.

Let's hope that Manhattan is still there tomorrow morning, because I think that neither your approach nor George Bush's is protecting us.

Word out.

This is why Bush supporters AND those who are sometimes called "leftists" hate me equally.

Friday, January 13, 2006


Two years ago today I was diagnosed with ALS. Pfft!

Because I may be doing ceftriaxone again soon, I have decided to make an effort to establish a current baseline for my metrics, so that I'll have something to compare against once I do the drug. I haven't done my metrics since November 23, 2005. Today I did them:

Left grip is 19 pounds (18, 18, 19), right grip is 79 pounds (79, 72, 69), left leg balance is 3.12 seconds (though I only took one measurement). I am not doing inhale volume until I modify my spirometer to get around the limitations of my left hand.


Thursday, January 12, 2006

Truth or delusion

I remember being born.

I can describe it using this analogy: I was trying to sleep. I had my face in the pillow. Every once in a while the entire bed squeezed me very hard. During those moments I did not 'breathe,' so to speak. The squeezing was really quite hard. I tried to go back to sleep. The squeeze again. I heard some shouting. People were shouting. Then the squeeze again. I was annoyed by this process. I became aware that there was a space that was not squeezing me. I moved into that space. I don't remember anything immediately after that.

I've had this memory ever since I was a boy.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Wednesday Hero

Hugh Thompson

Hugh Thompson, an Army helicopter pilot who rescued Vietnamese civilians during the My Lai massacre, reported the killings to his superior officers in a rage over what he had seen, testified at the inquiries and received a commendation from the Army three decades later, died yesterday in Alexandria, La. He was 62.

The cause was cancer, Jay DeWorth, a spokesman for the Veterans Affairs Medical Center where Mr. Thompson died, told The Associated Press.

On March 16, 1968, Chief Warrant Officer Thompson and his two crewmen were flying on a reconnaissance mission over the South Vietnamese village of My Lai when they spotted the bodies of men, women and children strewn over the landscape.

Mr. Thompson landed twice in an effort to determine what was happening, finally coming to the realization that a massacre was taking place. The second time, he touched down near a bunker in which a group of about 10 civilians were being menaced by American troops. Using hand signals, Mr. Thompson persuaded the Vietnamese to come out while ordering his gunner and his crew chief to shoot any American soldiers who opened fire on the civilians. None did.

Mr. Thompson radioed for a helicopter gunship to evacuate the group, and then his crew chief, Glenn Andreotta, pulled a boy from a nearby irrigation ditch, and their helicopter flew him to safety.

Mr. Thompson told of what he had seen when he returned to his base.

"They said I was screaming quite loud," he told U.S. News & World Report in 2004. "I threatened never to fly again. I didn't want to be a part of that. It wasn't war."

Mr. Thompson remained in combat, then returned to the United States to train helicopter pilots. When the revelations about My Lai surfaced, he testified before Congress, a military inquiry and the court-martial of Lt. William L. Calley Jr., the platoon leader at My Lai, who was the only soldier to be convicted in the massacre.

When Mr. Thompson returned home, it seemed to him that he was viewed as the guilty party.

"I'd received death threats over the phone," he told the CBS News program "60 Minutes" in 2004. "Dead animals on your porch, mutilated animals on your porch some mornings when you get up. So I was not a good guy."

On March 6, 1998, the Army presented the Soldier's Medal, for heroism not involving conflict with an enemy, to Mr. Thompson; to his gunner, Lawrence Colburn; and, posthumously, to Mr. Andreotta, who was killed in a helicopter crash three weeks after the My Lai massacre.

The citation, bestowed in a ceremony at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, said the three crewmen landed "in the line of fire between American ground troops and fleeing Vietnamese civilians to prevent their murder."

On March 16, 1998, Mr. Thompson and Mr. Colburn attended a service at My Lai marking the 30th anniversary of the massacre.

"Something terrible happened here 30 years ago today," Mr. Thompson was quoted as saying by CNN. "I cannot explain why it happened. I just wish our crew that day could have helped more people than we did."

Mr. Thompson worked as a veterans' counselor in Louisiana after leaving military service. A list of his survivors was not immediately available.

Through the years, he continued to speak out, having been invited to West Point and other military installations to tell of the moral and legal obligations of soldiers in wartime.

He was presumably mindful of the ostracism he had faced and the long wait for that medal ceremony in Washington. As he told The Associated Press in 2004: "Don't do the right thing looking for a reward, because it might not come."

Published January 7, 2006
New York Times
Reprinted without permission

Thank You

Tuesday, January 10, 2006


Quite some time ago I noticed weird charges from Apple.com on my credit card. I disputed the payments with my bank, which issued the card, and VISA refunded the amounts. Later, I realized that I had made the orders -- for prints of photographs. I felt guilty.

I have relayed to you all how I left 13 cents in my account at the evil bank, and sent all the money to E-Trade. I had lost the credit card some months ago, and called the bank to cancel it. The lady on the other end was very bossy and mean, but I thought she had canceled the card. Apparently not.

When I went to Amazon.com in December to buy a coffee grinder for my pills, and an iFM and things like that, I racked up $112 in charges -- on the old card that I'd thought dead. See, even though I had added my new E-Trade card to Amazon, the site still remembered my old card, and defaulted to that when I recently ordered stuff.

I called the bank, thinking the charges were fraud. But then I compared the dates and amounts and they were the same as my Amazon orders.

The first person I talked to asked me for identifying information, including part of my Social Security number, then transferred me to the dispute department. While I was on hold, I realized that the charges were in fact mine. I told this to the dispute person who came on the line, and asked her to transfer me back to the previous department so that I could talk to them about canceling the card. She asked me for identifying information, including part of my Social Security number. I repeated that the charges were mine, and that I'd like to be transferred back. She said she could do that, as soon as I gave her identifying information, including part of my Social Security number. I said that in that case, because I evidently have difficulty speaking, I should just end the call and dial the first line myself. She asked me for identifying information, including part of my Social Security number. I thanked her, said goodbye, and dialed the first number again.

They said that if I canceled it before paying it off, it would hurt my credit rating. No, there was no way they could flag the card to be canceled as soon as payment came in.

On the day that I paid off the card, I called to cancel, over an hour after I'd paid it off. They said it hadn't "posted" yet, and I should call the next day. I did so. I hope and expect that the card is now dead. They're supposed to send me a letter of confirmation. DHYB.

My revenge scenario kind of deflates when, at the end of it, I goof and people are nice to me.

But the bank still sucks.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Line up to die

Your three-year-old wearing roller skates gets a big, tall ice cream cone, and before they can lick it -- oops! -- the ice cream falls onto the ground.

They cry. You buy them another one. "Skate around while you lick it!" you encourage.

How likely is that? Not likely at all. If you have any brains, you ask the kid to sit on a bench and eat the ice cream. You do everything in your power to prevent them from getting on those skates with an ice cream cone and setting themselves up for another disaster. You cajole them. You forbid them to wear the skates.

Now consider a recent news item from Iraq:

"...a suicide car bomber attacked mostly Shiite police and National Guard recruits lined up for physical exams at a medical clinic Monday, killing 120..."

A web search I did using the criteria: recruits + 'lined up' + Iraq + killed yielded 88,400 hits. No, there haven't been 88,400 incidents like this, but it's happened, let's just say MORE THAN ONCE!

Do I sound angry? Good.

Five of the seven dead in the car bombing were recruits lined up outside the police academy, Iraqi police said.

I'm not sure when the first attack of this kind happened, but the first one I found was Feb 10, 2004:  In Iskandariyah, Iraq, a car bomb exploded at a police station south of Baghdad as dozens of would-be recruits lined up to apply for jobs, and a hospital official said at least 53 people were killed and 50 others wounded.

It keeps happening over and over. How do we expect the we'll-stand-down-when-they-stand-up thing to ever happen if they get mown down before they can even sign up?

A woman strapped with explosives and disguised as a man blew herself up outside an Iraqi army recruiting center in a northern town Wednesday, killing at least six people and wounding 30...

The slaughter of lined-up Iraqi recruits has been going on for close to two years now, and nobody in Washington has seemed to figure out that you have to prevent these guys from lining up!

There HAS to be another way of recruiting Iraqi police and military than having them line up like targets in a shooting gallery, at 7 AM on Tuesday, while Colonel Habibi carefully and slowly writes down the names of the applicants, dipping his pen in the blood of the ones killed in the process.

Anyone with a brain would have stayed out of Iraq. Anyone with half a brain would have anticipated an insurgency, and taken steps to prevent the use of this tactic. Anyone with just one brain cell would recognize the pattern and...


Also in the news:

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. officials have been talking with local Iraqi insurgent leaders to exploit a rift between homegrown insurgents and radical groups such as Al Qaeda, The New York Times reported on Saturday.

Yeah, and Clinton was only giving career advice to Lewinsky.

What happened to not negotiating with terrorists? This is like a Boy Scout exploiting a rift between some candy and Michael Jackson. No matter what delusion the Bushies are under, these are surrender talks, plain and simple.

Sunday, January 08, 2006


Gold Star Mom has a few things to say.

I went out to check the inspection point on our sewer lateral yesterday, because the downstairs toilet was not flushing. Sure enough, the line was full of water at the inspection point, so I called the city to have them come repair their sewer system. Ordinarily this lateral inspection is something you do by bending over with a screwdriver in one hand, and flipping the access point lid. But I am so weak and clumsy that I had to kneel down before I could flip the lid. I also apparently cannot stand up on my own anymore, without pulling on something like a bookcase, a table, or a Ford Taurus. My attempt to stand by planting the screwdriver in the sidewalk and using it to push off failed, and more than once I rolled onto the ground. It must have looked to any observers like a really drunk guy falling all over himself. After I crawled over to the Taurus and hiked up on it, I bowed in both directions up and down the street, just in case anyone was watching.

As if I didn't have enough projects that I'll never complete, today I started another work of fiction:

One and Out: The presidency of Al Gore, 2000-2004

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Greta for thought

Recently Greta at Hooah Wife asked:

We know what the MSM says - whether we agree or disagree. But what are the "enemies" saying about us? I just got off the phone with Silke and we were discussing our differences on the whole Murtha situation. She doesn't feel that what he says is by any means against the troops, but only is directed towards the President. I feel the opposite on this one. I justify my opinion kind of like the unwritten rule of former Presidents to not bad-mouth the current Administration (Jimmy & Slick Willie)! I asked Silke if she ever read Al Jazeera to see what they are saying about us - she hadn't. Today's front page of Al Jazeera, right there is bold letter was this "Al-Qaida: Iraq withdrawal victory for Islam Al-Qaida's deputy leader says recent hints by American officials of a troop reduction in Iraq are a victory for Islam".

Curious if this changes anyone's view on this debate or solidifies their current opinion?

I replied:

"As for Murtha, it's a free country and the right of anyone, even an elected official, to speak their mind is precisely what our military is there to defend. We don't live in a country where everything is supposed to be evaluated on whether it promotes the military. North Korea has that policy (I think it's called "Army first"). Look how well that's working.

As for Al Jazeera printing the statement by al Qaeda, NPR reported it too -- maybe even Fox will -- well, what do you EXPECT al Qaeda to say? [Silke later pointed out, astutely, that al Qaeda appeared to be reacting to the Administration's own plans to reduce troop levels, not anything Murtha said]. What I wonder is why our Great Leader put us in a position where our troops get beat up and al Qaeda scores propaganda victories when the president puts his tail between his legs and cuts and runs. In case y'all ain't paying attention, he's gonna cut and run. The good news, for some of you, is that he'll blame his failed war and cowardly retreat on the Democrats.

In my opinion, former presidents should continue to stand for what they believe in, even if Curious George don't like it. When Monkey Boy is out of office, he ain't gonna stand for much. He may just remain prone, and let the booze dribble into him by catheter. Imagine the post-presidency of George W. Bush -- what do you see? Habitat for Humanity? Africa trips? Election monitoring? Hah! I see cocaine and divorce."

Later I added:

"As far as I'm aware, all Murtha said was that he wouldn't join up today, and that Iraq "absolutely" was a wrong war for Bush to have launched.

When the interviewer put these words in his mouth: "And I think you're saying the average guy out there who's considering recruitment is justified in saying 'I don't want to serve,'" Murtha said "Exactly right."

Justified. I think anyone is justified not to sign up. We have an all-volunteer force. No one is forced to join. So, yeah, they're justified. Even the Defense Department agrees with that:

Asked for comment, a Defense Department spokesman, Lt. Col. John Skinner, said: "We have an all-volunteer military. People are free to choose whether they serve or not."

"Our freedom of speech in this country allows all of us the opportunity to voice an opinion. It's one of our great strengths as a nation," he added in an e-mailed reply.


Why are we spending so much energy trying to decide whether a combat-decorated hawk is a bad guy, and ignoring the boyish military misadventures of the lying drunk killing our soldiers from the White House?"

Friday, January 06, 2006

Democrat idiots on the loose again

Women on American soil are forced to choose abortions or else lose their jobs. They are recruited in China, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, and sign contracts in which they agree not to join a labor union, ask for a raise, practice religion, or have children. Then they arrive at Saipan, a US Pacific territory. This territory is governed by US law, but has important exemptions from US labor laws. Labor unions are illegal. The men and women workers live in company camps and are trucked to factories surrounded by barbed wire. If a woman gets pregnant, she will lose her job if she doesn't abort. Almost no children are born to these thousands of young laborers. In my opinion, it's a Communist system of indentured servitude tolerated on American soil, through the magic of voluntary contractual behavior within the free market system.

The products that come out are labeled 'Made in the USA.'

The liberal Democrat Party attack dogs have currently sunk their fangs into the ankle of Tom DeLay, who shot down a bill to extend the protection of U.S. labor and minimum-wage laws to the workers in the U.S. territory of which Saipan is a part.

They're also persecuting Jack Abramoff, who arranged junkets for Congressmen, including DeLay, to Saipan. And they're going after Michael Scanlon too, just because he worked for DeLay, and the Democrat Party people want to score political points.

Isn't it time we broke the grip of power that the hypocrite Democrat Party has over our nation, and rebuild a standard of moral decency?

Today I won the messiest desk award! Not sure whether to cheer or cry.

Wondering why Abramoff looked so fashion-impaired at his court appearances? It was prudent psyops. He usually is a snazzy dresser with a good presentation. After all this, he will be, once again. But he messed with his appearance on the court days so that no one would feel they nailed him. The usual him -- the one you expected -- did not show up.

Thursday, January 05, 2006


The greatest physical affliction I have ever faced is not ALS, it's constipation. A couple of days ago I went through a bout so extreme that it's hard to qualify. It was disgusting and painful and pitiable -- but I'll spare you the details. The Namenda I take to control involuntary laughing causes constipation. I have been trying to head that off with Citrucel every day and mineral oil every other day. But I stupidly took a break from the Citrucel for illogical reasons. In the most recent agon, in which I had to go to the doctor for help, I learned of three helpful resources:

Fleet brand prepared enema solutions
Milk of Magnesia
Dulcolax suppositories

I now have a new policy. If I go three days without a poop, I'll take a laxative.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Thank you!

Emily J. Miller, who has my love.

"Bible Man" is back

And he's out.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Jesus Chris, installment 2

Sorry it's so long, but I wrote this extra bit for the novel:

Despite the evidence that I was going crazy, I decided to give myself a break on the Kaypro Delete Key Mystery. I called it an 'incident' and reminded myself that it takes two points to make a line. I did describe the weird event to Penny. I was glad she didn't suggest that I see the campus mental health counselor.

Penny is a deluxe girl. My first girlfriend was thin, like me. And I like that, but Penny is luxurious. The first time I was with her, I told her it was like being on a cloud in heaven. She said she loved me.

She's about 5'5", with big, dramatic eyes, green, with powerful dark eyebrows, arched at an angle. She has rich, thick lips and a smallish nose. I like women with strong noses, not little buttons. But Penny's most attractive quality is that she's smart, cynical, and funny. We banter a lot, and laugh.

One time we climbed up on a billboard in the night and spray painted our objections to the ad content.

I was lying next to her in bed. In my best Barry White voice, I said, "Go across the room Honey, I want you now."

She laughed.


In my Thursday advanced writing class we reviewed the pieces we'd submitted on Tuesday. The guy in black leather, Rick, told little blond Megan that her poem seemed "a lot like Sympathy for the Devil." It was your typical college put down, accusing her of being unoriginal, but the joke was on him, I think, because it turned out that home-schooled Megan had been raised in a rock music-free environment, and didn't even know the Rolling Stones, much less that song. She thought that he was literally saying that her poem was satanic. He wound up gently explaining to her that there was such a song. It kind of made him look ridiculous.

I smirked, but avoided laughing.

Then they came to my story, about the guy who gets spiders in his brain, and Megan's girlfriend Trish used "Show, don't tell" on me. I like Hemingway, and the way he can write about something without ever mentioning it (like the implied abortion in the story about the woman who wants to cut her hair), but I think that "Show, don't tell" has become too dogmatic.

"It's not like we always have to avoid telling, is it?" I said. "I've read some good stories that have long expository passages."

But Trish had scored her point, and she wasn't budging.

I got a little steamed and flipped open the Hemingway short stories at random, dramatically. I flipped through a few pages until I found one of those long, long paragraphs where he goes on and on in a nearly stream-of-consciousness way, explaining and not showing. I skip-read the paragraph to Trish, mumbling through the length of it, waving my hand, plucking all the frilly, feminine words and clauses for emphasis.

Trish looked pretty unsure of herself, but the prof backed her up. "You make an excellent point, Chris," he said, "And when you reach the stature of Hemingway you can write as you like." This brought twitters from the class. Then he continued tenderly: "But for writers at your level, show-don't-tell is a good principle to adhere to."

There is so much ego on campus. After class I plodded across the avenue to get an Oakie dog for lunch. I usually brought a peanut butter sandwich and an apple for lunch, to save money, but I had found a two dollar bill on the storm drain outside Tesla Hall. It must have been washed there by the rain. The bill was dry when I bent down to pick it up. I was going to spend it.

But before I could cross the street to Oakie Dog, this big black dude on a Harley pulled up to the curb, blocking my way.

"Avast ye," he said, in a tired but jovial way.

Trying to step around the motorcycle, I said "Excuse me."

He let out the brake and slid forward to block me again. He turned off the ignition. I was still on the curb.

"I'm here to inform you that you are the son of God, risen again." The tone was still tired.

I recognized the voice. This was the guy who'd called me on the phone at the newsroom after the Kaypro Delete Key Mystery, the one who'd had the "hot tip."

I was ticked that he had blocked my way twice in a row -- on purpose. I briefly considered saying something rude, but I preferred to use my agility and quickness to dodge behind the motorcycle and run across the street.

Then a strange thing happened. He appeared again, in front of me, this time across the sidewalk. There was no way he could have ridden, or coasted across the road in that short time. The suddenness of it shocked my body into flight and fight mode: Run, and then if you're cornered, fight.

"I am here to--" was all I heard, as I quickly vanished around the corner of the copy shop. Two steps down that way and he appeared again across my path. It was some kind of spooky magic.

I can run mighty fast, and that I did, sprinting back across the street, dodging cars like players on the basketball court, and then racing downhill along the path through the trees. The wind rushed past my ears. The biker appeared beside me, not riding so much as gliding along. "Avast ye!" he barked. I tightly dodged past a tree and a dumpster. If normal physics had applied, he would have run into the tree. But he came out the other side unscathed. "Avast ye!"

Obviously, running wasn't working. I did not at this point so much feel scared, as angry. He was mighty big though, and I knew I couldn't fight him. Apparently, being in control is a big issue with me. I didn't want fatso biker to think he mattered, so -- with one leap -- I stopped running and stood still, looking ahead with no expression on my face. Whatever he was going to do to me was up to him. I would ignore him as if he didn't exist. It was my way of saying he had no right to exist.

"Jesus!" he said. I said nothing, looked straight ahead. I wasn't doing a lot of thinking right then, because my adrenaline was pumping.

"Now," he said in a businesslike tone, "we'll need to arrange some disciples for you. Do you have any candidates?"

I walked downhill and he coasted along beside me. I moved past a tree, and watched him glide through it as if it were a shadow. The bike motor wasn't even running.

"How about a Mark or a Luke?" he said, as I focused my eyes on the place where his hand was emerging from the bark of the tree.

"OK," I said, "How do you do that?"

"Pleased to meet you," he said, extending his hand. "I'm the angel Gabriel. I'm glad you didn't hold out on me as long as some of them do."

His head was still halfway buried in the tree. "Why are you embedded in the tree?" I said, "Is this a hologram?"

"No hologram. I'm an angel. I come to you with a message from God, your father."

"I don't like you Campus Crusade people, I want nothing to do with you. I'm not a Christian, and I never will be. Leave me alone."

Suddenly I was in orbit around the Earth, high above the atmosphere, looking down on the blue globe. I flew over the night side and completed one circuit of the world in what seemed like 10 seconds. I then descended through the clouds back down to campus.

"Wow," I said.

"Wow indeed," said Gabriel. "Like I said, I'm an angel of God."

"You're an alien?"


"Time traveler?"


"Then how did you do that to me?"

"I'm an angel of God."

"You have advanced powers, and you're posing as an angel."

"From your perspective, it's the same thing."

"What do you want with me?"

"Like I said, you're the son of God. You're Jesus Christ."

What he said seemed insane to me. Then I realized what was probably going on: I was crazy. Some kind of mental illness had snuck up on me. Maybe I was on drugs. Maybe a psychotropic mold or fungus had invaded my tissues....

I started walking across campus towards the clinic, then decided to head downhill toward the police station, and turn myself in. I might be dangerous. Let them contact the clinic. Maybe if I saw one of those rape prevention phones I would pick up the handset, and ask the cops to come get me. I would sit quietly at the base of the phone until they came.

Gabriel cruised beside me. "Actually, you're not insane," he said. "This is really happening."

He must have seen me shake my head just a millimeter, because he anticipated my thoughts. "Yes, I know that the senses cannot be trusted if the recipient of those sensations is insane. You think you might have hallucinated your trip in orbit, despite how real it seemed."

"No decompression," I said.

"That was the miracle," Gabriel said, cruising on the silent Harley. I walked on.

"You're not insane," he said.

"Angels on motorcycles telling me I'm Napoleon--"


"Same thing. That's insane."

"What can I do to make my case?" Gabriel said.

"Well, if I am insane, no experience I have can be trusted. so, no proof you can provide is valid."

"To you."

"To me."

"You sound pretty sane. Logical."

"But maybe my dementia leaves my logical processes intact, while scrambling my experience. I need to be evaluated. I need medical help."

"You're thinking that an insane person cannot evaluate their own sanity."

"Right. Schizophrenics believe they see everything clearly, and anyone who suggests they don't is wrong."

"But you actively believe you are crazy and need help," said the alleged angel.

"True, but I could be having hallucinations for any number of reasons, maybe purely physical."

"At least we know you're not schizophrenic," he said. "Tell me what could prove to you that you're not crazy, and that your orbital trip was real?"

"There's no way to prove to myself that I'm not crazy. Even if I reached such a conclusion, it could be dementia."

"You were walking to get an Oakie dog -- how do you know that wasn't a hallucination?"

"It fits with all my experience to date. I take it on faith that the world is as I know it."


"Faith in the form of a lifetime of assumptions based on experience. Don't whip out your religious junk on me."

"You're an atheist?"

"That would be silly."


"The belief that there is no God is a faith, just like any other. God is something which -- by definition -- cannot be proved or disproved."

"What can I do to prove to you that God has sent you as his son to Earth to save humanity?"

"That's insane!"

He checked his watch. "But what can I do to prove it?"

I was disgusted by the game. Now I was getting worn down and jumpy. It came out as annoyance. "Look, if that were true, I'd already know it. I would have known it years ago. If I were God--"

"No one said you're God."

"Jesus is supposed to be God, come to Earth. The whole trinity thing."

He chuckled. "You people do tend to get things wrong. Jesus is a person. That's all."

"Normal people don't come back to life and ascend to Heaven."

"Who says?"

"I mean the whole resurrection thing. And Lazarus. And the miracle healings. Water into wine."

"All lies."

I look at him with fresh eyes then, and he settled back on the Harley a bit.

"You're not a normal Christian weirdo, are you?"

"Like I said, I'm an angel."

"OK, then fly me to Heaven and show me God."

"Can't," he said. "Against the rules at this point."

"I'm tired of this mental torture. I may be strapped in a chair in some CIA prison, being fed drugs and poked in the brain with electrodes, but I'm an American citizen and I have my rights! Get me a lawyer! Get the ACLU!"

"Look, if I were the CIA, I could make you think I'd taken you to Heaven, right?"


"Just like I arranged the orbital trip. That was pretty realistic, right?"


"So why couldn't I show you a guy with a white beard?"

"I suppose you could. But the feeling might not be right. Some doubt might exist within me, and I'd know he wasn't God."

He shook his head, then resumed:

"It's the smart ones like you that are the most trouble. The yokels and mystics I normally deal with are easy to convince. Most of them leap at the chance to be Savior."

"How often do you do this?"

"My son, Christ has been reborn many times."

"How many?"

"We bring a new one in as quick as they get killed."

"You're trying to kill me?!"

"It's part of the job."

"Stuff the 'job!'"

"It's really very important."

"Listen, you Christian freak--"

"I'm not a Christian."


"Christianity is something you people have being doing. But as far as I know, God has no position on the issue."

The thing about the 'angel' was that he seemed likable. He was smart, and friendly, and not pushy. So I cut him some slack.

I immediately worried that I was identifying with my captor.

"Look, whoever you are, can you please just leave me alone?"

"I can do that."

"Good," I said. "I don't want to ever see you again, or get any more strange messages."


"And, no hallucinations!" I added.

"There were no hallucinations. But I can promise not to expose you to anything you consider abnormal."

"Thanks," I said, and walked away, testing to see if he meant it.

To a certain extent, he did. I got home unmolested. Penny saw that I was upset, and quickly comfort-shagged me.

"Penny, I had another hallucination today."

"What was it this time?"

"Frightening, huge, and embarrassing. Some black dude on a Harley told me that I'm Jesus Christ."

"Sounds like a typical day on campus," she laughed. "What was the problem?"

"He could vanish from one place and appear in another. And he sent me on an orbital trip around the planet! It seemed so real!"

"Honey..." she said, hugging me.

"I think I need professional help."

"Maybe you do," she said, sad and worried.

"What is it?" I asked. I wanted to know what was bothering her.

"Oh," she said, composing herself. "I just wondered if I could talk to the angel."

That was not what I had expected her to say at all. But I'm easily led, so I responded.

"How? He's my hallucination."

"If he comes here, and you see him, but I don't, then I'll be honest with you about that. I'll help you get the help you need. If you call him and he doesn't come..."

"Then maybe I'm not as crazy as I think?"

"Then maybe you just need me around all the time," she said with a smile.

"To keep me sane?"

"Yeah? Sure."

I rolled her off of me, and stared bleakly at the ceiling.

"OK, 'Come see us, angel guy, come now.'"

Nothing happened. We heard a car door slam.

"I'm not sure that's going to work," she said.


"I'm just a Jewish girl," she said, "so I don't know all this Jesus stuff very well, but aren't you supposed to pray?"

"Pray? To what? I don't pray!"

"It's all part of the experiment," she said.


"Look, Chris, help me out here. Just get on your knees, and fold your hands together..."

Like I said, I'm easily led. So I got on the bed in the posture she indicated.

"No, don't look all cranky like that... Lower your chin!"

"Now repeat after me... Uh... 'Heavenly Mary, mother God who art ... hollowed be thy name, please send me again the angel who I saw today -- earlier today.'"

"This is ridiculous!"

"Do it."

I said the words. And then we both heard the Harley on the street. Then it was coming up the stairs of the apartment building. Penny's eyes went wide. She was scared.

Through the deadbolted door of the apartment came the angel Gabriel on his motorcycle. He stopped in the living room, put out the kickstand, and removed the key from the ignition. There was no smell of exhaust.

We could see him from the bedroom.

"Word," he said.

Penny was tremulous and freaked. She spoke first. "Are -- Are you really an angel?"

Like he's really going to say 'No I'm not.' What a useless question. I shot her a glance.

"Before I answer any of your questions," Gabriel said, "we need at least one more apostle."

"We don't follow your orders!" I said. "He's not an angel, Penny, he's an alien, or a time traveler, or an illusionist or something."

"What's your scam?" I demanded of him.

"Like I said, one more apostle is needed."

There was an authoritative knock on the door. "I need to check your apartment," came the wood-dimmed voice of Steve, the apartment manager.

"Go away!" I barked. "Leave us alone!"

There was a rattling sound and then the door opened. Steve stepped in and was stunned to behold Gabriel. "There's no motorcycles allowed in this building!" he yelled, astonished and angry.

"There's your apostle," I said sarcastically to Gabriel.

Gabriel looked at Steve. Gabriel had the whole jovial fat man thing going. He looked like an uncle or a cousin ... or a brother.

But Steve was a really handsome, chiseled black man with a lantern jaw. He was muscular and tall. He looked like Harry Belafonte. He had a very pretty young blond wife, and they had a toddler son.

Because of his yellow eyes, the fact that we'd once seen him staggering along and using the wall to hold himself up, and that he'd another time cornered me in a friendly but insistent way and asked me if I liked to get high, and because he worked at the campus medical clinic, Penny and I thought he was a junkie.

Gabriel looked at Steve and summarily decided: "He'll do."

Powerful Steve in his preppy sweater and Italian shoes took a menacing step toward Gabriel. There was a black-on-black familiarity to his rage and contempt. "What you mean by -- How'd you get that up here anyway?!"

"What is 'here?'" said Gabriel in that amused way he had. The ceiling of the apartment parted as if it were clouds opening up, and even though the sun had gone down, a heavenly curtain of light shone on Steve from above. Gabriel was sporting a halo that looked like it came from a medieval painting of a Bible scene. The thing glowed and rotated in two directions at once.

"I am an angel of God," Gabriel said to Steve. The light show then flashed some crucifixes at our apartment manager.

"Christ!" said Steve, and reflexively got on his knees. "I thought this was all bullshit!"

"God is very real, apostle Steve. No bull. The savior whom you worshipped in church as a boy is here." And with that Gabriel indicated me.

Steve looked at me with stark fear mixed with bewildered contempt. This punk? his expression said.

"But I thought Jesus was black!"

"He has been, many times," said Gabriel. "This is the one we have now."

Steve was still on his knees, still looking at me incredulously. "How could it be him?"

"It could have been you, or Penny here. But the lottery chose Chris."

"Lottery?!" I laughed. "What kind of theology is that?"

"Wait!" said Penny. "You're saying there could be a girl Jesus?"

"Joan of Arc, Anne Frank, and Cleopatra are some recent examples."

"What do you want with us?" Steve said. He eased back from his knees and leaned against the wall.

I heard Rosy's voice in the hall. She seemed to be talking to other people. "I don't know!" she said.

She most recent time I'd seen Rosy, her car had backed over a road sign mounted on a wooden post, knocking it down. Then there had been a drunken conversation in the hallway with some date of hers. "No, I'm not going to blow you here, in the hallway! Get lost, you creep!" I had been reading while I waited for Penny to come back from work. I prepared myself to yank open the door and act as backup for Rosy if the guy hassled her. But he just muttered "Bitch!" and was gone.

"What's going on in there? Is everybody all right?" said Rosy. Then she knocked, lightly and rapidly.

"Let them in," said Penny. Steve showed his agreement by opening the door. Ten people peered in. Five guys and five gals.

"Does everyone see the angel on the motorcycle?" asked Penny in a toasting voice used at parties.

There were lots of affirmations to that, and a few comments about the ceiling being missing.

Penny said to me: "So, either you're completely and entirely crazy enough that you imagine all this -- and so am I -- or else the other players in your reality validate that you are not insane."

"Listen people," I said, "this guy here has remarkable powers. He can work miracles. He claims to be an angel from God. But we've got to figure out what he really is."

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Brainhell spaghetti sauce

I don't drink, so I don't know much about wine. But I do know that bad wine is tart and tangy, acidic. I once bought some cheap wine for some friends and was mortified. In contrast, a wine snob once ordered us some very mellow, subtle, wine, which is the only wine I remember actually enjoying. I would have consumed it just for the taste.

Some people like their spaghetti sauce to shout "tomato!" To me, that's the same as tart, acidic wine. This spaghetti sauce recipe has been in my FOO for over 50 years, having originally been cribbed from Sunset Magazine. The whole point of this sauce is to be mellow, and subtle, to tame the tomato. I think of it as a tomato sauce wine.

2 pounds ground beef
5 cans (8 oz. cans) tomato sauce
3 cans (8 oz. cans) water
1 whole onion
1 stalk celery
1 green bell pepper
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried parsley
salt to taste

Grind the onion, celery, and bell pepper. Sauté beef with the ground ingredients. Add tomato sauce and water, plus the spices. Simmer five hours.

Yes, five hours. That's what refines the tomato sauce into its ideal state. If you try this sauce, drop me a line and let me know if you liked it or not. Put some sliced salami, and a couple of slices of dense cheddar cheese under the noodles on your plate.

We used to eat this once a week. I thought our family was Italian, and was surprised at nine years old to find out that we weren't.
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