He’s Fallen, But He’s Gotten Back Up

(A few weeks back I mentioned a conversation I had with a wonderful gentleman and his wife, about the secret of a long marriage. Well, that man is Dr. Ray John, and he and his wife Maggie have been married for 49 years. Ray John has been a marine and a respected educator. He also ran the Good News Rescue Mission here in Redding, and the Haven Humane animal shelter. He is well-known as a man who turns struggling businesses around. He also went through a very personal struggle of his own recently, and wanted to write about it and his path back from an event that could have ended it all. I remember the day Maggie told us about the accident, and the moment he walked back in with that cane to join us on a Sunday morning again. Here is the story of Dr. Ray John’s struggle, in his own words.)

AUGUST 28, 2016

It was a typical Sunday morning.  Maggie and I got up early so that we would be on time for the 9 o’clock Mass.  Maggie went to take a shower and I went outside to see if the ground squirrels had done any more damage to the pool motor (they had recently chewed up some of the wires).

As I walked around behind the pool in my flip flops, I kept thinking about what a beautiful day it was.

The next thing I knew was that I was airborne.  My flip flops slipped in the mud by the pool motor and I was falling.  There was a huge boulder near me and I was afraid I would hit my head.  So, I kicked out both legs so I could change the direction of my fall.

I landed hard in the mud and was in a state of shock.  I couldn’t get my legs to work.  (Later I would find out that I had simultaneously ruptured both patella tendons in my legs.)  I was in incredible pain.  I started screaming for help.  It was like the TV commercial, “Help me!  I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”  The problem was, Maggie was in the shower and the radio was on so there was no way she could hear me.

I knew I couldn’t lay there and expect help to come.  So, I rolled on my stomach and crawled 15 feet to the pool.

After a while (it seemed like an eternity) Maggie came outside to see why I was taking so long.  She found me on the ground in agony.   I couldn’t stand.  She called 9-1-1 and our neighbors.

I’m confused as to what happened next.  There were several paramedics trying to lift me onto a stretcher as I screamed in agony.  There was an ambulance, the hospital, braces locked at the knees and surgery-all seemed jumbled together.

The doctor who operated on me said my legs were in bad shape.  I not only had ruptured both tendons, but I had torn most of the muscle tissue.  He told me that he had only one other patient with this condition and that person died!

When I got out of surgery, I asked the surgeon how long recovery would be.  He said at least 70 days.  I figured I could handle that (maybe a week or two in the hospital and recovery at home.) Well, I was dead wrong.  He meant 70 days in the hospital with both legs in braces locked at the knees.

It was worse than I had ever imagined.  I spent 74 days in a rehab hospital.  23 hours of each day were spent in bed.  So, my meals, my baths, and my bathroom needs were all conducted in my hospital bed.  The only time I could leave the bed was when two nurses were available to lift me up with a sling and a Hoyer crane into a wheelchair with extended leg rests for my fixed braces.

To minimize the pain, I was given 12 Norcos a day.  Needless to say, I was pretty woozy most of the time.

Maggie was incredible.  She drove down and spent three hours with me every day.  We both laugh now, but I would often just stare at the wall.  The Norcos were doing their job!

When you are “incarcerated” for so long, you take a good look at your life.  I was so grateful for the people who came to see me and those who took Maggie to dinner.  I learned who my friends really were.  I also learned about friendships I thought I had that never once bothered to see me or call me.

Days dragged on at the rehab hospital.  One day, the head nurse came to see me and said he had a special request.  A young man had been in a horrible automobile accident and was broken up pretty badly.  The nurse asked if I would let the young man be my roommate.  I finally had something I could do!  Robert moved in and we quickly became each other’s protector.  We were loud and lively.  Most of the nurses liked us, yet some wanted both of us out of there.  Our highlight was when we went wheelchair racing down the corridors.  Robert kept me laughing and I did the same for him.

My doctor wouldn’t let me stand for several weeks so the only physical therapy I was allowed to do was to work on my upper body strength.  Finally, my doctor gave me permission to walk in the braces.  The physical therapist taught me how to stand and take a couple of steps. I also learned how to transfer from a bed to the wheelchair and back.

One day, they had me walk in my braces with a walker from my room to the physical therapy center.  It was a long walk to the center of the facility.  As I left my room, I saw nurses and staff lining the hallway.  There were tears, smiles and applause.  I felt like Rocky.

Eventually, it was time to go home.  I came home with a wheelchair with leg extensions and a walker.  We installed ramps so I could get in and out of the house in the wheelchair for my doctor’s appointments.  We had to put banisters around the house and into the pool.  We put in grip bars in the shower and a pole in the family room so I could hoist myself out of my favorite chair.  I had physical therapy at home three times a week where I continued to strengthen my legs and relearn how to walk.   Eventually, the doctor let me take the braces off for good.  And in time, we got rid of the pole, the wheelchair and the ramps.

On August 28, 2017, I celebrated my one year anniversary since my accident.  I “celebrated” because some thought I might not walk or be in a wheelchair for life.  I walk with a cane now and my goal is to be cane free in another year.

Except for Vietnam, this was one of the toughest years of my life.  I survived because of God, Maggie (married 49 years!), relatives and friends.  I have a deep appreciation for all who helped me get back.

Moral of the Story:  Don’t wear flip flops in the mud!

Universal Ain’t Such a Bad Idea

I don’t think “universal” is a wildly radical idea.

These days it seems like everybody thinks that any idea that includes everyone isn’t good for anyone. But if I say we should all know love in our lives, there aren’t many people who would disagree with me. If I say everyone deserves love, however, I might be stepping into a bit of new-agedness. If I say the universe needs more love, or that love should be a universal state we all strive for, many might even assume I’m on drugs.

The same can be said for other aspects of humanity. For example, we know that people need health care. Lives are long, and often troubled. And when troubles occur, to our mental or physical states, we need help. So we can all agree that everyone, at some point or another, needs health care. 100% alignment on that. Now, if I say that everyone deserves health care, we begin to see a split because I just used a word that reminds some folks of “entitlement” and entitlement, to them, means lazy people get something for nothing. Furthermore, if I say there should be universal health care, that word “universal” throws a good third of the population into fiery fits.

I can take this a step further.

The modern world is all about money. There was a time when it was all about hunting and gathering. There was also a time when it was all about farming and craftsmanship and exchanging goods for goods (or services), but those days have passed. Some five centuries ago humans entered the age of capitalism. It’s a brilliant system that creates a physical or imaginary note (or nugget) of universal value. Instead of saying that my 10 goats are roughly equal to your 25 bushels, we can agree on a monetary value of each and I can go sell a chair to raise money to buy your bushels and still keep my goats.

So, it’s neat and nifty. And we can agree that, in the modern era, everyone needs money. Just like love and health, we need money. Here’s where the split begins again. If everyone needs money to get by in the world today, to pay for their food, their shelter, their clothing, and their Kings tickets, then everyone deserves some money. To say they don’t only invites the idea that not everyone deserves food, or shelter, or clothing, or Kings tickets. We could probably argue the absolute necessity of the human need for one of those, but not the other three.

So knowing that everyone needs money to exist in the modern era, and everyone deserves the rewards we can only purchase with money, I don’t think it’s too radical an idea to ensure a universal income for everyone.

Everyone.

The sick, the healthy, the hard-working, the lazy, the white, the black, the brown, the red, the princes, the paupers, the farmers, the hunters, the gatherers, the conservatives, the liberals, the Christians, the Muslims, me, you, mom, dad, the kids, and that weird cousin Freida, as well.

They all need love. They all need medicine. They all need money. And there’s plenty of it to go around. Plenty of love. Plenty of medicine. Plenty of money.

There wasn’t, always. But we live in an age of abundance. Modern science and modern technology have created the means with which we could wipe out things like famine and massive, society-slaying diseases. We can produce food like no other era in history. We can produce clothing like no other era in history. We can produce shelters like no other era in history.

There are still only so many Kings tickets, though. We’ll have to decide who gets those with a lottery.

The angriest among you right now are frothing. You can’t wait for the last words so you can tell me how it isn’t fair for the hardest workers to have to support the laziest ones, which I equate, by the way, to telling me that healthy people shouldn’t have to put up with sick people. Some folks get sick, sorry. Some folks work harder than others, sorry. You’re going to have to learn to love them all, universally.

Because the time is coming. We are entering an era of even greater abundance. Even greater technology. Within half a century the production cost of producing almost anything will essentially be zero. And when that happens we’re going to have to decide if that means that those with the most wealth simply get more of the most stuff, while those with the least wealth get even less, or if there’s a better way.

I think there’s a better way.

We don’t have to wait until tomorrow to start. Knowing like we do that this era is coming, we can start now. We can ensure that everyone has enough to cover their basic human needs. We can ensure that everyone has health care. Everyone else has already done that last part, America.

The next part might be trickier. A universal basic income is still a bit radical, or perhaps premature, even by my standards. But there are still ways that we can revolutionize the system of distribution. In the most modern era, most of society’s gains have ended up in the hands of the few, by design. Trickle-down illusions trickled up, instead. Keynesian influences gave way to neoliberal deregulations. Unions shattered. Wages stagnated as corporate profits soared. We paid the price; they reaped the gains.

We can reverse a lot of that. This way of thinking, that somehow making the rich richer will make the poor richer, too, is an illusion of the past four decades alone. We saw the result. We’ve seen the outcome. No mas. We won’t be fooled again.

We’ve been fed a line of bull. We can’t afford universal health care, they say, even though we’re among the richest countries in the world, and the rest of the world is affording it just fine. There isn’t enough money to go around, they want us to believe. There is. We just distribute it badly.

It’s time to get radical now, people. To really think different. It’s time to think about all of us.

It’s time the idea of “everyone” had universal appeal.

Football is Back

A little over 36 hours ago, Tom Brady and the Patriots played Alex Smith and the Kansas City Chiefs. It was the opening game of the 2017 NFL season. A little over 24 hours from now, the rest of the games begin. This Sunday everybody but the Saints, Vikings, Broncos, Chargers, Dolphins, and Buccaneers will play. The former four play on Monday night; the latter two had their game moved to December due to the dangers of Hurricane Irma.

This is a pretty exciting weekend.

Football is back.

I love the game of football and have since about the time I fell in love with beer. I didn’t care for either when I was young; my association with both started after high school. That would have been around 1987.

My team, as is widely known, is the Los Angeles Rams. The story of how I became a Rams fan is documented early on in this blog. The briefest synopsis of that story is this: I became a Rams fan out of spite and because of superheroes. Superheroes have played a part in virtually everything I’ve become. It’s probably the only thing I took with me from my youth as I evolved. Cheers to them.

The Los Angeles Rams will be a better team this year. Dumping Jeff Fisher was the first, smart move they made this offseason, and they did it before it even began. Adding Sean McVay, an offensive-minded guru, was a great next step. Surrounding their 2016 #1 overall pick, QB Jared Goff, with an improved offensive line, an upgraded receiving corps, and another weapon at TE in the draft, were even better steps. All we ever asked Jeff Fisher, as fans, was to produce a team that was interesting to watch. Ranking pretty much last in the NFL in offensive production, as they did virtually every year the mustachioed-one coached the team, was as far from that as you can get. This team, this year, could be exciting. Very exciting.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m still predicting 6 wins, 10 losses.

The NFL isn’t easy. Jeff Fisher left Sean McVay a rebuilding project. Jared Goff is young and unproven. The right side of the offensive line is still suspect. Todd Gurley is coming off a disappointing year. The defensive unit is learning a new scheme. It might take time to gel.

If it does gel, quickly, then we’ll see some surprises. The difference between 6-10 and the first winning season since 2003 is only 3 victories. It could happen.

But even if it doesn’t, these Rams will be exciting to watch. They’ll score more points. They’ll play closer, and make more big plays. There will be hope at the end of the season that the playoffs are coming. Soon.

In the meantime, the haves will continue to have. Kansas City is better than advertised, if Thursday was any indication. The Pittsburgh Steelers have a stocked roster and are hungry for a seventh ring. The Dallas Cowboys and Oakland Raiders are on the rise. Seattle and Green Bay are championship contenders again. The Atlanta Falcons may have a better roster than they did a year ago, and they nearly won the Super Bowl. Tom Brady and the New England Patriots can never be counted out.

There are some surprises looming. The Carolina Panthers are only one season removed from a Super Bowl berth, and they still have Cam Newton. The Broncos have had the best defense in the NFL for years, and probably still do. The New York Giants are due another Manning miracle.

Anything is possible.

If I had to guess with my head, I’d say that the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Atlanta Falcons have the best teams in their respective conferences. That’s the smart Super Bowl pick. My heart keeps telling me we’ll see the Dallas Cowboys play the Oakland Raiders. That’s my hunch pick. If it’s the Carolina Panthers and the Kansas City Chiefs, that’s okay, too.

Every game is a great one. Every team has a storyline.

Football is back.

I’m a little excited about that.

Labor Day Weekend

My day went about as you’d expect.

I woke up early, poured coffee in some Bailey’s, and worked on my about page for an hour. No matter how many times I work on my about page I always look at it again and think there’s something wrong. I guess I’m about too many things to define in 400 words and 7 pictures. Oh well, tomorrow’s another day. Another attempt.

Maybe I’m undefinable?

About a half hour before church I realized I had promised the night before to take the mother-in-law to bingo. That meant I had to hit the shower, brush my teeth, get dressed, drop her off, fill the cooler with beer and ice, and arrive in 30 minutes. Wasn’t going to happen.

So, I texted everybody to tell them I’d be late. Then I popped a leftover McDonald’s burger in the microwave and took my sweet time.

Once I arrived, the next six hours were about keeping cool in the pool, drinking beer, discussing bleeding-heart liberal politics with my right-wing nut-job friend, laughing out loud, and gorging on snack foods. Is this a great country or what?

Around mid-afternoon Mrs C text me to ask if I was going to be much longer. She sleeps in on Sundays, as often and as long as she possibly can. I dutifully responded that I was at her disposal.

She ordered a coffee.

I hit the Starbucks on the corner around from the house and delivered her a venti soy caramel macchiato at precisely 140 degrees. I’m sure you’d do the same for your wife.

After the briefest of naps, I got up and played ball with the dog for a bit and then had a great idea for an edit to my about page. I implemented the edit then erased it. I’m really no good whatsoever at what I’m about.

Maybe I could ask my right-wing nut-job friend to write it for me?

At this moment in time I am writing a brief blog entry about absolutely nothing, sipping on another beer, listening to Ludo snore, and hearing the sound of the shower as Mrs C prepares for her day. It’s 4:30 in the afternoon.

After she runs some errands I’m going to put some meat on the grill and sit outside in 110-degree weather, throw the ball for my dog, and – in a plot twist you never saw coming – drink some beer.

I’m off work tomorrow. It’s Labor Day weekend.

My day went about as you’d expect.

The Wire

The Google news feed starts with Texas. 30,000 people displaced. 40 inches of rain. Louisiana in Harvey’s sites. Flooding possible in the Pelican state and parts of Mississippi. “The worst is yet to come,” some officials say.

Houston has been greatly affected by very rare flooding now for three years in a row. The chances of this type of flooding in any given year in Houston are .2 of 1%. 1 in 500. Three years in a row. Pray for Houston, indeed.

The next item in my news feed, this morning, is a rocket over Hokkaido. Kim Jong Un is at it again, and he’s not afraid to provoke the international community, especially the United States. Firing a ballistic missile over Japan is another provocation akin to the threatening of Guam. It’s chest-beating on a global scale. It’s a test. Hawks will call for war. Doves will call for talks. The only correct answer, for now, is to continue to stare him down.

Next comes Littlefinger. In case you’re running severely behind on the season finale of what is arguably the best show in television history, I won’t reveal the tell. Suffice to say that it was one of the greatest moments in one of the greatest episodes on one of the greatest shows of all time. Go team.

After another Houston story (“Cajun Navy brings boats from Louisiana to help flood-ravaged Houston”), a quick rundown of the Arpaio pardoning. It was neither unexpected nor unprecedented. But the precedent has not been a good one for presidents who have acted similarly in the past. The argument that “others have done it” does not excuse it. It’s just one more bullet in the gun Donald Trump always has aimed at his own foot. -20% approval and falling. He’s on his way to Texas to find a lifeboat now.

While I was writing the newsfeed changed. Texas and North Korea are still the top two feeds, but the third is a story on the forthcoming budget battle. Houston complicates things. A relief package will now push the wall south. On the agenda, I mean. The president has said he’ll veto any bill that does not pay for a border wall, but can he veto a bill that includes aid for Texas? Maybe. Stupid seems to be his middle political name, and that seems to work well with his base. The correct answer for his opposition is to continue to stare him down, as well.

Over at Reuters the top stories are Texas, Korea, the markets and Iran. AP news is almost all Harvey, with a little Korea, Russian war games, and child marriage in the South Sudan sprinkled in.

It’s Tuesday. I got up early. I read the news.

Lately, I don’t. I wait until later in the day when I’ve already had my coffee, already walked my dogs, gotten a shower, a shave, a spring in my step. I try to write instead, dig deep down inside for something good to pen on paper (figuratively speaking). But today I let the news come first.

The news was about Harvey. About Kim. Littlefinger. Donald Trump.

Every story needs a villain, I suppose. Today, it was nothing but.

Out of Sync

I don’t know if it’s complacency or exhaustion, but suddenly I’m hearing the alarm.

Let’s put that into perspective.

I’m not much of a sleeper. Not in the mornings. I generally wind down these days around 9 pm, and shut my eyes for the final time each day between 9:30 and 10:00. In the interim, of course, I take the dogs out one last time, take my eyes out of my head (I wear contacts), change into the most comfortable pair of old shorts I own, and lay down to read a book. The variance in time, at that point, is how long it takes that book to go from “can’t put down” to “falling on my face because I’m dozing.”

Seriously, I’ve bruised my nose before from this.

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Birthdays, Ballers, and Blackouts

Last night we celebrated a good friend’s 50th birthday, in the Blue Oak Room at Bridge Bay Resort. We packed the place. Live music by the Hill Street Band, open bar, dancing, and endless echoes of laughter. I’ve had a few friends hit that magic number recently and a few more still to come. Including me. In 313 days I’ll be 50 years old.

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Stan Lee Said It Best

In 1968, I was 0. Stan Lee was at the top of his game and the civil rights movement was in full swing. We had a culture war. We had a war for equality being fought, right here on our home turf, 100 years after the end of the Civil War.

Stan Lee didn’t like what he saw, so he wrote about it in his soapbox. The Soapbox was basically a short column he included every month in the comics that came out that month from Marvel. It could be about anything. This particular month, in this particular year, it was about racism.

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Dream Control

I had a little trouble sleeping the week before last. Off and on throughout my years on the planet I’ve faced the same. We all do. You wake up, use the facilities or grab a cup of water, let the dog out or something, then come back to bed ready for another 3 hours of sleep. Only you don’t sleep. You think, instead.

Over the years I’ve tried many things to stave off this condition. Meditation. Counting stars (sheep are boring). A mid-morning shot of Nyquil. I don’t recommend that last one, but somebody had to try, right? Some methods work, some methods don’t. Mostly, they don’t.

This particular night I remembered something I had done years ago, and it worked. I’ll see if I can describe it, before I tell you what happened next.

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Saving the World (Once I Find the Time)

I have two wildly competing ideas on my mind that I hope to cover together, without sounding completely discombobulated. To be coherent I should break them away from each other and write two entries. I might. Let’s see how this goes.

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