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!

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.

Continue reading “Birthdays, Ballers, and Blackouts”

For My Friend

I have a friend who is fighting for his life this week.

I won’t reveal his name or go into the details, out of respect for his privacy, but the development was sudden, unexpected, and dire. One instant everything was easy. The next, urgent.

Praying people pray in these moments, I know. If you do, and if you think it will help, I appreciate it. I tend to compartmentalize at times like this. I dig in. Unless there is something physically that I can do, then I stick to my routines, wait for word. Hope.

It brings to mind the simple fragility of our journey. The precariousness of our bodies. Every day of our lives we spend time seeking something we wanted, or fulfilling an obligation, or trying to pay the bills. We seek comedy and closure, companionship, and some sort of inner calm. We put off thoughts of mortality for as long as we can. That day is forever away.

Something like this is a reminder. It reminds us to love, to express our love, to fill our days with things that bring us joy. To bring joy to others. It reminds us to take better care of ourselves, and never ignore the signs our bodies give us. Pain is there for a reason. Discomfort. That nagging, gnawing feeling. Swelling. It isn’t always just something that goes away.

Because of the expense, or the inconvenience, we put it off. Because we put it off, things get worse. The worse it gets the more we fear it will cost, in time or money. The cycle is endless and, too often, deadly.

I believe everything will be just fine. I’ll hear the laughter of my dear friend again soon. I think we’ll joke about this moment for years to come, because my friend jokes about everything. I believe all of this because it is the only thing I can believe right now. Any other notion would be unthinkable.

So I get ready to go to work, to fulfill my obligations. I’ll put off any thoughts of my own mortality, or of his. I will pay better attention to my own aches and pains. I’ll pray. Whether there is anything out there to hear it or not, I’ll pray. Words of encouragement cast into the firmament can do no harm. Positive vibrations could bring positive results. He and I will laugh about that someday.

So please take nothing for granted. Go show your love. Spread some joy. Live like you have forever, but understand that you may not have tomorrow. Know your limits but chase your dreams. Do everything you’ve been putting off.

Do it for my friend. He’s fighting for his life.


I took a leisurely stroll down memory lane this morning. I was looking for the specific moment that a specific thing happened, and I think I found it. But, I also found that leisurely strolls down memory lanes through a collection of online photographs can be like diving into a rabbit hole after a bunny with a watch for “just a second.” I was in deep.

I realized as I wandered that Mrs C’s snow fiasco was 3 ½ years ago. Impossible. It was last month. The memory of it is entirely too new. How could 42 months have passed since that moment? I bet if I asked her she would say 18 months ago, at best.

I realized that the hilarity of the Ryan Rath “Ferengi-ear” moment was February 23rd, 2014. More than 3 years ago. Impossible. Star Trek TNG hadn’t even come out then yet, had it?

During my walk down memory lane I saw that Mrs C’s first Crawl was in March of 2014, my surprise family superhero-themed birthday party was three years ago now, and I read The Fourth Turning in October of 2014. David Smith’s outrageous ugly sweater party is 30 months behind us now. Ludo was born 2 years ago this month.

Nothing in the rear view mirror is as close as it appears.

But after climbing out of the rabbit hole I returned to my original intent. This is Sunday and I’ll be heading down shortly to join my beer-swilling compadres at the local watering hole. It’s a tradition we have come to call “church.” Our church isn’t like the others. For one thing, it’s in a bar. For another, it has nothing to do with religion, unless you count mutual adulation and an unhealthy respect for beer a religion. In which case, it’s all about religion.

My quest this morning, and a daunting one it was, was to find the day we first coined that phrase. I think I found it. If the reply I posted in 2016 is accurate then the genesis of church came on August 4th, 2014, nearly 3 years ago this summer. It wasn’t the first time our congregation gathered in communion, but the first time, I believe, we named it reverently.

If you’ve been, you know that it’s a gathering of glee. Hilarity ensues. Bells are rung. Our bartender, the amazing Kime, has a bell behind the cash register she rings when Tom gets out of line. Well, when anyone gets out of line, really, it just so happens that it tends to be me. If you haven’t been to church yet, you should come. Get a high-five from Kime; there are no others like it.

Get a beer, too. Coldest in town. Tip well. Have a Shameless burger. Stay all day. Nobody minds.

I’ll be taking a leisurely stroll down there shortly.

Like chasing that rabbit down that hole I’ll have the intention of staying for “just a second.” I’ll have “one beer.” I won’t get out of line or laugh too loud. I won’t have to hear the bell.

I’m getting all of that out of the way now.

It isn’t polite to lie in church. 😉

Friends Being Friends

I have the best group of friends.

If you’ve been following my stuff for any length of time, you probably already know that. We seem to connect daily. And, as often as possible, we put together events where we can all see each other. A big group of us is going to Vegas, this summer. Maybe 30 of us. Plus family. That’s a lot of people invading Sin City all at once. I hope we’re ready. I hope Las Vegas is.

I’ve mentioned friends today because, honestly, I’ve expressed diffidence to some of them about my unnamed tombeingtom.com June writing project. 30 days straight of me, talking about stuff, is a lot. Especially when you consider this is only day three (or is it four?) and that means there’s, like, 187 days left to go.

I’m prone to hyperbole; I get that.

I’m also prone to use a word like “diffidence” when I could have just as easily said “doubt.” Writers like thesauruses, though. Especially the ones that give different words for things.

But when I asseverated trepidation to my cohorts in that fashion they each reciprocated magnanimously, asserting confidence in my proficiency. In other words, they all believe I won’t ever run out of things to say.

Even those who have placed bets against my success are otherwise encouraging of me. Some of my compatriots have placed a stipulation upon me, so that any day of failure on my part means a day of free beer on theirs. As happy as they are about free beer, to a man they don’t believe that will happen. They’re betting that they’ll lose their bet.

I’m betting they will, too. I don’t have the sticktoitiveness I would have liked to have had in life. I didn’t start taking my writing seriously until about 3 hours ago. Maybe a year. Something like that. But this thing I do, here, it matters a lot to me. Friends get that.

I wanted to say a little bit today about my friends. My emboldening, uproarious, complicated and, at times, outrageous friends. I wanted to give them a shout out, each and every one of them. I’d be a lot more lost without them.

Even when I question my own proficiency, they’ve encouraged me to do this. To persevere. To write. For me.

I won’t let them down.

I can’t. They’re my friends.

Plus, beer can get expensive. I have a car payment to make now. 😉

Beer, Buds, and Bugs

St Patrick’s Day

St Patrick’s Day is a religious holiday. It celebrates the life of Saint Patrick, who is credited with converting the bulk of Ireland to Christianity some time in the 400s AD. March 17th is believed to be the day the patron saint of Ireland died.

Before Saint Patrick began his holy crusade on the Emerald Isle, the denizens of the land were pagans, worshiping many gods. They loved their stories of Danu the Mother Goddess, Lugh of the Long Arm, their heroic son Cuchulainn, and the king of demon baddies Balor. The stories of Irish mythology are still sacred to the people of Ireland, but as literature now not religion.

Not since the Apostle of Ireland came and banished all the snakes. Not since the Patron Saint of the Emerald Isle placed his walking stick into the ground a grew a tree. Not since Saint Patrick made the leaves of the shamrock a symbol of the Holy Trinity. Not since then.

And here you thought today was all about green beer. 😉

Green Beer

I celebrated St Patrick’s Day last weekend, and will sit the night out. I have several reasons for doing so, that I will discuss eventually. For now, I want to talk more about the former than the latter.

Friends and I went to Reno for the Leprechaun Crawl, an annual event in the Biggest Little City. It includes thousands of emerald-clad revelers celebrating the conversion of Ireland to monotheism from polytheism in the 5th century.

Just kidding. It’s just to get drunk. None of us knew about the Christianity thing until about six paragraphs ago.

As I’ve mentioned before, we go to 2 or 3 of these Reno pub crawls a year. I’ve attended the Irish one more than any other (I believe this was my 4th). You don’t know fun until you’ve had 30 or 40 brightly-clad adults wandering the halls and streets of Reno, inebriated and making memories together. And we remember every damn moment, because we have pictures.

We have more than once been the cover photo advertisement for the next year’s event. Easy to see why. Go green or go home, I always say.

As for why I don’t plan to go out tonight, well … I did it pretty heavy last week for one; I’m good. The night of St Patty’s is always a terrible night to be out and about, anyway, even if you just want to have a green beer or two and safely make your way home. Plus, hey, I gotta work in the morning.

Also, I brought home a bug.

Traveler’s Blues

I tend to catch 1 or 2 cold bugs a year. This is my third one of this wintry season. Nothing too serious, mind you. These are the types that get in your head and make you feel bad enough to complain, but not bad enough to skip work.

This particular one is unusual. It started the second day back from Reno with a terrible sore throat in the morning. Like something lodged in it. I first thought I experienced some form of acid reflux in my sleep, but I don’t think that now. My throat has been sore for four days … REAL sore … but no other symptoms have emerged. Zero. No stuffed head. No cough. No fever. I can even swallow just fine. Just really, really sore.

Coffee helps to soothe it in the morning. Beer helps to soothe it at night.

I’m not a real smart sick guy.

But one unusual attribute of my recent viral bouts is I tend to catch them whenever I leave town. It appears I am completely immune to local pathogens but have zero resistance to those of other counties.

One friend told me that partying all night lowers my immune system for a time and thus allows bacterium to more easily take control. Apparently he thinks I party all night every time I leave town. Hmph. He’s no doctor or sociologist, what does he know? 😎

12 Years and Running, and 20 Years this Year

The rest of my time lately, when I’m not working or partying with pathogens, has been spent delving deep into the offseason of the Los Angeles Rams. I took a gig to write about them a while back and I try to publish one article a week about their progress. I’m a huge fan, as you know, of the game of football and of the Rams specifically. Studying the offseason is nothing new to me. Mock rosters and mock drafts are my passion, not my job. Especially the last twelve years.

Because for the last twelve years the Rams have been better in the offseason than during actual play.

It’s hard to love a team that breaks your heart every year. It’s hard to fall short of the playoffs a dozen consecutive times. I mean, that’s really hard to do when you think about it. No matter who you are if you went to a bar and randomly hit on 12 different women the law of averages says you’ll take at least one of them home, right? If you picked 12 fallen plums off the ground, at least one of them will be a good one, right? If I go out of town 12 times next year, at least one time I’ll come back without a virus, right?

Maybe not. I’m about as lucky as the Rams sometimes.

Luckily I don’t eat plums off the ground or pick up women. I got this gal.

20 years this summer. I’m the luckiest man alive.

Happy St Patty’s Day, everyone. Whether you’re in it for Jesus, in it for Dagda, or just in it for green beer, be safe, be happy, and be you.

You’re luckier than you think. ☘️

Journal Entry 12/15

The Santa Crawl was extraordinary, as always. I found myself in bed, after work on Monday, replaying those 36 hours in my head and I was amazed at how quick it all was. Life flies by in an instant; the good times come and go so quickly. I try to never miss a chance to add to my collection of amazing memories. They are the true capital of life, and the only currency I really care about. Spend your money on experiences, they say, not things. I couldn’t agree more.

In addition to spending my weekend with those dearest of friends – those craziest of compatriots – I was able to add to my stable of associates. I consider the people in my life to be invaluable treasures, and I would not be me without all of them. I’m the luckiest guy alive and I’ll challenge anybody for that title. Thank you all for joining me on another wild excursion, and thank you to those just joining the fun. Life begins every day, and we’re all just getting started.

As most of you know, I’m a dog lover. The wife and I have raised 5 amazing canines (DOGS to the layperson, as Harry Dunne would say) and we’ve had very different experiences with them all. Moxie – the middle golden – has been the most angelic of them all except for his food vice. He’ll eat anything left on the floor, including every other dog’s food. But he’s never seen the inside of a crate, nor ever had to. Ludo, the latest gem in our line of pups, is probably the most energetic we’ve ever had. He’s a bundle of anxiety and fun. The name “Ludo” comes from a character in the movie Labyrinth, one of my wife’s all-time favorites. The creature – a gigantic, gentle beast who plays with rocks and refers to himself in the third person – is named after a board game on the main character’s wall in the beginning of the movie. The game – which plays much like Parcheesi or Sorry – derives it’s name from the Latin word “ludo” which means, appropriately, “I play.”

Young Ludo was doomed from the start with the name “I play.” It is not his fault, but ours, that it is all he wants to do.

This week, the playful one took his teeth and talons to the couch and love seat. The damage was minimal but enough to convince us that he is not quite ready for complete freedom when we are away, and has thus been returned to his kennel during work hours. The campaign to “Free Ludo” on Facebook, by my artistic and brilliant compadres, has been hilarious.

Alas, it is all in vain. The only thing that will free Ludo at this point is maturity, and maturity takes time. Rest assured, my evenings are spent couch-bound with he-who-plays nestled in my lap. At 65 pounds, it is a prodigious sacrifice I make, but one I make with love. Ludo loves.

After a tame beginning, Donald Trump has returned to form in the post-election era. His insane tweets, self-promotion, and thin-skinned backlashes are akin to the campaigner and, alas, show us all that there is no difference between the two. He will be the worst president we have ever seen, and survival will be the key. It is best on Monday that the electors strike faithlessly in unison, even if it leaves us with a less-than-desired second option in Hillary Clinton. His apologists will not like this take but, no, I won’t be “giving him a chance.” Chances have to be earned and, thus far, he is exactly what I predicted he would be: breathlessly ignorant of facts, woefully unprepared, dangerously narcissistic, and beholden to the special interests of the financial elite. In short, Donald Trump is who Donald Trump has always been and the office of the president will not change him. We have a horror show ahead of us of historic proportion. I will be placing my faith in the Republicans in power not-named-Donald-Trump to rein him in. Don’t let me down, House and Senate, you are our only hope now.

Thanks for checking out this contemplative entry. Only 16 days of 2016 left, and it has been a year of wonder. Let’s finish it the way we lived it, collecting memories to last a lifetime. Happy Holidays, all. 🙂

The Santa Crawl

Once or twice a year, three if the wind catches me right, I spend one wild night in Reno at a themed pub crawl. They are a blast. Three or four thousand people from around the country generally attend, and the themes involved are anywhere from superhero costumes to zombie makeup to vampire motif to leprechaun gear. The most wild one of all, however, is the Santa Crawl. The Santa Crawl draws 15,000 merrymaking souls, about five times as many as any other crawl. The streets are lined with Kringles and elves, reindeer and snowmen, and revelers of all ages.

This weekend will be my second annual excursion over the hill and through the snow to this particular crawl. A quick look at Facebook tells me 24 of my friends are definitely going, 10 are saying maybe, and at least a handful more haven’t responded though I know they’ll be there. We could have a record turnout. If you’re reading this, and you didn’t know about it – or are on the fence – there’s still time. Join the party.

Last year’s Santa Crawl was sheer mayhem. The good kind. I was “Super Santa,” complete with muscles and a little black mask. In my group we had (among many others!) a walking Christmas tree, one cool ZZ Claus, a stunning reindeer or two, a bevy of beautiful elves, and a guy from Vegas in nutters who joined us to be a part of the fun. My best buddy and I brought a surprise for everyone when we snuck him into the party after it appeared, for the longest time, that he wouldn’t be able to go. When Santa buys your table a round of shots, you take ‘em. When he removed the beard it was epic. Brilliantly done, Ry.

The missus and I finished the night with a sobering walk at 3-something in the morning, in awe of the sheer numbers of festive revelers still making the night their own. I have never seen so many damn santas in my life. The experience was unforgettable.

On the way home we hit white-out conditions and our three-and-a-half hour drive from Reno to Redding took about 7 hours. Chains were required but one good friend had the wrong chains. We boxed him in between three 4-wheel drive vehicles, slowed to a crawl (no pun intended), and made sure his minivan and passengers made it home safe. Cory, bring the right chains this year. 😉

About ¾ of the way home, our fearless leader stopped in the middle of the highway. Just stopped. Our concerned caravan halted in line behind him. His beautiful companion ran back to each of us, in the slippery snow, to tell us that the windshield wipers simply weren’t doing the job. He had to manually clear his view. In the mountains, in the woods, in white-out conditions, you simply cannot pull to the side of the road; you don’t know what is out there. We wiped our windshields and proceeded, no harm done. Troy led us home, all of us safe. That drive is just another memory in a weekend of memories we will share forever.

This is my 7th or 8th overall Crawl, I don’t remember exactly. I’ve never been disappointed by a one. If you like a party, you’ll like these events. If you like events like these, you’ll love the Santa Crawl. It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

I mean that.

I’ll report from the road. Follow us online if you can’t make it out.

We’ll be the folks in red and green having all the fun. 🙂

Happy Holidays, my friends. I hope you have an unforgettable finish to 2016, no matter how you find your bliss.