Closing Globe Life Park

Billy Joel, the patron saint of closing baseball parks, closed out the Texas Rangers’ time at Globe Life Park in Arlington (aka “Dallas” which has to make the Arlington city officials insane – never have a city with one pro team is named after a neighboring city and another is named after the State) with a two-hour hits set. He offered the audience a choice of “deep cuts and album tracks” or “hits” early on, and the crowd chose “hits”, which seems predictable.

If you can’t close a park with World Series baseball, Billy Joel is a good second choice.

There are few artists left that can play two hours and all the songs are known by most (if not all) of the audience – and even fewer who are doing all their own work, and not also covering other bands they used to be in (I’m looking at you, Sir Paul.)

It would be interesting to compare this set list to the last time he played here, since he hasn’t had any new (rock) material since 1993 (or so.) He was one of the first artists to make a business out of rehashing old material (I’m looking at you, Jimmy Buffett, Rolling Stones et al), but he’s still one of the best.
For anyone that remembers him as a balladeer, listen to the encore. Loud.

Billy Joel is one of my few “just buy the tickets” artists for good reason. It’s a fun show, faithful to the records of my youth, with some surprises thrown in, just to keep people paying attention. There’s an unapologetic New York lens on much of his work, but this set is fairly universal. “They’re sharing a drink they call loneliness, but it’s better than drinking alone” is still the finest one-line summary of divorced guy business travel there ever was.

Billy Joel Setlist Globe Life Park in Arlington, Arlington, TX, USA 2019, Billy Joel In Concert

Uno, Dos, Tres, Catorce

So, I spent the night in the hospital last night, just so I could be reminded than Bono doesn’t know how to count to four in Spanish.

I’m in a place called Vertigo.

In the beginning, on Tuesday evening, we went to see Noel Gallagher (I’m pretty sure Noel couldn’t count in Spanish unless he learned the expletives first) down at the Majestic. Pretty good show, but as we were driving home, I felt a little dizzy. As I was driving, I decided mentioning this would not be a good idea.

Had this been a concert in my college days, I would have suspected various fumes in the concert hall, but you can’t smoke anymore and I didn’t have my usual drink, so that wasn’t it.

Had dinner, felt a bit better, made it home, everything seemed to have passed.

Murphy woke me up just before six to visit the yard, and I couldn’t walk straight. I was staggering around the bedroom, and I needed to find something to hold onto just to walk a straight line.

Here’s the definition of being old: my first thought was not, “I’m walking like a drunk.” My thought was, “This is like being on a cruise ship in rough seas.”

On the bright side, we learned on a ship in rough seas, the rule is, “One hand for you, one hand for the ship.” That helped getting around – even if we don’t have handrails all over the house. (Note to self: Handrails around the house.)

An hour later, Murphy woke me up again, and I was staggering again. Perhaps worse.

At this point, I was a bit freaked out. I didn’t have chest pains, so it probably wasn’t a heart attack. I could yell at Murphy without slurring my speech, so it probably wasn’t a stroke, unless yelling at the dogs is a learned reflex. What else is there?

After I woke up and explained to Virginia what was going on, she diagnosed the flu. This is because I religiously refuse to get a flu shot, so she is desperately hoping I will learn my lesson. Not by dying from flu (probably), but suffering a bit. OK, a lot. So, I could break a leg during flu season, and she would look at the protruding bone, and say, “See? Flu.”

Off to our family doctor. Of course, my doctor was out of town this week, so off to his Nurse Practitioner. We sat in the waiting room for a bit, while Virginia did my annual paperwork, which is six pages of crap without a “no changes” option. Rachael Ray was on the TV, making some eggplant dish, and it sounded like a compound butter or something. I was having trouble concentrating, actually. It’s just the third time she said “eggplant” in two minutes, I felt a twinge in the belly. I like eggplant, but the word has always disturbed me.

So, after another “eggplant”, she had a byproduct from the recipe you could “slather on toast.”

Slather.

That’s the evacuation word!

So, I puked into a handy trash can. Of course, I hadn’t eaten anything since the night before, so it wasn’t very productive, but apparently, some of my beer belly is actually phlegm.

Note for the future: if the service at the doctor’s office seems particularly slow, puke into a trash can. I was taken into an exam room almost immediately.

I like the Nurse Practitioner. She did a lot of checks in a very short time, was one of the first people to admit she couldn’t get test results as quickly as she would like, but she wanted tests to prove her non-diagnosis was correct.

She wanted tests, but knew she couldn’t get results as quickly as … the Emergency Room.

That’s where I had thought about going in the first place, so next time, I’ll eliminate the middle man.

I actually thought the Nurse Practitioner did a fab job, I just don’t like “probably nothing”, “just in case” and “life and death” in the same paragraph.

She wanted the tests to prove I wasn’t having the stroke she was pretty sure I wasn’t having.

Just working out the logic in that sentence will make some people start staggering.

Virginia asked if it could be the flu, with just a bit too much relish in her voice, and was told there was no possible way it was the flu. Ha!

Off to the ER. Luckily, it’s only one building over from my doctor’s office – but still the longest wheel-chair ride I’ve been pushed on.

I’m pretty sure I heard whimpering from behind me on the uphill parts of the ride.

The ER did some early checks just to make me think everything was progressing because this was an emergency, and then they sent me to the waiting room to remind me I’m not really that important. Or dying (hopefully.)

After the mandatory wait period (and a nap in the waiting room), I was taken back to a room. We had to wait for Virginia to come back from the vending machines before we went back. I wonder if she had gone for snacks earlier, the wait would have been shorter.

First, the mandatory question list, many of which were in the doctor’s list and the ER check-in list.

Then, an EKG – just like the one I’d had in the doctor’s office two hours before. Next, we wait for results.

At this point, I needed a potty break, so one of the nurses helped me stagger down the hall and back.

Then, off for a CAT scan. I would have mentioned I had three dog scans before I left the house, but I was too tired.

I always wonder about tests where the administrators all have to leave the room, and they’re pointing something at your head, or rolling your head in a tube.

Still, CAT scans are very pleasant compared to an MRI. Well, except for the contrast dye they put through an IV, so you feel like you wet your pants.

So, you wait for the CAT scan to get scheduled, then wait to get it done, and then you wait for the results.

After the results came back negative for a stroke, I figured I was ready to go home. The last time I was dizzy with a good CAT scan, I was freed.

Unfortunately, I needed another potty break. This time, the nurse just pointed me down the hall, but I knew where it was, so that was fine. Hands on the wall all the way down.

However, while staggering back to my room, I passed the nurses’ station where the doctor was talking to someone. She saw my graceful ballet steps, and decided she really wanted an MRI, after all.

Ugh.

So, time to sit and wait for scheduling again.

In the meantime, I learned an interesting side effect if I sat up too quickly.

I puked again.

This time, there were puke bags available, so I didn’t need to use the trash can. However, the official hospital puke bags have measurements on the side, so while you’re puking, the patient in you is thinking, “Please stop! This is gross!” and the competitor in you is thinking, “Come on! You can do 500ml easy!”

After that incident, I was given anti-nausea drugs. Afterwards? Really?

Off to the MRI, my least-favorite test of all, and that includes my eighth-grade Spanish final.

For those who have never had the pleasure, an MRI is a large tube that you are slid into so they can take photos or sound images or police sketches – I’m not really sure what comes out, except it always takes a half-hour and you’re strapped down, you can’t move and you have a panic button. Any time you’re given a panic button, it means it is so bad, somebody needed one, and it wasn’t installed yet. I assume that person died of fright. Lovely.

The MRI guys all have the same soothing speech: “This is the panic button. Press it, and I’ll get you right out. Even if you’re just a couple of minutes from the end. Of course, if you come out early … we have to start from the beginning.” So, basically, your one way out is a really bad option. Fun.

They have headphones with music to drown out the noise of the machine. The headphones are the equivalent of your wife whispering to you as the Blue Angels fly over your head. Three feet over your head. And your wife is in the next county.

The good thing about the music is you spend so much time trying to figure out what bloody song is playing, that the time does pass rather quickly.

I assume they don’t turn the music up since loud noises can hurt your ears. Wait.

This was my third MRI. My first was on my knee, and I didn’t understand my wife’s fear and hatred of them – but then I realized I had gone in feet first. My second was the last time I was having dizzy spells, and that was quite different, as in worse, but is was an OpenMRI (code for “chubby or claustrophobic patients”), and it was delayed a while because the patient before me was having panic attacks. Maybe they didn’t explain about the panic button.

This was an old-school MRI – and when I was wheeled into the room, I noticed a couple of braces in the machine. Hmm.

Virginia had asked if they had an OpenMRI, and was told “No”, but was assured I would fit. She was talking about the claustrophobic group – the chubby group is just a bonus.

So, I lay back on the platform, and was asked if I wanted to listen to music. Sure. On go the headphones.

Warm blanket? Yes, please.

Pillow under my knees? Yes, please.

I have learned that if someone in a hospital offers you something, just accept it. There’s a reason it’s an option.

Why is he being so nice?

Ah, the braces.

So, the operator started putting the head cage in place. “Clarice?”

So, let me get this straight. You’re putting me in a tube for a half-hour where I can’t move, you’ve wrapped in a blanket like an Irish burrito and now you’re going to lock my head down. Where is this panic button of which you spoke?

Placing the cage was one thing. Screwing it down was just excessive. The OpenMRI people just took my word when I said I wouldn’t run. They didn’t screw my head down.

I survived by trying to calculate how far (and fast) Virginia would have run when she saw the cage coming down.

The music starts. “Bohemian Rhapsody”. Really? The first line is:

Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?

Interesting way to start a half-hour sliding around in a loud tube.

Plus, in the middle of it, I had contrast dye pushed down my IV. Lovely. At least it was just a warm sensation, not like the CAT scan “wet your pants” dye.

I had asked for Classic Rock. This was a bad choice. Last time, I asked for Adele, not because I particularly love Adele, but because she has a lot of five minute songs, so it was easy to predict how far along I was.

Eventually, the rack slid me out. I didn’t believe it at first, since there were other times where it would back out slightly and then plunge me further into the tube. I could see out the other end (as promised), once I learned to squint around the cage.

Mainly, I kept my eyes shut. A non-metallic rosary would have been appreciated.

Still, I slid out, my head was freed, and I was told they had “gotten a lot of good pictures.” Well, that’s good, especially if that means I don’t have to start over.

Back to my room, where I realized I had forgotten my glasses and seasick patch. They took the patch off, since it has aluminum in it, and it could “heat up” in an MRI.

When they mentioned the tiny circular patch could “heat up”, I understood why they had asked if I had a penile implant. Ouch.

After the missing items were recovered, Virginia said I was being admitted.

So, family doctor to ER to hospital. A medical double-play.

Now, I’m waiting for results and a new room assignment.

The MRI results? No stroke.

In the hospital room, I had yet another questionnaire to complete. So, this time, when asked if I had any chronic pain, I just pointed at Virginia and asked, “Besides her?” The nurse laughed so hard, I got a three-minute break. (I can’t believe I’m the first husband to say that. It’s such a great setup line.)

It was a nice room, but I now had a PulseOx monitor on one hand, and an IV in the other arm. So, potty breaks require assistance just to unplug everything.

The nursing staff was great. They got my nighttime drugs, got me ice chips, got me pretty much anything I needed. It may have helped that I was in a staging room and at that point, I was the only patient in the area.

I even got a CPAP so Virginia didn’t have to retrieve one from home. A CPAP is great, not only because it keeps me alive, but because it is an obvious signal (the mask) that you’re trying to sleep. It doesn’t matter, because you’re going to get poked when you get poked, but still.

At this point, Virginia went home to tend to the dogs and get some sleep.

(Of course, when she stayed in the hospital overnight after her shoulder surgery, I went to walk the dogs, and went back to stay with her. She just stayed home. I’m a giver. It’s what I do.)

I woke up at one point, rolled over, and ten minutes later, alarms went off. Loud alarms. Why is it illegal to sleep on my left side? Apparently, I had slept on my IV and cut off the flow. Oops. Right side sleeping only.

I slept well, considering, until someone came in to draw blood.

Back to sleep, until someone else needed more blood.

Don’t they have blood in a hospital? Why do they need so much of mine?

I finally gave up on sleep about 7am, which was good, since the day nurse came in to check on me and introduce herself.

She showed me the menu for breakfast. The diabetic menu. I didn’t know I was diabetic, but I was starving. The omelet was very good. The sausage sucked. The toast was one whole slice, because, diabetes. The apple slices had more carbs than anything, because, tasty. The iced tea was in the same size cup my dentist uses when he asks me to rinse.

Still, very tasty, given it was my first food in 30-something hours.

Virginia arrived in time for physical therapy.

I changed clothes. This was the longest either of us had been in a hospital without wearing a gown.

I guess “Well, he’s just here for tests”, followed by “Well, he’s just being observed” means no gown required. Maybe they were selling all my blood to buy more gowns, and the new supplies hadn’t arrived yet. Maybe I have cooties, but it wasn’t on my chart.

With the physical therapist, I got to answer more questions and I got to walk with a belt around me, held by the therapist. Not awkward at all. She said I wasn’t as bad as I thought I was.

With the occupational therapist, I got to hang my head over the side of the bed so she could move my head around and see if she could determine where the issue was. (I think she was secretly disappointed I didn’t puke, since she had warned about it.)

The fun part of the occupational therapy session was the explanation of the condition I might have – BPPV (Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo.)

Here’s the short version, and this is from memory, but I’m not making this up: there are three concentric circles in the inner ear which have hairs in them (probably cilia, but who’s counting?) On the hairs are crystals. The hairs move as you do, and the crystals help keep you in balance. I was thinking “cheap gyroscope.”

To hear someone with a beautiful Southern lilt say, “If the crystals fall off the hairs, due to injury or accident, you will have balance issues, and that’s vertigo.”

Crystals falling off hairs?

Is this like having your chakras out of alignment?

Is this just bullshit because I can’t handle the truth?

Existential thought, which meant I missed some of her lecture:

How drunk was our Creator?

“Let’s see. We could just have a small bone balancing on another one, or We could have a bunch of hairs in a circle of goo with crystals balancing on them in both ears, so you have to check two places.”

“Oh, and if one of the crystals falls, you can turn the patient’s head from side to side and see if his eyes start beading.”

Even Virginia could see my eyes whipping around.

After she left, we had lunch. The person on the phone has hearing problems because my turkey was tuna salad. She probably has bad crystals or something.

So, I’m in a place called Vertigo.

I’m home now. I never wore a gown. I’m learning to stop standing up quickly.

I’m trying to rebalance my crystals.

Next week, I see my doctor, and remind him the interesting stuff always happens when he’s out of town. Then, I will ask him for a crystal referral.

Kick ‘em when they’re down

A job search is a very painful process when you’re an old, white guy who has spent the last 19 years inside the same company (especially when the company is often an industry punching bag.) So, I should be used to rejection letters by now. I usually don’t mind rejection letters that much, since at least it’s closure, and it’s a chance to think, “I didn’t want to work there, anyway.” With today’s automated application systems, much of the time, your application and resume just go into the bit bucket and you never hear anything at all.

However, some rejection letters are really unnecessarily detailed. Like today’s.

I got an email from a corporate recruiter last week, thanking me for my application (I actually thought I was a reasonable fit for the job), and asking me for some times for us to discuss the position. (I was lucky I saw it, since it was in my spam folder, but I check my spam all the time because I can’t afford to lose a lead.)

It got my hopes up. I should know better by now, but hope spring eternal.

So, I replied, and heard nothing. It’s not a mega corporation, so I thought, “His mail went in my spam folder, maybe mine went in his.” So, I replied again.

This morning, I got a reply.

I reviewed your resume with the manager and compare to the job description and requirements we decided to not move forward.  This system email was sent in error.

Ouch.

So, rejected before the screening call. A new low.

I’m not really sure why this hurt more than the others. I’ve gone through three levels of interviews in before getting rejected twice, but this one really hurts.

I think it’s the implicit “we were wasting our time reviewing your resume.” After all, the erroneous system email was the bright, cheery note that asked me for available times to chat.

So, their applicant system failed twice. First, it told them they might give a shit about me, and then it told me they might actually give a shit about me.

They don’t give a shit about me.

For any other recruiters who may be reviewing my resume, I really don’t need two reasons why I was rejected for your company. Just one is plenty, and is one more than the apparent industry standard of zero. Also, if your system is sending emails in error, an apology would be nice. You’ve wasted my time now.

I sent a “thank you for letting me know” note, but I really wanted to say, “If you would like someone to come review your recruiting system to determine why it’s sending emails to obviously unqualified candidates, please just let me know.”

Also, I wanted to say, “If your system email is a bright, cheery, personalized email from your internal recruiter, but the core system can’t accurately match candidates to positions, you’re customizing the wrong part of the system.”

The search continues.

In the Hospital

So, I spent the night in the hospital last night. Not for me, for my wife.

She had shoulder surgery yesterday. The surgery went well, but she has a difficult time coming out of anesthesia. She told her doctor, she told her anesthesiologist, she told the nurses, she told the mailman (he was concerned), but it doesn’t matter. When she can’t wake up, people are amazed – because they are never the people she’s told.

In their defense, when a normal person, say me, has any day surgery that ends at 3:30pm, I will be coherent at 4:00pm, and out the door by 4:30pm – at the latest.

She will be out of surgery at 3:30pm, cranky by 4:30pm and barely awake at 7pm, assuming a good tailwind.

Here’s the issue: with more and more day surgery “hospitals”, they really want you out by six because they’re closing for the evening.

To get her out by six, surgery should have started last Tuesday.

So, her shoulder surgery started at 3pm, she was admitted to the hospital by 7pm and at 9pm, she was ordering Dominos because the cafeteria was closed. (Yes, they deliver to the hospital.)

I’m waiting to see the diagnosis for her admittance because I think it will be “couldn’t wake up.” Usually, “couldn’t wake up” in a hospital means people with paddles yelling “Clear!” and pressing on your chest and blowing in your mouth.

In this case, it was a nurse who had a bus to catch, and said, “If you can’t get up, we have to admit you.”

This is a stupid threat to make to someone who likes being waited on, and spends a lot of her spare time with various doctors.

It is a doubly stupid threat to make when the other person in the room is trying to postpone being the caregiver as long as possible.

So, she was admitted for “sleepiness”, and then she sent me off home to gather the four tons of supplies she doesn’t carry in her purse – which is probably what weakened her shoulder in the first place.

By the time I ate dinner, got home, walked the dogs, medicated the dogs, corralled the dogs, gathered up the four ton laundry list from the four corners of the house and got back to the hospital, it was after midnight, so I decided to just stay.

This gets many good husband points, and a crick in the neck.

I almost never sleep in a chair, except on Thanksgiving or in meetings, but the recliner was like a business class seat without the annoying person blocking the aisle.

I never use blankets on a plane, but when I woke up at four with my teeth chattering, I decided to make an exception.

(It turned out it was in the 60s in the room, so either the A/C works or the heat doesn’t.)

I slept like a baby, which is to say I woke up every couple of hours to pee and spent the rest of the time sobbing quietly, wrapped in my blankie.

So, it’s morning and we’re waiting for discharge papers. After that, we have to get the four tons of equipment I retrieved plus all of her new medical equipment home and unpacked.

Then, we set her up in a chair and teach the dogs, “No! Not on Mommy’s shoulder!”

Then, I’m taking a nap.

Hamlet at Quest Diagnostics 

So, the Rocky and the Rat (ex-rat) saga continues. Rocky has been diagnosed with leptospirosis, which is a bacterial infection. It is possible he contracted it before he killed the rat, especially since it showed up so quickly. On the bright side, it’s a zoonotic disease, wnich means we can catch it from him. Joy.

Rocky had a blood test to see if he was infected. He was. This means we all need blood tests, as well. Well, the people do. If one dog has lepto, you just treat all the dogs. We may all end up on the same antibiotics.

Leptospirosis has two phases – the first is detected in blood, the second is detected in urine. This becomes important as we progress.

After calming down about Rocky testing positive, the Spousal Unit called our family doctor and said we needed a leptospirosis test. I have a feeling we may be the first people to request this specific test. We may be the first people to request any test. 

His nurse called this morning to tell us the tests were ordered, and we just had to go to Quest Diagnostics whenever we could.

I like Quest. They’re fast, there’s no appointments and they always get my blood on the first stick. So, when the Spousal Unit asked if we should go to lunch or Quest first, I thought we should get the bloodwork done first. How long could it take?

We got to Quest and I got stuck. Two tubes of blood, since the phlebotomist had never heard of the test. Time for lunch!

Then, she handed me a little jar, and muttered something about a urine sample. Warning, Will Robinson!

I should explain. When the Spousal Unit runs errands, she will run two days to six weeks worth of errands in an afternoon. So, there’s no telling where we are going to end up, or how long we will be gone. Therefore, I always pee before we leave.

I really wish someone had mentioned we were going to have to pee and not just bleed. It’s an important detail.

Oh, well. How hard can it be?

Apparently, very difficult.

Into the restroom, prepare to fill jar.

Nothing.

Concentrate.

Nothing.

I told the phlebotomist I needed to come back later.

She said she needed both samples together. I wasn’t allowed to leave. I was a prisoner. 

I wish she would have told me this before she harvested my two tubes of blood.

She asked if I wanted some water, to help the cause. So, armed with my three ounces of H2O, back to the bathroom I go.

Nothing.

Maybe I just need more water. I turn on the sink and there is no cold water. I don’t mean the cold water isn’t really cold – I mean turning the handle makes nothing appear. On the bright side, the hot water works and it’s not hot, it’s lukewarm.

Lukewarm water is not very pleasant. 

I could ask for more water from the phlebotomist but she wasn’t very happy to see me the last time, so I think I’ll just stick with lukewarm. Ugh.

Three cups of lukewarm water. Yummy.

How much water could it possibly take before I have to pee?

More than 14 ounces of lukewarm water, it appears.

At this point, I had been concentrating so long, I was beginning to sweat. Hmm. Would sweat be an acceptable substitute? Spit? Lukewarm tap water?

Three more cups of lukewarm water.

Hysteria was about to set in. Luckily, that’s when the Spousal Unit texted me.

Ping! “Everything ok in there?”

Autocorrect does not like my answer.

Time to find a distraction.

I could read the soap bottles. There’s a small table, but nothing’s in it, not even the magazines guys need for that other sample.

Ping! “How’s it going in there?”

Stop bothering me! I’m busy not producing a sample!

Ping! “I have to pee again. Do you want me to do it for you?”

Hardy-freakin-hair-har. Do I mock you in times of crisis? (Hmm. Question withdrawn.)

When all else fails, try the classics. This is the one time a prep school education pays off.

I hold the little jar towards the sky. I take a breath, and in a deep voice (for me), I intone, “To pee or not to pee … that is the question.” 

Nothing.

I begin to giggle. Then, I begin to weep.

Hey, do tears count?

I’m now trying to push the sweat beads on my forehead back in, so they will find another way to escape.

The Spousal Unit finally asked the staff if I could go get a drink, and I guess if you block one of their two restrooms for an hour, they’ll let you out. Plus, some of them were beginning to wonder if I was still alive, and found it hilarious we were texting.
Stay alive. Don’t text and pee.

I had been trying to pee for so long, the hospital cafe was closed. Sure, it closes ridiculously early, but still.

Luckily, the Subway one building over was still open. Up one floor, across the sky bridge, and there it was. I went just for a drink, and realized I was starving. Oh, right, we came here before lunch.

It’s 4:30pm. Quest closes at five. Time to slam down a snack and drink as much Mr Pibb as humanly possible.

What a romantic lunch. Subway sandwiches in a hospital. Can I at least take four sips before the Spousal Unit asks if I need to pee yet? 

18 ounces of soda in eight minutes. Then, speed walking back to the other building.

My phlebotomist is gone. That removes some of the pressure. I don’t like being judged.

Retrieved my jar – the only one left on the shelf – and nobody had filled it for me while I was gone. So much for prayers being answered. It’s probably because I wasn’t sure who the patron Saint of pee is. 

I went into the other restroom. Maybe it was the restroom.

Drained the rest of the soda.

Wait.

I have to pee!

Hallelujah!

I have to pee!

Praise the Lord!

I have to pee!

Crap! Where’s the damn jar?

Found it. Filled it. Sealed it.

Well, that was a fun afternoon.

Washed my hands. Oh, look! The cold water works in this restroom.

Headed home at last.

Let all the dogs out. They all peed immediately. The bastards.

I’ve peed twice while writing this. I’m thinking I should be saving it for next time, just in case.

Colonoscopy

A man’s life goes through stages, some fun, many not. A lot of men will end up melancholy, depressed or angry. It’s like the stages of death –

  • Playful (Childhood)
  • Studious (School)
  • Overworked (Career)
  • Melancholy (Mid-career)
  • Stressed (Late career)
  • Angry (Very late career)
  • Resigned (Retired or dead)

As a man progresses through the stages, people around him notice the changes. Most will not comment directly to him, since that may just trigger the next stage. However, people go from “Wow, Kevin’s annoyed” to “Jeez, Kevin’s in a foul mood” to “Holy crap, what got up his ass?”

Sometime after you get to the age where many people are asking “Holy crap, what got up his ass?”, your doctor says, “Hey, I know a guy. Let’s find out.”

How do they find out what’s got up your ass? A colonoscopy.

Mine is Wednesday. I’m supposed to be at the hospital at 6:30am. I’m not looking forward to it.

I don’t like any procedure where the prep work starts five days in advance, you have a specific diet to follow, and you have to drink a half-gallon of some toxic fluids – twice – including one dose at 3am. Yes, three in the morning. So, poop all evening, then poop first thing in the morning. I guess it will prepare you for old age, but still.

They have a camera that can be inserted in the body and show your innards. Technology is wonderful! Why can’t they add a flash, so it could just see through any poop on the walls?

I don’t like any procedure that requires me to write “poop on the walls.”

Someone is going to knock me out, and then someone is going to stick a probe where the sun doesn’t shine. In college, that’s called “date rape.” In the business world, it’s called an “all-day meeting.”

Also, how should I trust a doctor who went through all the preparations, successfully graduated from medical school, studied the entire human body, and said, “I’ll take the poop chute. That sounds like fun to me.”

Horrors.

Peace & Quiet

I’m beginning to think you can determine someone’s age by what noise level they consider “loud.” While I’m not out on my front porch, yelling at the neighbors’ kids to “turn that crap down” – yet – I have noticed that my world is pretty noisy, and I would like that changed. Now, I love concerts and live performance, and I can usually tolerate the performance art that is a good meeting at work, but there doesn’t seem to be a quiet place to escape any more.

It started with restaurants – now, we have been dining with my Mom and her hearing aids (or lack thereof some evenings) for a while, so maybe that’s when I started getting sensitized to it. Restaurants are loud. Many have live music every night of the week, which I’ve addressed before. Well, actually, I ranted about it before. Still, even places without music can be very noisy, and yes, I know many are actually designed that way so you get a sense of energy. However, if you’re trying to talk to someone who is hard of hearing, it makes conversation difficult, if not impossible. Of course, as a side benefit, you can be rude about them, and they will never know. Not that I would. Just sayin’.

So, we spend many nights going down the list of restaurants before we call Mom, so we can find a relatively quiet one. The reality is that there are none around us, even at Mom’s rather more extravagant price point. Even the pricey places tend to be crowded (probably full of people looking for quiet) and so, they are pretty noisy.

When we were on our Christmas cruise, I realized there is no such thing as a quiet bar on a ship. This was a revelation to me, I’m not sure why – I had just never noticed it before. Every bar has some sort of entertainment – a piano player, sing-alongs, games, something. It’s interesting to me that on a ship with eleven bars (and the larger ships have many more), there is not one bar that is a real traditional Irish (or British, in a pinch) pub – with small tables, quiet conversations, a decent pint. No loud music, no dueling pianos, no bingo. Maybe it’s just me. There really is no place other than your balcony to just sit quietly and reflect on how everything is going to be so much better when you return from vacation. Maybe the noise is designed to keep you from having those thoughts – since you are going to be disappointed when you return.

Sometimes, I do think it’s the crowd. I know on the ship, if you have a musician who will interact with the crowd, they are going to interact back. Much like a puppy barking until you pick him up, people are going to babble until he plays their request – even though they probably didn’t hear him play it the first time, because they were babbling. If I were as funny as some of those people think they are (after a couple of drinks), you would enjoy reading this blog a lot more.

The crowd also tends to make the music louder because they are trying to talk over the music. Perhaps, I’m not the only one looking for a place to have a conversation. However, then it’s an arms race – some talking over the music, then others talking over the people shushing you for talking over the music, and then the music itself. Just remember – the musician has a piano and a microphone. Either is a nuclear option in a noise race, and he’s trained to use both together. You’re not going to win. Go talk somewhere else.

Don’t get me wrong. I like music. I prefer music to hearing other people talking, unless it’s an interesting subject like divorce or bad relationships. I like most entertainment. I even like dining with my family, most of the time. I just would like a chance now and then to just have a drink and dinner with a quiet conversation. I’m still looking for the right place.

That must mean I’m getting old.

Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure there wasn’t any music in the restaurant in the retirement community that we visited with Mom. There may be a lesson there, somewhere.

Retiring from Live Performances

I’m old. I admit it. I don’t even bother to act young any more, even if people don’t think I act my age. Still, even though I’m a decade or more away from “real” retirement, I’m getting ready to retire from live performances.

Now, this is nothing like the Beatles quitting touring in 1966 – mainly, since I don’t perform at live shows – I can’t play an instrument and I can’t sing, although I suppose with backing bands and Auto-Tune, I could still make a record – it’s worked for any number of Idol winners.

However, I do try to attend shows – support local music! – and support the venues that host live music.

Here’s the problem – first of all, I’m old (as mentioned before) and as far as I can tell, a bar owner will want a band to play until closing time, which around here is 2am. Actually, they want them to finish just before 2am, so people will clear out before actual closing time, so there’s time to clear the bar and mop the puke. (Next time you’re in a bar, check the clock. Either there isn’t one in obvious view, or it’s set at least ten minutes fast.) So, if you finish at one-thirty in the morning, last set starts at 12:30am, given an hour-long set. There was a break before that, which probably started at midnight. Second set started an hour earlier, or 11pm. Break before that started at 10:30pm. First set started an hour earlier, or 9:30pm, which is why the announcements say the band starts at 9pm, because people are always late and the band generally forgets to tune up.

All that math is approximate, but anyone who has followed a local band for any amount of time knows all set times are approximate.

So, first problem – the music won’t start before 9pm at the earliest. For the younger crowd, that’s early. For old farts, that’s getting to the point where you’ve realized you’re not going to leave the house that night after all.

Second problem – the band ends at 1:30am or later. If they’re playing on the weekend, that’s one thing, but I know people who play this schedule on “school nights”, which is fine if you can sleep until noon, but I usually have meetings in the mornings (yes, I would like to sleep through them, but it’s frowned upon at the office.)

Third problem – a lot of the places that host bands I like are not particularly large, so they fill up quickly. If you get there early enough for a good seat, you have an hour or so with very little to do but drink, or enjoy delicious bar food – which is why you drink. When you’re at my age and alcohol experience level, this is not much of an issue. For some of the younger crowd, this means they will be plastered by the time the music starts.  (For any of my younger readers, there is a concept called “pacing” – it saves money and it could save your liver.)

So, late start, drunk crowd, small venue. Does this sound like a recipe for enjoying a band?

The final straw for me was the other night at Pearl, which is traditionally very good for live music. Jason Elmore was home from a Canadian tour, so it was his “welcome home” party. Towards the end of the first set, a rather large woman just across the room from me started howling after every guitar solo. Now, I love Jason, but some solos are more howl-worthy than others, and two bars of music does not a solo make. By the time the second set started, she was howling at random at a pitch that put most dogs in the area and some of the glasses on the bar at considerable risk. Plus, everyone was wrapping up their conversations from while the band was on break, so it was pretty noisy.

That’s when I hit me – “I can’t hear the fucking band.” This is not a string quartet, this is a blues-rock band with three electric guitars, an electric bass and a drummer. They’re in a pretty small room with speakers all over. Yet, they were being drowned out by a whole bunch of people theoretically there to enjoy the band and a rather large howler monkey with a short skirt.

After that night, I think I’m done. It’s not the band, it’s not (necessarily) the bar, it’s the audience.

I suppose the real issue is that many bars publicize they have live music, because some marketing person decided it was a good idea. However, if the majority of the crowd is just there to drink or hook up, the band is basically background noise, even on a good night. So, if you’re going to the bar to actually hear the band, you are not only in the minority, you may be the only sober ones left by the time the band takes the stage. Also, the idiots drowning out the band are running up bar tabs, so it’s not likely they’re going to get evicted for being drunk and obnoxious.

One simple solution is to only follow corporate-sponsored bands with recording contracts that play stadiums or the larger venues, because there the focus is the music and not getting drunk, but the vast majority of bands in the universe are undiscovered and much more deserving than the crap LA, NYC and Nashville are forcing on us. Also, I’ve had people talking over the band at paid concerts, so it’s still an issue. People are idiots, drunk people especially.

The other solution is to follow very unpopular bands, but they don’t play very often, and there would still be alcohol in the bar, so they would just have hostile drunks yelling at them.

So, I’m looking for a realistic solution. In the meantime, I think I’m going into retirement from live shows.