Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on January 4, 2015
Got knocked down by a car the other day. It made me think about all those times in my life when, but for one thing, I would have died. As an infant, and later as a two-year old, I had pneumonia. I was saved by penicillin, by science, technology and society, twice. Before penicillin, I would have been dead as an infant.
As a six-year old, I fell into a house under construction. The incomplete basement had no concrete yet, the floor was mud with pools of water. Me, my brother John and Eddie Knight were bringing the biggest stones we could find and carry, climbing the foundation wall, and dropping them into the pools of water. The object, of course, was to get a huge splash. We dropped in our stones, enjoyed the splash, and set out to find bigger stones. I dropped a nice one in, hit the water nicely, and turned to see Eddie plop the biggest stone I’d seen all morning on the floor level of the foundation, so he could use both hands to climb up. Somehow, I couldn’t help myself. I ran over, grabbed the stone, and dropped it in. I think it made a big splash. I say think, because all I remember is perhaps a sense of movement. Eddie, pissed off as all hell, had come charging at me, I think. The details are vague. Because I was standing by the edge of the hole in the floor we were using (it was for the stairs to come), I must have gone right over. I woke up some time later. Two adults were carrying me through tall weeds in the huge field behind my house. I had cracked my head against one of the stones, maybe even Eddie’s big one. Lying face down in the muddy water, I would have drowned. My brother pulled me out. Eddie, meanwhile had gone for his parents, who were carrying me home. I never saw Eddie again. He never came by. I would guess that he felt guilty, or his parents simply forbade him to play with us again. Life saved by my younger brother, although medical science repaired my cracked skull.
I turned eight years old during my stay at Lutheran Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland (formerly the Hebrew Orphan Asylum). My appendix had ruptured, and I remember being told later that I had peritonitis (literally an inflammation of the stomach lining), although today the term used is blood poisoning, or sepsis. In septic shock, weak, and barely able to shamble, with support from my mother, who drove me to the hospital, the staff there knew I was in trouble from my blood work. An x-ray did not show cause, so I was taken for exploratory surgery. The appendix was hidden behind an organ, and hadn’t been visible on x-ray. Again, medical science, through surgery and chemistry, had saved my life, although I was hospitalized for four weeks, and convalesced at home for another week. Happy Birthday!
Soon after that I developed bronchial asthma, and survived by using steam and a towel over my head, or a prescription inhaler. Sometimes I simply couldn’t catch my breath at all. I didn’t know where it went or why it was running away. The asthma attacks went away sometime after my 12th birthday.
Of course, not everything I did was life threatening. I slipped trying to repair a leaky roof in a tree house and fell to the ground, breaking my arm. Excruciating pain came with that one, and a cast on my arm, and notoriety at school. It was hard to brag about falling out of a tree. I was just embarrassed.
I must have developed an acute sense of caution, because I didn’t get hurt again until I was an adult. I got creamed by a huge beast of a car as I had been pedaling down a nice hill. It hit me broadside, and dragged the bicycle across the street, but I had been thrown forward by my own momentum. I bounced, and passed out. Passers-by thought I was dead. I heard them say so as I came to. They’d already given up on me and were comforting the driver! I was in shock, didn’t know who I was or what had happened at first. I was thoroughly amazed that I’d survived, because my last thought before the impact had been that I was going to die. Traffic had been thick and heavy, and I could have easily been run over by some over vehicle. As it was, my own momentum had carried me in a high arc straight forward, and the car was so big, a Lincoln Continental Mark III, that it had blocked enough of the lane to keep the other drivers away. Saved by the eighteen-foot car length. Nothing broken this time. I had a major sprain on the top of my left foot, which had been hit by the car. The heavy Schwinn bicycle pedal arm had been bent, back into the spokes.
Bicycles on highways or city streets are accidents waiting to happen, and I had a few more. Once my shoe was simply ripped off my foot. Once I skidded on gravel on a mountain road and slid down a long section of blacktop, taking a lot of skin off my chest and stomach. Ouch. Another time, a car side-swiped me as I pedaled down a city street right on the edge of the road. It appeared as though the car had passed another car on the right, illegally, had not seen me up ahead, and clipped me. The impact left a huge bruise on my ass and thigh muscles. I was stunned at first, and lay on my back, staring unblinkingly into the light rain that was falling. I worried that I was paralyzed. The driver didn’t stop, but someone else did after a few minutes, and an ambulance took me and bicycle to a hospital. Bruised and scraped flesh was all I received then, but it could have been worse. Somehow I had fallen without breaking my neck. Somehow the car hadn’t broken my hip or run over me. Little things.
Given my history, buying a motorcycle was not a very smart thing to do, but at least it put me out into the drive lane at speed, instead of paralleling the other vehicles, riding bicycles in the gutters full of storm-drain grates and broken glass. It didn’t take me long to lay the bike down: the first time taking a corner in the rain, slipping on icy roads, or hitting a crazy dog on a curve. I was never hurt, but I went through a few turns signals and mirrors which stick out to the sides. I learned to anticipate accidents, to always brake the front and rear wheels simultaneously, and even ride on icy or snow-packed streets. I got good. However, as I neared my house one fine day, I decided to pass in front of a stalled car blocking my lane, and he hit the gas microseconds before I got there. I t-boned him, and sailed over the car hood. The bike was totalled. I was sore and bruised but none the worse for wear after a few weeks. Everyone in the neighborhood said I must have said my prayers. I didn’t pray anymore, so that wasn’t it. Given my moral turpitude at the time, I could have thanked the devil instead, if I’d still believed in such things.
Years passed with my replacement motorcycle. As I was near home again, in a different house with a wife waiting for me this time, I misread a red traffic light. I thought it was still green, but the sun was directly behind it as I topped a hill. I sailed into the large Route 66 intersection at about 40 mph. There was a pickup directly in front of me; I looked up – the light was red. Never even applied the brakes. Totalled that bike too. I was again bruised and scraped up. My arm was a bit sprained, so I wore a sling for a short time. The driver of the pickup told my insurance company that I had bent his truck frame. Really? Well, no matter. I got another bike, number three in a series, and I never wrecked it. Since it was old and leaked oil, and always needed repairs, I finally traded it in. Success! I had ridden a motorcycle the entire time I had owned it without damaging it or myself. However, the newer bike was not so lucky. Within two weeks I had laid it down, negotiating a turn, I didn’t understand what had happened until it happened again. This time I took it in to a shop. They found a spacer missing from the front axle. Such spacers keep the wheel centered on the axle, but without one, the wheel was sliding to one side as I turned, causing the wheel to lock up.
Of note in all this mayhem is that I paused in June of 2013 to have a minor heart attack. The large descending artery on the right side was partly clogged when I first got to the heart hospital, but within minutes, the clog had moved to completely block the artery (sudden minor pain). Fortunately, I was already hooked up to an IV and heart monitors, and my wrist was prepped for sticking a balloon up to my heart to clean it out and leave a stent behind. They went ahead and did that, and I felt relief immediately. Recovery was rapid and complete. Four months later, I ran a half marathon in three hours exact. A year later I ran it in 2 hours, 46 minutes. Cheating death. Again.
So, I’ve dodged any motorcycle accident for many years now. I am very aware of my surroundings. I always know where other vehicles are, and I keep a constant eye out on side streets and pedestrians. I hit nothing, and nothing hits me. I have a car now also, and my motorcycle habits have transferred. I have no accidents, because I am always acutely aware of my surroundings. So, it came as a shock last Friday evening to find a moving car pushing against my body, again.
I was crossing a street at a slight angle to reach my car. It was a cold night, and I was worried about an approaching storm, so I had opted out of riding the bike. I was in the southbound part of the street as I saw a car approach the intersection from an eastbound lane. I sped up so I wouldn’t be in its path. It was about 50 feet away, so I had plenty of time to reach my car before it even reached me. Wrong. She had turned wide, and sped up as she straightened out, but not where she should have been. She was squarely in the northbound part of the road. Her right fender was pressing hard against me. I noticed the rest of the car was ahead of me, instead of behind me in the empty southbound lane. She never said what she was doing. Was she just turning wide? She later said she only saw me at the last moment before hitting me. Had she tried to avoid me? swerving around me? She never said much else. Liability issues, I’d guess.
Fortunately she did see me plastered against her grille, and stopped. I was thrown forward and hard onto the asphalt. It hurt. So, there I was again, lying in the street again, wondering how the hell I’d misjudged that situation. How the hell had she caught me? I hurt all over it seemed, but I thought I should get up. My right hip area had impacted the street, and it was in considerable pain, but after a few minutes, the pain went away. We exchanged information. She is an artist with the gallery whose open house I’d just left.
I went home, took two Advil Liquid capsules, applied some Blue Emu cream, ate a late dinner with some chokecherry wine, and got some sleep. The pain was back next day, but so far, so good. The hip only hurts to the touch. “So don’t touch it!” I know, I know, but sometimes ya gotta roll over in bed, or ya bump against the side of a chair. It’ll heal. There’s skin scraped off again, but no bruising. The pain seems to be deep, and just behind the hip bone that juts out there. Worked hard yesterday, did a lot of heavy lifting and shoving at the winery, with no pain, so I think I’m OK.
Posted in humor, Life, My Life, rambling, Random Thoughts | Tagged: comedy, death, pain | Leave a Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on December 5, 2014
I wasn’t sure at first where to post this. It doesn’t really fit on my Ennui blog. It is kind of random. I just found out today that my missing cat is dead. I was speaking with a neighbor who makes beer, and he promised to bring one by. He asked what my house number is, and I told him, asking him if he remembered the poster I had up for months asking if anyone had seen my cat, since it had my house number and phone number. He remarked that another neighbor said he had seen a cat just like that at the same time (June), dead in our community garden. Well, thanks a lot for telling me neighbor! I’ve wanted some closure since then. It makes me mad and sad at the same time.
I’ve missed that cat so much. He was a cat who waited for me to get home. Even though he had and used the cat door, he’d wait for me to unlock and open the main door. He loved attention, and sleeping on my lap, and bed. At eleven years old, he still loved to play. Sometimes I think I hear him. I’ve posted posters of him, and walked the surrounding neighborhood nearly every day, calling him and whistling for him. He used to come running when I whistled. Two neighbors left me a phone message that they’d seen a friendly cat just like him in the next neighborhood down the road, and I walked there nearly every day for three months calling and whistling for him.
I had always imagined he might show up one day, that someone had taken him in, or he wandered so far away that he’d become confused and lost. Of course, the worst scenario was that he’d been eaten by coyotes. He was such a lean, healthy, strong, and fast animal. It’s hard for me to imagine him not being able to climb a tree or building to get away, and he could run really fast. Aside from the occasional coyotes, it is a safe neighborhood for cats. We are far from the major street, and the speed humps in our cul-de-sac road keep my neighbors driving below 15 mph. Traffic through the compound is very light, and he often slept or played on the large flat roof that results from having six houses connected. He is microchipped, but animal control here had no record of him being picked up injured or dead, so I had some hope I’d see him again.
It’s strange, after all this time, but now I am grieving for him. I missed him before, and couldn’t quite believe he was gone. Now, I have to accept it, and I don’t even know what happened. Was he hit by a car and left in the garden? Did he choke, or was he poisoned by something he ate? Why did no one tell me? That poster was up right by our mailboxes for a long time, and everyone saw it. You’d think the person that saw a dead cat in the garden would have told me. The bad ugly thing is that this happened right after there was an email broadcast to all the residents here from another neighbor that cats were shitting on her roof, and left a turd on her patio, that a roadrunner had been mauled, and that cats can decimate all wildlife in an area. I fired back that, from my experience, cats eat what they kill, and would not have left an injured bird. The email misrepresented the study on cats. The point of that study was the effect of un-neutered cats, proliferating unchecked. Mine have always been neutered. The neighborhood is full of wild birds, doves, pigeons, and all manner of small mammals, and in the seven years I’ve lived here, there has not been any noticeable decrease in the wildlife. Sure my cat ate some birds and rodents, but the roadrunner is a fierce predator itself, even eating rattlesnakes, rodents and other birds. It is not in danger from cats. (Coyotes are faster, but roadrunners can fly.)
My cat went missing right after I sent that email. That’s why I’ve been angry. The thought that some idiot may have killed my cat on purpose really infuriated me.
But that’s over now. I know it’s hard for people to accept that a dead pet can cause such sadness. I know he wasn’t my child or a person, but he sure was a friend, affectionate and loyal, and since he was initially born outdoors, of a feral mother, he never accepted anyone but me, retaining a wildness that I liked, and yet being very trusting and affectionate with me, and the other feral cat that showed up a year later.
The main reason I had moved into this compound was for the safety of my cats, and the fact that there were many trees to climb, and grass to frolic in. Now, I’m not certain that I’ll stay. In my mind, animals need space, room to run and play and hunt. Of course, I recognise that the freedom my cat had probably led directly to his death, and I should accept that. It just makes me so fucking sad.
Posted in friends, Life, My Life, rambling, rants | Tagged: cats, emo, Life | Leave a Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on October 10, 2014
Today was another day. It was a day like many others. I woke too early, in that it was very dark. That was to be expected, inasmuch as I had drunk a pint of beer the night before. What was unexpected is that, after I fell back asleep, I woke again, before dawn. I knew that I had to be up fairly early, as I had work to do, and 24 miles to travel before 9:00 am. However, because I had also run 3 miles the evening before, I wanted as much rest as I could, so I stayed in bed. Before long, after a period of daydreams, I noticed it was light, which, this time of year, meant it was later than I should have gotten up, so up I got. For the third time that morning, I peed.
I made a double Americano, and sipped it while browsing the land of the internet. I ate a banana, and showered, and brushed and flossed my teeth. I was running late, but I rarely care about that. I am retired, after all. The sky was dark with rain clouds, but it is never safe to bet on rain in Albuquerque, so I mounted my old motorcycle and rode to Placitas. There was work to do at the winery. I am a partner in the winery. The work involved “buttoning up” a storage shed, to quote the vintner. The vintner showed myself and Michael what needed to be done, and began working with us, but was soon called away. We two cut wood, and screwed and nailed pieces along the upper east side of the shed to close the openings there. First, we had to move all the old pipes, wood, metal, and other junk that accumulates in farms and ranches everywhere, and remove a small fence along the side of the shed, so the project took many hours. We took a lunch break because the vintner always makes lunch (stew today) for whomever is working. After lunch we worked for 30 to 40 minutes, but the rain came and chased us off, since we were using power saws to cut the lumber and pressed plywood.
We went inside. I was still hungry, and I wanted something sweet. Since there is never anything sweet to eat at the winery, I persuaded Michael to drive the four miles down to the closest shopping. He bought coffee for us and the vintner, and I bought a wonderful peach and apple cake baked right there in the local grocery store. It was heavy in its pan, full of peach and apples slices, spiced with cinnamon in a sugar syrup, and covered with a simple cake. It was incredibly delicious, and not only did the vintner partake, but our newest partner, who is upgrading our computer books and website, also had some cake.
Michael and I finished the work on the shed and stowed the tools inside it. It still doesn’t have a door, but, there is still a lot of work to do: sealing all the cracks inside, and then we will power wash the entire inside, because of the activity and shit of pack rats in there. Then it will become a functional place to store things safely.
But, as it was after 4:30 already, I headed home. I hoped to make it home without being caught in the rain, but I did not get far before it caught me. I’m used to that. On my way home on Wednesday night (my 64th birthday), I had also gotten caught by rain and soaked. If I had thought to have brought my chaps, and worn my boots, I’d have stayed mostly dry. Fortunately, today, I had at least worn my boots. I arrived home with only my pants wet, from the top of my boots to my knees. I threw them in the washer as soon as I got inside the house. They are clean and dry now.
There was an interesting book reading by the coauthors of More Than Two, and a discussion about polyamory across the street at the bookstore at seven, so I had time to walk over there, dressed in my leather hat and leather jacket, as it was still raining. The talk was interesting, and the questions even more so, as: “What is the effect on children in polyamorous groupings?” and “What about legal problems, mortgages? What was their experience with couples introducing a third person into the relationship? I thought the book, and the discussion rather dry and boring, or I was just very tired, so as soon as there was a break, I grabbed an unrelated book by Neil Gaiman that had been on the shelf in front of me, browsed it, bought it and left.
I went into the restaurant next door and had a vanilla bean milkshake. It was good. I was still a bit warm and red in the face from being outside most of the day, and I had a thirst I couldn’t quite quench with water.
I walked home, not a long distance, but perhaps a city block away in length near the back of the compound I live in.
Suddenly, I found myself humming loudly, and enjoying it. I was even voicing some da, da, da da, dadadadas, along with the hums. I was unaccountably happy. I couldn’t even stop doing it. It was just spontaneous, and I enjoyed it. It doesn’t happen very often, and it didn’t last long, but today had become a day unlike many others.
Tomorrow I will run 8 miles. The next day I will hike 12 miles in the mountains. I will do some more running and working next week. In one week I will run a half marathon.
I’ll likely take a week off everything after that. Read, watch some movies.
Such is my life.
I look forward to feeling happy again some day.
Posted in Life, My Life, rambling, Random Thoughts | Tagged: Life | Leave a Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on September 24, 2014
Sometimes my dreams intrigue me. I woke up the other day after dreaming about a strange happening in a restaurant. There was an argument going on, and I was following several of the people involved. One man stood off to the side and simply wrote comments on pieces of paper that he handed to the people arguing. He wrote comments like, “bullshit” and “irrelevant” and “you’re an ass” – things like that. Suddenly I felt the need to get up, and I approached him. I had been following one argument, and while I didn’t agree with the last point entirely, (it escapes me now) I felt the need to add my opinion, being that there was some merit to the argument, but only up to a certain point. I wish I could remember it now; seemed important at the time.
However, as I approached the man who gave out the comments, and I felt he would probably give me a scathing comment of disapproval, he instead threw a whole bunch of written comments in the air. At first I thought he was exasperated, but he simply came over and stared at me. He seemed to be watching me as I continued to make my point. He looked concerned. He listened very intently ro what I had to say, it seemed, and then walked off, out of my field of view. Then he returned, looked and me, and kept looking out over the balcony. I continued to speak, and he continued looking at me and walked away again. When he came back again, I noticed that I felt funny. My chest was tight, and I didn’t feel good. I realized I was likely having another heart attack, and the man had noticed. I decided he was trying to help, had called an ambulance and was looking for it.
I wondered how he knew. Was I acting odd? Slurred speech? I couldn’t tell, but he seemed to know. Of course, I woke up before this could play out. Was he a doctor? Why had I approached him? What had I been trying to tell him? One thing I remember is that I felt very grateful that someone noticed and decided to help. Amazing.
Awake. Being wide awake, then, I noticed that my chest did feel funny, and my heart seemed to be calming down, like I’d been really excited. The story I’d seen could have excited me, or the argument I was making, or, which seems most likely, my heart had flipped out for few moments, and the dream was my attempt to understand what was happening. In one of my recent stress tests, the EKG had revealed extra heartbeats as I was recovering from the test. The doctor had been concerned enough to put me back on a heart calming beta-blocker drug. A stress test, following a few weeks of that drug, showed that I was doing better after stress, with very few extra beats, although a few showed up during the exercise this time. However, his opinion, and that of others he had consulted, was that I stay on the drug, at least until I see him again in six months.
Damn. I had been happy to get off the damned drug. It seemed to make me drowsy, and it made training for a marathon harder than it should have been. At least I’m only on a half dose this time. Last time, I felt like I couldn’t get my heart rate up at all while running, and I had trouble getting enough oxygen, with no stamina. I’m better now. Is it my heart that is stronger? or it because of the half dose? I don’t know, but I’m running a half marathon (13.1 miles) on October 19, so I’m anxious to see how it goes. Maybe I’ll dream about it.
Posted in Dreams, health, running | Tagged: heart attacks | Leave a Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on August 1, 2014
Woke up this morning early, dreaming. I had stayed up until 1:00 am, but I was wide awake at 5:30am. I ran a lot last evening, in the rain, with lightning just a few miles away. It was the first time I’d run in the rain. I liked it; I was able to keep my body temp down while running. Cool, in reality.
The doves are cooing and I have my coffee now. I decided to post because my dream fascinated me. In my dream, I had decided to live on the street. I know, I know, one does not just “decide” to do such a thing, but hey, it was a dream. I had some sort of small tent or structure over me, and I was under a large blanket, peering out at life on the street. Part of me wondered what I’d done with all my stuff. That part of my brain decided that I still had a car and had my stuff in that.
As I peered out, I saw a couple I knew. I knew the male better than his partner, but they came over and looked in at me. Suddenly the woman was getting into my tent, box or whatever it was I was in, and she was naked. So was I. She climbed under my blanket and lay on top of me. Her skin was warm and smooth. I was in heaven. Then, of course, this guy also came in. He seemed a bit hesitant at first, but he came in and lay down next to the woman. I had no idea what was going on.
In fact, I quickly realised that the two people didn’t know who I was, that I was out of context, and in the poor light available, they hadn’t recognised me, as I had thought. That raised interesting questions to me. Did they do this sort of thing all the time? Did they seek out homeless men to sleep with? Should I tell them I know them? As I pondered ways to shock them with my knowledge of their identity and introduce myself, I realized I’d forgotten theitr names, which killed my element of surprise, so I said nothing about myself.
Realizing that they were probably expecting sex, especially since the woman had her hand on my erection, but I wasn’t into either this ménage à trois stuff, or sex with men, I wasn’t sure what to say or do. The male asked me if it was alright. I said I wasn’t into men sexually. He asked me why. I told him that men just didn’t turn me on, and he, of course, wanted to know why I wasn’t curious. I told him, I had been curious, but I had gotten over that. I went into a reverie, and could no longer tell if I was just in my head or speaking out loud.
I remembered my roommate from when I’d first left home. He was into young boys, his words. I accepted that about him, but came to realize he was also intererested in me. In fact, he was four years older than me. I’d thought of him as a friend, but he had other ideas. Nothing ever came of that, not for lack of trying on his part, but I’d had to punch him a bit to finally dissuade him.
Shortly after that experience, my best friend had been a lesbian. That doesn’t mean that I learned anything from the experience, but years later, on a trip to Canada, where my old roommate had become an expatriate, I had needed his help getting across the border, after a run in with the border cops, and I was staying in his apartment. He made it clear I couldn’t stay long, as he couldn’t afford to feed me. It was clear that he wanted me to feel grateful for his help, and he told me to go ahead and make myself breakfast while he went off to work. I had very little money at that point, having lost $50, half of all the money I’d had a few days earlier, and I was feeling a bit desperate.
When he came home later, it seemed clear from a number of things he said, that, if I were to be open to sex, he could possibly put me up longer. That was consistant with his previous attempts, and I figured I should consider that. However, the sight of him naked didn’t excite me, in fact, I was totally flaccid, and couldn’t get it up anyway. That seemed to settle the issue for him. Somehow, people always seem to assume one can get into something they have no interest in, if only they try. It often doesn’t work for heterosexual relationships; so there wasn’t any reason to expect it would work for a homosexual relationship either, except that young men seem to always be ready for sex at any time.
I really do think that there has to be some physical attraction, and some hormonal signaling, for this whole sexual attraction thing to work. I don’t think one should ever have sex with someone one is not attracted to. Random sex with strangers is just not a good idea, in my opinion.
So, that is what I told the couple. The woman still wanted to have sex with me, and, as had happened before, the man said he would just watch. I had turned down that offer as a young man, but I was very much interested in this woman, so I was considering it when I woke up.
Ah well, it would have been a much more interesting dream, I think.
Once, while I was young, tanned and muscular, I met a couple who invited me to their home for a party, and since I didn’t have a car, they drove me there. However, there was no party, except for the three of us, and the man had made that offer: I could have sex with his wife, if he could watch. It was the first I’d ever heard of such a thing. I considered it for a nanosecond, but at 25 years of age, I turned them down. I felt vulnerable, and a bit worried about what would happen. Rape came to mind. Being bound and tortured came to mind. But, most of all, I knew damn well I couldn’t have enjoyed myself with the woman with anyone else watching, much less her husband.
Once I told them I wasn’t interested, we had a few drinks, talked some, and slept, since it was very late at night. I slept on the couch and they didn’t bother me. In the morning they drove me back to where I lived. I never heard from them again, but it was fascinating to learn that there where people who did such things.
I don’t know why all this bubbled out of memory last night.
Perhaps I was curious about what my stepdaughter was up to. She had texted me to pick her up from work, but hadn’t said where she was going, Her evening class was over, and I thought she might want to have me take her food shopping, since she doesn’t drive. However, she had wanted me to take her to a certain bar, a favorite of hers, one not far from where I live. I was going to be running with my running group, and would have to turn around as soon as I dropped her off, and go right back to near where I’d picked her up. I remarked on that, since I thought it was kind of funny. She was apologetic, as she thought it would be easy for me, since I’d be so close to my home.
I asked her if she was meeeting someone, and she said, “Yes.” I asked her if she was having dinner or just drinks. She said, “Dinner.” And she said, “Bye, See you next time.” I was curious who she was meeting, but she didn’t seem to want to say, or give me any information; I was curious why.
I love that woman a lot. She inspired me to run. She runs a lot, always has, except during her cancer treatment. It took a lot of work on her part to get back into running, but she runs marathons these days. I ran a half-marathon last year for the first time ever, three months after my heart attack, and will run one this year. She will run a full marathon at the same time, probably in the same time as it takes me to do a half.
When I got back from my run last night, I thought about stopping into the bar where she was, but I know she likes her privacy. I remember thinking that I’d have joined her if she’d asked, but three can be a crowd, and anyway, we don’t hang out much anymore.
So, perhaps that is why that threesome idea permeated my dreams. It’s not that either of us would ever comtemplate such a thing as the stuff of my dreams, but I was lonely, and I’d have enjoyed some dinner company. Boy, do I have to be careful that she never knows I even connected her vaguely with the kind of things I dream about. She’d be horrified. I’d hate that. When I say I love this woman, I mean it. I love her with all my heart, and always want her to have a great life. I’d love her even if I never saw her again, but I hope that doesn’t happen.
Some day, she’ll be married, with a kid perhaps. Maybe we’ll drift further apart. I used to drive her to and from work, but she doesn’t need me for that anymore, just an occasional lift here and there. I’m divorced from her mother these last seven years, and her mother avoids me like I have bubonic plague. No communication or reapproachment with that one. She’d kill me if she believed I had any designs on her daughter. Hell, my stepdaughter would quickly terminate all ties with me too, if she thought I’d ever thought of such things, even in a vague association with a dream.
I don’t know why I even brought it up. It is nice to have someone to love like her, even in a non-sexual, platonic way. In fact, I’d find life a whole lot less tolerable without her. It’s bad enough my cat got eaten by coyotes. “Situations tolerable” the Traveling Wilburys sang, and really, my life could be worse, but it could be better.
Posted in 1960s, Dreams, Life, love, madness, My Life, rambling, Random Thoughts, relationships, sex | Tagged: emo, family, Life, love, sex, women | Leave a Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on July 8, 2014
Charlie, my feline friend for the past 11 years, went missing two weeks ago. While he often strays for a day or two, this is unusual for him. I have always followed the practice of letting him come and go as he wished. If he wanted to hang out, he would do so. Perhaps the time came. He is a very affectionate cat, born in my yard of a feral mother. I fed his mother and the other kittens, until my wife (ex-wife now) insisted I get rid of them. There are so many feral cats around here that Animal Control has to euthanize them all, so I put it off as long as I could. When I finally got a trap, all the cats except Charlie went in for the food. I felt like I’d betrayed them. But, I kept Charlie. He had been one who found his way inside a new double-sided picket fence I’d put up, and I’d had to take a plank out to remove him. Perhaps it changed him subtly. He was a bit freaked out at first to find himself alone, but I continued to put food out for him. Eventually, he allowed me to pet him while he was eating, an action that became imprinted on the little orphan. Even as an adult, he’d usually wait for me to pet him before he’d start eating, but not always. When he’s hungry, he wouldn’t stand on ceremony.
A year after he became attached to me, another cat showed, a female as was obvious soon enough by her swollen belly in a skinny body. The two cats hit it off right away. The new feral cat I called Girl until I read about a Japanese demon cat named Kilala. I tried it out on her, and she actually responded immediately, so she became Kilala. Both cats were neutered, and they have been constant companions ever since, sleeping together, screwing, fighting, or running across the flat roofs of the houses here. Even though I’d had to move seven years ago when I found myself divorced from my wife of 14 years, the cats stuck by me, acclimatizing themselves to their new home and environment. This area is largely farmland, full of water-filled ditches, and wildlife of all kinds. My attached house sits far back from the main street, so I feel the cats are safe here, safe to run and play and hunt. There is no danger of them eliminating the prolific wildlife, being just north of a wildlife preserve, and smack dab in the middle of hundreds of quail, rabbits, mice, gophers, and all manner of other critters.
Of course, the wildlife includes coyotes.
and roadrunners, which can lead to: .
Coyotes are actually faster runners than Roadrunners. However, Roadrunners can fly, and coyotes can’t, so it balances out. Roadrunners are fierce predators themselves, competing with cats for small birds, mice, and the eggs of other birds. They even kill and eat snakes.
So, the very real possibility is that the local coyotes got my cat. As strong, healthy and fierce as he can be, one never knows. I’d about given up on Charlie, assuming he’d likely been eaten, when neighbors saw my poster for Charlie and left me a message. They’d seen a cat like him in the neighborhood just slightly north of me. It’s far enough that I believe Charlie may not have heard me whistling for him. This is a cat that comes when I whistle, if he’s anywhere in the vicinity. Anyway, not only had this neighboring couple seen a similar cat, but picked it up after it came over to them. That would be unusual behavior for Charlie. Neither cat has ever warmed up to strangers, even close friends or family. They disappear whenever anyone visits. But, I reasoned, perhaps Charlie was lonely? He is a very affectionate cat, with me and Kilala.
I have started walking through that neighborhood every day now. I whistle for Charlie, but have not seen any sign of any cats at all. It appears bad, but I still haven’t totally given up hope. Perhaps he didn’t get eaten. Perhaps he’s wandering. Perhaps someone took him in, in his desperation? I may never know, and that’s the thing that bothers me. It’s hard to say goodbye when you don’t know what has happened.
I had to say goodbye to my wife. That was hard. The parting was sudden and not amiable at all. We’ve never talked since. The cats were a real comfort in my sudden isolation and loneliness. Since then, I’ve stayed busy, and know a lot of people. I met a woman who warmed me up physically and emotionally, but she dropped off the face of the earth, as far as I’m concerned, having no further interest in me. It’s hard to deal with these losses. Now I’m sad, and nearly cry during movies, and not even sad movies – anything with emotion in it. So strange.
This will pass, but, damn! I hate it. The cat was such a strong part of my life, like my ex. Even my on again – off again relationship after that, with a warm, affectionate and sexy woman, ended as suddenly as it began. The cat was a better friend than that.
Posted in Life, love, My Life, rambling, relationships | Tagged: cats, emo, Life | 4 Comments »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on June 5, 2014
The Dome Fire burned in the Jemez Mountains in the northern portion of the state of New Mexico. Devastating portions of the Santa Fe National Forest and Bandelier National Monument, the fire exploded on April 26, 1996, starting from an improperly extinguished campfire. 16,516 acres in Capulin Canyon and the Dome Wilderness were burned. The fire was fought by over 900 firefighters.
On May 30, 2014, I hiked through a small part of the area. I was struck by the fact that all the trees had been burnt, to the ground. In fact, I could see portions of roots that stuck out above ground burnt. Everywhere I looked the trees remained as black ghosts of their former selves. In some case, due to the destruction of the soil, extreme flooding brought down centuries-old Ponderosa Pines, breaking them up like matchsticks, or simply pulling them out of the ground.
Posted in hiking, photography | Tagged: fire, hiking, landscapes, photography, photos | Leave a Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on May 16, 2014
I feel like this is my last night on Earth. Almost one year ago I had a heart attack – on that day, I felt doom, oddly like the end of the world, or at least my world. I honestly felt like my life was finished, like I was going to die. If I hadn’t gotten myself to the heart hospital, I’d have been dead – so they say. At the hospital, I was shown an echocardiogram of my heart. The main right artery was nearly completely blocked. Only a trickle of blood was making it past the clot. The doctor convinced me that I needed balloon angioplasty, where they would break up the blockage with the balloon-tipped catheter and leave a stent in place. I asked about options. He said I could undergo drug therapy, but he didn’t recommend it. He seemed amused that I was unconvinced that angioplasty was my best option. I said to go ahead. They decided to insert the catheter via my arm, instead of my groin, after they shaved both areas. My groin may not have been the best choice since I hadn’t showered since the morning of the day before. They asked my if I’d taken Viagra. I had, on Saturday night – it had been a nice night of sex with a woman I knew at the time. It was then Monday. They probably thought I’d not showered since then. In actuality, I’d showered on Sunday morning, but masturbated Monday, that very morning, and washed up, but had not had time to take a full shower. I had had to rush off to pick my stepdaughter up and get her to work on time.
I felt fine that morning, and, in fact, donated a pint of blood after I’d dropped my stepdaughter off. My blood pressure was OK, and my pulse steady, and all seemed fine; my cholesterol levels have always been good. They told me to go eat a big breakfast. Taking them up on that, I stopped at a breakfast buffet. I had a pile of bacon, a little bit of scrambled eggs, some carne adovada, a small waffle, some fruit and coffee. I felt great. I went home and relaxed, played around on my computer: checking the status of things I had for sale on eBay, reading email, looking at my blogs on WordPress. I picked up a book and read for a while. It was then that I felt the weird pressure in my chest that wouldn’t go away and kept getting worse. Nothing I did helped. The feeling of doom crept in. Death. An ending. It’s over. All that went through my mind. No pain. No numbness. No nausea. Nothing but the most unusual sense of impending doom, and the pressure in my chest. I survived.
No heart attack now. I’m off most of the medications. I’m supposed to keep taking aspirin every day for the rest of my life. I’m still taking a statin drug to keep my cholesterol down. It’s lower than it’s ever been in my life. I also take a drug to fight off acid reflux. It helps. However, I don’t feel like taking any more drugs. I checked my blood pressure the other day, and it was higher than it’s ever been in my entire life! Way higher. I never had a problem with hypertension before. I started training for a half-marathon shortly after the heart attack, and ran it in October: 13.1 miles in three hours. Slow, but I made it. I had never run before. I’ve been running since, but not lately – I’ve had too many conflicts, what with work at a winery, and being on a movie set, and hiking sometimes in the mountain. Somehow I am busy, even five years after I retired from my day job. All is well.
Psychologically? I don’t know. I came back from visiting a friend who just had cancer surgery a few days ago. She had her thyroid removed, and her parathyroid relocated. We visited a bit, and she said she was tired, and wanted to nap. I left, but later saw that she was on Facebook, and at dinner with friends. She hadn’t mentioned that. I’d offered to take her out, or pick something up, but she’d said no. Well, that felt odd.
Watched a movie tonight: The Secret LIfe of Walter Mitty. Great movie. Easy to identify with the main character. Just before it ended I heard a muffled explosion from my kitchen. I was engrossed in the movie and didn’t want to get up. But then, I heard the sound of water running, and dripping, and I had no idea what it could be. I paused to see what the hell it was, and discovered my kitchen cabinet leaking. A bottle of Blackberry wine that came from the winery I work at, but had been opened by my stepdaughter, and recorked, had exploded and was pouring out over the countertop. She hadn’t liked it, and had given it to me. I grabbed some towels to mop it up, left them in place and watched the rest of the movie. Since then I’ve cleaned up a little, taken most everything out of two shelves and wiped up all the wine. I still need to wash it out. My whole house smells like wine now. It’s past time I should be in bed. I need to get up in 5 hours to drive to Santa Fé to work with the film crew. It’s the last day, day 13 of filming. It is a Sci Fi TV pilot. Whether or not it will ever be seen by anyone but ourselves, I can’t say. It’s an excellent concept, and everyone has worked hard. Very low-budget. Most of us worked for free. As extras and crew we’re not paid (except coffee, donuts, fruit, cheese, water and pizza). The actors are paid, although not much.
It feels like the end to me. Running through my head is the idea I can’t shake: that this is my last night ever, that tomorrow is my last day, ever. I don’t know why. I’m being melodramatic. I’m foolish. I know better, but not much inspires me to write anymore. This does. What if this is my last night?
Posted in depression, Life, medical, My Life, rambling, Random Thoughts, wine | Tagged: cancer, death, emo, Life, wine | Leave a Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on December 24, 2013
Why is that?
It is so, because murder is a legal term for killing not sanctioned by society. If all killing were murder, then executions would be murder. If all killing was murder, then any death in wartime would be murder: killing the enemy? murder. Friendly fire? murder. collateral damage? murder. Because we sanction those things, we do not define them as murder. Recently I came across the comparison of the fines and penalties for harming the eggs of protected species, like Eagles, and human fetuses. The argument appears to be that if it’s wrong to destroy eagle eggs, then it is wrong to kill human fetuses as well. This does not follow logically. The Eagle, for one, although recovering, is an endangered species, and the fine is an attempt to allow that species to continue. Does anyone, really, anyone, believe that abortion is killing the human race? That we are in danger of dying out as a species because of abortion? No, of course not. Hell, we continue to proliferate, for now. What does threaten the survival of the human race is pollution of the air and water, and eradication of too many animal species. Life on Earth is a balancing act.
When we kill off entire species, we remove an element from the balance. For example, animals are usually either prey for some other animal, or prey on some other animal, or are both. If a species goes, its actions in the balance of things go too. The result can be overpopulation of that animals prey, or an absence of prey for others, whether it was mammalian or insect, or aquatic in nature. Sometimes, another animal can fill the void, sometimes not. Sometimes, the death of a species results in the death of many other species. Some argue we are in the middle of just such an effect now, where the death of so many thousands of species has reached a point of cascade, wherein it is impossible to stop, and we will be left with only humans, for a short time. For, regardless of whether one is vegetarian or not, humans are dependent on animal life for our survival.
There are so many interactions between animals and plants, between animals and insects (another animal, but I’m making a point here), between animals and the air we breathe and the water we drink. Humanity would cease to exist long before the last animal species was wiped out, because it is a co-dependancy. A good example of co-dependancy is that between wolves and deer. Too many wolves, and the deer are removed. Not enough wolves, and the deer overpopulate, then overgraze the available resources and die out en masse from starvation. Huntings laws help keep that balance, but hunting laws are not going to keep us alive when all the predators are gone, or when all the prey is, or when all the bugs are gone. There are billions upon billions of interactions in the world that result in life for humans, and we can’t imitate them all. That’s the reason for endangered species laws.
Be all that as it may be, however, I’ve strayed too far from the point. The point is that killing is not murder, legally. Abortion is NOT murder, legally. There is a movement among Evangelical Christians to define life as beginning from the moment of conception, frivolous and stupid idea that it is. Does the world celebrate birthdays or conception days? Most of us know that life begins at birth. No one wants to see a baby killed. However, killing living, breathing human beings is almost universally illegal, except for executions, and in war, or self-defense, or by accident. Killing is not and cannot ever be considered murder in all cases. Killing a fetus is just such a case.
Killing a human fetus, is not, for the time being, murder. There was a time when it was. Murder is a relative term, depending entirely on what the society making the laws believes.
For, if killing a fetus is murder, regardless of the law, then so is execution, war, and accidental death. We don’t seem to agree on this. A number of fundamentalist zealots want life defined as beginning from the moment of conception, so they can justify making all abortion illegal. However, almost all of them accept execution, and war, and do not want those things to be illegal. It is a very inconsistent, illogical and convenient. Is all killing murder? or not? Does a woman who slips and falls, kill her fetus? or a woman who is involved in a car accident or other such incident that results in the fetus’s death kill that fetus? Are they murderers? How many exceptions will the believers accept in order to make abortion illegal again?
But then, there is that other question. If one is opposed to all killing, and all killing is murder, then eating animals is certainly murder, for animals are often cruelly killed, tortured and abused in the process of becoming what we refer to as meat. Dead animal flesh is dead animal flesh. The animal had to be killed for that. If killing is murder, than eating meat condones murder. Hah! you say? animals are not human. Why is that? Very convenient. We can kill, that is, terminate any life we want, as long as it isn’t what society defines as human. Funny how most animal fetuses, including human fetuses, look exactly alike in the womb at some point. It is in the development that a fetus becomes an animal or a human. So somehow, people argue, animals and people are not the same, and it is OK to kill animals for food, even if they resemble us, because well, they are not human – by law. Again, it is a legal fiction that animals and people are not protected from killing in the same way. There are animal cruelty laws, but those usually apply only to pets, and ranch animals like horses, which often are a kind of pet. Slaughterhouses kill every day, and we don’t blink an eye at that.
So again, I have to ask, why is a human fetus, unborn, not yet even breathing, more important than a living, breathing animal? The historical answer has always been: the soul. Biblical teachings have it that human beings are special, and are thus endowed with souls. Animals have no soul, therefore, it is legal to kill them. And, kill them we do, in the millions every day, and yet it is not murder, because we do not define it as such. So it is with abortion: when it is legal, it is not murder.
So, the whole question of abortion as murder comes down to this soul, a religious belief that sets humans apart from animals, for the purpose of allowing us to kill animals without shame or repercussion.
Some people do not believe in the concept of souls.
Some people believe that all living things have souls.
Some people selectively believe that only humans have souls.
So, what life-begins-at-conception laws and anti-abortion laws really are, are an attempt to impose, legally, the belief on all people, that souls exist, that a human fetus, alone of all creatures, has a soul, and therefore cannot be killed. This attempt is only possible if one does not care what other people believe. Lately, I see all these complaints from the politically-motivated-religious right that they are being persecuted for their beliefs. Somehow, it is persecution to resist their attempts to force their beliefs on those of us who do not share those beliefs. This has happened throughout the history of religion. Those who believe have killed those who do not believe the same things in the same way. “That was in the past,” they say. Bull. It is happening again. This same group of self-righteous religious fanatics wants to make providing access to abortion, or having an abortion a Capital Crime. Again, those motivated by their belief that they are right and the rest of us are wrong, want to kill everyone who does not accede to their beliefs, and they want it to be legal to do so.
That is the essence of religion: do what I say, or you will die, for I am right, and you are wrong. And you seriously think I shouldn’t be offended by that? You seriously think I shouldn’t fear your blatant attempts to legislate your particular brand of morality? to make everyone follow your beliefs by law?
Posted in crime, current events, faith, Human rights, Life, madness, opinion, politics, rambling, Random Thoughts, rants, religion, war, World | Tagged: death, violence, war, women | Leave a Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on December 2, 2013
I have the most bizarre dreams sometimes, but I forget them quickly. This one stuck with me. I’ve a friend I see occasionally. We used to travel a bit with a group that visited state monuments, went rafting, saw the sights, etc. She is the daughter of an old lover, from many, many years ago. She is 30 years old. Lately she has returned to school to work on a graduate degree, so she doesn’t get out much. However, she does like to catch movies from time to time, and set up a regular trip to the dollar theater for anyone who wanted to share. I was part of that group, but, eventually, it dwindled down to me and her. She is a lovely woman, bright and funny, and good-looking. I enjoy her company. We don’t date, as she considers me a family friend. Even after her mom had dumped me for another guy, I was still invited to family gatherings, especially after that guy dumped her mom, and she has since remarried and divorced two more times.
Anyhoo. This dream was about Mona (name altered to protect the innocent). Mona is attractive to me, but off-limits. And, after all, she is quite a bit younger. In this weird dream, Mona decided one day that we could be lovers after all. I was really excited about that, and, oddly, in this dream, we were going to move in together, before we even had sex. We went to a house that belonged to neither of us, perhaps the new one we’d be living in and ended up in bed quickly. Now, that was a scenario I was really happy about. I would love to see her naked. I would love to fuck her, perverted old man that I am. In bed, Mona was next to me, naked. I swung her over on top of me, and in the process spread her legs wide. Instantly, this tremendous fart escaped from her, and I could feel it on my toes! I could even smell it, but it was not so terrible. Mona was really embarrassed, but I told her it was no big deal, and it didn’t matter to me; in fact, I laughed. She laughed with me, but then, of course, I woke up. Damn. I would have enjoyed the sex part. Well, fantasies are fantasies, and sometime they must remain so. Sigh.
I treasure Mona’s friendship. I do not want to alienate her. However, the last time we saw a movie, the weather was still warm. Mona wore a short-sleeved shirt, and as we got up to leave out seats, our arms brushed together. The sensation was electric! (No, it wasn’t static electricity). The sensation was one of extreme pleasure. I know from that what the effect of climbing into bed with her would be. Be all that as it may be, however, Mona is a masseuse. We had arranged a massage session for after the movie. Mona has a massage table, and oils, and incense at her house. The massage took an hour. Mona took the pain out of my neck, and rubbed all of my body from my neck to my toes, except for my penis, of course. She’s not that kind of masseuse! It was a wonderful massage. There was no sexual element to it at all. I was extremely relaxed, and did not experience an erection, which I was afraid I would, given how sexy Mona is. It was the best massage I’d ever had, without any element of sex involved, although I was indeed naked. Mona rubbed my arms and legs and kneaded my back. She worked my neck good. It was heaven.
I’m not sure I should relate this dream to Mona, but I’d sure like to share it with her. She has a good sense of humor, but I’d hate to have her think I’m dreaming about sex with her. That might make future movies or massages difficult. I always seem to find ways to alienate women.
Posted in Dreams, humor, Life, love, madness, My Life, photography, relationships, sex | Tagged: Life, love, sex, women | Leave a Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on June 11, 2013
There have been many times over the last five or six years when I thought I was ready for death. My life didn’t have much meaning, but it didn’t have to, I thought, since I had lived a good, and a long life already. I mean, what’s the point of just living? Life needs to be lived, and I mean lived, enjoyed, relished, savored. It doesn’t matter what the mix of good and bad is. A really good week makes up for a bad day anytime. An exceptional day makes up for a bad week. However, since my days were one long string of bad, mediocre, or really crappy times, I couldn’t figure out why I was still alive.
Sometimes, I felt like I was dying. It seemed to me, day by day, that my life was winding down. Sometimes I had trouble hiking, and I could feel my lungs struggling to bring air in. Sometimes I felt pain in my chest. In my mind, I suspected I might have a heart attack anytime, or simply stop breathing. I was old enough. The idea didn’t bother me. We all have our time, and it seemed mine had passed. A few times, after I’d fallen asleep in my recliner, I’d awakened to find myself half dead, my brain fuzzy, my thoughts chaotic. It was as if I hadn’t been breathing for a few minutes. I would get up and walk around, but even though my lungs were moving, there was no oxygen in my brain. My brain felt dim, and dark, as though I was trapped underground. I mean, what is more symbolic of death than that? I asked my doctor about it, and she said those were panic attacks. Well, you’d panic too if there was no oxygen going to your brain. I believe I actually did stop breathing each time, probably not for long, but long enough to trigger my body’s desperate attempt to reboot. I envisioned a time when I would be found dead at home, probably days or weeks after the fact. Who would check?
When my step-daughter had experienced her brain tumor, surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and more radiation and chemo, that had been really troubling. I didn’t want her to die. She survived, and the joy I’d felt then had been true joy, unbelievable happiness. However, my marriage ended shortly after that. There was no further contact, no hope of reconciliation. I had a friend I’d known for years, and asked her out. She was horrified at the idea, and gradually pulled away too. I retired from my job of twenty-five years. I lived alone. It all seemed pointless right then. Was I depressed? Sure. But, eventually that passed, but I could see that I wasn’t really living, I was just marking time. It was as though I was in a waiting room, killing time, only I was just waiting for death to tap me on the shoulder, even though I was occasionally having good moments.
So, a week ago, I did have a heart attack. I suspected it might be a heart attack before it had hardly begun. I had felt something odd in my chest, a tightening, or pressure, on and off for months. It never lasted long, and I could simply sit down and rest a bit and I was fine. I don’t exercise enough, so I attributed it to my less-than-perfect stamina. Hiking in the mountains here, once a week, even for 5 to 9 miles, is not really enough to stay in good shape when you’re old. When the day came and the pressure wouldn’t ease off, and I felt anxious, was sweating like a pig, and foggy in my head, I thought, yeah, maybe this is it. For years, I’d believed that I would welcome it. I debated going to see my doctor, the newer one who had diagnosed exercised-induced asthma. I was breathing OK. I had no pain. However, something was wrong. At first I thought I would get over it. I took two aspirin. I tried to relax. Increasingly, I felt worse. Suddenly, I had to make a decision: do or don’t. I decided to act. Got help. Heart attack verified. Angioplasty performed. Clot destroyed. Stent placed in right coronary artery.
For someone prone to hypochondria, this was actually vindication. I knew I was sick, and I was. More importantly, I made the decision to live. If I had just sat down, or gone to bed, I would have reached the point by myself, as I did in the cardiac lab, where my heart went into arrhythmia. I would have died, painfully, all by myself.
So, I had decided to live on. I took steps to get help. I survived. I am on drugs for a while to help get my body through this experience. I signed up to train for a half-marathon. It feels good.
Posted in health, Life, medical, My Life, rambling | Tagged: death, emo, Life | Leave a Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on June 8, 2013
I hike in the mountains, nearly every week. Sometimes its a three to four-hour jaunt, sometimes six hours, with a lunch break. The elevation gain can be 1000 feet or 2000. I’ve done much harder hikes in the past, but found that I was having too much trouble keeping up with the other hikers. Instead of getting stronger with more stamina over time, I was having a hard time finishing 12 mile hikes up and down a mountain trail at all. So, I began hiking with a Meetup group, hiking just the three or four hours at a leisurely pace. I tried hiking to the peak of one mountain, Mt. Taylor, at 11,301 feet, as I had done on three prior occasions, but couldn’t make it. I fell so far behind that the hike leader, tired of coming to look for me, and unwilling to wait for me in temperatures near zero degrees F, relayed a message to me that I was to turn around. I had never failed to complete a hike before, so that was upsetting. I knew I could get to the top, but just needed more time. I missed the wonderful sluicing through the deep powder on the back side of that climb. Well, so it goes. However, on the way home by car, I had trouble breathing. My lungs actually hurt upon taking a deep breath. That was very troubling. Back home, I saw my doctor and he said I had exercise asthma, and prescribed an inhaler. I used it a few times before hikes, and had no trouble. However, on a hike with a fair amount of elevation gain, I wished I’d brought it with me, because I felt strange and weak on the crest of the mountain.
This happened again, and then, last Sunday, while puttering around a winery I help out at, I felt the same strangeness, more like a tightening of my chest, or pressure on my chest. I had only been cleaning up, putting equipment away, and climbing up and down a short ramp when I felt it overtake me. I sat down in a chair with a glass of cranberry wine and relaxed. I felt better after a short while, so I finished my duties and went home. At home I was comfortable and relaxed and slept well. The next day, however, was far different.
In the morning I awoke early, had coffee, and picked my step-daughter up from her home, dropping her off at her job. She doesn’t drive, due to a problem with her peripheral vision, so I take her to and from work most days. This day I also had a blood donation appointment, so I went there after dropping her off. The blood donation went well – no unusual blood pressure. I stopped for breakfast at a breakfast buffet, and had bacon, eggs smothered in red chile, a bit of carne adovada, small slices of french toast, and fruit – hey, the blood place said to eat a big breakfast, so I did. I dropped off a package at Fed-X for my step-daughter and went home. It was a slow day after that. I messed around at the computer, reading news, checking blogs, Facebook, eBay, an art site (Deviant Art), and then sat down to quietly read a book. In mid-afternoon, however, I felt that strange pressure in my chest. I used my asthma inhaler, but to no effect. I stretched out on my bed for a bit, but without improvement. I felt odd, perhaps a little anxious. I was sweating, so I turned on the evaporative cooler. I went back to reading. I still felt that something was wrong. I increased blower speed on the cooler. I took two aspirin. I began to worry. It was getting late, after 4pm, so I wasn’t sure if I could get to the clinic my doctor worked at before it closed. Suddenly I decided I was going to go anyway. Enough uncertainty! I had to find out what was wrong; I might even be having heart problems. I decided not to take the motorcycle, opting instead for four wheels, should I become weak or unsteady. However, I changed my mind as I was backing the car up, and went back in. Something was wrong and I was getting worse fast. I called 911.
It didn’t take the EMT guys long to get to my house, as the firehouse was than two miles away, but they had to search a bit so I got up and flagged ’em down. They came in, asked questions, took vitals, and decided I should go to the hospital. An ambulance had arrived after they came in their firetruck. By this time I was sweating profusely, felt weaker, and didn’t mind lying on their gurney. I’m not sure it was a good idea to attempt an IV while the ambulance was bouncing over speed humps, but I got to the hospital OK. They sent me to the cardiac lab, and five or six guys went to work, taking pictures, repeating vitals and finally deciding that I was, indeed, having a heart attack. There were options, like drug therapy, but the best idea presented was to do an angioplasty, where they run an inflatable device up an artery into my heart to open the artery there. X-rays had shown that the artery was indeed almost completely blocked by a clot. I agreed, so they went ahead. I began to feel pain just as they began. I said ouch as they stuck a needle in me, but it was the sudden sharp pain in my heart that had gotten my attention. The pain increased, but, miraculously, as they worked, the pain subsided, the pressure that had been building stopped, and I felt great! They had used the balloon-like device to ream out my artery, and then released a stainless-steel tube that expanded to fit to the walls of the artery, called a stent. It’s an odd, meshed device. To me, it resembles those old Chinese finger puzzles, but on a much reduced scale. The stent will remain with me now. I must take a drug for one year to prevent my body from rejecting the stent. Ha! I wish I only had to take one drug. I must also take aspirin, a small 81 mg dose, every day. I am taking a drug to lower my blood pressure, even though my pressure is normal. I am taking a statin drug to lower my cholesterol even though my cholesterol is not high. I am taking a drug to block blood platelets from sticking together and forming clots. I am taking a drug to lower the acid in my stomach. And I am taking a drug that lowers my heart rate, reducing strain on my heart, which was only minimally damaged in all this.
In short, I survived, and in good shape. I’m certain I do not need all of these drugs. My blood pressure is now lower than ever, at about 118 over 70, as I just measured. I already eat fairly well, so my cholesterol is not dangerous, but I welcome the assistance of the drug, for now. I think some of the others are a bit too much, as I would like to be as drug-free as possible. One drug can be interfered with by fish-oil supplements, which are in my daily multivitamins already. If the fish oil has the same effect, I don’t know why I can’t just take that instead of a drug.
Ah, well. I’m lucky to be alive, and damn lucky to have had that cardiac team work on me. They worked very quickly, efficiently and smoothly, each one performing certain vital tasks, and being watchful of changes in my status. Without them, I wouldn’t have survived. I need to take them some wine.
I received lots of messages from friends and family, and my step-daughter visited me while I was confined to the hospital for two days. My friend, who is “not a girlfriend”, declined to visit me in the hospital because, as she put it, “…hospitals freak me all the fuck out…”, but she said she wanted to see me to verify that I was alive. We went to a movie and had dinner Friday afternoon. Life goes on.
Posted in health, hiking, medical, My Life, wine | Tagged: hiking, pain | 4 Comments »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on October 29, 2012
Orbiter, this is Lander.
Go ahead, Lander.
We have determined that the atmosphere is Earth compatible. We are preparing for egress.
Affirmative, Lander, we concur. Recommend full suits.
Roger that Orbiter. Full suits, with open helmets.
Roger that Roger, Lander. (chuckle). Any visible signs of life?
No, Orbiter, not yet. There seems to be a ground fog, obscuring most of the surface. We are on solid ground, and we will be exploring cautiously.
Roger that, Lander; step by step.
Egress now Orbiter. Surface is firm, under a thin layer of coppery dust.
Can you see anything yet, Lander?
No. Wait, yes, Orbiter, there appears to be something moving towards us in the fog.
Lander, what do you see?
Lander, come in. Lander?
Lander, what do you see? Is everything OK? Lander?
Lander, Lander, come in Lander. What’s your status?
Orbiter, AOK. We are OK.
Posted in current events, Dreams, fiction, humor, Mars, photography, space | Tagged: Mars, Space, space exploration | Leave a Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on July 5, 2012
So, on the fourth of July I was making my way home from a hike, and I ended up detoured by a parade in the village of Corrales, NM. I tried to get around it, following directions from a sheriff’s deputy, but I simply ended up farther along the parade route. Not sure how to escape, I took out my camera and started shooting. In a few minutes I noticed that a Model A car club had put all of their vehicles in the parade, so I shot them all. There are a few other pictures of other vehicles here as well, since they were all so interesting. In this type of gallery posting, click on whatever shot you’d like to see full size. Then, after viewing it, you can scroll through all of the photos one at a time.
If you like the shots, let me know.
Posted in Holidays, photography | Tagged: 4th of July, Model A cars, photography, photos | Leave a Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on June 8, 2012
Albuquerque’s Comic Con, second year. Just wandering around on opening day, Friday June 8, 2012. Click on each image to view full size.
Posted in comics, motorcycles, photography | Tagged: Albuquerque, New Mexico, photography | Leave a Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on May 31, 2012
Some call El Morro a bluff, or a headland, but it translates directly as The Promontory. It certainly is a prominent feature. At this place are many features: colorful rock formations, cliffs, centuries-old graffiti, excavated ruins of the Atsinna people, and the only source of water in the area for hundreds of years since modern peoples found it. Although there are some petroglyphs left behind on the walls, there are fantastic inscriptions left in the sandstone by thousands of others as well. Modern-day graffiti is removed immediately, as all of the old inscriptions were documented in 1934. In the 1920s the first superintendent erased any inscriptions he found that were added after 1906, so the ones left range from approximately 1275 to 1906. The first modern-day inscription was left on March 11, 1583, 15 years before New Mexico became officially part of Spain.
I spent some time there photographing the beauty of the place, and taking a few pictures of the inscriptions to see if I could. Contrast in the light-colored sandstone is poor. One ranger tried darkening the most famous inscription, by Don Juan de Oñate, with a No. 2 pencil, but preservationists no longer take such steps. Oñate, first colonial governor of New Mexico, established Santa Fe, but is infamous for cutting off the left foot of every Acoma Pueblo man over the age of twenty-five. Eighty men had one of their feet amputated (although other commentators put the figure of those mutilated at twenty-four). He also had 800 Zuni people killed, and enslaved 500 others. A statue of Oñate, erected in Albuquerque in recent years, had Oñate’s bronze left foot cut off in the night, although it was restored and the statue moved. General Don Diego de Vargas also recorded his visit here in 1692, after retaking New Mexico after the successful united Pueblo revolt of 1680. Click on each image to view full size.
Posted in photography | Tagged: El Morro, Inscription Rock, landscapes, New Mexico, photography, photos | Leave a Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on April 23, 2012
page 24A ☼☼☼Wednesday, April 23, 2042 ☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼ ☺The Morning News☻
EDITORIALS / OPINION
It is a measure of visual acuity. It was a popular TV news program. It is also the year Mars was first touched by a human. It is the year the United States lost its technological edge, its pride in leadership and exploration.
By 2020, the United States’ economy had spent too many years fluctuating between extreme lows and mediocre progress. Attempts by every President and Congress to address the problem had done little. Military spending had increased, and the short-term effects had kept the economy going, but military spending does not have any positive long-term effects. It is not an investment in the future; it does not improve infrastructure, education, health care, technology or knowledge of our solar system.
There was a significant improvement during the Clinton administration, when both president and legislators cut government spending and waste, and concentrated on reducing the national debt. Of course, all of this effort was for nought, considering the money spent during the next administration on the invasion and occupation of two countries simultaneously. The cost in human lives was great, but the devastation wrought on the U.S. economy was greater.
Subsequent administrations tried once again, to tackle the ailing economy. Greater money than ever was authorized by Congress to jump start a recovery. The hemorrhaging loss of jobs stopped, but new jobs were slow to materialize. Taxes were cut again and again, but still the effects on the economy were slight. The national debt continued to grow. Politicians clamored for more war, for greater military spending, as if shaking our military might at the world was enough to save us. It wasn’t. Taxes were cut again. Few in the U.S. realized that we had already lost our way. A country that had grown great through exploration and innovation no longer had such goals. There was no vision to inspire us to grow, to innovate, to change. Fear of terrorism still dominated our lives, as we gave into the very purposes of terrorist attacks: to inspire fear, to focus almost exclusively on defensive and offensive capabilities, at great expense to ourselves.
Meanwhile, although the rest of the world was having similar problems with economic disasters, they had learned, from the United States, not to give in to despair and ennui. In the 1960s, in the United States, despite an economy-busting war in Vietnam, we had a space program dedicated to landing on and exploring the moon. Despite the costs of running that war, and investments made in social programs, we still found the time and money to land on the moon, to explore it, to participate in building Earth’s fist space station. Spin-offs from our space program gave us new technologies, and inspired ever greater innovation. We had pride in our country, in our goals, in our technology, and in our education system. All wanted our country as a whole to succeed, to grow, and to become the best.
In Australia, in Asia, and in Europe, people still believe in setting inspirational goals. One of them was the continued human exploration of space, the idea all but abandoned by the U.S. They worked tirelessly to send human beings into space, to move beyond our small lunar satellite to the planets. They mined near-Earth asteroids, and then they put mankind on Mars. To be accurate, the first footprints made on Mars were female, but humankind had reached another planet, and far sooner than near-sighted politicians and educators in the U.S. had envisioned. Cuts to the operating budgets of NASA crippled plans to land on Mars; the goal was pushed farther and farther back, until 2037 was the earliest possible date for a U.S. Mars attempt. Innovation was taken away from government, and left to private citizens. This was admirable in it’s reliance on capitalism and entrepreneurism, but investors were loath to invest the money necessary to reach near-Earth asteroids, Mars or the other planets in our solar system. Robots landed on Mars, the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, and several asteroids, but the start-up money necessary to successfully mine, transfer, and process elements from the asteroids just wasn’t available to the few wealthy individuals who believed in the work.
Ferrying people into low Earth orbit did little to inspire the kind of creativity and wonder of the 1960’s space program. In fact, the role of the U.S. became little more than support for the efforts of other countries to grow their space programs. We needed their assistance just to maintain our own system of communication, defense, and navigation satellites. The information gleaned by our robotic exploration programs did much to advance Earth’s reach into space, but the U.S. reluctance to finance human exploration and establish base camps crippled our efforts to reap any benefits from our investments. The second space station went into operation without the participation of the United States. When China established their first moon base in 2020, we scoffed at the idea, claiming it was unimportant and insignificant. We knew that we would soon reach Mars. We just needed a little more time. Our economy wasn’t up for the task of massive spending on the establishment of bases in space. Unfortunately, despite their own economic woes, Australia, the European Union, and Japan followed suit by establishing bases on the moon, and set up processing facilities for the material coming from Chinese asteroids Ni and Hao.
Still, the U.S. goals were robotic exploration, and perhaps a 2037 Mars landing. But we no longer had the guts to compete in any space race. Our politicians, right and left, wanted to focus on growing our economy through artificial means, believing that all would fall into place as soon as we cut taxes far enough, as soon as our government no longer had the burden of investing in social programs, education, health care, or the worry of caring for the aged. And still, we invested heavily, not in innovation, infrastructure, or space, but in war. It has been argued that we had no choice but to support Israel in their devastating attack on Iran, but, after, all, we were the ones who had advocated, and indeed, proven (to ourselves) that preëmptive strikes were perfectly justified in the name of security. The staggering costs of supporting Israel in their jihad crippled us far worse than anything we’d ever done. Significantly, NASA’s budget was cut further, and private enterprise could not pick up the slack as our economy spiraled ever closer to ruin.
The joint Soviet/Asian/Australian/EU Mars venture electrified the world in 2030. Not only had they landed on Mars before the United States thought possible, but their joint base was now the center of technological innovation. The newest methods of sub-surface mining, extrapolated from their earlier work with asteroids, provided not only the water necessary to make life on Mars possible, but also those rare elements on Earth that were nearly depleted and too costly. Cheap rare-earths and precious metals flow outward from several asteroids as well as Mars now, providing the means for each of those countries to grow exponentially.
The United States will reach Mars one day. We’ve passed our 2037 goal now, and there is the promise that we will reach Mars by 2050, and begin the reap the benefits thereof. In the meantime, food riots continue. We lack the national will to spend money on space exploration when so many are hungry and homeless. Even if martial law is lifted soon, as promised, we may never see the grandeur of our country restored. We have fallen too far behind. We are safe and secure behind our borders for now, although few people around the world any longer seek to cross our borders legally or illegally. We lost our edge, our will, our purpose.
Posted in 2000s, current events, fiction, Life, madness, Mars, opinion, politics, rambling, rants, space, war, World | Tagged: asteroids, Mars, Space | Leave a Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on March 17, 2012
Previously, I uploaded some pics from my hike across the lava flows in El Malpais Conservation Area, founded in 1987 near Grants, New Mexico. See: Hiking the pāhoehoe and ‘a’a in New Mexico. I went back. This time I saw, not only the lava and spectacular landscape, but also an incredible arch, located in a very accessible public part of the area. It is called La Ventana (The Window), and it is also in the El Malpais Conservation Area, founded in 1987 near Grants, New Mexico.
and here’s more of the pictures from my 3/11/12 hike (click on a pic to view it full size):
Posted in hiking, photography | Tagged: El Malpais, hiking, landscapes, New Mexico, photography, photos | Leave a Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on March 2, 2012
MARCH 2, 2012
As much as I’d like to go to Mars, and work in a habitat, it’s not likely; the earliest populated mission to Mars is in 2037. However, I have applied to the Cornell/University of Hawaii Mars Analogue Mission and Food Study. Applications are now closed, and about 700 people applied; only eight will participate. It’s a 120-day Mars exploration analogue mission that will take place in early 2013 on the big island of Hawaii. I’m psyched! Actually, studies of the effects of living in an enclosed environment for long periods of time have already been done. Between 2007 and 2011, a crew of volunteers lived and worked in a mock-up spacecraft. The final stage of the Mars-500 experiment, which was intended to simulate a 520-day manned mission, was conducted by a crew consisting of three Russians, a Frenchman, an Italian and a Chinese citizen. The experiment helped plan the mission, identifying possible problems and solutions. The mock-up facility simulated the Earth-Mars shuttle spacecraft, the ascent-decent craft, and the martian surface. Volunteer crew used in the three stages included professionals with experience in fields such as engineering, medicine, biology, and spaceflight. There have been many other similar studies and more underway, in Antarctica, Europe, Russia, China and Australia.
520 days! Holy crap! That includes a round-trip flight time of between 400 to 450 days. What will we do in space that long? I’m trying to imagine what 120 days in isolation will be like, and that’s only in a contained environment on Hawaii. However, the habitat part of this mission doesn’t involve psychological effects or exploration. It’s all about the food! People on long missions typically eat only prepackaged meals, or concentrates. No matter how tasty the food, a type of fatigue sets in, a food monotony, and astronauts not only lose interest in the food, but also eating meals altogether. Additionally, prepackaged meals contribute more weight to a mission already starved for mass. Every bit of mass taken on a spaceflight must be boosted into orbit, at tremendous cost with limited storage space. There are other problems: prepackaged meals have a shorter storage life than the individual ingredients. Moreover, all of the crew members have scientific and exploratory goals, and time spent in food preparation and cleanup is time lost to research.
I think this type is thinking is short-sighted. I know exploring Mars will be exciting. I know the prospect of living on another planet will be exciting. I also know that there is such a thing as job fatigue. One cannot spend all of one’s time on the mission. I don’t mean just that all work and no play makes the Mars explorer dull. I mean that everyone needs a break from their own work. I propose that each member of the crew take turns preparing meals and cleaning up, say one day a week for each person. Perhaps one day a week, assuming there is a six-member crew, be a non-cooking day. The crew could simply eat prepackaged meals on that day, and everyone gets a break.
I’m sure that the experience of preparing meals will benefit every member of the crew. There will be the benefit of eating freshly prepared foods. There had better be a small array of spices! Salt, pepper, red chile powder, garlic powder, onion flakes, maybe some packaged shallots, and other spices as crew members might suggest. Nothing helps break the monotony like different spices; and dried powders are very light. Will there be cooking oil, I wonder? How about some sesame oil and chile oil too? Certainly some oil is a necessary part of our diet. Instant butter! Mmm.
One thing I’d recommend: high fat, great tasting food. One does not get fat or malnourished by eating good foods. One gets fat or malnourished by eating too little or too much food. Period. These programs might be making the mistake of assuming all the food must be low-fat, low-salt and low-sugar. No, my friends, I don’t think so. If portion size is strictly controlled, one can have snacks and deserts and still maintain a healthy diet and weight. I’m sure the calorie-intake needs of each person can be measured, and such a group of dedicated explorers, knowing how limited their food supplies are, will adhere to strict guidelines for food consumption. There should be enough leeway to allow for the occasional party, with some special food and drink.
What will these intrepid explores drink by the way? Water is extremely heavy to ship into space. In an ideal situation, the Mars explorers will find ice or other trapped water on, or close to the surface. But we do not live by water alone. I’m sure there are some powdered drinks to break up the monotony. Coffee, PLEASE! But you know what makes digestion go better, and livens up the entire eating experience? Wine! How’s that for an idea? I know a lot about wine, particularly food-pairing. I am a partner in the Anasazi Fields Winery in Placitas, New Mexico. We pair our fruit wines with a wide variety of foods. Apricot wine goes extremely well with fatty fish and aged cheese, for example. Cranberry wine goes quite well with roast chicken, turkey and mild cheeses. I’m not just talking about a connoisseur’s point of view. I find that certain foods, like venison, soft and/or aged cheeses, for example, bring out intense fruit flavors in wine. The wine itself alters the palate so that the food itself is more flavorful. How about that, mission control? Can we have wine with our meals? We need it. Can wine be freeze-dried and retain its alcohol and flavor? I don’t know. Alcohol is usually the first thing to go when dehydrating liquids. The alcohol would sublimate from even frozen wine. I don’t know how to solve this problem, but I’m telling you all right now: if you want those souls trapped in a hostile environment to always enjoy their meals, they will need wine. Put it in individual lightweight boxes, like those ubiquitous boxed fruit drinks. Put it in small bags. Put it in anything lightweight, but bring it!
MARCH 3, 2012 – Walking to Mars (Mars reached the closest point to the Sun in its orbit)
On Wednesday, February 29, after I had sent my application off the night before, I went hiking into the Sandia Mountains. Short hike; just fours miles up and back the Domingo Baca trail. The entire time I kept thinking that I need to get in better shape. I still have to pass a Class 2 flight physical. Of the 700+ people who applied for this mission, 30 will be selected and notified to get the physical. I expect the physical will help prune that number down to the remaining eight. We still don’t know when we will hear anything. In the meantime, I need to keep walking. Today, March 3, I went on another 4-mile hike, but climbed 1200 feet in elevation in one hour! My hiking group hiked to the Eye of the Sandias. It was painted in the 1960s, refreshed in the 1990s and it looked as if it had been touched up within the last two years as well. The Eye looks out at Albuquerque, monitoring its growth, according to legend. It was a good hike. We started at about 7200 feet and climbed to 8400 feet to take a break at the Eye. I took some photos and we went on back down. I suspect I’m going to have to increase the number of hikes I go on, and get back to those 9 to 12 mile hikes I was going on two years ago. Time to get this old body back into shape, and I’d better hurry. I’d hate to be selected and fail the flight physical. Anyway, here are some pics from today. Some are looking out across Albuquerque to Mount Taylor, some 90 miles away. Other shots show my hiking companions, the Eye itself, and parts of the trail. One shot shows I-40 snaking eastward though Tijeras canyon, even as we were able to view Albuquerque and Mt. Taylor. It really is a good place for an eye.
MARCH 5, 2012 – News & Information
Finally, some information: “The selection panel is currently going through the applications to determine a short-list of candidates, who will then be asked to get an aviation medical exam (at our cost), and to provide references. We expect to be able to inform you whether or not you are on the short-list by the end of March.” Good to know.
In case some of you are wondering why the hell the Mars mission itself is important, there is this:
Exploring space, especially the planets around us, IS important to our future, not only for our nation, but for the survival of our planet.
MARCH 7, 2012 – It’s a not-in-Kansas-anymore twister!
Half a mile high! Image from the high-resolution camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. More info: http://bitly.com/zNeD5P
MARCH 9, 2012 – posted on HI-SEAS:
“As we go through the applications, we are blown away by the caliber and the passion of the applicants. You all are amazing.”
Of course! :-)
MARCH 12, 2012 – The Case For Space
Please read this article: The Case For Space
In it, the author makes a logical, but also very compelling pitch for the United States to go to Mars sooner, not later, and to revamp its space program now. A hazy “commitment” to Mars sometime in the late 2030s is not going to keep us on track. President Obama said that the Apollo program “produced technologies that have improved kidney dialysis and water purification systems; sensors to test for hazardous gases; energy-saving building materials; and fire-resistant fabrics used by firefighters and soldiers. And more broadly, the enormous investment of that era — in science and technology, in education and research funding — produced a great outpouring of curiosity and creativity, the benefits of which have been incalculable.” Of course, according to author Neil deGrasse Tyson, there is much more to that list of revolutionary spinoff technologies, including digital imaging, implantable pacemakers, collision-avoidance systems on aircraft, precision LASIK eye surgery, and global positioning satellites. Even in troubled economic times, the author states, the United States is a sufficiently wealthy nation to embrace an investment in its own future in a way that would drive the economy, the country’s collective ambitions, and, above all, the dreams of coming generations; in 1969 the United States went to the moon while fighting two wars — one cold, one hot — during the most turbulent decade in American history since the Civil War.
Imagine the excitement when NASA, bolstered by a fully funded long-term plan, starts to select the first astronauts to walk on Mars. Right now, those science-savvy future explorers are in middle school. As they become celebrities whom others seek to emulate, the United States will once again witness how space ambitions can shape the destiny of nations.
MARCH 28, 2012
No news yet; just this post from HI-SEAS:
“We expect to have an update for applicants next week. Thank you for your patience as we give your applications the attention they deserve.”
I’m patient, but next week seems so far away now. :-)
APRIL 7, 2012 NEWS!
Received this today:
“Thank you for your interest in the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and
Simulation. As you may know, we received almost 700 applications for
this mission, for only six crew positions. Because of this huge
response, we have had to add one more stage to the process (as
originally described in the call for participation). At this point, you
are one of the candidates for a potential
education/journalism/outreach/art/social-media position on the crew.
However, we will have to narrow the total pool down further before
moving on to interviews, references and medicals. We expect to be able
to notify the ~30 crew semi-finalists by mid-April.“
This must be what waiting for a launch window is like: “end of March”, “next week”, and now “mid-April”. I’m pretty damn excited! I feel like a kid waiting for a holiday.
APRIL 20, 2012 Final News
My last message from HI-SEAS:
“Dear HI-SEAS Applicant,
Thank you again for your interest in the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog
and Simulation. I am sorry to inform you that you have not been selected
for the interview stage of the application process. We had a very large
number of highly qualified applicants, and it was extremely difficult to
narrow the pool down.
We expect to be able to run further HI-SEAS missions, so even if you
will not participate as a crewmember this time, we will keep you on file
for future opportunities. If you would like us to delete your
application from our files, let us know.
Thanks again for your application, and for your commitment to human
Oh, well, and my hopes were so high. This was the first thing I’ve been excited about in years.
Posted in coffee, current events, health, Mars, opinion, space, spices, Travel, wine | Tagged: HI-SEAS, Mars, space exploration, wine | Leave a Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on February 2, 2012
I went hiking in the Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness recently. I thought people might be interested in seeing some photos. After you click on one, you can use the arrows to view all of the photos. They are high resolution photos, so give each one time to fully load before moving on to the next one. It was fantastic hiking there.
Posted in hiking, photography, Travel | Tagged: badlands, hiking, hoodoos, petrified wood | Leave a Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on January 25, 2012
Always a Puzzle to Me
Posted in Dreams, Life, love, madness, marriage, My Life, photography, Random Thoughts, relationships | Tagged: Life, love, love lost, sex, women | Leave a Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on November 9, 2011
For many years, I’ve traveled by the lava flows around Grants, New Mexico. I’ve stopped to smell the lava occasionally, and even picked the tunas, the fruits of the prickly pear, as they are known around here, which grow near the lava by the highway. I’d never hiked through the lava fields before, so when a hike came up to do so, I jumped at it. Now, hiking through cold lava is not as easy as it sounds. The smooth flow, pāhoehoe, is not bad to walk on: mostly flat, good traction. The ‘a’a is not so easy. Much of the later half of the hike was on ‘a’a, the sharp, strewn rocks blown out of the volcanoes, including sharp rocks and loose gravel-like stones.
El Malpais is a national park.
There is a trail, (a very loose term), through the badlands. It is 7.5 miles long. Seems easy, right? Well, people do get lost and die in there. In fact, human bones found scattered on a lava flow in El Malpais National Monument have been identified, just last year, as those of James Chatman and Crystal Tuggle, father and daughter, who never came back from an afternoon walk there nine years ago. See? It is so easy to get lost in there. The trail, such as it is, is marked with cairns throughout. Sometimes the cairns are no more than ten feet apart, sometimes, 20 to 30 feet apart, when the trail is obvious. Usually, it is not, so the cairns are placed liberally along the trail, showing the way through every twist and turn.
There’s one there, in the upper right corner, next to one of my hiking companions. Now, this one is fairly easy to spot, but do you see a problem? The cairns are simply piles of lava rocks. On a rise like this, fairly easy to spot, silhouetted against the sky. Imagine that you are walking through a field of lava and all of the cairns are about two to three feet tall (max), composed of rocks the exact same color of the background. Here are two cairns in a row; can you spot them?
The advice the park service gives is to always have the next cairn in sight before you leave the one you’re at, and I wholeheartedly endorse that. Occasionally, this takes a bit of reconnoitering, but there is always a cairn alongside the trail in the direction one needs to travel. Looking at the photo above, you might be tempted to say that one needs only follow the other hikers, right? Wrong. Suppose you’re a slower hiker, or you stop to pee or take a photo. The other hikers are gone, around a bend, down a hill, or behind a pile of lava somewhere. You then have to navigate on your own until you see them again. Sometimes you walk right past a cairn, if you glance up at the wrong moment, so you have to backtrack a bit and try again. Imagine doing this right after a snowstorm. It had snowed the night before, but fortunately, it was light, and tended to melt as the day wore on.
Helpfully, the park service has provided wooden posts for some cairns, sticking straight up through the center of the cairn, but even these have a tendency to fall down, due to the really intense winds blowing through there. This one was near one end of the trail.
There were piles of these poles here and there, so I assume it’s an ongoing project for the few rangers that have kept their jobs. It’s unfortunate that the National Park Service has felt the brunt of the many cuts in government over the years. I guess we need to keep raising our Congress people’s salaries, and keep paying them for life, and make sure they have top-of-the-line free medical care. Well, at least they think it’s more important, for them, even if they don’t think it’s important for the rest of us.
Anyway, you came here for pictures, yes?
Here ya go:
As I told the hike leader, it was one hell of a hike. Although I was tired and aching by the time we finished, (just under five hours including two 15-minute breaks), I really enjoyed this hike. The views were always outstanding, and the experience, on the whole, was fantastic! It’s one of the best hikes I’ve ever done. On the way home, we stopped at the ‘WOW’ diner in Milan, near Grants. Their menu is just as unique and varied as the lava fields are. With three pages of dinner entrées, I may never experience everything on their menu, but I intend to try. (There are still lots of hikes in the area.) It is the perfect end to a perfect hike.
Posted in hiking, Life, My Life, photography, rambling | Tagged: hiking, Life, road trip | Leave a Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on September 28, 2011
The last time I was preparing to fly, I felt a feeling of impending doom, although I did not associate that with the flight itself. Now, I wonder. Here I am about to board another plane within a month’s time, and I again feel apprehensive. Could it be that I have developed a fear of flying? It seems odd, although not so much considering the use to which some planes have been put in this country. However, I’ve always loved flying, even though I don’t get to do it much. I have been excited the last few days about going to my brother’s wedding on the east coast. Celebratory gatherings are so much more fun than wakes.
Why, then, does my mind dwell on scenarios of fighting with terrorists, surviving a plane crash, losing my luggage, and even ending up homeless, wandering the world? Too much violence in the world, I suppose. Hard to feel safe anymore. Of course, that was the intention of the terrorists, and the huge expenditure of money from a government in deficit has helped their cause by wasting our tax money on overblown security precautions, and a new bloated government agency. No amount of expenditure is going to make us safe ever again, but we keep on spending money, throwing money away, building new screening machines, hiring more clueless, uneducated screening personnel, making every U.S. citizen a terror suspect. We keep looking over our shoulders, backwards, instead of looking ahead.
Can we really keep spending money like this, just to create a false sense of security? It doesn’t even work, if I am any indication. I don’t believe all this removing my shoes, emptying my pockets, being x-rayed and hassled, and having to suspect all my fellow passengers is making me any safer. Paranoia inevitably leads to fear, and to an inability to function. Look, people: flying has always been dangerous. Planes crash on a regular basis. More people die in car crashes, to be sure, but there is no way to guarantee passenger safety just by hoping that our laughingly inadequate security measures are really going to keep some nutjob from finding a way to sabotage a plane. It’s unlikely that the whole flying a plane into a major U.S. landmark thing is really what every terrorist in the world is planning next. Our security measures are predicated on stopping that from happening. Someone can still plant a bomb in luggage, or fire a rocket grenade at a plane landing or taking off. Hell, to really inspire more terror, someone is not going to do the same thing that was done before.
The next time, there’s going to be a nuke, or at least a dirty bomb. Forget the planes, for crying out loud. We need to ensure that those nuclear plants are secure, that transportation of fissionable materials, and even nuclear waste is secure. We know this, and yet we permit our government to spend the bulk of our security money on securing our air travel? Jeez, enough already. Let’s monitor terrorists, investigate possible security lapses in protecting our power grids and oil and gas facilities. Let’s go back to working with every nation in the world to seek out and destroy terror cells, and cut off their funding. No funding, no travel. If the nutjobs want to blow each other up, let ’em. But if they can’t afford large bombs, intercontinental missiles, and even plane fare, then we’d be a lot safer.
Every day, people die in this country. Sometimes it’s from car crashes, bus crashes, plane crashes, gas line explosions, earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, or accidents and homicides. Do we really think a few terrorists can do worse? I don’t. This is one huge MF-ing country. It can’t be taken down with a few explosions here and there. But we can fail, if we let fear dominate our everyday lives. We can fail if we use fear to win elections. We can fail if we keep seeing each other as the enemy. Some day, we need to stop fighting each other and work together to make this, again, a country that other nations envy, that everyone would like to imitate, not attack. People don’t hate us because of our freedom. They hate us because we threaten their way of life. Sure, some of them are just nuts, they strike out at power, because they are powerless. But, when we violate the sovereignty of other countries, when we exploit their resources, and attempt to impose, often simply economically, our way of life on other cultures, we create resentment. I think, maybe, we need to stop doing that.
Even the most powerful country on the face of the planet can fall under its own weight. Look at the Roman empire; look at the British empire. Look at the Third Reich. And those were just the most recent empires to fail. Throughout history nations and empires have risen and then fallen. If we want to remain a great nation, we have to represent more than a nation of powerful weapons and large armies. Spending all of our money and effort on weapons and security will not save us.
Are we with the rest of the world, or against it?
Posted in current events, Human rights, Life, madness, opinion, rambling, rants | Tagged: Life, peace, troops, violence, war | Leave a Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on September 10, 2011
Haven’t had many dreams that I remember in some time. Maybe it’s because I sleep poorly. At any rate, my ex-wife was in my dream this morning. I hadn’t seen her in four years until just recently, when I spotted her dancing at a Salsa event one night. That was something we always did, mostly every week for fourteen years, so it upset me to see her dancing, knowing we could never dance again. She was on my mind for weeks after that, almost all the time. Spending time recently with my siblings and cousins, and laughing with them, broke the spell, and I hadn’t thought about her as much.
Suddenly, I’m dreaming about her this morning. In my dream, I run into her at a party at a friend’s house in the mountains. She asks me to go home with her, so we are driving up this steep mountain road to her place, somewhere deeper up in the mountains. She was always a drinker, so she has concocted a way to drink while driving. She is wearing one of those camelback water bags that hikers use, except that it is filled with wine. She attempts to take a drink from the tube but is having a hard time getting it to stay in her mouth. She is driving, and I realize she is drunk when she swerves across the road into the opposite lane of traffic. It is very late at night, so there is no other traffic, but there is some light snow on the highway, left over from an earlier storm. I am not concerned, as she has slowed way down, aware she is in the other lane. When she gets the wine tube in her mouth and takes a long swallow, she attempts to move back into the right lane when we see headlights behind us. So, she stops the car, on the left side of the road on the shoulder. When the car passes, I look at her, realizing that she never used to drive when drunk. It was always my job to drive her home. I am wondering why I am not driving. I am wondering why I am with her at all, except I know I am still sexually attracted to her. Jokingly, I tell her that drinking WHILE driving will make them throw the book at her. She tells me to get out. It is cold, the wind is blowing powdery snow around the highway. I can’t believe she is serious. I tell her I was only joking. I want, after all, to go home with her.
All this thinking wakes me up: wrong part of the brain for dreaming, I guess.
I am left wondering why I would have a dream like that! Of course, the car ride could have been a metaphor for our marriage, but I don’t know why I would invent such an elaborate story. Perhaps I am correct, and it was a metaphor.
In a car = in the marriage
Worried about car ride = worried about marriage
Not in control of the car = not in control of marriage
Unwilling to get out of car = unwilling to get out of marriage
Warning her in car = telling her I was unhappy, wanted counseling
Cold, snow, mountain = there be monsters outside marriage
Pissed her off; she says get out = pissed her off; she said I had to go
I guess I never resolved that whole thing. I need to let go; thought I had.
Posted in Dreams, Life, love, madness, marriage, My Life, relationships, sex | Tagged: divorce, driving, Life, love, love lost, marriage, pain, road trip, women | 1 Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on August 30, 2011
I have such an odd feeling, as though I have no future. I have cleaned up my house, put things away, and find myself thinking that it is ready for the estate sale after I die. It keeps running through my head that I haven’t much time left. Last night I even thought that my due date is coming up sooner than later. All bills are paid for the month. Rent check, book I sold, and Netflix movie are all in the mail.
I watched The Man Who Wasn’t There last night. Perhaps it influenced me too much. In identifying with the protagonist, I ended up being depressed. Of course, I never have to dig too deep to find such feelings. Been that way for some time now. I don’t feel sad as such. I just have this gut feeling that I will die soon. I kept getting the idea running through my head last night that once I leave my house today I will never return. That could mean different things, but it’s hard to imagine not returning to my house if I’m still alive.
I hope someone takes care of my cats.
Posted in depression, Life, madness, My Life, rambling, Random Thoughts | Tagged: cats, death, emo | 5 Comments »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on August 7, 2011
˙ǝɯ punoɹɐ sɯɹɐ ǝsoɥʇ ɟo ssǝuʇɟos ƃuoɹʇs ǝɥʇ sı sɹǝʇʇɐɯ ʇɐɥʇ llɐ ˙uǝʇʇoƃɹoɟ sı ǝɔuǝıɹǝdxǝ ɥʇɐǝp-ɹɐǝu ɹno ˙ɯlɐɔ ɯɐ ı ˙sǝɥɔuı ʎq ǝʇoʎoɔ ǝɥʇ ssıɯ ǝʍ ˙ǝɯ sǝʌɐs ʇɐɥʇ ǝɔuǝsǝɹd ɹǝɥ sı ʇı ˙ǝɯ sɹoɥɔuɐ ǝɥs ˙ʎʇıɹnɔǝs ˙ʇlǝq ʇɐǝs ɐ ǝʞıl ʇsǝɥɔ ʎɯ punoɹɐ sɯɹɐ ‘ǝɯ puıɥǝq ɐʎɐɯ ˙ɹǝʇsɐsıp ɹɐǝu ˙ɥdɯ ǝʌıɟ-ʎʇɟıɟ ʇɐ ǝlɔʎɔɹoʇoɯ ˙puɐs ɟo ɹoloɔ ǝɥʇ ‘ǝʇoʎoɔ ɐ ˙pɐǝɥɐ pɐoɹ ǝɥʇ ƃuıssoɹɔ ʇsoɥƃ ǝlɐd
Posted in motorcycles, My Life, poem, poetry | Tagged: death, love, road trip | Leave a Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on July 5, 2011
Because of the fires throughout the state, the drought and extreme dryness, all fireworks were banned, including sales, possession and use, but the city of Albuquerque put on a good pyrotechnic display for all, for free.
Balloon Fiesta Park, 07/04/2011
Posted in photography | Leave a Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on June 24, 2011
June 24 First Day
Well, we have lots of other conventions here, like Bubonicon, or the Albuquerque Comic Con, but this is our first Comic Expo. I’m not sure why we need two Comic conventions, but we’ve got ’em now. The “Expo” says it is more professional. Stan (The Man) Lee will be here Saturday and Sunday, but I was only able to attend on Friday. I saw a few friends, mostly photographers, and had my picture taken with LeVar Burton and Marina Sirtis. ( photo by Esi)
Attended a great and funny Q&A with Jeremy Bulloch, who played Boba Fett in Star Wars’ movies. He also has appeared in Dr. Who and James Bond.
Bought some books and had ’em signed, by Science Fiction author Robert E. Vardeman, and by comic strip artist Stephan McCranie.
I didn’t get to meet Doug Jones (Buffy, Hellboy,etc.) or Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca) or ten other notable actors, animators directors and producers, but maybe next time. Perhaps I’ll have time after a photo shoot on Sunday to stop in again. In the meantime, here are some of the photos I took on 6/24/11:
Posted in celebrity, current events, Life, photography | Leave a Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on June 8, 2011
Warning: I brake for rhinoceros. That’s what the bumper sticker on the pickup in front of me said. What I found odd was not that this was on I-25 between Albuquerque and Santa Fe, but that I thought rhinoceros should be plural, like rhinoceroses or maybe rhinoceri. I didn’t know that the plural of rhinoceros is rhinoceros, because I was surrounded on all sides by cactus plants known in the aggregate as cacti. So that seemed a good bet. Braking for rhinoceros didn’t seem as odd as the highway signs that say things like Caution: Watch For Water or Gusty Winds May Exist. There is even a large official-looking road sign near my house that says: Lizard Crossing. True enough everywhere around here, but try seeing one on the street ahead of you in the explosively bright afternoon sun with waves of heat shimmering over the road.
The idea that one brakes for rhinoceri tickled me, as tumbleweeds often seemed just as formidable charging across the highway. Some of them grow to enormous size, and, just as often, dozens of them blow by right in front of you. Tumbleweeds may seem innocuous blowing along, but not when you’re traveling between 70 and 80 miles per hour on a highway with traffic flowing anywhere between 60 mph and 110 mph, and several of them appear directly in your path. You can’t swerve into the other lane, because a long line of vehicles are backed up behind the Winnebagos there, and you can’t suddenly brake, because then the idiot behind you, traveling at 110 mph expecting you to get out of their way, will just plow into your ass.
So, sometimes you continue right along, hoping that the tumbleweeds will be knocked up over your hood and into the idiot behind you. For inexplicable reasons, at least part of the tumbleweed will end up under your car, wedged under the muffler or the heat shield. Unfortunately, tumbleweeds, at this stage of their lives, are ridiculously dry, and the underside of your car is pretty damn hot, so it is not unheard of to have one catch fire under there. Tumbleweeds are a good reason to carry a fire extinguisher in your vehicle. What I really need is a bumper sticker that says: I Brake For Tumbleweeds.
Posted in humor | Tagged: road trip | Leave a Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on May 15, 2011
She came into the room wearing only frilly pink panties. Her nipples were covered with black crosses of electrical tape. My heart jerked. My eyes felt like they popped out of my head. My hands were shaking; my legs were weak. I could barely speak.
I wanted to wrap my arms around her, pull that tape off with my teeth, taste her, lick her, feel her, fuck her. I wanted to give into my wild impulse and have sex on the spot, sex like no other: wild, uninhibited, hard.
Instead, I clicked the shutter shakily, again and again, over two hundred times. I am a photographer.
Posted in Dreams, Life, love, madness, My Life, photography | Tagged: Life, sex, women | Leave a Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on March 14, 2011
I didn’t know I could find joy in
a brain tumor
I never really felt love before
the brain tumor
I never felt such fear
a brain tumor!?
We joke about it
It’s not like you have a brain tumor
We compare headaches to
It’s my step-daughter that had
the brain tumor
I never knew such fear
– the all-day brain surgery
– the chemotherapy
– the radiation.
I never knew I felt such love
this young woman I’d known
thirteen years from girl to woman
I never knew such joy
– after the operation she survived
– still needed chemo she survived
– still needed radiation
– a high-tech magic bullet.
Damn brain tumor
fuckin’ damn brain tumor
dead brain tumor.
My chest loosened
I can breathe
I never knew such joy before
the brain tumor.
Posted in family, health, Life, love, medical, poem, poetry, relationships | Tagged: cancer, family, Life, love, poem, poetry | 4 Comments »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on March 2, 2011
She said to me that I was lazy, that was why I was with her, that I was too lazy to look for love. She implied that was why I loved her. I think she felt she wasn’t good enough for anyone to fall in love with. She also said that I didn’t love her, I loved everyone. She was a hard person to love. She would not tell me she loved me, and, it’s likely she didn’t. She was never affectionate; she never touched me on her own. She was rarely passionate. I could touch her, but not too much, usually only after sex, and then we could cuddle together for a short while. If it was sex on the rare night, she would turn away quickly to her own spot on the far side of the bed. If it was a weekend morning, then she would get up shortly after sex, so the cuddling was short. She slept late on weekends, and told me never, ever, to wake her. I woke early on weekend mornings, and I waited for her to wake for hours sometimes. Over the years, she began to sleep late, wake up suddenly and jump out of bed before I could touch her.
Sometimes she would let me put my arms around her while she worked in the kitchen, but she wouldn’t stop what she was doing. Usually she’d move away or brush me off. She seemed to like it sometimes, but never for long. If I persisted, she said all I wanted was sex.
She never came to me for sex. Sometimes she allowed it; that was my impression. I liked sex, sure; never seemed to get enough. I liked sex with her, even though it was so one-sided. During the four years we dated before marriage and for a few years after that, we’d often had sex multiple times in an evening. One morning, I remarked to her in surprise that we’d had sex five times since the night before, and she was shocked; she didn’t remember the middle-of-the-night sex at all. That puzzled me for years. It was rare for her to orgasm, and she said she didn’t mind. She once told me that she had orgasms in her sleep. She thought that was the only time she had them. I knew better. She would orgasm during sex, sure enough, but only after a night of drinking. She had to be really drunk, and her body arched, and shuddered, and sounds came from deep within her chest. Afterward, she passed out. It was years before I found out that she just didn’t remember such things. I always thought it odd that she said she never had orgasms, no matter what I did, when I’d heard her moan softly and felt her breath quicken. And she breathed hard and fast and I kept going as long as I could, and her excitement excited me and I’d go crazy with lust for her. I never wanted to stop when she seemed to actually be enjoying it. I never knew if I pleased her, or if I disappointed, because she never said anything. After years of marriage, she would often just signal that that was enough, and I should stop.
I finally put it all together. It happened one time that we were out of town, staying at a motel in Santa Fe. We ate dinner and drank a lot. We drank way too much, and the increase in altitude made the drinks work faster, and we headed off to bed. It was not often, away from home, that she’d agree to sex, but this night was different, and we both got our clothes off quickly. She said that she had to use the bathroom. I don’t know when she came back. I woke up shortly afterward to find her nude, and asleep. It was a hard night for me in both meanings. I was aroused by her nude body always. She was out cold. I once heard a neighbor tell how he often had sex with his wife when she was passed out drunk. He loved for her to get drunk. That wasn’t me, however. I couldn’t see having sex without mutual desire, or at least acquiescence. I snuggled up to her, but I couldn’t fall asleep. I was aroused, probably because it had been awhile, and also she was nude in bed, which didn’t happen anymore. She always slept in a heavy nightshirt and socks. In the summer she’d wear something lighter, but always there were the socks. When I could snuggle with her, I’d get my hands inside her night clothes to feel her warm body, but often not until she was asleep. She always said she was too hot. She insisted on sleeping under a thick comforter all year long. She said it made her feel good, but she would throw it off several times a night.
Once, on a cold night, I awoke shivering and found neither of us covered. I pulled the comforter up over both of us, which woke her up. She asked me why I’d covered her. I told her it was cold; I thought she’d want to be covered. She yelled at me, angrily, to never cover her or uncover her. She thought I had been uncovering her at night.
On this particular night in Santa Fe I couldn’t sleep. It was a combination of the excessive alcohol and my desire for her. I tried falling asleep, but I couldn’t. I felt her soft belly and cupped my hands around her breasts. My rock-hard penis was nestled against her ass, and it wouldn’t settle down. I felt the curve of her hips and her soft thighs. I caressed her arms. I dared to rest my hand on her mound. She never woke. I was restless and excited. I wanted her so bad. Towards morning I was exhausted. It had been a long night. I dozed off only after light came in the crack between the heavy curtains, but not for long. I woke and dozed, woke and dozed, always with a hard on. Finally she was awake. I snuggled up against her, touched her, kissed her, and she pushed me off, gently this time. I persisted, however, and she said, “We already had sex.” I was incredulous. “What! We didn’t.” I told her she was wrong, that I would know. She insisted. She said that since she was naked, she knew we’d had sex. I struggled for words. It was impossible. There was no stickiness, no wet spot on the bed, no smells, and besides, sex is not something I have ever forgotten. She insisted we must have, but, after a quick trip to the bathroom, she came back to bed and agreed. It was too late for me. I was dead tired, and hung over. My penis was not very stiff, and I couldn’t keep it erect for more than a minute. I had to just give up. She said nothing. We got up and went to breakfast.
But, after that, I knew why she thought she never had orgasms, why she thought we didn’t have sex when we had, and why she thought we’d had sex when we hadn’t. She blacked out. She is one of those drunks who doesn’t remember what she did the night before. All those times we had sex after Thursday night dancing and drinking – she didn’t remember it. I think she remembered mostly the morning sex, the quick rushed sex because we both had to go to work. Years of long Thursday nights, and lots of sex that she would never remember. Orgasms she would never remember. My efforts to please her for nothing. I enjoyed the sex, but it was only a chore for her, something one does for someone else’s benefit. Did it mean she loved me? I guess I’ll never know. She never said. It’s been four years since I’ve seen her. I wrote her, without a reply. I sent her a book with a note in it, asking if we could get together to talk, see if we had misunderstood each other, if there was anything to say; she said no. I called her when her daughter had to travel to Texas for surgery, offered my help, offered to drive, share a motel room, or buy her a plane ticket. She said she’d think about it, that her sister might fly in from LA and go with her, but she never called me back. I called her and she said her son was taking her, and she didn’t want me there. My step-daughter said not to come, that it would just upset her mom more than she was already.
She lives alone now, as do I. She told her daughter once that she had never been alone before. She’d gone from home to marriage, and even after her first divorce, she’d had the kids with her. Now she is alone. She has her alcohol, and her phone and her sisters and friends to call long distance. Her son calls her nearly every day or she calls him. But, she doesn’t need anyone. She thinks she has always been this way, because she doesn’t remember when I held her hand, when I cuddled her, when I touched her and fucked her, and loved her, and only her, for all I was worth. She just doesn’t remember when someone really loved her, and when she thinks of me at all, she knows I didn’t love her, because I just love everyone.
Posted in Life, love, madness, marriage, My Life, Random Thoughts, relationships, sex | Tagged: sex love marriage madness self-loathing | Leave a Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on October 26, 2010
Just what the fuck is depression anyway? I tried researching it, after experiencing it for a few years. Got medication simultaneously with counseling. I was definitely depressed.
Depression, which doctors call major depressive disorder, isn’t something you can just “snap out of.”
- Agitation, restlessness, and irritability
- Dramatic change in appetite, often with weight gain or loss
- Extreme difficulty concentrating
- Fatigue and lack of energy
- Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness
- Feelings of worthlessness, self-hate, and inappropriate guilt
- Inactivity and withdrawal from usual activities, a loss of interest or pleasure in activities that were once enjoyed (such as sex)
- Thoughts of death or suicide
- Trouble sleeping or excessive sleeping
Major depression disorder, according to the Mayo Clinic, is when a person has five or more symptoms of depression for at least 2 weeks. In addition, people with major depression often have behavior changes, such as new eating and sleeping patterns.
Depression can appear as anger and discouragement, rather than as feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. If depression is very severe, there may also be psychotic symptoms, such as hallucinations and delusions. These symptoms may focus on themes of guilt, inadequacy, or disease. It is thought to be caused by an imbalance of brain chemicals and other factors.
However. Hmmph. However, none of this says what depression is, or where it comes from. Obviously, trauma can bring it on: the loss of a loved one, a pet, a friend, or the end of a marriage, love affair, or even a job. Many things can trigger depression. If it is caused solely by a chemical imbalance, then it would be entirely random, in my opinion. People in all walks of life would be depressed for absolutely no discernible reason, whereas most of us can attribute those feelings to something that happened. Everyone deals with these things in different ways, and, in fact, it is common for everyone to be depressed at some time. So, to follow the medical opinions, I should talk about major depressive disorder, that thing that just doesn’t go away for some people sometimes.
I think I know what it is, and where it comes from. I’m not a doctor, neither an M.D., a psychologist nor a psychiatrist.
Now, Wikipedia says: “The biopsychosocial model proposes that biological, psychological, and social factors all play a role in causing depression. The diathesis–stress model specifies that depression results when a preexisting vulnerability, or diathesis, is activated by stressful life events. The preexisting vulnerability can be either genetic, implying an interaction between nature and nurture, or schematic, resulting from views of the world learned in childhood.”
Blah, blah, blah.
I think it is nothing more than our reaction to pain. Pain, as many of us know, decreases in intensity after we suffer it for a time. Runners, torture victims, accident victims, and victims of disease know what I’m talking about. There may be a variety of things involved, but we all commonly think about endorphins kicking in, numbing us to pain after awhile.
Endorphins (“endogenous morphine”) are endogenous opioid peptides that function as neurotransmitters. They are produced by the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus in vertebrates during exercise, excitement, pain, consumption of spicy food, love and orgasm, and they resemble the opiates in their abilities to produce analgesia and a feeling of well-being.
Well-being after sex, yeah, I know that one pretty well. I also like chile, red or green, and sure enough, a blast of really hot spicy food brings about a lessening of the hotness after a short time. I can then eat hotter chile, but I pay for it later. So, one thing to notice is that this morphine-like substance we produce in our bodies doesn’t last very long. But, we can produce it over and over again, in response to various stimuli, including stress. Some of us experience stress daily, so we must also be producing endorphins daily.
Here’s what I think: depression is our bodies’ response to psychological pain. Depression is our psychological morphine, producing analgesia. We go numb in response to psychological pain. We cry, or grieve deeply, sometimes feeling an overwhelming crushing weight. We can’t function that way. We have to go to work, or continue our normal routines, so we have to push those feelings aside just enough to function. Depression is the result. If it was a relatively minor pain, we may work it out through continuing our normal routines. Sometimes, however, the pain was severe, or was perceived as severe, and continues to recur. We may keep brushing it aside. I think this is a normal mental defense, allowing us to continue our life until we can deal with the cause of the pain, similar to the production of adrenalin or endorphins, which give us temporary options for survival.
But, it has to be dealt with sooner or later. Just as an injury can be ignored while adrenalin or endorphin pumps through our bodies, eventually the injury must be treated. Depression is our temporary defense against psychological pain, but at some point, we have to deal with the “injury” that produced the depression in the first place. How we deal with the injury is what our mental health industry is all about. Alcohol and other central nervous system depressants slow normal brain function. In higher doses, some CNS depressants can become general anesthetics. Temporary. These measures are temporary, and can actually worsen depression.
An interesting tidbit I gleaned from the research literature is that endorphins attach themselves to areas of the brain associated with emotions (limbic and prefrontal areas). Perhaps endorphins are involved in the onset of depression? I do not know, nor care.
Do I know how to “cure” depression? No. Various treatments, combinations of certain drugs with counseling, are said to allow our minds and bodies to slip out of depression long enough to allow us to reprogram ourselves out of it. The length of treatment, types of drugs and types of counseling vary widely. The results vary widely.
Having just come out of a three-year long depression (at minimum), I have some observations:
1.) Depression is temporary.
2.) It does not occur 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
3.) In all likelihood, we prolong our depressive state ourselves.
4.) Whatever caused the initial depressive response must be overcome.
Yeah, I hear you: Overcome? How? Beats me. Drugs and counseling will help in some cases.
My best guess?
1.) Recognise that one is depressed.
2.) Trace the cause. This may take medical and psychological help.
3.) Eliminate the cause. This one is tricky.
I know that there are techniques often applied, common sense approaches, that may or not be accepted by all. For example, I have read that grief cannot be overcome unless one goes through various stages, like denial, and anger, leading to acceptance. I’ve found this to be true for depression. One cannot wish depression away – that is simply denial. Accept that one is depressed. And then get angry. Avoid violent solutions, because the depression will worsen, and be prolonged, but anger? Anger is good. Get really fucking angry. Maybe one thinks it was all their own fault. Let me tell you, getting angry with oneself doesn’t do a whole lot. What hurt you badly? What was the thing that drove you over the edge? Was it your boss, your spouse, your ex, your lover, your sibling, your parent? Hate them. Your injury? Hate it. Give it all you’ve got. Hate your boss, your spouse, your ex, the negligent driver, the government regulation, the politician? Hate them. Hate, hate, hate, hate, hate. Give into it. Feel the vindication, the release, the shifting of the pain from yourself somewhere else. When you’ve gotten the focus off of you and onto the cause, let it go. Forget? No. We can never forget. But we can let the anger go, and the pain goes with it. Then focus on change. Get away from the source of the pain if you can, or confront it. Attempt to change the situation that caused the pain in the first place. We all know what we have to do. If we don’t, the pain will hit us again, and we will be depressed again.
In my opinion.
Posted in depression, health, Life, madness, medical, My Life, opinion, rambling, Random Thoughts, rants | Tagged: emo, Life, pain | Leave a Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on September 29, 2010
When I was a very young man
I asked my father to please tell me
Will I get lucky Will I get laid
Here’s what he said to me
Que sera, sera
Whatever will be, will be
The future’s not ours to see
Que sera, sera
What will be, will be
When I grew up and fell in love
I asked each lover what lies ahead
Will there be love and sex every day
Here’s what my lovers said
Que sera, sera
What will be will be
The future’s not ours to see
Que sera, sera
What will be, will be
When I was just an old man
I asked my shrink what should I try
Could I fall in love again or fucking give up
This was his wise reply
Que sera, sera
Whatever will be, will be
The future’s not ours to see
Que sera, sera
What will be, will be
What will be, will be
Que sera, sera.
Posted in humor, Life, love, madness, marriage, misanthropy, My Life, poem, poetry, relationships, sex | Tagged: comedy, emo, Life, love, love lost, poem, sex | Leave a Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on September 16, 2010
The boy’s nickname was Terry. He didn’t particularly like his name, because a lot of girls had the same one, and it sounded like a child’s name anyway. He’d started out with Terrance, but in 1st grade the other boys called him Clarence instead. It always got a laugh, but not from Terry. It sounded like the name of a clown, or some snooty rich kid in a story.
After grade school, he changed his name to Bob, although Bob didn’t have much of a ring to it. Still, it seemed a nice unambiguously masculine name, and much more adult sounding than Terry, or Terrance.
Bob, as a name, worked fairly well for Terry. People didn’t stumble all over it, like they did with Terry, confusing his name with Gerry, Perry, Harry, but most often, oddly enough, with Larry. He wondered if it had to do with Larry, Moe and Curly, since the most common misunderstanding of his name was always Larry. He tried emphasizing the T whenever he said Terry, but it didn’t help. People just don’t get Terry usually until the third try. It made introductions tedious, even though people always smiled, and often apologized.
Terry went by Bob all through high school. He liked it. People seemed to respond better. He was older than he’d been of course, but high school boys are not generally known for their maturity, and Terry, or even Terrance could still have been disastrous. If there was one thing Terry hated more than anything else, it was being teased. Still, boys will use just about anything to tease another boy. The school insisted that everyone wear ties.
Terry had a hard time waking up in the mornings, and taking the time to tie a perfect Windsor knot every day had gotten old fast. Terry discovered the clip-on tie: perfect knot, perfect length, and impossible to discern. Somehow, one day, a classmate noticed, and snatched it from him. He chased after the perp, grabbing the tie and pushing the perp onto the ground. Generally, Terry had always been very easy-going. His father often said Terry would let someone take the shirt off his back, but that was what “turning the other cheek” meant in the real world. In the religious world, “turning the other cheek” meant martyrdom, and martyrdom was preferred to violence. However, just ignoring all the jibes and taunts was not easy, and that one time, Terry ran his attacker down and won his self-respect. Or so he thought.
Instead of congratulating him on standing up for himself, his other classmates made light of it, pointing out that the other boy, although the same age, was shorter. This made Terry into little more than a cowardly bully. “But, what was I to do?” he asked, “let him take it?” No one answered that. Whining was not allowed. However, this incident provided the catalyst for another far more embarrassing one, since the real bullies felt Terry was an easy mark, and could only defend himself against smaller adversaries.
Terry’s family didn’t have a lot of money, and clothes were patched, sewn and worn until they fell apart. It so happened one day, as Terry bent over to pick up a fork he dropped in the school cafeteria, that his pants split. He was mortified, but no one had seemed to notice. The pants were brown corduroys, with lots of vertical lines, and baggy enough that Terry thought it would pass unnoticed if he walked slowly and kept his butt cheeks pinched together. He sat down opposite his peers, and relaxed. He made it through lunch without a single comment. In fact, he relaxed too much, because as he stood, the gap widened enough for someone to see. Ellis, agent provocateur, class clown, and always an outlaw, took it upon himself to take full advantage of the situation. He grabbed a slice of pickle off his lunch tray and ran up to Terry, dropping the pickle in the rip as Terry stood up. The indignity of this was just too much.
That someone would see the tear no longer mattered. Ellis was going down. Terry lunged for him, and Ellis, cowardly as most bullies are, took off running. Ellis laughed at Terry, sidestepping and ducking through the cafeteria. Terry chased him into the hallway. Lunch break was not yet over, so there was no one in the hallway. Terry chased him, gaining on him, running full tilt down the hallway. Of course, yelling and running past the principal’s office, in a school that prided itself on self-discipline, was not a particularly bright thing to do. They were caught.
Now, Terry was in the equally uncomfortable position of trying to explain that someone had put a pickle in his pants. Fortunately, it had been the principal who’d caught them. The vice-principal was in charge of discipline, and he would have come down hard on them. As it was, the principal referred Terry to Student Court, a disciplinary board wholly run by the students.
Terry explained the pickle incident, (picklement?) and the court, laughing behind their hands, let it go. To add to Terry’s shame, all decisions by the Student Court were published in the school paper, although the rip in someone’s pants became a rip in someone’s shirt. In 1965, no newspaper would dare even allude to something sexual , much less the innuendo of a pickle in someone’s pants. It wasn’t journalistic integrity, but everyone knew the real story anyway.
Terry could see, by now, that the name didn’t make any difference. He was kind of an oddball, it seemed, and names were nowhere near as important as he’d always believed. After high school, he kept using Bob, although his employer and coworkers were not the types to care about a name one way or the other. By now, however, Terry noticed that Bob was an extremely common name. In every room, it seemed, there was a Bob. In a restaurant, in a garage, on the street, or at work, Bob was as ubiquitous as Tom, Dick and Harry. Terry, realizing that, as an adult, he could have his name changed legally, thought about changing his name to Bilbo Baggins. It was not a bad name, far out of the ordinary. That would have been alright, but he knew his family wouldn’t like his dropping the surname. But, what would Bilbo be without a Baggins to go with it? He thought about just using Frodo, but few people had read the half a million word sequel to The Hobbit, so he would have had to spend a lot of time explaining the Lord of the Rings character to every person he met.
Of course, changing one’s name is a very superfluous thing to do anyway, as Terry had found out. And now there were far more important things to worry about in the world, like sex and war, and getting to work on time. He took night classes at the University where he worked, but he really wanted to go to school full time. He applied for, and was accepted at another University a few years later, still calling himself Bob. He kept his job on a part-time basis, as a sort of contract employee. However, those aforementioned things, sex and war, took over most of his thoughts, as he sought one but wanted to avoid the other. That took him to rallies and demonstrations, as well as into drug and sexual experimentation, and his studies suffered. His thoughts were always elsewhere. Dismissed from school on probation for a year, he decided to travel.
After a few years of odd jobs and traveling, he took a job one day in a small foundry in Arizona. The foreman must also have thought Terry an oddball when he asked him his name, because Terry paused. It was a normal question, but suddenly, and without having given it any thought in years, he told the foreman his name: Terry. It was, after all, how his family had known and still knew him. No one he had ever met was as important as family, and he never changed his name again, even though he rarely got through another introduction without having to say his name at least three times.
Posted in 1960s, family, humor, Life, My Life | Tagged: Baltimore, comedy, emo, family, sex, war | Leave a Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on September 12, 2010
Dust bunnies blow across my floors
like tumbleweeds through my yard
Some blow away, keep tumbling
some get stuck.
Tumbleweeds in the ditch
tumbleweeds in the fence
dust bunnies in the corner
dust bunnies underneath
Memories are like that.
Posted in Life, love, madness, My Life, poem, poetry, Random Thoughts | Tagged: Life, poem, poetry | 1 Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on September 11, 2010
Some people eat beans every day
some people have bread every meal
some eat anything any old way
We had potatoes, hey, what’s the deal?
Ate a lot of them growing up
with potatoes in the garden
and meat vegetable potatoes
every night for dinner
Mashed potatoes Scalloped potatoes
Boiled potatoes Baked potatoes
Potatoes au gratin
Potatoes and ham
Bacon potato salad
Sweet potato pie
Potatoes in the stews
potatoes in the soups
potatoes as main course
potatoes on the side
But, ah! potato pancakes
smothered in applesauce
Couldn’t get enough
More pancakes please.
Posted in family, My Life, poem, poetry, rambling, Random Thoughts | Tagged: comedy, family, food, potatoes | Leave a Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on August 3, 2010
Fishing is religion to many people. Fishing in New Mexico is like that – it’s a spiritual experience. Rick loved fishing. He also liked to drink, and he liked to party – “Ajua!” – and he liked to grow and eat the hottest chiles you’ve ever tasted – “Yesss!” – but he loved just a few things: his wife, his sons, and fishing. There probably isn’t a river or lake in the whole state that he hadn’t fished.
“Rick’s dead.” That’s how I got the news. Linda repeated it, because I just stumbled out a “What?” “Rick’s dead.” “Yeah, but, but, you mean, Rick, Hilda’s Rick?” “Yes.” “But, how? when? Was he in another accident?”
Well, anyway, Rick was dead. The deal was this: he was at home, “evaluating,” a friend’s gun to give his wife, Hilda, for her protection. The reason she needed protection is a family secret. Rick didn’t know if he would buy it yet. The story we were told was this: while Rick was loading the gun, Hilda left him to call Damien, one of her sons, and ask him about the value of the gun. Rick didn’t know if he would buy it yet. Rick, who had just the month before wrecked their truck, and who had broken an arm here and a leg there, having a habit of being not quite careful, dropped the gun. The problem with an automatic, however, is that, as it’s loaded, that action cocks the gun. The gun went off when it hit the floor, and the bullet, well, the bullet found Rick’s heart. It had to pass through the sofa cushion, then it severed Rick’s scrotum, and traveled up through his stomach, where it managed to hit a valve in his heart, and no one could save him.
Hilda was devastated. I don’t recall ever seeing a woman’s face so utterly deflated with sadness. All of the skin in her face seemed to droop. She cried, sobbing between spasms of crying. Of course, her family was soon with her, as were Rick’s and Hilda’s friends: those that fished, and those without that particular religion. Everyone came, and we all brought food and beer. You come together to try to accept what has happened, you sit together, you talk, you eat, you drink.
Just days before the accident, Rick had one shot from a new bottle of tequila. He had said he wanted to save it, to make it last. Now, since he was gone, everyone crowded into the living room, the room with that bullet-holed sofa cushion, and shared the rest of his bottle. It was our last chance to share a drink with him. Martín, Hilda’s brother, sang a corrido in a great full voice laced with sadness.
Curious, I looked at the cushion. Someone had turned it over so the hole was not so visible, but it was there. I put my finger in it. I couldn’t imagine how it had happened. I didn’t know at the time that Rick’s huevos had been blasted off, or I wouldn’t have touched the sofa at all. There was, curiously, no blood, as if the cushion had not been under Rick for long after the bullet passed through it. Perhaps he fell over onto the floor. If there had been blood on the floor, it was gone now.
Eventually people hugged, and cried some more, and went back to their own homes. There had been a church service earlier, but Rick had long ago insisted that there be no funeral, and no coffin for him. He was cremated. His ashes had been brought from the church, and rested in a jar in the hallway. In the morning his family and friends took the ashes to Rick’s favorite fishing spot in all of Nuevo México.
It was a long drive from Albuquerque, past Bernalillo, traveling highway 550, through Cuba, through Aztec, and on and on near the Aztec ruins, almost to Colorado. Five trucks convoyed behind Hilda, in the lead, because only she knew the place. We pulled off the road, and plunged down an embankment to a sudden stop near the water. There was a short hike along a thin, almost overgrown path. Damien poured Rick into his fishing hole, a slowly revolving eddy alongside the swift flowing San Juan. The ashes whirled round and round and round, some of them heading briefly upriver, where they slowly sank. We all tossed flowers in the water, and watched, and waited for Rick to join the mainstream.
As the ashes and flowers slowly spiraled towards the deep rushing water, Rick’s family stood on the yellow sandstone rock that balanced over the eddy. I thought the whole thing might just topple into the water, and the entire family drown, what with the aunt, the cousins, the sisters, the sons, the dog, and the friends standing or sitting on that cantilevered rock. The sun is mercilessly bright when there are no clouds, and creates silver highlights on the surface of water. The swift splashing water has shadows between the ripples. Perhaps that helps explain what we saw.
Damien saw it first – a fish, probably dead, swirling with the ashes and the flowers. It listed in the water, but wasn’t clearly dead, so Damien poked it with a stick. It swam away! but only for a few feet. It remained there, lazily pulled this way and that by the competing currents in that watery grave. Someone said, “It’s drunk,” and it was almost certainly true. The ashes and flowers had been followed by brandy, and beer, and tequila. Rick was known to take a sip from time to time, well, probably more times than not. The fish was drunk.
It wasn’t long before someone decided that the fish was Rick. It made sense. Rick had been coming to this spot for a long time, and he had just returned for the last time in what was left of his human form. The fish wouldn’t go away. It kept reappearing at intervals, and drifting, drifting, drifting, like it was waiting for something. It seemed to be watching us watching it.
The fish told us that Rick wasn’t dead, that he would travel the San Juan now. That he would hang around the fishing holes, drinking the beer and tequila that slipped from the hands and lips of fisherman down the length of that river.
Gradually, the tears dried, and the sobs quieted. People laughed about the fish. The dog barked at it. The shadows were creeping down the bank, moving over the edges of the water. It was time to go. The fish became more animated, swimming faster, reappearing less, and moving closer to the central current. Finally, he disappeared into the shadowy, reckless middle.
Rick had joined his compadres in the water’s mainstream, and we felt relief. Rick was free. Rick was home. I swear I heard something in the splashing, gurgling water, as we watched the river flow. I swear I heard, “Ajua!”
Posted in family, fishing, friends, Life | Tagged: death, fishing | Leave a Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on July 17, 2010
Dark blue evening sky
Wispy white clouds floating high
Feet in the water.
Posted in Life, My Life, poem, poetry | Tagged: poem, poetry | Leave a Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on May 31, 2010
With nothing left to live for, no joy in my life, no pleasure in waking, breathing, eating, or even being, I knew I had to just get it over with and die. I went through all the options: gun placed in my mouth to fire upwards, blowing the top of my head off – way too messy.
Razor along my vein, for maximum loss of blood – too slow, and painful. What of pain? I shouldn’t care, but, it’s because I tired of pain that I no longer feel anything at all. No sense having pain be my last memory.
Jumping? What if I survive? What if I’m paralyzed? unable to die? kept alive for nothing?
Pills? so I can wake up choking on my own vomit?
Jumping in front of a bus? Same problem as jumping.
I really couldn’t come up with anything that didn’t involve some kind of pain, slow death, or public display. I didn’t want anyone to know I died, or how I died. I had no one to impress, no one to feel sorry for me, no one to send a message to. I just wanted it all to be over.
I found a solution: drowning. I knew it would be unpleasant. I had a plan for that. Nitrous oxide. I would feel myself drowning, trying to pull air into my lungs, trying to breathe, but I wouldn’t care. I’d laugh my way into death, gulping in whole lungfuls of water. Then peace, with a smile on my face.
The water was deepest near the dam, about 75 feet, so I’d plunge deep into the numbing cold water. I wanted to sink, and sink fast. I found four twenty-pound ankle weights. It was hard walking with them, but I practiced until I managed to just look like I was just drunk or high or old. And jeez, was I ever old. Too old for life to hold any interest anymore.
With a small canister of nitrous oxide, I crossed Deep Creek’s concrete bridge leading to the dam. It was 3:00 am. I walked, slowly and silently. There was no traffic that time of morning. I’d been there often enough to know. I climbed the fence to the dam, clumsily, but without making a sound. There was a maintenance ladder on the dam itself. As I grabbed each rung, my legs felt dead. It took a lot of effort to pull them up with me. I was sweating in that nearly freezing air. Those weights got heavier with every breath.
The water was calm, and inviting. I opened up the canister and let it fill me with gas. I had a small mask to cover my mouth and nose. It took longer than I thought. I hung there on the ladder, a few feet from the top. My legs were tired. My feet were hooked uncomfortably in the rungs. My hands, wrists, and ankles ached from the climb. After awhile, I didn’t care much about the slight pain anymore. I didn’t care much about the cold night air. I was really happy, for the first time in many years. I didn’t feel like laughing, but I was smiling. I dropped the canister into the water. The splash was reassuring, calming, a funny preview of my own fall.
I threw myself out as far as I could. I was taking no chances, but there was little danger of hitting the dam wall, as it curved inward at this point, near the long tunnel that takes water to the powerhouse. The water flows past the turbines, back into Deep Creek lake, back into the Youghiogheny river, continuing on its way to the Gulf of Mexico. I hit feet first, as I expected. There was pain, pain to my feet, despite the thick hiking boots I’d worn, pain to my knees, pain to my hips. But the water was so cold, and I was so excited, it didn’t matter. I sunk quickly. I opened my eyes, surprised that I’d had them shut so long, surprised that I was holding my breath. There was not much to see. It was dark, but some light from the power plant was reflected down into the depths. I had expected to touch bottom, but I seemed to be drifting down incredibly slowly.
It was time. I pushed my stomach in with my fists, expelling a lot of air. It blooped out of my mouth and nose. When it seemed I had no more air left, I held myself still, trying not to breathe until the last possible second, when my reflexes would kick in and force me to. It was peaceful. As I faced death, I realized I was ready. She was gone forever. There was no one left to care for, no one to mourn my passing, no reason for my existence. I was now useless. I’d had a good life. I’d loved, and lost, and loved again, and again. I’d worked many jobs, some I’d enjoyed, some I hadn’t. I had done all that I had set out to do, and I was content with my lot in life. Contrary to popular belief, I didn’t want to die out of regret. Hell, if I’d still had any regrets, I’d have wanted to keep on living, kept on trying to overcome those regrets for the rest of my life. No, I had no regrets. It was just time to go.
My lungs burned with the beginnings of pain, so I opened my mouth and swallowed, deeply. I sucked greedily at the water, blowing some residual water out my nose. Then, then there was only water, and I was afraid. Fear stabbed at me like an ice pick through my heart. I wanted to breath! I wanted air. My brain felt funny. It was hard to think, but I kept trying to breathe. There was a heaviness in my head, a feeling of darkness. My lungs struggled, again and again, for air. The water was too heavy, too thick. I kept choking. I started retching, water into water, and water back in again. It hurt. It hurt bad. Worst of all was the feeling of panic, of absolute fear. I thought I’d wanted to die, but now I wanted to breathe, to live, to think again.
Posted in Dreams, Life, love, madness, misanthropy, My Life, rambling | Tagged: death, emo, love lost, pain, peace | Leave a Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on May 4, 2010
What? where? who? slipped vaguely through my barely conscious mind as I came to. There were no answers available. As I started to lift my head, I couldn’t imagine where I was. I was lying down; I might be dreaming. I saw sky above. I was outside. I wasn’t in my bed. I wanted to get up, find out. In a sudden panic, I realized I didn’t know who I was. I felt like I was still dreaming. A name, I must have a name. Now that was scary. I was awake and thinking, but I didn’t know anything. I remember telling myself: Just lay here. Relax. Let it come. It was like trying to remember something on the tip of my tongue: think of something else, don’t think about what it was I’d forgotten. I closed my eyes.
I remembered the construction site, being pushed into the hole above an unfinished cellar, waking up to pain, being carried across a field, blood on my face, getting stitches above my eye. I remembered standing outside the tree house, trying to cover a hole in the roof on a rainy day, slipping, falling, coming to with a terrible sharp pain in my arm, the visiting relatives in our house, the ride to the hospital, the plaster cast.
It came back to me. Pumping my bicycle down that hill, hell-bent for speed. Traffic. Lots of traffic, rush hour traffic. A whole lane to myself. I had been keeping up, moving fast. An unseen car on my left was trying to cut across traffic into a driveway I don’t know was there, just to my right. It was practically touching me as I looked into a woman’s face: wide open eyes, slack mouth.
So, I was – in the street, still. Somehow I’d survived. I opened my eyes to a grey-blue sky. I knew who I was, forgot that I’d forgotten. I saw firemen sitting in lawn chairs outside the firehouse across the street. They appeared to be laughing at something, but I couldn’t hear them.
But, there were vague noises and voices, somewhere else, behind me, yes, and yards away. I was alone in an empty circle of asphalt.
“I saw the whole thing,” I heard a man say – I could hear an eager concern in his voice – “It wasn’t your fault. I’ll testify in court for you.” Now, why would someone say that? I wondered. I’d had the right of way.
Someone else – I remember a deep gravelly voice – asked, “What about him?”
“Him? He’s dead,” another voice answered, flatly and certainly.
Posted in Bicycling, Life, My Life | Tagged: Baltimore, Bicycling, death | Leave a Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on May 3, 2010
I’d like to be
a scented candle
in your room
burning for you
I’d like to please you
make you feel good
fill your senses
I see my scent
clinging to you
I see my scent
to your hair
to your skin
you blow me out
you set me aflame
you made me glow
you put me out
quenched my flame
a smoky ember
make you happy
light your face
make you smile
Your lips are a torch
when they smile
Should you smile
if only you would
I think it could
fan my ember
into a wildfire
light me up
I may swirl around you
O to burn so brightly
even for a moment
though I be totally
Posted in love, madness, poem, poetry, relationships | Tagged: emo, karen, love, love lost, poem, poetry | 2 Comments »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on April 18, 2010
Birthdays were never an egocentric event for me. My brother and I, although a year apart, shared the same birthday month, so my parents always combined the two into one party, one song. You know how people sing it, Happy Birthday to so-and-so? Ours were always together, Happy Birthday John and Terry. As a result, I think, I never thought of a birthday as a focus on me alone. This is a little odd, since some psychologists believe children under the age of 7 reason egocentrically, believing that their view of the world is the same as anyone else’s view. However, I at least saw that the world didn’t center around just me, but included my brother.
I remember much of my childhood, but not all. However, I can interpolate some things. I have no idea what my first birthday was like, although my mother was about to give birth to my brother, so I’m certain that weighed heavily on my parent’s minds. Knowing them, I assume they used the occasion to have family over for cake. What was my second birthday like? Well, I don’t know, but with John one year old, they might not have wanted people over so things stayed a little quieter. At that age, I wouldn’t have cared. I know we were a handful. By my third birthday, I’m sure the tradition got started to have both our birthdays on the same day. There were no other children as yet, and mom would have wanted to light candles and teach us to blow them out. The difficulty would have been in trying to teach us our numbers, because John needed two, and I needed three. She baked two cakes! By the age of four, John and I knew the drill. When October came around, and my mom started baking, we knew what to expect. We knew there would be a cake with four candles for me, and a cake with three candles for him. At the time, I remembered that previous birthday, my third, but that memory is long gone now.
You may well ask how I remember my fourth birthday at all, but I think it was the trauma of moving. I can’t remember the place we moved from anymore, but it had a long stairway outside the building. I remember being forced into a car, and driving a long way to the new place. The car was green, the rear sloped in a continuous curve from roof to fender. The inside had a cloth-covered ceiling. I remember that cloth, because in later years, it was loose, ripped, and always falling down. At the time, I didn’t pay it much attention, because I was more excited about where we had arrived. It was a small house, but it had a grass-covered front lawn. We had not had one of those before. My parents seemed happy about that, but, compared to the other lawns in the neighborhood, ours looked different. It hadn’t been mowed in a long time. It was wild and tall. I liked it, but, of course, no lawn is ever allowed to be like that for long. I suspect that is when my dad bought his first lawn mower, because by the time I was ten, we had moved twice again, my bother and I had the job of mowing, and that thing seemed ancient.
Those old push mowers were something else. I delighted in the spinning blades, each one of which curved in a broad sweep, much like present-day wind turbines. To my ten-year-old brain, the blades should have been straight, but somewhere along the line, people had figured out how to cut grass more efficiently. Often the blades would be near-dull, and pushing that thing through the grass was not my idea of fun. It was however, not something I had to do, but something John and I had to do.
We were sidekicks. From birthdays to work, we did everything together. Hell, we even got punished together. My father, discovering something broken or missing, would confront us. If neither one of us owned up to it, he said we would both be punished. Punishments ran a wide gamut then, from standing in a corner, to no dinner, to slaps on our butts, or the dreaded leather strap, which hurt like hell. One time, John owned up to something neither of us had done, just to get the interrogation and slapping over, and so we wouldn’t both be punished. Odd to think that our parents thought we’d ever do anything deliberately bad, knowing the consequences, but I guess they thought we wouldn’t ever do anything bad again if they punished us hard enough. Boy, were they wrong.
Running through the yard, we accidentally trampled mom’s azalea bush. You’d have thought we went outside just to destroy that bush from the way my dad carried on. We took our clothes off one time, and went out on the porch roof, climbing out the second story window. A neighbor saw us, so that didn’t go over very well. We also thought it was fun to throw small stones out that same window at passing cars, since the porch roof kept us from being seen from the street. We thought we were pretty clever about it, trying to determine the exact time to throw a stone, so that it would hit a car while we ducked down. We could hear the thunk on a car roof or door, and one time a car squealed to a sudden stop, and backed up to our house. That we had to see. Of course, that meant we were seen. Well, it was not fun anymore, as the driver got out and walked up to our house.
Then there was the time John and I built a small fire in an empty lot behind our house. We tried to build it up with stones all around it, but we were too young then to know to clear the entire area of combustibles. It spread, and we couldn’t put it out. We got on our bicycles and rode for our lives, afraid we’d get caught, and we were. A neighbor had seen us, called the fire department, and called our mother. She made us march out to the firemen and apologize. They were incredibly nice to us. They smiled at us. I didn’t know what to make of that, because we had been scared to death to go out there and tell them it was our fault. Our parents made sure we knew the danger of fire, and read us the riot act over that one. I doubt we could sit down without wincing for days after that.
John and I were a class act though. One time, investigating a construction site nearby, my brother and I and Eddie, a friend, were dropping rocks into a pool of muddy water in the incomplete basement of a new house. There was a hole in the first floor where the stairs would eventually be. We didn’t question why the basement walls and the floor of the first floor were built, yet the concrete for the basement floor hadn’t been poured yet. It was just fun to have a huge puddle far enough below us to makes big splashes. Three boys, a hole, a long way to fall; what could go wrong? I fell in, but Eddie went for his parents, and John found his way down to me. I was laying face down, out cold, in the water. He turned me over, saving my life.
Years later, we had ridden our bikes miles away from our house, and were investigating a sewer drain outlet. All the storm water from the street above flowed out into a small creek, and beavers had built a dam on it. It was just too damn fascinating to leave alone. However, the concrete around the storm drain outlet was green and slimy. John fell in. The slime was everywhere. He couldn’t grab hold of the edge to pull himself back up; he kept slipping back into the water. It was deep there, over our heads. We didn’t know how to swim yet, and the water was dark and filthy. In retrospect, I think he was panicking, because he thrashed around like crazy. I got on my stomach. I reached out my hands and yelled at him to grab them. He did. I was able to pull him far enough so he could climb out. We rode over to a nearby house and knocked, explaining what had happened. John was socking wet, and reeked. My dad drove home from work and took us home. He was, shall we say, upset, but also happy that we were OK.
So it continued over the years, through accident after accident. We even shoplifted together; that was a mess of trouble. Always we survived, and both of us have all our parts. We even fought each other. Sometimes only one of us got into trouble at a time. We balanced everything out by being Altar boys and Boy Scouts. We served mass and camped together. We were a team.
High school changed everything. I went first, leaving John behind. John developed new friends. Rather than follow me to the same high school, he went to a religious school in another state for a year. It was the sort of pre-seminary school you go to if you plan to be a priest, but before you go to an actual seminary. It was strange not having him around. Stranger still, he changed his mind and came back after that first year. Instead of hanging out with me however, he had other friends. He told me about discovering masturbation. I had discovered that on my own. He also knew girls. He did end up going to the same high school as me, but we never saw each other. He was one of the popular kids. He found a part-time job after school working on an assembly line for printed circuit boards. I rarely saw him, and he never told me how to get a job like that or what he did. He had money, bought himself a leather jacket, and combed his hair out and down and over his face, unlike my greasy pompadour. He was as different as he could be. I stayed after school myself, joining various clubs: Science, Computer, Drama. When I was home, I had to study, usually two to three hours, just to keep up.
John and I didn’t have free time anymore; no time to waste riding our bicycles randomly, exploring, getting into trouble. I stayed to myself. He thought I was weird. I didn’t have friends, I didn’t date. Well, I took my cousin out a couple times, but that didn’t go anywhere. By the time I graduated high school, John and I were like strangers. There were no more joint birthdays. I got a job and left home. He graduated the next year and got married. I went to his wedding, dressed in a funky double-breasted suit I’d picked up for myself. It reminded me of my grandfather’s suit. I looked and felt out-of-place around the family. I tried to look and act mature. I had even bought a packet of Tiparillos, small plastic-tipped cigars. I thought they’d make me look sophisticated, but when I tried inhaling one at the wedding reception, I thought I’d choke my lungs out. Clueless.
John invited me over one time after his daughter was born , a year later. He’d always been the skinny one, but he’d put on a lot of weight. His wife cooked a lot. They had certain meals on certain nights, same thing every week. I asked him about sex, and he whispered to me, “Tonight’s the night.” I thought, “What, once a week? Are you kidding?” Clueless.
I however, was very involved with anti-war activities. I’d been arrested. John thought it was a joke, that I’d gotten arrested for the hell of it. Neither of us had been drafted, but I was caught up in a counter-culture, one that distrusted the family unit, authority, the draft, wars, and law itself. I liked marijuana and tried LSD a few times. Dropped out of school, lost my job. I moved away. I had many lovers. Sex was my favorite drug. I was a drifter and a carny. I settled on the other side of the country, poured bronze, worked as a hod carrier, then found work in a cancer research laboratory at a University. I took free classes there, got a degree. I got married and divorced twice. I retired.
I still miss my brother. His 40th wedding anniversary is coming up soon. I think I’ll go see him. We’re so much alike.
Posted in family, Life, My Life, Writing | Tagged: brothers, family, Life | 1 Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on April 3, 2010
Hey Charlie boy, strange furry little child of mine. You want to go out, do you? Here you go, I said. Charlie, a tiger-striped short-haired domestic tabby, lept out the now open cat door. Why they waited like that puzzled me. Charlie and his other half, a black and white short-haired domestic tabby, come and go as they please. Sometime they stay out all day, sometimes they pop in for a bite and pop right out again. Sometimes one or both sleeps on my bed all day. In summer they sometimes don’t show for a day or two. I never can figure them out. They don’t need me to open the cat door, but if I’m in the room, they sit or lay patiently until I notice them, and wait for me to hold the flap up so they can leap through the hole.
There’s cat litter in the house, but they rarely use it. I hardly ever change it anymore. I can pull out the occasional piece of dried shit. I can often hear them running around over my head. They love the flat-roofed houses around here. There are six houses connected together, so they often run full tilt across the roofs, sounding like herds of miniature horses. Cats and horses, of course, have exactly the same gait, moving both legs on either side in unison, alternating from one side to the other as they run.
Often they wait outside the clear plastic door, waiting patiently for me to notice them. I let them in. Sometimes they eat, sometimes they want to be petted, sometimes they are just looking for each other. Sometimes they want to go right back out.
If I’m too slow to notice them, they start scratching the small throw rug by the door. There’s a small rug by my bed that they do the same thing to, if I’m too long in bed in the morning. Charlie sometimes meows at me, but the other one, Kilala, just scratches like mad. Sometimes they want food. Charlie has a high-pitched meow he uses when he’s hungry, so I always know just what he wants. If he wants attention, he simply jumps up on my lap, or on the desk if I’m at the computer.
Kilala doesn’t ever jump up on me. She likes to rub her neck on all the corners of the walls, and likes me to pet her, mostly just around her neck and head. She was the feral one, showing up out of the blue one day. Charlie was barely a year old when she showed up; I had raised him from a kitten. His mother had camped out in the yard, and dropped her litter. I fed them every day. Since this was the second time a cat had dropped a litter there, my wife insisted I get rid of them quickly. Before I did, I heard one of them mewing and crying away from inside the fence I had recently put up. There were pickets on both sides, and he must have fallen in from on top. Fortunately, I had used deck screws to put the fence up, and I undid the screws on the plank closest to the crying. It was the little striped orange cat I’d later call Charlie. I took him over to his mother, petting him all the while.
After a few more weeks I went to Animal Control for a trap. I set it up early, and put their bowl of cat food inside. Later on, I found the mother and most kittens inside. That made my wife happy. She was glad to see them go. It was the second litter I’d had to get rid of. I’d kept the mother of the first litter, after leaving all her wiry, well-trained mousers at Animal Control. They were such lively, healthy animals. I’d watched the mother train them in mousing, bringing them a field mouse to learn how to catch. I hated to see them go, but my wife insisted, and she wasn’t interested in waiting for people to come by and take them.
I had the mother fixed; no more kittens for her. She was a gentle cat, obviously a runaway, as she was well used to people, cat food and houses. But, one day a few weeks after she been spayed, she died in the garden. My wife noticed while she was watering. I was sad. I never knew what killed her: complications from her spaying operation? insect poison on the garden?
But, next spring there was another female, another litter. That was the litter Charlie came from.
When I trapped them, Charlie was the only one who hadn’t gone into the trap. So I kept him. My wife wasn’t enthusiastic about the idea, but as long as the menagerie was gone, she was OK with keeping one. Charlie was almost feral himself, still very young. He stayed away from the house, but showed up every day looking for food. While he ate, I petted him, and it must have imprinted, because, to this day, he often waits by his food until I pet him. He’s the only animal I’ve ever seen who will allow himself to be petted while eating. He even purrs as he chomps away.
I think Kilala was no more than six months old then she showed up. I never knew if she’d stay, so she was just “Girl” for the longest time. She was incredibly thin, but then I noticed her belly hanging down. Damn, another pregnant cat. She took to Charlie right away. They hung out a bit until she had her kittens, then she was often missing. One day I found her with her kittens in a small pit under an old, low-slung bench in the garden area. She grabbed one of the kittens and ran to the fence, vaulting it like a champion despite the bundle in her teeth. Later on, I noticed she had taken all the kittens, probably in the same manner. As they got older, they needed more food than Kilala could provide, so she brought them all over to the bowl I had Charlie’s food in. She had eaten there before, so now she was teaching her progeny where the food was. I had to put a lot more out. I was happy again to see the kittens playing, fighting, running around the yard, but my wife insisted they could not stay. Again, I had to round ’em up and take them away. I kept Kilala of course. She was a great companion for Charlie. I can’t stand to see animals kept by themselves. Most animals, especially cats and dogs, are very social creatures. An animal locked up by itself, in a house or yard, is the cruelest kind of life, I think.
Charlie had already been neutered, and I had Kilala spayed. I kept my fingers crossed, and was very happy to see that she survived. Eventually I coaxed the two of them into the house to eat. They had a ball investigating all the rooms in the house, and chasing each other through them. They didn’t, however, like it when the outside door was closed. They loved running out and in, and out and in again. Whenever I could I left the sliding glass door and screen open. In winter, when I couldn’t, I had to open the door every time they wanted in or out. They never ran away. Even if they were out all day or night, they waited by the door for me to let them in again.
My wife hated the way I catered to them. I couldn’t see just leaving them outside, or confining them inside, so I became their doorman. I didn’t mind. They are affectionate to me and each other, although, just as people do, sometimes they fight with each other. Often they mate, even though both are fixed. It is always funny to watch them, curling together like a Yin and Yang painting, then suddenly fighting, or chasing each other around and biting and hissing. But always, they return and sleep curled around each other. They remind me so much of married couples, with one exception: they stay together. Either one could leave, but they never do. No matter how much they fight, they end up licking each other’s face, and cleaning each other’s fur. And always they like to sleep together.
Not like humans. My wife is no longer with me. We grew apart, without much affection passing between us anymore. I loved her, but she seemed, to me, to be cold and hard. Perhaps it was all in my mind. I told her once, after she’d been away, and she kept insisting, drunkenly, that I tell her, that I hadn’t called her because I hadn’t missed her. I had actually enjoyed a little time away from her. I meant nothing radical. It just was nice to have the house to myself, with peace and quiet, without the constant noise of the TV and her nagging, once in a while. I hadn’t meant more than that, but she wouldn’t talk to me anymore, wouldn’t listen to me. She made me leave, and, of course, I took the cats. The cats went with me kicking and screaming, but they adjusted to the new place, and they stay with me. I never heard from my human companion of fourteen years again.
Posted in friends, Life, love, relationships | Tagged: affection, cats, divorce, marriage | Leave a Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on April 3, 2010
my indigestion, my yellow teeth
pain in my feet, pain in my back
or is it my sacroiliac?
all the times I’ve come to grief
they add up over time
these aches and pains
the body slows, stiffens
joints pop and squeak
The mind wanders though time
dull painful memories
sharp happy ones
the future is looking back
Posted in humor, Life, love, My Life, rambling, Random Thoughts, rants, relationships | Tagged: aging, getting old, love lost, memories, poem, poetry | 3 Comments »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on April 2, 2010
The synthesis order from Dr. Jella’s lab was taped to my lab door when I arrived, even though I was early. Science marches on, without regard for working hours. After flicking on the lights, I dropped my lunch bag on my desk in the rear of the lab, under the sealed windows that let in light, but no air. I turned my PC on. I wanted a cup of coffee. I wanted to sit quietly for a few minutes, playing Solitaire. But, I had unfinished orders from the day before, as well as these new orders. I’d be lucky to synthesize all of ’em by days end. A long day ahead of me, probably ’till 7:00 pm.
I typed the first sequence into the machine: ACGCCCTATTACGACGAAGTTAC. I could synthesize four pieces of DNA, or RNA simultaneously. It would take almost four hours for the DNA Synthesizer to complete four oligonucleotides, then I could start the next four. Hopefully, they would finish in time to let me start another four before I went home. Those would run overnight.
I finished entering all the code letters for all of the syntheses, checked the level of the liquid reagents at every bottle position, and started the Pre Run. Solenoids clicked on and off as current was applied to each one, moving a magnetic rod back and forth to allow the flow of gas or liquid for each step of the syntheses. Click, click-click, click, click-click, click, click, click, and occasionally the whoosh of gas as regulators adjusted the pressure of ultra high purity nitrogen that pushed all the liquids around. After all the lines were purged of air and old liquids, and fresh liquid flowed from each reagent through all the lines, I started my first batch of the day. I was happy that I’d had the machine upgraded from the original two-position one. I’d never have been able to get this much done so quickly.
I went for coffee, brought it back and sat idly in front of my PC. I took a few sips while I stared out the window at a clear blue New Mexico sky, then got to work. I entered the sequences I was making into my database, so I could keep track of them for billing purposes. My lab was not directly funded by any grants or stipends. I had to bill each researcher for the work I did, and then they paid me out of their grants. It wasn’t a hard job. The machines did most of my work, synthesizing DNA, or occasionally some RNA. The RNA was tricky, as it required careful handling and sterile conditions. There are enzymes that destroy DNA and RNA, but of the two, the RNA enzyme, RNAase, was the worst. If contaminated with RNAase, the RNA I made would be useless, experiments ruined. Time and money would be wasted. I would lose credibility. I was very careful in my work.
Besides the work synthesizing, I had other jobs: two of which were either synthesizing proteins or sequencing them. In sequencing, the machine took each protein apart, one amino acid at a time and pumped it past a detector to identify it by its characteristic wavelength. I didn’t have any orders for protein synthesis today, fortunately, because the process consumed a lot of time, and required constant monitoring. The final step in protein synthesis involved the use of a dangerous, highly corrosive acid in gaseous form: HF, or hydrogen fluoride. HF is used to etch glass. Due to its insidious nature, it can splash undetected on your skin, and slowly eat its way to the bone. I hated working with HF. People using it had lost arms, eyes, lungs and some had died. I had to prepare a super cold bath of dry ice and methanol to cool the gas into liquid form for use. When I opened the valve on the HF bottle, everything had to be ready: I wore a special apron made of acid resistant material over my lab coat, and wore similar gloves. I had a special clear shield over my entire face, and the apparatus for using the HF gas was shielded behind a glass-sashed fume hood. In theory, the gas flowed into my collection vial, liquefied, and cleaved my synthesized protein off of the glass beads it was attached to as part of the synthesis protocol. Then it flowed through a trap of strong base to neutralize the acid.
The first time I had tried the procedure, my boss at the time had worked with me. Dr. Latif was from an Arabic family, but had grown up in Trinidad, been educated in England, and had worked for the Mayo Clinic. He was an interesting guy, full of stories about his parents and Trinidad. Oddly enough, we were the same age, and liked the same kind of music, rock ‘n’ roll and Motown. I needed music playing to get me through the day. In today’s world, an iPod would have sufficed, but in those times, the music came from my radio/tape player and coworkers needed to like the same music for that to work. Dr. Latif and I were suited up in our protective gear, and we switched on the gas. All looked well at first. The gas was cooling into liquid form, and flowing through the simple apparatus. Suddenly the plastic container of strong base began to implode. It made no sense. We had followed all the instructions perfectly, and the pathway of gas was clear. For some reason, it was back flushing, collapsing the trap. We couldn’t just shut the gas off, because we feared the trap would either backflush into our protein mixture, or worse, rupture, spreading gas and caustic base all over the place. Without losing our cool, we increased the pressure of a secondary gas, simple nitrogen that also flowed through to help keep the HF moving. We opened the exhaust stopcock all the way. Success. The plastic trap re-inflated.
After the experiment was over, we both let out of sighs of relief. The danger had been very real. We laughed too. We were the only ones who knew the danger. If the HF gas was released, and even if we’d gotten away safely, that floor of the building would have been in danger. Likely the entire building would have to be evacuated and sealed off. We’d have needed a HazMat team, police and firemen. It would have been a mess and created havoc. We worked out our own procedure after that, and never had any further episodes.
Today, my first four oligonucleotides were finished synthesizing, and I took them off the machine; they would require a minimum of five to eight hours heating to be ready for purification next morning. I was readying the machine for the next set of orders when Dr. Jella rushed in. He looked anxious. He wanted to know if his DNA was ready. I almost laughed. Even if I had synthesized his orders first, it would still require heating and purification. I told him that I could put his order ahead of the others I was about to start, and explained the time constraints. He was so anxious looking that I told him that if it was for a critical experiment, and he needed it right away, I could stay late, even work all night to have it ready for him by morning. He thought about that for a bit, but shrugged his shoulders, saying, “No, that’s alright. I can wait until tomorrow. It’s not, uh, not for anything real important.” Turns out it was, but he didn’t want anyone to know what he was working on.
Later, I found out that reporters had been cold-calling various researchers, pumping them for information for a story. Dr. Jella was working on the newly hot disease: hantavirus. The disease had flu-like symptoms, and people in New Mexico had died within days of showing symptoms of what everyone thought was a cold or flu. A test for hantavirus was needed as soon as possible. Researchers were working across the country to develop such a test. Dr. Jella had the idea of creating a kit, using synthetic fragments of single-stranded hantavirus DNA. If he had told me what it was for, I’d have gladly worked overnight. As it was, research is a highly competitive business. Researchers across the country, especially at the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, GA, where also racing to develop a test. Whoever developed an effective test first would not only get recognition, but would be able to grab new research money to continue their work. Dr. Jella didn’t want word to get out of the specifics of what he doing. Someone else could take that information and receive the credit, not to mention future grant money to research other diseases. Basically, his job and life’s work was on the line.
I arrived for work an hour early next day, and purified Dr. Jella’s oligos first. Needless to say, he was at my door soon after. “Are they ready yet?” he asked, somewhat breathlessly, like he had run up the stairs. I told him they were synthesized, and purified, but I would need another two hours, at least, to dry them down. A lot of water is used in the purification protocol, and I used a freeze-drying apparatus to evaporate all of the liquid. That made it easy to reconstitute the DNA to the desired concentration for experiments. He looked very disappointed, but I promised him I’d bring the DNA to his lab as soon as it was ready.
Later, I found out that he was using the DNA I had synthesized for the hantavirus kit. It worked, and his kit is now used to detect hantavirus. I got a mention in the paper he wrote describing the experiment.* That was unusual. Most of the work I did went unacknowledged. Sometimes the lab itself was mentioned. Most of the time, I went about my days synthesizing, sequencing, analyzing, purifying, and running the lab itself, buying materials, and billing the researchers. They paid me. It was a good living.
*(Rapid and specific detection of Sin Nombre virus antibodies in patients with hantavirus pulmonary syndrome by a strip immunoblot assay suitable for field diagnosis).
Posted in 2000s, medical, My Life, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged: DNA, double-stranded, hantavirus, hantavirus kit, oligonucleotides, research, RNA, science, single-stranded | 1 Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on March 26, 2010
Stopped breathing. Just like that. The ocean had been cold. Much colder than I’d expected from a warm Spring day. It was early in the beach season. The winter had been harsh. Cold currents still flowed past the Jersey shore where my parents had dragged all seven kids. Normally, in Summer, they dragged us out of our comfortable beds early on a gray Baltimore morning, drove us across the Bay Bridge and down to the Ocean City on Maryland’s coast. I had no idea there was another Ocean City in New Jersey, and I have no memory of why we went there.
Me and my brother John had run into the waves, let them knock us over, felt the water churning and rolling over our heads. We never tried to swim in the crashing surf, just dived under the waves and tried to touch bottom. Felt the undertow trying to drag us out to sea. Tried to body surf our way back to the beach. That was our relationship with the ocean. The younger kids were still too young to play in the surf like that. They were walking along the sand, sticking their feet in the frigid water and running away from the incoming waves.
Me and John were the oldest. We did what we wanted sometimes. We were always together: walking to school, serving mass as altar boys in the early mornings, riding our bikes miles away from home, sledding down the steep city streets in winter, building a tree house, or carrying groceries home from the store down the road.
Sometimes, when fighting the wild bucking waves and swift undercurrent, I’d do my best to stay under water as long as possible. John and I were pretty good at holding our breath. I always hoped to see fish, crabs or starfish on the ocean bottom. I was always digging in it, hoping to find something.
I came up after a long dive and didn’t see John anywhere. No big deal. He’d probably gone in. I was freezing anyway. Even my frenetic play hadn’t warmed me up all that much. I headed into the warm dry sand towards my father. I still didn’t see John anywhere. I knew Dad would know where he was. As I got closer to him, I felt funny. My body had instantly started to warm under the 75 degree sun, but I felt hotter than that. My breath became ragged, uncertain. I sped up, saw my dad turn his head towards me, and that was all I saw.
I awoke on my back, but my hair was full of sand. A crowd encircled me. “What happened?” I heard a voice ask. I wanted to know that myself. Another disembodied voice in the crowd answered, “I think some old man drowned.” Old man? At 15, I could hardly look old. My dad was there too, looking down at me. He picked me up. A beach jeep pulled up, and hands grabbed me, loaded me into the jeep. It flew along the sand, bouncing and twisting. Suddenly we were off the beach, on the street. An ambulance waited. I was hustled into it. A mask was pushed onto my face. Oxygen poured into my nose and mouth. It felt good. I didn’t notice anything else, but I wondered where John was.
Next thing I knew, I was lifted onto a gurney, rolled into a curtained-off room. “I’m cold,” I remember saying. It was warm in the room; everyone was in swimsuits around me. The air was humid, but I shivered in all that heat. A thick wool blanket was dropped over me. I shook, uncontrollably. I just couldn’t warm up. “I’m still cold,” I said. Another heavy, dark green blanket was draped over me. I still shivered, amazed that I could be so cold, warm as the day was, and covered in heavy blankets. I felt like a freak. Well, I was, I guess. Turns out my rare allergy to cold had been my nemesis. In recent years, after playing for hours in the snow, and coming in the house to warm up, I had developed swollen hands, fingers that wouldn’t bend, red blotches on my face. But this was summer! Somehow, the cold ocean currents had swollen the muscles in my throat, tightening around my windpipe, cutting off my air. As I warmed up, my breathing slowed, and I relaxed. My parents had my clothes. I got dressed. I remember being back in the station wagon, surrounded by all the other kids, including John, next to me as always. Freaks need their families.
Posted in family, Life, medical, My Life, Writing | Tagged: Baltimore, parents | Leave a Comment »
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on March 17, 2010
I carry an Irish name
just part of my lineage
but important I think.
I got the name from my father
he died – too much tobacco in his lungs
he got the name from his father
he died – bad lungs
too much mustard gas
he got his name from his father
who got his name from his father
a refugee from occupied Ireland.
I don’t know how he died
but I’ll bet he choked on the memory
of leaving his home to the British
the Anglos killed Celtic men women children
took their land
sold some as slaves
no Irish could own land or money
no Irish could speak their native tongue
no Irish could have any other religion but that
of the bloody church of England
No school allowed, no life no culture
Not people slaves
without hope without justice
without reason to live.
They fought and died for freedom
from the bloody English imperialists
who tried to own
the whole world and failed.
They screwed the Irish even harder
took their forests their elk
their land their money
their language their culture.
The English fought the spirit of an entire nation
a people that had fought its way across Europe
survived invasions by Norsemen
by Vikings by Romans
and invasions by the bloody British
’till any sane people would have gone mad with despair
again and again and again.
But the Irish fought back
the British killed them jailed them
took more land more crops more slaves
left the Irish people potatoes.
Their crocodile tears did nothing
for the starving people of Ireland
when the potatoes lost heart.
So the Irish escaped their hell
joined relatives in Australia,
the United States, Mexico, Canada, and other places
Those that survived the trip.
I have their blood in me
the blood of the dispossessed, the beaten, the despised
the hated people who lived in Briton
before the British
who lived as one great people
artisans bronze workers
young and old, male and female
many tribes and clans.
The Romans started the slaughter
started the theft of Celtic lands.
The Brits came and took more and more and
more and more and more and more.
But Ireland still exists
Independence for the southern part!
hope to many
But the British still own most of the land
and the factories
and cling to the stolen land in the North
as if it was somehow theirs to defend.
To defend from what?
from joint rule? from democratic elections?
guilty over their own bloody past
they are afraid of retribution.
The Irish clans and tribes lived their own
life happily if not always peacefully
but it was their land their own fights
they had a system of justice praised
by the Roman invaders themselves.
They remind me of the Native peoples
of the Americas
forced from their land
forced to give up their cultures
forced to speak Spanish, or English
killed and beaten and raped as
were my ancestors too.
I don’t wonder at the Irish names
the Irish names that some
Native Americans carry and the
marriages between Irish immigrants and
Native American peoples.
We are family, after all
we believed in the same things
people land even gods
gods who brought rain and sun
and game and water and fire.
in a simpler time
before the English brought their civilization
to the Celtic tribes
British and Spanish brought their civilization
to the American tribes.
Many of us drink a bit too much
after hundreds of years of
civilized rape murder theft.
and we distrust each other
see skin color as a barrier
as if the invaders ever cared
if we were white or brown or red.
To them we were all inferior
scum vermin heathens savages
We know we are not.
We carry on.
Wouldn’t it be something
wouldn’t it be absolutely fucking amazing
it we saw each other as brothers and sisters
under the skin
on the skin
of our Earth?
Posted in madness | Tagged: green, history, lineage, party, St. Patrick's Day | Leave a Comment »