Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year to the F Duck

07:00 a.m. U.C. IRVINE
I pull up to the Carpenter family apartment.  We are excited.  Hopefully, the Falcated Duck will be there at Colusa National Wildlife Refuge, when we arrive in the afternoon.  We have a 450 mile drive ahead of us.
I haven't told Chuck (or my wife!) that the F Duck was not seen at all, yesterday, December 30th, 2011.  Six years ago the Baikal Teal in Santa Barbara County pulled a dirty trick: it wasn't there the Saturday I drove up there, and I ignored my wife's suggestion that I spend the night in Santa Barbara, in case the bird reappears on Sunday.
"Oh, no, Honey.  I want to be home with you and the kids!"
So of course, that Sunday, while I was home in Claremont, the Baikal Teal reappeared. That's why I had to chase the one in Arizona a year ago.
The Smew in Soulsbyville did the same thing, 2 years later: it wasn't there on a Saturday, so I didn't drive up to northern California to chase it, and it reappeared on Sunday.
So I figured that the F Duck would pull the same dirty trick.

08:45 a.m. STARBUCKS, GORMAN, CALIFORNIA
While waiting for my tall mocha with extra whipped cream, I am talking with my wife on the phone.  My cell phone beeps at me, to tell me that somebody else is calling me.  It's Lori Conrad.  I switch calls.
"Hey, Honey, somebody's calling me, it's important." Click. "Hello?"
"Hi Tom, it's Lori.  We're looking at the duck."
"Oh, great!  Hey, Lori, hold on, my wife's on the other line." Click
"Hey listen, I'll call you back, later.  I LOVE YOU!" Click.

Instead of Lori Conrad, my wife is on the phone. Oh My God.  I just told Lori Conrad that I love her.

1:00 p.m. Highway 5, California's Central Valley
We are doing 80 miles an hour, and 3 Yellow-billed Magpies bank in front of us.
Excellent.

3:15 p.m. COLUSA NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE
We pull up to a crowd of parked cars, and are happy to see birders standing in a cluster, their spotting scopes and cameras all pointed in the same direction.
"Is it here?"
"Yeah, I've got it in a scope."
I like that about birders i.e. birding: you can walk up to a croud of complete strangers, and ask a question like that.

While the F Duck napped, we spotted:
Snow Geese,
Ross' Goose,
Cackling Geese,
Greater White-fronted Geese,
Green-winged Teal,
Northern Pintails,
American Wigeons,
Buffleheads, and
Northern Shovelers
Photo Credits: Charles (Chuck) Carpenter

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Elf Is Not Interested in Boobies

Dear Santa Claus,
Please rescue us from our dad.

This, Santa, is my idea of a good time.  This is me and my sister Maggie, shopping for a Christmas tree.
You see the bird looking to the right? It is a Masked Booby.  Dad made us ride down to Dana Point, to stare at this bird.
BOOBY???  Can you believe that, Maggie?  Dad wants to look at a booby!!!
Boy, our dad is embarassing.  He better get us something nice for Christmas.

Yours truly,

Tomi Miko
1st grade
Claremont

Friday, December 16, 2011

A Day in Hell

11:30 a.m.: I’ve been at a factory south of downtown L.A. all morning long. I’m here because the factory received a shipment of exotic metal that was a little more exotic than even they’re used to: it’s radioactive.

This happens more often than you’d believe.

Usually, when this happens, the facility receiving the used metal rejects the load, and we get called. These geniuses didn’t reject the load, and then realized that they were now stuck with hundreds of pounds of an exotic metal used to make Ferrari parts—that they can’t use.

So anyways, I got sent out to their factory to use my fancy portable equipment that can identify any isotope, and generate enough data for my boss to tell them what they can do with their radioactive crap—I mean—scrap. After hours of collecting data, I call up my boss. He tells me to call up this very important physicist in another county. This guy used to be in nukes in the navy. My boss says, “Be very deferential when you call this guy up. He’s a very important person. Be polite. Be professional.”

Actually my boss didn’t need to tell me that—and I suspect that he knew that. I think he said that to reassure himself.

The phone rings.

“This is John Smith!”

“Yes, Mister Smith, my name is Tom Miko. I work for XY in L.A.””

“Who are you? Who? Oh, you’re one of the new fellows!”

“Yes, sir. I am.”

“What do you want?!? I’m in the middle of a live fire exercise! I can’t talk, right now!”

“Oh, okay. I’ll email you, later.”

“Well, what are you calling me about? I’m really busy. I’m in the middle of something.”

“XY wanted me to call you about the radioactive titanium.”

“I’m in the middle of a live exercise. I can’t talk. Are you at the factory?”

“Yes, sir. I am.”

“I’m in the middle of a live exercise. I can’t talk! What are your results? Wait! How much does the titanium weigh?”

Huh? WTF? He wants to know how much it weighs? What does that have to do with anything? I’m holding the phone in my hand, and brain cells that have been doing radiation physics for 20 years are searching desperately for any formulas or equations that involve the weight of radioactive material. I got nothin’. So I said the only intelligent thing to say.

“Uh…um…I don’t know.”

“WHAT? You don’t know how much it weighs?!?! I can’t believe XY sent you there, unprepared! I’ll need to talk to him, let him now how disappointed I am. I’m in the middle of a live exercise. I can’t talk.”

I stand there with the phone in my hand, and don’t say anything.

He says, “Well, write up a report, and email it to me. I’m in the middle of a live exercise. I can’t talk.”

After getting the titanium’s weight from Carl, the ex-Marine who runs the factory, I climb into the Jeep, and drive off with my tail between my legs. I have no intention of telling my boss about this phone conversation.

LUNCH
Okay, no more radioactive titanium for me. I think I’ll drive to East L.A. to analyze that radioactive trash truck that’s been parked in the side lot for the last couple of days (They’re not allowed to dump its contents until I use my equipment to figure out why their garbage truck is radioactive. Typically, it’s something innocuous, with a short half-life. Okay, let’s use some plain English, here: it’s usually the body fluids of somebody who had some kind of test or radiation therapy in a local hospital. Let’s just leave it at that. Probably somebody who just got scanned at a hospital that I just inspected (which is my real job i.e. what I got hired to do—these side trips to garbage dumps are not why my agency exists. The reason we go out to garbage dumps is that if something really hinky ever shows up at one of them (some nasty isotope with a long half-life) we want to nab it before it winds up in the water table).

Okay, so I get to East L.A., where Maria, Queen of the Dump has her paperwork in order. I love that about her: whenever they call me from East L.A. their paperwork is all filled out, with information that is actually useful (One of these days I’ll tell the story of Euphonio, the mumbling King of the San Fernando Valley Dump. He talks like that Peanuts character that nobody understands. My boss actually can’t understand him at all—all he hears is, “Wam woam wam wamp da hospital?”)

So I get out my equipment that is worth more than my car, and get ready to start checking the truck parked in the side lot, when I remember the one reason I don’t like going to East L.A.: the mud. Their side lot is a muddy field. We’re talking about the kind of mud where your shoes make a rude SQUISH sound with each step. Mud that you spend ten minutes scraping off your shoes, before you get back into your car. Mud that a farmer would approve of.

It turns out that the truck is dedicated to a local hospital. Busted! Somebody’s getting a ticket. That’s right, boys and girls: if your local hospital allows radioactive trash to escape its premises instead of (a) holding on to it until it breaks down & is no longer radioactive, or (b) shipping it to an authorized site that collects and stores radioactive waste, and we catch them, they get written up by us. If it’s a particularly egregious incident, we’ll make them drive out to the dump, and dig through the trash truck until they find said offending item, and take it back to their hospital.

Good times, good times.

Okay, I’m done with East L.A., and instead of typing all my reports on my laptop in their office, like I usually do, I’m gonna drive to my office on Wilshire and type it there, along with my big report on the radioactive titanium.

Okay, where’s the card key that will get me into the building?

Here’s the problem: to get into our building, you need 2 card keys that are separate from your i.d. badge. They record when you enter and leave the building and the garage. I keep the one for getting into my office attached to my i.d. badge, and you would think that I would also have the one for the parking structure attached, too, but I have been told not to do that. “Why?” you ask? Well, because the magical secret technology that makes the card keys work will also cause the 2 card keys to ruin each other, rendering them both useless. Okay, fine, I’ll keep it in the car, like my boss.

Yeah, but I have 2 cars. And it’s in the other car. I’m sitting in the Jeep, on a steep, hilly street in East L.A., and picture that stupid card key in the Celica’s glove compartment. The car radio is on, and they’re talking about how a truck full of gasoline has burned to the ground on the 60 Freeway. Oh, shit. That means that the 60 will be completely closed, and everybody who normally drives home from work on the 60 will take the 10. Everybody who takes the 10 home from work will take the 210.

Everybody who drives home on the 210 will be cursing the day they were born. The only way that I will get home is to sit on the 210 with tens of thousands of other cars, their drivers quietly mouthing obscenities in Spanish, Chinese, Hungarian, Russian, Armenian, and Tagalog while violently pounding their steering wheels.

Well, I’ll deal with that, later. Let me get to the office, first. Okay, Stupid, just call somebody else in your office, and ask them to walk down to the parking structure, and use their card key to get your car into the building.

And…how am I going to leave, tonight?

That’s right: you also need that &*^%$#! card key to leave the parking structure. Big Brother is watching you.

No problem, I have a backup plan. I always have a backup plan. I’ll drive over to USC’s medical school, park for free across the street from Lincoln Park, take USC’s employee shuttle bus to Union Station, and get on the Purple Line subway. The Purple Line’s stop at the intersection of Wilshire Blvd & Normandie Ave. is literally at my office building’s front door. Sweet.

Half an hour later I’m in the bowels of Union Station, waiting for the subway car.

WHAT IS WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE?
I am not kidding: every single person on the train was texting or browsing the internet.  While they were updating their FaceBook status, none of them made eye contact, or spoke with each other.


It screeches to a halt, the doors open, and I hop aboard. I have all my work equipment with me, because I don’t want it stolen out of my car, in East L.A. Should I sit down? Nah…it’s a 12 minute ride. I’ll just stand over here. The train zooms out of Union Station, and slides to a stop at Civic Center. It accelerates again, and whooshes in to Pershing Square. Next stop, 7th and Metro. Five stops later, we’re at Wilshire and Vermont, only one stop away from Wilshire and Normandie. Easy. No problem. The automatic announcer says where our next stop is. I’m lost in thought, composing my two reports, so all I hear is, “Wam wom, wem wamp wo.” The train slides away from Wilshire and Vermont. It runs. It flies. It jostles. It screams. It flies. It decelerates. The automatic announcer says, “Now arriving at Vermont and Beverly!”

Vermont and Beverly???

What the hell???

Oh, shit, I got on the Red Line. I’m in Hollywood!

Idiot.

Okay, I’ll just have to take the Red Line back toward Union Station for a couple of stops, get off, and make sure that I get on the Purple Line. Now I’m losing time that could be spent writing reports. I will leave work that much later. As it is, I don’t look forward to driving home from East L.A. to Claremont: that tanker truck fire has really messed up traffic all over Southern California.

I wait at the Hollywood station forever. Forever. FOREVER.

A train finally shows up, and I take it one stop to Wilshire and Vermont, where I get off. This time, I pay attention to the tape recording that instructs those passengers who want the Purple Line to go down stairs. This station is like a mini Deak Ter, the subway station in Budapest where you take very long escalators to different levels, to get on different subway lines. So, now I’m standing in the Wilshire and Vermont station, and I’m thinking, “You know, it’s not that far to Wilshire and Normandie. I should just go upstairs to the street, and walk on Wilshire Boulevard. That way I won’t make a mistake, and get on the wrong train, again.” Nah…not necessary. The Purple Line train will be here any minute, and I’ll get to the office quicker.

My train pulls into the station. It slides to a stop. Might as well get on. Get to the office a lot quicker.

I get on.

That’s when the fucking gauchos boarded the train.

Wait, back up. Let me explain: My best friend*, Juan Mas, is from Buenos Aires. I call him “gaucho”, but that doesn’t excuse the gauchos on the subway.

They had an accordion.

I should stop here. My wife has an accordion.

The thing is, though, that I am now trapped aboard this subway car, and a gaucho is literally occupying the car door, using his accordion as body armor. There is no escape. His wife stands across from him with their baby boy asleep on her chest, in one of those kangaroo pouches. She is clutching a red, wrinkled paper Starbucks cup full of $1 bills, and she does the one thing in the universe that I hate more than my first wife’s mother: she stands there, and gives me the look.

You know that look. The look. The look that says, “You have money, and I don’t. If you don’t give me and my starving baby boy money, then you are a selfish, immoral, materialistic bastard.”

Meanwhile, the husband stares off into infinity with a practiced air of resignation. He starts fingering the keys. He launches into a tango. At 127 deciBels.

At least it felt like it.

Here’s the thing: I am a fat, middle-aged guy with a wrinkled face, plantar fasciitis, presbyopia, crooked teeth, and thinning hair, but I have one thing going for me. I have great ears. My hearing is awesome. When I go birding, I hear birds that nobody in the group—even guys 20 years younger than me—can hear. Yes, Vivek, I’m talking about you. I can hear a Golden-crowned Kinglet’s high-pitched whistling a hundred feet up a Giant Redwood. Hearing is my superpower. If I was a superhero, I would be Ear Man.

So, of course, I can’t stand loud noises. My son is the same way. Being 18 inches away from a gaucho and his fucking accordion while he blasts “Pa’ Que Bailen Los Muchachos” in a subway car is my ears’ worst nightmare.

So I keep on avoiding his wife’s eyes, and wince while he inflicts permanent damage to my left tympanum, because all I need to do is outlast them, and get off when we roll in to Wilshire and Normandie.

Focus, Tom, focus. Get to the office, and write your reports.

The automatic announcer bellows, “Now arriving, Vermont and Beverly!”

That’s when I had the seizure. I couldn’t breathe. I stared at the gaucho, forced some air into my lungs, and screamed, “Vermont and Beverly? VERMONT AND BEVERLY??? I’m back in Hollywood?” OH MY GOD!!! HOW THE FUCK DID I DO THAT, AGAIN?”

Somebody shoot me. Just put me out of my misery. I can’t take it, any more.

The doors opened, and I got off.

I waited 20 minutes for another train back towards L.A. needless to say, when I got off at Wilshire and Vermont, I didn’t take the subway. I walked to the office.

DINNER
Two hours later, having written a beautiful report about the radioactive titanium (my friends who are research scientists would have been proud) I re-traced my steps to Union Station, where I met Patrick, who volunteered for the heroic task of riding home with me in the Jeep. If he wanted to, he could have taken the 6:10 p.m. train home, and been home before I even got to the car in East L.A. Instead, he rode shotgun, and for the next 2 hours we talked about Bacon’s rebellion (not to be confused with the Bacon Rebellion), Peter the Great, and Charles De Gaulle, while we hit every single red light in East L.A., Alhambra, South Pasadena, San Marino, Monrovia, Arcadia, Duarte, San Dimas, La Verne, Pomona, and finally…at 8:45 p.m., Claremont.


That’s right: thanks to Carmageddon it took 3 hours to go 36 miles.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

* Okay, I have 4 best friends: Juan, Dave, Balazs, and Larthur.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Warm Winter's Day

Wow, what a day. Stopped at Hansen Dam on the way to work, and literally the first bird I saw was the Pine Warbler. 

Last two times I stopped & looked for this bird, I spun my wheels to no avail.  Now I know the secret: get there at 08:00 a.m.
Then Joe called, and told me that he's only just leaving Baldwin Park, now.  Oh, man!  We're never gonna start work, at this rate.  This is terrible! I'm stuck in Sylmar, with nothing to do for another hour, while waiting for Joe to show up.  Oh, wait: let me run over to Veteran's Park and try again for the Red-naped Sapsucker.
So, of course, I re-found this bird that hangs out on the frisbee golf course: I realize the photo quality is horrible, but would like comments on Yellow-bellied vs Red-naped Sapsucker.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Steven Colbert is God

Anybody who doubts that Steven Colbert is the funniest man on TV should click here, and watch the segment on vodka-soaked tampons.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Let's Go Kill Some Indians :-)

So, today is Thanksgiving.  You know: the holiday in which we remember the Pilgrims who would have starved to death had it not been for those nice Indians who brought turkey, pumpkin, squash etc., and all the nice white people sat side-by-side with all the nice brown people, and we all lived happily ever after.

Not according to my college anthropology professor.

In lecture he said that the first Thanksgiving was proclaimed by Cotton Mather--or one of those Puritan religious fanatics--to thank God for their heroic victory over the local Indian tribe, who weren't getting with the program.  Apparently, they convinced the Indians to gather inside a Puritan's house, and set it on fire, trapping the Indian men, women, and children inside.

So...while we sit around obsessing over those Muslim fanatics, just keep in mind that it wasn't that long ago that our ancestors did crazy shit like that, too.

Odds are, though, that when Abraham Lincoln and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt made Thanksgiving a national holiday (FDR moved the date that Lincoln had set) they didn't know about the mass execution.  By then history--which after all, is written by the victors--had blurred events.  As a matter of fact, you won't find a lot about this on the internet. You certainly won't hear people discussing this--or even what happened to the indiginous people of this continent, in general--while sitting around the dining room table, tonight.

Food for thought.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

4 Eagles and a Woodpecker

Saturday morning 19 November 2011

We were getting the kids ready for their last soccer games of the season.  My wife's sister, "N", called, and said, "My boyfriend canceled. He can't go with me to The Eagles concert!"

The wife said, "I can't go. Gotta organize the soccer team's award dinner." Next think I knew, I was on the way to Vegas with N.


Some comments:
(1) I have never seen The Eagles in concert.  Let me put it this way: those guys are in such good shape, and have such strong voices, that they don't need microphones. They're all 18 years older than me, and could run circles around me, without working up a sweat.  Glenn Frey looks like he could throw me over his shoulder, and carry me up and down the stairs.
(2) They put on quite a show.  Hats off to their audio-visual team.
(3) Hats off to the trumpet player. His three minute solo at the beginning of "Hotel California" brought the house down.
(4) Wow! I just saw The Eagles play "Hotel California", live!  I never thought that would happen.
(5) Joe Walsh is one serious, kick-ass guitar player.
(6) The majority of the audience members were AARP members, or at least eligible to join.  Three guys and their wives sat in front of us, and they were all Texas firemen nearing retirement age.  They, too, would be able to carry me up and down the stairs.  One of them was wering a Doxa 1000T Divingstar, and I made his day i.e. evening when I recognized the watch. It looked like this one owned by JSTWAZ:

Actually, the part that tickled him pink was the fact that I was not interested in his brother-in-law's Rolex Submariner.

But I digress.
The point is that the band and the audience were all over 50, and having a blast.  It made me feel good.  I just turned 45, and the idea of turning 50 in five years has had me in a panic.

Sunday morning 20 November 2011

After the obligatory Las Vegas all-you-can-eat buffet we hit the road.  I talked the sister-in-law into stopping in Zyzzx, where the Lewis' Woodpecker was ridiculously cooperative.  I actually got the bird for a visiting elderly lady.  It was a life bird for her.


 The rain started in Barstow, and grew worse and worse with each mile of asphalt that carried us out of the Mojave Desert, and toward the big city.  It's nice to be home in a warm house.  While I'm sitting here, somewhere out there on the 210 Freeway the Upland Fire guys are getting soaded while using the Jaws of Life on the lead car of that 4 car wreck we crawled past in the downpour. I hope the Upland boys get their chance to go to Vegas, too, soon.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

You Don't Have To Be Smart When You're Beautiful

Murrieta: a Starbucks on Highway 79.  We are on the way home from our first Boy Scout camping trip, and stop at a shopping center after spending 70 minutes on a rough dirt road that should have never been driven in our Celica. We need to go out and buy an SUV.

We need a shower, and have not brushed our teeth. It was 37 degrees F at 02:00 a.m., while we slept in our tents in the high mountain pine forest. I am seriously ready for a doppio con panna. 

A voice squeeks behind me, in line, "Excuse me. What time is it?"
I turn, and am stunned by a smokin' hot girl in her twenties with long, black hair, high heels, and a mini skirt that calls attention to her gorgeous legs.  Instead of telling her what time it is, I swing my arm to the left and upside down, so that she can see my watch as if she was looking at a watch on her own wrist.

She stares at my watch, a Seiko SKX 781: the famous "Seiko Orange Monster" professional dive watch.
I have no plans to dive down to 200 meters below the surface, but if that ever happens, I'm wearing the right watch.

She stares at the watch.
She squints.
She leans closer.
Her eyes bulge.
She then straightens up, and huffs indignantly, "I can't read it! I can't see what time it is!"
I realized right away what her problem was: she has never studied a dive watch with a rotating bezel that helps you keep track of time.
Don't get me wrong: I'm sure her dad wears a Rolex Submariner, but she has never really looked at it.

She shrieks, "The numbers are all weird!"
Ah...the rotating bezel is still set to when we started our death-defying 10 mile drive on the dirt road, because we wanted to measure how long it will take us to get to the pavement.  She doesn't realize that if all she wants is to know what time it is, all she needs to do is stare at the dial, and ignore the bezel (the rotating outer ring).  Nice guy that I am, I rotated the bezel back to zero minutes, and presented the watch to her a second time, assuming that if the watch looks like this, Princess will now be able to tell what time it is.

Princess turns away from me, and turns on her force field. I no longer exist.  She stares past me at the girl at the cash register, squints at some clock that may or may not really exist (I didn't see any clocks or time displays anywhere), and exclaims, "It's 1:15!" and stomps out of Starbucks.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

That's a Fine Kettle of Hawks, That Is!

Sunday morning, Claremont, Oak Park Cemetery.  So far, this has been a dismal fall migration. Very few passerine migrants, not a single Swainsons Hawk.  Got to the cemetery, and the place was full of Audubon's Warblers, White-crowned Sparrows, and 6 Black-throated Gray Warblers. Even got my First-of-Fall Ruby-crowned Kinglet: proof that autumn is upon us. At 09:15 a.m., an unusually shaped hawk flew behind the eucalypti at the north end of the cemetery, so I ran around to the open, undeveloped part of the cemetery. Cool! Eighteen Swainson's Hawks on their way to Argentina!
Well...at first there were 18 of them, but more and more rose up from the trees in the neighborhood north of the cemetery, and eventully I had over 70 Swainson's Hawks!  The kettle circled overhead for an hour, but I didn't have my car (I had walked the Basset Hound to the cemetery from my house) and I feared that if I ran home for my 35 mm SLR, the flock would be gone, so I called a bunch of local Claremont birders. No one was home except or Rick, who has an ankle injury, and can't walk. Dang it! I took the picture, above, by holding my Android Droid X cell phone up to the left lens of my Swarowski 10 X 42 Habicht (how appropriate!) binoculars.
I took the picture, below, by pointing the cell phone at theat part of the sky had had most of the 70 hawks in one area.  My apologies for the low image quality:

Each one of the black dots in the blue sky is a Swainson's Hawk.

Monday, October 3, 2011

THE INTERNET THINKS I’M GAY

Dear Internet,
 I’m not gay.


Seriously.


I swear, I only like women. Women with drivers licenses, who can legally drink.

 
So why does The Internet think I’m gay? Well, I like to check my emails on The Cloud. I don’t use email software like Eudora that stores your emails on your hard drive. I just let Hotmail and Verizon keep all of my emails up in the cloud. That way, I can access everything, and not worry about it. Whenever I check my emails on The Cloud, Verizon’s email web page has a bunch of annoying advertisements along both sides of the computer screen. More often than not these ads have a bunch of photos of natural and unnatural blondes, with the following text in 48 font:



“UPLAND WOMEN LOOKING FOR PARTNERS”



First of all, why do the idiots at Google and Verizon think I want to run around with women from Upland? If I was going to cheat on my wife, I would want somebody in Claremont. I mean, come on: On paper I have 3 jobs (I turned in my resignation at the ER, last week, and won’t know if I’ll be able to fit in any more shifts at the VA until I get up and running at my new full-time job). I have a wife, 2 kids, a dog who needs to be walked twice a day, and a Zebra Finch who won’t stop bleating every time I walk around in the living room. Between a boys’ soccer team, a girls’ soccer team, Girl Scout meetings, Boy Scout meetings, a never-ending sink full of dirty dishes, a kitchen trash can that fills up as soon as I empty it, and a never-ending supply of dog poop out on our patio, the only way that I could pull off cheating on my wife would be if there was a very lonely, patient, horny Claremont woman who willingly lets me into her house at the drop of a hat.



Other than that, ain’t gonna happen.



Oh, and if I cheated on her, it would devastate my wife.



Maybe I should have started with that.



Anyways, after years of Verizon failing to tempt me with surgically enhanced smiling blondes who are showing a lot of cleavage while smiling seductively into camera, they decided that if I’m not interested in 25 year olds with awesome boobs, clearly I must be gay.


So now every time I check my emails I get photos of tall, good-looking, dark-haired guys with perfect teeth and bulging pecs winking at me.



“SINGLE MEN IN UPLAND ARE LOOKING FOR YOU!”



Great.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

9/11's OTHER VICTIMS

During the tenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks the number of deaths (2,995) caused by the terrorist attacks was brought up.   That's not the total number of deaths.
Dick Cheney--if ever there was a more appropriately named human being--engineered the invasion of Iraq, which had nothing to do with the 9-11 attacks, and has cost us thousands more American lives.  The lies propagated by the Bush Administration have now cost us more lives than the 9-11 attacks.
All of those brave American men and women died needlessly, and we have de-stabilized the Middle East.  The internal revolutions in Libya, Syria, and elsewhere ARE NOT the result of our Iraqi misadventure.  Meanwhile, the money and manpower we pissed away in the Triangle of Death could have been used in Afghanistan, where the Taliban sheltered & supported Osama Bin Laughin' at How Dumb We Are.
Now the Dick has released his autobiography, and has even turned on his former boss. Wow, what balls.
Right now, the economy sucks (a direct consequence of untold $ Billions wasted in Iraq), and all they talk about on the TV, radio, and internet is how Obama isn't going to get re-elected if he doesn't get the economy moving.  When it turned out that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction, and that we invaded Iraq for no good reason, Bush should have lost the 2004 election in an ugly landslide.  The parents, husbands, wives, and children of Iraq war dead should have been at the front of the pitchfork and torch carrying mob that would have voted the Bush Administration out. The people of this country have shitty priorities.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

CAN’T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG?

I have an idiot dog. She’s a cutie pie. I love her. Her name is Gina Bina, and I refer to her as The World’s Most Dangerous Basset Hound. Little do the subscribers to various birding email lists realize that I’m serious when I call her that. When I take her with me to chase a bird—like when that Purple Gallinule showed up in Whittier—I warn people, “Do NOT try to pet her!”



I have a neurotic dog.


She is afraid of people. She is afraid of dogs. She hates cats, and the mail man. There is only one dog in the world that Gina Bina is not afraid of: a small, old, blond, short-legged, wiry mixed terrier of some sort named Simba. Simba and Gina greet each other by smeling each others’ crotch, as dogs arewont to do. Simba’s owner is a small, old, blond, wiry lady named Kate. Kate was in the navy in World War II, so she’s kind up there in years. No matter what the weather, Kate wears a trench coat. No, she’s not naked beneath that trench coat—or at least if she is, I don’t want to know about it.


Gina neither hates nor loves rabbits. She just stares at them with a look on her face that says, “What the hell is that?”


So much for the fact that Bassets are French hunting dogs.


I try to take Gina out for a 1 mile walk at east once a day; sometimes twice, if things work out. During the course of these walks, I carry a gigantic can of pepper spray with me, because the idiot gang members in Pomona are into Pit Bulls, and upon occasion I have run into off-the-leash i.e. escaped Pit Bulls on the prowl. One rainy winter night we ran into a Doberman. After the incident up in Humboldt where a degenerate hippie let his off-leash Boxer attack Gina (his small children were on the birding trail, as were mine, so I didn’t want a bunch of kids to get pepper-sprayed, and I held off until it was too late. Gina now has a tooth-shaped scar on her forehead.) I have sworn that it will never happen, again. As soon as I see a Pit Bull or any other menacing dow, POW, I’m gonna spray that dog in the face.


So of course, last night I took Gina out for a walk, and since it’s finally September, the sun is going down much earlier, and I can’t see any potential attackers until they’re up on top of us. For this reason, when I am walking on the dark stretches of San Jose or Oak Park Drive I have the can of pepper spray in my hand, safety off, pointed forward.


Things were looking good, and we got back to Indian Hill Boulvard. Great. We’re in the home stretch. I clicked off the pepper spray, and slipped it into my pocket. I don’t want a cop driving down Indian Hill Boulevard to shoot me for having a “dangerous weapon” in my hand, despite the fact that pepper spray is perfectly legal to own and carry. Cops in California have the amusing habit of shooting people with dangerous weapons in their hands such as screw drivers, hammers, a garden hose head, or a brick. And they empty the entire clip into you. Just because I’m part Swiss (that explains the blond hair: Hungarians don’t have blond hair), doesn’t mean I want to turn into a Swiss cheese.


So of course, that’s when the black guy with the Pit Bull showed up.


Okay, here’s the problem: He wasn’t a black guy, he was a kid. Bear in mind, it was dark, and he suddenly appeared under the street light. What I first saw was a short black guy with a Pit Bull, and the Pit Bull started lunging at my dog, and the idiot gang member didn’t do anything to keep his idiot Pit Bull from reaching my scared Basset Hound.


That was my initial assesment of the situation, but within seconds as we got closer to each other, and he was now fully under the street light, I could see that he was just a kid, pretty young—maybe 11 or 12 years old, and he was no gang member. But, the idiot kid was still letting his Pit Bull approach my poor, wimpy Basset Hound.


But by now I’m in full “Get your fucking dog Pit Bull away from my dog” survival mode, and we are in the middle of the crosswalk in the middle of Indian Hill Boulevard, and the light is about to turn green for all the cars on Indian Hill Boulevard, and everything is happening way too quickly.


A few more seconds ticked by, and only then did I realize that the Pit Bull was a floppy-eared puppy,and it wanted to go sniff my dumb dog, because he/she was being a puppy (“Hi! I’m a puppy! I love you!”), but now Gina is freaking out, because she knows that something is wrong i.e. her doggy ESP has picked up on the fact that her human is scared.


Now I’m in this awkward situation where I actually want to explain myself to this kid, and apologize for being a fat, white, bald bourgoise suburban asshole.


By now the light has turned green, and some dumbass in a huge 1970s American car is barreling down the street at me and the dog in the dark, and I can tell that this idiot is probably on the cell phone, and not paying attention (people drive way the hell too fast on Indian Hill Blvd, way over the legal speed limit)—and why should he pay attention—when the light is green and nobody would be stupid enough to stand in traffic in the dark of Indian Hill Boulevard, any way.


I had to stop, and go backwards to keep the moron from hitting us. Far too late, he screeched to a semi-halt, and then—incredibly—sped up again, instead of letting me reach the sidewalk in safety.


At this point the black kid and his puppy had disappeared into the darkness.


Here’s the thing: that black kid could have been my son.


When I broke up with my first wife I had a torrid affair with a friend in graduate school, who was breaking up with her boyfriend. She was an immigrant from a former British colony, and she spoke with an accent. I know she was in “I need to marry an eligible guy and have a kid before it’s too late” mode (there are a lot of 30 to 40 year old women out there like that) and I truly don’t think race was an issue in our relationship. Because she, too, was an immigrant, we shared the same perspective on a lot of topics; so despite the fact that she was black and I was white, we had more in common than I would have with a lot of American white chicks. I think our relationship was serious and genuine (and a lot of fun) but it was the post-breakup relationship for both of us, and she got cold feet. Then, of course, she did what other women have done to me: realize one to two years later that they should have kept me, and show up unannounced. P waited a good solid two years, so imagine her surprise when I told her that I needed to hang up now, as I was carpooling home with my wife.


Oh, well.


To me, a bigger issue than race in what happened last night is social class. His parents came home from work, and told him to go take the dog for a walk. Or maybe he wanted to get out of the house with his puppy. Either way, some grown-up let a teenage black kid (he was a boy, but you can’t say “black boy” without someone jumping at the opportunity to accuse you of being a cracker) decided that it was okay to let him walk around in the dark with a Pit Bull. I think that’s some bad parenting.


Somebody out there is going to jump up and shout, “See! That’s what’s wrong with America: a Back Man can’t walk his choice of dog without getting profiled!” Well, fine, but this was a kid, not a grown-up. I feel confident in claiming that most of my Black friends willagree with me.

Black? African American?  Well, I use the word "Black" for short-hand because when I was growing up, that was the polite term that African Americans found acceptable.  "African American" actually makes more sense, because Black People come in such a ridiculous cross-section of skin color and physiogonomy that I have seen way too many "Black" People whose skin is literally the same color as mine, but their faces have an African (anthropologistsuse the term "Africanoid") structure or features.

I think the best thing for America would be if all of the "White" Americans came to grips with the fact that well over 90% (personally I suspect that it is truly 100%) of African Americans are part white; specifically English, Irish, Scottish, French, or Dutch: the nationalities of the colonists and ailors who bought, shipped, and used African slaves. I have met Filipinos and Mexicans in America with Hungarian last names that they brought to America, but I have never met an African American named Kovacs, Nagy, Toth, or Balogh.
The point is that so many different factors went into play when that kid randomly crossed the same street that I did, that you can’t just pigeonhole his or my actions into neat little categories. Life is neither ‘black and white,’ nor ‘black or white’.


Friday, August 12, 2011

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A NUCLEAR MED TECH

04:30 a.m.
Alarm clock. Oh, god. Okay. Metamucil? Check. Espresso? Check. Lunch? Out of the fridge, into the backpack. Hot shower. Wife and kids snore merrily, while I get dressed in the dark. The Basset Hound lifts her head, gives me a sad look that says, “See you in 14 hours.” and goes back to sleep. Hope the Jeep starts (I really, REALLY need a new SUV).
05:26 a.m. come to a screeching, sliding stop at the Claremont train station. Huff, puff, huff. Quick, punch the ticket! Kersleeck! Now I’m legal. HOOONNK! Whoosh. The train glides to a stop. Now, what page was I on last night, on the way home? Oh yeah, the girl doesn’t know that the bad guys swiped the hero's phone, and sent her that text message, to lure her to that alley.

06:40 a.m.
Metro Purple Line subway station, deep under Union Station. Yes, boys and girls, L.A. really does have a subway system. We Pelham 1-2-3 all the way to the corner of Wilshire and Western: Koreatown. Quick! Up the escalator!
Bus stop.


Mexican ladies pretending to be homeless, so they can sell tamales and horchata out of their shopping cart. Maybe I’ll get one, tomorrow. Here comes the express Santa Monica bus. Time to elbow all of the El Salvadoran housekeepers aside, lest they do the same to me. Here you go, ma’m, $1.50 for you. Clink, jingle clink. Today I use a bunch of quarters. Yesterday, for laughs I used all dimes. Is there a seat? Can I sit somewhere? No? Okay, I’l stand in front of the young Filipino dude with porcupine hair who is always asleep by the time I get on the bus. His shirts are perfect. Each day, while he snores, he amazes me by not falling to the ground. Miraculously, he wakes up every morning as the bus stops at UCLA. Later, dude!
07:15 a.m. Well, I’m here at the Westwood Veterans Administration Hospital 45 minutes too early. Problem is, if I take the 05:48 train, I’ll get here late. Okay. Walk out onto the huge grassy lawn, and get the binos out. The Cassin’s Kingbirds fight in the eucalyptus with the Mockingbirds, while Yellow-chevroned Parakeets squabble with House Finches in the white ash. Uh, oh. Here comes Angry Young Veteran Dude, rolling down the sidewalk in his Iraq War wheelchair. Go ahead, don’t come to a full stop at the crosswalk, in your car. Make him wait while you turn your steering wheel to the right. Piss him off. He’ll give you the finger and scream, “ASSHOLE!” in a heartbeat. Same as yesterday morning. And the morning before that.

07:30 a.m. The cute Starbucks girl on the hospital’s first floor smiles at me and asks, “Double espresso with two packets of brown sugar?” I smile, and nod. I am surrounded by men in baseball caps. Each cap informs the world what war or what service—sometimes both—the wearer was in.

Vietnam. Korea. Vietnam. WWII. Korea. Vietnam. Marine Corps. 101st Airborne. Navy SEALs. 1st Armored Division.

To wear one of these hats, you have to have gray hair. There are young veterans here (some of them are girls), but they don’t wear baseball hats that say “Iraq” or “Afghanistan”. They will, one day. Right now, their heads are still spinning. They can’t believe they’re alive, and in West L.A.


A man in his late 70s passes me in the hallway. He is wearing jungle boots, tiger stripe camo, and his green beret is perfect. Fifth Special Forces. Shit. Did he know Sergeant Major Gatewood? Do I dare ask him? I play it safe, and wimp out. Don’t laugh: he can still kick the ass of anyone reading this blog.


Anyone.


08:00 a.m. Down to the basement, where cell phones don’t work. The next 8 hours will be a blur. Because I am the registry tech, I get worked like a dog.


The three nuclear radiologists are a Korean, an Iranian, and an Iraqi:


I do cardiac scans all day long, humping old guys onto and off of TWO scanners, in two rooms. My whole day is spent runnning in a nuclear cardiology version of the triangle trade: Go to the injection room, start an i.v. on Mr Goldberg. Is the i.v. good? Good. Inject him with 8 milliCuries of Technetium 99m labelled MIBI. Let me see, I injected Mr Jones 10 minutes ago. Let me get him on the scanning table. Pull up your shirt, Mr Jones, I need to put three EKG leads on your chest. Do I have a signal? Good. Now the computer can use your EKG like a timing belt, to make sure your cardiac scan comes out right. Wait, let me type in your info. Okay, don’t move, it’s only 16 minutes.That’s right, you need to keep your left arm up, the whole time. Don’t move! Keep your arm up! DON’T MOVE! Mr Jones, I need to go check on the patient next door. Yes, sir. I’m scanning patients in two rooms. Mr Conti, how are you? Your scan is amlost done. Okay, we’re done. You can put your left arm down, now. Stay on the table, I need to look at your scan, and make sure you didn’t move. Okay, click, select, click, re-select patients, select Conti, proceed, cine. Yes, Mr Conti, that’s your chest on the computer screen. You did a good job of not moving. Now let’s go back across the hall, and do your stress test. But hold on, a second. I’ll be right back. Mr Jones? Yeah, we’re done. Put your arm down. I’ll be right back. I promise. Unless I forget. Oh, god, I need to get Mr Goldberg onto the other camera.

I help Mr Conti off the scanning table.  He says, "Thanks for puttin' all those extra pillows for me.  My back is full of shrapnel. I was in the first wave on Omaha Beach.  The Germans got me in the back. I laid there in the sand for 28 hours." 

Wow.


4:30 p.m. Oh, god, I gotta catch that 4:40 p.m. express bus. If I don’t, I won’t get to Koreatown in time to catch the right subway train to Union Station and I’ll miss the 6:00 p.m. train. If I miss the 6:00 o’clock train, I’ll have to hang out at Union Station with crazy homeless guys and tourists from Arkansas until I get on the 7:00 p.m. train. Whew! Here comes the big red bus! I’m gonna make it!

Every afternoon, as I run through the parking lot, I see this sign in the driveway. Am I the only person who sees the irony in it?




7:20 p.m. I turn my key in the kitchen door. The Basset Hound runs up to me, and barks three times, to inform me that she needs to poop, and I need to hurry up and hook the leash onto her collar. I have been wearing these sweaty, salty, sticky scrubs since 5:00 this morning. Ah, forgetaboutit. I’ll get out of the scrubs when we get back, I feed the dog, and take a shower.


10:00 p.m. I need to sleep. I need to fall asleep. I can’t! Shit, I’m wide awake. Now I’m getting worked up over the fact that I will be tired, tomorrow, because I will get less than 6 hours of sleep. This, of course, keeps me awake.


11:35 p.m. Jay Leno is making fun of his usual targets. The president, congress, and Michael Jackson. I grope for the remote control, and turn off the tv. Oh god, somebody help me off this sofa. I’m sooo tired. Why didn’t I go to bed at 8:00 o’clock?


04:30 a.m. Alarm clock. Oh god, here we go, again…

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Curlew Sandpiper

STOP THE MADNESS! 
I mean, really.  Too many "Siberian" i.e. Eurasian birds have been taking a wrong turn this year, and keep showing up in California. (By the way, birders in Hungary, Holland, and Hong Kong go running when an American bird like a Franklin's Gull or a Baird's Sandpiper shows up)

First there was the Bean Goose, then the Brown Shrike.  Then the Mongolian Plover, then the Little Stint.  And now, of course, your standard-issue Hungarian bird (as is the Little Stint): a Curlew Sandpiper.  He should be spending the winter in Australia.
To make matters worse, while we're staring across the Imperial Beach salt works through our scopes at the Curlew Sandpiper, through the heat haze, I am reading the email about the Spotted Redshank in Del Norte County.

Ten bucks says that one shows up in the L.A. River on August 5th.
Curlew Sandpiper, Caldris ferruginea (second bird from the left, to the right of the Red Knot)
26 July 2011
Imperial Beach, San Diego California
Nikon Coolpix 10 Megapixel taken through Brunton 80 mm spotting scope

There's only one thing to do after seeing a Curlew Sandpiper in Imperial Beach: go splash in the surf, then eat.

"Dada, is he dead? He won't talk to me."

Then, of course, it's time for desert:
"Hey, look!  They named it after me!"

Monday, July 25, 2011

Aprópartfutó (Calidris minutus) Los Angelesben

Ennye, ennye, aprópartfutó.  Mit keresel Los Angelesnek a sivatagi külterületén?
Little Stint, Calidris minutus
Piute Ponds
Edwards Air Force Base
24 July 2011
Nikon Coolpix 10 Megapixels
digiscoped through
Brunton 80 mm scope
Szegény Varga Csabát nem is vihettem oda, ahol futkorászol a sárban.
Hát mondjuk, a Csabát ismerve, még ha felájnlottam volna neki, hogy oda visszem, nemet mondott volna.
Majd legközelebb!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Pseudocryptozoology

     Cryptozoology is the search for i.e. study of elusive creatures like the Yeti, Sasquatch, and the Loch Ness Monster.      
     Well, keep on looking, 'cause they don't exist.  Neither do the Chupacabra, or little green men from outer space.
     I have decided to search out 3 creatures that do exist, but have been seen by less than 0.00001% of California residents, despite the fact that they are known to be permanent, year-round residents of the state:

1)     Bassariscus astutus,
2)     Sauromalus ater, and
3)     Heloderma suspectum

The word I am coining for this search for elusive, yet real animals is counter-intuitive, but I think it works: Pseudocryptozoology shall be the antithesis of cryptozoology.  Instead of searching for creatures that are hard-to-find because they don't exist, I am searching for creatures that are hard to find, even though they exist in large numbers.

I am going to start with Bassariscus astutus.  There is a population of them on and around Mount Baldy.  For this particular search I bought a 2 million candlepower, rechargeable, hand-held searchlight.  I will try this Tuesday night, and will probably leave a couple of piles of fresh fruits and vegetables for them at likely spots (probably Glendora Ridge Road, and Ice House Canyon), with the aim of spying on them Wednesday night.

Wish me luck.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

I MISS MY MOM, DRAGON ZSUZSI

NOTE: in Hungarian, you say family names, first.  In Hungary I am Mikó Tamás [pronounced tuh-maash], so my mother, Susanna Dragon, was Dragon Zsuzsanna.

Today, July 12th, 2011 is the tenth anniversary of my mother's death

Máma van a 10.ik évfordulója anyám halálának.


San Pedro, California 1988


 I want to write a long,  articulate essay about her, and our relationship.  I want to repeat her stories of her childhood in rural Hungary.  That would turn into a 400 page book.  She was born in Makó, Hungary, the birthplace of Joseph Pulitzer, father of the Pulitzer Prize. 

When she was a kid, her family had the only telephone in Makó.  When she was 12 years old, she rode in an automobile for the first time, in her life. Her father was the vice-president of the local bank, and the bank's safe got stuck closed, so they talked the warden of the Star Prison (Csíllag Börtön) in Szeged into releasing a famous safecracker.  My grandfather, Dragon Kálmán , my mother, a prison guard, and the safecracker (in handcuffs and leg irons) rode 30 miles from Szeged to Mako, where it took the safecracker a few minutes to open the safe.

During the Depression, my family were the haves, as opposed to the have-nots.  My mother grew up with her mother directing the maids and cooks in their daily activities.  She used to tell funny stories of when they would catch a maid stealing silverware, socks, or underwear.  Then, World War II and all of its horrors came, and the next thing she knew, she was an 18 year old bride and mother in a country now occupied by Russian troops.  Ten years after that, she was a divorceé (being a divorced woman in the 1950s was scandalous) working as a lab tech in the Budapest Heim Pál childrens' hospital, when she and her 10 year old son were cowering in the basement while the Russians bombed Budapest to pieces for rising up against the Communist Hungarian dictatorship.  Buildings collapsed to the left and right of them.  The basement they were in filled with smoke from the fire, next door, and my grandfather had to decide whether to risk getting his family shot by Russian troops on the street, or being enveloped in flames.  When the shooting supposedly stopped, her brother, Dragon Béla, saw the Russians mow down a line of people standing in line for food  at a bakery, with the heavy machine gun mounted on the turret of a T-54 tank.

Despite losing the 1956 revolution, Stalinist hard-core Communism ended in Hungary, but my mother and my father (her second husband), Mikó Géza, left in 1964, eventually arriving in Los Angeles in 1967.  The Communists wouldn't let my brother leave Hungary, and they confiscated my father's condominium because he left Hungary illegally.
In Los Angeles, disaster struck.  We had been here a year, and my father suddenly died of a brain tumor.  Here she was in this big, strange country, alone with a 2 year-old kid.

To make matters worse, her heart--damaged when she was 12 years old by a bout of scarlet fever, worsened each year.  During her 15 year marriage to my stepfather, her heart grew weaker and weaker.  Walking up the 3 flights of stairs from the garage to our second story San Pedro apartment was the equivalent of climbing Everest.

One Friday day in June of 1995 I called her from LA County-USC Medical Center, to let her know that I was leaving work in 5 minutes, and would be home in San Pedro in time to take her to the bank (this was before the internet existed, and you did your banking on-line).  She said, "Okay.  See you when you get home."

When I got home, she was sprawled out on the bathroom floor, naked, bloody-mouthed, and paralyzed.   Her left leg was twisted underneath her body, at an impossible angle.  A tooth as missing where she had slammed her face into the counter.  She had a massive stroke.

She spent the next 6 years in convalescent homes.  That's ironic, because she had made me promise when I was a kid that I would never put her into a convalescent home.  Her first job in America--because she arrived not knowing a word of English--was as a nurse's aide in a convalescent home.  She told me horrible stories. For 6 years, strangers--other female immigrants with little-to-no English--rolled her in different directions every few hours, to avoid bed sores.  I spent at least half an hour visiting with her every day, without fail.  My visits were the highlight of her day.  I would hold her left hand while we watched Jeopardy, or the news, or tell her about what happened at work, today.

Her condition got worse, over the years.  During the hot summer of 2001 her doctor called my cell phone while I was at work, and discussed my mom's ever-worsening condition.  She had been in and out of the hospital with infections, with a breathing tube down her throat, and i.v. antibiotics trying to fight off the inevitable.  Septicemia wanted to take her away.  The doctor said that all we were doing was forcing my mom to continue to live, so that she could suffer. She suggested that we discontinue the antibiotics, and give her morphine.  In my heart, I knew she was right.

On July 12th, 2001 the phone rang at 04:00 in the morning.

I knew who was calling, and why.

"Hello?"

"Mr Miko, this is Darlene at Huntington Memorial Hospital.  I'm sorry, you're mother passed away a few minutes ago."

"Thank you.  I'll be there in twenty minutes."

I put on my best suit, and leather shoes.  Why?  Why not just go in jeans and a t-shirt?  I don't know, but that's what I did.

I decided to take her ashes to Hungary. I figured that was where she would want to be.  To rub salt in my wounds, I was supposed to take her ashes home in the early fall, and September 11th happened.  That delayed everybody's plans, and I finally took her ashes to Budapest in February of 2002.  The mass was scheduled in a beautful church in downtown Budapest, that had a space for her in the crypt downstairs, and when the priest started, it all came pouring out of me.  I cried like a baby.

A lot has changed in my life in the last 10 years.  Wow.  Ten.  Such a big number.  Having no children, and no family at all in the U.S., I dovorced my Hungarian first wife, who was sticking to her pledge to never have children.  I moved to Claremont, got a dog, changed jobs, met my wife, and now there is a blond 6 year old and his 5 year old sister who want me to take them out to the pool.

When I look at my 5 year old daughter, sometimes she rolls her eyes with disdain in a certain way that so remarkably resembles my mother that the first time she did it, I realized something wonderful: I got my mom back.

Monday, July 11, 2011

LIFE IN THE ER PART 375: DEGENERATE SOUTHERNERS

Okay, I wanna know one thing: what’s the deal with Southerners who get drunk, and wind up in the hospital?

I mean, really.

Have they still not gotten over losing the Civil War? Was Sherman’s March to the Sea so devastating, that to this day, the only way Johnny Reb can deal with it is to drink copious amounts of alcohol, and carry out symbolic acts of ritual suicide?

So I got an x-ray request for a dude with a name that caused me to assume that he was African American. First clue that a white guy is from The South: his first and/or last name cause you to assume that he’s black. Imagine my surprise when I found him, and he was a white dude with—and this is ultimate proof that there is no God—a full set of beautiful hair.

He’s lying there on the gurney, moaning in pain with a sports injury. It happens. I ask him some questions, and he tells me, “Mah friend done pulled ahn me, and it popped out.”

Then he he wiggles, and starts screaming, “Durn! Durn! Oh mah Lord! Oh, it truly hurts crazy!”

I wheel him over to radiology, where I employ 20 years’ worth of experience in how to x-ray severely injured people while moving their body parts as little as possible.
This is my superpower. If I was a superhero, I would have “ICXYWMY” across my chest (I Can X-ray You Without Moving You).

His injury was very real, but (1) he had a bruise on that part of his body that was 4 days old [I am an expert on bruising, just ask my wife] (2) he reeked of alcohol, and (3) he had swim trunks on, so I think this is what happened: He and his friends got drunk 4 days ago, went swimming, did something stupid, he got hurt, and for the last 4 days he’s been drinking Wild Turkey and tryin’ to wahk it auff.


Needless to say, despite my expert radiographic handling, he done hollered and screamed so loud while I x-rayed him that coon dogs in Pascagoula howled in sympathy.

He kept screaming, “Durn! Durn! Oh, gosh! Gosh, dang nabbit! Oh Lord, this pain is silly!” until I got the right views, and took him back. Unfortunately, despite the ER doc’s best efforts, his injury was still out of alignment, even after I x-rayed him a second time (DURN! Oh mah goodness!) calling for the intervention of a specialist.

So my wife dropped by with a Starbucks grande mocha with extra whipped cream (my own private form of heroin) and Forrest Gump’s friend had arrived. His friend had an equally Southern name—ripped from the pages of a Faulkner novel. With a military moustache, white t-shirt, a camouflage baseball hat, and a good solid 20 to 25 teeth still in his possession, he smiled at J the ER nurse and shouted a warm Southern Greeting:

“HI! REMEMBAH ME? I WAS THE DRUNK GUY, MONDAY NAHT!”

Not skipping a beat, J droned, “Sir, this is an ER. We get a lot of drunk people here.