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Hi-Yo, Silver!

In the 1940s and 1950s, veteran announcer Fred Foy introduced the Lone Ranger on radio and TV thusly:

Hi-Yo, Silver!

A fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust, and a hearty ‘Hi-Yo, Silver!’ The Lone Ranger!

With his faithful Indian companion, Tonto, the daring and resourceful masked rider of the plains led the fight for law and order in the early Western United States. Nowhere in the pages of history can one find a greater champion of justice!

Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear! From out of the past come the thundering hoofbeats of the great horse Silver! The Lone Ranger rides again!”

Americans were introduced to the Lone Ranger, Tonto, and their valiant steeds Silver and Scout in the early 1930s. Today, the Lone Ranger is considered ancient history — just some do-gooder cowboy from yesteryear. More often than not, he is now a source of humor mixed with ridicule, à la Colonel Sanders.

That’s a shame. The Lone Ranger is an appealing character and a man, albeit fictional, of admirable integrity.

The Lone Ranger was created for radio in 1933 by writer Fran Striker and producer George Trendle. The program first aired on radio station WXYZ in Detroit. Within a few years, it was being carried on over 400 radio stations across the country.

Striker and Trendle gave the Lone Ranger a compelling backstory. He is a Texan named Reid, first name originally not given. He is the only survivor of a group of six Texas Rangers, one of them Reid’s older brother Daniel, who were ambushed by outlaws.

Tonto finds the wounded Reid and helps him recover. Thereafter, wearing a black mask made from his late brother’s vest, Reid roams the west as the Lone Ranger, helping those in need and fighting evil and injustice.

The Lone Ranger is a man of impeccable character who follows a strict moral code. He never shoots to kill. He doesn’t drink, smoke, or womanize. His grammar and pronunciation are always precise. He is an intelligent version of Dudley Do-Right, minus the humor.

From 1949 until 1957, a popular TV version of the radio show was aired starring Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels.

Six Lone Ranger movies have been made, the first in 1956, the most recent in 2013. A comic strip, various comic books, and 18 novels also have been published.

The Lone Ranger has given us some wonderful cultural tropes — Fred Foy’s dramatic introduction. The cry of “Hi-Yo, Silver! Away!” Silver bullets left as calling cards. The theme music from the William Tell Overture. A bystander inevitably asking, “Who was that masked man?”

LR&T

And then there is “kemosabe,” as Tonto calls his masked companion. Usually, the term is described as meaning “faithful friend” or “trusty scout.”

The meaning has generated jokes, too. In one, kemosabe means the rear end of a horse. In another, it means “meathead.”

Maybe the meaning is cloudy, but there is evidence of the word’s origin. Jim Jewell, who directed the radio show from 1933 until 1939, said the name came from a boys’ camp in Michigan, Kamp Kee-Mo-Sah-Bee, founded by Jewell’s father-in-law.

The father-in-law is believed to have taken the name from a 1912 book on Indian lore by one of the founders of the Boy Scouts. In the book, the term kee-mo-sah-bee is said to mean “scout runner.”

The term may have come from the Minnesota Ojibwe word giimoozaabi, which means “he who peeks” or maybe “sneaks.”

One last anecdote before I allow the Lone Ranger to ride into the sunset…

After the TV series ended in 1957, actor Clayton Moore began a 40-year career of making public appearances as the Lone Ranger, masked and in costume.

In 1979, TV producer Jack Wrather, who had obtained the legal rights to the Lone Ranger, was preparing to release the film “The Legend of the Lone Ranger,” in which Moore did not appear.

Convinced that Moore’s public appearances would hurt the film at the box office, Wrather obtained a court order that blocked Moore from appearing in public as the Lone Ranger.

Moore counter-sued, and he continued making public appearances wearing Foster Grant sunglasses instead of the black mask.

Moore C

The lawsuit was a disaster for Wrather. Public opinion overwhelmingly was with Moore. Wrather became “the man who sued the mask off the Lone Ranger.” When Wrather’s movie came out in 1981, it lost money and, for good measure, was panned by critics.

In late 1984, Wrather was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Soon thereafter, he lifted the restraining order, freeing Moore to resume his appearances as the Lone Ranger. Two months later, Wrather died.

Wrather’s final gesture to Moore was noble and generous. It was worthy of the Lone Ranger himself.

 

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Last week, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) made a speech on the House floor that was a pleasure to hear and will be remembered for a long time. I chased down the transcript.

———

Thank you, Madam Speaker. And I would also like to thank many of my colleagues for the opportunity to not only speak today, but for the many members from both sides of the aisle who have reached out to me for support following the incident this week.

About two days ago, I was walking up the steps of the Capitol when Representative Yoho [Rep. Ted Yoho, R-FL] suddenly turned a corner — and he was accompanied by Representative Roger Williams — and accosted me on the steps right here in front of our nation’s Capitol.

I was minding my own business, walking up the steps, and Representative Yoho put his finger in my face. He called me “disgusting.” He called me “crazy.” He called me “out of my mind.” And he called me “dangerous.”

And then he took a few more steps, and after I had… recognized his comments as rude, he walked away and said ‘I’m rude? You’re calling me rude?’

I took a few steps ahead and I walked inside and cast my vote, because my constituents send me here each and every day to fight for them and to make sure they are able to keep a roof over their head, that they are able to feed their families, and that they are able to carry their lives with dignity.

I walked back out, and there were reporters in the front of the Capitol, and in front of reporters, Representative Yoho called me, and I quote, “a fucking bitch.”

These were the words that Representative Yoho levied against a congresswoman, the congresswoman that not only represents New York’s 14th Congressional District, but every congresswoman and every woman in this country, because all of us have had to deal with this in some form, some way, some shape, at some point in our lives.

And I want to be clear that Representative Yoho’s comments were not deeply hurtful or piercing to me, because I have worked a working class job. I have waited tables in restaurants, I have ridden the subway. I have walked the streets in New York City. And this kind of language is not new. I have encountered words uttered by Mr. Yoho and men uttering the same words as Mr. Yoho while I was being harassed in restaurants. I have tossed men out of bars that have used language like Mr. Yoho’s, and I have encountered this type of harassment riding the subway in New York City. This is not new. And that is the problem.

Mr. Yoho was not alone. He was walking shoulder to shoulder with Representative Roger Williams. And that’s when we start to see that this issue is not about one incident. It is cultural.

It is a culture of lack of impunity, of accepting of violence and violent language against women, an entire structure of power that supports that. Because not only have I been spoken to disrespectfully, particularly by members of the Republican party and elected officials in the Republican Party, not just here, but the President of the United States last year told me to “go home to another country,” with the implication that I don’t even belong in America. The Governor of Florida, Governor DeSantis, before I even was sworn in, called me a “whatever-that-is.”

Dehumanizing language is not new. And what we are seeing is that incidents like these are happening in a pattern. This is a pattern of an attitude towards women and dehumanization of others.

So while I was not deeply hurt or offended by little comments that were made, when I was reflecting on this, I honestly thought that I was just going to pack it up and go home. It’s just another day, right?

But then yesterday, Representative Yoho decided to come to the floor of the House of Representatives and make excuses for his behavior. And that I could not let go. I could not allow my nieces, I could not allow the little girls that I go home to, I could not allow victims of verbal abuse and worse, to see that — to see that excuse — and to see our Congress accept it as legitimate, and accept it as an apology, and to accept silence as a form of acceptance. I could not allow that to stand, which is why I am rising today to raise this point of personal privilege.

And I do not need Representative Yoho to apologize to me. Clearly, he does not want to. Clearly, when given the opportunity, he will not, and I will not stay up late at night waiting for an apology from a man who has no remorse over calling women and using abusive language towards women.

But what I do have issue with is using women, our wives and daughters, as shields and excuses for poor behavior.

Mr. Yoho mentioned that he has a wife and two daughters. I am two years younger than Mr. Yoho’s youngest daughter. I am someone’s daughter too.

My father, thankfully, is not alive to see how Mr. Yoho treated his daughter. My mother got to see Mr. Yoho’s disrespect on the floor of this House towards me on television. And I am here because I have to show my parents that I am their daughter, and that they did not raise me to accept abuse from men.

Now, what I am here to say is that this harm that Mr. Yoho levied — tried to levy — against me was not just an incident directed at me, but when you do that to any woman, what Mr. Yoho did was give permission to other men to do that to his daughters. In using that language in front of the press, he gave permission to use that language against his wife, his daughters, women in his community, and I am here to stand up to say that is not acceptable.

I do not care what your views are. It does not matter how much I disagree, or how much it incenses me, or how much I feel that people are dehumanizing others. I will not do that myself. I will not allow people to change and create hatred in our hearts.


And so what I believe is that having a daughter does not make a man decent. Having a wife does not make a decent man. Treating people with dignity and respect makes a decent man. And when a decent man messes up, as we all are bound to do, he tries his best and does apologize. Not to save face. Not to win a vote. He apologizes genuinely to repair and acknowledge the harm done so that we can all move on.

Lastly, what I want to express to Mr. Yoho is gratitude. I want to thank him for showing the world that you can be a powerful man and accost women. You can have daughters and accost women without remorse. You can be married and accost women. You can take photos and project an image to the world of being a family man and accost women without remorse and with a sense of impunity.

It happens every day in this country. It happened here on the steps of our nation’s Capitol. It happens when individuals who hold the highest office in this land admit — admit — to hurting women and using this language against all of us.

But once again, I thank my colleagues for joining us today. I will reserve the hour of my time and I will yield to my colleague, Rep. Jayapal of Washington. Thank you.

———

Several other House Democrats spoke after her. They had a tough act to follow.

Few Democrats get under the skin of the conservatives like AOC. She has a knack for making Republican politicians, chiefly the men, apoplectic with rage. They seem to abandon reason when she is involved. Invariably, they accuse her of being a socialist. Oh, the horror.

Who cares if she’s a socialist? More to the point, she believes in egalitarianism, not the “I’m for me first” philosophy of the Republicans. She supports Medicare for all, the Green New Deal, addressing climate change, and not being a jerk to women. Good for her.

The congresswoman has valuable skills, and she is a potent weapon for the Democrats. I hope the party has the sense to use her intelligently.

AOC

 

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My default position on movies is to ignore romantic comedies and chick flicks, most of which are formulaic and silly, usually on purpose. My snooty self prefers intelligent movies — thoughtful films that tell plausible stories in a satisfying manner. In my experience, the good ones come in all genres except rom-coms and chick flicks.

Sometimes, a single scene stands out. I’ve featured some of my favorite movie scenes previously on this blog, namely here, here, and here.

Below are more gems, in my subjective opinion.

———

I Want My Two Hundred Dollahs.”

From “Paper Moon,” 1973

Paper Moon

(In 1936, grifter Moses Pray and nine-year-old orphan Addie Loggins are having lunch in a Kansas diner while waiting for the train that will take Addie to live with her aunt in Missouri. Addie’s mother Essie May recently died in a car wreck, and Moze, who once had a fling with Essie May, has accepted $200 in hush money from the family of the driver.)

Addie (Tatum O’Neal): How good you know my mama?

Moze (Ryan O’Neal, Tatum’s real father): Good enough to know you can be real proud of all the happiness she give to people. Eat your Coney Island.

Addie: You meet her in a barroom?

Moze: Why would you have a question like that?

Addie: I hear Miss Ollie talk to the neighbor lady. They was wonderin’ if you’re my pa.

Moze: Well, don’t the world have a wild imagination. Now eat your Coney Island.

Addie after a long pause: You my pa?

Moze: ‘Course I ain’t your pa. (He pauses.) I’ll getcha some relish. (He retrieves a jar of relish from the next table and spoons some on her hot dog.) There ya are. Coney Island’s no good without relish.

(Addie looks at the hot dog, then glares at Moze.)

Moze: Now, look, I know how ya feel. I lost my ma, too. Even lost my pa. Don’t know where my sister is… Look, I wish I could tell ya I’m your pa, but it just ain’t like that.

Addie: Ya met her in a barroom.

Moze: Just ‘cause a man meets a woman in a barroom don’t mean he’s your pa. Eat your Coney Island.

Addie: Well, then, if you ain’t my pa, I want my two hundred dollahs.

Moze: How’s that?

Addie: I want my two hundred dollahs. I heard you through the door talkin’ to that man, and it’s my money you got, and I want it.

Moze: Now, just hold on a second.

Addie: I want my money. (Then louder) You took my two hundred dollahs!

Moze, as others in the diner turn to look at them: Quiet down, ya hear?

Addie, louder: I want my two hundred dollahs!

Moze: Alright, alright, just hold on. (He smiles at the other customers, then turns back to Addie.) Let me explain somethin’ to ya.

Addie: It ain’t as how you was my pa. That’d be different.

Moze: Well I AIN’T your pa, so get it out of your head, you understand? I don’t care what those neighbor ladies said.

Addie: I LOOK like ya.

Moze: You don’t look nothin’ like me. You don’t look no more like me than that Coney Island. Eat the damn thing, will ya?

Addie: We got the same jaw.

Moze: Lots o’ people got the same jaw.

Addie: But it’s possible, ain’t it?

Moze: No, it AIN’T possible.

Addie: THEN I WANT MY TWO HUNDRED DOLLAHS!

Moze: Alright, maybe we got the same jaw. Same jaw don’t mean the same blood. I know a woman looks like a bullfrog, but she ain’t the damn thing’s mother.

Addie: But you met my mama in a barroom.

Moze: For God’s sake, you think ever’body gets met in a barroom gets a baby?

Addie: It’s possible.

Moze: Dammit, child, anything’s possible, but possible don’t make it true.

Addie, loudly: Then I want my money! (All the other customers are looking at them.)

Moze: Will you quiet down! (Then in a low voice) You don’t have no appreciation, that’s the trouble with you. Maybe I did get some money from that man. Well, you’re entitled to that. And I’m entitled to my share for getting’ it, ain’t I? I mean, if it weren’t for me, where’d you be? Some orphan home, that’s where. You think them folks’d spend a penny to send you east? No sir. But who got you a ticket to Saint Joe? Who got you a Nehi and a Coney Island? And I threw in twenty dollahs extra, plus 85 cents for the telegram. Without me, you wouldn’t have any of that. I didn’t have to take ya at all, but I took ya, didn’t I? (He pauses.) Well, I think that’s fair enough. And we’re all better off. You get to Saint Joe, an’ I get a better car. Fair’s fair. Now drink your Nehi and eat your Coney Island.

Addie: I — want — my — two hundred dollahs.

Moze: I don’t HAVE two hundred dollars no more, and you KNOW it!

Addie, menacingly: If you don’t give me my two hundred dollahs, I’m gonna tell a policeman how ya got it. And he’s make ya give it to me, ‘cause it’s mine.

Moze: But — I — don’t — HAVE IT.

Addie: Then — GIT IT.

(The waitress approaches and addresses Addie.)

Waitress: How we doin’, angel pie? We gonna have a little dessert after we finish up our hot dog?

Addie, staring at Moze: I dunno.

Waitress: What d’ya say, daddy? Whyn’t we get Precious here a little dessert if she eats her dog?

Moze, staring back at Addie: Her name ain’t Precious.

———

“The Prize is Winning.”

From “Bite the Bullet,” 1975

Bite the Bullet

(In 1906, somewhere in the American west, 15 contestants are competing for a large cash prize in a grueling, 700-mile cross country horse race, sponsored by a newspaper. One night during the race, former Rough Rider Sam Clayton and an aging cowboy known only as “Mister” have made camp together. Mister is weak and exhausted, and he admits he has a heart condition.)

Clayton (Gene Hackman) covering Mister with a blanket: Why would a sick old man like you get tangled up in all this? Why in the name of sweet Jesus? What is so important about this gut-twisting, back-busting, man-killing goddamn race? The money?

Mister (Ben Johnson): The prize.

Clayton: The prize IS the money.

Mister: The prize is winning. Lose, you’re nothing. Who remembers a loser, or even cares? Win, you’re somebody. What you done, it’s printed. It’s in the newspaper. And when it’s printed, it ain’t brag. It’s real. Suddenly, everybody knows you, or wants to. Strangers shakin’ your hand. “Pleased to know you. Have a drink. Have a cigar. Meet the wife.” Everybody’s friendly and welcome. And I got a lifetime hunger for being welcome.

Clayton: No family?

Mister, gesturing toward his horse: Him. You know saddle tramps. They sign on, drive the beef a thousand miles. Make your mark, draw your pay, and move on to the next ranch. Another roundup, another drive. Hired, fired and move on.

Clayton: Well, it never bothered me none.

Mister: No, me, neither — when I was 30 years lighter.

Clayton: Ever prospected? Ever hit pay dirt?

Mister: I’ve dug for gold, silver, lead, mercury. I’ve dug more holes than a whole regiment of gophers. Ain’t never dug out a decent day’s wage yet. God, what ain’t I tried? Pony Express rider, Overland Stage driver, lawman, gambler. River man, rancher, rodeo hand, barman, spittoon man, old man. Nothing much to remember. Of course, ain’t nothing much to forget, neither. (He pulls the blanket closer and chuckles.) Nobody’s got much use for an old man. Can’t blame ’em much. That’s why I’m gonna win me this here newspaper race. When I cross that finish line, I get to be a big man. Top man. A man to remember.

(Mister turns and looks up at Clayton, then slowly closes his eyes and slumps over, dead. Clayton stands for a moment in respectful silence.)

Clayton: I didn’t even know your name, Mister.

———

You Smart College Guys!”

From Mister Roberts, 1955

Mr Roberts

(During World War II, the captain of a cargo ship refuses to allow his cargo officer, Lt. Roberts, to transfer to a fighting ship. Captain Morton also refuses to grant long-overdue liberty to the ship’s crew. The ship is in port, and Roberts has convinced one of Morton’s superiors to give the men a night ashore anyway. Morton is furious.)

A sailor on deck, expecting to hear that liberty will be announced: Here we go! Here we go!

Morton: This is the captain speaking. l just found out that there’s men on this vessel expecting liberty. I don’t know how this rumor got around, but I’d like to clear it up right now. On account of cargo requirements and security conditions… which have just come to my personal attention… there will be no liberty while in this here port! That is all. (Morton turns off the microphone and looks at his watch. There is a loud banging on his door.) Come in, Mr. Roberts. Twenty-eight seconds! Pretty good time. You see, l’ve been expecting you.

Lt. junior-grade Doug Roberts (Henry Fonda): Okay, when does this crew get liberty?

Morton: ln the first place, just kindly hold your tongue. l’m still Captain here.

Roberts: When are you gonna let this crew ashore?

Morton: l’m not. lt was not my idea coming to this liberty port. lt seems one of my officers arranged it with a certain port director. Gave him a bottle of scotch whiskey, compliments of the Captain. The port director was kind enough to send me a thank-you note… along with our order. Sit down, Mr. Roberts. Now, l admit l was a little provoked about not being consulted. Then l got to thinking. Maybe we ought to come to this port… so as you and me could have a talk.

Roberts: All right. Take it out on me, but not the men. (A band can be heard playing onshore) Don’t you hear that music? Don’t you know it’s tearing the guys apart? They’re breakable, Captain! l promise you.

Morton: Now you listen to me. l’ve got two things l want to show you. That is the cap of a full commander. l’m going to wear that cap some day, and you’re going to help me. lt won’t do any harm to tell you that you helped me win that palm tree by working cargo. Don’t let this go to your head. When Admiral Finchley awarded me that palm tree, he said, ”You’ve got a good cargo officer. Keep him at it. You’re going places.” And l went right out and bought that hat. And nobody is gonna stand between me and that hat! Certainly not you. Now last week it was agreed that there was to be no more of these ”disharmony” letters.

Roberts: l didn’t say that.

Morton: And what do l find on my desk this morning? Another one. lt says here, ”friction between me and the commanding officer.” That ain’t goin’ in, Mister.

Roberts: How are you gonna stop it?

Morton: l ain’t. You are. Just how much do you want this crew to have a liberty? Enough to stop this ”friction”? Enough to stop writing letters, ever? ‘Cause that’s the only way this crew is going to get ashore, this day or any other day. Now we’ve had our little chat. What do you say?

Roberts: How did you get in the Navy? How did you get on our side? You ignorant, arrogant, ambitious — keeping men in prison ’cause you got a palm tree for the work they did! l don’t know which l hate worse, you or that other malignant growth… How’d you ever get to be commander of a ship? l realize in wartime they have to scrape the bottom of the barrel, but where’d they ever scrape you up?

Morton: There’s just one thing left for you, mister. A general court-martial!

Roberts: Fine, court-martial me! l’m asking for it! lf l can’t get transferred, l’ll get court-martialed! l’m fed up! You’ll need a witness. Call your messenger. l’ll say it over again in front of him. Go on, call him! You want me to call him?

Morton: You’re a smart boy, Roberts. But l know how to take care of smart boys. l hate your guts, you smart college guys! l’ve been seeing your kind around since l was ten years old, working as a busboy. ”Oh, busboy, it seems my friend has thrown up on the table. ”Clean up that mess, boy, will you?” And then when l went to sea as a steward, people poking at you with umbrellas. ”Oh, boy! You, boy! Careful with that luggage, boy!” And l took it. l took it for years! But l don’t have to take it anymore! There’s a war on, and l’m captain of this vessel. Now you can take it for a change. The worst l can do to you is to keep you right here, mister! And here is where you’re going to stay! Now, get out!

Roberts: What do you want for liberty, Captain?

Morton: You are through writing letters, ever.

Roberts: Okay.

Morton: And that’s not all. You’re through talking back to me in front of the crew. When l give an order, you jump!

Roberts: ls that all, Captain?

Morton: No. Anyone know you’re in here?

Roberts: No one.

Morton: Good. Then you’re not to go blabbing this around to anyone, ever. Might not sound so good. l don’t want you to take credit for getting this —

Roberts: You think l’m doing this for credit? You think l’d let anyone know?

Morton: l’ve gotta make sure.

Roberts: You’ve got my word, that’s all.

Morton: Your word! You college boys make such a great show of keeping your word. (He turns on the PA system and picks up the microphone) Now hear this! This is the captain speaking. l’ve got further word on the subject of liberty. lt gives me great pleasure to announce liberty for the starboard section —

Roberts: The whole crew, or there’s no deal! l mean it!

Morton into the microphone: Correction. Liberty for the entire crew will commence immediately. (Loud cheers erupt around the ship.)

Roberts: You don’t have to tell them again. They heard you.

————-

That’s Envy, My Dear.”

From “Harvey,” 1950

Harvey

(In Charlie’s Bar, a doctor and a nurse are trying to convince Elwood P. Dowd, whose best friend is an invisible six-foot-tall rabbit named Harvey, to return with them to Chumley’s Rest, a sanitarium. While they are dancing, Elwood wanders out into the alley. The doctor and the nurse quickly follow him.)

Dr. Sanderson (Charles Drake): Where’re you going, Mr. Dowd?

Elwood (James Stewart): I’m just looking for someone.

Sanderson: Why don’t you come back inside?

Elwood: Oh, all right, if you want me to. I — it seemed to be so pleasant out here. You know, you — you two looked very nice dancing together. I — I used to know a whole lot of dances. The, uh, Flea Hop, and — and, let’s see, uh — the Black Bottom. The Varsity Drag. I don’t know, I — I just don’t seem to have any time any more. I have so many things to do.

Nurse Kelly (Peggy Dow): What is it you do, Mr. Dowd?

Elwood: Oh, Harvey and I sit in the bars — and have a drink or two. Play the juke box. And soon the faces of all the other people, they turn toward mine, and they smile. And they’re saying, “We don’t know your name, mister, but you’re a very nice fellow.” (Elwood sits down on a bench and looks up at the night sky) Harvey and I — warm ourselves in all these golden moments. We’ve entered as strangers. Soon we have friends. And they come over and they — they sit with us, and they drink with us, and they talk to us. And they tell about the big terrible things they’ve done, and the big wonderful things they’ll do. (He smiles and looks at Sanderson and Kelly) Their hopes and their regrets, their loves and their hates. All very large, because nobody ever brings anything small into a bar. And then, I introduce them to Harvey. And he’s bigger and grander than anything they offer me. And when they leave, they leave impressed. The same people seldom come back, but that’s — that’s envy, my dear. There’s a little bit of envy in the best of us. That’s too bad. Isn’t it?

Sanderson: How did you happen to call him Harvey?

Elwood: Harvey’s his name.

Sanderson: How do you know that?

Elwood: Uh — there was a rather interesting coincidence on that, Doctor. One night several years ago, I was walking early in the evening down along Fairfax Street. Uh, between Eighteenth and Nineteenth. Do you know the block?

Sanderson: Yes, yes.

Elwood: I’d just put Ed Hickey into a taxi. Ed had been mixing his rye with his gin, and he — I just felt that he needed conveying. Well, anyway, I was walking down along the street, and I — I heard this voice saying, “Good evening, Mister Dowd.” Well, I — I turned around and here was this big six-foot rabbit leaning up against a lamp post. Now, I thought nothing of that, because when you’ve lived in a town as long as I’ve lived in this one, you get used to the fact that everybody knows your name. And naturally, I went over to chat with him. (Sanderson and Kelly lean in, listening intently) And — and he said to me, he said, “Ed Hickey was a little spiffed this evening, or could I be mistaken?” Well, of course, he was not mistaken. I think the world and all of Ed, but he was spiffed. Well, we talked like that for a while, and then — and then I said to him, I said, “You have the advantage on me. You know my name, and I don’t know yours.” And — and right back at me, he said, “What name do you like?” Well, I — I didn’t even have to think twice about that. Harvey’s always been my favorite name. So I said to him, I said, “Harvey.” And he — and this is the interesting thing about the whole thing — he said, “What a coincidence. My name happens to be Harvey.”

———

We’ll Always Have Paris.”

From “Casablanca,” 1942

Casablanca

(In 1941 Casablanca, police try to arrest Czech resistance leader Victor Laszlo, but are stopped at gunpoint by American expatriate Rick Blaine. Blaine and Laszlo’s wife Ilsa are former lovers, and they are tempted to rekindle the romance. At the airport, police Captain Renault expects Rick and Ilsa to fly together to America. With one hand on the pistol in his pocket, Rick hands the Letters of Transit to the police captain.)

Rick (Humphrey Bogart): If you don’t mind, Louie, you fill in the names. (He smiles) That will make it even more official.

Renault (Claude Raines): You think of everything, don’t you?

Rick: And the names are Mr. and Mrs. Victor Laszlo.

Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman): But why MY name, Richard?

Rick: Because you’re getting on that plane.

Ilsa: I don’t understand. What about you?

Rick: I’m staying here with him [Renault] ’til the plane gets safely away.

Ilsa: No, Richard! No! What has happened to you? Last night, we said —

Rick: Last night, we said a great many things. You said I was to do the thinking for both of us. Well, I’ve done a lot of it since then, and it all adds up to one thing: you’re getting on that plane with Victor where you belong.

Ilsa: But Richard, no, I — I —

Rick: Now, you’ve got to listen to me. Do you have any idea what you’d have to look forward to if you stayed here? Nine chances out of ten, we’d both wind up in a concentration camp. Isn’t that true, Louie?

Renault: I’m afraid Major Strasser would insist.

Ilsa: You’re saying this only to make me go.

Rick: I’m saying it because it’s true. Inside of us, we both know you belong with Victor. You’re part of his work, the thing that keeps him going. If that plane leaves the ground and you’re not with him, you’ll regret it. Maybe not today, and maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of your life.

Ilsa, in tears: What about us?

Rick: We’ll always have Paris. We didn’t have it — we’d — we’d lost it until you came to Casablanca. We got it back last night.

Ilsa: When I said I would never leave you.

Rick: And you never will. I’ve got a job to do too. Where I’m going, you can’t follow. What I’ve got to do, you can’t be any part of. Ilsa, I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you’ll understand that. (She is on the verge of crying, and he consoles her.) Now, now. (He raises her chin) Here’s looking at you, kid.

 

 

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Eye in the Sky” is a pleasing soft rock tune from the 1982 album of the same name by the Alan Parsons Project. The song rose to number three on the U.S. charts, the group’s all-time best effort.

The lyrics are considerably less cheerful than the melody. They tell of the end of a relationship when a man discovers that his girlfriend is not who he thought she was. He feels victorious and empowered, but also angry and disappointed.

Parsons said co-writer Eric Woolfson came up with the title after spending time in Las Vegas.

“He had a certain fascination with the hidden cameras that were there watching the tables, taping the games and what have you,” said Parsons. “It was more than just the hidden cameras. It was also kind of 1984 syndrome. It covers the fact we can never be left to our own devices; we will always be watched.”

Eye in the Sky

Eye in the Sky

By the Alan Parsons Project, 1982
Written by Alan Parsons and Eric Woolfson

Don’t think sorry’s easily said.
Don’t try turning tables instead.
You’ve taken lots of chances before,
But I ain’t gonna give any more —
Don’t ask me.
That’s how it goes,
‘Cause part of me knows what you’re thinkin’.

Don’t say words you’re gonna regret.
Don’t let the fire rush to your head.
I’ve heard the accusation before,
And I ain’t gonna take any more —
Believe me.
The sun in your eyes
Made some of the lies worth believing.

I am the eye in the sky,
Looking at you.
I can read your mind.
I am the maker of rules,
Dealing with fools.
I can cheat you blind.
And I don’t need to see any more
To know that
I can read your mind.
I can read your mind.
I can read your mind.
I can read your mind.

Don’t leave false illusions behind.
Don’t cry, ‘cause I ain’t changing my mind.
So find another fool like before,
Cause I ain’t gonna live anymore
believing some of the lies
while all of the signs are deceiving.

I am the eye in the sky,
Looking at you.
I can read your mind.
I am the maker of rules,
Dealing with fools.
I can cheat you blind.
And I don’t need to see any more
To know that
I can read your mind.
I can read your mind.
I can read your mind.
I can read your mind.

I am the eye in the sky,
Looking at you.
I can read your mind.
I am the maker of rules,
Dealing with fools.
I can cheat you blind.
And I don’t need to see any more
To know that
I can read your mind.
I can read your mind.
I can read your mind.
I can read your mind.

 

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Surreal Times

In my heart, I knew — knew with absolute certainty — that the right-wingers eventually would politicize COVID-19. I know these people.

For them, it is perfectly in character to object to physical distancing and wearing face masks because doing so infringes on their rights. And, for good measure, shows personal weakness.

These are, after all, the white MAGA faithful. These are manly men who brandish guns and Confederate flags in public. These are self-righteous women who cough on store clerks.

I’ve been around for a long time. My memories go back 65 or 70 years. I’ve watched in real time as the American political landscape has devolved from policy disagreements to a conservative right that has spazzed out and gone insane.

The political left, mind you, has changed very little over the decades. The liberal views and goals have remained quite consistent and, for the most part, rational and fair-minded. Meanwhile, the right wing has spiraled steadily downward into madness.

When I was young, conservative Republicans were led by honorable men. Dwight Eisenhower. Henry Cabot Lodge.

But over time, the Republicans morphed into caricatures of themselves. Eisenhower and Lodge became Nixon and Reagan.

Now, Nixon and Reagan have been replaced by a sea of cartoonish villains — McConnell, Cotton, Cruz, Hannity, Limbaugh.

And then there is Donald Trump.

To be clear, Trump is neither a Republican nor a conservative. He is a self-serving leech. But the Republicans, in a veritable pact with the devil, choose to stand with him.

As President, Trump is the personification of incompetence. And he has committed enough crimes — treason chief among them — to have been routed from office a dozen times.

Recently, news is out that Russian military intelligence paid bounties to Taliban fighters in Afghanistan to kill American troops. Trump is aware of this, but voices no objection. Now he claims the report is fake news and a hoax.

My first thought about this was of Trump’s sycophantic relationship with Putin. Trump won’t confront Putin about anything because Putin could ruin him. Putin is Comrade Trump’s banker.

My second thought was to marvel once again that Trump is “Teflon Don,” seemingly immune from being held accountable and ejected from office, as anyone else certainly would be.

The Access Hollywood tape came out, and he won election anyway. Illegally withholding military aid to Ukraine did not bring him down. Nor did obstruction of justice. Nor do daily violations of the emoluments clause.

Now Trump looks the other way while Putin offers cash to kill American soldiers. This is treasonous. Malfeasance. Dereliction of duty.

And the Republicans say nothing.

These are surreal times:

Trump’s shockingly awful and inept performance as president. The cowardly behavior of the Republicans. The fools at MAGA rallies, sitting shoulder to shoulder during a pandemic. The selfish jerks who endanger the health of others by refusing to take sensible precautions.

The oblivious crowds in bars and on beaches. The pathetic government response to COVID-19. The continuing spread of the virus in the U.S. while much of the rest of the world recovers.

I am ashamed of my country.

Trump bounty

Trump 1998

 

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My dad was a career officer in the Air Force, and from 1957 to 1960, our family lived in Stuttgart, Germany. I attended a high school there for American military dependents.

Because of the place and time, life for us male students at Stuttgart High School was heavily beer-centric — the German beer being, as you might expect, of superb quality.

Further, unlike teens back in the U.S., we had unusual freedom when we ventured off-base. The Germans despised and mostly avoided us, so as long as we were smart and stayed out of trouble, we had easy access to the taverns and the beer.

I have fond memories of those days of my friends, the adventures, the occasional misadventures — but it happened a long time ago, and, sadly, much has faded from my aging brain.

Some things, however, are indelibly etched in my memory banks. I was reminded of that the other day when, alone in my car, I began spontaneously singing the chorus of the Hofbräuhaus Song, which every kid knew back in my high school days.

The Hofbräuhaus Song is a German oom-pah tune that celebrates the famous Hofbräuhaus beer hall in Munich. It was written in 1935 by Wilhelm Gabriel (nicknamed Wiga), a Berliner whose other hits were patriotic marching songs for the Third Reich. Most people prefer to ignore that part.

Specifically, I belted out this refrain from the song:

In München steht ein Hofbräuhaus.
Eins, zwei, g’suffa!
Da läuft so manches Fäßchen aus.
Eins, zwei, g’suffa!

Translation:

In Munich stands the Hofbräuhaus.
One, two, drink up!
There, many kegs are emptied.
One, two, drink up!

I pronounced every word correctly, precisely, and with the appropriate gusto. Wiga Gabriel could not have done better.

Here is the German version of the song.

And here is the English translation:

The Hofbräuhaus Song

There, where the green Isar River flows,
Where you greet people with “Good day,”
Lies my beautiful city of Munich,
The likes of which you have never seen.

Water is cheap, pure, and good,
But it thins the blood.
Far better is some golden wine.
But best of all is this:

In Munich stands the Hofbräuhaus.
One, two, drink up!
There, many kegs are emptied.
One, two, drink up!

There’s always some fellow there
One, two, drink up
Who wants to show how much he can drink.
He starts early in the morning,
And only late in the evening does he come out,
Because it’s so great at the Hofbräuhaus!

You don’t drink out of a glass there.
There’s only the “big beer mug!”
And when the first mug is empty,
The waitress Reserl will bring you more.

Sometimes, his wife at home is worried
Because the man is gone so long.
But the good neighbors,
They know better!

In Munich stands the Hofbräuhaus.
One, two, drink up!
There, many kegs are emptied.
One, two, drink up!

There’s always some fellow there
One, two, drink up
Who wants to show how much he can drink.
He starts early in the morning,
And only late in the evening does he come out,
Because it’s so great at the Hofbräuhaus!

Although many other cities have sights to see,
One thing is nowhere else but here:
Munich beer!
He who wrote this little song
Has for many long nights studied Munich’s beer
And sampled it comprehensively.

In Munich stands the Hofbräuhaus.
One, two, drink up!
Where the kegs are always flowing.
One, two, drink up!

There is always some brave fellow
One, two, drink up
Who wants to show how much he can drink.
He starts early in the morning,
And only late in the evening does he come out,
Because it’s so great at the Hofbräuhaus!

———

For details about the Hofbräuhaus, a truly marvelous institution, here is Rick Steves with an overview.

In summary, I may forget what I had for lunch yesterday, but the main chorus of the Hofbräuhaus Song is still fresh in my mind, 60 years later.

Eins, zwei, g’suffa!

Hofbräuhaus crowd

Many kegs are still being emptied today at the Hofbräuhaus.

 

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Random observations / recollections / stories...

———

Staredown

For at least a year after I adopted Jake, I didn’t allow him out of the house off-leash. But I slowly began to trust him, and it was obvious he wasn’t going anywhere. Now I allow him to wander freely while I work in the yard, take out the trash, etc. He never strays far, and all is well.

A few days ago, I heard the familiar sound of the mail truck in the cul de sac, and I said, “Hey, dude, wanna go check the mail?” He executed a vigorous happy dance.

So we walked up the driveway, and I got my mail. When I turned to go back to the house, I was surprised to see Jake in full alert mode. He was fixed in a slight crouch, stock still, eyes blazing, staring at something behind me. I turned to look.

It was a cat, a coal black adult cat, sitting next to a car across the street. He was barely 15 yards away, returning Jake’s stare with murderous yellow eyes. Whether he was confidently standing his ground or afraid to run for it, I can’t say.

Jake,” I said calmly, “Don’t do it. Stay.” He remained frozen, staring at the cat.

Forget it. Stay here,” I told him, taking one step toward the house. “That cat would hurt you. Let’s go.” I took another step.

As if a switch were thrown, Jake emerged from his trance and relaxed. He turned and trotted ahead of me back down the driveway.

I was very proud.

Jake-3-20

———

Disappointment

I’ve been good lately about staying home, physical distancing, wearing a mask, etc., but I still take Jake on regular morning walks somewhere around Jefferson. Also, since the restaurants have switched to takeout, I’ll often pick up lunch somewhere and go find an empty picnic table at one of the parks or schools.

Not long ago, the idea of having a couple of Krystal hamburgers popped into my head. The nearest Krystal is 10 miles away, but, hey – my schedule can handle that. So I drove to Commerce and ordered two Krystals and French fries at the drive-through.

Commerce has a large outlet center whose stores are closed, so I decided to go there to enjoy my Krystals.

Five minutes later, I was sitting on a sidewalk bench at the outlet center, looking out at the empty parking lot, enjoying lunch and listening to the silence.

I wasn’t alone for long. I heard footsteps and looked up to see a uniformed sheriff’s deputy walking toward me. He was a white guy in his 40s or 50s. He carried a long silver flashlight, I assumed making security rounds.

When he got within speaking distance, we exchanged greetings. I made a sweeping gesture toward the parking lot. “This is weird,” I said. “I’ve never seen this place empty.”

Me either,” he said. “But it’s nice and quiet.”

For the next several minutes, we chatted about the new normal, the abundance of birds hopping around the pavement, the warm weather, and the puffy spring clouds.

What would you be doing today if this coronavirus thing hadn’t happened?” he asked.

I gestured toward the row of stores on the other side of the parking lot. “I’d probably be here anyway, browsing in Marshall’s,” I said.

Then the conversation went south.

I’ll be honest,” he said, “I don’t trust the news media. I wonder if this virus is being blown out of proportion – if it’s really as bad as they say.”

Oh, crap. A Fox News type. Jerry Falwell, Jr. is probably his source of information about the pandemic. Man, I thought, are the infection rates and the deaths a fiction? Are the videos of patients and doctors and nurses staged?

But, instead of calling him a moron, I just said, Well, viruses can mutate. They can become harmless or become worse. You never know.”

What a disappointment. We were having a nice conversation, and he spoiled it.

Yeah, anything could happen,” he said. “But I think the news media will do anything to hurt the President. I can see them exaggerating this.” I reached into the bag for the other Krystal and didn’t respond.

Well,” he announced, “I’ll let you finish your lunch. Nice talking to you.”

I nodded, and he walked on.

I finished lunch in a funk. What a disappointment.

Tanger

Weird.

———

Green Anoles

At the corner of my house, beside the garage door, is an aluminum downspout that sits flush to the wall. No light shows behind it. The wall itself is covered with overlapped horizontal siding.

This arrangement, I discovered, has created an ecosystem of nooks and crannies behind the downspout. I know this because one day, I noticed a small green lizard peeking out at me.

Specifically, it was a green anole, a common lizard in these parts. When I was a kid, we would catch one of the little guys, tie a piece of thread around its neck, and tie the thread to a buttonhole on your shirt.

The lizard would sit stoically on your shoulder, or sometimes wander around your back, until you got bored and let him go. Typically, anoles don’t bite, but they’re capable of it, and those little jaws are surprisingly strong.

Anyway, it was a green anole peeking out from behind the downspout, and when I got too close, he retreated into a crevice, out of sight.

After that, I regularly looked for him when I passed the downspout. During the warmer months, he always seemed to be there.

Just when I was about to give him a name, I discovered that he wasn’t my only resident lizard. Several times, I saw two of them sunning themselves.

The lifespan of a green anole in the wild, I learned, is about three years. Because my first lizard sighting was several years ago, it’s possible the original fellow is still around.

This year, now that warm weather is back, my lizards are out again.

Anole

 

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Nate White is a British advertising copywriter. Last year, he wrote an article that explains Donald Trump’s personality and character with remarkable accuracy. I missed it at the time, but recently ran across it online.

White’s description of Trump is gloriously spot-on. He makes my own attempts seem inadequate, and God knows I’ve labored mightily to find words that adequately describe one of the worst human beings ever to besmirch the planet.

Here is White’s assessment of the Orange Vulgarian.

———

Why do some British people not like Donald Trump?

A few things spring to mind. Trump lacks certain qualities which the British traditionally esteem. For instance, he has no class, no charm, no coolness, no credibility, no compassion, no wit, no warmth, no wisdom, no subtlety, no sensitivity, no self-awareness, no humility, no honour and no grace – all qualities, funnily enough, with which his predecessor Mr. Obama was generously blessed. So for us, the stark contrast does rather throw Trump’s limitations into embarrassingly sharp relief.

Plus, we like a laugh. And while Trump may be laughable, he has never once said anything wry, witty or even faintly amusing – not once, ever. I don’t say that rhetorically, I mean it quite literally: not once, not ever.

And that fact is particularly disturbing to the British sensibility – for us, to lack humour is almost inhuman. But with Trump, it’s a fact. He doesn’t even seem to understand what a joke is – his idea of a joke is a crass comment, an illiterate insult, a casual act of cruelty.

Trump is a troll. And like all trolls, he is never funny and he never laughs; he only crows or jeers. And scarily, he doesn’t just talk in crude, witless insults – he actually thinks in them. His mind is a simple bot-like algorithm of petty prejudices and knee-jerk nastiness.

There is never any under-layer of irony, complexity, nuance or depth. It’s all surface. Some Americans might see this as refreshingly upfront. Well, we don’t. We see it as having no inner world, no soul.

And in Britain we traditionally side with David, not Goliath. All our heroes are plucky underdogs: Robin Hood, Dick Whittington, Oliver Twist. Trump is neither plucky, nor an underdog. He is the exact opposite of that. He’s not even a spoiled rich-boy, or a greedy fat-cat. He’s more a fat white slug. A Jabba the Hutt of privilege.

And worse, he is that most unforgivable of all things to the British: a bully. That is, except when he is among bullies; then he suddenly transforms into a snivelling sidekick instead. There are unspoken rules to this stuff – the Queensberry rules of basic decency – and he breaks them all.

He punches downwards – which a gentleman should, would, could never do – and every blow he aims is below the belt. He particularly likes to kick the vulnerable or voiceless – and he kicks them when they are down.

So the fact that a significant minority – perhaps a third – of Americans look at what he does, listen to what he says, and then think “Yeah, he seems like my kind of guy” is a matter of some confusion and no little distress to British people, given that:

• Americans are supposed to be nicer than us, and mostly are.

You don’t need a particularly keen eye for detail to spot a few flaws in the man.

This last point is what especially confuses and dismays British people, and many other people too; his faults seem pretty bloody hard to miss. After all, it’s impossible to read a single tweet, or hear him speak a sentence or two, without staring deep into the abyss. He turns being artless into an art form; he is a Picasso of pettiness; a Shakespeare of shit.

His faults are fractal: even his flaws have flaws, and so on ad infinitum. God knows there have always been stupid people in the world, and plenty of nasty people too. But rarely has stupidity been so nasty, or nastiness so stupid.

He makes Nixon look trustworthy and George W look smart. In fact, if Frankenstein decided to make a monster assembled entirely from human flaws – he would make a Trump.

And a remorseful Doctor Frankenstein would clutch out big clumpfuls of hair and scream in anguish: ‘My God… what… have… I… created?’ If being a twat was a TV show, Trump would be the boxed set.

Nate White, Advertising Creative (2006-present)
Drinks coffee. Writes copy.

———

A fat white slug. Assembled entirely from human flaws.

Well said, Mr. White. Well done, sir.

Trump and Elizabeth

 

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This Runaway Train

Recently, an ICU nurse wrote a harrowing, sobering account about treating COVID-19 patients. Her original story was on Facebook. I found it later on Imgur. It begins like this:

Julianne Nicole

Julianne Nicole continues in great detail about the reality of life in her ICU. She explains how the virus affects its victims and what can be done for them. Sometimes, very little.

Her report is frightening. On Imgur, the first comment at the end of the post was “Dear God.”

You owe it to yourself to read this.

After that, call your loved ones and pet your dog. Remind yourself that your duty right now is to be smart, venture out in moderation, and maintain a safe distance from others. Do it for the common good. It’s a small price to pay.

In addition, listen to the experts. Ignore the clown in the White House. Ignore the politicians pushing to reopen more businesses and public places, consequences be damned.

And, please, when the time comes, vote the way you know you should, for the sake of us all.

Here is Julianne Nicole’s story…

———

I am a Covid ICU nurse in New York City, and yesterday, like many other days lately, I couldn’t fix my patient. Sure, that happens all the time in the ICU. It definitely wasn’t the first time. It certainly won’t be the last. What makes this patient noteworthy? A few things, actually. He was infected with Covid 19, and he will lose his battle with Covid 19. He is only 23 years old.

I was destroyed by his clinical course in a way that has only happened a few times in my nursing career. It wasn’t his presentation. I’ve seen that before. It wasn’t his complications. I’ve seen that too.

It was the grief. It was his parents. The grief I witnessed yesterday, was grief that I haven’t allowed myself to recognize since this runaway train got rolling here in early March. I could sense it. It was lingering in the periphery of my mind, but yesterday something in me gave way, and that grief rushed in.

I think I was struck by a lot of emotions and realities yesterday. Emotions that have been brewing for weeks, and realities that I have been stifling because I had to in order to do my job effectively. My therapist tells me weekly via facetime that it’s impossible to process trauma when the trauma is still occurring. It just keeps building.

I get home from work, take my trusty companion Apollo immediately out to pee, he’s been home for 14 hours at a time. I have to keep my dog walker safe. No one can come into my apartment.

I’ve already been very sick from my work exposure, and I’m heavily exposed every day that I work since I returned after being 72 hours afebrile, the new standard for healthcare workers. That was after a week of running a fever of 104 even with Tylenol around the clock, but thankfully without respiratory symptoms. I was lucky.

Like every other healthcare worker on the planet right now, I strip inside the door, throw all the scrubs in the wash, bleach wipe all of my everyday carry supplies, shoes and work bag stay at the bottom of the stairs.

You see, there’s a descending level of Covid contamination as you ascend the stairs just inside my apartment door. Work bag and shoes stay at the bottom. Dog walking shoes next step up, then dog leash, then running shoes.

I dodge my excited and doofy German shepherd, who is bringing me every toy he has to play with, and I go and scald myself for 20 minutes in a hot shower. Washing off the germs, metaphorically washing off the weight of the day.

We play fetch after the shower. Once he’s tired, I lay on the floor with him, holding him tight, until I’m ready to get up and eat, but sometimes I just go straight to bed.

Quite honestly, I’m so tired of the death. With three days off from what has been two months of literal hell on earth as a Covid ICU nurse in NYC, I’m having an evening glass of wine, and munching on the twizzlers my dear aunt sent me from Upstate NY, while my dog is bouncing off the walls because I still don’t have the energy to run every day with him.

Is it the residual effects of the virus? Is it just general exhaustion from working three days in a row? Regardless, the thoughts are finally bleeding out of my mind and into a medium that I’m not sure could possibly convey the reality of this experience.

There’s been a significant change in how we approach the critically ill covid-infected patients on a number of different levels over the last two months. We’re learning about the virus. We’re following trends and patterns. We are researching as we are treating.

The reality is, the people who get sick later in this pandemic will have a better chance for survival. Yet, every day working feels like Groundhog Day. All of the patients have developed the same issues. This 23-year-old kid walked around for a week silently hypoxic and silently dying. By the time he got to us, it was already far too late.

First pneumonia, then Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS), essentially lung failure. Then kidney failure from global hypoxia and the medications we were giving in the beginning, desperately trying to find something that works. Then learning that it doesn’t work, it’s doing more harm than good in the critical care Covid population.

Dialysis for the kidneys. They are so sick that your normal three-times weekly dialysis schedule is too harsh on their body. They’re too unstable. So, we, the ICU nurses, run the dialysis slowly and continuously.

They are all obstructing their bowels from the ever-changing array of medications, as we ran out of some medications completely during our surge. We had to substitute alternatives, narcotics, sedatives, and paralytics, medications we’re heavily sedating and treating their pain with, in an effort to help them tolerate barbaric ventilator settings.

Barbaric ventilator settings while lying them on their bellies because their lungs are so damaged that we have to flip them onto their bellies in an effort to perfuse the functioning lung tissue and ventilate the damaged lung tissue.

Lungs that are perfused with blood that doesn’t even have adequate oxygen carrying capacity because of how this virus attacks.

Blood that clots. And bleeds. And clots. And bleeds. Everything in their bodies is deranged. Treat the clots with continuous anticoagulation. Stop the anticoagulation when they bleed.

GI bleeds, brain bleeds, pulmonary emboli, strokes. The brain bleeds will likely die. The GI bleeds get blood transfusions and interventions.

Restart the anticoagulation when they clot their continuous or intermittent dialysis filters, rendering them unusable, because we’re trying not to let them die slowly from renal failure. We are constantly making impossible treatment decisions in the critical care pandemic population.

A lot of people have asked me what it’s like here. I truly don’t have adequate descriptors in my vocabulary, try as I might, so I’ll defer to the metaphor of fire.

We are attempting to put out one fire, while three more are cropping up. Then we find out a week or two later that we unknowingly threw gasoline on one fire, because there’s still so much we don’t know about this virus.

Then suddenly there’s no water to fight the fire with. We’re running around holding ice cubes in an effort to put out an inferno. Oh yeah, and the entire time you’ve been in this burning building, you barely have what you need to protect yourself.

The protection you’re using, the guidelines governing that protection, evolved with the surge. One-time use N95? That’s the prior standard, and after what we’ve been through, that’s honestly hysterical. As we were surging here, the CDC revised their guidelines, because the PPE shortage was so critical.

Use anything, they said. Use whatever you have for as long as you can, and improvise what you don’t have.

 As we’re discussing medication and viral research, starting clinical trials, talking treatment options in morning rounds for your patient with the team of doctors and clinical pharmacists, suddenly, surprise! Your patient developed a mucous plug in his breathing tube.

Yes, that vital, precious tube that’s connected to the ventilator that’s breathing for them. It’s completely plugged. Blocked. No oxygen or carbon dioxide in or out. It’s a critical emergency.

Even with nebulizer treatments, once we finally had the closed-delivery systems we needed to administer these medications and keep ourselves safe, they’re still plugging. We cannot even routinely suction unless we absolutely have to because suctioning steals all of the positive pressure that’s keeping them alive from the ventilator circuit. One routine suction pass down the breathing tube could kill someone, or leave their body and vital organs hypoxic for hours after.

Well, now they’re plugged. We are then faced with a choice. Both choices place the respiratory therapists, nurses, and doctors at extremely high risk for aerosolized exposure.

We could exchange the breathing tube, but that could take too long, the patient may die in the 2–3 minutes we need to assemble the supplies and manpower needed, and it’s one of the highest-risk procedures for our providers that we could possibly carry out.

Or we could use the clamps that have been the best addition to my every day carry nursing arsenal. You yell for help, you’re alone in the room. Your friends and coworkers, respiratory therapists, doctors, are all rushing to get their PPE on and get into the room to help.

You move around the room cluttered with machines and life sustaining therapies to set up what you need to stave off death. You move deliberately, and you move FAST. The patient is decompensating in the now-familiar and coordinated effort to intervene.

Attach the ambu bag to wall oxygen. Turn it all the way up. Where’s the PEEP valve? God, someone go grab me the PEEP valve off the ambu bag in room 11 next door. We ran out of those a month ago, too. It’s all covid anyway, all of it is covid. Risk cross-contamination or risk imminent death for your patient, risk extreme viral load exposure for you and your coworkers, and most certain death for your patient if you intervene without a PEEP valve.

You clamp the breathing tube, tight. The respiratory therapist shuts off the ventilator, because that side of the circuit can aerosolize and spray virus too if you leave it blasting air after you disconnect. Open the circuit. Respiratory therapy attaches the ambu bag. You unclamp. Bag, bag, bag. Clear the plug. The patient’s oxygen saturation is 23%. Their heart rate is slowing. Their blood pressure is tanking. Max all your drips, then watch and wait while this patient takes 3 hours to recover to a measly oxygen saturation of 82%, the best you’ll get from them all shift. These patients have no pulmonary reserve.

All of our choices to intervene in this situation risk our own health and safety. In the beginning we were more cautious with ourselves. We don’t want to get sick. We don’t want to be a patient in our own ICU. We’ve cared for our own staff in our ICUs. We don’t want to die. Now? I’ve already been sick. I am so, so tired of the constant death that is the ICU, that personally, I will do anything as long as I have my weeks-old N95 and face shield on, just to keep someone alive.

I’ve realized that for many of these patients in the ICU, it won’t matter what I do. It won’t matter how hard I work, though I’ll still work like a crazy person all day, aggressively advocate for my patients in the same way.

My coworkers will go without meals, even though they’re being donated and delivered by people who love and support you. Generous people are helping to keep local restaurants afloat. We can always take the meal home for dinner, or I can devour a slice of pizza as I walk out to my truck parked on the pier, a walk I look forward to every day, because it gives me about eight minutes of silence. To process. To reflect.

I’ll chug a Gatorade when I start feeling lightheaded and I’m seeing stars, immediately after I just pushed an amp of bicarb on a patient and I know I have at least five minutes of a stable blood pressure to step out of the unit, take off my mask and actually breathe.

Every dedicated staff member is working tirelessly to help. The now-closed dental clinic staff has been trained to work in the respiratory lab to run our arterial blood gases, so that the absolutely incredible respiratory therapists who we so desperately need can take care of the patients with us.

Nurses in procedural areas that were closed have been repurposed to work as runners. To run for supplies while the primary nurse is in an isolation room trying to stabilize a patient without the supplies they need, runners to run for blood transfusions.

Physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech and language pathologists being repurposed to be part of the proning teams that helps the nurses turn patients onto their backs and bellies amidst a tangled web of critical lines and tubes, where one small error could mean death for the patient, and exposure for all staff.

Anesthesiologists and residents are managing airways and lines when carrying out these massive patient position changes. Surgical residents are all over the hospital just to put in the critical invasive lines we need in all of our patients.

The travel nurses who rushed into this burning building to help us are easing a healthcare system. The first travel nurse I met came all the way from Texas. Others terminated their steady employment to enlist with a travel agency to help us. Every day there are more travelers arriving.

A nurse from LA came to me after she found out I was part of the home staff, in my home unit, where this all first started in my hospital what feels like a lifetime ago, and said, “I came here for you. For all of the nurses. Because I couldn’t imagine working the way you guys were working for how long you were working like that”.

During our surge and peak in the ICU, we were 1:3 ratios with three patients who normally would be a 1:1 assignment. And they were all trying to die at the same time. We were having to choose which patients we were rushing to because we couldn’t help them all at the same time.

The overhead pages for emergencies throughout the hospital rang out and echoed endlessly. Every minute, another rapid response call. Another anesthesia page for an intubation. Another cardiopulmonary arrest. A hospital bursting at the seams with death. Refrigerated trailers being filled.

First it was our normal white body bags. Then orange disaster bags. Then blue tarp bags. We ran out of those too. Now, black bags.


The heartbreakingly unique part of this pandemic, is that these patients are so alone. We are here, but they are suffering alone, with no familiar face or voice. They are dying alone, surrounded by strangers crying into their own masks, trying not to let our precious N95 get wet, trying not to touch our faces with contaminated hands.

Their families are home, waiting for the phone call with their daily update. Some of their loved ones are also sick and quarantined at home.

Can you even IMAGINE? Your husband or wife, mother or father. Sibling. Your child. You drop your loved one off at the emergency department entrance, and you never, ever see them alive again.

Families are home, getting phone calls every day that they’re getting worse. Or maybe they’re getting better. Unfortunately, the ICU in what has quickly become the global epicenter for this pandemic is not a happy place. We are mostly purgatory where I work, so this snapshot may be more morbid than most.

These people are saying goodbye to their loved ones, while they’re still walking and talking, and then maybe a week or two later, they’re just gone. It’s like they disappeared into thin air.

That level of grief is absolutely astounding to me, and thaht’s coming from a person who knows grief. I was there at the bedside, I held my young husband’s hand when I watched his heart stop beating. I was there. That grief changes you immeasurably. 

But this grief? This pandemic grief? It’s inconceivable. These families will suffer horribly, every day for the rest of their lives. They might not even be able to bury their loved one. God, if they can’t afford a funeral with an economic shut-down, their loved one will be buried in a mass grave on Hart Island with thousands of others like them. What grave will they have to visit on birthdays and holidays?

Yesterday, I was preparing for a bedside endoscopy procedure to secure a catastrophic GI bleed in this 23-year-old patient.

It was a bleed that required a massive transfusion protocol where the blood bank releases coolers of uncrossmatched O negative blood in an emergency, an overhead page that, ironically, I heard as I was getting into the elevator to head to the fourth floor for my shift yesterday morning; a massive transfusion protocol that I found out I would own as a primary nurse, as I desperately squeezed liters of IV fluids into this patient until we got the cooler full of blood products, and then pumped this patient full of units of blood until we could intervene with endoscopy.

Before the procedure, I stopped everything I was doing that wasn’t life-sustaining. I stopped gathering supplies to start and assist with the procedure.


I told the doctors that I would not do a required “time-out” procedure until I got my phone out, and I facetimed this kid’s mom because I didn’t think he would survive the bedside procedure.

She cried. She wailed. She begged her son to open his eyes, to breathe. She begged me to help her. Ayudame. Ayudame. She begged me to help him. She sang to him. She told him he was strong. She told him how much she loved him. I listened to her heart breaking in real time while she talked to her son, while she saw his swollen face, her baby boy, dying before her eyes through a phone.

Later in the day, after the procedure, his mom and dad came to the hospital. He survived the securement of the bleed, but he was still getting worse no matter what we did. He’s going to die. And against policy, we fought to get them up to see their son.

We found them masks and gowns that we’re still rationing in the hospital, and we let his parents see him, hold him. We let them be with their son.

Like every other nurse would do in the ICU here, I bounced around the room, moving mom from one side of the bed to the other and back again, so I could do what I needed to do, setting up my continuous dialysis machine, with the ONE filter that supply sent up for my use to initiate dialysis therapy. This spaceship-like machine, finicky as all hell, and I had one shot to prime this machine successfully to start dialysis therapy to try to slowly correct the metabolic acidosis that was just ONE of the problems that was killing him as his systolic blood pressure lingered in the 70s, despite maxing all of my blood pressure mediations.

Continuous dialysis started. You press start and hold your breath. You’re not removing any fluid, just filtering the blood, but even the tiniest of fluid shifts in this patient could kill him. But you have no choice.

His vital signs started to look concerning. I could feel the dread in the pit of my stomach, this was going south very quickly. Another nurse and the patient’s father had to physically drag this mother out of the room so we could fill the room with the brains and eyes and hands that would keep this boy alive for another hour.

She wailed in the hallway. Nurses in the next unit down the hall heard her crties through two sets of closed fire doors. We worked furiously to stabilize him for the next four hours.

Twenty minutes before the end of my shift last night, I sat with the attending physician and the parents in a quiet and deserted family waiting room outside the unit. I told his mother that no matter what I do, I cannot fix this. I have maximized everything I have, every tool and medicine at my disposal to save her son. I can’t save her son.

The doctor explained that no matter what we do, his body is failing him. No matter what we do, her son will die. They realized that no matter how hard they pray, no matter how much they want to tear down walls, no matter how many times his mother begs and pleads, “take me instead, I would rather die myself than lose my son”, we cannot save him.

We stayed while she screamed. We stayed until she finally let go of her vice grip on my hands, her body trembling uncontrollably, as she dissolved into her grief, in the arms of her husband.

This  is ONE patient. One patient, in one ICU, in one hospital, in one city, in one country, on a planet being ravaged by a virus.

This is the tiniest, devastating snapshot of one patient and one family and their unimaginable grief. Yet, the weight is enormous.

The world should feel that weight too. Because this grief, this heartbreak is everywhere in many forms. Every person on this planet is grieving the loss of something.

Whether that’s freedom or autonomy sacrificed for the greater good. Whether that’s a paycheck or a business, or their livelihood, or maybe they’re grieving the loss of a loved one while still fighting to earn a paycheck, or waiting for government financial relief that they don’t know for certain will come.

Maybe they’re a high school senior who will never get to have the graduation they dreamed of. Maybe they’re a college senior, who won’t get to have their senior game they so looked forward to. Maybe they’re afraid that the government is encroaching on their constitutional rights. Maybe it’s their first pregnancy, and it’s nothing like they imagined because of the terrifying world surrounding them.

Or maybe they lost a loved one, maybe someone they love is sick, and they can’t go see them, because there are no visitors allowed and they’re an essential worker. Maybe all they can see of someone they love is a random Facetime call in the middle of the day from an area code and a number they don’t know.

Everyone is grieving. We’ve heard plenty of the public’s grief.

I don’t blame anyone for how they’re coping with that grief, even if it frustrates the ever-living hell out of me as I drown in death every day at work. It’s all valid. Everyone’s grief is different, but it doesn’t change the discomfort, the despair on various levels. We are at the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Basic survival, physiological and safety needs. I’ve been here before. I know this feeling. How we survive is how we survive.

Now that I’ve had the time to reflect and write, now that I’ve let the walls down in my mind to let the grief flood in, now that I’ve seen this grief for what feels like the thousandth time since the first week of March as a nurse in a Covid ICU in New York City, it’s time you heard our side.

This is devastating. This is our reality. This is our grief.

———–

Her original Facebook post is here.

How this will end is anyone’s guess. But things will be different for a long time.

This is our reality.

ICU

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Come to Georgia

Despite the threat posed by the illness, which has already infected more than 886,200 people and killed at least 50,360 people around the United States, (Georgia) Gov. Brian Kemp loosened the state’s shutdown, allowing certain close-contact businesses, such as gyms, barbershops, hair and nail salons, tattoo parlors, and spas to reopen. Elective medical procedures can also be resumed.

From Business Insider, April 24, 2020.

———

Friends, are you ready for a satisfying sit-down meal at a restaurant again? Then come to Georgia.

Overdue for a workout at the gym or fitness center? Come to Georgia.

Want to wow your friends again with your bowling skills? Come to Georgia.

Anxious to get that special tat? Come to Georgia.

Planning to get an ear or a nostril pierced? Come to Georgia.

Need a haircut or a beard trim? Roots need a touch-up? Come to Georgia.

Ready for an in-theater movie experience? Come to Georgia.

All set for a relaxing massage? Come to Georgia.

Legs need waxing? Eyelashes need extending? Come to Georgia.

Need your teeth cleaned? Come to Georgia.

Tired of putting off that elective surgery? Come to Georgia.

Got your heart set on attending cosmetology school? Come to Georgia.

Not satisfied by online church services? Ready to slide into the pews again? Come to Georgia.

Friends, if you’re frustrated because the global COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted your life and routine…

If you’re out of sorts because, well, you’re not sure if the virus is really that contagious, really that deadly…

If you’re dying – dying – to return to normal times…

then this is the chance you’ve been waiting for.

You only live once. Roll the dice. Come to Georgia.

Kemp 4-20

Statement by Gov. Brian Kemp on April 1, 2020. Possibly a joke for April Fool’s Day.

 

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