Thursday, May 29, 2008

Old School American Idols

This morning I'm home. I turned on the Today Show to hear Scott McClellan, former White House Press Secretary, explain why he is dissing his old boss--like that's hard--and I also saw the American Idols, Archuleta and Cook.

All three of those guys can sing! Well, McClellan sang only in a manner of speaking, but the two young Davids actually have good voices, good for the material they choose.

But if you want to talk about good voices, you go back over 50 years to The Platters. I used to listen to this music on the radio, but it was all over the place and I couldn't appreciate it like I can now. You look at the presence this group had, their harmonies, the outstanding lead vocal. This is Old School music at its best, great doo wop, great ballads.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Iron Sky

My friend Karswell sent me this video teaser for a new Internet movie that is coming to a computer monitor near you.

Intriguing teaser, wot? It is nothing like, but reminds me of a novel, Vengeance 10 by Joe Poyer, published in 1980. Americans land on the moon only to find a Nazi rocket of the V-class, crashed on the moon with a man inside.

Not only do we have Vengeance 10, we have Space Western, a comic from 1953 featuring Spurs Jackson, a cowpoke on Mars, battling Nazis who escaped to the Red Planet after the war.

Considering we got into space using the work of scientists who had been working for the Nazis during World War II it seems only natural to be entertained by stories like these.

Friday, May 23, 2008


Like more than a few other people I watched the finale this week of American Idol, the only actual time I've watched the program from beginning to end. I fed into the hype and I guess it's what passes for entertainment in 2008.

In 1953 The Treniers, led by twin brothers Claude and Cliff Trenier, appeared on national TV with their jump and jive, r&b, and pre-rock era rock 'n' roll. My dad used to sing their song "Ragg Mopp" to us while we'd be in his car (no radio, so Dad filled in). I can't help but wonder how a group like this would do today. They wouldn't be on American Idol because only solo acts are featured there, but how would a group like this be presented today? Watch how they throw it to each other in the first video, "Rockin' Is Our Bizness," and watch the great dancing in "Ragg Mopp." Don't mind the nonsense lyrics. This is entertainment, any era.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Saying goodbye

Yesterday, a clear spring day, we said our final goodbyes to our mom. My brother and I both spoke; it was a short service, conducted at the grave site.

Since our mother was the last surviving family member of her generation I was happy for those who attended. Mom had outlived just about everybody. As my cousin Carolyn put it, "She was the last leaf on the tree."

Mom is under the beautiful mountains, including Mt. Olympus, overlooking Salt Lake Valley.

It was a good day to say goodbye.

Mom with my son David in 1978.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

My mother's death

Mom at the Acropolis in Greece, 1969.

My brother called me just after noon yesterday, telling me that the nursing home had called him: Mom was in distress, trouble breathing, time was short and that we'd want to be with her. She'd been ill with flu over Mother's Day. There was also a problem with blood loss from another condition. As her doctor told us, her blood was so low it wasn't carrying enough oxygen to her lungs.

When I got there Mom was very pale. Options with staff were discussed, and most discarded. If they did a transfusion we'd be back next month in the same situation. The only real option was a hysterectomy and at age 86, Mom just wasn't a candidate. She was too frail and as her doctor put it, "it would kill her."

So we sat down to watch Mom die. The doctor told us that she could last up to 48 hours, maybe 24. Mom resisted having an oxygen mask. She was like that, she would get claustrophobic. At the doctor's orders, the nurses administered morphine and Ativan for Mom's anxiety, which was very high.

Within 25 minutes, not hours, Mom died. She just stopped breathing. My brother and I stopped breathing too. We waited for the gasp to show she was still alive. We watched her for a few minutes and I went to get the nurse. "I think my mother has died," I said. Sure enough, that was it. My brother said, "That is so like Mom," referring to her famous impatience. "Let's get going!" Mom, who was probably in much worse shape than could be observed by the doctor or nurses, defied their timetable and got going early.

Mom had been in the Alzheimer's nursing facility for four years, since she broke her hip during a hospital visit for a blood clot in her leg. None of us thought she'd survive past the first month or so, but she not only survived, she thrived. She liked being around people, and she loved just sitting in her wheelchair while the activity went on around her. They took great care of her, but the person who is the most heroic in all this is my brother, Rob, who visited her every day, and attended to everything she needed. There aren't many people in the world who are like Rob. I'm counting myself amongst those who couldn't do what he did. He quipped, "This place is my social life." There will be a sense of loss for Rob. It was obvious to me that for him it wasn't an obligation, but something he liked to do; not just duty, but a purpose.

Mom hadn't spoken coherently in a few years. You could see that the words were trying to come out, but only once in a great while could very short sentences be understood. I had not heard her say my name in years, at least since she had been in the facility. Yesterday afternoon when I walked into her room and she saw me, she looked at me and said my name. As simple a thing as it may seem, it was astounding to me, and I will carry that memory with me.

Mom in 2006.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Send Grover right over!

Normally I wouldn't discuss something so personal, but we're all friends here, right?

Yesterday I went to a new dermatologist. I try to visit my dermatologist once a year and have him give me the once over, make sure I don’t have anything cancerous on my skin. I'm in the sun a lot. My regular doc had a stroke a couple of years ago. I went to a new dermatologist last summer, and she was such a babe I told my wife I wasn't going back. It's too intimidating having a beautiful woman looking at my zits, warts and moles. At a friend's recommendation I switched to Dr. W., who is male. Among other things my friend--who is a woman--said, "He's really funny and he's short." I don't know what that has to do with anything, but it's the way people describe other people.

Besides wanting to get checked out for skin cancer I recently developed a rash on my shoulders and lower back. I tried various over-the-counter products but nothing worked. My new dermatologist stepped into the examining room, and not only is he not short, he towers over me. No problem having him look at my scalp, which he did just by looking down. The rash he took one look at and said, "It's transient acantholytic dermatosis. It occurs mainly in men over 55." I remembered my friend describing him as funny, but that didn't sound funny to me. He gave me a prescription for a steroid cream and was out of the office like he was running a marathon. Considering how many people were in his office and how fast he was getting through them maybe every day is like a footrace for Dr. W.

I came home to a phone call from Sally telling me she had landed safely in Portland, Oregon, and she and her friends were off to lunch and to have some fun. I told her my story and added, "Dr. W. is as handsome a young guy as Dr. S. is a beautiful woman." That was because she'd given me a hard time after I told her why I didn't want to go back to the pretty lady doc.

When I came home I checked out the condition on the Internet and found out it's also called Grover's Disease. Grover's! Holy crap, that took me back to my son's childhood and his love for his furry blue Grover doll. He carried it everywhere he went. I'm guessing the Sesame Street connection might be why the doc didn't call it that. From the articles I read I found the condition goes away--after a year or two!--if not treated, but is easily treated with topical steroids. Whew. I found out the condition is brought on by sweating, which I do a lot of. In the winter it's worse, because I'm trapped in a coat, with sweatshirt over a t-shirt. There's nowhere for my sweat to go; it can't evaporate. The article told me to use baby talc.

So now I'm a talcum-powdered Grover!

(Thanks to David Miller for giving me the "blues" in this photo!)