It’s Been a Rough Few Weeks

It’s been awhile since I posted anything on here, but this time I have good reason. A few of them, in fact. It has not been great since at least August, where our story begins…

So I posted last time about working third shift and having Fridays off. This in turn meant Friday mornings are spent drinking beer. Then I would get up in the afternoon and get more beer. More beer on Saturday and Sunday, and the weekend was complete. Of course, with all that barley and hops, your idea of healthy food goes out the window. So eating pizza or takeout Chinese for three days seems like a great idea when there’s 12 bottles of beer swimming around in your belly.

I felt like something was wrong on August 17th. I felt a sharp pain every time I tried to sit down. I thought it had something to do with my steady diet of liquid wheat and processed foods. I finally made my way to the doctor that Wednesday, and they sent me to Wilmington Surgical. I went there Friday, and they confirmed it was a deep rectal abscess.

Now if you are a dude and have dude friends, you know how other dudes are about anything rectal. We are relentless in the ballbusting and picking. I was more concerned with having my first surgery ever. After working at the hospital for so many years, soon I would be a patient.

I was scheduled to have a CT scan of the area that Saturday. My wife went off-script, taking me to the ED instead. Dr. Bebb happened to be the surgeon on call, and within a few hours I was in and out of the OR and in a room on the 4th floor.

Being a patient in the hospital gave me a different perspective. All of my nurses and caregivers were very kind and helpful. Their every four hour rule keeps you from getting too much sleep. After surgery, I rested due to the pain and the location of the wound. I went home after a little over a week, only to resume my steady diet of doing absolutely nothing. I could hardly walk to the bathroom without being out of strength. So I rested up, and that’s where I went wrong.

That Friday morning, early, I woke up to use the bathroom. Thirty minutes later I hobbled out of the bathroom, probably ten pounds lighter. I tried to make my way to the couch in the den, and felt dizzy. Then next thing I remember was waking up face first in the couch. I got myself up and laid back down, only to find out that my heart was pumping in overdrive. There was an extreme tightness in my chest, like two giant fists were pressed together just above my heart. Having no experience with it, I assumed it was a panic attack. I tried to slow my breathing, but it would come back faster every time. Mom was up by then, and she gave me two Valium which did nothing. Terry was up, and she called 911. EMS and a Fire Crew came. Apparently they knew I was 6’4″ and 350 so they would need help. I tried to get up on their gurney, only to faint again. It did nothing for my heartbeat, as it stayed at 150. It scared Terry, as her father was hauled out of their house with a diagnosis of cardiac arrest.

The paramedics worked to get my heart rate down in the truck, to no avail. I did breathing exercises that were also no help. So away we went, off to the ED. The only thing I could think about wasn’t my heart or breathing, but my sore ass riding that unpadded gurney and hitting every bump on the way.

Once we arrived, I was brought right in and placed in the treatment room immediately. The doc for my section started treatment, and I was covered In electrodes as they attempted in vain to run an IV in my dehydrated blood vessels.

Somewhere along the way, the doc theorized that I had an irregular heartbeat that he could jumpstart with something called a cardio version. It’s basically like jumping a car. You have two large electrodes that they shock you with, in the hopes of rebooting your heart back into the natural rhythm. It helps that you’re high as a kite while they do it. They use a sedative called Ketamine for this procedure. For those that don’t know, ketamine is used to sedate horses and other farm animals.

So they hook you up to the sedation, and after it takes effect, you have no idea where you are. You just kind of drift out there, in space. It turns black, which I assume was the shocking part because my chest was hurting. Then I see darkness with a shadow in front of me trimmed in neon green. I hear lots of laughter, and as I drift back to reality, I realize that the shadow was the overhead light in the treatment room. All I could think about was the song by Afro Man. “I was gonna make my heart better, but then I got high.”

So the cardio version was unsuccessful. The doc sent me for a CT scan close by. After this, he sees that there is a saddle clot in my pulmonary artery. It is the worst kind of clot. Suddenly surgeons appear and want to shove a catheter in my groin to access and remove the clot. I am against this for a very specific reason.

When I had the rectal abscess surgery, a side effect was swollen testicles. It got so bad that the two became one, about the size of a medium baking potato. They in turn enveloped the penis, so that it could not be located. I had to pee using a large bedpan in the front so I didn’t get a urine bath every time. Hence my reluctance to go that route. I had visions of a giant pair of testicles with legs and a head.

Nevertheless, they were all discussing it. Next thing I know, they pump me full of clot busting fluids. I am taken to PACU which also houses STICU. I am pumped full of Heparin along with fluids to keep the blood thin in the hopes of the clot dissolving and moving on. I stayed there overnight, and then was moved up to the 10th floor. The penthouse. Moving on up. I was visited by all my friends during my time there (thanks to you all), and I left that Monday. I had enough of those white walls and the same 18 tv channels.

So after the second stint as a patient, then came the doctor appointments. I was set to attend a few, but then came the Hurricane. A so-called Cat 1 that destroyed our region with wind and rain. We were lucky. Some people lost whole houses, furniture, cars, and 40 years of keepsakes. Our power went out, that was the worst for us. Terry and I spent our anniversary in a hot and sticky sweaty haze waiting for the power to be restored. It finally came back on after a week, and we were all ecstatic. At that point, I would have slept with the power guy if he turned the power on.

So here we are now. I’m waiting on my posterior wound to heal so I can return to work and the hell that awaits there. Things are getting back to normal in town, as most places have reopened and stores are restocked. Gas stations don’t have mile long lines. I can get through the store without passing out. And Terry has an art show at Going Local in Front Street tomorrow evening. Check it out


Bright Nights and Dark Days

Sorry I’ve been away, friends. I recently made the transition from a first-second shift hybrid to full on third shift. Without divulging the details of my work or giving disparaging remarks about management, it was the clear choice for me.

Now I know some people out there are cringing at the thought of working third shift. Going against the grain, so to speak. It’s not the body’s natural rhythm to work at night and sleep during the day. It makes those chipper go-getter morning people shudder at the thought of coming in at night.

First of all, I absolutely hate getting up early. I have never gotten accustomed to getting up early. Even when I had a job that required it, I never got used to it. I always thought I would oversleep the alarm, so I got that patented broken sleep. Sleep for 2 hours, then wake up every twenty minutes until time to get up. Yeah, you get off earlier. But then you have to go to bed early to get up early. Or down a cocktail of Monster, 5 Hour Energy, coffee, and fine cocaine mixed in the coffee and don’t sleep for a week

I should point out that I only work four days a week on the new schedule. Mon-Thurs 9pm-730a. Off every Fri,Sat, Sun. It’s not a bad gig. And it’s super quiet. Our job is way busy in the am, and it stays busy til the evening. All that stress of day shift disappears.

Think of it this way. You know that feeling you get at about 11 am where you want to just take a nap. At 11 am, that’s exactly what I’m doing. I’m asleep, and you’re on your fourth cup of coffee. Nothing like the jitters and cold sweats to increase productivity.

And it’s always great to hit the store on Friday morning after work. People are coming from the gym to get fruit and yogurt for smoothies. Moms are buying stuff for their kiddos and their lunches. Construction guys are buying water by the case and snack chips. And there I am in line, a case of beer under each arm. Beer:now available at breakfast.

So now it’s time to hit the hay. Be sure to work hard while I’m sleeping.

Friday the 13th—Again

Yes, you heard it right folks. This is the second Friday the 13th this year, with the first one occurring in April. And while the world didn’t stop turning then, irrational fear and paranoia continue nonetheless.

The roots of such superstition are based in history. Way back in the 1300’s, king Philip had several of the Knights Templar rounded up and executed on a Friday the 13th. And by executed, I mean barbecued to a crisp while tacked to a cross. The king was just trying to get rid of the Knights at the behest of the Pope, but it worked out for him to excuse his war debts as well. Apparently one of the Knights executed a curse during his barbecuing, thus giving rise to the superstition of Friday the 13th.

In a more general sense, people look at the Last Supper and the betrayal of Jesus by Judas as the driving force behind the Friday the 13th phenomenon. Jesus was crucified on Good Friday, which is rumored to be a 13th. Also, most beheadings and public hangings occurred on Fridays, bringing more substance to the fear.

Now with that out of the way, it’s time to talk about the real Friday the 13th. Anyone from our generation (late 30’s-early 40s) knows the name Jason Voorheis. The iconic killer from the slasher flicks is easily recognized by anyone who shivered in their sleeping bag on a camping trip, eyes wide open, light on all night. Jason was a great killer because he said nothing. There you were, hanging out and engaging in some teenage hijinks. Drinking, having sex, staying up late, smoking. And then there’s Jason, creeping up on you despite his 6’8″ frame. It’s always a great time as he picks off campers one by one. It’s even better when they run after realizing that Jason is here to kill them all. You take off running, and run two counties away. Then you trip on a random dustball, or a gust of wind knocks you down. You get back up and BAM! Jason is right behind you, threatening bodily harm with some kind of object. Here’s a list of Jason weapons from Friday the 13th.

Axe– Jason has used an axe on a variety of kills. An axe is a common tool in camping, and Jason is nothing if not an opportunist. He uses whatever implement is around to inflict maximum carnage.

Chainsaw–same result. Just Jason with a gas-powered tree-devouring machine. It works great on flesh and bone as well.

Fence Post–I remember seeing this one somewhere along the series. Hence the “use what you have” philosophy and how cool it was to see someone impaled with a fence post

Speargun–it’s just as cool as it sounds. Jason channels his inner Jaws hunter while shooting a victim in the eye with a speargun.

Ice pick–this is the first weapon Jason used, when the girl killed his mom. Ice pick seems like a pretty terrible way to go

Machete–this is the weapon we are most used to seeing in Jason’s hands. Any photos of him on film usually include a machete, as it it clearly his weapon of choice by far.

Weed Eater–that’s right, he killed a victim with a weed eater. That’s the kind of mind you’re dealing with. Weed out your roses? Nah, I’d rather kill someone with it

I could go on and on. There are some, like liquid nitrogen and a syringe, which were only used in one scene. And let’s not forget his propensity for using his bare hands and brute strength to perform many quality kills. Breaking people in half, tossing people into doors and walls and through windows–sometimes he doesn’t even need a weapon.

So enjoy your Friday the 13th. Just remember not to stay up late or drink or have premarital sex. And that crunching in the bushes–you should just let it happen because you’re already dead.

As a friendly reminder, all of these implements of death as well as wood for walls, doors, and new windows are all available at your local Home Depot. Man, wouldn’t that be a great Home Depot commercial? The scene opens with a guy putting machetes and chainsaws and mother weapons in a cart. The guys proceeds to checkout, the camera pans up, and it shows Friday the 13th on a calendar. Then you see that the guy is Jason.

You’re welcome, Home Depot

Fourth of July Fun Times

Fourth of July came and went here in our little coastal town. Most people here took a few days, if not the whole week off. Good plan, because it will take you that long to get through the throngs of traffic to get anywhere. And people who work in retail, this is a special kind of hell for you. I have never seen every parking space filled at every grocery store and gas station for twenty miles until then.

The holiday itself was pretty low-key. Hung out at a buddy’s place where they grilled out and had people over. It was a great time. My adjustment has been switching from a first-second shift hybrid to working straight third shift. My job is such that this change was needed for my own sanity, and the safety of coworkers. So I have been trying to adjust to staying up all night and sleeping during the day.

Great in theory, until you get to the weekend or time off. I do great during the week, because I stay busy at work and come home and sleep. Weekends I struggle to stay awake and finally go to bed about 4 am. Throw in alcohol and the equation gets shot to hell.

Also something of a struggle is the difference in me. In my 20s I worked third shift and was fine with it. In those days you get 1.5 hours of sleep and are good to go again for the next day. However, my 40 year old body just isn’t that resilient anymore. I need my beauty rest, and from the looks of me I need all I can get.

The bonus in this is that I work four ten-hour nights with a three day weekend every weekend. I do enjoy that part so far. It’s just like riding a bike. Gotta get up there and remember what the hell i’m doing.

So Happy Belated Fourth of July to everyone. Let’s not forget our men and women in the Armed Services, without whose sacrifice none of this would be possible. Hell, we might be speaking German or Russian today if not for them.

Father’s Day

As the sun has set on another Father’s Day, I sit in a contemplative mood. For so many years, Father’s Day revolved around my Dad. There were traditions, whereby we would go to a restaurant here in town (usually a steakhouse) that Dad would never go to on his own. We would eat and laugh, and talk about old memories and funny stuff. Then we would make the trip back home and everything was good. Those were the years before the Wheelchair.

After the Wheelchair, everything changed for all of us. We all had to learn a greater understanding of handicap accessibility and how it related to where and when we could frequent certain establishments. Winnie’s Tavern was a favorite of mine and my dad’s as well. But we couldn’t stay too long because Dad couldn’t fit in the bathroom. And if you didn’t know Dad, he never wanted to be a burden. So if we got Winnie’s afterward, I had to pick it up.

Dad tried to use his prosthetic leg, but he came across another problem. His prosthetic leg was placed on his right leg, which had an arthritic hip that could not support the extra weight of walking. So he became accustomed to being confined to a wheelchair.

The most painful day to watch was when the DMV denied his drivers license. Dad had driven with one leg after the amputation. He engineered a way to drive using a long wood slat to push the brake. When the DMV told him that he had to get the wheelchair out of the trunk, and he could not do so, that was the beginning of the end. Dad was never the same after that.

After these occurrences, Dad’s health started taking nasty turns. He was in and out of the hospital and nursing homes. We did manage to make it to Longhorn one year, and the last Fathers Day when he wasn’t in the hospital, he was right here at home. We grilled steaks and he had the best time laughing and joking with me and my wife and girls. After that, it was hospital and nursing home, then on to the twilight sleep.

My best memories of Dad were those times. Sometimes we would stay up late and drink beers and watch tv or movies. And we were occasionally too loud, so Mom would come out and casually remind us that it’s 330 in the am. And we would just laugh and drink another beer. Toward the end, Dad preferred Bud Light. I teased him, but I figured his body couldn’t do with regular/craft beer and his bourbon and Diet Pepsi’s. And besides, Bud Light isn’t so bad.

As I’ve gotten older, I realize that many of my peers have also lost their fathers. I guess we have finally reached the age where we no longer have dads. We are dads. I appreciate my two girls every day, and will help them in any way. I am sure that my peers feel the same way about their children, to help them along the way and keep them from making our mistakes.

So Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there. Stepdads, grandfathers, and even fur baby dads. Dogs and cats need love too. And to all the dads in Heaven, including my wife’s and several friends’ dads, enjoy the silence while you can. We will be there, just not too soon I hope. And to you, Pops…we miss you, and we love you. Old Man

Home Sweet Home

It is great to get away for awhile, maybe a few days or a weekend for vacation. Some locals even move to far-flung locales from Montreal to Denver, San Juan to Osaka. One thing unites them. When they return to town to visit relatives, they return to a few golden oldie local spots that attract tourist and townie alike.

Britt’s Donuts has been serving visitors to the Carolina Beach boardwalk for decades now. And as far as we can see, they show no signs of slowing down. The line at Britt’s frequently winds down the Boardwalk, but it’s so worth it. They make delicious hot donuts that you will need to buy 2 dozen of at minimum.

Wake and Bake Donuts are newer to the game, but they make up for inexperience with mad scientist donut experimentation. Giant donuts topped with Fruity Pebbles or candied bacon, or filled with gooey chocolate or apple pie tempt the tastebuds at this new kid on the block.

El Cazador is a Mexican joint at Carolina Beach that has authentic Mexican food. This isn’t your typical tacos and nachos fare. Great balcony seating and killer margaritas round out this tasty place.

Lazy Pirate is another relative newcomer, but it’s making waves as the place to be at the beach. It’s basically an oversized shack decorated like every Frat party you’ve ever been to. Wooden tables, flags and banners, sports on tap. The food says it all, however. Conch fritters mix with PBJ wings, amid all of your pub grub favorites. Trivia nights and other live events routinely pack this place, often filling the expansive outside seating area.

Once across the bridge, you can hit Philly Deli in several locations. The signature sandwich is the Philly Cheesesteak served in several yummy variations. Thrown in cold beer and jalapeño poppers and you’ve got yourself a meal.

One of my personal favorites is a little hole in the wall called Winnie’s Tavern. The inside is truly bigger that the outside suggests, and the food is phenomenal. They don’t stray too far from delicious burgers and chicken sandwiches. A veggie burger is about as healthy as it gets here, so pull up a chair and check out the drink specials–if you can get a spot at this routinely packed burger joint.

For some old school, try out Merritt’s Burger House. It’s a traditional drive in where the carhop comes out to take the order and then brings it out on a tray that hangs on the car door. Simple, classic food like burgers and dogs. No salads or caramel macchiatos here. And cash only. Talk about old school.

PTs Grille has that old school feel in a newer spot. They have three all over town, offering yummy burgers and chicken sandwiches along with cold beer and arguably the best fries in town. You walk in, order up front, then grab a seat. Best veggie burgers in town.

Mexican in Wilmington is down to a few spots. Don’t worry, they are all delicious. El Cerro Grande has a few locations. Zocalo is relatively new but delicious. K38-Baja Grill is also fantastic. Sombrero Azul out by Murrayville is very yummy. If you crave Mexican, we have you covered.

For Asian/sushi, you can’t go wrong with Okami. For $22 you get unlimited sushi/appetizers. And their Asian fare is also very good. If you leave hungry, it’s your own fault.

Copper Penny in Downtown ILM is my favorite spot. Their menu is full of delicious sandwiches and plates, and their specials are always top notch. Who could say no to a chicken bbq bacon cheese sandwich?

Henry’s at midtown is a little more pricey, but quality food justifies the price. From seared swordfish to tasty creme brûlée, the menu never fails to impress. Great for date night or a business meeting.

Well, now I’m super hungry, how about you? This list is by no means exhaustive, as there are 450,000 restaurants here in town. The only thing we have more of is churches. We stick to cheaper fare, so Wrightsville Beach is out for us. And La Costa Mexican food has had the distinction of giving me food poisoning. Twice. But if you like their food, by all means enjoy. Now if you’ll excuse me, I am starving.

A Memorial to Memorial Day

So once again, Memorial Day weekend is upon us. I, like most of you, take great comfort in the idea of a three day weekend. No stress, no work, and hours of grilling and drinking while hanging with family and friends is in order. While we enjoy this time off, there are a few reasons it ain’t so great.

Memorial Day used to mean something different as a youngster. It meant the end of the school year was very close, for one thing. After that came those wonderful days leading up to the return to school in August. And where we live, that meant the beach was calling us. The water was warm enough to prevent hypothermia, and the beach was filled with like-minded high schoolers. Boys and girls were out and about, the sound of legions of flip-flops hitting the pavement and the sand in a thunderous wave.

And so it went, year after year. Until that pivotal age comes where you realize that all those extra people are annoying. See, we have our own population that likes the beach. Then you add 500,000 or so from all areas of our state, country, and even the world. A collection of different license plates pass by, hunting for those elusive open parking spots unseen by the untrained eye. You see how it becomes a bit of a hassle. I can’t imagine everyone packing up and heading to the mountains or the piedmont in a mass exodus.

Number one is that there are just too many people. That sweet little spot where you and your special someone sneak to the beach in the off-season? It’s now cluttered with throngs of people. The Latinos to the left? They brought a picnic table to the beach. On the right? A mix of college kids getting hammered and sunburned baby boomers. No space on the beach is sacred in the midst of tourist season.

An obvious correlation is that there is so much traffic. The car-lined highways with stand-still traffic is a nightmare. A 10 minute car ride takes an hour. Throw in upper 90 temps and no AC, and it’s a favorable recipe for a heat stroke. But it is oh so worth it when you finally do hit the ocean.

Driving is a different concept in different parts of the state. As well as the country and world, I suppose. We usually don’t get too many international visitors. People tend to stick to their region, or we get people from up north trying to thaw out six months of snowbound. We are infamous for our inability to drive. We were actually ranked worst city in N.C. for auto-related fatalities. Yet, we all seem to embrace this failure and tend to drive them same wrong way as everyone else. Toss in 500,000 more people driving a variety of different ways, and it makes getting to the beach a whole lot more interesting. You have Play By the Rules drivers, who listen to things like speed limits and use their turn signals. Then there are Let’s Just Get There drivers, who will fly past you or squeeze into a gap to get 0.0126 inches ahead. There are various sub-levels, which make it like an obstacle course to reach the beach. Assuming, of course, that they aren’t doing road work in the middle of summer.

Parking goes hand in hand with all those problems. We all would like to have free parking at the beach, but that idea is so 1996. Free parking spots are an endangered species-only a few left, and they are hunted mercilessly. So you’re trying to keep your eyes on the cars in front, behind, and to the side. And you missed that one open spot ten cars back next to the giant tree. Keep driving, and you see cars in front yards and driveways and out in the road. A tow truck comes by, all too happy to help you relocate your vehicle for a $100 donation to his kid’s College Fund.

With all that said, it is a fun experience to go to the beach. Just be ready for the whole experience. And it’s great to have tourists pumping money into our local economy, to help our town prosper. And last, but certainly not least, is the real reason for Memorial Day. It’s not about barbecues and beer and a week at the overcrowded beach getting ten shades of lobster burnt. It is about our Armed Services, those brave men and women who risk their lives every day to defend us and our way of life. You think your job sucks? Try carrying 60 plus pounds of gear up the side of a mountain and into a ied field in 120 degrees. As we enjoy our weekend, remember that many of our Service Personnel are overseas, not enjoying this holiday. If you see one out and about, thank them for their service. If anyone reading this is active or retired military, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your service.