Saturday, October 19, 2019

Observations From My Back

It is exceedingly awkward writing from this hospital bed but I have some observations on random topics:

Trump will probably be impeached and he may even be convicted.

It is really hard to wash the middle of your back during a shower.

There's nothing like confinement to make freedom taste like ice cream.


On and On

Larry is particularly persistent today. It's like I've been sentenced to a cell with a man unable stop asking questions that have already been asked and answered numerous times. He apparently lacks all short-term memory.

As I struggle to try and perdure, good things continue too. My buddy Alex Emslie called and we got caught up.



A small tooth plus filling fell out today. It's from the left side, I think the top, of my mouth.

This has been one of my main worries -- after weeks of lying in hospital beds with little or no dental care, something bad would happen.

Now I have to turn to the remaining reservoir of hope I have left, which is similar to California's driest pools in a drought year.

After years of dental insurance, I'm within the first few weeks without any when this happens. The only hopeful thing: so far no pain. But I'll have to go to the dentist to find out whether this can be fixed.


Nervous Breakdowns and Story-Telling

Back in the years I regularly saw psychiatrists, psychologists and other counselors, I was trying to cope with massive life disruptions -- marital breakups, house sales, job losses and relentless financial pressures. I often heard the term "dual diagnosis," which described my main mental illness, a surprise to no one, and depression.

Depression was always the second diagnosis. I guess the symptoms of that were simple to analyze -- I had developed over a lifetime a series of elaborate coping mechanisms to try and ward off the disasters I feared so much.

These coping mechanisms often involved numbers and math. Since I was good at math, I would calculate the angles and arithmetic totals of the structures in a room, doing the mental calculations to turn it into a safe space.

All of this, of course, did nothing to address the underlying issues dating from my childhood around anxiety, which today would be a third, distinct diagnosis.


My story-telling has always been another way of managing anxiety. Many of my stories are funny, betraying a dark humor about the state of the world as I experience it. People love the jokes, few question why I am so driven to tell them.


My current situation is I'm being held against my will a few extra days in an institution that feels like a prison. I have roommates I would never choose on my own, who repeatedly disrupt the concentration I need to construct my memoir.

They won't let  me out of here until Wednesday, October 23. Until then I have to endure Mr. Chen's loud phone conversations in Cantonese, perhaps the most obnoxious language known to humankind. This morning, for example, I woke up at 5 a.m. and tried to settle back in for a little more sleep.But his phone went off for the first of a number of loud conversations. He is literally shouting, about what who can tell what.

What can he possibly have to shout about besides his fictitious piece of missing fish and his fictitious missing twenty-dollar bill.

Then there is Larry who asks me the same questions day after day. "Hey David, were you in the service?" "Hey David, do you know where San Francisco State is?" "What day is this?" "Do you know that John F. Kennedy was shot?"

Over and over, I have to answer, "Yes Larry I know where SF State is. As I told you. I taught there many years."


So as my body slowly regains strength -- the reason I was sent here -- my mind continues to crumble. If it weren't for the messages and calls from friends and the visits from Aidan and Dylan, I'd be in full breakdown mode by now.

And there is nothing funny about that.


Friday, October 18, 2019

Turning a Corner

The past two nights, I've convinced the nurses to let me walk alone around the floor here. Until then the only walking they'd allow was with one of them next to me.

But now I am so much steadier and so much more confident that they've relented. I just take a short walk but it feels good to do so on my own.

More Family Help

Dylan and Meghan just stopped by to drop off some clean clothes for me. It was great seeing them. A nurse who greeted me when I arrived a week ago came by; he said I look so much better.

Despite the bad health news this week I remain optimistic about my prospects.


Details, Details

Two PT sessions this morning, including walking outside with my cane.

I also called Medicare and determined that I need one more policy to have the kind of coverage I want.

Insurance is so maddening! And confusing.

In addition, confusion persists about whether I will released on Tuesday or Wednesday. This bothers me greatly.


Friday, Friday

It's a day of the week that used to have more meaning. Now it is just the day stuck between Thursday and Saturday. Nevertheless I can sense the energy from nurses who have the weekend off.

After hours of music last night, I drifted off for a few hours sleep, punctuated by trips to the bathroom.

Now, after some productive memoir-writing, I'm listening to this building come alive. A woman yells for help but can never say what she needs.

The banging of the food truck promises our breakfast soon.

I prepare for going home in a few days. Due to the new diagnoses, I will need to keep to a strict schedule of half a pill 30 minutes before each meal or 60 minutes after a meal.

That's just week one.


Thursday, October 17, 2019

Dynamic Duo Visits

It's something about the chemistry but when Aidan and Kelsey visit me, we always have a blast. They came this afternoon with food purchased nearby and ate in my room. The nurses love them too. On top of all the jokes, we've got Kelsey's involvement in local politics to talk about as well as Aidan's interest in medicine.

I call them the dynamic duo.


2020 Election

Trump is holding on to his 35 percent base of support. Given that secures most if not all red states, the large Democratic majority of voters are not distributed in the places that could swing the electoral victory, I fear.

Instead they are clustered in coastal states, which are reliably blue but do not have sufficient electoral votes to offset Trump's.

Furthermore, at this stage I do not see a Democratic who can get the job done. The party is split between an idealistic, liberal wing (OAS, who is too young tu run) and a moderate wing (Biden), who probably matches up best vis-vis Trump in the Midwest.

But he is old and prone yo gaffes.

I think the Dems have a ton of work to do to win the White House in 2020.


Walking Outside

Second PT session involved walking outside and that went well. I also performed another balance exercise that was very good.

So I'm in a better mood now.



It is most definitely humbling to go through the aging process in America. You are aware you are losing your physical and mental abilities, as is everyone else, and there's only so much you can do about it -- in a positive sense.

Many things you may feel like doing will make the process worse.

You find yourself, in the best of circumstances, like mine, in a room in a small bed with two other beds and two roommates.

One speaks Cantonese, often seems angry, and thinks the people here don't want him to be here.

The other clearly is brain-damaged and asks you the same ten questions day after day. Questions about trivial matters; never anything substantive. You try to hold your patience but it's very hard to do so.

It's hard to imagine this when you are younger, when you can walk and handle other bodily functions easily.

Now, everything is an effort -- everything is work. There is little time for pleasure.


Slow Start

In first PT exercise of the day, I failed to throw any beanbags into a bucket across the room, although the therapist said my balance remained good.

Nevertheless, it was a reminder of how far I have to go, if I even can get there.



It's 6 a.m. on a Thursday morning in October. I slept fitfully and listened to dozens of songs on YouTube.

Once Aidan reached the agreement with Pacific Heights (the name of this facility) my anger dissipated and I returned to my natural friendly disposition.

I haven't told people at KQED about the stroke or Parkinson's yet. Something feels like focusing on my health challenges is somehow inappropriate. I kept all of my relationships there strictly professional, although personal details naturally seeped into our conversations.

The truth is I see people and love them for their particular details, including what the larger world often sees as flaws. That includes me. I love myself, even my flaws.


At times I feel sorry for Trump and especially the voters who support him. Some of his foreign aid policies, especially regarding China, have merit.

The problem he can't seem to grasp is our economy is so globalized that no country, including the U.S.., can afford to go it alone. Supply chains are optimized according to cost efficiencies. What seems like a low wage in a developing country to us is sufficient there to pull a family out of poverty.

There technically are no countries anymore, except in destructive ways. Parades and marches are pointless. It is one world, like it or not.


Wednesday, October 16, 2019


Aidan got them to move up my release date to next Tuesday. I can handle that.


Rough News

They don.t want to let me out until next Friday, the 25th. I am depressed.

Hole in my Brain

Recently I had a stroke in the part of the brain that helps control bodily movements.

That explains a few things.

This news came yesterday from my neurologist.

She said I also have symptoms of Parkinson's.

So I'm basically fucked.

At this point my plan is to get out of this place -- today if possible and go home.


Election Update

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.) has endorsed Bernie Sanders.

Why is this significant? AOC is the undisputed leader of the liberal revolution sweeping through the young left of the Democratic Party.

With her endorsement, Sanders may re-emerge after recently slumping in the polls and suffering a heart attack.

We're still many months away from the first Democratic primaries in the 2020 election, with no clear front-runner having emerged yet. Biden and Warren lead in the polls.

I've long felt that AOC may prove to be a Presidential candidate herself someday. She's too young and inexperienced yet but her instincts are superb.


Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Those Who Love Words

Many people love chocolate. Many love ice cream. Some like pistachios.

I love words.

Sometimes I wonder whether those do not write understand the passion writers bring our work. How much pleasure it gives us to turn an original phrase.


Taking it Slower

I'm so determined to get back home and to serious memoir work that I may be pushing too hard. Or maybe others are pushing me too hard.

Late yesterday afternoon, a new PT showed up. He has elaborate theories about how our lives have become more linear, our ways of moving have become robotic.

He means that as recently as a century ago, in order to get around and do our jobs we had to be able to move laterally, twist and side-step in unconventional ways.

Now everything in the developed world is straight, neat and predictable and we only use certain parts of our bodies to stand, sit, move.

His work routine for me started out easily enough. Just walking back and forth with the walker. Then with the cane. Then without aid of any kind.

As this was out in the open hall, I could sense people gasp as they saw me walking unaided. That turned out to be the easy part.

He then had me walk to the stairs and walk up and down them unaided. Sometimes left foot first, sometimes right. He was assessing my balance, he said.

His theories include that our sense of balance emanates not in our brain but in the core parts of our body we typically ignore. our hips, pelvic, sides, thighs and stomachs. Since we don't exercise these much our balance deteriorates with age.

He criticized body-building techniques like ever-increasing weight-lifting. None of this gets to the main issues that concern him as a PT.

After somewhat unsteadily navigating the stairs several times, I returned to my bed to end the session. I was so physically stretched that I could barely eat dinner before collapsing to sleep.

Mid-evening, I awoke. I ate the sandwich I've recently ordered to fill me up at night. (The theory here is it might help me sleep.) Well, it woke me up and made me restless instead.

As both my roommates were asleep, I tapped into YouTube and listened to hours of country music through ear buds. Aidan recently told me he knows the reason I love country music is the story-telling.

People much more sophisticated than I am eschew country music as simplistic and cliche-ridden. And I agree.

But what are our lives really like? Besides the daily bodily functions that define us as the animals we are, we choose clothes, attend meetings and harbor feelings like unspoken love, resentment, self-loathing and pure unadulterated love.

Another restless night is ended. It's 6 a.m. It is a Tuesday. The nurses are stirring. Today I have a visit with a neurologist to assess whether I have early-stage Parkinson's. Aidan will take me. I'll probably have more OT and PT.

Hopefully I'll keep paying attention and learning these new theories of movement. I already am walking around the room unaided much more often. I'm ready to go home and get to work.


Monday, October 14, 2019

Nice Outing

Aidan drove me to my doctor's appointment and then we had Mexican food. My first time outside in a long time.

I'm doing well physically but still frail compared to the people on the streets.

Aidan is just weeks away from taking the exams that could yield him his B.A. Lots of studying left; I feel guilty taking him from it.

Tomorrow we go to a neurologist,


Loss of Control

Most of my adult life, I have struggled to maintain as much control over the contours of my life as possible. I've done as much of the driving, paid as many of the bills, and generally controlled my calendar as has been feasible.

Now I'm much more reliant on others. It makes me feel guilty. Everyone has their own stuff to deal with, let alone mine.

Today was a lesson learned. My memory was I have an appointment with my PCP at 12:15 but I had no confirmation. Then the head nurse came in and said my appointment was at 11.

This panicked me.

After an exchange of calls we confirmed my memory is correct. Whew!

I'm not as much in control as before and I am slowly learning, I  hope, how to cope with that.

Six-Thirty a.m.

The nurses and staff are stirring, as are those of us patients who can't sleep. From where I lie, in the bed nearest the window, I can't really see what is going on. Two other patients and three levels of curtains block my view.

But I have been here long enough to know what goes on.

As the lights come on, there is a comfort that washes over me.

Before Dawn

Today I have a scheduled doctor appointment that Aidan will take me to. This is routine following each hospital visit.

It's a tiny life detail but I couldn't sleep -- probably because I am excited to see Aidan. I should be able to go home this week.

My appetite is robust; I am enjoying food again.

But I've become a bit of a rebel here, walking around without my walker. The nurses warn me not to do so. But I know my own body best and walking unassisted now builds confidence.


Sunday, October 13, 2019

Brushing Teeth

Toothpaste companies sell their products predicated on saving your teeth, a worthy goal. But I've learned an additional reason As we age it is easy to aspirate bits of food and get walking pneumonia.

That happened to me. So once I get home my goal is to brush regularly and since vigorously with ACT mouthwash, recommended to me by a dental surgeon.

No more pneumonia!


Coffee and Words

I've reacquired a coffee drinking habit. I've had it in the past, drinking coffee in the morning the writing. It may be a bit of a gross analogy, or a parallel observation, but the words I write while on coffee are ike the urine the coffee produces.

Both flow through me in partnership. Hopefully when they reach others the words invoke feelings, thoughts and even actions.

The urine, of course, is an unwanted byproduct. But the connection between them is undeniable.


Sunday Starters

So far it is a quiet start to one my favorite mornings of the week. Have read the Times and Post news summaries. Waiting for the activity here to ramp up. Have been thinking of new material for my memoir.

Sometimes I wonder what kind of father I have been. I know I'm very close to my kids and that they love me, but I'm sure I could have been much, much better.

I suppose we all feel the same way.

Because I am deeply into my memoir, my mind keeps moving through the past, incident by incident, face by face.

It's occurred to me recently that  I want to interview some of the keY figures for this book. After all, everyone's memory is unique.