Thursday, January 28, 2010

A Wife's Pain, A Husband's Journey, Who's the Jackass?

Our daughter Madison was born September 10, 2001. She was our first and because we were ignorant newliweds we were slow at going to the doctor to confirm the pregnancy. So at about week 12 (after a full 3 missed period), we called her doctor and the receptionist basically freaked out and scolded us for waiting so long. So we go into her doctor and lo and behold, she was pregnant. So besides the joy of knowing that we would be parents, we were met with 2 pieces of bad news- 1) we'd have to deliver at a hospital 45 minutes from our house because everything was already booked in advance at the nearby hospitals 2) our embryonic child's kidneys were too big- a red flag for Downs Syndrome. The hospital situation was chalked up to ignorance, but the kidney thing was a conversation stopper.

The doctor quite bluntly said that we had a very short window in which to terminate the pregnancy and that we'd need to do the amnio test and meet with a genetic specialist to confirm and advise us in more of a specialized manner. So between that doctor visit and the genetic specialist appointment we were faced with the discussion of how to proceed once we had that second appointment. Now back then, Nadine was Catholic and I was Christian, but we weren't practicing our faith. And our faith was more based on how we were brought up instead of any sort of Road to Damascus moment.

Well, for the first time since we got married, we prayed together about this and to be honest, there was no decision to be made. It was not our will, it was His. Flash forward to the genetic counselor appointment and the results- we were actually a month more pregnant that we though. So our daughter's kidneys were big because they weren't that big. You call that what you want, but to us our faith in Christ was renewed that day.

Now for those gentle readers who are reading this next paragraph despite the possibility that you might not be Christian and perhaps you belittle religion or you you are pro-abortion, you can rest easy because my little testimonial is complete. It's time to return to what I do.

So on September 10, 2001, I was getting ready to go to work and Nadine was home for the final few weeks before she was due (doctor's orders bedrest). I head to the home office to check my fantasy baseball stats when Nadine calls- "It's time". To this I reply "Just a second, I need to check my baseball stats..."

Next thing I hear is a banging into a doorway. I run downstairs to see Nadine dragging her overnight bag to the car. Needless to say, she was not happy. I got the message, loaded up the rest of our stuff and we headed to the Scripps Hospital in La Jolla- in rush hour traffic- 45 miles from our house. The conversation on the way there went a little like this "Are you ok?" "..." "Are you doing alright?" "..."

Now although I'm sharing the story of our first child's birth, that is not the point of this post, it's just background. But to finish off this part of the story: water broke when we walked in the hospital, 45 minutes of labor, Ed McCafferey broke his leg on Monday Night Football, nurse woke us up the next day to tell us that the World Trade Centers had been destroyed. Happy birthday Madison.

Flash forward to yesterday- January 27, 2010: I had been having some back pains a few times this past week- not muscle paid- Nadine said it was gas, so Tums, hotpad and some whining by me. Two nights ago, I finished my work at 4AM so I got 3 hours of sleep, and last night I wrapped up my work (and politial analysis) by a respectable 3AM. I rest my head and wake up to excruciating pain in my back- it's now 3:12AM. But this time I couldn't get comfortable no matter what. I'm talking about debilitating, leg shaking pain. Nadine got up and donned the Google MD hat and figured that I've got the symptoms of kidney stones. Meanwhile, the cheapest man in the world (who just finished paying $6000 for his son to spend the night at a mountain resort hospital) was wondering how he's going to get to the hospital. I could tangent about the fact that there's a brand new state of the art hospital 5 minutes from my home, but I'd only get upset that it sits dormant- 1 year past the grand opening date due to the economy. So I know that the next closest hospital is 20 minutes away. It's good that it's raining and that I couldn't sit down or stand up or lie down.

And get this- for the sake of keeping our kids dreaming of Mario Kart Wii, I grabbed my cell, and my bible and got in my car to drive myself. I turned out of our neighborhood and the sweat began. Did I mention that it was raining? I got 5 miles away and I was basically between any commercial development, and I thought I was going to die. I really thought I was going to pass out- I figured that if I pulled over on the side of the dark road, I might get stuck in the mud, get out of the car and fall iinto the road, or I'd call 911 and they wouldn't be able to find me. So I pressed on. I got about halfway there and pulled into the Dunkin Donuts center. No, I wasn't hungry, I just needed a checkpoint, a halfway house, a well lit place to die in dignity... I got out of the car and tried to walk it off but felt worse. So I prayed for just a little more strength and got it on. No choice but to get it on.

The rest of the drive was a blur. A little under the speed limit, the most comfortable position was my chin resting on the steering wheel, Nadine was texting me like crazy, the Classical music station was playing 1812 overature- hardly Baby Mozart material, the Christian station was playing some hardcore praise music- not really bringing me closer to God. Maybe in the Nine Inch Nails way, but not in the way I was hoping for. I got to the hospital, drawn in by the bright EMERGENCY light and I pulled into the emergency vehicle dock by mistake. No time to freak out, I calmly flipped one and found the real parking. Got out of my car (did I mention that it was raining) and walked up to the lobby like a jell-o man. The hall monitor jumped up and shoved a thermometer in my mouth. I couldn't look up, I couldn't tell you what color hair she had, and I spit the thermometer out and asked her grab me a something to throw up in. I almost asked her hold my hair back so it wouldn't get puke on it as my memories of college flashed back to me, but then I realized that I had no hair. The feeling passed for a moment. I went into the admittance room, staring at the ground now, sweat pouring and then I expelled. The non-MDs were singing "Kidney Stone" acapella and I was admitted.

IV, CT scan, morphine, 3 units of saline and it was confirmed. Did I mention Morphine? I've never had it before. I was expecting the nurse to put a big M on my forehead. And while I didn't need a cathedar to blow up the stones, I still thought I was going to die. Once I peed in a cup, I was sent home by 8:15AM with a prescription for FloMax- that's right, the old guy medicine! I had a conversation with my nurse during a later bout of more pain
Me: "Am I being a wuss about all of this? I mean do I really need this pain medicine?"
Her: "Passing a kidney stone is the male equivalent of childbirth"

So now it all comes together. 8 years later, kidneys, a painful drive, trying to find cheap punch and judy hitters on the waiver wire. I have finally made up for my inconsiderate actions of 2001. As I left the hospital, Nadine called me to say that the kids were off to school and that she's on her way to work. In my croaky and exhausted voice I said "We're even". She laughed and I love her for that.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Who's to Blame for McGwire's Steroid Use?

I'm a baseball fan first and foremost. I've had periods when I was really into hockey or football, but I've always been a fan of baseball. Back to my youth of little league, trading my extra Ricky Henderson rookie cards away, cherishing my oversized Brooks Robinson card, growing up watching the infield of Garvey, Lopes, Cey and Russell all those years, standing on the rail of the right field foul pole at Anaheim stadium and watching Dave Henderson kill the Angels, rooting for a team in a French speaking non-American country and year after year watch them cut payroll by getting rid of more stars than you can imagine, and yes, turning on the TV during my honeymoon to watch the homerun chace of 1998.

But then Ken Caminiti started saying that 40% of players use performance enhancing drugs (PED), and Jose Canseco came out with allegations of rampant steroid use- even going so far as naming names. Now some of our biggest names of recent years have been labeled PED users or cheaters. We're talking Sheffield, Tejada, Giambi, Alex Rodriguez, Palmiero, and now Mark McGwire. And with those players I just named, through the 2009 season, they have made $889 MILLION dollars... and they are cheaters! And that's just some of those who have admitted it. You and I can both name two giant names who are still denying allegations, and who else knows the truth about other offenders.
Now I'm not defending the use of these drugs in the first place, but why were they using these drugs in the first place? To hit home runs? To return from injury? To get a job? To keep a job? Because everyone else is doing it?

Sorry to jump ahead, but allegedly, Barry Bonds was upset with the attention that Sosa and McGwire got in 1998, so he decided to put himself on the same level by using PEDs (allegedly). This is a guy who was already a superstar as far as stats go. He was already beloved by the fans of San Francisco. He already had a ton of money. But the longball is what people wanted.

My favorite baseball team IS the Montreal Expos. The experiment to the north started the year before I was born and they went through the typical expansion team era where they were just plain bad. But then they developed a team, got fan support and by the late 70's the Montreal Expos were THE game in town. Sure the Montreal Canadians hockey team was always popular, but the Expos had enormous fan support. But just like a majority of teams (no not the Yankees, Cubs and Red Sox), when the team doesn't win, the fans don't come. And when the team doesn't win consistently, then that fanbase gets worse and worse as people change their lifestyles away from going to the stadium.
Now this is not an essay about the Expos, but they are the perfect example of what went wrong with baseball in the early/mid '90s. The Expos had an awesome team in 1993 and in 1994 it was even better. The fans were there and the team was in first place- by a lot. But then a players strike killed the end of the 1994 season and for the first time in 90 years, the World Series was cancelled. Come 1995, the Expos had to get rid of their stars because they deserved more money and the team couldn't afford it, and the true decline of the Expos ensued.
But beyond the situation in Montreal, baseball fans in general were upset. What about the Yankees of 1994- they were on track for the postseason- and Don Mattingly was probably upset. Tony Gwynn was close to hitting .400 and with his friend Ted Williams still alive, that would have been a great storyline. Frank Thomas and Matt Williams and Carlos Baerga all missed out on record breaking seasons.

The fans suffered and Major League Baseball as an entity suffered, and they needed reasons to come back. Sure we had feel-good stories in the next few years- like Cal Ripken passing Lou Gehrig's record for consecutive games, a world series won by an expansion team and othe rindividual milestones, but it was the home run that brought fans back.

Guys like Bonds, Williams, Bichette, Galarraga, Walker, Thome, Beltre, Jones, Belle, Griffey, Ramirez and Ortiz were crushing it. Guys like Luis Gonzalez suddenly became home run hitters. Heck, one year there was a commercial with Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux (and Heather Locklear) talking about chicks digging "the long ball". Home runs became the reason for fans to come out to see the games.

Did anyone question this power surge? Was anything done about it? Were PEDs allowed in MLB? As you may know, I'm a real estate appraiser by trade. Was the housing boom caused by individual loan officers, realtors and appraisers? Or was it caused by lax policies coupled with hype? But when the real estate market crashed, who got the blame? The loan officers, realtors and appraisers.

Who promoted home runs? Who benefitted from the additional fans at the park? The merchandise purchased? Naming rights? Television contracts? Concession sales? It was THE OWNERS and the head of the PLAYERS UNION, and yes, THE COMMISSIONER himself.

I just saw "8 Men Out" again a few weeks back and in the end, the gamblers and owners got away clean- and rich. And it was the players- the face of the team, who suffered the consequences. Never mind that some of them took bribes. Never mind that our current crop of players got huge salaries. They are still the pawns of this big scheme.

Guys like Canseco and Caminiti spoke out and were criticized (by whom?)
Guys like Giambi, A-Rod and Pettitte denied then admitted and they were praised
And guys like Bonds, Clemens and McGwire have denied amid overwhelming evidence.

Mark McGwire finally came clean for his own reasons. Perhaps one day Clemens and Bonds will too. Will they do it to get in the hall of fame? To free their soul? Heck, pretty soon, players will be considered a minority if they didn't use PEDs.

But how many players and past players have escaped suspicion and finished off their careers without incident? I'm sure the hallworthy ones will be under a cloud, but what about the career .280 guy who played 13 seasons and finished off his career with 1800 hits, 260 home runs, a few all star games and perhaps a gold glove- I'm not talking about anyone in particular, but that's a pretty solid career isn't it? And a player like that could make $5MM a year in baseball. Not bad if you're taking PEDs and not getting caught.

I've forgiven Mark McGwire because it was the system that failed him. It was the leaders of baseball who failed him. It was the greed of rich men who wanted to get richer who failed him. And they've done a disservice to the game.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Midnight Sun- a Twilight Zone Analysis

OK, so I'm brining to the table a "no duh" revelation. It's the sort that's similar to the old joke of building a wall between Mexico and the U.S. to keep illegals from coming in, "Yeah, but who do you think is going to build the wall?". Yuk yuk.

So, it's dang cold out there. Orange juice crops in Florida are on the brink of devastation, the rest of the South is seeing the rare snowfall. Record snow is falling in South Korea and China, and Europe sees no end to the cold snap (of course all of this is as of January 11th, so I'm sure things will improve soon).

But since it's the hot topic, the subject of global warming is what I'm thinking about. Yes I know it's not about seasonal extremes- heck I live in Arizona where it's routinely 115+ in the summer and I had to run barefoot in my skiivies today to get the newspaper (barefoot of course). But with more attention to Climategate, and the seeming disappearance of Al Gore, you've got to wonder what the heck is going on.

No real commentary besides my opinion that the Al Gore/Ted Danson camp is wrong. No, not wrong about the world needing to change its habits for our future, but wrong about the impact of human polution and activity. We're more likely to end up like Wall-E earth than Waterworld and the fact that my town voted AGAINST curbside recycling made my stomach turn (but that's an entirely different topic).

So for the uninitiated, I bring you the third part (can't find the complete episode uncut, but the first two clips are available on youtube) a classic from almost 50 years ago- a Twilight Zone episode I remembered watchin with my dad in the 70's. The plot is simple- the earth has been knocked off its orbit and is moving closer to the sun. People move to colder regions, but some loyal city folks stay behind- and suffer the consequences as the rising temperatures either kill them or drive them insane. When the heroine passes out the scene cuts to reality- it was all a dream... and the reality is actually the opposite of what the dream was. Compelling.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

"The Sherriff is a..." *GONG*

Groups like the ACLU have a certain standard to maintain- I touched on that in a previous rant about racism. But now there's more fuel for my fire.

While not exactly the ACLU, a publisher in the Netherlands has decided to change the title of a Joseph Conrad book from "[profanity word used to describe a black person] of the Narcissus" to "N-Word of the Narcissus". Is that absurd? And get a load of my own hypocritical crap! I won't even spell out what it used to be called because I don't use that word since it's offensive!

At least when it was first published in America, the publishers took the liberty of changing the name to "The Children of the Sea: A Tale of the Forecastle". I like that better than "N-Word" of anything.

Let me ask you this, when you hear a newscaster say "the N Word", what do you think of? When said newscaster says that and your 8 year old asks "what's the N Word", how are you supposed to answer so that she will never have to wonder again what it means while at the same time never use said word?

"The N-Word" is actually worse than the word it stands for. And now that the press is all gaga about this edited title of a book, "The N-Word" has been uttered countless more times. Had you even heard of this book before?

I F-word ing hate it when these S-word head mother F-word ing politically F-word ing correct C-word sucking P-words, waste everyone's time fixing every F-word ing thing that may be offensive to some stupic J-word C-word with a fragile ego. As far as I'm concerned, N-words, H-words, TH-words, D-words, S-words, C-words, K-words, G-words, F-words, or any other "minority" of which I consider myself a part of (after all, i'm a HB-word- just like Cher) can shut the F-word up and focus on important things in this world.

I'm out!