An OtherSpokane Special Report - 9/1/13
There are two of me in the room,
three if you count my large. disembodied hand, my giant finger
pointing to either one of the two full-bodied versions of me.
One version of me is naked and
white as a fish belly; eyes closed, body not moving, curled up in
the fetal position on the floor in the corner of the room. The other
version of me is fully dressed, fully awake and aware, hovering in
the air at the opposite corner of the ceiling.
My giant finger points to the
floating version of me, and with a swoosh I switch places with the
cold, white me. My giant finger points to dressed, aware me on the
floor and – swoosh – we are back where we began.
Swiss Army Knife, first aid kit,
basic survival stuff. Check. Toiletries and toothbrush, underwear,
socks, a clean shirt. Check. Maps, money, credit cards, passport.
Check. Video camera and appropriate lenses, extra batteries,
chargers, remote control, filters. Check. Two travel fifths of Rich
and Rare imported Canadian whiskey, one 7-ounce stainless steel
flask, full of aforementioned spirit. Stash and appropriate
paraphernalia, 9mm and extra ammo. Check. Check.
I am in the kitchen at work,
taking care of some last minute details, getting ready for the
launch of my long-awaited, well-deserved, ten-day vacation, set to
begin in T-minus four hours and twenty minutes.
The road trip is my passion – so
much so that it has become my habit to take two a year: a summer
journey, where I typically explore this amazing Northwest; and a
winter trip, where I often venture southward.
I alter tradition slightly: my
plan is to drive from
to Reno, taking only secluded, little-traveled roads. I would spend two
while exploring, filming and photographing the surrounding ghost
towns and old cemeteries. From there I would let
determine my itinerary.
Surely great revelations are at
The oven buzzer sounds. I grab a
pair of dry towels and remove a large sheet pan of steaming
meatballs. I carefully carry it back into the walk-in cooler. To get
through the narrow door, I balance the short side of the pan on my
belt and hold the length out in front of me. Then, the phone rings
– just once, which is odd. I turn my head, and the edge of the pan
catches the side of the door and smashes into my gut. Eventually my
sight and breath return. I am left with an ugly bruise, just below
my ribcage, and what I can only describe as a slight but persistent
nausea… only different.
The Panasonic HDC-TM 300 Video
Camera – voted Video Camera of the Year in 2009. Rugged, compact,
utilitarian – mine has served me faithfully, from the tops of
snowy peaks to the most treacherous of desert environments.
I am somewhere in southern
Washington, holding the TM-300 outside the window so to film the
front tire of my rental car spinning on hot pavement, then up to the
open road, back down to the tire, up to the –
Suddenly a green cloud is upon me.
Giant grasshoppers smash into the windshield, leaving pudding-like
blobs – smash into my arm, stinging. I look out the side window.
How is it possible that my hand is empty? In the rear view mirror
the TM-300 is bouncing like a ball, seemingly in one piece. And then
it is gone.
I stop and clean the carnage from
my car and person. I search the sides of the road for two hours but
find no evidence of the camera.
It’s not the first time I’ve
lost a camera on a road trip. Five years ago I had a much less
expensive one stolen from my car. I was extremely upset. I nixed the
trip and returned home, even went through a bit of a depression.
Strangely, I am not upset – not
because of the camera. I am troubled, though, by the mystifying,
overpowering notion that this is a warning of some sort – from, I
suppose, God… Something very unusual is happening. Why am I
entertaining thoughts I would normally think irrational? Does God
not want me to take this road trip? Why do I constantly feel the fog one walks
through when one has not quite awakened from a dream?
I decide to continue my trip.
Besides, I have video capabilities on my iPhone; no reason to get
all upset. And as to the sense of God’s consternation – I am intrigued
by it. But, I have to ask, would the Supreme Being really endeavor
to influence the plans of a restaurant worker from
– by sending him a plague of locusts?
I stay in Burns, Oregon, at the Silver Spur Motel. Usually I would look forward to checking
out the mom-and-pop eateries, or braving the dive taverns. But
tonight I have no desire for food or drink or human contact. I stay
in my room. I lie on the bed and stare up at the popcorn ceiling.
The TV is on and the sound off. The air conditioner hums. Hums. I
briefly take my eyes off the road and the car swerves toward the
edge of the cliff. I flinch. There is a slight pinch deep in my
belly. The pinch remains, along with the nausea, the creepy sense of
the supernatural, the popcorn ceiling, the silent television, the
hum of the air conditioner…
Did I not have breakfast the next
day? Did I not eat all through the
Lake? Did I not have even one swig from my flask? Listen. Of late I’ve
learned to embrace my Western decadence. I’m twenty pounds
overweight. I’ve been eating well, and drinking – a lot – for
many years. Normally at this point I would be nearly one travel
fifth into the journey. But now I have no desire. I have to force
myself to drink water.
Oh, did I mention that I’m in Reno? Yeah, Room 922 of the Sands Regency. A fairly luxurious room for
$40 a night. There’s a large, very comfortable bed and a wonderful
view. The room is twice the size of my apartment. I feel better than
I have in the past few days.
The next day I go to Virginia City
and explore the vast complex of cemeteries. I shoot and edit a short
film about the Masonic part of the cemetery on my iPhone.
I go back to Reno. I’m very tired, and my brain is foggy. I try to walk around
downtown, but the smell of food is everywhere. I nearly gag. Even in
the casinos the people smell of food. I crawl back to my big
bed and force myself to drink a half jug of Gatorade.
Perhaps the pain in my belly grew
worse. Perhaps my nausea increased. Perhaps I received another
warning from God. Whichever the reason, I find myself on the
telephone calling my friend Arp Xigar, begging him to come and take
me to see a doctor.
He appears in a flash. We drive
for what seems hours through unfamiliar streets. Finally we arrive.
My first impression is that the doctor must be very expensive,
judging by the spacious, high-tech looking office.
The doctor shows me the problem on
a large screen: a virus has found its way inside me. We watch it
multiply in 3D. “E. Coli,” says the doctor. “You’ll have to
wait it out.” I look to Arp Xigar. He smiles strangely. He says
nothing, which is highly untypical.
E. Coli, E. Schmoli. Honestly, I
don’t feel that bad. So, the next morning I pull myself from the
bed and decide to continue my journey. I check out of the Sands
Regency. The receptionist smells like food.
I drive to
. I take a few photos and videos, but they are uninspired. I am only
going through the motions. I feel like a common tourist, not the
adventurer, the explorer, the truth seeker I yearn to be.
I drive to Lakeview, Oregon, on the Pacific coast. I check into the Interstate 8 Motel, a
dirty, overpriced hovel that smells like fish. I don’t see the
ocean. I don’t leave the room. Later that night, I wake up
shivering. I am ice. I am ice. I am colder than I’ve ever been. I
am so cold I consider the possibility that I may never get warm
again. The sheets I lie on are covered with frost like the walls of
an old freezer. I roll out of bed and onto the floor. I crawl to the
bathroom. My hands and knees leave icy prints on the dirty carpet. I
crawl into the bathtub and turn on the hot water.
I wake to find people in my room,
all standing around my bed, looking down at me with blank faces.
I’m reminded of the descriptions of alien abductions, but these
are all normal looking folks, who seem to have no intention of
probing me or stealing my seed. I realize these are people who
I’ve previously seen on my trip, who for some reason have followed
me here to Room 101 of the Interstate 8 Motel. They say nothing, and
it’s quite unnerving. I try to ask what they want, but I can not
speak. Suddenly they are gone, with the exception of a little girl
who seems frightened of me. I use hand signs to try to tell her that
I am contagious and she should be careful. She runs out the door and
into the darkness.
Evidently, the next day I drive
all the way back to Spokane. I enter my apartment, lock the door, and wedge a chair underneath
the door knob. I spend the night with my head in the toilet,
retching up pathetic splats of yellow bile. I stagger back toward my
bedroom. I notice that someone has cut a perfectly round hole in the
floor of my living room so the people living beneath me could stand
their oversized Christmas tree upright. The young couple looks up
and waves to me. I wave back, even though I realize it’s no where
near Christmas. A plastic angel at my eye level balances crookedly
at the top of the tree. I crawl into my bed and wonder how this will
affect my rent deposit.
I spend the next three days in bed
– still not eating, and not really sleeping. Regardless, I feel
that I might be getting better. Like the doctor said, a healthy
person will beat E. Coli in seven or eight days.
Arp Xigar calls and says he is
very worried about me. He wants to come over and check up on me. I
protest, and tell him I am on the verge of rebirth. I remind him
what the doctor said about recovery time for this sort of thing.
“You went to the doctor?” said
Arp, wielding his typical, borderline-appropriate humor.
Just as Arp calls again to tell me he is
at the front door, I am hit with Cramp #1: crippling and frightening
– like a heavyweight punch to the belly – it floors me. I look
up. Arp is looking down at me, smelling like food, and seeming very
concerned, telling me he’s going to take me to the hospital.
Suddenly both of my adult children, both a thousand miles away, are
on the phone, begging me to get medical attention. Everyone is
talking at the same time. I insist that healing is on the horizon. I
promise them I will hospitalize myself in the morning if I don’t
Midnight. Alone, and in pain.
There is an unfamiliar man sitting in a chair next to my bed,
reading a magazine. He sees that I am awake. He speaks, but so
airlessly that all I hear is a dry, weedy garble. He hands me my
cell phone. Then, Cramp #2.
Flashing red lights. Have you been
drinking? No. Have you taken any drugs? No. Are you on any
medication? No. Are you a diabetic? No. Any medical conditions we
should know about? No. What did you eat today? Nothing. When was the
last time you ate? Ten days ago. When was your last bowel movement?
Ten days ago. Holy shit. When did you start feeling sick? Ten days
ago. Cramp #3. Flashing red lights.
In the emergency room, Dr. He and
Dr. She stand over me. Dr. She asks why I waited so long before I
sought medical attention. I explain that the doctor told me seven or
eight days is sufficient for a healthy person to beat E. Coli.
Doctor He and Doctor She explain that the MRI revealed I have
massive internal bleeding. I’ve lost approximately two liters of
blood into my abdominal cavity. Surgery is required immediately to
stop the bleeding. Dr. He asks me the name of the doctor I saw.
“Um, I can’t remember.”
“What city were you in when you
saw the doctor?”
“I’m not really sure.”
“Describe the doctor’s
I tell them about the doctor’s
command chair in the middle of the enormous office, his assistants
at computers at the edges of the room, the giant screens lining the
walls that showed animations of the replicating virus.
“Was there a sliding door that
opened automatically when you walked toward it?” asks Dr. He.
“And did one of his assistants
have pointed ears?” asks Dr. She.
“No,” I say, “but I think I
understand what you’re getting at.”
Dr. He arches an eyebrow.
“Fascinating,” he says.
As I am being prepped for surgery,
a doctor with a strong Eastern European accent explains the
procedure: they will go up my groin artery and try to find the
source of “the leak.” If it is found, they would try to patch it
with a stint. If it is not found, they would have to resort to
something “more invasive.”
The doctor is sure he knows me
from somewhere. I tell him he looks very familiar as well. I do not
tell him – who is about to stick me with sharp instruments –
that he reminds me of Yakov Smirnoff.
I remain awake during the
operation. I’m not sure if it lasts a few minutes, or a few hours.
Eventually, Dr. Smirnoff whispers in my ear: “Success.”
Fade to black…
“I appreciate your honesty,”
says my intensive care attendant, Nurse Craig. “It will be very
helpful in your recovery.”
The phone rings. Nurse Craig
answers and whispers a few words. He hands me the phone. It is my
son. He wants to know what’s up. I tell him I believe it happened
when I was carrying a sheet pan of meatballs into the walk-in, and
accidentally rammed it into my belly.
As I am relaying this, I notice
that Nurse Craig is staring at me intently, a disappointed look on
his face. I assure my son that I’ll be fine. I hand the phone back
to Nurse Craig.
“It may have been an accident
that caused the initial problem,” he says. “I’m not entirely
convinced, though. You said you’ve been drinking quite heavily
over the past few months.”
“Yes. And I can assure you that
– if alcohol was not the cause of your problem – it certainly
complicated matters greatly. The hallucinations you experienced are
not typical of this sort of thing. But they are common to people who
“Well, I don’t – ”
“That, along with the fact you
hadn’t eaten in a number of days, and…” He makes a circular
motion at his head with a finger, and whistles a kooky tune.
He picks up the phone and orders
me a bowl of oatmeal, no cream, no sugar, no butter. It is the first
thing I eat in eleven days.
I move from the ICU to a regular
room. Whenever Nurse Lil enters the room, she asks if I’m seeing
anything that she doesn’t see. After the third time she asks, I
ask her if she sees the girl in the hula skirt dancing in the
“I think you’re ready to go
home,” she says.
The last time I left my apartment,
I was dying. And it still smells like death. It feels like somebody
else was living here. I am bent, I am crippled by nausea, I am so
weak I fear I could drop; yet, the first thing I do is stagger
throughout my home, misting the air with a bleach solution.
Arp Xigar has equipped my
refrigerator with all the juices and foodstuff necessary for a
successful convalescence. So, I lie in bed for three days, eating
mere morsels of food and popping pain pills. My belly is still
filled with blood, and will be for quite some time as it is slowly
absorbed; consequently, everything below my belt is all atilt.
Then, one night, I have a odd
vision just as I nod off to sleep: It is Curly, from the Three
Stooges, wearing a stethoscope, and a shiny, round light strapped to
his head – still looking goofy as ever. Suddenly, for no apparent
reason, at the top of his distinctive voice he squeaks,
My appetite returns. The nausea
ceases. I take walks in the morning. I do simple exercises. I sleep.
I sleep and I wake somewhat rested. I’m still very weak, but for
the first time I feel that recovery is possible
Still, I yearn for another sign. I
need something earthy and real, something that declares the sure
onset of wellness, something that would be accepted by both the
mystics and the scientists.
Oh, yeah. A nice color. An acceptable
texture. Solid. An admirable shape, and an impressive length, as
well. A slight aroma, but nothing to be concerned about. A
beautiful, no-splash water entry like an Olympic diver. A quick
I have to say, that is one sexy turd.
I return to work on a part-time
basis. Everyone is quite concerned about my health. My boss goes out
of his way to accommodate me. I take it easy: make the soups, set up
the salad bar, etc.
The oven buzzer sounds. I grab a
pair of dry towels and remove a large sheet pan full of meatballs.
In order to get through the narrow walk-in door, I balance the short
end of the pan on my belt and hold the length out in front of me.
The phone rings. I freeze.
Then the phone rings again. And
again. And again.
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