Wednesday, August 1, 2012




Okay, so, when we left off, our intrepid folks were hanging out in the ER waiting room of TGH. A very busy night indeed, and the ones hanging on for the duration weren’t feeling better for the wait. We also have an interesting shift in the type of clientele that is seeking medical assistance. What were working men, soccer moms with banged up kids, has changed to, rasta guys, gang bangers, gits and hos with ‘tats and ‘tudes. The maladies have changed as well. From bumps, bruises and broken bones to overdoses, knifings, black eyes and minor gun shot wounds. The really bad ones we just hear as the ambulance rockets past to the Surgical entrance; the siren echoes eerily, magnified off the cement canyons of the patient wings. It is a lovely, lonely, urgent sound. I hope for those who are being borne along. I hope they recover physically and spiritually. I hope this will be a turning point for them. That they will realize their lives are worth so much more than being borne to this place, little more than sacks of dying flesh, for dedicated men and women to fight and labor over to save, only to go out and tempt that dragon once more.

I was one of those sacks of dying flesh once. The saviors had to do a lot of saving. I decided I wanted to live. I still tempt dragons but of a better class and in another way and I am forever graced for this gift, this insight; splendid, unasked-for opportunity. My redemption lies in my voice; my ability to tell, ask, verbalize and lyricize. To help and try to understand, be compassionate, care and help. That will be my salvation in a life ill-spent. And to tell really great stories, without any type of segue. Lucky you! Enough Hallmark Card Precious Moments.

Back in our ER, the Titanic-TGH ER, Jack Hanna comes out on the TV with something resembling a Bobcat. It’s little and feisty, and it has the cropped tail, of a Bob, but it has the big feet and pointy ears and cheeks of a Lynx. I get up to get closer to the screen. Now, I’m standing under the screen, sort of, wearing glasses, holding whackamole. There’s a man sitting near me with his obviously very ill and uncomfortable wife. They are touching to watch. He has been reassuring and comforting to her. They have been patient and talking to us all there. It’s a shame to meet people under those circumstances, but so, so endearing and ennobling to witness. The man says, “I’m scared of cats and birds. That cat has prongs. What is that?” For I know not what reason, I blurt out , “We had an accidental bobcat once!”

Well. This was met with dead silence. I can hear necks creak. So, I launch into the whole stupid story: When we moved to San Diego in 1963, we found ourselves petless for a while. In San Diego at the time, there was still quite a bit of undeveloped land. We lived in a housing tract that was built on top of a canyon ridge. The bottom of the canyon ridge still contained yucca bushes, cacti, jackrabbits, coyotes and such. Fun for kids to play in. My cousins lived a block away and we had many adventures, falling into cacti, getting bitten by scorpions, teasing tarantulas; the poor ‘rents.

Around my birthday in December, my mom asked me what I wanted for my present. I told her I wanted a kitten. Eyeroll. She missed having pets too, but after the traumatic death of our last cat, and her fragile mental state she wasn’t really willing to make an emotional investment, yet, but she knew I was hurting. So, one bright Saturday, off we went to the local ASPCA to pick out a kitten. I seem to remember they had these huge wire baskets full of kittens. It must have been kitten nap time after milk and cookie time at kitten kindergarten because every damned one of these guys were asleep. Curled up in little balls, so I have to hope that the one I pick out by color at least has feet, because my father is standing there hollering, “DON’T DISTURB THE KITTIES!”

So, I look and I see one particularly fuzzy little number; he or she looks kind of spotty on the belly, kind of browny and black on his/her blacky. So, I reach down and pick up this little guy. Blink, blink, blue-green eyes. Fuzz, big feet. My father, who adored cats, reached down to hold him and cup his hindquarters. Bobtail. “I’ll be damned. He’s a manx. A little boy manx.” Sayeth the Cat-Whisperer.  My mom holds him and cuddles him; he goes back to sleep. We run home with our prize. He slept all the way home.

Of course, being the soul of creativity, I named him “Robert.” Robert the bob cat. Which he turned out to be. Our first inkling type of kitten we had purchased was about 15 minutes after we got him home. We had put paper cut-out snowflakes up on the windows. Robert thought these were delightful. He was pretty small, but he could already jump well over 6 feet in the air. Once he had torn every single snow flake off the window, including the ones that my father had placed that were taped a good 7 feet up the glass, Then, it was time for a nap. I guess all that snowflake killing wore him out.
Robert tipped the scales at about 45 pounds. He had springboard hind legs, a bowling ball ass, shorter front legs, platter feet, longer hair and spots on his tummy and did I mention his tail? His tail was just the cutest! He had a short little bobbed tail. He had marvelous ear and cheek mustaches and slept, oh, about 53 hours a day.

He was a placid and benign presence in the area, but not all neighbors got that memo. We had a couple of neighbors across the street at the time, named Gary and Sheryl. Sheryl was an “Artist” and Gary was a mechanic. They were both rather feeble-minded, but sweet. We lived on a street that was a cul-de-sac and being the early ‘60s, were an insular and familiar bunch, but G and S were “odd.” Still, they were nice enough, after several drinks (my father said.)

One night, my folks had Gary and Sheryl over for dinner because Sheryl had given my mom one of her paintings, After a few drinks, Gary blurts out, “Gee, we have mountain lions in this area!” “Really?” My father says. “How do you know?” My mother asks. She’s kicking me under the table, warning me to keep my mouth shut. Gary soldiers on, “my chihuahuas were barking in the middle of the night! I got up and went in the living room and there was this huuuge cat stretched out on the back of my couch. It musta come in through the pet door! It was huuuge! About 6 feet long. It had prongs on its face and coming out of its ears! It was terrifying!” My dad said, “Oh, I’ll bet.” My mom excused herself from the table and said she’d be right back. “What did you do, Gary?” My father asked. “Well, I went to the refrigerator and got a raw steak out and threw it out the sliding glass door and said HERE KITTY, KITTY! And when that bastard went after it, I slammed the door shut!” Just then, my mom came staggering out of the back of the house, lugging 45 pounds of sleeping bob cat under her arm, and said “Is this your Marauder?” We thought Gary and Sheryl were going to faint.

So, this is the story I transfixed the TGH ER waiting room with. About this time, as I am winding down, after the chortling begins to die, someone starts barfing. This does not cause me to turn a hair in the least, but I know it’s a trigger for a lot of people. Several people look at me, pleas in their eyes; “make it stop, or cover it up.” Right then I am reminded of the James Thurber story of The Pleasure Cruise and How to Survive It, wherein he is one of the few luckless ones who doesn’t get seasick and winds up tending those who do. It is a hell few can imagine. Thank god. Anyway. These poor people are looking at me to turn up the volume, only as luck would have it, I have just run out of “Robert, the Bobcat Story,” so the junkbucket of my mind serves up “Three Little Maids from School”  from The Mikado which is probably the longest and most difficult of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Opera’s. It is certainly my favorite to play. So, I stand up there, madly hollering, operatically, as I can, because I’ve been around this stuff and I can fake after all. All professional musicians can fake and if one says they don’t or can’t they’re lying:

Three little maids from school are we
Pert as a school-girl well can be
Filled to the brim with girlish glee
Three little maids from school…

I kind of tapered off. Rasta guy said, “I can still hear!” So, I bellowed out:

Everything is a source of fun
Nobody's safe, for we care for none
Life is a joke that's just begun
Three little maids from school

I’m up here, with my dark glasses, whackamole, in front of the ‘bangers, rastas, hos, farmers and other sickies, with Jack Hanna and a Bobcat dancing and singing G&S at 12 AM in the ER of TGH. What’s wrong with me?

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