February 26th, 2005

coyote

Entropy Sets In

It’s been ten years since I could be trusted. Ten years to the day.

Of course, back in 1964 when the cry was first uttered, it was a call to arms against the Establishment, against Old Ways of Thought, against War and Capitalism and Consumerism, against Politics, Pollution, and Police, against Racism and Sexism, against the rules that dictated clothing and hairstyle and behavior and gender roles and inequitable pay-scales. The Old Ways brought us a post-war reactionary push to move women out of jobs and back into the kitchens and bedrooms. The Old Ways brought us housekeeping in high heels, fruit floating in Jello™, evenings drenched in Manhattans and Cosmopolitans, Fluffy Mackerel Pudding, and Valium. The Old Ways brought us lynchings. They brought us assassinations, at home and abroad. They brought us CIA sponsored coups. They brought us government infiltration of environmental activist groups, mass anti-communist hysteria, McCarthyism. “Never trust anyone over 30,” Jack Weinberg said. The Old Ways of Thought trusted the government to do what is in the best interest of the people, trusted the police to do the right thing, trusted the FBI to respect people’s rights, trusted the CIA to act in an ethical manner, consistent with the values espoused in our Constitution and in the Declaration of Independence, and didn’t believe in the existence of OGAs (Other Governmental Agencies).

Today’s youth have a different reason not to trust those over the age of 30. We represent the forces that integrated the schools, that presided over the changes that gave women the reasonable possibility of financial independence from their husbands, that espoused the values of multiculturalism and diversity, that thought that maybe the concepts of freedom and equality under the law should apply to all people, not just to straight, white men. We don’t trust the government, or the police, or the FBI or CIA. We know about the NSA and we take it for granted that we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg of secret governmental activity. We are skeptical by nature.

In Ronald Reagan’s first term, education was hit hard. Funds for primary education were slashed. Federal funds for colleges and for financial aid were likewise slashed. The tax structure on books was altered dramatically so that it became fiscally impossible for publishers to keep books in print by taxing all books that were in storage as if they had been sold (so if a book was printed in 1983 and sold in 1986, the publisher or distributor would have to pay tax on that book at the end of 1983, at the end of 1984, at the end of 1985, and at the time of sale in 1986). It became cheaper to destroy the inventory in December and reprint the titles that showed some sales in January. As a result, the cost of books, especially specialty books such as text books, skyrocketed (when I was an undergrad in 1983, the cost of the average text book was $10-20, and some of the bigger, more rare texts went up to $30 or $35, and in 1985, tuition at Villanova University was under $1500 per year; by the time I graduated in 1988, tuition was up to nearly $3000 per semester, and the average text book was running in the $70-100 range) and the availability of books that didn’t have a wide readership became extremely limited. A lot of people I knew, the ones who were actually working their way through school, instead of having it paid for by their parents, ended up dropping out.

We determined that Reagan’s unpublished motto was: You can’t fool all of the people all of the time, so breed them for stupidity.

So that’s been done. And now 50% of high school students think that the government ought to censor our news media. Bill Maher recommends that we leave ALL kids behind until they learn the Bill of Rights. But a population that willingly hands additional powers to the government is just what the government wants.

In 1995 I owned a 386 with a 20MB hard drive and a 14.4k modem running Windows 3.1. I couldn’t afford the 40MB hard drive. Linda and I started living together (and I suddenly had a teenage son, a scary proposition, that), and we got our first commercial Internet account (we shared an account – again because we couldn’t afford to have separate accounts) with Netaxs, Philadelphia’s first independent ISP. In 1996 I started working for that company. For years before that I’d been using my school account for Internet access, and for BITNET before that. I was thinking of taking some time off school, and picking up a CompuServe account, but CompuServe charged a quarter for every email sent or received, and I realized that paying $1100 for a graduate class was going to be a fraction of what it would cost for 6 months of CompuServe’s service.

Reasonably portable cell phones had just started being used by people who could afford them. It wasn’t too long before that that we saw the first cell phones, briefcase sized monstrosities. We mocked those we saw with them – so important that they had to be reachable at all times – what arrogance!

In 1995, the Murray Building in Oklahoma City was bombed by right-wing militants in apparent retaliation against the Federal Government’s handling of the Waco incident. Around the same time, militants in Nevada were threatening Forest Rangers and Federal Judges and their families, claiming that the Federal Government had no jurisdiction over Nevada.

In 1985, when I turned 20, I was living at my parent’s house. I was going to Cabrini College, and had determined that, after 4 semesters, there were no more interesting classes to take, and that I had to transfer or drop out. I transferred to Villanova University as a Philosophy Major/Physics Minor. I was working at a frame shop in Exton Mall, and started dating Krys that year. I didn’t own a computer at that time, but used my father’s IBM 8088 and the VT100 terminals at that lab. I drove a 1977 VW Rabbit. There was Bad Music. Flock of Seagulls. Thompson Twins. Punk had appeared and been thoroughly co-opted. Touchtone telephones – you know, the ones with buttons rather than a dial - were starting to become popular. Ronald Reagan was president. Government was filled with miscreants such as Meese and Bork, and a whole bunch of people who worked for George H.W. Bush that none of us had heard of yet. We were funding Saddam Hussein’s war against Iran. We were secretly selling arms to Iran to fund a terrorist war against Nicaragua that Congress had forbid. We were actively training death squads in Columbia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, etc., etc., etc. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy radio shows had crossed the pond, and the books were gathering steam. Tom Baker was the most famous Doctor.

In 1975 I was 10, and my life was school and books. I spent recess in the library, shelving books and such. Safer there. The playground was filled with roving gangs in search of easy prey. The teachers never got involved unless you fought back. I read The Hobbit, and lots of books on dinosaurs. When I grew up I was going to be a paleontologist. This was before dinosaurs became popular, so when I drew a picture of some dinosaurs, it ended up in front of the school psychologist, who determined that my father (the Tyrannosaurus Rex) was abusing my mother (the Triceratops) and that the kids (two small dinosaurs hiding under a bush) should be removed and put into foster home. The school psychologist and her administration were re-educated. I’d discovered the Beatles and the Beach Boys at this point. Gerald Ford was president – Nixon had fallen in disgrace, along with Agnew. We had a color TV. I didn’t like it as much as the black and white TV – the color TV was much blurrier. Our refrigerator was “Avocado” colored. We had a pet squirrel (he fell off the roof on Easter, a tiny little squirrellette), and we put him in a box and fed him Count Chocula (back then we had Count Chocula, and Frankenberry, and Boo Berry, and Fruit Brute). He didn’t like the marshmallows.

I don’t remember much of 1965, but a few years later, I had a red wagon, and we would wander around the neighborhood collecting glass bottles for their return value, and we’d go to the corner store and trade them in and get money and buy all sorts of penny candy. And one time we made poison using all sorts of bathroom ingredients, including a full tube of toothpaste. And my friend tried to prove that when something overflows, all the liquid rushes out. But it didn’t quite work out that way, which is good, because a bathtub’s worth of water would have sucked to clean up. And my parents had a Mercedes that they got from my uncle, but the speedometer was in kilometers, so they had to get rid of it, and ended up with a horrible Pontiac that leaked in the back window, which sucked because I used to sleep in the back window on long drives. There was a house full of hippies that lived next door to us.

Forty years gone.
coyote

me and a truck and 3 women (and a catheter)

well, i'd gotten the feeling that it was going to be a bad day
when, as i was getting my shit together for my vacation, i
found that my roommates had left my cooler sitting full of water
for several months and green stuff had started growing all
over it.  so as i was washing it out in the back yard, i stepped
in dogshit that my roommates' poodle had left, and they hadn't
cleaned up.  oh joy.

eventually, i got my shoes clean and got the car packed and
and the band tape dropped off and my parent's tomatoes picked,
and i was on my way, happily buzzing down route 13 for my
dinner date with my ex and her husband, thence to continue to
meet up with my parents and aunt in north carolina.  little
did i know what terrible fate was awaiting me...

you know how sometimes you approach a light, and its turning yellow, and
you realize that it'll be red before you get to it, but you're
thinking of blowing through it anyway, 'cause its a highway and you're
going 60mph and you just don't feel like stopping?  then you get
that funny feeling that there's a cop at the corner, so you stop.
thats what i did.  seems the guy in the truck behind me had the
same thoughts, but without the funny feeling, because he didn't stop.

i remember hearing a screech of tires and a crunching sound, and was
about to turn around to see who just got hit, when i realized that i was
moving again.  everything was in that instant helpless slow motion,
as i thought, "oh shit, that's me," then "i hope nobody is in this
intersection," and then, when i was through the intersection and
showing no sign of stopping soon, "what hit me?"  some other thoughts
went through my head, too, like "i'm going to be late for dinner and
all the food is going to get cold" (wasting food was always bad in a
household where both parents survived wwII in yugoslavia).  strange,
the things that go through one's head at the moment of death.  i had
that gut feeling that this was not an accident that i would be walking
away from.

i stopped skidding, eventually.  i saw the skid marks after i got
out of the hospital, and i estimate that he probably pushed me
over 100 feet.  i was lying mostly prone in my little honda civic
hatchback (seems that the seat had just broken off, probably from
where the spare tire hit it).  my arm hurt a little, and there was
a large lump sticking out of it.  the lump was hard, and my arm
didn't work.  "how am i going to play bass like this?" i thought,
and it occurred to me that krys was making me dinner, and it was
going to get cold.  the back of my head felt wet, and my glasses
were missing.  i was searching the car for my glasses when the trucker
got to my car.

trucker: are you alright?
brni: my arm's broke.
t: fercrissake why did you stop?
b: (incredulous and slightly exasperated) the light was *red*!
t: well, well, yeah, but but...why did you stop?!?

at this point the cop who had been at the intersection in an
unmarked car pushed him aside.

c: how ya feelin', son.
b: (discovering his new mantra) my arm's broke.
c: (pulling rubber gloves on) now just relax son, and don't move.

the cop then grabbed my head and held it stationary.  i lay still
and decided that i'd let the experts deal with the situation, and
then slipped into shock.  i have no idea how long it took for
them to extract me from the car.  they had to cut it or pry it open,
i'm not sure which.  me, i don't *think* i ever passed out, strictly
speaking, but i do remember things sortof alternating between feeling
really cold and clammy, hot and nauseous, just hazy and indistinct,
completely lucid, and sometimes an utter bonetiredness where i didn't
know where to get the energy to answer the questions they were asking.

i'm not sure how, but they managed to fit more people into my significantly
shortened honda than i ever managed when it was full-sized.  the cop
was holding my head, someone was holding my shoulders, someone else
my waist.  one guy was poking my gut and ribs while another was testing
to see if my fingers worked.  yet another guy was sticking needles in
my feet.

eventually they got the door open, and i started to get out, but they all
yelled at me, so i let them do it.  they put me on a stretcher, put some
sort of brace on my head, another on my neck, and strapped me down,
just in case i had the sudden urge to do my famous tap-dance routine,
i suppose.  then the questions started...

a = ambulence person
c = cop
b = brni
(mind you, there were 5 or 6 rescue people, 3 cops, assorted other
people, and later, 2 helicopter people, all questioning me at
the same time, so if this gets confusing, its because it was.)

c: last name?
a: just relax, the chopper will be here soon.
b: mojzes
c: how do you spell that?
c2: where do ya want yer car towed?
b: huh?
a2: squeeze my hand with your right hand.
a3: (sticking a pin in each toe in succession) can you feel this? ...
b: m-o-j yes z-e-s
c2: yer car?
b: how the fuck should i know? yes.  squeeze like this?
a?: good good. squeeze my finger between you thumb and index finger
	of your left hand.
c: first name?
b: can someone find my glasses?
a??: (digging fingers hard into my solar plexus) does this hurt?
b: no more than can be expected.  bernard
c: ber-nerd.  social security number?
a???: do you feel any injuries?
b: my arm's broke.

and so on.  soon the chopper arrives, and one of the cops brings
my glasses and puts them in my shorts pocket.

chopper guy: hi there.  we'll have you at the hospital soon.
b: ok.
ch: whats your name?
b: brni mojzes.
ch: when were you born?
b: uh, 2 26, 1965.
ch: whats today's date?
b: august 4th.
ch: what year?
b: 1993.
ch: who's the president of the united states?
b: bill clinton.
ch: who d'you *wish* was president?
b: frank zappa.
ch: (laughing) you'll be fine.

they loaded me into the chopper and closed the door.  i wanted to look out
the window, since i'd never been in a helicopter before, but i was
strapped down.  sigh.  it got louder and we took off.  the chopper guy
leaned over and yelled to me.

ch: I THINK YOUR ARM'S BROKE.
b: I KNOW.
ch: THAT'S THE EASIEST DIAGNOSIS I'VE HAD ALL WEEK.

WE, oops, we landed and they wheeled me into the emergency room.  i
didn't have to fill out any forms or sit in the waiting room at all.
they took my wallet, earings, glasses, and the cop's business card,
and put them all in an envelope, and put 2 IVs in my right arm.  they
cut off my favorite shorts.  i'd been barefoot and shirtless, so
they didn't get a chance to destroy my shirt and shoes.  one of the nurses
put a tube over my penis and told me to urinate or they'd put a
catheter in me and get the urine sample  themselves.  i tried, really i
did, but it's so hard to pee when you have 3 women standing there waiting
for you, saying "hurry up, you've got 3 minutes or we're going in
for it."  sigh.

then came the long nightmare of x-rays and cat scans and more x-rays,
each of which involved getting me off the stretcher (which was metal)
and on to some table or other, without moving my back or neck or
arm (since the bone had almost punctured the skin), so they had to gather
5 or 6 people every time i had to be moved.  toby, the woman who was
doing my x-rays, was very sweet and very gentle.  from the few times that
she bent over close enough for me to see well, she was very attractive
as well.  i'll have to look her up when i'm in the area again.  i never
did get to see her with my glasses on, tho.

hours later, they had finally determined that i won't be intantly
parylized if i sit up, so the sat me up and took some x-rays of
my arm.  then they took me to the bone guy, who yelled at them
for taking so long.  this started a heated exchange where the nurse
told him in no uncertain terms to fuck himself.  tempers were rather
short there.  they'd had a busy day, and by 8 pm-ish, most of them still
hadn't had a chance to eat lunch.

doctor: (to nurse) give him some morphine.
nurse: how much?
d: oh, i don't know.
n: well...
d: a couple.  use your own judgement.

the nurse fed the morphine into my IV and in very little time a wave
of pain reduction crossed my body.  the doctor came over and squeezed
my left arm and asked if it hurt.  it did, a little bit, so i grimaced
and said yes.  he told the nurse to give me "some more," which she
did.

d: we're going to set your bone now.   now i'm not going to lie to
	you.  this is going to hurt a lot, even with the morphine.
b: thats what i figured.

a very large man propped me up and held me in place, then the doctor
pulled on my arm hard, then pulled and pushed and squeezed and twisted
until it was where he wanted it.  i was paying attention to how the bone
felt as it moved around in my arm.  there was no pain.

i tried to get a glass of water.  i tried to get my glasses.  i tried
to get them to remove the damned catheter (which at that point was the
only thing that was still causing some discomfort).  later, they promised
me, then left me in a hallway.

later, they came to get me and did a bunch of x-rays.  then they put
me in the hallway again.  after a while, they came back and got me.
they did some more x-rays, because some of them hadn't turned out. ok.
then they put me in the hallway again.  then toby came back to get me.
turns out they forgot one of the x-rays, so we just had one more to do.
ok.  i was expecting to break out in sores from radiation poisoning any
time.

after another wait in the hallway, they took me into an actual room,
where i waited for a while.  a very nice old man came to visit, then.
he was wearing, if i remember correctly, i blue-grey blazer with an
inverted collar.  he introduced himself.  we didn't shake hands, since
one hand was immobilized and the other was tangled in IV tubes.  "I've
come to tell you a secret," he said, confidentiality dripping from his
voice, "but you probably already know it."

"probably," i said.

"well, i'll tell you anyway," he said.  "the secret is that jesus loves
you."

i supressed the urge to say "have you not heard? god is dead!"  after all,
he was there to comfort people who were left lying unattended in hallways,
so it wasn't fair to take out my irritation at still having a catheter
in me on this poor guy.  "i'd heard a rumor to that effect," i said.
then i told him about my dad being a minister (methodist), but actually
being a professor.  it was important to avoid some sort of sermon.

the intern who had held me while they were setting my arm came in at that
point, and asked the priest to leave.  as he was leaving, krys showed up
in the doorway.  the intern was going to send her away too, but i asked
for her to stay.  she gave me a hug (carefully) and held my hand while
the intern (was his name tom?) stapled my head closed.

after some more waiting, a nurse came in and and got me my glasses,
cleaned me off, removed the IV's, and, last but not by any means least,
removed the catheter.  yea!!  my penis was free!  it was late.  i had
no clothes except a hospital gown, so we called the police, who told us
who towed my car, called them, got an answering machine and the guys
beeper number, beeped him.  he called back and agreed to meet us at the
shop (rather nice, considering that it was 10pm).  we got everything that
looked like it might be relatively intact out of the car (with difficulty,
considering that the car was a different shape from when they were put
in the car).  the tomatoes were, well, glass flavored spaghetti sauce.
the nikon had been in the trunk :( and took some damage.  i haven't been
able to check to see if its still light-tight.  the luna-pro made it,
tho.

we got my stuff in larry's car and heading to their home.  after a
while krys went to sleep (its a 3 hour drive), and larry was yawning.
i offered to drive (as i was still not feeling any pain and was awake),
but they wouldn't let me.  i would yell at larry every time he stopped
for a red light.

by the time we reached virginia beach, i was in bad shape.  we stopped
at the emergency room there, and had a doctor re-align my arm and give
me a better sling (one that totally immobilized the arm, this time, since
every time i moved, i could feel the bone grating against itself).  they
were going to give me pain killers (demerol?), but the doctor decided that
he wanted to start twisting my arm around before they gave it to me.  larry
held me up while he did this.  the pain was intense, and i almost passed
out.  i got really cold and clammy, and when i regained some sense of
what was going on, krys was holding me up and larry was sitting in a
chair, breathing deeply and looking as pale and wobbly as i felt.  seems
he almost passed out and started swaying while he was holding me up.

then they shot pain killers in my butt and sent us home.

they put me in the master bedroom, since the guest room had a waterbed.
i spent the next few days trying to get back to pennsylvania, a route
that took me down to the outer banks of north carolina, then back to
virginia beach, and finally to west chester, where i stayed for a month.

it is now october 18th, and i'm finally getting around to finishing
writing this thing up (i started in early september, when i got back
to my computer, then got busy, and then even busier, went away, came
back even busier...you know how these things go).
i'm still waiting for my arm to heal.  as of last wednesday, i finally
got a little more mobility in my arm, and am now able to type with
two hands rather than one (a slow process, that), and have even managed
to play bass with two hands, again.  i can only do a couple songs at
a time, since my hand has been relatively unused for over 2 months, and
i have to not only play with it, but also use it to hold my arm in place
and to move my hand up and down the neck.  but its a start :).

thanks for listening,
be careful
and don't stop at red lights!

brni