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Thursday, August 20, 2015

I Wrestled A Grizzly Bear. No Kidding.

There are points in your life when you are faced with decisions. Decisions to act on your ideas or not. Well, this is the story of an idea that I acted on and in retrospect wish I hadn't. I wrestled a grizzly bear. No kidding.

This was around 1980 and I was working as the morning DJ for a small radio station east of Cleveland. The station was so small, we didn't even have a 24-hour license. We signed off at sunset and signed on at 6:00 AM.

I was the morning personality. We played MOR, Middle Of the Road, music. Which means we were not only dated, but we were boring. I think the average age of our listeners was around 70. You could hear them sucking on their oxygen tanks.

The problem I was having was that I was around 22  and I couldn't really connect to the audience. I was young enough and dumb enough to try various gimmicks that seemed to go absolutely nowhere. As long as I kept spinning Al Martino and ABBA records, the world was a happy place.

But I wouldn't stand for that. I had to do something spectacular to generate some excitement with the geriatric crowd.

I saw an ad in the paper about an event coming to the local mall. I decided I was going to participate in the event. What was the event? Wrestle a grizzly bear. A real bear.

Since I had no experience at wrestling grizzly bears, I did no training. All I did was have a t-shirt made with the station's call letters on the front and the slogan "Man vs. Bear Just Ain't Fair." on the back. It was red with white lettering. That was my prep. Ha.

For about two weeks, I pumped the wrestling event on the radio station. I was hoping to get a crowd down to the mall to cheer me on.

On the day of the event, I got there early to check out my competition. I was going to wrestle "Victor the Rasslin' Bear". Man, that Victor big. And he was undefeated.

I looked around and noticed that the only crowd were casual mall shoppers. No one had shown up from the radio station or from the audience. I'm about to die in front of an empty house.

Well, it was my turn to wrestle Victor. I get in the ring and the guy playing referee whispers in my ear, "Don't get behind him. He'll sit on you and snap your legs off like toothpicks." Great.

The reality that I could be severely maimed crept into my mind. My strategy was to stay in front of the bear and see what I could do from there.

The referee yells, "Go" and it's time to wrestle. Even though Victor was wearing a muzzle, his breath was enough to knock you out by itself. So I'm choking as I go to make my first moves. I wrestled a bit in high school and thought I could apply some of the techniques on the bear. Apparently, Victor wrestled in high school, too, because he actually knew wrestling moves.

He kept reaching for my leg, trying to perform a take down move. He used the other paw to hold my head still so I couldn't lunge at him. This bear was good and stinky.

I'm still trying to get over the breath issue and I'm fighting with all my might to make some progress on Victor. I did slip behind him once and I remembered the snapping toothpicks analogy and I quickly got in front of him.

The struggle went on for about  five minutes and then I finally collapsed and Victor pinned me. I left the ring totally out of breath and smelling like bear. I thought I was going to die.

I survived and that's about all you can say. No one showed up. No one called the radio station. No one even cared that I almost got crushed by a bear. In retrospect, I probably shouldn't have tried to wrestle Victor. He was just too much for me.

But how many people do you know can say, "I wrestled a grizzly bear." No kidding.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Fun With Alzheimer's

Alzheimer's Disease is extremely insidious. First it takes away the person, then it cannibalizes the body. And the worst part is, it can take a decade or more to play out. That is why Alzheimer's is often referred to as "The Long Goodbye."

My mother lasted ten years. Her sister lasted eighteen years. Not one of those years was pleasant because the victim never improves. It's a constant slow erosion of someone you love and you are completely helpless as far as staving the course.

Along the way, you have to find moments to pluck a little joy from a situation. With a sense of humor and the right timing, you can create a lasting memory. I had just that opportunity with my mother.

My mother had reached the stage where she didn't know anyone anymore. She would ask me about my father, saying, "Who's that guy? He's always here."

That is truly one of the hardest steps in the process, when your loved one looks at you and says, "Who are you?"

It's crushing because you know they're gone and you'll never have that person back.

Even though my mother looked as me as the friendly man that came to visit, we still had conversations. She was rather lucid and would ask hilarious questions that were totally out of her character.

On day, we were playing a game where I would recount the stages of her life, trying to see if I could connect with some murky memory. I started, "Mom, in 1938 you graduated from Notre Dame Academy and went to the Cleveland Institute of Art. In 1943 you went to work in an advertising agency." Then I dramatically picked up the tone and pitch of my voice and shouted at her, "And in 1948 you played shortstop for the Cleveland Indians and you won the World Series!" She shrieked, "I DID!" And I added, "Yeah, and you had two home runs,"

She was so excited. I hadn't seen her that happy in months. For a brief moment, I was able to make my mother a World Series Champion and it meant the world to her.

As she continued to beam, my father walked in the room and she announced, "I WON THE WORLD SERIES." My dad, befuddled as to the nature of our game, simply shook his head and kept walking.

Alzheimer's is horrible and it takes a toll on the caregivers. But for a few precious minutes, my mother was world champion and I'll never forget her smile. Alzheimer's took my mother, but you can never take that memory from me, unless I befall the same fate.

Alzheimer's is hard. With a little ingenuity, you might be able to give your loved one a moment that only the two of you will share for a little while, but you will keep for a lifetime.

Monday, March 23, 2015

True Stories From The Psyche Ward, Margaret, Part 2.

In my last blog post, I introduced you to Margaret, one of the stranger people I met during my time on the psyche ward. Before you read this you need to read Margaret, Part 1. If you don't read that then what I'm about to write today in True Stories From the Psyche Ward, Margaret, Part 2, won't make as much sense.

Margaret could best be described as a mine field. You never knew which step was going to set her off. Even though she spent most of her time in her room, screaming at the walls and drinking water with five and six packs of Sweet 'n' Lo in it, she still found time to roam the halls or show up for meals.

This day was like any ordinary day. However, in the psyche ward, every little change in routine is a big deal. Today was one of those days. We were having a "Tornado Drill". I was not familiar with a "Tornado Drill". Fire Drills and those senseless Nuclear Attack Drills we did in the 1960's - crawl under your desk in front of a wall of windows would surely protect me from nuclear attack. "Tornado Drills" at the psyche ward made about as much sense.

We were all instructed to go to the Men's room and stand against the walls. That would protect us from flying glass, but the building was built around the Civil War and we were on the fifth floor. I'm sure it would crumble like a stack of graham crackers when exposed to the least bit of pressure. I guess, having us all in the Men's room would make it easy to find the bodies.

One thing you don't want to do is tell a bunch of  people with mental disorders that there is going to be a "Tornado Drill" and then wait three hours. All the people suffering from paranoia were on high alert and kept asking, "When's the drill, when's the drill?"

The depressed people, fearing the worst, all sat curled up in chairs in a recreation room, covered with blankets. Those with anxiety, paced feverishly.

All of a sudden, the cry came out, "Tornado Drill, Tornado Drill, move to your positions in the Men's room. Everyone shuffled to the Men's room and took random places along the walls. Margaret was near the back of the pack and took a space along the wall about three people to my right.

We stood in silence for what seemed like an eternity, then Margaret blurts out at the top of her lungs, "ALL YOU NIGGERS GOT TO GO BACK TO THE PLANET YOU CAME FROM." No one made a sound. There wasn't a gasp or even a deep breath. My eyes were clamped shut waiting for all hell to break loose. You see, half the population was black and I'm sure they didn't appreciate that, but no one made a sound. I could swear I felt a little pee come out.

Another few minutes went by and we were told we could return to our rooms and the recreation area. Everyone shuffled out without a sound and we all went back to business as usual at the psyche ward.

What could have been a major disaster, passed by like a feather in the wind. And that's another true story from the psyche ward, Margaret, Part 2.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

True Stories From The Psyche Ward: Margaret, Part 1

When you get sent to the psyche hospital, you never know what to expect. There are people that seem to be in a coma, there are others that talk all the time, some seem perfectly fine and you can't figure out why they're there. Then there are the people you KNOW that need to be in the psyche ward. And that's why I'm bringing you true stories from the psyche ward: Margaret, Part 1.

Margaret was a very strange person. She kept to herself in her room, but spent the time screaming and swearing at the walls. When she came out in the day room, the area we all hung out in, she would take a book and start crossing out the text with an orange crayon. She took to this task as if it was a school assignment that she had to get done. She would quickly scan the pages and then start crossing out the text. Needless to say, we didn't have many books we could read in the day room.

Margaret was a lithe figure who shuffled around with her arms tightly crossed against her chest. She rarely made eye contact with anyone and stuck to her own business, which involved drinking cup after cup of water with as many as ten Sweet 'n' Lo packets in each.

A couple gulps of the artificial sweeter syrup and she'd go back to yelling at her walls.

Occasionally, Margaret would just freak out. One time she popped her door open, just wide enough for her to poke her narrow face and bristled hair and screamed at the top of her lungs, "NO ONE WAS LAUGHING WHEN THE FUCKING EGYPTIANS DIED." This was well before the turmoil in Egypt and she must have been referring to the ancient Egyptians.

She had a pet peeve about the Kennedys, too. Every couple days she'd blurt out a rant about the Kennedy family and how they were ruining the world. One of her favorites was: "THE KENNEDYS ARE POPULATING THE EARTH WITH THEIR MUTANT BABIES AND WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE." Thank you Margaret.

People learned to stay out of her way. New people didn't know what to make of her outbursts, but there were a few that had never seen her outbursts.

One day at breakfast a new guy mistakenly goes over and sits at a table where Margaret is and sits right in front of her. As he's fiddling with his toast he offers a mild greeting, "Good morning." Within a split second Margaret shot back, "SHUT UP, PUNK." Those were the last words of that conversation.

There were odd moments when she would be discussing her medications with the nurse and she spoke in a perfectly normal voice and talked about an attorney in Montana that was going to take care of everything for her.

I don't know what happened to Margaret. She always refused her medication and once a week a group of orderlies had to go in and pin her down to administer a shot. She's probably still institutionalized. And that's a true story from the psyche ward: Margaret, Part 1.

Margaret, Part 2

Thursday, March 5, 2015

I Finally Got Back On Facebook After Three Years

It's been said, "All things in due time." Which means you're not going to be ready right this minute, it may take a while. Two weeks ago, due time came about. I finally got back on Facebook after three years. 

I didn't mean to be away from Facebook for three years, it just kinda worked out that way. Three years ago, I was a mess. I was on all the wrong medications and wasn't taking what was prescribed and I went into a manic mode that tops anything I've ever done in my life. It didn't happen overnight, it built and built over a six month period. Everything was crazy.

During that time, I was cranking out three and four blog posts a day. That number escalated to almost ten blog posts a day by the end of December 2011. I was also making You-Tube videos. I wrote, acted in and edited around 24 videos. Crazy. Plus, I was spending hours a day on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. I had something like 16 Twitter accounts and blogs to go with each one. I had nine different websites. It makes me tired just thinking about all the work I was doing.

Then the people started showing up. I had semi-homeless guy with Asperger's Syndrome, a homeless bus boy from Denny's, my Schizophrenic friend Chuck and a handful of other characters. Some were staying with me, some came and went.

The guy with Asperger's we nicknamed Dr. Horowitz and made him my doctor. And I couldn't do anything with out consulting my doctor. Horowitz would eat up all my food and I had a very limited food budget. So, we'd go dumpster diving for pizza, just to stay alive.

The landlord came over one day and freaked out. "Everybody out." So we called Sam, the bus boy and told him to come get his clothes or we were going to burn them. He's calling back leaving frantic messages, "Please don't burn my clothes." Let's just say everything turned into one big LMAO.

And then something snapped. I went into a full-tilt manic phase. I decided that I WAS GOING TO THE HOSPITAL and I knew exactly how to get there. Horowitz started throwing up and had to leave. I ran for the Magic Markers.

I started writing. Not on paper, but on the walls. I AM NOT A DOG. DADDY IS DEAD. FUCK YOU. I didn't miss a wall in the living room or dining room. Then I got on the phone.

I called my X and left an insane message on her machine. It caused her to get a restraining order against me, even though I was 2,300 miles away. I called the Las Vegas Police and said, "THEY KILLED MY DAUGHTER." and hung up.

One insane phone call after another for about a half an hour and then there was a banging at my door. It was the local police. They had about twenty cars surrounding the house and an ambulance.

I had a very civil discussion with the police and said I want help.

We had a caravan of cop cars and the ambulance and they took me to the hospital. Five cops were in my room at all times. The nurses shot me up with some stuff that knocked me out pretty quick.

Turns out, there wasn't a place to put me. So they moved my bed into the hallway and I spent four days in a hallway with light and people constantly walking by.

Finally, they sent me to a Cleveland Clinic facility. I had been in the psyche hospital before and this was like the Ritz Carlton. The floors were gorgeous. The food was gourmet. The activities were worth doing. I thought, "I could get to like this."

I made friends quickly with all the other nut cases. And we came up with an idea to have a talent show on Saturday night. I got it approved by who I thought was the head nurse. We all worked on making signs to promote the show.

There was this girl that would never speak to anyone, except me. And I had her convinced to go up in front of everyone and tell three jokes. They weren't good jokes, but I was getting her to do something her  doctor could only dream of.

Then the bottom fell out. About two hours before the talent show, this other nurse, who I guess was the real boss, said the show was cancelled. She said it interfered with visiting hours and we'd have to do it later.

Well, half the reason we were doing this show was for the family members to see their loved ones do something that was completely out of their realm. I had everyone on the floor in the show and there were some people that couldn't talk to themselves in the mirror.

When I found out the show I was cancelled, I went off. I started screaming and swearing up and down the halls. Then I went to my room. Five minutes later, a team of people came into my room, held me down and shot me up. Off to La-La-Land again.

About 2:30 in the morning, they woke me up and transported me to another hospital. Northcoast Behavioral Institute.

I spent and interesting three or four weeks there, where I was shot up a couple more times and actually put in leather restraints, spread eagle on a mattress, with my arms above my head.

From there I went to a halfway house and spent a miserable week there. Then, made arrangements to stay with my friend Chuck and listen to him practice his trumpet all day. My landlord wasn't quite ready to have me return to the scene of the crime.

After four weeks at Chuck's house, I said the wrong thing to my psychiatrist and I wound up in the hospital again for a couple days, that was hell. Then I was moved to rehab facility, where all we did was bum cigarettes from each other.

I saw my psychiatrist when I got out of the rehab facility and he put me on a group of medications that have made all the difference in my life. I don't know how to be depressed anymore. I haven't had a manic episode in three years. My anxiety twitches have gone away; although, my left hand shakes a bit. The things that bothered me, I accepted and I've learned tolerance.

I actually had a job for two years, which I lost the week of Thanksgiving. But I had found another job to start the Monday after Thanksgiving. That job lasted a month. So now I'm back on disability and looking for part-time work.

But with me, there is never a simple end to the story. I'm currently working on a website project that, if it works, it will allow me to go back to Las Vegas and see my daughter, who I haven't seen in five years. She's fourteen now and I want to be back there by the time she turns sixteen.

I told one of my Facebook friends in the Philippines that in America, you always get another chance. You can always make good, somehow.

The website journey coincided with my return to Facebook. It took me about a day to figure out my login and password, but I did it.

You can't imagine the amount of crap that accumulates on your Facebook page and the messages and the friend requests when you've been away for three years. But I'm back and back at it again. It's like I never left. Same old people are still typing away on the other end and I'm typing back.

Maybe I needed to rest. Maybe I needed the time away. Maybe I had to reinvent myself before it would matter. All I know is, I finally got back on Facebook after three years, and I'm glad I did.


You Just Have To Watch It. Absolutely Incredible !!!!!