Saturday, October 24, 2009

Blog # 111: Admitting a goof, praising pills

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Firstest With the Mostest!

Want a perfect way to start your day? How about this Annie Leibovitz portrait of the First Family? – Official White House Photo

This Week’s Illustrations Have Nothing to Do with the Content

Welcome to the Next Level

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Admitting the Obvious

I would like to start off this week’s blog with a . . . blush, blush . . . an admission. I have been known to make mistakes. I really have. I like to think they aren’t really mistakes, they are really the handiwork of my “inner being,” my all-wise, or damn fool “inner soul”, depending on how you look at it.

The basic mistake I am directing your attention at this moment consists of how I wrote out the url for my blog when I began it. Would you believe, I made a basic spelling error? Me, as well schooled as I am as a writer and editor? After all, I made my living for a couple of years back in the mid 1960’s as the managing editor of Sing Out! The Folksong Magazine. And those were the days when folkies like the Kingston Trio, the Byrds, and Peter Paul and Mary were leading our nation in song.

In case you copy and paste my url in and haven’t yet noticed, I misspelled the word little, giving it an extra L. As in littlle. It looks sort of cool lying buried in that url, for it continues a series of double letters. As in: Double t, double l, double e, and double d. You might even call it poetic, a possible improvement over the real thing. Then again, you might well not. That just might be stretching a stupid excuse a wee bit beyond its breaking point.

This error hit home several weeks ago when I was writing about Blueberry Cove Camp, and the former BBC director, Ann Goldsmith, who had just discovered I was still alive and had emailed me, sent the url around to former camp people. Ann instinctively corrected my mistaken url, typing the word little with the one L that God and the Merriam-Websters of the World had decreed for it.

She sent me a copy of the email, and being curious I clicked on the url to check it out. A blogspot titled Little Eddy came up alright, but it wasn’t my blog. It was a site with pictures of a baby named Little Eddy. And so I discovered that there is another child out there who will grow up with the name Little Eddy. Welcome to the world, my little friend. Do try to learn to spell correctly as you grow up. Take especial care with the spelling of the words in the url of your blog. After all, you wouldn’t want to end up red faced with a sh*t-eaten grin plastered all over it like the cyber world’s other littlle eddy.§

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Pied Piper, Anyone?

One Pill Over the Line, Sweet Jesus!

One characteristic of aging is our newly acquired dependence on chemicals, i.e. prescription drugs, which usually come in the form of pills. I’m not talking recreational drugs here. There’s nothing recreational about the Prilosec which I take for 14 days every now and again to tame my acid reflux; the gylburide I take daily 30 minutes before breakfast to curb my diabetes; or the Furosemide I take first thing every morning for edema, to remove the water in my feet and legs that my heart gave up on.

Sometimes these drugs cause unwanted side effects. For instance, I found out after the fact that Prilosec probably caused or aided in my getting osteoporosis, a deterioration of the bones which caused me to take injections from the Forteo Pen until the treatment drove me into the donut hole two years in a row, finally forcing me to quit it cold turkey.

The above mentioned pills are what I take each morning, I have seven more I take at bedtime. To avoid such excesses as high blood pressure – there is Lisinopril; to tame that nasty, heart damaging cholesterol – Pravastatin; to shrink an enlarged prostate – Finasteride; and to pass urine until, and/or if, the prostate shrinks – Flomax. Well you get the idea. Am I complaining? No, of course not. At the moment I am grateful for each and every one of these chemical concoctions for keeping me upright and still chugging along. And they are only costing me about $40 a month, which is reasonable enough in this day and age.

I am grateful to the pharmaceutical industry for their innovative research, but I decry the way they are making us Americans pay through the nose for their research costs, added on to their excessive rewards to their executives and equally excessive dividends for their stockholders. The right wing screams (should we say screeches?) competition. A couple of years ago when I was diagnosed as having leukemia, the only sure cure for this condition at the time was a drug called Gleevec which, would you believe, costs $3,000 a month? Which of course, priced me, as well as 99% of all Americans, right out of the cure. I ask you, what good does it do to have a cure for something if no one can afford it? The best healthcare on the planet? Well, the most overpriced, that is for sure.

Lucky for me the VA took another bone marrow sample and determined that I had been misdiagnosed. And so I got off easy. However a long string of very talented songwriters, musicians and performers, including Steve Goodman (who wrote the song The City of New Orleans), John Hartford, and most recently, Mike Seeger all died from leukemia. Goodman and Hartford probably died before an effective drug was available. But I wonder if in Mike Seeger’s case (he died only a couple of months ago) whether that miracle drug Gleevec could have cured him had it not been priced way out of his reach. Sure, we all have to die sometime, but the name of this game called life is to stretch out our stay as long as humanly possible. In our capitalist society it goes without saying that you make money wherever you can, but is it really moral for drug manufacturers to put heavy profits in the way of yours and my longevity? Do we really want to live in a society where only the rich can afford life saving drugs? I leave the answer to you.§

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The Borg Attacks Steve Jobs

The Guys Behind Steve Jobs

In January when Steve Jobs announced that his illness was worse than he thought, and he was taking a 6 month sick leave from Apple, Wall Street got its undies in a twist and Apple’s stock took a bit of a dive. Know-nothings like the Ballmers and other Apple bashing types kept predicting that Apple would suffer in his absence.

However, that turned out to be strictly wishful thinking on their part. The truth is that Apple did very well in the master’s absence. And in this year of a dreadful recession, Apple this past week announced its most profitable quarter ever. And the very next day they announced a new lineup of iMacs with wireless keyboards and a touch sensitive mouse, plus a new low end notebook, and even a much improved low level Mac Mini.

What is even more surprising, a trip to Apple’s website brings you to a short QuickTime video introducing the new line up of iMacs, and Steve Jobs is not among the presenters. Most important among the presenters is Jony Ive who is listed as Senior Executive, Design, and who is the soft spoken genius behind Apple’s incredible product designs. Others in the video include Bob Mansfield, Senior Vice President, Mac Hardware, and Scott Brodick, Product Manager, Mac. Evidently these are the gentlemen who led the team which made the new iMacs blossom, and rather than goof off during the masters’ liver transplant and recovery, they were busy as hell. Of course, it’s easy to speculate that no one working at Apple knows how to “goof off.” If they did they probably wouldn’t be around long enough to collect a pay check.

Together Ive, Mansfield, and Brodick take you on a stunning introduction to Apple’s latest goodies, introducing you to what looks like an amazing new iMac product line. You can see the video for yourself simply by moving your cursor and clicking here! The video sure as hell sold me.

And how could we possibly pass the opening day of Microsoft’s release of its operating system, System 7, without showing you the Mac vs. PC version of it.§

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– two loons on a lake –

Another Trip Down Memory Lane

A few weeks ago I told you about Feast Day and Lobster Feast at Maine’s Blueberry Cove. These were activities which engaged the entire camp for much of a day, and consequently were enjoyed by the entire camp together. All camps have activities like these. At New York’s Settlement Camp we had the nightly after dinner sings. Vermont’s Killooleet had a once a week, Friday night campfire sing. Blueberry Cove had its morning council at which the entire camp participated. And every afternoon the camp again congregated for what was called milk and crackers.

Killooleet had some very special all camp days, one of their favorites was the annual Capture the Flag game. Preparation for the game consisted of a counselor driving to a Vermont talc mine to get several large bags full of white talc powder. This is not the refined, scented talcum powder you would buy for your baby in the supermarket. But even in its unrefined state talc is a fine white powder.

Back at camp groups would prepare for the game by rolling up small amounts of the powder in strips of cloth cut from worn out sheets. Also paper bags were filled with larger amounts of the powder. The smaller missives served as bullets, if you were hit by one you had to leave the game and sit in the other team’s jail for a period of time. The larger bags were bombs, which could take out a somewhat larger group. I googled capture the flag and got the following description from a website called the Ultimate Camp Resource.

Divide the group into two teams; identify each by a set of arm or headbands. Set up a jail area (3- 4 square yards) and a separate hiding spot for each flag. Jails are set up at opposite ends of a 5 -20 acre area.

The object of the game is to penetrate the other team's area and capture their flag. A flag is "captured" after it has been returned to the captor's jail area.

Prisoners are taken by having their arm or headbands removed by an opponent. Prisoners are taken to the jail of their captor; they wait there quietly until they are released. Prisoners can only be released when a member of their team (with arm or headband intact) runs through the jail in which they are being held captive. After their release, prisoners are given free escort back to a central spot near their end of the area. Here, they are issued new arm or headbands. The game continues until a flag is captured, or the time is up, whichever arrives first.

Although Capture the Flag is a universally celebrated camp game, many feel that it was the addition of talc bombs as bullets which made Killooleet’s version so exciting. And of course, it is a non violent way of symbolizing our nation and its war games.§

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Alice with Fawn and Tea Cup

The Trips Were Where Real Adventures Happened

To me the best part of working in children’s camps were the trips. In the Settlement Camp trips were teeny weeny things for older kids only, and consisted of a one-nighter at a campsite up the mountain away from the camp itself. Not much of an experience really, but one which gave a taste of adventure. For me trips really began to make sense and become experiences at Killooleet, in Hancock, Vermont. Trips there were elaborate, lasting for several nights, and used vehicles like canoes and bicycles in addition to good old foot grease.

John and Ellie Seeger were masters at programing trips to reinforce one another other. I remember camping one night with a bicycle trip alongside a lake on a foggy night. We were just getting our fire ready for dinner when Ellie Seeger walked by, nervously looking for strays from her canoe trip which was camped a little up the lake from us. She eventually found all of her campers, and as a matter of fact, during the six years I was at Killooleet the camp never had a camper hurt on a trip, seriously or otherwise.

What a trip did is take the group of children out of camp for a few days, putting them in a new and challenging environment. Usually there was lots of swimming on trips, but in some there was also an activity to get you from one location to another. Although I went on many trips during my six years at Killooleet, the trip I remember most vividly and the one I would like to tell you about here was a bicycle trip I took with 14 year olds biking from an old Fort in N.Y. State to Montreal, Canada.

The trip began with us being trucked with our bikes to this old abandoned fort in Upstate New York, on the border with Canada. The fort was colorful, but what made it most interesting to the campers were the large pornographic drawings on its walls. Flashlights lit up large circles on the walls revealing line depictions of every imaginable sexual combination and position. There was nothing the least bit subtle about the drawings, it was a bit like taking a tour through some warped version of the Kama Sutra, but the illustrations did fill an educational need in areas where conventional education tends to short change kids these days. And since my trip was with 13-14 year old boys, you might say this experience was a sure way to activate the campers’ blood supply for the journey ahead.

The trip was ingeniously planned. The road to Montreal was mostly through French speaking country, and the campers were given money so that they could use the French most of them were learning in school to bargain for food and snacks for the midday meal along the way. I don’t remember much of that part of the trip, I guess because (in spite of the name) I don’t speak French and so I ended up bargaining in the time honored tradition of pointing and gesturing my way through my selection of snacks.

Two things really stand out about biking in Canada at the time. For one thing, the highway was littered with dead, bloated frog carcasses. I have no idea why, there seemed far too many for just an occasional kill during a road crossing, besides in that case they would have been flat rather than bloated. I finally speculated that frog legs being a delicacy in Canada, maybe these guys were the ones who managed to escape their culinary fate by jumping out of pickup trucks before they reached their destination. Not that it had done them any good, if that indeed was the case.

The other thing I remember vividly is how narrow Canada’s roads were, with our line of bicyclists riding as close to the edge as was possible. This was because at that time there was no speed limit in Canada, and cars would come whizzing by at unbelievable speeds. During a particularly scary drive by more than one of our bicyclists took comfort by leaving the road altogether for the safety of a roadside ditch. And heaven forbid that two cars would attempt to pass each other alongside our long train of bicycles.

Our highway paralleled the St. John’s River, and it had been determined that mid trip we would camp out on a small island which the best I remember had a name sounding like Elam Wah (although I have had no luck googling it for confirmation.) The island boasted a fort from Revolutionary War days as well as the public park in which we camped out. A small Ferryboat brought us and our bikes out to the island, and would take us back to the mainland the next morning.

Of course the first thing our group wanted to do was to explore the old fort, probably in hopes of more pornographic drawings. They were out of luck on that score, however, for this fort was actively kept up, there was a caretaker present (which was probably why it boasted no graffiti). One of the boys asked the caretaker who the fort was built to defend against. The caretaker smiled, and with a definite twinkle in his eye replied, “the United States.” The kid did a double take, as did we all. Somehow we don’t think of our country being militant and dangerous to its neighbors, although at many stages of its growth I suppose it must have been.

On the bike trip to Montreal, Canada, the same night that we camped on the island, a Killooleet canoe trip also pulled up to spend the night. A counselor name Bob Pollard was herding a canoe trip down river, one which would end up at the abandoned N.Y. State fort we had started from, the one with all the racy drawings. Kids from our trip were excitedly telling the canoe trippers what was in store for them. This turned out to be lucky scheduling for me, because it was after touring the old fort and while most of our kids were interacting with the canoe trip that I first noticed that a camper was missing. His name was Mort, he was a nice kid, Mort was actually the nephew of Moe of the Three Stooges, and he had a comedic flair about him and a lot of anecdotes about his famous uncle, who he vaguely resembled. He truly was a chip off the old block.

Mort was always spry and animated, but try as I might I couldn’t find a trace of him. I looked everywhere, I even went back and searched the fort, but in vain. Finally, I returned to our campsite where I noticed that one of the sleeping bags had someone inside. I unzipped the bag and there was my missing Mort. He was an incredible sight, it was just like looking at his reflection in one of those Fun House mirrors that distorts your image. His skin was yellow, his face and neck were horribly swollen. He looked like an apparition from some Grade B horror movie. I asked him what in the world had happened to him and he weakly let me know that he had been stung by a bee. He didn’t need to add that he was allergic to bees, that much was obvious.

I sent a camper to fetch Bob Pollard. Luckily Bob was a medical student and well versed in human allergy problems and their cures. And he just happened to have an assortment of miracle drugs with him. He took one look at the patient, and immediately gave him something to make the swelling go down. Fortunately Mort quickly improved, his color was back to normal and the swelling was completely gone by dinnertime an hour later.

Afterwards Bob told me I was damn lucky I had found him when I did, because the way his neck was swelling up, he would have probably had his air supply cut off before too much longer. I told him I was twice blessed that the trip had him stopping at the island too. I don’t know what I would have done if there had been no Bob with his stash of magic drugs. I suppose the only thing I could have done would have been to find the caretaker of the fort to see if he had a way to communicate with the mainland, so I could send for an ambulance and have the ferry come to get us.

These days campers who have life threatening allergies like bee stings hopefully come with pills to cure their reaction, and with instructions for their counselor as to how to administer them. I have no idea why Mort didn’t come so equipped, my guess is perhaps he and his family didn’t realize the extent or seriousness of his allergy. I sure lucked out having Bob on hand.

Our trip ended up in Montreal, where if memory serves, we and our bikes took an undistinguished but pleasant railroad train ride back to Vermont where we were picked up by a camp vehicle and delivered home.§

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How to End Camp with a Spectacle

An Ingenious Use of What Was No Longer Needed

A good children’s camp is thrifty and puts every last bit of unused scrap to good use. For instance, at Killooleet at the end camp one year one or more of the cabins got re-shingled, and the old shingles were carefully saved for some kind of an all camp project next year. The following summer they were utilized for a unique end of camp celebration. On the last night of camp an older group took the shingles to the lake and using carpet tacks mounted a candle on each shingle. There were enough candles for every camper and counselor to have one of their very own.

The air that night was extremely still, the lake itself was as smooth as glass as we assembled down by it. It was pitch black, there was no moon. The entire camp was lined up along the shore, and we watched intently as each candle was lit. Each of us came forward one by one to claim our candle. Candle in hand, we stood holding our candle and staring intently into its flickering luminescence as John Seeger pointed out how each candle symbolized the spirit of the person holding it, and then he announced that one at a time we were to carefully place our candles in the water, being careful not to place it in such a way as to cause it to sink. And so one by one we proceeded to do that, taking our shingle down to the lake, and carefully placing it in the water to float. Afterwards we all stood there spellbound, attempting to follow our own candle’s progress as long as we could as it mingled with all of the others, but soon of course we lost track of our own. In the black stillness of the night it became hard not to stare at the slow moving, flickering spectacle that was lighting up the night from the lake.

A nighttime candlelight ceremony is always a beautiful sight, but that night, all of those candles on that glass-like still surface of the lake, which in turn mirrored each candle in its reflection, made for one of the most breath taking spectacles I have ever experienced. It was like having a small galaxy there on our lake. The entire camp stood there for the best part of an hour, watching with patience until most of the candles had burned down to glowing globules of wax.

After camp I was told that thanks to the fall storms the shingles would eventually get waterlogged and sink to the bottom of the lake. I also assumed that the following spring when the lake was drained, the shingles would be properly removed so that the protruding tacks would not be a swimming hazard, but I have no way of knowing that for a fact. But what a great way to get the maximum use out of something which was no longer needed, and at the same time turn the event into the perfect ending as a cap to a near perfect summer.§

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And with visions of over a hundred and fifty Bush 41 type points of lights shimmering on our favorite body of water, we bring this week’s blog to a reluctant close. Little Eddy looks at the world through his very own admittedly skewered perspective, bent in an entirely different direction from the equally skewered ravings of the Limbaughs, Becks, Hannitys, Dobbses and O’Rileys. We like to think we offer a life-giving antidote to their humanity demeaning madness.

We pray that our observations are no more, nor no less controversial than those of the gang mentioned above. If we succeeded in titillating your interest we will pop our buttons all over our blog, trying our damnedest not to hit any unsuspecting reader in the eye whilst popping off.

If you saw anything here you can relate to do visit us again anytime next week. We post a new blog Saturday mornings between 7 and 8 am CDT. We hope you return, and meantime if you are so inclined, why not direct a friend: ? Be sure to copy and paste it, or if you must retype it make note of our misspelling as discussed at the beginning of this blog. Unless of course, you would rather your friend see pictures of a handsome newly born little lad, rather than reflect on this Little Eddy’s warped view of a people littered universe. Bye now, later gator.

The Real Little Eddy

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