From A Million Miles

From a Million Miles is a technopop/electronic dance song by the Australian trio Single Gun Theory. I’m not a big fan of the genre, but I do have that song on one of my playlists. If you don’t have anything else to do, you can listen to it on The YouTube®.

It’s kind of a catchy song. And the title more or less sums up how living in a foreign country can sometimes feel when you miss your family and friends. And stuff…

 * * * *

How’s everybody doing? I hope you’ve all been able to stock up on toilet paper, bottled water, and hand sanitizer so you don’t get killed to death by the Coronavirus. We’re safe here in Mexico because we drink Corona® beer. It contains all the antibodies you need to develop immunity to the pandemic that’s wreaking havoc everywhere else on the planet.

Honestly, I have no idea what’s really going on out there in the real world. I don’t watch the news. Social media seems to be the most effective way to spread misinformation. Ever.

I figure most of us will survive this latest crisis, much like we’ve survived everything else that was supposed to destroy the world. Or we won’t. And life will go on.

The bottom line is this: there’s a bunch of rich, white, seventy year old men in America with dementia and intransigent political alliances, and they are going to fix everything.

IMG_20200312_010439

What could possibly go wrong?

* * * *

I am seriously embarrassed by the current state of American politics, and if you aren’t, you should be. Even if you’re not an American. I’ve come to the conclusion that the current system of government isn’t just broken, it’s FUBAR. For those of you that are unaware, it’s a military acronym that means: Fucked Up Beyond All Repair.

I’d like to be able to blame Donald Trump and his political sycophants for destroying the country of my birth, but all they did was drive the final stake in its heart.

It’s no secret that I dislike President Trump. He has taken being a hypocrite to a whole ‘nother level. A hypocrite is a person who pretends to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, or principles that he or she does not actually possess, especially a person whose actions belie their stated beliefs.

The Donald is more of a triplocrit. And here’s how he does it: 1.) He says or does something outrageous. 2.) He denies that he did or said anything. 3.) He smugly admits to doing/saying that which he had previously denied, but says it’s not a big deal. Or it’s not illegal. Or what are you going to do about it. Or something…

I haven’t been following his antics as closely ever since my Twitter account was permanently suspended last year. I still get updates from my friends on Facebook about what The Donald has been up to. Okay, they despise Trump, too. So they never have anything good to say about him. 

Trump, if nothing else, has clearly defined the lines of divisiveness that separate the two major American political parties. He probably used a Sharpie®…

The People With Brains, my name for the people that oppose Trump, are absolutely mystified how the Walmart Intelligensia, my name for the people that worship Trump, can be so taken in by this two-bit charlatan.

There might be an explanation in the Bible: “…they look but do not see, and they listen, but do not hear nor do they understand.” Matthew 13:13.

But one line in the Bible can be used to support almost any argument.

“They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31. I could claim that this bit of scripture prophesied the Philadelphia Eagles beating the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl in 2018.

God, if He had anything to do with Donald Trump being elected, is clearly working in mysterious ways because that’s apparently the only way He knows how to work. And if this is going to be one of His lessons for humanity, there are going to be a whole lots of dunces facing the corner wearing funny hats when this is over.

images (2)

As I’ve said before, guys are not typically known for their profound thoughts. Guys are simple creatures. If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it. That’s a guy thought. If it is broken and you can’t fix it, it’s time to get a new goldarn thing. That is also a deeply profound guy thought.

It’ll probably require another American revolution to fix this goddamn goldarn mess of a thing, but that political/socioeconomic battle won’t be fought until long after I’m dead.

I tried to warn the Millennials, but they haven’t heard me yet. It’s time to vote every fucking member of Congress from my generation out of office, and put them out to pasture where they belong.

I’m not going to tell you little bastards that again.

* * * *

One of the best things about living in Mexico is we don’t have to watch or listen to any American political ads if we don’t want to. We did have to endure Canadian political ads last year. Yep. They were annoying, too.

I love living here. The climate is temperate. The people here are genuinely sweet. The food is amazing! The cost of living is doubly amazing!! We live in a beautiful gringo mansion that we wouldn’t be able to afford back the States. I get to hang out with the love of my life and enjoy spending this blessed time of our lives together. And we have kit-tens!!

Some of my Facebook friends have told me they are fascinated by my decision to live in Mexico. Well, if they’re that interested, I hope they start reading my blog. That’s right, Ryan McKenzie, I’m talking to you.

He was my first boss at Aurora Behavioral Health in Glendale, AZ. I accepted the job because of him. He was highly regarded and recommended by my co-workers at St. Luke’s Hospital in Phoenix. I decided to find a new job after my first work wife, Deb Goral, left the Evening shift and started working Days. It wasn’t as much fun without her, so I decided to move on.

Ryan is the Program Director of the SAGE Unit now. That’s the Gero/Psych unit I worked on at Banner Del Webb Medical Center in Surprise, AZ. As one of the doctors I worked with at Del Webb told me when I left there, “It’s a small world in Psychiatry here in Phoenix. We’ll probably run into each other again.”

He was right about that. I worked with him again at Aurora.

* * * *

If you’re one of the seven people that have ever read any of my blogs, you might have noticed that I changed the title of my page. I originally started writing about my career as a psych nurse, and I called it Reflections. As time has progressed, I’ve been less reflective about my nursing career and more reactive to just about anything. I’m all over the spectrum with what I write now.

If I can’t think of anything else to write about, I tend to ramble on about living in Mexico, so I decided to add that to the title to emphasize it a bit more. I don’t want to give anyone the wrong idea about what they’re going to find here.

* * * *

As much as I love living here, life in Mexico isn’t without its challenges. Case in point, the fireplace in our living room.

In my last post, I mentioned we were shopping for a gas insert for the fireplace in the living room. We have three fireplaces here at the Chula Vista Resort and Spa. They all have gas lines installed, but none of them have the requisite inserts that make them functionable.

We found an insert at Baja Grills, and Lea was able to negotiate a sweet deal on it with Kat. It was one of those Just Between Two Supermodels Things…  Lea bought the insert for less than five hundred bucks, which is about half of what you’d usually pay for one down here.

However, before we bought it Lea wanted to know if the gas line to the fireplace actually worked. I suppose I could have just turned one on, you know, to check. But I don’t like playing with gas, so I decided to call our property manager, Jaime Mendoza.

And there was this: I thought Lea was being ridiculous because the gas lines were already in place! And who would be stupid enough to run a gas line to the fireplace and not hook it up to the propane tank???

So, I talked to Jaime, and he talked to Lord Mark. He’s the guy that owns the house we’re renting. They were both pretty sure all the fireplaces worked because Lord Mark’s parents had burned wood fires in all of them. When I asked again about the gas lines, Jaime couldn’t think of any reason why they wouldn’t work.

Based on that information we bought the insert, but when the guy came to install it we discovered that none of the gas lines to any of the fireplaces worked. At some point in time in the past, the original gas line had been replaced with a new and improved gas line. But the new line ran from the propane tank to the water heater for the bathrooms in the North Wing of the house.

And the fucking fireplaces had not been reconnected!!!

The installer from Baja Grills was a Mexican guy named Saul. He took one look at how the new line had been installed, and said, “Fucking Mexico.” And then he said, “It takes a Mexican to fix a Mexican problem.”

l love that because truer words have never been spoken.

Saul gave us an estimate to run a new gas line from the propane tank to the living room fireplace. Fourteen thousand pesos. That’s roughly equivalent to $700 US. It’s not a huge amount of money, but it’s more than Lea or I wanted to spend on a house that we don’t own.

So I talked to Jaime again, and he came over to eyeball the situation for himself. Jaime said he didn’t know about the replacement gas line. And if Lord Mark had known about it, he had forgotten all about it. And Jaime had had the same thought I did. He couldn’t imagine the gas lines not working either.

However, Lord Mark thought it was important that the living room fireplace actually worked like a fireplace, so he agreed to pay for the installation of a new gas line. And it would be much cheaper than the estimate Saul had given us. “I think that guy gave you a gringo-face price.”

images

I had never heard that term before, but I don’t doubt that it’s true, too

It took Tacho, our general fix-it guy, two days to hook up the new gas line. Tacho loves working here because I let him use any of my tools that he needs, and I always tip him well for his services.

IMG_20200311_205000

And there you have it

One working fireplace! I don’t know if Lord Mark would’ve been willing to run new gas lines to all the fireplaces here. I doubt we’d ever use the other two, and we love it here, so we don’t want to create any undue expenses for stuff we don’t want or need.

We painted the fireplace in the master bedroom to make it pop! Seriously, you wouldn’t have known it was even there before we added the accent color to the chimney. They both turned out great and we’ll probably never have to mess with either of them again.

* * * *

Mexico. The land where things that you think will be easy to do or find end up being Herculean labors of frustration. And things that you think are going to be almost impossible to accomplish end up being easier than tying your shoes.

That’s what happened when we found this house. And when we needed to get a new car. Lea and I are changing our living status in Mexico from temporary to permanent this year, and once we do that we are required by law to drive a Mexican plated car. 

In order to be legally registered and licensed in Mexico, every car has to have been manufactured in Mexico, Canada, or the United States. I think it’s part of the NAFTA treaty, or whatever it’s called now. Our American made Buick Encore was actually assembled in South Korea. We couldn’t get it licensed here even we we wanted to.

Buying a car in Mexico isn’t the same as buying a car in the States. Prices for almost everything in the States are fixed, except cars. You can negotiate the sales price of the vehicle you want, and salesmen will literally kiss your feet if means getting a sale. In Mexico, a lots of prices are flexible, except cars. The dealer has one price, and if you don’t like it, well, that’s too bad for you.

On the bright side, cars are about 40% cheaper in Mexico than they are in the States. Yep, you read that correctly. The car we’re thinking about buying will cost us roughly $18,000 US.

In America, no one pays cash at a dealership. Cars are financed, and you have a monthly car payment for years. In Mexico, financing is something they’re still trying to figure out. If you really want to buy a decent car, you better be able to pay cash for it when you go to the dealership.

And, you should have a reputable mechanic look over any car you want to buy here because not everything is as advertised. Odometer readings are often changed to reflect lower mileage, so if nothing else, there’s always that. Additionally, cars that have damaged by floods in the US are frequently shipped to Mexico to be sold. So there’s that, too.

We hired a local guy named Antonio Regalado to find a new car for us. He owns and runs a business called R &R Car Sales and Rentals to help gringos find good cars, and comes highly recommended by everyone we know that has done business with him. He’s kind of a mercenary car salesman — he doesn’t work for any dealership — but he works with a few of them and they usually pay his fees for hooking up gringos looking for cars with dealerships that have a lots of cars to sell.

Antonio does all the talking to the salesmen, the managers, and anyone else who might be involved in the sale at the dealership. And he kept us updated on everything that was happening.

We met with him Monday for about half an hour at his office, and told him what we were looking for. We gave him a list of the options we wanted and the year, make, and model of the SUV’s we were interested in. Half an hour later, we had a list of six SUV’s to choose from, along with Antonio’s perspective on which was the best buy.

IMG_20200309_162911

These are our top two choices

The first is a 2017 Kia Sportage GT. It has 45,000 kilometers. The GT package means it has a bigger engine and comes with a fair amount of bells and whistles. The second is a 2018 Nissan X-Trail. It has 59,000 kilometers and it has almost every bell and whistle available for that model. And it’s red.

Antonio drove us to Guadalajara today to the dealership to take a closer look at both of them. Personally, the only thing I care about in my automobiles is that they have a great sound system, which makes me the least qualified person on the planet when it comes to buying a car. So it’s a good thing I have people around me who know what the hell they’re doing.

This process has transpired a helluvalot faster than any of us thought it would. I thought it would take a couple of weeks at least, not two days! Our financial planner didn’t think it would happen this quickly either, so she has had to scramble to get us the funds we need to buy Lea’s new dream car. 

There’s an unwritten rule for shopping in Mexico: If you find something you like, buy it. It won’t be there the next time. We’ve failed to do that enough times that we don’t question it anymore. Lea loves the X-Trail. And it has a Bose® stereo sound system. Done deal.

And here’s where the really weird part comes in. Before a Mexican dealership can sell you a car, the Mexican government requires that you have to prove you actually live in Mexico. And proof of residency, according to the government, is a utility bill. An electric bill. Telephone, TV, or Internet. All you need is a bill with your name on it, and you could buy a whole fleet of cars if you wanted to.

We don’t own the house we’re living in. None of the utility bills we pay have our names on them. We have a signed copy of the rental contract, but the Mexican government doesn’t recognize it as legal proof of residency. They don’t recognize driver’s licenses either.

Yeah, go figure on that!

Seeing how we live here, but don’t have the required documents of proof, we’re trying to figure out how to make this work. A bank statement will suffice, but first we have to open an account in a Mexican bank, then wait until we receive our first bank statement. This being Mexico, and assuming that will be an easy thing, it could take months for that to happen.

But we do have an Antonio. And as everyone knows, it takes a Mexican to fix a Mexican problem.

Q & A

It’s been a busy year so far at the Chula Vista Resort and Spa. We’ve had illnesses, cancer scares, and various and sundry other medical issues that needed treatment.

I  had the Mexico City Flu, and a couple of precancerous lesions by my right eye that were removed in January. At the same time, our roommate, Todd, had a Shingles outbreak around his right eye. It took about three weeks, but that has resolved, so things are getting back to normal for both of us again.

Our kit-tens, Mollie and Mika, are doing great. Mollie is helping me type right now, so this could take a while. Kit-tens are apparently immune to the flu. And Shingles. They’re still the cutest kit-tens ever.

* * * *

We’ve had visitors in February. Our beautiful and talented oldest daughter, Gwen, and her husband, John, were here for a week. While they were here, we had a major plumbing problem with the kitchen sink. It started leaking. And then it stopped draining.

I can usually fix most simple plumbing leaks on my own, but this is Mexico. I’m not sure if there are any construction codes in Mexico, and if there are, they’re probably viewed in the same manner that traffic laws are. They’re more like unto suggestions than anything else.

The pipes under the kitchen sink are a perfect example of that.

traffic jam

The plumbing looks something like unto this…

So I called Jaime Mendoza, our property manager, and he called Tacho, our general fix-it guy. Tacho looked at the weird configuration of pipes and started swearing in Spanish.

“Now you know why I wanted you here.” I said.

It took Tacho two weeks to fix the leak because he would fix one leak, and another one would mysteriously appear. After the first week, we were pretty sure that dynamite would be the best solution because houses in Mexico are made of concrete. But Tacho preserved, and he eventually fixed all of the leaks and cleared out the huge clog from somewhere under the kitchen floor without having to resort to explosives.

* * * *

We also had a couple of issues with our swimming pool. The solar heater stopped heating, and there was a leak in one of the pumps. Those problems took closer to a month to fix because the replacement parts had to be ordered from Guadalajara, and then the repairmen had to be reminded that they had to come back to install the new parts, even though they had the parts that needed to be installed.

There was a defective valve in the solar heater. Once that was replaced, it worked better than it ever has. Our solar heater isn’t the top of the line model, so we ordered five solar heating lilly pads to augment the heater from a guy named Rodrigo. He owns a garden store that sells a lots of pool equipment. We’re going to pick them up later today. The total cost on those is less than $50 US.

And the leaking pump was sorted out with a new gasket.

Mischief. Managed.

* * * *

The heat shields on my propane grill needed to be replaced because they had more or less disintegrated in the eleven years that I’ve been using it. Finding replacement parts for your grill isn’t a big deal in the States. It’s a huge deal in Mexico. The easiest way to replace the three heat shields here seemed to be to buy a new propane grill, and while a lots of things are way less expensive in Mexico, propane grills aren’t one of them.

And then I met Ed and Kat. Ed is grizzled-looking gringo who kind of retired down here, but still wants to work for some unfathomable reason. Kat may or may not be Ed’s wife. She’s a very attractive Latina, probably thirty years younger than Ed. She has really big eyes, so she’s a lots of fun to talk to.

IMG_20200225_113231~2

I love the Google Image Search!

Ed opened a shop called Baja Grills that sells propane grills and smokers. And fishing bait and supplies. And hot tubs. And fireplace inserts. And stuff…  He didn’t have the replacement heat shields I needed, so he made new ones for me. They probably cost me $60 US. 

Winter in the Lakeside Area lasts about a month — from the middle of December to the middle of January. It doesn’t get freezing-ass cold here, but there’s about a ten degree difference between the outside temperature and the temperature inside of the cavernous gringo mansion we’re renting.

It’s colder inside of our house than it is outside. We have three gas fireplaces at the Chula Vista Resort and Spa, but none of them have the requisite inserts that make them functionable. Probably because propane fireplace inserts are outrageously expensive down here, too. 

We have three portable propane heaters that we use during the coldest month of Winter. But one of Ed and Kat’s fireplace inserts might work perfectly in our living room fireplace. Lea and I are going to go take a closer look at it later today…  It’ll all depend on what kind of deal we can get.

* * * *

And there’s been golf. Todd and I play at least three times a week, sometimes more often depending on how we feel. So far, we tend to take turns having reasonably decent rounds of golf. Last Sunday, we played 36 holes of golf. I beat Todd by three strokes on the front nine with an 89. We both shot 88 on the second 18.

Yesterday, we both sucked.

I started playing golf back in my thirties because it was the only way I could talk with my dad. He loved to play golf, and he was a wicked good golfer. My favorite part about golf back then was I could drink beer and smoke cigarettes while I golfed. And there was that whole hitting the shit out of a little white ball thing…

The more I golf, the less it resembles what I thought it was in my youth. “Good golfers hit the ball as hard as they can. Great golfers hit the ball as hard as they need to.” I can’t remember who said that, but he was right. I would add this: Good golfers have a strategy. Great golfers are able to execute it. 

Golf is like unto playing chess with an opponent that never moves any of its pieces. Hitting the shit out of a little white ball has become the least important part of my game anymore.

Strategy was something I had no concept of until I started playing in the Go-Go tournaments at my country club. Go-Go is like unto regular golf, except with a twist. Or two. And that’s where all the strategy comes into play. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Dave Naisby and Bill Merrell. They’re the guys that organize and coordinate the Go-Go tournaments at the Country Club de Chapala.

I can’t say they’ve made me a good golfer, but I suck a whole lots less than I did three years ago.

And then there’s that whole balance thing. I need to be physically relaxed when I hit a golf ball because my fucked up back can take only so much abuse. If my swing isn’t relaxed and fluid, I’m going to be in for a long and very painful day. But my mind has to be laser-focused because half of this game is 90% mental. And trust me when I say this: I can be too relaxed when I golf sometimes, and that’s not good.

It’s an odd set of contradictions that I have to manage every time I pick up a golf club. Sometimes it works very well. And those are the days that keep me coming back for more abuse.

It’s kind of like being a psych nurse, except the pay is worse. But you meet way fewer assholes.

* * * *

I’ve spent a few days trying to imagine this post as a question and answer piece about my nursing career. Or just a question and answer thing about anything. There’s one major obstacle to this concept. No one ever asks me anything about being a nurse. Come to think of it, they don’t ask me about much of anything else either.

So if I’m going to do this, it’s going to be all my imagination.

There’s one compelling reason for me to go down this road. A couple of my former patients have been on my mind lately. And I’ve learned not to ignore those things when they happen.

* * * *

What was the most heartbreaking thing that happened when you were a nurse?

The suicides. I was a psych nurse for thirty years. I couldn’t tell you how many of the people I had a role in caring for killed themselves after they were discharged from the hospital. There were dozens of them. In 1990, twelve Vietnam veterans at the MVAMC took their lives in one month.

I remember my first patient who took his life at the Minnesota State Hospital in Anoka. He drowned himself in the Rum River. I remember the last one, too. He was at St. Luke’s in Phoenix. He had had a stroke, and the day before he was discharged he met with everyone on the evening shift to thank them and say goodbye. He shot himself two days later.

And I vividly remember each of the five patients that killed themselves while they were still in the hospital. Those are things you never forget, no matter how much you try. If I exclude the suicides, there’s one person who jumps to the top of the list. That said, I probably have a hundred stories similar to hers.

* * * *

Her name was Audrey. I met her at the Minneapolis VAMC. She was a sweet woman in her forties. She was admitted for depression, and if I remember correctly, a lengthy list of somatic complaints. She was a cancer survivor, so one possibility was her cancer had returned.

As I’ve said before, diagnosing is essentially a process of ruling out all of the things that aren’t wrong with you until your doctor figures out what’s left. The first thing her doctor did was order a full body CT scan.

One of the great things about working at the VA was the ease of doing consults with other specialty clinics. Sometimes the consulting physicians would come to the unit, but usually we had to transport our patients to the various departments, then return them to the unit when their consult was done. 

I was transporting Audrey in a wheelchair to Radiology for her CT Scan. And she told me this story:

“I remember when this began. I had just turned 30 when the pain started. I went to see a doctor. Hell, I went to a lot of doctors. And none of them could find anything wrong with me. One of them said my pain was a figment of my imagination. You know, like I was crazy. After awhile, my friends all started thinking I was crazy. It went on for months. After about a year, even I started thinking I was crazy.

“It was so frustrating. There was nothing wrong with me, but the pain was unbearable. I couldn’t work. I couldn’t sleep. I didn’t have a life. All I did was go from one doctor to the next, only to hear the same fucking thing: All your tests have come back negative. We can’t find anything physically wrong with you…

“And then I was diagnosed with cancer, and this is going to sound really crazy, but I almost felt happy! I think I cried genuine tears of joy when I heard that! I was so relieved because it wasn’t just all in my head. There really was something wrong with me! I wasn’t crazy!! That’s just so fucked up, isn’t it?”

I couldn’t answer her. She looked back over her shoulder to see if I was still there. I was trying unsuccessfully to choke back my tears. 

* * * *

What’s the weirdest thing you saw in your nursing career?

There’s a lots of competition for this one. Lesbian encounters in the night. Guys accidentally getting foreign objects stuck up their asses. Guys jamming foreign objects into their penises. The list goes on. And on…  But the hands down winner has to be the guy that drove his girlfriend from Arizona to Michigan. It doesn’t sound that weird, except she was dead for most of the trip.

I don’t have any other stories like unto this one.

Her name was Christine. She was 31 years old, and was a frequent flyer at Aurora Behavioral Health in Glendale, AZ. She was a dual diagnosis patient, meaning on top of her psychiatric issues she was also chemically dependent. In layman’s terms, Christine was a trainwreck. She was one of the most exhausting patients I’ve ever met, and I wasn’t her nurse. Now that I think about it, she wasn’t even on my unit, and I probably spent more time interacting with her than I did with all of my patients combined. 

Christine lives forever in my Top Five Patients From Hell List.

In June of 2014, Christine was discharged from the hospital. She was picked up by Ray, her 62 year old boyfriend, and Ray’s 93 year old mother. We cheerfully waved goodbye as they all climbed into Ray’s van and headed off to Michigan. We prayed that they all made it there safely and never returned to Arizona again. Ever.

Christine probably accidentally overdosed on her discharge medications by swallowing the entire contents of a bottle of OxyContin on purpose, and then died to death somewhere in Oklahoma. See? I told you she was a trainwreck.

And then the weird part happened. Rather than stop and report what happened to the police, Ray put a pair of sunglasses on her face, placed a teddy bear on her lap, and kept on driving.

Across hot and humid Oklahoma to steamy Missouri, through sweltering Indiana into Illinois — you get the picture– stopping only for gas, fast food and bathroom breaks until he made it to Michigan. And then Ray decided to notify the police that something had happened to his girlfriend. It didn’t take the police long to figure out what was wrong because Christine’s body had begun to decompose. 

Police chose not to press any charges against Ray. Or his mother.

7YFOPO4CIOFBYQLSF6N572TU3A

This is Ray. The story of his road trip made National News. You could look it up on the Google…

* * * *

When I first envisioned this post, I had imagined a lots more questions and a few more stories. And then I realized most of my stories bear a lots of similarities to each other, so there’s that.

It might explain why no one asks me a lots of questions.

Lookin’ Out My Backdoor

Hey. How’s it going?

It’s been warm here in the Lakeside Area, like, low to mid 90’s warm. As the locals say, muchos calor! Lea and I lived in Phoenix before we moved here. That, was hot. The temperature can climb to 120° there. Even if it’s a dry heat, as Arizonans claim, it still feels like unto being in an oven.

One of my former patients at Aurora Behavioral Health sustained second degree burns from laying down on the sidewalk in the dead of summer. In the interest of full disclosure, the police made him lay on the sidewalk after they put handcuffs on him. I can’t remember all of the details, but even if he was guilty of whatever the cops busted him for, laying him down on a sidewalk hot enough to fry an egg seems a bit extreme to me.

The rainy season should start soon, and the temperature will drop back into the 80’s. We had a false start to our seasonal rains. It rained for about a week a couple of weeks ago. Las montañas de chino started greening up, and then the rains stopped. The Chinese Mountains don’t quite look like heads of broccoli yet, but they don’t look like unto a wasteland anymore either.

The rain here is kind of monsoonal, and kind of not. It’ll rain here almost every night until roughly October. Yeah, it usually rains at night, and only sometimes during the day. Even the rain is polite here. I’ve never lived any place before where rain was so seasonal. And predictable.

Arizona has a monsoon season, but it’s not a monsoon like the monsoons in India where it rains day and night for months on end. An Arizona monsoon is a monster storm of wind and dust that pops up, followed by torrential rain, then the storm abates and dies. Consecutive days of rain in Arizona are a rarity.

The only downside to the rainy season is I have to suck all of the water out of the pool we don’t use every time it rains. It’s basically a really big rain gauge. Rain water is the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes, and I’m not a big fan of mosquitoes, so the water must go.

However, it’s not like I don’t have the time. I have a shop-vac. It’s not a big deal, and I like the way the pool looks afterwards. It’s the cleanest vacant pool you’ve ever seen.

And, well, you get kind of tired of the rain after awhile. I know Lea does. This will be our second rainy season. I’ll have to pay more attention to how I feel about the rain this year.

* * * *

My golf game remains a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. I shot the best nine hole round of my life few weeks ago, 45. Then I followed it up with a 54. I haven’t come close to equaling my best score since. It’s kind of frustrating, but that’s golf.

images

I’ve gotten better at the Big Three aspects of golf. Most of my drives are things of beauty. I’m getting better at chipping. I’ve had a lots of almost great shots. They would’ve been really great if they had only gone in the hole. I can actually hit a ball that rolls very close to the pin at least half of the time now. And I’m getting better at putting. Most of the some of the time.

It’s those times when my shots aren’t beautiful or almost great that are killing me, and I have at least ten of those in every round I play. Every goddamn stroke in golf counts, even the ones that suck. The trick, according to everyone in the know, is to put all three of those pieces together.

Drive. Chip. Putt. It’s a simple game.

Unless your game is more like this: Drive. Chip, chip. Putt, putt, putt. Oh well. It’ll keep me focused on something besides getting old and fat and bald-er. I have to believe that I’ll continue to improve, and all of those things will fall into place one of these days. Or months. Or years.

* * * *

IMG_20180606_124822140_HDR~2

We have a ga-jillion hummingbirds at our feeders! They arrived en masse at about 10:00 AM last Saturday morning. We started out the year with about four hummers. When Todd came down to visit, that number jumped up to around one hundred, and Lea happily hung a second feeder on the patio.

On Saturday, we hung a third feeder because there was a cloud of ten to twenty hummingbirds swirling around each feeder, waiting to get a chance to drink. And it’s like that all day. A voracious herd of hummingbirds can empty a feeder in about two hours. Keeping our feeders full and all of our hummingbirds happy has become kind of a full-time job.

Our feeders have six ports for the birds to drink from, and when their numbers are vast, the hummingbirds are actually pretty good at taking turns and sharing. When there’s only a few, one bird tends to become a monopolist, and will chase all of the other birds away.

We had one of those before Saturday. Lea named him King. He perched himself on the edge of my hammock, close to his feeder, and he guarded it with ferocity. When Lea hung the second feeder, he tried to keep all the others away from that one, too. That lasted about an hour.

He still sits on my hammock, but there’s nothing ferocious about him now. He actually looks kind of depressed. I’m wondering if I need to put him on suicide precautions.

Lea made a special trip to El Walmart yesterday, just to buy a half a ton of sugar. It’s a good thing that sugar is inexpensive here…

* * * *

Lea has her hummingbirds back, and I have a praying mantis living on my fern on the patio. I call her Ferngully because, you know, she lives on a fern. 

I think she’s a girl. She was less than an inch long when I discovered her. She’s about twice that size now. I catch bugs and stick them between the leaves of her fern frond. Sometimes she eats them. Others she won’t touch.

Who knew that bugs were picky eaters?

I can’t really say Ferngully is my pet. She doesn’t come when I call her, and she doesn’t know any tricks, unless you think hanging upside-down on a leaf is a trick. She’s very good at doing that.

I want to train her to walk on leash…

* * * *

Not everything on the patio is peaceful and serene. There’s the squirrels. The Spanish word for squirrel is ardilla. I have a different name for them. Pinche hijos de putas.

I hate squirrels more than I hate any other animal on this planet. They’re essentially rats with fluffy tails, and if not for that fluffy tail, no one would think they’re cute. Squirrels are agents of evil. In the Bible it says that Satan is disguised as an angel of light, and so it is with squirrels.

We had hundreds of squirrels in our neighborhood when we lived in Minneapolis. They lived in our trees, and frolicked in the yard. They chewed their way into our neighbors’ house and caused them thousand of dollars worth of damage.

I wanted to buy a machine gun and kill all of the squirrels after that, but my lovely supermodel wife vetoed my idea. She thought they were cute. You what else Lea thought was cute? Flower gardens. She wanted gardens with lots of flowers, so I became a gardener. I removed half a ton of grass from our backyard. I bought a lots of flowers, and our backyard looked like unto a picture postcard.

It was darlingpreshadorbs!

And then one day, for no particular reason, the squirrels decided to dig up all of Lea’s begonias. “Kill them! Kill them all!” my lovely but pissed off supermodel wife hissed. I bought a Red Ryder Pump Action Carbine BB Gun®, and commenced to start to begin to kill every squirrel that entered my yard.

images

I gave my air rifle a name. Ol’ Squirrelkiller. I set up a sniper’s nest from the window of our bedroom, and I got really good at shooting squirrels. I killed hundreds of them over the years. But there’s this one thing about squirrels: for every squirrel you kill, there are seemingly two more that move in to replace it.

Just before we moved to Phoenix, I gave Ol’ Squirrelkiller to my neighbor, Lyle, so he could kill all of the squirrels in his yard. I didn’t miss my air rifle when we lived in Arizona because there were no squirrels in our neighborhood. But I miss it now.

There’s a rule of thumb for gringos in Mexico. If you see something you want, or you think you’ll ever need, buy it. It won’t be there the next time, and you’ll never find anything like unto it again.

When we first moved here, El Walmart used to sell air rifles. I wasn’t at war with squirrels back then, but I still wanted to buy one, you know, just in cases. Once again, my lovely supermodel wife vetoed my idea because she thought it was foolish to buy an air rifle I didn’t know I was going to need until about a year and half later.

A week ago, I went to El Walmart to specifically buy my Mexican Viejo Asesino de Ardilla, but El Pinche Walmart no longer sells air rifles.

Madre de Dios!!

We don’t have hundreds of squirrels here. I think we only have two, maybe four at the most. And as much as I hate squirrels, I didn’t want to kill them until they started eating the plants on my patio. When we moved here we started decorating the patio. We bought a lots of ceramic pots and soil, and we bought a lots of plants to put in the pots.

One of the plants I bought was a greenish-yellowish vine with medium huge leaves. It loved its new home, and it grew like a weed, except it was a lots prettier than a weed. It was absolutely gorgeous last year.

FB_IMG_1528461945712

This year, it looks like unto Charlie Brown’s forlorn Christmas tree because the fucking squirrels have eaten every leaf off of it. Repeatedly. As Bugs Bunny used to say, Of course you realize, this means war!

Seeing how I may never find another air rifle, I may have to build one of these:

unnamed

I can bombard the house Seigfried and Roy is building below our house with squirrels.

My war with squirrels isn’t the only war that’s being waged in our backyard.

* * * *

We live in a development called Lomas del Lago, Hills of the Lake. The guy who started building here is a guy I call Seigfried and Roy. He’s an ancient German guy who has more money than Croesus. His name is Seigfried. I added the, and Roy.

Seigfried and Roy were a once famous duo of magicians and entertainers in Las Vegas who became known for their appearances with white lions and white tigers. Until Roy was, you know, accidentally almost killed to death by one of their tigers.

siegfried_roy_tiger_1_r_0

Just in cases you’ve never heard of Croesus, he was the king of ancient Lydia, and is generally accredited with minting the first true gold coins.

images (1)

Seeing how he more or less invented money, he had more of it than anyone else in the world. Hence, the term.

Earlier this year, Seigfried and Roy started to construct a house below our house. We weren’t too happy about that, so we mentioned it to our landlady, Planet Janet.

She was something way beyond furious when she heard that.

According to Janet, she had a verbal agreement with Seigfried and Roy. He wouldn’t build anything on that lot, and she wouldn’t have him killed. I’m not sure if those were the exact terms they had agreed to, but they had an agreement of some sort.

Despite their agreement, Seigfried and Roy decided to build a house in the lot more or less right below our house. While the new house won’t completely destroy our scenic view of the lake, it certainly won’t do anything to enhance it.

IMG_20180606_124657632_HDR~2

And the only way the occupants of the new house below us will be able to see their scenic view of the lake is by hanging out on their mirador. That will totally destroy any privacy we have when we hang out on our patio, and we spend a lots of time on our patio.

Everyone in our development has a mirador. It’s basically an outdoor lounging area on the roof, like unto a balcony. We have a mirador on our roof that we never use. Our patio is huge, and shaded, and you don’t have to climb any stairs to get to it.

Planet Janet has one of the best attorneys in the Lakeside Area on retainer. He has a couple of legal orders to cease and desist any and all construction on the house below us, which have accomplished absolutely nothing thus far. The consensus is that Seigfried and Roy has bribed pretty much every public official in the state of Jalisco, and half of their cousins for good measure.

Janet and her attorney are optimistic that they will eventually find someone that hasn’t been bribed, and at the very least they’ll be able to obtain some monetary compensation from Seigfried and Roy for obstructing the one time scenic view that our house used to offer. At the most, they might have the house taken down.

All of that remains to be seen. No matter what happens, we’re not planning on going anywhere. We love this house. We love this place. We love this time we have here together.

As Duke Leto Atreides once said, “Here I am, here I remain!” So, watch out squirrels. I have resources you’ll never be able to imagine because you’re just a rodent with a fluffy tail, not a highly trained assassin with years of military experience in taking dental x-rays.

Stop eating my plants. Or else!

Gulliver’s Travels

Unlike Jonathan Swift, I’m not sure I’ve ever written anything that could be deemed noteworthy. I don’t think I have the proper amount of seriousness to do something like that on my own. I’m pretty sure I haven’t written anything that could even be called interesting of late. If you’re looking for something noteworthy in this post, let me save you some time. You won’t find it here.

I might write something noteworthy someday, but if I do, I’ll probably be the last person to know it. And it’ll probably be the biggest mistake I’ll ever make. If you don’t believe me, read some of my previous posts. There’s over one hundred of them to choose from…

For those of you who follow me on Facebook, you know that my lovely supermodel wife and I recently took a trip back to the States. It was our first return trip since retiring in Mexico.

If you don’t follow me on Facebook, you can send me a friend request, but my life on social media probably looks a whole lots more interesting than it actually is…

Other than me having a couple of allergic reactions to environmental stimuli in airports and sneezing into my shirt sleeve for about a thousand miles, and the cold that Lea came down with upon our return, our trip was a lots of fun and we had a great time.

We flew back to the States on Volaris Airlines. I don’t have a lots of experience flying on Mexican airlines, but from what I do know, Volaris is kind of the Mexican version of Frontier. The only difference is I don’t hate Volaris, and I loathe Frontier. The people treat you better in Mexico.

It’s a bit more complicated when you fly from Mexico back to the States. There’s the whole Customs thing. Not that it’s a big deal, because it’s not. There’s a show called Border Security on TV, and it makes international travel look like a blind date with the KGB. We’ve never had any problems flying to Mexico or back to the States.

In fact, the Culiacan airport had the most lax security I’ve ever seen, anywhere. Half of the staff looked like they were sleeping, and the other half looked like they just woke up. I probably could have smuggled an entire mule into the US from Culiacan if I could have trained it to sit in a chair and fasten a seat belt. If I owned a handgun, I probably could’ve taken it on the plane if I had told the sleepy looking young woman at the desk that it wasn’t loaded.

The main purpose of our trip was to attend Brea and Charlie’s Endless Wedding Celebration. I suppose it could be like unto Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, except I’ve never seen that movie, so I can’t really say what it’s about, but I’m going to guess that no one gets married in it.

We kind of figured Brea and Charlie would have a traditional wedding, you know, like normal people. I should have known better. I know Brea. I used to work with her. She’s one of my work daughters. My other work daughter was one of her bridesmaids. Brea is anything but normal. She’s extraordinary.

Brea and Charlie were married at Stonebridge Manor. It was without a doubt the most beautiful wedding I will ever attend in my life. Martha Stewart would’ve thought she’d died and gone to Wedding Heaven if she had been there. An elegant reception and brunch followed the beautiful and brief exchanging of vows and rings. In the evening there was an hors d’oeuvre bar and drinks at the Thirsty Lion Gastropub in the very fashionable Scottsdale Fashion Mall.

I ran into a few of the doctors I used to work with. A couple of them have been busy buying Ferraris. I know, right! Where the hell are you going to drive a Ferrari? You’re not taking it to the store when you run out of paper towels!

The next day, which I think was Friday, there was a party bike tour in downtown Scottsdale for the younger people who came to the wedding. If you’re like me and you have no idea what a party bike is, it’s essentially a bar on wheels propelled by any number of people pedaling while they drink at the mobile bar. You can Google it if you need more detailed information about this. On Saturday evening, there was a barbecue for anyone still able to stand at the Scottsdale Rotary Park.

I’ve had nothing but problems trying to figure out which day it is since we flew to Phoenix. Part of it is the change from Daylight Saving Time. I’ve never had this problem before, but that’s when it started. Mexico changes back to Daylight Standard Time one week before the US does. I’m still not sure how this one hour change ended up making me unsure which goddamn day of the week it is, but there you go.

And then Volaris changed the date of our return flight without telling us. If Lea wasn’t as OCD as she is, we wouldn’t have found out about that until we arrived at the airport on the wrong day. We were supposed to fly back on Tuesday, but ended up coming back on Monday. I think.

I thought yesterday was Friday, but now I’m pretty sure today is Friday. Lea tells me it is, and I trust her.

At any rate, there might have been more fun stuff associated with what will probably known as be the Social Event of Season, but that’s as much as I know. Lea and I had a great time, so thank you very much to Brea and Charlie. And we hope you two are as happy together as we are. May your marriage be blessed, and both of you as well.

* * * *

We had multiple reasons for traveling back to the States. As amazing as it is living in Mexico, there are some things that are difficult to obtain down here. A lots of ex-pats return to their country of origin to shop for things they can’t find and presumably can’t live without.

The first thing we did after we arrived in Phoenix and got into our rental car was drive halfway to California and ordered the largest pizza we could at Rosati’s Pizza, which is something I haven’t been able to find in Mexico, then we went to see Nikki and Jay and all of the stuff Lea ordered.

Lea bought a whole lots of things online and had them delivered to Nikki and Jay’s house. There were a whole lots of boxes. And bags. And bags in boxes. Our stuff covered one of Nikki’s kitchen counter tops. And then it filled the entire backseat of our rental car.

Rosati’s is our favorite pizza, it was the main reason we went there, but there was another reason. It was kind of a peace offering. Nikki and Jay are Packer fans. Lea and I are Vikings fans. Our team broke their all-star quarterback, and as a result the Packers are going to mostly suck for the rest of the season.

Pizza. It makes everything more better gooder. Even losing, maybe…

* * * *

If you’ve never been to the Phoenix area, it’s fucking huge. Our Packer fan friends live in the West Valley. The condo we had rented is in Fountain Hills, which is in the East Valley. It takes about an hour to drive from one side of the valley to the other.

The distances you had to drive are one of the things that fade from memory if you don’t do that kind of stuff on a regular basis. Almost any place we need to go in the Lakeside area is a five minute drive from our house. Another thing you forget is how wide and smooth the roads are. Honestly, driving on those roads was one of the most pleasant surprises about our trip.

Thankfully, we got to spend a whole lots of time driving on the very wide, very smooth and flat roads of the Phoenix area. In six days, we drove close to seven hundred miles, which is probably three hundred miles more than we’ve driven in the thirteen months since we’ve moved to Mexico.

After we ate a really big pizza, then packed all of our boxes and bags and stuff into our rental car and then drove for an hour as we headed east, we stopped at a supermarket near our condo in Fountain Hills and bought two pints of ice cream, coffee, coffee creamer and a bottle of Claritin. It cost over sixty dollars. That was an unpleasant surprise. Life is so much more inexpensive in Mexico. You could probably get all of those things, and a couple of tacos, for ten bucks down here.

Fountain Hills is a very beautiful, very affluent city. You really have to see the mansions built into the hillsides to truly appreciate them. Words, in this instance, just aren’t going to do it justice.

And, of course, there’s the fountain. It’s in a park near the downtown area. Our condo was right across the street from it. The fountain more or less erupts every hour from 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM for about fifteen minutes, and shoots jets of water roughly 300 feet into the air. At night, it’s lit up. It’s pretty cool, for a fountain.

We did have some official business to take care of while we were in the States. We had to have our new Last Will and Testament notarized. Nikki and Jay graciously agreed to be our witnesses. Afterwards, we all went to the bowling alley to eat walleye. I guess you can find bowling alleys in some of the larger cities in Mexico, but there are none in the Lakeside area, nor can you find a walleye dinner here.

* * * *

So, there was a fabulously elegant wedding. Shopping. Pizza. Friends. Walleye. And more friends. Lea and I saw as many people as we could in the short amount of time we were there.

I even did something I wasn’t planning on doing. I went back to work. Okay, I didn’t actually work. I only visited my last employer, but one of my former co-workers did ask me if I could work for her on Friday.

Nurses. Gotta love them.

Work, it seems, has changed quite a bit since I retired. We rarely had any open beds when I worked at Aurora Behavioral Health, but several new hospitals have opened, and a couple more are being built. While this is good news for the people who need psychiatric help, it’s not good news for the people who manage psychiatric hospitals.

Something has to give, and not all of those places are going to survive. You can oversaturate any market, and that will very likely happen in Phoenix in a year or two. And then there won’t be enough psychiatric beds available, and everything will be right back where it was once more.

I know I’ve said this before, but I do not miss working for a living. At all. However, I was more than a little surprised by how many people said they missed working with me. That was actually very humbling, and anyone who knows me knows that I am not a humble guy.

So thank you all so very much for that, but I’m more than satisfied with my current position and I have no intention of changing that any time soon.

* * * *

Along with all of the cyber-shopping Lea did before we returned to the States, she wanted to do some real time shopping, so we did that, too. There are no Target® stores in the Lakeside area, nor are there any Kohl’s®. I’m not sure I can say I missed shopping at either one of those places.

I’m a guy, and guys don’t love shopping. Most of the time. Unless it’s for big screen TV’s or home theater systems. There were plenty of things I could have purchased, but there wasn’t anything I needed, so I ended up wandering around a lots looking at things I wasn’t going to purchase.

It was still kind of nice to sort of go shopping. All of the stores had their Christmas displays up, and some of the stores might have been playing Christmas music.

I love Christmas, even if it starts right after Halloween nowadays.

Lea bought a few things, on sale of course, but not as many as I thought she would. Even she was surprised by how little she bought in the stores. I’d have to call that a pleasant surprise as well.

In between traveling from one side of the valley to the other side of the valley, we hung out at our cozy condo in Fountain Hills and watched American TV. The only real difference I could see between American and Canadian shows is they don’t talk about Canadia as much on American TV.

* * * *

With what time that remained in the States, we spent catching up with our friends and our spiritual family at Joe’s Church. Okay, it’s really called Just Church, and it meets at Imagine Prep in Surprise, AZ. Lea and I used to be greeters there. I wandered over to Einstein Corner where I used to greet and took a selfie of myself and Brother Al.

Little Known Fact About My Lovely Supermodel Wife: she has really weird dreams. Prior to our return trip to the States, she had a dream that we went to our old church. And no one spoke to us. Not the pastor. Not his wife. Nor any of our friends.

Luckily, my wife doesn’t have any prophetic talent either, and a lots of people talked to us, including the pastor. And his wife. And all of our friends. We invited all of them to come to Mexico, just not all at the same time.

* * * *

It’s football season, and the Vikings played the Redskins while we were in town, so we went to a sports bar to watch the game. Bill Sbiliris, one of the docs I used to work with met us there. So did Deb Goral, one of the nurses I used to work with.

Bill is a Vikings fan, so we had a great time watching the Vikings beat the Redskins on a really, really big TV. Deb is a Packers fan. Maybe I should have bought her a pizza…  But her team won that day, too, so she was happy, even without pizza.

There was another person/former co-worker who was supposed to meet us. Karen Rae Goff, one of my favorite social workers. But Karen forgot she was going to a NASCAR race when she said she’d come to the game, and then she remembered the race when she remembered that she hates football.

Maybe next time, Karen.

* * * *

We deliberately packed light when we flew back to the States so we’d have a lots of room in our luggage for the stuff Lea had purchased to bring back to Mexico, and that was a very good idea. We bought a lots of stuff. When we first saw all of the boxes and bags and more bags and boxes, Lea and I both thought we’d have to buy another suitcase to get all of our stuff home. Thanks to some creative packing, we were able to fit it all in our existing luggage, and even more surprising, we weren’t overweight on any of our luggage.

That was a very pleasant surprise.

And now we’re home once more, and it’s good to be home. No matter where you go or what you do, it’s always good to be home. I have grown accustomed to my very stress-free lifestyle, and so has my lovely supermodel wife.

Everyone we talked to said Hell had a more mild summer than they had in Phoenix this year. It does get incredibly hot there.

Yeah, really unfortunate we missed that…

I’m sure we’ll travel back to the good old USA again someday, but neither Lea nor I want to be in Minnesota during the winter, or in Arizona during the summer. I’m sure Lea will plan accordingly, unless it’s some kind of dire emergency.

Life can do that to you sometimes. No matter how well you prepare for it, Life will surprise you.

From the Odds and Ends Department

Have you ever watched something on TV, or read something, and thought, Man, I could do so much better than that! You might even be thinking that right now…  Especially if you’ve read more than one of my blog posts.

I mean, all this guy writes about is getting wasted, his slutty girlfriends, and how all of his relationships fell apart! There was that story about his nympho Russian girlfriend, Ivana Sukyurkokov. And his heartbroken Chinese girlfriend, Wat Wen Wong. Jeez, his blog is dumber than putting wheels on a ball! I liked him more when he wrote about crazy people!

And I hear you. Before I started writing my blog, I thought bloggers were people who needed to get a fucking life, man. They were probably people who thought Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian were the epitome of American society and they all wanted to be Paris-ites, or biffles, or twat waffles with them or something.

I’ve started reading some of the blogs that are out there on the Interweb, and I was wrong about bloggers. Most of them appear to have lives.

Except me.

I’m retired. If I were to write about my day-to-day life now, my blog would consist of restaurant reviews in the Lakeside area, and stories about how much I love my Sleep Number bed®.

And to be honest, I probably liked me more when I was writing about crazy people, too. But those stories are relatively easy to write, and like everything else in life, it’s only when you step outside of your comfort zone that anything meaningful happens. It’s the stories I didn’t want to write that taught me the most about myself. It was the stories that hurt like hell that showed me how far I’ve come.

And how far I still have to go.

And the other thing about writing about my nursing career is not every person I cared for resulted in a story worth telling.  Knife wielding homicidal maniacs were the exception, not the rule, thank God. Most of my patients were never a problem, unlike medical dramas on TV. I’d probably hate being a TV nurse, unless my work partner was the hot nurse with the big tits…

The majority of my nursing career was pretty ho-hum. Mischief was managed. Shit got done. No one died. And that was that. But there were a lots of snippets and moments and oneliners, and if I could patchwork a lots of them together, I might be able to spin a tale or two…

* * * *

I’ve discovered that time management is still necessary once you retire. I certainly have more time to do things I enjoy now, like reading. And because other bloggers sometimes read my posts, I feel a certain obligation to read some of their posts, too. My favorite blogger is a young woman in New York who writes about her struggle to overcome her eating disorder. Her blog is called Beauty Beyond Bones. And while I love her now, I probably would’ve hated her as a patient.

Back when I was a psych nurse in Arizona, there were a couple of eating disorder treatment facilities in the little town of Wickenburg, about thirty miles northwest of Surprise. Remuda Ranch and Rosewood Ranch. She’s never come out and said if she was a patient at either of them, but I’m going to guess she was at Remuda. I hope she doesn’t mind me saying that. I interviewed at both facilities, but decided not to take a position at either one of them. I absolutely sucked at working with eating disorder patients.

Remuda is a Christian based treatment facility. One of the questions they asked me in the interview was did I think the Bible was the sole source of truth. I said no, it wasn’t, and I wasn’t even sure all of the things written in the Bible were true. After my interview, they told me I wasn’t Christian enough to meet their criteria. I told them that was okay. They weren’t the first Christians to tell me that.

A few weeks later they called me back and told me that they had changed their mind about me, and asked if I was still interested in working there. I wanted to say something like, God, you guys must be fucking desperate! But instead I thanked them for thinking of me, and told them I had found another position and I wasn’t available anymore.

Well, it was the truth…

Like most every psychological/psychiatric disorder, eating disorders are caused by a multitude of complex factors, and as with every psychological/psychiatric disorder–except dementia–the successful treatment of anorexia or bulimia depends completely on the patient. If they don’t want to change their behavior, there ain’t nothin’ anyone can do for them once they’re discharged from the hospital.

It’s like alcoholism or drug addiction, only worse. Just as the drinking and chemical use are usually a symptom of a deeper, darker pathology, eating disorders are about far more than food.

Eating disorders are incredibly difficult to treat, mostly because eating disorder patients are the spawn of Satan. I mean that in a Christian way. They are sneakier than a ninja. They can vomit silently so they can purge without anyone knowing. They stockpile food so they can binge feed when no one is looking. And if their lips are moving, they’re probably lying.

The other thing I remember most clearly about most of these women, and they were all females, is the majority of them were gorgeous. And that is truly one of the great mysteries that used to keep me awake at night when I was learning how to be a psych nurse. How could someone so beautiful be so fucking miserable?

One of my first posts was about one of my patients at the MVAMC. I called him the Piano Man because he liked to play the piano. About the time he walked onto the unit for one of his many admissions, we had just discharged a gal with anorexia. She had been on our unit for a couple of weeks, and none of the staff were sad to see her go.

After we got the Piano Man admitted, he sat down at the piano and started playing, and the piano sounded like a wounded moose. We opened the top to find the eating disorder girl had hid enough food inside of the piano to feed Hannibal’s entire army when he crossed the Alps to attack Rome. Including the elephants.

For someone who has never worked in a psychiatric setting, it would be easy to say that we, as staff members, totally sucked at our job, and I really don’t have much of anything to say in our defense. We were hardly specialists at treating eating disorders, and the fact we were so happy to see that particular patient leave speaks volumes to the level of struggle we all had with her.

* * * *

To be sure, it’s very easy to be an armchair quarterback or a wheelchair general, and criticize someone doing a job you’ve never attempted. And when you’re in a service oriented occupation like Nursing, you are never going to be able to make everybody happy. No one is that good, and people can be incredibly demanding/entitled. And it is generally the people who were making the least positive contribution to anything who were the most demanding and entitled.

You guys have to be the worst fucking nurses I’ve ever seen! I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that one. And it was usually a guy that you and your team had spent a month busting your asses trying to arrange housing and follow up for, who had been discharged from your unit forty-eight hours earlier, and was already back because he chose to drink as much alcohol and smoke as much meth as he possibly could before he came crawling back to the hospital.

Most of the time it’s better to just agree with someone like that, and walk away. But there were times when I couldn’t.

“Maybe you should get out more…  That means a lots coming from you…”

I said something like unto that to one of my unhappy frequent flyer guys at the MVAMC who probably spent as much time in the hospital as I did. His name was Ray. I’m going to guess that the total bill for the many, many times we detoxed him off of alcohol, sobered him up and set him up to succeed was in excess of one million dollars, and he had this response, “You used to be a good guy, but you need a new job. You’ve been inpatient too long.”

“So have you.” I replied.

He froze to death one cold December night in Minneapolis. He had gotten drunk and was walking to the hospital so he could be admitted again. His body was found propped up against a tree across the street from the hospital in the morning. He had stopped to rest before making his final stumbling trek to the ED, and had fallen asleep.

You meet a lots of guys like unto that when you’re a psych nurse. There was Charles. He was another MVAMC guy who spent an inordinate amount of time getting drunker than fifty guys combined, and the rest of his time detoxing on my unit.

We had safely detoxed Charles for the umpteenth time, and discharged him at 9:00 AM on a Friday morning. At 2:30 PM that same day, I answered the phone. It was Charles.

“Hey, I don’t think this discharge thing is going to work, man. I’ve been out of the hospital for about six hours, and I’m pretty fuckin’ wasted, man.” he slurred.

“Hey, Charles. Has it ever occurred to you that you need to quit drinking?” I decided to ask. There was a long silence, and then Charles said this,

“Is there anyone else there I can talk to?”

For one of the few times in my life, I had no response. I handed the phone to one of my co-workers. Charles would also die to death as a result of his alcohol abuse.

Sometimes the disease wins.

* * * *

You never know what you’ll see or hear as a psych nurse, and there’s a reason for that. People are capable of an infinite amount of kooky stuff, not that you have to be a psych nurse to experience the full spectrum of kookiness available out there.

All you really need to see that is a family.

But one thing you may not experience unless you’re a psych nurse is the dreaded Dissociative Identity Disorder, or more commonly, Multiple Personality Disorder. In my thirty year career, I met a lots of people who claimed to have multiple personalities, but none of them ever seemed to be legitimate to me, or anyone else I worked with.

Multiple Personality Disorder was virtually unheard of until the 1970’s. That’s when the book Sybil was published, 1973 to be exact. Three years later, the TV movie of the same name was broadcast on NBC, starring Sally Field and Joanne Woodward, and like magic, suddenly everyone had multiple personalities.

For my money, all of the people I met who claimed to have multiple personalities were just assholes looking for an easy excuse for their behavior.

* * * *

I was working nights at the MVAMC fairly early in my career. I was the Med nurse that night, so anyone needing any medications had to see me. Enter Sam. It was around 2:00 AM. We had detoxed Sam off of alcohol with a Valium protocol. Once someone had been safely detoxed, the protocol was discontinued.

Sam had been off the protocol for a day or two, but he wanted more Valium. I explained to him how the protocol worked, and Sam had a five star meltdown. He screamed at me, waking up everyone on the unit. One of the other nurses called the POD and got a one time order of Valium for Sam, and he went back to bed.

At 6:00 AM, Sam came up to the nursing station to get his morning meds. He was quite pleasant, and I remarked that he was much nicer than he had been at 2:00 AM.

“Oh, that. That wasn’t me. That was Samuel.”

“No kidding. He looks just like you.” I said.

Sam gave me, and anyone else willing to listen, a detailed description of his three personalities: Sam, Samuel and Sheryl. A line of patients had formed behind Sam. They were waiting to get their meds so they could go smoke. According to Sam, Samuel was the troublemaker. Sheryl was the lover, and Sam was the drunk. I listened to Sam, and gave him his meds.

“Well, the next time you talk to Samuel, give him a message.” I said. “If he ever talks to me like that again, I’m gonna punch you in the fuckin’ mouth.”

Sam’s jaw dropped. He turned to the guys standing behind him, “Did you hear that! He threatened me!”

“Hey! Take your goddamn meds and get the hell out of the way! And if you ever pull that shit again, if he doesn’t punch you in the fuckin’ mouth, I will.” one of the Nam vets growled.

Yeah, not one of my better moments, but Samuel never made another appearance.

* * * *

I think the last time I met anyone who claimed to have multiple personalities was at Aurora. I walked onto the Canyon Unit, and Nikki was on a 1:1. She was a frequent flyer, and I was usually her nurse.

A 1:1 is a special precaution, usually reserved for patients that are acutely suicidal. In essence, one staff person is assigned to one patient, and that patient is never more than an arm’s length away from the person assigned to watch over them.

Well, that’s how it’s supposed to work, but it’s rarely played out that way.

I went over to talk to Nikki. She had scratched her wrist with a plastic spoon on the evening shift. She didn’t even break the integrity of her skin, and her nurse had placed her on the 1:1.

I’m shaking my head while I write this. I don’t usually like to criticize the actions of other nurses, but that was a lazy-ass intervention. If the evening nurse had taken even five minutes to talk to Nikki, that ridiculous waste of manpower and resources wouldn’t have been needed. We barely had enough staff to cover the units, let alone have one staff assigned to watch someone for no good reason.

I asked Nikki to tell me what happened.

“I didn’t do anything! It was Alexandra!”

“And whom might that be?”

“She’s one of my three personalities! She–”

“Stop. Cut the crap, Nikki. You’re on a 1:1. You can’t smoke if you’re on a 1:1.” I said.

“But they let me smoke last night, and this morning!”

“I don’t care what they did last night. This is my unit, my rules. If I can’t trust you to be safe on the unit, I’m sure as hell not going to trust you to be safe off the unit, with a lit cigarette in your hand. What if you decide to burn yourself?”

“It wasn’t me! It was Alexandra!”

“I don’t care who did it. None of you get to smoke.”

“I’ll be safe, I promise! Please!!”

Less than five minutes. Mischief managed. And I never heard another word about Alexandra again. Ever.

* * * *

There was a fairly consistent response whenever I told someone that I had just met that I was a psychiatric nurse. Their eyes would widen, and they would say something like unto, “I bet you’ve seen it all, huh.”

I would reply, “No. I’ve seen a lots of strange stuff, but the kookiness of humans is infinite.”

And that is the fucking truth.

Every time I thought I had seen it all, something I didn’t think was humanly possible walked through the door. I eventually made peace with the fact that I would never see it all, and I was okay with that. My two other personalities are still sulking about that a bit, but they’ll get over it.

Or I’ll punch them in the mouth.

The Doctors

You get to work with a lots of different disciplines as a nurse. Social Work. Adjunctive Therapy. Physical Therapy. Laboratory. Dietary. Even Housekeeping.

But the most challenging discipline you’ll likely encounter is the doctor. Well, Dietary can be a real pain sometimes. You know who the sweetest people are? The housekeepers. I loved them, especially the housekeepers at Aurora.

Doctor shows are incredibly popular on TV. I have no idea why. I’ve spent years hanging around doctors, and I never found most of them to be that interesting.

TV doctors have changed a lots over the years. They used to be older, wise, fatherly figures that made house calls and took care of you and your family from birth to death and everything in between. Nowadays they’re young, pill-popping, supersexy smartass mannequins who perform some obscure lifesaving surgery, then go get drunk and have sex with another supersexy doctor or the nurse with the big tits.

From a nurse’s point of view, doctors can either make or break your day, depending on a wide variety of factors and variables. Sometimes the most difficult part of being a nurse is getting what you need from your doctor.

And as a psych nurse, mostly what you need from your doctor is good coffee in the morning, and a shitload of medications to offer your patients.

* * * *

My first psych nurse position was at the Minnesota State Hospital. You had to be certified crazy to be a patient there, and some of them were downright scary.

Vincent was a certified crazy, angry young man, and he often made threats of death and other types of destruction to the staff. I never found those situations to be especially fun, so I asked his doctor to maybe increase his meds, just a little.

Vincent’s doc was a tall guy named Bruce, who spent about five minutes a month meeting with his patients. When I spoke to Doctor Bruce and informed him how his patient had decompensated of late, and was threatening death and destruction to pretty much everyone, Doctor Bruce had this classic response:

“Well, Mark, we all have to die from something.”

* * * *

The next stop in my career was at the MVAMC, and I would stay there for almost twenty years. I would meet a lots of doctors there.

Doctor Bob was an older, wise, father figure guy who had been at the VA for eons. He was an alcoholic, but had quit drinking some years before we met. But that was all he did, and he was a mixed bag of moods most of the time.

We had a guy on our unit named Duane. Duane was a was what we called a non-compliant patient. He refused to take any medications. He refused to take part in any programming. Duane just wanted to eat and sleep and he was rather rude in his interactions with the staff.

Doctor Bob walked onto the unit one morning, and walked into Duane’s room. They had a brief, loud interaction, then Duane started screaming. Two seconds later, Doctor Bob emerged from Duane’s room with Duane in tow. He had grabbed Duane by the ankle, pulled him out of bed, dragged him down the hallway to the nearest dayroom, and told him to stay there.

Doctor Bob was investigated by the hospital for alleged patient abuse, and ended up getting a three day suspension. Anyone other than Doctor Bob would’ve been terminated immediately and most likely would’ve lost any professional licensing they had.

* * * *

Lori Suvalsky was my favorite doctor at the MVAMC, and my personal favorite doctor of all time. She knew her stuff, and was a very good doc, and she was hotter than July in Phoenix.

I’m very serious about that.

We took care of a lots of crazy people together, and she was the first doc I worked with that seriously listened not just to me, but all the nurses. As hard to believe as that might seem, a lots of doctors weren’t all that interested in what the nurses had to say. Doctor Lori absolutely loved the nursing notes I wrote. It was so refreshing working with her.

Doctor Lori spent a lots of time talking to her patients, and she almost always took the nurse caring for a patient with her to get input from the patient and the nurses. She was the only doc I worked with that consistently did that.

Doctor Lori wasn’t just the first doc I formed a professional relationship with, she was the first doc that I counted as a friend. We went out for drinks and dinner after work. We talked about the problems we had in our personal lives. She threw elegant parties and invited me and my lovely supermodel wife.

She told me I needed to quit smoking. I told her she had a nice ass. She helped me survive the traumatic aftermath when one of our patients committed suicide on our unit. When the VA decided to create an assistant head nurse position, she lobbied for me to get the job, and she had my back when I quit finally drinking.

She cried when I left Minneapolis and moved to Phoenix. Of all the people I would miss when I left the MVAMC, I missed her the most.

* * * *

I worked at several psych facilities in the Phoenix area, but it wasn’t until my third job that I found a doc I really liked. I worked with some decent doctors at the County and Del Webb, but there were some real losers, too. Especially at the County.

Hey, Dr Loser. We have a guy starting to escalate here. He’s hyperventilating and pacing. He just punched a hole in the solid concrete wall, and he’s threatening to kill everyone. What kind of injections would you like us to give him. Immediately!

No injections. Offer him Haldol 2 mg by mouth, and a half a milligram of Ativan.

Seriously? This guy is six foot five, and weighs about four bills. With all due respect, we’ve had four Code Blacks with this guy in the last three days. Yesterday we gave him ten of Haldol, two of Ativan and a hundred of Benadryl. And it finally caught up with him after we gave him a repeat dose!

Are you a doctor? Do you think you know more about this than I do? You don’t give me orders, I give orders to you! Do what I say!!

That might be an extreme illustration, but shit like that happened occasionally. The big badass guy would inevitably go off. Fifty staff members would come running, and there would be an huge wrestling match. We’d shoot the guy up with what we knew would work, and then get orders. If Dr Loser still refused to give us orders for what we needed, we’d call the Medical Director, and he’d sign off on them, then he’d call Dr Loser and chew him a new asshole.

* * * *

My favorite doctor at St Luke’s was Naveen Cherukuri. My favoritest thing about Naveen was listening to him tell a funny story. He would start laughing so hard I couldn’t understand a thing he said, but was still thoroughly entertained listening to it.

Naveen was also a really good doc, and he took care of the nurses. St Luke’s could be a really scary place to work at times, and Naveen wasn’t afraid to lock and load. I really liked working with him.

He married one of my favorite St Luke’s nurses, Stacey Supermodel. They have a couple kids now. Hopefully, they look like their mom…  Just kidding, Naveen. I don’t know if I’ll ever see him again, but I hope I do.

* * * *

I ended my semi-legendary psych nursing career at Aurora Behavioral Health, and I would work with several doctors there that I would come to view as not just colleagues, but good friends.

Bill Sbiliris was the primary doc on the Canyon Unit, my home at Aurora. We didn’t get along all that great at first. We probably had a similar opinion about each other: That arrogant sonuvabitch thinks he knows everything!

And then we discovered between the two of us we really did know everything, and we were both Minnesota Vikings fans, which was rare in Arizona. After that, we made a great team. Too bad our football team didn’t achieve similar greatness…

Doctor Bill also wasn’t afraid to lock and load medications. He was pretty easy to work with in that regard, and that made it easy for the nurses to drop the Canyon Hammer if we ever needed to.

Doctor Bill wasn’t so great at spending a lots of time with his patients. They called him Dr Drive-by. Be that as it may, Doctor Bill was a good guy to work with, and we stabilized a lots of crazy people together.

Doctor Bill also took very good care of the nurses. He usually stopped at Starbucks on his way to work and brought in a wide variety of caffeinated beverages for the nurses. He bought lunch for the nurses more consistently than any other doc I worked with, and he also threw great parties.

* * * *

Michael Fermo was another Aurora doc. He was also a very good doc, and another wizard of psychopharmacological management, and he spent a reasonable amount of time meeting with his patients.

Doctor Mike used to transfer a lots of patients to my unit. Fiona, the Queen of the World, was one of his patients. The nurses on his unit used to say their patients needed to spend some quality time in the Canyon. Doctor Mike used to say this: “I think they need some quality Mark time.”

That was a pretty high compliment.

For his especially difficult patients on my unit, we would do a Good Cop, Bad Cop routine. Doctor Mike always played the Bad Cop, and would rip his patient a new asshole, and then I’d put a band-aid on it and make it all better. And then we would laugh our asses off. We were incredibly successful, and there was mostly peace on the Canyon.

“How’s my boy doing today? Do I need to get all medieval on his ass again?” he’d ask.

“Nope. He’s got his damn mind right now.” I’d reply.

“Good. I love it when a plan comes together.”

And when it came to throwing epic parties, none of the docs I worked with could hold a candle to Doctor Mike. The only thing he didn’t have at his parties was strippers, even though I lobbied hard for them the next time.

* * * *

But my favorite Aurora doc was Reyes Topete. He was the staff addictionologist, and he was a freaking dream to work with. Whatever I needed for my detox patients, El Topete delivered.

“Give him Ativan 2 mg now, and set up a taper, 2 mg QID. I’ll see him when I come in and take care of the rest.” Or “Give her Subutex 8 mg now, and set up a four day taper. You need anything else?”

If I wanted a Subutex taper extended, no problem. If I wanted one stopped, it was done. If I thought we should add something, like phenobarbital, sure, why not. It was the same if I thought we should remove something from a patient’s med profile.

“You’re my eyes and ears on the unit.” he told me one day. “And if you tell me one of my patients needs something, or doesn’t need something, I trust you.”

As far as compliments from doctors go, it doesn’t get any better than that.

I told him about my drug use history, and he had trouble believing parts of it. Mostly the quitting part.

“And you just stopped? Cold turkey? Man, don’t tell my patients that! I have kids in college!!”

El Topete is from Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico–the Big City about forty miles away from where we’re currently living. He was thrilled when I told him we were going on vacation here the year before we retired.

“Really? I’m grew up in Guadalajara. You’re gonna love it! You have to go here, and there…” He was so excited he started speaking a combination of English and Spanish and probably a couple of languages no one has ever heard before, outside of a Star Wars® movie.

And when I told him we were retiring down here, he was jealous. At my retirement party, he cried. To this day, that touches me more than I can say.

* * * *

I’ve said before that I don’t miss working for a living, and that’s true. I’ve also said that I miss some of the people I used to work with. That is also true. I’ll probably travel back up to the States again from time to time, but I have no intention of staying there, and I sure as hell don’t plan on rejoining the workforce.

I’ll try to see as many of my friends as I can cram into any of our Stateside visits. But we do have a guest room here…

The Time Machine

I used to facilitate a lots of groups back when I was a psych nurse. Just in cases you didn’t know this, there are two types of psych nurses: those that love to lead groups, and those that don’t. There’s no middle ground.

That’s the truth. You can ask around if you like.

I loved doing groups. Probably not a big surprise there. I did groups on mental illness, medications, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, cardiac health, whatever. I did groups on stuff no one had ever heard of before, like, the Ghost Dance of the 1890’s.

Maggie, did not like groups. She hated them. I worked with Maggie at the MVAMC. She wasn’t one of the best nurses I ever worked with. In fact, she was probably one of the worst.

Maggie would come to work early and check out her patient assignment, and then she started charting. Before her shift started, and before she even assessed any of her patients. She wrote the same two sentences on all of her patients:

Met with pt. Says he’s okay.  XOXO, Maggie.

Something like unto that. Everyone knew she did that, even her patients knew she did it. She spent most of her shift sitting behind the nursing station drinking coffee and taking cigarette breaks. Marj, my horrible boss, knew Maggie’s charting routine. And this is what she did about it.

Nothing.

Marj was an horrible boss in more ways than one.

* * * *

Want to hear a funny Maggie story? She had come in early and had done all of her charting before her shift started, as usual, and one of her patients had a seizure around the end of our shift. We called a code and ran down to his room to take care of him. And Maggie said this, “Goddammit! I just finished charting on this guy! I’m not writing another note on him!”

And everyone in the room stopped what they were doing, and turned to look at her. Even the guy having a seizure…

Another Maggie story. One of her patients had a condom cath, and she was supposed to remove it. A condom cath is pretty much what it sounds like. It’s an urinary catheter in the form of a condom. You unroll it you apply it, and it sticks to a penis like glue if it’s applied correctly. There’s actually an adhesive on the inside of a condom cath.

I probably put that catheter on that guy, so it was properly applied. Maggie had never removed one, so she asked me to come along. She told the guy what she was going to do, grabbed the tip of the catheter, braced one foot on the frame of his bed and started pulling, like she was trying to land a blue marlin or something.

I just about died to death. And you should’ve seen the look in that guy’s eyes. I made Maggie stop, and took it off myself. That guy thanked me every time he saw me.

And, one last Maggie story. Patient assignments were done by the charge nurse. I decided to have a little fun with Maggie one day, and assigned her to lead groups. Maggie just about had a fucking seizure.

“Are you kidding me!” she confronted me when I walked onto the unit that day. “I’m going to walk in there and look like an idiot for the first time!”

“Oh, it won’t be the first time.” was my response.

* * * *

One of our patients at the MVAMC was a guy we called Forrest Gump’s Smarter Brother. He kind of looked like Forrest, and although he was smarter than Forrest, it wasn’t by much. I can’t remember his real name, but he wanted us to let him use our time machine so he could go back in time to undo some horrendous mistake he had made years earlier.

I can’t remember what he’d done, but wasn’t something of all that much consequence, as least as far as the staff was concerned. I think most of the people involved in the care of FG’sSB all thought the same thing: Hell, I’ve done worse stuff than that! That wouldn’t even be in my Top Ten!

It probably wouldn’t have been in my Top Twenty-five. Or Top Fifty.

The Time Machine is the classic novel written by H.G. Wells in 1895. It’s been adopted into several movies and TV shows. My personal favorite is Time After Time, 1979, starring Malcolm McDowell and Mary Steenburgen. It’s a romantic thriller where H.G. Wells travels to the future chasing Jack the Ripper.

I thought it was a great movie.

At any rate, a lots of staff members at the MVAMC talked to FG’sSB, and they all told him the same thing. We don’t have a time machine, but he refused to believe it. He was probably a little delusional, that guy.

Psychosis and delusions generally go hand in hand, like anxiety and depression. But I don’t remember him being that psychotic. He just wanted to use our time machine, and he was convinced we had one, probably somewhere in the basement. Where else would you store a time machine?

Delusions are incredibly difficult to treat. A delusion is a fixed false belief, and once a delusion is born, it never really dies. You know, like that one guy who wants to be a prophet someday.

According to some psychologists, all religious beliefs are delusions. And, the popular response to that would probably be something like unto, Um, not mine. Those other guys, maybe. But my God, is real!

I wasn’t FG’sSB’s nurse, but I had heard about him in report. One day, one of the docs had just spent about half an hour trying to convince FG’sSB we didn’t have a time machine, and I started laughing.

The doctor was one of our residents, and he walked over to me. He said something like unto he didn’t think this was funny, and added if I thought I could do a better job, I was more than welcome to take my best shot.

So, I did.

“Yo, FG’sSB. Let’s talk. You’re right. We do have a time machine.”

“What!?!” the resident doc shouted.

“I knew it!!!” FG’sSB exclaimed.

“But let me explain how time travel works. Have you ever heard of the Law of Equilibrium and Balance?”

“N-No…”

“It’s the primary principal of time travel. In essence, you can’t go back in time to undo a mistake. The only thing you can do is replace the mistake you made with a different mistake. Do you understand what I’m saying?”

“Yeah, I think so…”

“That’s why the Federal government won’t let anyone use the time machine anymore. They tried it a couple of times. The Feds have made a lots of mistakes over the years, right?” I said, and FG’sSB nodded his head in agreement.

“Look. I’m not supposed to tell anyone about this, but I used to be a data analyst for the CIA, and I had access to all kinds of super top secret files. The Feds have a base somewhere in Greenland, and that’s where they did their tests with the time machine. The first time they tried to change something in the past, the Nazis ended up winning World War II.”

“No way!”

“Way! The Nazis ended up developing the atomic bomb before we did, and they nuked America off the face of the planet.”

“Wow!”

“So the Feds learned something from their experiments. You can’t actually fix anything by going back in time. You can only make things worse. They ended up having to go back and repeating their first mistake again to fix the shit they tried to fix! There has to be balance, get it?”

“Oh. I didn’t know that. So, if I went back in time…”

“You’ll only make everything worse. Do you still want to use our time machine?”

“Um, probably not. I don’t want to make things worse…”

Home run.

The best part of that, the resident doc came up to me and said this: “That, was the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen.”

* * * *

I have no idea if there’s an actual Law of Equilibrium and Balance. And while time travel is theoretically possible, I’m not sure it’s actually possible. But it sounded convincing enough to FG’sSB that he abandoned his quest to travel back in time, and he was discharged shortly afterwards.

And I probably wouldn’t have tried that intervention on everyone, but I knew it would work with FG’sSB. You can’t talk someone out of a delusional belief, but maybe you can use their delusion against them, so to speak.

There was a guy named Steve that was a frequent flyer at the MVAMC, and every time he came in he accused the nursing staff of trying to kill him, and there would be an investigation. So I said this to him, “How many times have you been here? The nurses here are highly trained professionals. If we really wanted to kill you, you would’ve been dead years ago.”

He never accused another nurse of trying to kill him to death.

* * * *

I’ve met more than one person that wished they could go back in time and undo some of the things they had done. I’m sure I’ve wished I could do that myself.

One of my desperately seeking time travel patients was Kathleen. She was at Aurora, and the first time I met her she was laying in bed, crying. I checked on her several times, and that’s what she did all morning.

At noon, I went into her room and said, “Hey, Kathleen. If you want something new to cry about, your lunch is here.” She got up to eat, and eventually stopped crying. And then we talked. Kathleen didn’t want to go back in time to change one thing in her life. She wanted to change all of it.

“Let’s say you could do that. Do you really think you wouldn’t make any mistakes if you could live your life over? As near as I can tell, everyone makes mistakes. I know I have. But those are the things that taught me my most important lessons. I might have had to repeat some of those lessons a few hundred times before the lights came on, but I wouldn’t be who and what I am now if not for those lessons learned.”

And then I told her about FG’sSB. And I told her some of the stories about my crazy life.

“And he believed your story about the time machine?”

“I’m evidently quite a convincing liar.”

“You must be. I can’t tell if you’re telling the truth or not.”

See? I told you.

“And you look pretty well put together now.”

“Years of putting together the pieces of my life. And now it’s your turn. Time to get your head out of your ass and get moving. Go take a shower. You’ll feel better.”

* * * *

My lovely supermodel wife and I went for a walk down the Malacon in Ajijic yesterday. We’re planning to go for a walk down the Malacon in Chapala tomorrow. It’s supposed to prettier than the one in Ajijic, and the Malacon in Jocotopec is supposed to be the prettiest of them all.

I’ll bring my camera, and take a lots of pictures. I’ll post them on my Facebook page. This place is incredibly beautiful.

That should help me achieve better balance and equilibrium in my new life. I had no idea transitioning into retirement would be such a tricksy thing. If I had known that, I would’ve planned a little better, maybe. I might not have believed it.

There’s a couple of football games today to determine which teams will meet in the Super Bowl. I think Jim and Veronica are hosting a Super Bowl party. I’m going to make chili. It’s the only thing I cook anymore, but it’s the best damn chili you’ll ever have.

It takes a couple days to make the World’s Best Chili. If you want the recipe, let me know…

Let’s see if I’m any closer to being a prophet. Falcons over the Packers. Patriots beat the Steelers.

If I’m right about that, I’ll make a Super Bowl prediction.

One of the Girls

Nursing is a primarily female dominated profession. There are probably a few others, but I wouldn’t know much about them, except strippers. I dated a few fabric free shoe models, back before I got married. And I probably spent a few hundred bucks or more hanging out in stripper bars, back when I drank.

I have an immense amount of respect for strippers. And nurses. For completely different reasons. Though, there are a few nurses I worked with that I wouldn’t have minded seeing as strippers. And then I would have doubly respected them.

Nurses are a breed apart. Not just anyone can handle being a nurse. It’s a tough job, and even the strongest nurses will have days when all they can do is go home and cry.

As a result, you make strong attachments to anyone that will help you get through your shift in one piece. You develop a level of trust with those people that transcends almost any other relationship you’ll have.

And as a result of that trust, you will sometimes hear the strangest things as a nurse, from other nurses.

“Ooh! I like your shirt! The bra and panties I’m wearing today are the same color!”

“My pee smells like coffee.”

“I’m having an affair.”

“My vagina is hemorrhaging blood!”

“My daughter’s boyfriend beat me up and broke my arm.”

“I just found out my husband has been having sex with our daughter.”

“I have cancer…”

Or, my personal favorite, “I have multiple orgasms.”

I mean, how are you supposed to respond to that? Well, this is how I did: “Um, yeah, me too.”

It wasn’t always pretty, or funny. As a guy, I wasn’t completely comfortable hearing about all the bodily functions of my female co-workers, or what they were doing with their bodies.

“Mark! I was sooo sick last night! I was puking my guts out, and I had diarrhea, at the same time!”

Yeah, it was like that. Especially when Shark Week rolled around. Shark Week was nursing code for when someone was hemorrhaging blood out of their vagina. But many of my female co-workers seemingly couldn’t contain their excitement when they had news to tell me.

I asked one of my vaginally hemorrhaging co-workers why she seemed to take so much delight in telling me about the most personal details of her life.

“I’m a guy. I don’t want to hear about that stuff.”

“Oh. I kind of think of you as one of the girls.”

Yeah, every guy wants to hear those words. But I should note that one of the ward clerks I worked with once described me as ladylike.

I needed a deeper explanation of that, and this is what she said: You’re very polite, and considerate. You have very good manners.

I had a response for her: Yeah, there’s another term for that. It’s called being a gentleman.

I was seemingly the safe sounding board for my female co-workers to tell their problems to. Especially when it came to their relationships. Bad boyfriends. Abusive husbands. Problem children. Problem dogs. I heard about them all. In detail.

Most of my colleagues weren’t seeking advice or counsel. They just wanted someone to talk to, someone to listen. But there are always exceptions.

One of my fellow nurses, Ann, would corner me in the Med Room and tell me all about her toxic relationship with her boyfriend, and then she’d ask me what she should do.

“I’m not giving you anymore advice.”

“Why not? You’re a smart guy.”

“Yes. And you’re a smart girl. You already know what to do.”

“But, your opinion means a lot to me. You’re like the big brother I never had.”

“Look, you’ve asked me for my opinion before, right?”

“Yes…”

“And have you done anything I’ve suggested?”

“No…”

“Okay. There you go. Keep doing what you’re doing.”

And then we would go through the same thing the following day. By the way, my advice to Ann was to dump her loser boyfriend. I don’t know what she ended up doing. She resigned her position, and was replaced by the nurse who had multiple orgasms.

As much as I disliked Ann, I fucking hated her replacement, that little troll.

Nurses, as wonderful and brilliant as they are, tend to make terrible decisions regarding their personal lives. I don’t know why that is. Even the nurses that make the terrible decisions probably couldn’t tell you why they make the ridiculous choices they make. But the answer might be something as simple as desperation.

“I want to meet a nice guy, and get married. I want babies, I want a family! I want a normal life!”

Yes. A normal life. Because the life of a nurse is anything but normal. Nurses work long hours, and then pick up an extra shift. A quiet day at work? What is that? If you could really work your ass off, it’d be easy to pick a nurse out of a crowd.

Nurses answer endless questions, answer call lights, dress wounds, check blood sugars, administer meds, respond to codes, save lives, and shed a tear when a life ends.

Nurses are tough, and smart, and dedicated. You have to love your job to be a nurse, or the job will eat you alive. And that’s why nurses want nothing more than a normal personal life. You can take only so much insanity in one day.

I don’t miss the crazy nurse life. I did that for thirty years. I’m quite content to read about the wild stuff that happened on social media. And I really don’t miss Shark Week.

I do miss the people. I genuinely loved and respected most of the people I worked with at Aurora, my last employer. They were probably the best group of people I worked with in my career, and I’ve worked with some of the best.

There’s been a management change at Aurora, and while I respected the former DON there, I absolutely love the new DON. I wish all of the people at Aurora a blessed and successful 2017.

I’ll try to keep up with you on Facebook. When you come visit, we’ll have a Girls Night Out.

The Jawbone of an Ass

My jaw has been bothering me quite a bit lately. It’s been a little over eight months since I was assaulted, resulting in the nondisplaced mandibular fracture that certainly doesn’t feel all that nondisplaced to me.

My dentist at Surprise Smiles 😆 told me it could take up to a year for my jaw muscles to realign to the new profile of my bite. This wasn’t what I wanted to hear back then, but if it will truly take that long, the good news is I have a mere four months to go.

I have sustained several physical injuries during my career as a psychiatric nurse. I also sustained several more injuries during my career as a drunken moron. These two careers overlapped each other for at least ten years, so it’s hard for me to separate them sometimes. The net result is pain, and for anyone that lives with daily chronic pain, it really doesn’t matter where or how it originated. You simply have to learn to live with it.

I was physically assaulted on three separate occasions during my nursing career. That averages out to one assault roughly every ten years. Somewhat oddly, I was struck in the face each time.

The first time, I never saw the punch coming. I was working at the MVAMC. My back was turned to the guy that hit me. Merrill came up behind me and suckerpunched the right side of my face because he wanted to go smoke, but I had taken away his smoking privileges because he was being an asshole.

It took me a moment to figure out what the hell got happened, and then it hit me, so to speak. That sonuvabitch punched me! My first response was to immediately punch him back. Yeah, guy logic, if there is such a thing.

My co-workers intervened. Merrill was quickly whisked into a seclusion room. I was sent to Employee Health be evaluated. I sustained no serious injury, but the doctor gave me the rest of the day off, just because.

The second assault occurred at Aurora. It was my second year there. I remember it as The Year of the Borderlines. My unit was generally designated as the  Marginally Functional Psychotic Unit, but that year we got hit with a tsunami of patients with Borderline Personality Disorder.

One Borderline can be enough to stand your unit on its head. A gaggle of Borderlines (?) A gossip of Borderlines…  I like that! A lots of Borderlines gathered together is rarely a good thing, particularly if you’re a psych nurse. And especially if the gossip is gaggling on your unit.

It takes an awesome skill set to effectively manage that.

The patient in question was Melissa, maybe. I used to remember everything about every one of my patients, but they eventually melded into one multi-headed mutant patient. Mel was having a difficult day obtaining the level of attention she desired, so she decided to go full on Drama Llama and had a VPM–Very Public Meltdown. Mel was good for usually one of these a day. She would set off a chain reaction with the rest of her Borderline buddies, and chaos would ensue.

On this particular day, I didn’t respond the way she wanted me to (I didn’t call the doctor to get injectable meds), so she stormed off to her room to slam the door and scream.

Karen Rae Goff, social worker extraordinaire, happened to be on the unit at the time. Karen also happened to be Melissa’s social worker, so we went to her room to see what Mel had planned for her next move.

“Get out of here!” Mel screamed at us as I opened the door.

“I need to know that you’re going to be safe.” I said, from the doorway.

“Leave me alone, or I’ll kick your fucking ass!” she screamed. And then I did something stupid:

unnamed

Melissa launched herself at me and started swinging. I blocked her first punch or two, but then she caught me with a left jab that knocked my glasses askew on my face.

That stirred something inside Karen, and she let loose on Melissa with her Mom Voice, and Mel was so stunned she stopped acting like a temper tantrum toddler.

“I can’t fucking believe you did that.” I said, and calmly readjusted my glasses.

“You asked for it.” Melissa replied.

“Are you going to press charges?” Karen asked me. It’s a felony to physically assault a healthcare worker in Arizona. Melissa let a momentary look of panic escape, and that’s when I fell in love with Karen. We never had another problem with Melissa. She was a little angel for the remainder of her stay.

And that brings us to Assault #3, which also happened at Aurora.

That day started out like any other day. Dr Sbiliris, the psychiatrist assigned to the Canyon Unit, came onto the unit to meet with his patients. One of them, a young kid named Desean asked to be discharged. Dr Sbiliris kind of laughed and said, “No, probably Friday. Maybe Wednesday.”

Desean seemed to accept that, even if it wasn’t the answer he wanted to hear.

And then something happened that should’ve sent my Spidey senses tingling. A patient on the Canyon Unit started loudly acting out, and when the staff from other units rushed over to aid and assist, Desean bolted out the unit doors and made a break for freedom.

We took care of the Yelling Guy. Desean fell short in his sprint to escape. He returned to the unit with an escort, and went to his room. And there was peace in the Canyon once more. Until 2:00 PM.

That’s when Desean entered the dayroom and started yelling and throwing stuff.

My boss of bosses, Lori Milus, must’ve been having a rare quiet day because she had come down to chat. I went into the day room. One of the BHT’s was trying to verbally redirect Desean, and I provided back up. But Desean wasn’t having any of that shit.

“Come on, man.” I said. “You know how this works. Sbiliris says that to everyone. He wants to see how you’ll respond. You know acting like this isn’t going to get you out of here. If anything, it’ll extend your stay, and you clearly don’t want that. Use your head, think about this!”

Desean and I were standing in the doorway of the dayroom. The nursing station and the unit doors were behind me. The hallway leading to the patient rooms was behind Desean.

He didn’t say anything, as if he were contemplating the veracity of my words. He appeared to me to start turning to his right, and I thought he would keep on going and go back to his room. I also started turning to my right, thinking my work was done. But Desean was merely loading up. He stopped turning to his right and reversed direction. His right fist came flying at me at about the speed of light, catching me squarely on the jaw.

unnamed-1

I was launched into space, much like that. I landed by the unit doors, seven or eight feet away. Desean may have howled in triumph. He ripped off his shirt, daring me to get up and fight him.

Like that was going to happen.

I didn’t lose consciousness. I even kept my head elevated so it wouldn’t hit the floor. But I don’t think I could’ve gotten off the floor just then if my life had depended on it.

One of the darling nurses I worked with, Lindsey Stirling, picked up my glasses and protectively leaned over me as I lay on the floor, trying to out figure out what I should do next. Another nurse, Brea Bils, one of my darlingpreshadorbs work daughters, tried to check my blood pressure. She later told me she no idea what she was doing. She thought I had gotten dead.

I knew I didn’t got dead, so I think I even said that.

“I’m not dead. I didn’t lose consciousness. My jaw…is really sore, but other than that, I’m okay.”

A group of BHT’s had escorted Desean into one of the Overflow rooms. Aurora was the only psychiatric facility I worked at that didn’t allow the use of seclusion and/or restraints to manage a behavioral crisis. Desean got several injections. And he was kept under close observation by several large men.

Once Desean was medicated and no longer actively assaultive, my boss asked me if I wanted to press charges. I did.

If Desean had been psychotic and responding to internal stimuli, that might’ve changed my decision. But Desean wasn’t psychotic. He didn’t get what he wanted, and he decided to act like a thug. That definitely was a factor in determining my decision.

The police took my statement. They took Desean into custody. Thankfully, Frankie Baby wasn’t there, or the police would’ve had to arrest him for murder. And there was peace in the Canyon once more.

I didn’t find out my jaw was broken until the following day when I had a CT scan. Because my fracture was nondisplaced, there wasn’t much of a treatment. I was on a soft diet for six to eight weeks; nothing but soups, smoothies and ice cream.

I bought the world’s most expensive smoothie. I lost ten pounds. I gained all of them back once I could eat real food again. And now I’m learning to live with my new occlusion pattern. It’s a process. Some days are better than others. Today, it hasn’t been too bad. Yesterday fucking sucked.

And as Forrest Gump said, That’s all I have to say about that.

Get out and vote.

I Solemnly Swear I Am Up To No Good

Attitude. What is attitude?  To paraphrase that great American philosopher, Yogi Berra, half of attitude is ninety percent mental.

In an earlier post, I talked about at least one instance that I needed to adjust my attitude. When it comes to adjusting your attitude, you have to take a long, hard, unflinching look at yourself. This is in no way as easy as it sounds.

To illustrate this, when someone orders black coffee in Mexico, they do it this way: ‘Negro, negro como mi alma.’

Black, black as my soul.

There is a darkness that lives inside all of us. But there is also light. The question is, where do you want to reside? I think it’s a safe bet that most of us would choose the light. But life is not fair, and sometimes you can get all judgmental on yourself. The next thing you know, you’re so depressed you can hardly get out of bed. Or more likely, you turn your judgemental eye on others and become something abominable.

Attitudes are fluid constructs, and your attitude depends entirely on what you make it. If you don’t like how you’re feeling, change the way you feel. Radical advice, I know. Learning to control your thoughts and emotions, rather than letting them control you, is part of the process I like to call growing up.

It all comes down to directing your energy flow. Have you ever heard the story of The Two Wolves? You can look it up if you like. It’s an adequate metaphor for this topic, but I’d like to use another one.

Back in the 1960’s, there was a meteorologist and mathematician named Edward Lorenz. He was trying to create a computer program that would accurately predict weather for an extended period of time. What his data revealed was that weather couldn’t be predicted on a long term basis because there were just too damn many variables.

Dr Lorenz published all his findings in a scientific journal and he called it ‘SDIC–Sensitive Dependence on Initial Conditions.’ And I think the story goes something like this: another smarty-pants scientist guy read his article and said, ‘If what this guy says is true, then a butterfly flapping its wings in Africa can produce an hurricane that will destroy Florida a month later.’

That’s how Chaos Theory was born, and its first child was the Butterfly Effect.

Let’s examine this: What’s an hurricane called before it becomes an hurricane? A tropical storm. What’s a tropical storm called before it’s a tropical storm? A tropical depression.

So, a butterfly flaps its ethereal wings, and a small gust of air is moved out over the Atlantic Ocean. Because of the existing atmospheric conditions, an immense amount of energy starts getting generated around it, then more and more energy gets funneled into it. And it does the only thing it can do under those circumstances. It grows. And grows. And grows.

Say hello to my little friend…

And finally, what happens to an hurricane when it makes landfall? Sure, it destroys Florida, and anything else in its path, but then what? It dies. And why does it die? Yes, it’s cut off from its energy source.

There’s a saying: Watch your thoughts. They become words. Watch your words. They become deeds. Watch your deeds. They become habits. Watch your habits. They become character. Character is everything.

I don’t know if character is everything. From my perspective, there’s something far more critical. Attitude–your attitude is one of the things that defines your character. Your attitude is going to determine if you seek the Light, or descend into Darkness.

There’s nothing good that can come out of a bad attitude. Keep that sucker tuned up. Avoid future disappointment and regret. Seek balance. Live in the light, but know what lurks in the shadows. And make wise choices. Mischief managed.

If you can do all those things, you will be a successful adult.

The Witch Queen of New Orleans

I met the Witch Queen at St Luke’s Behavioral Health. I had just started there after fleeing Banner Del E Webb Medical Center. The Witch Queen had been on my unit–AP 5–for quite some time. She was what we in the business refer to as a ‘placement problem.’

Almost all psychiatric treatment centers are acute care facilities. In places such as these, patients are stabilized as quickly as possible and then discharged back home, or to a halfway house, a group home, a homeless shelter–something/anything like unto that. In essence, all patients have to be discharged to a some where.

Every now and then a patient will be admitted to your facility that finding the where place to send them to is supremely difficult. This is usually the result of said patient being an unimaginable, monstrous pain in the ass, and they have essentially been kicked out of every decent existing placement facility in your area. Even all the roach motel placement dives that will normally accept anyone with a pulse and the money to pay for their care won’t take them either.

What you’re left with is a nightmare because the person no one wants is stuck inside your facility, and you’re trapped inside with them. It’s like being in a horror movie, except it’s not a movie, and no one ever gets to say, “Cut!”

This is where having an amazing social worker comes in handy. In the world of Inpatient psychiatric treatment, the psychiatrist orders medications. The nurse administers the meds and manages any medical issues, as well as as a varied assortment of other duties as required. And the social worker drives the discharge bus. Social workers also perform a thousand and one other miscellaneous duties, much like nurses. Take it from me, a really good social worker is worth twice his or her weight in gold.

My personal favorite social workers based on the fact that I actually worked with them: Tom McClellan, best social worker at the MVAMC. Mike Greeman, second best social worker at the MVAMC. Brian Lockwood, great social worker at the MVAMC. Denise Blackfeet Wagner, really great social worker at the MVAMC. Michelle Zwemke Burns, great social worker at Del E Webb. Amy Bressler, great social worker at Del E Webb. Ray Young, great social worker at Aurora. Karen Rae Goff, my personal favorite greatest social worker at Aurora, ever. For all time.

Oddly, I can’t remember the names of any of the social workers at St Luke’s. I do remember one of the social workers–she dressed like a prostitute, right down to the fishnet stockings and the miniskirts. Maybe social worker was her day job…

Now then, where were we? Oh, yes. The Witch Queen.

Her name was Larue. I think ‘The Diary of a Mad Black Woman’ was written about her. If it wasn’t, it could’ve been. She was from New Orleans, and she ended up in Arizona in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, somehow. This is how I imagined it happened: someone, probably a social worker, bought her a bus ticket as far away from the Big Easy as they could afford, and that’s how she ended up in Phoenix.

It didn’t take long for Larue to develop a reputation once she arrived in Phoenix. She was quickly banned from all the nice placement facilities. The placement dumps followed suit quickly. She probably set a record for how quickly no place in Phoenix wanted her at their facility.

Larue was truly psychotic. Even when she was as stabilized as much as modern psychiatric treatment could possibly accomplish, she was still crazier than two Mad Hatters. She would sit quietly in the day room, absorbed by whatever it was that was playing inside her head. And then she’d get up and stroll toward the nursing station…

There are times when a narrative is just not sufficient to portray the quality of something, like Roya’s darlingpreshadorbs Persian accent. Or Larue’s psychotic Witch Queen motormouth, blackmagicmojo ramblings. It’s been probably five years or more since I’ve heard one, and I had to go make sure she wasn’t standing outside my front door before I started writing this.

There were three points of patient access at the AP 5 nursing station. There were Dutch doors on either end, and a window in the middle of the station. Larue would randomly pick one of those three spots, and for lack of a better descriptive term, go off like a motherfucker on the unfortunate nurse sitting at that spot in the nursing station.

Larue didn’t appear to have any preference. She didn’t single out any particular nurse. She just let whomever have it with both barrels at point blank range, and there was no such thing as verbally redirecting Larue once she got started. She was a laser guided, heat seeking missile of psychosis that delivered a payload of unintelligible insanity. Her speech was a combination of English, Creole, spittle and craziness delivered in an extremely loud shriek.

Larue would let her victim have it, and when she had completed her rambling voodoo curse, or whatever it was she was doing, she would take a deep breath, nod her head and walk away. And there was peace once more. Until the next time…

It was inevitable that Larue would pick me for one of her rants. In fact, I can remember a few. The first time, I wanted to die, maybe. I should’ve pretended to have a seizure, that might’ve distracted her–but if you’re going to fake a seizure, you really need to pee your pants or no one will ever take you seriously.

The second time I was better prepared and smiled every now and then, but mostly nodded in agreement a lots of times.

The third time, I actually don’t remember the third time, but my first ex-work wife, Deb Goral does. Larue went all batshit crazy on me, as usual. She’s shrieking at me in Chinese Creole English or something, and spitting all over the plexiglass window separating us. I think she wanted me to discharge her, “…or all your hair will fall out! Great googly-moogly, prolly nolly dictum!!”

I ran my hand over my head and said, “Oh my God, it worked!”

All things must pass. Nothing in this world is permanent. Larue was eventually discharged to a facility near Tucson. The Witch Queen was gone, the memory of her presence would fade. She would be replaced by other nightmare patients, some of whom would make the Witch Queen look like a fairy princess.

Psych nursing is a lots like working in a pawn shop. You never know what’s going to walk through that door. So be careful what you ask for. You just might get it.

Fabulous Roya

One of the most pleasant surprises I would experience working at Aurora was Roya, or as I came to think of her, Fabulous Roya. The photo above was taken at Christmas. Roya might be Iran’s Christmas present to America.

Roya was an RN. She worked full time at an Eye Surgery Clinic in Scottsdale when I first met her. She picked up extra shifts at Aurora on the weekends because, well, you never know what’s going to happen, and you shouldn’t put all your camels in the barn before the peacocks have their pajamas on.

I’ll tell you what. I used to spend a lots of time in Texas, and when it comes to turning a phrase, can’t nobody beat a Texan. They have a way with words, Texans do.

Now I’m gonna tell you damn what–Texans got nothing on Persians when it comes to turning a phrase. And not even a Texan can hold a candle to a Persian when they start waxing philosophic about life, or love, or food, or anything. And maybe it’s not all Persians. Maybe it was Roya. After all, she is fabulous.

I will never forget my first time working with Roya. My wife took one look at me when I got home and started dialing 911. I had to convince her I hadn’t been assaulted and ended up with a traumatic brain injury. I had a dazed look in my eyes.

“I’m fine. I just worked with Roya today.”

“What does that mean? What’s a ‘roya’?”

Roya’s family fled Iran after Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi was ousted from the Peacock Throne in 1979. She was the youngest of something like fifty children; the Prophet David would’ve been proud. This was perhaps the only subject Roya wouldn’t expansively talk about, but I think Roya was an honest to Allah, 100% genuinely real princess in Iran.

She came to this country, learned to speak English and got her nursing license. She got a job, divorced her husband, bought a house, and renovated everything inside and outside of it. (Spoiler alert! It was fabulous!) She built a life of her choosing, and continued her education, getting her Master’s degree in Nursing and she’ll be nurse practitioner by the end of the year.

Roya told me she became a nurse because the nurses in Iran wore the cutest outfits back before the overthrow of the Shah. I did a Google search. Iranian fashion was very Western before the Ayatollah took charge and burned all the miniskirts and go-go boots, and I think that’s what Iranian nurses once wore. I encouraged Roya to dress like her nursing idols, but she declined. That doesn’t mean she donned a chador–I didn’t call her Fabulous Roya for nothing.

Roya was one of the best nurses I’ve ever worked with. If there was a code of any color, Roya was always one of the first responders. There was one time I know of that she was the only responder. I used to be a first responder. The longer I worked in Psych, the less likely I was to actually respond to a code, unless it was on my unit. Also, the longer I worked in Psych, the less likely it was that there would be a behavioral code on my unit.

On the second day I worked with Roya, one of her patients started escalating. He probably wanted more meds, or different meds. And by different I mean Ativan, or maybe Subutex. Roya told the guy what she was willing to do for him, and she also told him what she wouldn’t do. She’d check his MAR, talk to his doctor; he was going to have to be patient and wait, but she was going to take care of him. And she called him Sweetheart. I can’t recall if the guy got what he wanted or if he was so stunned he simply walked away, but Roya was impressive.

“When I first saw you, I figured you were just another pretty face, but you’re a damn good nurse.”

“Seriously, you think I am just pretty, and nothing else? Markie! I can’t believe you would think that about me!” See? Fabulous.

Part of Roya’s charm was her voice and her accent. Replicating the sound of someone’s voice isn’t easy to do in a narrative. And in terms of Persians, what do most Americans think of when they hear that term? The Shahs of Sunset? I Dream of Jeannie?

Roya’s voice is what Jeannie’s voice should’ve sounded like. It was lilting, it was lyrical and musical. And it was non-stop.

In an earlier essay, I talked about my friend and mentor, Sondra, and I mentioned that she liked to talk. Sondra was a catatonic mute compared to Roya. Sondra was talkative. Roya was hyperverbal, on steroids. Seriously, I have never met anyone that wasn’t hypermanic, or on methamphetamine that talked as much as Roya. I doubt Roya had much self awareness about this aspect of her personality, and I know she had even less awareness about her volume. She even processed her thoughts out loud.

That part wasn’t so charming. In fact, for myself and almost everyone that ever worked with her, it was exhausting. I have described certain people I know as a force of nature, like, for instance, my wife. After working with Roya, I think Forces of Nature need to be measured on something like unto the Fujita scale for tornadoes. And based on that scale, Roya was an F-5. Maybe an F-6.

We all have our issues, right? Well, you do. As I sometimes tell my daughters, can’t everyone be perfect like me and you. And when it comes to fabulous, well, there’s only one Roya. The rest of us look like the Three Stooges trying to get a cat out of a tree compared to Roya.

I’ve been retired for a little over a month. Do I miss working for a living? I might, if I weren’t living in heaven on earth. Do I miss the people I worked with? Yes. And some of them I miss a lots.

Dooset daram, Fabulous Roya. I miss your koon.

I’m Too Sexy For My Clothes

**This is the post that landed me a three day suspension from Facebook**   

It wasn’t what I wrote so much as it was the accompanying picture (See above) that FB had an issue with. And it was their decision–a process that has no appeal, you’re simply denied access to your account–to block my page that ultimately led me to create this blog. So, if you’ve enjoyed anything you read here, send Mark Zuckerberg a thank you card.

I’m not sure what it is about crazy people and clothes, or rather, the lack of them–but crazy people love to get naked.

There was Duane. He was a frequent flyer at the MVAMC. No Brain Duane would start disrobing in the parking lot. By the time he reached the front door, he was doing the Full Monty.

I called him No Brain because it rhymed, and because he just looked…gone. It was usually a time consuming process to get admitted. Duane got a police escort straight to my unit, completely bypassing the Admission Office. Now that I think about it, the guy was a frickin’ genius. When Duane could keep his clothes on for 48 consecutive hours, we knew he was ready to go home.

Old Joe didn’t come into the hospital naked, but once inside, Joe must’ve thought he was at a nudist camp. He rarely wore clothes.

I was working a double shift one evening. Old Joe had been admitted earlier that day. I was on the phone, taking report on another admission.

“Well, goodbye.” I heard Old Joe’s voice with half an ear while I took notes on the patient we were going to get. When I finished, I looked up and saw a wrinkled ass and scrotum swinging in the breeze as Old Joe walked off the unit in the general direction of the front of the hospital. Our units were ‘open’ back then. Our patients could come and go as they pleased, as long as they signed out at the nursing station and checked in with the staff when they returned.

That would change when a former patient walked onto one of the units carrying a knife.

“Hey, Joe!” I called out. He stopped and turned around. “I used to think you were crazy, but now I see your nuts. Don’t you think you should get dressed before you leave?”

Old Joe looked down, and almost seemed surprised to see his penis. He nodded, said, “Oh, that’s a good idea,” and returned to the unit. He must’ve forgotten he was leaving when he got back to his room because he didn’t try to streak to freedom again. Old Joe was another guy we knew was ready to go when he could keep his clothes on for two days straight.

There was another semi-naked guy. He was a young guy at St Luke’s, and he was actually kind of handsome. He crapped on the floor one day, then picked up his turd and ate it.

“EEWWW!” all the female staff howled in unison, then looked at me and asked what they should do, like this happened to me all the time.

“Whatever you do, don’t kiss him. His breath probably smells like shit.” was the only advice I had to offer.

Crazy guys are far more likely to strip and go naked in public than crazy girls are. Men are also far more likely to masturbate in public than women. I called it ‘playing the skin flute.’ I’ve lost track of the number of guys in the Skin Flute Band, but there were a lots of them.

If you want to play an imaginary instrument, what happened to air guitar? But it’s not as bad as playing the rusty trombone, I suppose…

I can only recall one girl that masturbated in front of me. She was a cute-ish young Korean American girl at Aurora, I called her K-Pop. She rang her joy buzzer, a lots. I went to her room to give her her meds one morning, and she was…busy.

“Just leave them on the table, I’ll take them when I’m done.” she said without missing a beat. She was laying in bed under the covers, but there was no confusion about what she was doing. She didn’t seem to be embarrassed in the least by my presence. I can’t do that, I replied. “Well, you don’t expect me to stop now, do you?” she asked. I’ll close the door on my way out.

There was another Asian girl, from China. She was acting weird in the community and running around outside naked, of course. Most Asian families will try make it through a situation like this without seeking professional help, but once the clothes come off, all bets are off.

From report, I learned she didn’t speak English. So I went to the Babblefish Translation site and printed some greetings and instructions in Chinese and English.

You’re at the County Hospital. 你在縣醫院
We will take good care of you. 我們會照顧好你
Are you hungry? 你餓了嗎?
Please keep your clothes on. 請保持你的衣服

My niece, Amber Rowen, could verify this because she knows Ung Fu Chinese.

China Doll read each page, then looked at me and smiled sweetly. She nodded her head in what I guessed was understanding. I went to the kitchen to find her something to eat. When I returned, China Doll was standing in the hallway where I’d left her, wearing nothing but a smile. She was probably the only psych patient I’ve had that I didn’t mind seeing naked. She was really quite lovely.

Rondi, on the other hand, was not. She had been my patient at the VA many times, and her main problem with all of her previous admissions was her Borderline Personality Disorder.

Da Do Ron Ron was a tough-looking, heavy set lesbian. In regards to her nudiditity, all I will say is if Samson had been female…

On her last admission as my patient, she went off the deep end and started flashing her boobs at me, then my co-workers. She eventually went full throttle stripper. All she needed was pole.
You might wonder why a lesbian would disrobe in front of a guy. I can’t explain it, but one of the ward clerks I used to work with, Justine Henley, once told me I was very ladylike, so it might be that.

I tried to talk Da Do Ron Ron back to Earth. Hell, we all did. I almost begged her to stop.

“When you come out of this and you’re on the other side,” I said. “You are going to be sooo embarrassed. Do yourself a favor and stop doing this now.”

Rondi eventually did get better, but she was mostly naked for almost a month, I think. And she was incredibly embarrassed by what she had done. She got so much better she actually got a job in the Billing Office at the VA after she cleared. I’d see her in the hallway occasionally. She couldn’t look me in the eyes. She couldn’t speak to me. I felt so bad for her.

Rondi is the only person I can think of that improved after a series of Full Frontal Nudity therapy, or I might be inclined to recommend it. Oh, and the guy at St Luke’s got better too, but he was on a specialized diet.

Send me a private message and a picture if you’re curious about this, I’ll let you know on an individual basis. If you’re a guy, let me save you some time. Keep your damn clothes on.

Creepy clowns and zombies are bad enough. We don’t need a Skin Flute Marching Band and the Joy Buzzer Corps added to the mix in our society at this point in time.

When I tell people what I did for a living, they give me a certain look most of the time. They nod knowingly, and say, “I’ll bet you’ve seen it all.”

I reply that I’ve seen a lot, but there were a couple times when I saw it all.

Fear, Phobias, Hypochondria and More

If you’ve never experienced any of these sensations, become a nurse. That’ll do it. Let’s start with fear. The only student nurses that don’t feel fear are serial killers, or potential serial killers.

Let’s face it, if you want to kill people, you’re given ample opportunity to do so as a nurse. And as a non-serial killing student nurse, your deepest fear is that you will accidentally kill one of your patients. Or in a worst case scenario, all of them.

And it is real.

Honestly, it’s almost impossible to kill your patient as a nursing student. Any medication you give is verified by yourself and your clinical instructor, probably twice. And then you verify it again, like, a thousand times before you actually give it. After you do this a few times and you don’t kill anyone, you relax and move on to your next fear. There will always be another. However, if fear continues or persists after your first year of employment, you are in the wrong profession.

Some of the things nurses do are incredibly unglamorous, and even gross. All nurses will tell you there’s that one thing they have to do that makes their skin crawl. We develop phobias.

For some, it’s suctioning a trach patient. Wound care on decubitus ulcers. Cleaning dentures. Removing or placing contact lenses in your patient’s eyes. C-diff. Vomit. Borderline Personality Disorder. Seriously, it can be anything, but whatever it is for you, you would almost rather die than have to deal with it.

For me, it was clocking in at the beginning of my shift.

You are exposed to all sorts of illnesses and diseases as a nursing student that you had no idea even existed before you decided to do something this foolish. But the moment you walk into the room to care for your first patient, you’re pretty sure you just came down with whatever it is they’ve got.

Nowadays you can Google stuff, or go to WebMD. In my day, it meant a lot of painstaking research, and flipping through piles of textbooks to verify all the symptoms you just came down with, or are about to come down with, now that you know what to be looking for. Like you had time for such frivolous ventures such as that. Or having a social life. Or anything that resembled a life.

Even things that aren’t contagious, like diabetes, are suddenly and inexplicably at work inside you, destroying your body. And the next thing you know, you’re calling all your friends at 2:00 AM, asking if any of them have a glucometer.

I can’t explain how this phenomena happens, I can only tell you that it does. When I was going through my OB/GYN rotation, I was pretty sure I was pregnant. Man, I wonder how Sister Mary Hitler would’ve reacted to that! And you have never seen a happier guy than I was when I got my period the following week.

More Stuff: Bedbugs. All my nurse friends just stopped reading and went to take a shower. Lice. And, they just went to take another. That’s all it takes! The Joint Commission. That’ll pucker a lots of buttholes for months.

Well, that’s about it from here. FYI, for those of you that have become avid readers of this series, I’d like to extend my sincere gratitude to each of you. I’d even give you a hug, as long as you don’t have diabetes or anything like that. It means more to me than I can say. Thank you from the depths of my heart. In addition, I’m starting a two day trek deep into the wilds of Mexico, and I have no idea if I’ll have Wifi access anywhere on the road. Now that I think about it, I don’t know when that stuff will be set up in my house.

Fear not, and be of good faith. I have a lots of stories to tell, and I have every intention of telling them all.

God Save the Queen

My favorite patient of all time has to be Fiona. I met her at Aurora. She started out as a patient on another unit, but was transferred to my unit because her behavior was too disruptive. She needed to spend some quality time on the Canyon. My unit had a reputation for taking care of ‘problem’ patients.

Fiona’s reputation had preceded her arrival. We had all heard stories about her. She was bipolar, totally manic, and pretty much a hot mess. In fact, the day I met her she was screaming at the top of her lungs when I walked onto the unit. I walked in her room, sat down on her roommate’s bed, and waited for her to come up for air. She screamed for about another forty-five seconds.

“Who the hell are you?” she demanded, once she caught her breath.

“My name is Mark. I’ll be your nurse today.”

“Excellent. I suppose you have some shots to shoot in my ass, don’t you, Mr. Maark?” And she showed me her ass. She had a funny way of saying my name.

“Nope.”

“Then what the hell do you want!”

“I want to know what you’re so afraid of.”

Fiona ran a hand through her tangled hair, and sat down on her bed. “What am I NOT afraid of! People are trying to KILL ME!!”

“Why?”

“Because…I’m the QUEEN OF THE BLOODY WORLD!”

Fiona was from England, so she had that whole British royalty accent thing going on.

“Your Majesty,” I said, and bowed to her. “I am here to protect you. I am here to keep you safe. I will not allow any harm to befall you while you’re under my care.”

“Really. Would you take a bullet for me, Mr. Maark?”

“Only one?” I gave her a little smile.

“Oh, thank God!” Fiona sighed. “It’s about time I get some decent help in this dump.”

I wish I could say that’s all it took. Fiona was a handful. Team Canyon had to scramble to keep the peace. I ended up giving her shots in her ass, probably more than once.

“Man, that gal’s a trip! She thinks she’s a queen!” one of my techs said, laughing.

“I know.”

“What do you do with someone like that?”

“Treat her like one.” I said.

“For reals?” he asked, and he stopped laughing.

“Yep, for reals.”

So, Fiona got the royal treatment while she was on my unit. We changed the name on her door to Queen Fiona. One of the evening shift staff brought in a plastic tiara for her to wear. She steadily settled down; her mania wasn’t as tenacious as some I’d encountered, and she was a whole lot better by Day Three.

The Queen also liked to hang out near the nursing station and chat, but she didn’t monopolize the counter. She had other subjects, and they needed to see her, too. However, she was quite taken with me, and even offered to make me her personal Beefeater.

“Do I get a hat? I like those hats.”

“We shall see. You have to earn it.”

Once the Queen was stabilized, we discharged her. It was a sad day for me. However, she did return to Aurora at least once afterwards, maybe twice. But she had graduated with honors from the Canyon, and she would never be my patient again. She’d stop by and chat briefly as she walked past my unit.

“Mr. Maark,” she would say, and extend her hand.

“Your Majesty,” I held her hand, and she would flash her crooked smile. Half of her teeth were missing, but she still managed to look regal somehow.

“I haven’t forgotten about the hat!” And she’d have to dash. “Ta ta for now, Mr. Maark!”

I wasn’t present on the day she died, but the story goes something like this: She went to a Psychiatric Urgent Care, begging for help. There was something wrong, she claimed. The staff at the Urgent Care disagreed, gave her a bus pass and more or less pushed her out the door.

I can imagine her, distraught and crying, walking to the bus stop, then screaming for help as she collapsed. Someone on the scene called 911, but by the time the ambulance arrived, Fiona, the Queen of the World was dead.

She always said people were trying to kill her, maybe she was assassinated. More likely, she had a heart attack. Either way, part of me felt like I had failed in my duty as Queen Fiona’s personal Beefeater.

But the other part of me felt God had taken her out of her imagined kingdom, and had welcomed her with open arms into his Eternal Kingdom.

It’s only fitting. After all, she was a queen.