This Is Christmas

Just before Christmas, I stopped into the tobacco shop for some last minute supplies. Since my son is no longer a minor, I’ve enjoyed sitting and having a cigar with him occasionally. Thank God, he seems to have inherited his mother’s lack of nicotine receptors, so he doesn’t crave the tobacco. He can have a smoke once in a great while, and that’s it. Since he turned eighteen, the three of us have sat down to some small cigars on a handful of occasions, and it’s been a great time. I usually like to keep some Nat Sherman Natural Original cigarettes on hand, as my Dad will take one on some Sunday afternoons. It doesn’t even happen every week, but on the rare occasion, I like to have them around. He won’t buy his own cigarettes, because if he does, he winds up smoking a whole pack.

So, there I was at the tobacco shop, I picked up a tin of some Davidoff Mini Churchills (one of our favorite cigars), a pack of Nat Sherman Natural Originals, and two ounces of my golden Virginia pipe tobacco. “If you have two ounces there,” I noted the mostly empty jar.

“Oh, I have more under the counter,” assured the clerk.

I had not checked out yet, but milled around the shop for a bit, looking at beautiful pipes and other paraphernalia. An older man came in with a woman around my age while I browsed. They walked up to the counter and started looking at the pipe tobacco selection.

“What do you want, Dad?” she asked in a loud voice. There was impatience in her voice. She was not being unkind, but she did sound like she was wearing thin.

He picked out a few tobaccos, and the same clerk was bagging them and labeling the bags. On a lark, I went back to the clerk and said, “would you please get this gentleman two ounces of that golden Virginia that I buy, and put it on my ticket?”

“You bet,” he smiled, and bagged up the additional tobacco. I suppose they didn’t notice my interjection, because the woman confronted the clerk and told him that they hadn’t asked for that.

He continued what he was doing, nodded his head towards me, and said, “this is from him.”

They both turned and looked at me. I nodded my head back at them. The daughter made eye contact with me and said, “thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” I smiled, “Merry Christmas.”

Then, the old man shuffled over to me, “thank you, sir,” he said, extending his hand for a handshake.

I reaffirmed my reply, and took his hand. He clamped onto my hand, in the ‘I’m going to talk to you now’ shake, pulled in close, closer than I’m usually comfortable with a stranger in my personal space, locked eye contact with me, and began to speak, “so, you in the service?” he asked.

“No, sir,” I said, “I managed to avoid that somehow.”

His old eyes, going blue with slowly developing cataracts sparkled as he smiled, “well, you rascal!” And then, he continued, “I served for over twenty years. I was in Vietnam.”

I often forget how old our Vietnam vets are getting at this point. “Thank you for your service, sir.”

Still pumping my hand he said, “thank you, sir, for the tobacco.”

“It’s the least I can do. I hope you enjoy it. Merry Christmas.”

Once he finally let me have my hand back, the daughter said to me, “thank you so much. You really didn’t have to do that.”

“I know I didn’t,” I said, “I hope he enjoys that. Merry Christmas.”

“Thank you,” she said again, visibly more at ease than when they entered the shop.

With that, I left. I honestly can’t tell you exactly why I decided to buy him my pipe tobacco. And no, I know full well that I didn’t need to buy tobacco for that guy, but it was totally worth the eight bucks of tobacco for that interchange alone. And, I do hope that he’s enjoyed it! The stuff that he was asking for was all English blend of one stripe or another. The golden Virginia isn’t nearly as sweet in flavor, but most pipe smokers can appreciate the difference. I suspect that dude has been smoking a pipe since before I was born.

Cell Phones Make Me Feel Old, As a 39-Year Old, at the End of 2017

I was a relatively early adopter of mobile phone technology, in the grand scheme of things. At seventeen years old, I was the first member of my immediate family to get a cell phone, which was hard-mounted in my car, and operated on prepaid minutes that were VERY EXPENSIVE by today’s standards. So much so that I didn’t give my number out, and only used the thing for emergencies. Starting around that time, give or take a couple of years, I dreamed, nay fantasized, about having a device I could put in my pocket that operated like a tiny computer, and might even connect online!

Back in the early days of the internet, I don’t think I knew anyone who actually had internet service. Sure, I knew plenty of folks that had modems, and they’d dial up to other people they knew who also had modems and “send emails” or “transfer a picture” (which took forever), or whatever. But, even before my current household had internet service, I wanted that sci-fi device that would connect to the internet that was as small, if not smaller (ghasp!) than a graphing calculator.

I bought my first handheld mobile phone in 1998. Jennifer and I had just started dating, and we kind of knew we were a a permanent thing, right off the bat. She’d just gotten her cell phone, and back in those days you could more or less pick your own phone number. So, I chose a number that was the exact same as hers, save for two digits. At the time, people thought we were crazy, “what if you break up?” they’d ask, with shock in their eyes. We got married before the end of the year. Almost twenty years later, we still have the same phone numbers.

Of course, phones come and go. Some last longer than others. In about 2001 (maybe 2002), Jennifer and I upgraded our mobile phones. The new ones were flip phones with these new-fangled LCD screens. There was an extremely low-resolution screen inside the clamshell, and an even lower-resolution screen on the outside, so you could assign a picture to display upon an incoming call, according to your contact list. Honestly, if they’d make a modern equivalent, it’d be a pretty sweet setup. This phone also had a camera built into it! Granted, it was only like a .33mp camera (if that), and it only took pictures (no video), but nobody else had camera phones at the time. We would take pictures with our phones and it would confuse bystanders.

So. This morning, I was sitting on the toilet, tracking an incoming package on on my tablet. Sweet, I have a camera lens coming in today! I think I was using the home wifi network, but it may have been on my data plan. I’m not sure, and I don’t much care. Yeah, that device that I dreamed of earlier; the little computer that fits in my pocket? Now, I carry two of them daily. Never did I dream that each of them would have two cameras that are higher resolution than the early digital cameras that I sneered at because “digital just doesn’t have the resolution of film and will never catch on.” Face palm. Don’t get me started on touch screens.

Now, my phone is getting “kind of old,” by today’s standards. It’s a Samsung Galaxy S5 Sport. The tech specs on it blow away any PC I could have put my hands on back when I started dreaming of these things, in terms of processing speed, RAM, or storage space. And, I couldn’t put anything like that in my pocket. And, it wouldn’t work under water. I think the Galaxy S8 is out now? Even though I did not, I could have written and posted this entry from the family farm, way out in the woods. It’s such an everyday device, but it’s so much what I wanted before it was a thing, and then so much more than I ever imagined!

I mentioned above that my first cellular phone was expensive to operate. And, it only made and received phone calls. Now, I don’t think twice about queuing up Pandora on my phone, or a selection from our combined CD library that we’ve been collecting since about 1993, for a long road trip. Heck, I can’t tell you the last time I actually listened to broadcast radio (SeriusXM notwithstanding). Satellite radio is entirely another rant, by the way. And, when in the world did those two merge, anyway?* Also, being able to pull up the combined knowledge of mankind, at a whim, virtually anywhere I go. Wow. And yet, more often than not, I use it to watch political (or cat) videos, or play solitaire (which you can still do with a tangible deck of cards, oh irony of ironies), or occasionally reset my watch at Yeah, I wear a mechanical wrist watch. For a long time, people stopped wearing watches because “they carried a phone,” and then, they started wearing a ‘smart watch’ that connected to their phone, so “they didn’t have to pull out their phone to check the time.” *eyes rolling…* I skipped that whole dumb cycle and I’m still wearing a mechanical wrist watch. Okay, enough of the tangents in this paragraph; let’s wrap this puppy up.

To you youngsters out there, hear me now: your time is coming. Sooner than you think will come a time when you’re telling tales of crap that nobody remembers anymore. You’ll look at the world around you; how it’s changed, how it’s the same; and you’ll say to yourself, “there’s no way I’ve gotten that old already. I’m not that old!” To you old-timers out there, take my words with the deference that I deliver them: I’m starting to get it. Coming into ‘middle age,’ or whatever, is opening my eyes to all the weird stuff you’ve been saying my whole life about “back in mah day…” So, please keep telling me about how you had to be home when the street lights went out, or party lines (which actually suits this post better), or whatever you like, for that matter.

There’s a lot of stuff your modern smart phone will do, either natively, or through a downloadable app. I don’t need to explain anymore about why that, in and of itself, it pretty amazing. But, most of the secondary and tertiary stuff your phone can do, can be done far better with a dedicated device. That is to say that your phone has a powerful processor, a sharp screen, and lots of memory, but most of us use a dedicated computer for serious computational tasks (although even that may be changing). The cameras in these things are getting shockingly sophisticated, but they still won’t compete with my DSLR (although, I said digital photography would never catch on, and my first camera phone took grainy, low-res pics). Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that these things sprouted out of nowhere and have come a long way since, and although they’re not a perfect replacement for everything, they’re historical improvements show us that they have a long way to go still. What do you think they’ll look like in twenty years from now?

*2008, apparently. Good grief, almost ten years ago, and I didn’t notice it happen…

The Day My Life Changed – Part 7: Emergency Room

If you weren’t here yesterday, you find out how I got to the Emergency Room in Part 6.

The EMTs wheeled me through the ER, down the hall, past all the rooms, to a strange little room in the very back. The room had white tile on the floor, and the walls were tiled to the ceiling. There was a second door that looked like it went straight outdoors. It looked like it might have been an operating room for the ER? Yikes! Please don’t cut me open today.

They unstrapped me from the stretcher, which was faint relief, and I was instructed to strip down and put on the hospital gown. Interesting. I’ve never had to wear one of these before. As I said in the beginning, I’d never really been admitted to a hospital. Like the EMTs, the ER staff people were all awesome. The doctor was a little Filipino man. He spoke to me deliberately and slowly. There was a nurse with a Latin accent who took my vitals and info. She was really sweet. Somebody put one of those flexible plastic needles in my arm and took blood, and pumped me full of Ativan and who knows what. That’s when things got interesting.

I was needing to use the restroom already. I’d been eyeing the restroom attached to the treatment room, but I was in the bed, in nothing but my backwards cape, and I didn’t want anyone to yell at me for trying to climb out of bed with a crapton of Ativan flowing through my veins. So, when the nurse brought me a bottle and asked me to pee in it, all I could manage to say was, “thank God, yes! I need to go!” They stole some of my blood. Then, this young dude with a northern-ish midwest accent came in with an X-Ray machine. Like everyone else, this tech was very pleasant and likable. The machine looked like freaking Glados from Portal 2 on wheels. Dude introduced himself and started adjusting Glados, snapping her joints into position, each detent clicking loudly into its lock. The drugs were doing a number on my perception by this point, and the lens head on the machine looked like Oleg Volk in a fever nightmare. They had shewed Jennifer out of the room by this point. Because radiation, doncha know.

He draped a lead blanket over my hips, from navel to knees, and commented, “that’s to protect your boys from the radiation.”

“Hey, I appreciate that,” me, not knowing what else to say. But, “I appreciate that?” Really?

So, he snapped a few shots of the inside of my chest, took back his testicle blanket, collapsed Glados, and wheeled her away, just like that.

Next, they wheeled me to the CT scan. “Computed tomography,” for those of you who might not already know. I’ve been told after the fact that you’re not supposed to look into those things. They either didn’t tell me at the time or I was so high on the ER goofballs that I didn’t understand. But, I watched those red lights with fascination. That was COOL! I’ve also been told after the fact that the red lights don’t exactly move so much. But, I swear, they were spinning clear around my head. Or, that’s what I saw, anyway. They told me that they were going to give me an injection of contrast fluid for a second round with the CT scan.

“Is this the stuff that makes you feel funny?” I asked with as much vagueness as should be expected from the sedatives.

“Um, yes,” the nurse/tech said, with great patience, “some people say it feels like you need to pee.”

“Yeah, okay. I’ve heard of that,” I mumbled.

So, she took this CAULK TUBE! I swear, this tube of contrast fluid was a good inch and a half in diameter and at least six inches long! And, when she injected it through the needle that was still hanging out of my arm, it felt thick going in. If the blood in your veins has a viscosity like watch oil, this stuff was like 80-weight gear grease. It only took a second before I felt it through my body. It didn’t make me feel like I needed to pee so much, but I get why people say that. It was more like everything got warm all of a sudden; not like going into a warm room, but from the inside. Suffice it to say, it was weird. They stuck my head back in the CT scanner for yet another dose of radiation, and spinning red lights, that aren’t really spinning, that you aren’t supposed to look at anyway. For a huge chunk of this time, they’d wired me for sound and had me hooked up to the EKG. I watched that for a while and tried to consciously change my vitals to freak out some pros. I’d been able to do this before, but it wasn’t working for me that particular day, for some strange reason.

Doc told me that I couldn’t drive. Initially, I thought this was medical advice. I wasn’t about to try after all that medication. But, in Oklahoma you can’t legally drive for six months after a seizure. Without looking up the actual code, it reads something to the effect of “losing consciousness involuntarily,” which is kind of stupid. So, if Party 1 puts a sleeper hold on Party 2, then Party 2 can’t drive for six months? That just doesn’t seem right. Doc also told me that I needed to see a neurologist. The EMTs and nurses had pre-warned me about this, and also warned me that it could take up to six months to get an appointment with a neurologist, and I’d probably have a similar wait for a subsequent MRI. Doc recommended a couple of names to see for a neurologist. As it turns out, we personally know one of the neurologists he recommended! I’ll tell you more about that in a bit.

Jennifer asked Doc, “We are scheduled to work a convention at the Fairgrounds over the weekend. Is he okay to do that?”

Doc paused, “Um… Yes, as long as he feels up to that, it should be okay. But, only if he feels up to it.”

“I will…” I don’t think anyone actually heard me.

At some point in all of this, I called my parents. I vaguely remember talking to them. I was high as a kite. I told them that I’d had a major seizure, but I was okay. I’m in the ER, but I think they’re going to let me go, so they don’t need to come or anything, I just wanted to let them know what was going on. No biggie, right? They were right there before I knew it, of course. At the beginning of the year, we switched our medical insurance from a PPO (I think) to an HSA. The deductible is a lot higher on the HSA, but the hook is that it will totally pay off in the long run if you don’t need to use the major medical anytime soon. Like, yeah. It’s way worth it just as long as you don’t have to have an expensive ER visit because your stupid brain decides to reboot all of a sudden. Because when you’ve been paying into your HSA for long enough, nothing comes out of pocket anymore. The deductible, co-pays, everything comes out of your Health Savings Account, as long as you’ve paid into it. But, if you only started a few months ago, and your head freaking blue-screens on you, you’re up a creek. Fortunately, the cute little Latina nurse gave us paperwork for an application for an interest-free loan. I was in no position to sign off on it, but Jennifer’s signature was good enough, apparently. As long as we pay it off in seven years, it should be good. We weren’t on the hook for nearly as much as I was afraid, and we can pay the loan pre-tax. I can think of a whole bunch of stuff I’d rather spend that kind of money on, but it will be alright. *Humph.* So, since my parents were still at the hospital when they discharged me, and our car was still at the Fairgrounds, they gave us a ride home. I slept the sleep of the gods that night.

Tomorrow, I’ll tell you how the rest of the weekend went in Part 8.

The Day My Life Changed – Part 6: Ambulance Ride

If you didn’t tune in on Friday, go to Part 5, to read about when I got to meet the nice EMTs.

So, the nice EMTs strapped me down to their gurney, which sucked. And then, they clamped said gurney into the back of the ambulance, which sucked more. And then, we got out into traffic, which sucked even more than that. Have you ever noticed how a-holes in traffic will bulldog you and then whip around you if you’re not going fast enough for them? Have you ever seen how they’ll do that even worse to emergency vehicles? When they have you immobilized in the back of that big white taxi, you are facing the back of the rig, right through the big window in that back door, so you get a close-and-personal view of said a-holes. And, I couldn’t even move around. It was horrible. At least Jennifer rode in the ambulance with me. The EMTs were really nice, even if they did laugh at my vocal protestations on the other idiots on the road. Goatee dude was driving. The gal stuck needles in my arm. I’m not sure whether I was being medicated, blood drawn, checked for glucose, or what.

“How are you doing back there?” asked the driver.

“Do you really have to ask?”

The EMTs laughed. They were seriously awesome. I felt like I was being laughed at, but I was not offended.

He asked, “what’s your name?”


“Do you know what year it is?”

This time I knew, “2017.”

“Do you know who the president is?”

*deep sigh* “Donald JAAAAAYYYY Trump!”

There was more laughter. That can’t be an easy job. It’s nice to see people who enjoy the work, in whatever industry. That was actually what I was thinking when I finally got distracted from the other idiots on the road. Thanks be on High, the ride to the hospital went fairly quickly. But, that’s when the next exciting batch of funs started.

And, you’ll get to read about that tomorrow, in Part 7.

The Day My Life Changed – Part 5: The Awakening

If you didn’t read about the last thing I can remember before this, go back and read Part 4.

I was laying on my back on the floor. There were people in the room; other volunteers. Jennifer was on one side of my head, with my arm in her arms. One of our dear friends was cradling my head in her lap. She was kissing me on the forehead and chanting in a shushing tone something along the lines of, “it’s going to be okay,” or “please be okay,” or “you’re going to be okay,” or maybe simply, “you’re okay.” I haven’t yet had the opportunity to ask her about this, and it’s obviously spotty for me at this point. She’s been in nursing school for a while. Between her and Jennifer, I was already in good hands.

When you have a seizure, your brain has a hard reboot. There is no consciousness in the event. Neurons fire at random. I understand that mine was quite a bit more violent than what I’ve witnessed in the past. They used to call this a “grand mal seizure,” but now it’s called a “tonic clonic seizure.” As it turns out, I just discovered a great new cocktail: rocks glass, ice cubes, pour in bitters and tonic water, SHAKE VIOLENTLY and bite your tongue!

After Jenni and our friend coaxing me into consciousness, the next thing I remember are the EMTs. Disclaimer: this is where memory gets really scrambled, so although I won’t claim anyone had tentacles, I’m probably not describing people or events accurately. A man and a woman whom I did not recognize were standing over me, big smiles and anime eyes.

“Who are these guys?” I asked. That floor felt so comfortable. It was a good nap, apparently. Everything was kind of numb like I’d just had a really deep sleep. I recognized my friends, but not these two strangers. The man looked latino and had a goatee. I can’t describe the woman with him, but they were both sweet.

“We’re here to take you to the Emergency Room,” big smiles.

I slowly shook my head, “Why would you do that?

Still big smiles, “because you just had a seizure.”

“No,” I protested, “I didn’t have any seizure.” After the fact, Jennifer has said that I had an attitude like “nah, you’ve got the wrong guy.” LOL!

“Yeah, you did,” said Jennifer.

“Can you try to sit up…”

So, I popped up off the floor and crossed my legs, ‘Indian-style.’

“…slowly? Okay, then….”

“Can you tell me your name?”

“Evyl. Evyl Robot.”

“Do you know what year it is?”

“Um… Ummmm…. Wait, I’ve got this.”

I still didn’t want to go to the ER, and said so.

“Can you tell me who the president is?”


The second-mentioned founding RGS member looked at me, concern in his eyes, “I really think you should go to the hospital.”

I looked to Jennifer who agreed. “Do I have to ride in the ambulance?” I asked.

“Oh, no,” she said, “I’M not driving you.”

*sigh.* “Fine.”

They coached me to climb onto the stretcher to whisk me away for medical treatment. *growl.*

On Monday, come back to read about the ambulance ride in Part 6.

The Day My Life Changed – Part 4: The Event

If you haven’t read about the drive to the Fairgrounds in Part 3, you really should.

We had set up a table in the volunteer break room specifically for the photo team. There were tables all around the room, prepped for the convention. We had a floor map taped to the wall so we could physically check off which artists and vendors we had taken pictures of. Snacks and drinks sprawled across two tables for the volunteers. Jennifer had already told me several times that I didn’t look right and I should sit down and take it easy, but I’d have none of that. Work through it, you know?

Several years ago, there was another con that was an absolute disaster; not our con, mind you. The attendance was pathetic and a feature they had was a “ball pit,” which consisted of a small kiddy pool with the plastic balls in it. Their few exhibitors were understandably dissatisfied, so the con offered them “complimentary time in the ball pit” as consolation. It was so funny to us that our people set up a small ball pit in our volunteer room. Ours was an inflatable unit with net walls, big enough for two adults to lay down in, or several children to play in.

This is when my memory starts to get a little spotty. A lot of the central event memories only came back to me later, for what that’s worth. It was weird to have the memories start filling out in the weeks after. But, I’m two-thousand words into this already, and I’m only just now getting to the point, so I should digress. What I’ll give you next is the complete memory as it is now, rather than feed it I perceived it flowing back to me. If that makes any sense at all.

I was in the break room at about 2:00 p.m., helping another volunteer set up the aforementioned ball pit. The fixture itself is packaged in a nylon bag like a camping tent. We spread it out on the floor, and there was an air pump to keep it inflated like a bouncy house. I remember spreading it out, and either he or I attached the air pump. Then, I remember leaning over to straighten out some of the material as it inflated, and things went black. Do you know what it feels like when you stand up too fast and you see stars or sometimes black? That’s what it felt like, but I didn’t get up from it. It felt like being sick, and then nothing.

Tomorrow, we’ll hear about how it felt to come to in Part 5.

The Day My Life Changed – Part 3: The Truck

Here’s a link to Part 2, in case you missed it.

So, I drove the stupid truck. The weather sucked. It wasn’t exactly raining so much as misting. It was like Peru rain; just enough to run the wipers and make the road slick. In a truck that I was unfamiliar with that weighs like a million pounds. With an uneven load in it. Because the guys who loaded it don’t move stuff for a living (not a slam, God love them), but are a bunch of retail employees, accountants, and bankers. And, it was really windy. In a box truck. With the aerodynamics of a sail boat. I kept sipping on my Coke, trying to stay relaxed, despite feeling the load settling, and the wind rocking the NPR like a pirate’s ship in a storm on the high seas. With Jennifer leading the way, many-a-car cut between us to mash their brakes and hit an exit ramp, as though they wanted to get squashed by tons of video games. Despite my efforts, I white-knuckled that steering wheel all the way to our destination. Pulling into the gate at the Fairgrounds felt like the greatest accomplishment in the world. But, the trip wasn’t over yet.

I had never noticed how narrow the roads are at the Fairgrounds, but then, I’d always driven there in an imported compact car or compact truck, not the freaking Technodrome. I was doing okay until I went through this one intersection. I stopped at the stop sign, turned on the signal to turn right, and pulled out. Apparently, I didn’t swing out enough. I didn’t so much hit the stop sign, as scrape it. Incidentally, that stop sign was exactly at the same height as the rivets on the truck’s box, so, they strummed that stop sign like a guitar all the way down the box. Pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop… Of course, from my perspective, it was more like, “pop *fuck* pop *fuck* pop *God, please make this stop!* pop *ooh fuck*, etc., et al. Some of our aforementioned millennials in the party were trailing, and I could hear them snickering in my mind.

By the time we got to the venue, I had to pull the seat cushion out of my butt crack and pry my fingers out of the grooves that I’d crushed into the steering wheel. Backing the freaking building on wheels into the State Fair building was no big deal as compared to dealing with traffic with it on the highway. We got the thing unloaded, and I threw the keys at someone, disavowing it for eternity. Through the morning, I found myself irritable, drowsy, nauseated, and foul. I continued to sip at my Coke until it was empty. I helped set up display cases, arcade cabinets, tables, and stuff in general. I drank some coffee. I took pictures, and some time lapse video. Someone brought in a couple bags from McDonald’s filled with sausage biscuits and cheeseburgers. I still had no appetite, but I felt like I should eat.

I picked out a cheeseburger and took a couple nibbles. It was hard to swallow. I was drinking a lot of water because I knew that dehydration was a real risk. The place looked great! There were a couple of cars that got staged in the building; a DeLorean, the actual yellow and blue Jeep pickup from the movie Twister, a Jeep done up in Jurassic Park theme. We continued to set up exhibitor tables with table cloths and everything we’d need for the weekend. Between setting up fixtures, and unloading gear, and taking pictures, I’d make my way back to that same cheeseburger and nibbled at it a little more, force it down. I’d developed a cough. I assumed that it was allergies from the dust stirred up from the tables and table cloths and storage contents. Jennifer asked the Twister truck owner if we could set a camera in the bed, and he assured us that there was no way we could hurt it. My cough kept getting worse. I’d kind of gag at the end of the cough. Nasty allergies!

Tomorrow, I’ll let you in on what this is all leading up to in Part 4.

The Day My Life Changed – Part 2: That Morning

If you missed yesterday’s post, with the backdrop to this crazy story, you can find it here.

Fast forward through the week. On Thursday, April 27, Jennifer and I intended to get to bed early, as we were planning to get up entirely earlier than we ever do, unless we intend to harvest venison. We didn’t get to bed early. I don’t even remember why. But, one way or another, shiny happened, and we stayed up later than intended. So, Friday morning, on April 28, 2017, the alarm went off at 4:30 or some God-awful time that I didn’t know they even made an “a.m.” for. We zombied our way out of bed, dressed our corpses, made coffee, and motored over to the storage unit. I’m pretty sure we got there at 5:30. Nobody else was there. So, we sat in the car with the windows down, enjoying the cool breeze, still trying to wake up, waiting for our young compatriots to join us. When 6:00 rolled around, we were still the only ones there. I started making phone calls and social media messages. I got a message back from the other RGS founding member.

“Um, the storage place doesn’t even open until 7:00. You might go grab breakfast,” his message read.

Well, crap. There was a McDonald’s about a half-mile down the street. When we got to the drive-through, Jennifer requested her regular Egg McMuffin with hash browns and coffee. I ordered a large Coke.

Jennifer asked, “you aren’t going to order food?”

“My stomach isn’t awake this early,” I answered, “I need more caffeine.”

So, Jennifer started munching on her food, and I started sipping on my drink, “my taste buds must not be awake either; this Coke tastes funny.” But, I kept drinking it.

By 7:00, other volunteers started rolling in, along with the rental truck. When I say “rental truck,” I don’t mean the half-ton you can get by the hour at Home Depot, or even the full-size box truck you can rent from Uhaul. I’m talking about a commercial Isuzu NPR. I don’t know what size engine it had, but I’m pretty sure it was the 5.2L. Big. Truck. As the sun rose, we loaded the truck with arcade cabinets, display cases, shelves, rubber balls, and miscellaneous stuff. I took some time lapse video of us loading the truck. I was starting to feel a little more awake; less numb, less tired. It actually felt good to get the door closed and latched on the truck. The first aforementioned founding RGS member approached me again.

“So,” he said, “all of us came in cars individually.”

“uhuh,” I said. I had a feeling I knew where this was going.

“So, I wondered,” he requested, “if you could drive the truck to the Fairgrounds… Because you’re the only ones who came in a car as a group…”

Crap. That’s where I thought this was going. I’d never driven anything as big as that stupid truck. For a time, I drove a one-ton diesel box truck a hundred miles, twice a day. I got cut off by Mini Coopers in that thing. They were nearly crushed like bugs. When I was a teenager, I drove a 1978 Lincoln Mark V. 6500-lbs, 18-ft long, 6.5-ft wide, 460 V8. I put SEVEN THOUSAND MILES on a Ford E350 Super Duty in TWO WEEKS. What I’m trying to say is that I’m not at all unfamiliar with large vehicles. But, that NPR was notably bigger than anything I’d been behind the wheel of. I was uncomfortable.

“I don’t really want to…” I looked at Jennifer.

She threw her hands in the air, “don’t look at me!” she said.

He said, “we really need you do do this.”

I was still sleepy enough that I couldn’t think of any good excuses, or simply say something to the effect of, “eff no.”

“You lead in the car,” I told Jennifer, “take the interstate, but stick to the right lane, and let’s not top 45mph. Please.”

Tomorrow, we’ll talk about the hilarious and harrowing trip in the giant truck in Part 3.

The Day My Life Changed – Part 1: Background

I’ve been actively taking first responder training for my whole life. I was in first-aid classes as a child. in my adult life, I’ve taken classes in CPR, AED, etc… For that matter, I know how to properly apply a tourniquet or chest seal. I’ve been taught how to respond to someone having a seizure. Jennifer and I have had opportunity to respond to other individuals seizing on two separate occasions. Thinking back, we could have responded better, but to my knowledge, both individuals made through it just fine. Any landing you can walk away from is a good one, right? So, I’ve seen seizures, but I had no idea what recovery was like.

Also, I’ve been healthy my entire life. I’m 39. I once had a baby tooth extracted, but I’ve never had surgery. I had a green stick fracture in a finger as a small child, when my finger got slammed in the back side of a door at church, but I’ve never broken a bone. I’ve had cuts and scrapes, but I’ve never had stitches. I’m not on any medications, and I have no significant allergies. Any time I’ve filled out a medical screening, it’s been “no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no….”

I’m redacting and/or changing names here, as I’ve asked no permissions, with the exception of my lovely wife, with whom I’ve been discussing this post for quite some time. Also, I won’t swear that any of this is perfectly accurate, but my memory and perception of events.

About four years ago, our teenage son asked about “vintage or retro video games, you know, the old ones…” So, Jennifer and I dug through our parents’ attics and got out our Atari 2600s, her original Nintendo NES, my original XBOX, and whatever other goodies we could find. The three of us got to playing the oldies. I went on a mission to the junk shops and garage sales, and wound up expanding the collection of stuff. It was good times. Jennifer forwarded me an email from work, in which they mentioned Super! BitCon, an upstart, local video game convention. Ticket prices were cheap, and they advertised an emphasis on older video games. We had to go. We spent entirely too much money. If memory serves me correctly, the first SNES game I ever purchased was “The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past,” in 2014. It was wonderful. After the event, I did a little social digging and we wound up involved with the Okc chapter of Retro Gamer’s Society (which is the original chapter, IIRC).

By the second year of Super! BitCon, Jennifer and I were the official leads of the Photography Team for the convention. That first (second) year, I didn’t have my own DSLR, so I borrowed my Dad’s first or second generation Canon Rebel with its kit lenses. The building was dark, and I felt totally outclassed, watching other photographers with their bleeding-edge Nikon and Canon gear. Regardless, I worked the aging gear and captured some beautiful and compelling images. There was already a spark telling me that I needed to pursue professional imagery work. This pretty well ignited the fire that pushed me down that rabbit hole.

So, for the last three years of Super! BitCon, we have been not only Photography Lead, but regular, workhorse volunteers for the convention. Fast forward to Saturday, April 22, 2017. We attended the final preparation meeting for the con. We had assembled our photography team. We were pensively ready. I was confident in the members of our team, but we were rag-tag. There were people that I wanted to get for the (fully volunteer) team that couldn’t make it, and one or two that I hadn’t initially counted on that jumped into the fray. We were good to go, though. As the other volunteers were shuffling out of the conference room to enjoy what was left of their Saturday, one of the club’s founding members caught my attention.

“What are you doing at six in the morning on Friday?” he asked me.

I laughed, “sleeping. That was my plan, anyway. Why? What do you have in mind?”

He tipped his head and said, “I wouldn’t not want you to be at the storage unit to help load the truck.”

“Hmmm…” I sighed, “I think we can probably work that out.”

Please do come back tomorrow, and I’ll tell you about how that morning played out, in Part 2.

Interesting Times. But, Let’s Not Talk Politics.

It seems that cycling has become a more popular hobby of late, in my hometown anyway, but I suspect the local is not a completely unique sample section. Sure, I have memories from childhood of the group of Sunday cyclers who would clog local roadways in their tour around town, but it seems that more and more regular people are making a more regular habit of donning their cycling uniforms and taking to the streets on their bikes. A friend of my parents, who is a local restaurant owner, regularly bikes fifty or so miles around the metro area. My brother recently purchased himself a new bicycle that he rides around the University campus from class to class. I still have my Grandpa’s old Peugeot that I’d like to restore; I just wouldn’t mind spending some time on two wheels again, as it’s been since my teens that I last really rode a bike on a regular basis.

They are fascinating devices. Today’s carbon fiber wonders with intricate gearing mechanisms make my childhood Huffy look like a dinosaur. The Oklahoma Museum of Science has a small but interesting exhibit of historical bicycles. Although it almost seems there is more lore about the origins of the bicycle than history, it is widely accepted that the first one was invented in 1817 in Germany by Charles, Baron Von Drais. Unlike the modern bicycles that we know, this early example had no drive mechanism, but did sport a padded seat and a steerable front wheel. To all you cyclists out there, did you realize that your hobby turns 200 next year?

Back when foundational garments for women included girdles, these now archaic garments were being made from rubber up until the material was in a shortage due to the efforts in World War II. In response to the rubber shortage, Dr. Joseph Shivers, PhD, working for DuPont, began research to develop a new material that could be used as a replacement for rubber in clothing. Through much effort and perseverance, and over a decade later, he and his team invented “Fiber K,” which was renamed “Lycra.” This fiber stretches up to 600% and returns to its original length, in a slimmer, lighter, and more breathable package than its rubber predecessor. Over the course of the next few decades, Lycra, or Spandex, found its way into specialized garments and textiles in applications so varied and vast that I doubt Dr. Shivers himself could have imagined the impact.

Sometime in the 1970s, purpose-made cycling clothing was made from Spandex blends for competitive cycling. Over the subsequent decades, these clingy garments have trickled from the race track to the aforementioned town cruisers. As I wrote in the original paragraph above, regular people will put on their cycling uniform to pedal the local streets. So essentially, for well over 150-years, people managed to enjoy cycling without junk-hugging Spandex. But, my how times have changed! Now we live in a world where it’s hard to go into a coffee shop without seeing some folks nonchalantly meandering about in their skin-tight bike outfits. That stuff leaves nothing to the imagination!

I kid, of course. At least these people are generally in better shape than your average Walmart shopper. As much as I like to rail on people for fashion (not pants!), I honestly don’t care what people choose to wear. Apparently, there are good reasons to go Spandex if you’re biking the long haul well beyond looks or aerodynamics. Heck, maybe I need to get Grandpa’s Peugeot up and running so I too can justify wandering into the bagel shop clad in nothing but skin-tight Spandex and a pair of Oakleys. I think Grandpa would roll over in his grave.