MARCH 07, 2010

It's been a briskly blowing and cloud-scudded week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay.

It's good that the weather has been moody, for the majority of our staff has been recouperating from their burn experiences for the past month or so.

Both Martini and Festus had preceeded Jose to the Trauma Unit by a couple days and they urged him as well. All three had been scalded when the steam kettle at the house blew up some weeks ago. Jose had taken the worst of it on his legs. Being of sturdy Catholic stock, Jose resisted going to the hospital as such activity should be reserved for those truely in need.

That Glenn Beck and sundry Teabaggers out there were hardly competent to perform triage on anyone made little difference to Jose, and it was not until his abuelta, Sharon, said that avoiding the ER in such times only served to assist and aid the enemies of Health Care Reform, so finally it was good old fashioned guilt that got Jose into the ER where the nurse looked down and prodded his limb to announce, "That damn foot looks like gallimfaury stew; its three times the size of the other, has a pepperoni pizza look to it without it being the slightest bit appetizing, and that is not natural!"

Jose had to wonder about what the fellow considered appetizing when it came to feet, but there being two other folks in the ER, he had to wait on the others. Being a good Catholic boy, he lay there and waited his turn.

The one lady had managed to get into a fight for her life in Oaktown and had taken a 2x4 over her skull, which had caused a sort of migraine but she was really concerned about the hole in her leg when she fell down on a nail about three inches long that drove into her thigh. That hole kept bleeding and this made the entire escapade worrisome.

The other lady had a bookcase fall on her, about twenty feet high and now she could not move her left arm. At all. Or her head to left or right. And there were a few spasms besides and she wondered if she could get back to work in a couple of days doing construction.

At the end of the day, the lady with a hole in her leg got let loose with some patches and an xray of her skull and the lady with the busted arm got taken off for an MRI and better muscle relaxant than valium and Jose sat there for four hours until the Wound Specialist came around and prodded him after the morphine wore off and found out, HELL! YEAH! He sure could feel it, and so he was let go with a 2nd Degree burn diagnosis and some advice about hot fluids. The Wound Specialist, the only one for all of Highland Hospital, then went out into the corridor where she wheeled off a big steel cart loaded with severed arms and legs -- they were demo limbs for a lecture she was to deliver that day -- which had an unnerving effect upon all of them.

Denby drove him back with Martini and Festus to the House and got them all good and drunk which was hella better than anything that Highland did for each of them, save for the momentary relief of the morphine until the Wound Specialist got her mits on them.

Its good that Highland has only one Wound Specialist for all three buildings for she is an holy terror on wheels and Jose dreamed about that cart being pushed through the ER for many nights afterwards.

Jose tried offering up his pain while he was in the ER to the Virgin, but the Virgin must have been busy or wanting something more pragmatic at the time, such as a new vacuum cleaner or a box of chocolates, so not much of it got anything done. So it was that Jose and Martini, who was not much of a Catholic, and Festus, who was not even Christian, got any benefit out of the entire ordeal.

Suffering is good, said Martini, who took another Vicodin. It prepares you for more suffering.

Suffering is fucked up, said Festus coarsely. That's the end of it. His hair was growing back in patches, making the hamster look like a rodent with leprosy.

Jose was at a loss as to how to help out his friends by means of his religion. The recent events regarding Cardinal Rattenfaenger and the whole Irish miasma of abuse in the Church hardly helped matters.

Suffering, and time spent contrained in a swath of bandages does bring the soul to contemplation, and each fellow came to his own determination in this time. Naturally, thoughts trend to the End of Days, Revelations, and so on. What shall we do after we shed this mortal coil and how best to spend the time remaining before that hour.

Because one cannot trip the light fantastic, doped with opiates and swathed in gauze, one naturally thinks about what one is going to do once one is "free" of nurses and daily swabbings.

First thing: never go into the kitchen ever again.

Second thing: call your friends and annoy the piss out of them so that they will have something recent to talk about after you are gone and you never know when the conversation you have will be the last one.

Third thing: schtupp as many human objects of desire as one can find amenable for the day is short and the night is long.

Festus was all for that even though his entire body could fit comfortably within any average-sized vagina without any trouble at all. His contention was that finding the mythical "G-spot" would be all that easier for the likes of him. Oh there it is! Right up there! Scratch, scratch!

An der Freude.

Martini trended to the more philosphical. All this was fine for a perfect animal like Festus, but hardly met the deeper needs of thinking persons.

Martini got himself trundled into a car to go attend a birthday party up in Marin for an old dear friend, who happens to be a physicist. The man had just completed the work of over 35 years in the form of a monograph. He is now 70 years old.

Imagine a wire hanging in space. The one end dangles out beyond the edge of galaxies, untouched by any radiation, embedded in the deep freeze beyond absolute zero where no thermal radiation occurs, not even the stray neutron.

Now imagine that the far end of the wire rests in the deep heart of collapsing suns, heated to the maximum temperature any one thing can ever sustain, the hot heat of our own sun multiplied millions of times. Much hotter than an exploding steam kettle.

Now imagine the gradation to the middle of the wire of that intense temperature extreme, from one theoretical infinite to another. In the next few weeks the entire world of physics will absorb the mathematical consequences of going from one pole to the next on this entirely imaginary wire.

No one has ever before been able to describe mathematically the gradation of thermodynamics from absolute zero to temperature. Until now. A man's life work is done.

A man lives, loves, begets and raises a child up to something fairly presentable, marries and marries again. Builds a life on top of all the unstable welter of the world. And added to this comes up with a law of physics that is likely to stand for all the rest of time. Not a bad achievement. Not too shabby.

But then life continues. You have done your best, shot your wad, done everything possible. What then? What then is the meaning of life?

Is it not in this space precisely all of the rest of us dwell? We're all scattered along that wire in space, all heated to various degrees, each with varying perceptions and abilities along the continuum.

"Martini," said Suan. "Its amazing someone as hapless as you can think so deeply."

It was a moderate night and all of them were lounging out on the porch of Marlene and Andre's.

"The stars. What is the stars?" said Martini.

"Je ne sais pas, mais les étoiles savent comment rire." said Rolf, quoting the Petit Prince, but nobody understood him.

"The Native Sons are throwing a big party at the lodge." said Andre. "We got a gig for the Golden Poppy Spring Fling."

"Oh yeah?" said Denby.

"They're bringing in Wootee Kanootee, the famous moose tamer from Canada."

"That oughta be something," Denby said.

"A punk band and a moose tamer." said Suan. "Hmm. . .".

Right then the long wail of the throughpassing train ululated across the estuary under the laughing stars as the engine wended its way from the Port of Oaktown through the dark and shuttered doors and windows of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off to parts unknown.