Thursday, May 24, 2012

Kino, Menos Grande

I felt quite an unexpected tug when I saw this old foto on an "Old Santa Fe" page I frequent. The El Paseo theater featured prominently here was one of two, large(ish), first (sorta)-run theaters smack in the heart of what could pass for "down-town Santa Fe, circa 1960. The other theater, the ornate, '30s, rococco "movie palace, the Lensic, has been maintained and restored and is now the gem-like setting for a HUGE number of high-brow/elegant, or "edgy" cultural 'events. It's a semi-bizarre space, with balconies where when I was a teen, and you didn't have a car, you went when you wanted to have a quiet place to grope your date in the smoky darkness. The balconies are still there, in regular, though perhaps less steamy or productive, use.

The "El Paseo" is long gone, with the space having undergone innumerable transformations, in the intervening 50 years. When we moved back to New Mexico in 1960, my dad managed a business on San Francisco Street, between where both the Lensic and the El Paseo stood (there was also a smaller, Spanish-language theater, also on San Francisco, on the other side of the street; como se llama? The Alley, maybe?). In real space, the Lensic would be to the left of the features in the top foto, about 60 yards, or less, in a south-westerly direction, across Burro Alley.

The Lensic had "loge" seats, on the first floor, under the balcony, with wider, better upholstered seats and ash-trays built into the arms. Everybody smoked, in 1960. The El Paseo didn't have a balcony; the seats rose in steady ranks from what would have been the "orchestra" if there had been an "orchestra." You flicked ashes and crushed out butts on the floor.

The space NEXT to the El Paseo, on the left side of the top foto, was the "NEW CANTON CAFE." Next to the New Canton stood the Candy Kitchen--which also sold cheap, paperback, crime and western novels, which I read assiduously and which I shared with my Dad, Jack, who managed Dendahl's Linen Shop from 1961-65 (or there abouts), and which stood cheek-by-jowl with the aforesaid literary/confectionary dispensary...Many days I'd buy a John D. MacDonald (or Edward S. Aarons, or Shell Scott, or Matt Helm) book, after school--they were maybe 50 cents--and go into the New Canton, and sit in a back booth with a cup of coffee and a pack of Camels, and read and smoke--or go hang out at Zook's Pharmacy--til he closed the shop, and we drove back to Nambe.

Where we'd have uneasy, family dinners, with my attitude being the usual source of the dis-ease. I was attending school, but had more or less stopped participating, except notionally--I was in a school play, the lead, actually, in spring '63. Then, said meals awkwardly concluded, I gratefully fled BACK to Santa Fe, where I "spun platters" on the only (at the time) "rock-n-roll" radio program in town, until midnight, Monday-Friday.

After which I would customarily decamp to the Senate Lounge, which seldom was too obstructionist about identification, and would drink beer and dance with the local girls--shop girls, secretaries, file clerks in State Govt; or with the hookers who were occasionally in town to service the legislators when the Lege was meeting, until closing time. Al Hurricane and the Night Rockers was effectively the House Band, along with Louis Shelton & the Shel-Tones. I was 17...Then I'd roll back OUT to Nambe for a couple of hours shut-eye, before getting up to join Pop on his way to town in the morning.

Good times...

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Post Polio Syndrome: Not Just For Breakfast Anymore

According to the family legend, my mother was having morning coffee and cigarettes with our slightly older neighbors, Annette and Louie Friedman, near the end of the school year, in 1954, when I was eight, when Louie, an internist with the Cleveland Clinic, interrupted the kaffee-klatsch, and demanded my mother bring me to him. I had been playing outside with other kids. I was brought into the house, examined, an peremptorily sent to bed, where I stayed for large parts of the next two-and-a-half years. Louie, our gruff, cigar-smoking, T-bird-driving next door neighbor, had spotted anomalies in my movements that he diagnosed, at a distance of at least 50 feet, as symptomatic of poliomyletis.

The NEXT year the Salk vaccine was released. The year I was diagnosed (with what turned out to be the "non-paralytic" variety), there were 66 THOUSAND new cases reported in the USofA, alone. The year after the release of the vaccine, there were fewer than three thousand, and the numbers have fallen ever since. It hasn't been eliminated, but polio now is very rare. And it is kept that way by vaccinations.

One unexpected consequence of the disease has emerged and endured:  a neuromuscular disorder called post-polio syndrome (PPS), marked by the recurrence of motor symptoms some 10 – 40 years after recovery from a polio infection.

Y'all may know I've been experiencing considerable pain and discomfort in the mere and simple acts of standing and walking. My mobility has been increasingly--and in retrospect, significantly--impaired. I have been attributing it to sciatica, and I do have that condition. But that, I think, oughtn't account for the really generalized physical discomfort in my lower limbs--below my waist--which I experience upon returning home from a barely one-mile excursion walking Budreaux, the Pink-nosed Pit Bull; with, I should say, momentary pauses where a seat o f some kind is available. The pauses or no more than a minute, and they help, but I cannot forego them.

So, as a "survivor"--dear fucking hell, how I loathe what that word has come to betoken--of polio, I am wondering if I'm not experiencing the recrudescence of the malady late in life. (Sh)It happens. Specifically, shit like this:
Pain. The patient experiences burning, cramping, aching, or a "tired" feeling in the neck, back, legs, and arms and may develop spasms from the overuse of muscles.6 Having fought a debilitating disease, polio survivors are used to pushing themselves. For instance, a patient who can't lift her arm will use her shoulder instead; contracting the shoulder muscles on a regular basis can lead to pain and spasms.
Weakness and fatigue. About 75% of PPS patients report mental and physical fatigue and new muscle weakness.8 While the pathophysiology of the fatigue isn't clear, weakness is associated with atrophy of the muscles that were involved during the polio infection. This may contribute to fatigue when functions such as breathing, walking, and swallowing are compromised. Sometimes, muscles that appeared to be unaffected by the poliovirus may also develop this new progressive weakness. These muscles had subclinical involvement at the time of the acute poliomyelitis.9
Memory problems. Difficulty with word-finding is a common symptom of post-polio fatigue. The memory lapse is thought to be caused by a decreased level of dopamine that's been found in polio survivors' brains and affected by physical and emotional stress.10
Breathing problems. Difficulty breathing, hypoventilation, and hypercapnia are common. Early signs of respiratory dysfunction include headaches, fatigue, nightmares, restless sleep, difficulty sleeping while supine, poor concentration, anxiety, inability to speak loudly, breathlessness, and frequent respiratory infections.6
Sleep disturbances. Sleep apnea is common in PPS patients and may be caused by weakened musculature or brain dysfunction.  Patients may be kept up at night by such movement disorders as generalized random myoclonus—twitching and contraction of various muscles—or restless legs syndrome. The movement interrupts the REM cycle of sleep, causing poor sleep patterns and daytime fatigue. Many patients aren't aware of such movement until it's documented during a sleep study.
Impaired swallowing. Swallowing difficulty, or dysphagia, is common in polio survivors who had bulbar involvement—weakening of muscles innervated by cranial nerves—when first infected. Dysphagia puts patients at risk for aspiration. Early signs of swallowing difficulty are coughing, choking, and frequent clearing of the throat.
Cold intolerance. Polio survivors may find that their limbs become more sensitive to pain when it's cold. Many have reported that their feet have always been cold to the touch, with the problem worsening as they age.
During infection, the poliovirus may have attacked the sympathetic motor nerves in the spinal cord, as well as other areas of the brain that regulate peripheral vasoconstriction. Because the capillaries do not contract, warm blood flows to the surface of the skin, resulting in excessive loss of heat and cooling of the limbs, sometimes causing severe shivering. The skin may become pale and cyanotic. Impaired vasoconstriction increases the risk of postural hypotension, especially if the patient takes vasodilators.
Urinary problems. These include retention, incomplete emptying of the bladder, incontinence, nocturia, and hesitancy. They may occur because the pelvic floor and bladder detrusor muscles have been paralyzed by the poliovirus.2,9
Emotional stress. When polio survivors realize they're losing muscle strength and function, they understandably become fearful and even depressed. The resurfacing of symptoms can cause painful memories, and patients are likely to have difficulty accepting and adjusting to this unexpected recurrence.2,9
Of the nine classes of symptoms, I believe I exhibit at least six: Pain, weakness/fatigue, breathing problems, sleep disturbances, impaired swallowing, and emotional stress. I almost never pass a night without awakening to urinate.

Actually, if the truth were known, I feel almost foolishly helpless. I couldn't run 100 feet. I used to sprint the 100-yard dash (around 12 sec, circa 1964). I used to surf, but I doubt now I could tread water very long. I know the old saying: The older I get, the better I used to be... but this is fucking ridiculous. I can barely STAND for more than half-an-hour without pretty severe discomfort, approaching pain, afflicting my legs and hips. I can walk about a quarter of a mile, and then I have to rest. I have to walk much more slowly when I do proceed, than even a couple of years ago.

I had stents put in an artery in the heart in '06. I take statins (a pretty high dose) to control cholesterol, and I know that statins are linked to increased incidences of myalgia. So there is ambiguation. It may be there is a not-so-subtle interplay of the two pathologies. Nobody lives forever; but I'd just as soon not be THIS hobbled for the rest of what's left. So I am going to ask my Primary guy about it when I see 'em next month.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mothers' Day

ABOVE: My Mother and Father, on the occasion of my Father's retirement, circa 1986/87. I do not think EITHER of them had quit cigarettes by then. Both died, mainly, from complications from tobacco smoking: Mother in 2000, Dad in 2001; she was 78, he, 82.
I was born on my mother's 25th birthday. In retrospect, I think she was not very interested in being a "mother" in my youth; one felt she had bigger fish to fry, and that she was frustrated by it; though she got better at it with my subsequent siblings. One thing I learned: You're never too old to become an orphan.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Once, Upon A Certain Day In May

In which Y'r Int'r'g'l'ct'c Ethn'gr'ph'r interprets the recurrence of the mostly hollow genuflections toward the never-resolved events of that day and that week; time will tell, it seems that week was a pivotal one in the counter-cultural movement. I should note that about a dozen students were injured that morning at UNM, most with bayonets; no Guardsmen reported any injuries. Besides, Haymarket is just sooooo Gilded Age. nest paw?
Last Friday was the anniversary of that bloody day in 1970 when the Ohio National guard opened fire on a gathering of protesting students at a small, obsure state school in Ohio called Kent State University, killing four and wounding a half-dozen more, with random fire from more than 100 yards from the demonstrations. The Guardsmen were NEVER under ANY direct, imminent threat of danger to justify opening fire. No one got close enough. No one was ever punished or even held accountable for the murders at Kent State that day.

(On Friday, May 8, 1970, just four days after the bloody events at Kent State University, and with the campuses of America often literally aflame with turmoil for which they were ill-prepared understand, much less quell, the New Mexico National Guard retook the UNM Campus from the hippies.)

In Albuquerque, at UNM, the warm, spring weather, the impending end of school, and the deadly events of the previous week had stoked temperatures to a feverish fervor.  UNM already was an 'activist' campus: students had occupied both the President's office and the Student Union Building. Really "Occpied 'em." Took 'em the fuck over. Moved in. Lived and slept (etc., as you may imagine at leisure) in 'em.
Meanwhile, all spring long the he local, pro-war/anti-hippie, daily rag which had been fulminating against the campus radicals. They raised the stakes, demanding the city or the State 'restore order' on campus. A big demonstration against the war, and in solidarity with the dead kids at Kent State was announced for Friday, the Eighth.

That day, coincidentally of course, the Governor and the Lt. Gov. were BOTH out of State, and the NEXT in the chain of command, a little, power-mad, martinette who ran the State Police--5'5" or so with a complex about it--called out the National Guard.

About 11 am, the Guardsmen, from Socorro, not Albuquerque, dismounted their trucks, fixed their bayonets and began to advanced down the broad, bricked causeway from Central Avenue toward the Union in line abreast.

VVAW members were deloyed aas marshals, maintaining distance, but we got pushed back into the front line of the crowd. Then there was there was a flurry of activity, and suddenly a kid near me was writhing on the ground, blood spurting feet in the air. He'd got bayonetted in the upper leg, and his femoral artery had been cut.

 Another VVAW guy and I got a tourniquet on the kid's leg, and then made a chair with our arms to carry him to the Aid tent (there were ALWAYS aid tents, in those times). He was going into shock.

As we got out of the crush of the demonstration, we encountered a few ranks of Albuquerque's best burghers arrayed  behind a fence watching the hippies get their asses kicked, and cheering. They cursed us and spat on us. The kid had to be hospitalized, but suffered no lasting physical injury.

I cannot answer for the psychiological consequences, but my esteem for the "average American" never recovered.

But note, hippies: Every year, on this date, the Oligarchs haul out the images from that event to remind us that, yes, they will kill ya, if you piss 'em off enough, even if you're white.
Nack to Hippy Central, Winstone...

Monday, May 7, 2012

RIP Ernest Callenbach.

He left us with his own eulogy, not for himself, but for us.
[This document was found on the computer of Ecotopia author Ernest Callenbach (1929-2012) after his death.]
To all brothers and sisters who hold the dream in their hearts of a future world in which humans and all other beings live in harmony and mutual support -- a world of sustainability, stability, and confidence. A world something like the one I described, so long ago, in Ecotopia and Ecotopia Emerging.
As I survey my life, which is coming near its end, I want to set down a few thoughts that might be useful to those coming after. It will soon be time for me to give back to Gaia the nutrients that I have used during a long, busy, and happy life. I am not bitter or resentful at the approaching end; I have been one of the extraordinarily lucky ones. So it behooves me here to gather together some thoughts and attitudes that may prove useful in the dark times we are facing: a century or more of exceedingly difficult times.
How will those who survive manage it? What can we teach our friends, our children, our communities? Although we may not be capable of changing history, how can we equip ourselves to survive it?
I contemplate these questions in the full consciousness of my own mortality. Being offered an actual number of likely months to live, even though the estimate is uncertain, mightily focuses the mind. On personal things, of course, on loved ones and even loved things, but also on the Big Picture.
But let us begin with last things first, for a change. The analysis will come later, for those who wish it.
I strenuously recommend you read the rest of this essay. His was a strong, fresh mind, always, even if his "Ecotopia" got pretty harsh reviews on style.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Is Neil deGrasse Tyson An Atheist? He Says Not.

Epistemologically, I'm skeptical and agnostic: You gotta PROVE it! But politically, I'm an atheist.

I dislike doing so, but I must take issue w/NdGT about the necessity/utility of "atheism." He comes at it from a "scientist's" pov. A "God" conflict isn't about knowledge and ignorance as "Science" is (or at least like scientists like to pretend)... It is about raw power: Whoever talks to God gets the best hookers and the purest blow.

Atheism is necessary as a counter-discourse to rampant, autocratic theistically-inspired "faith" in the conduct of public life and affairs. Theism --in particular, monotheism-- aggressively colonizes its environment, proselytizing. They won't leave you alone. That's why Rousseau would have excluded them.

So, because theists impose their particular prejudices in the form of morality via the influence of their "religions" on and in the State, atheism is necessary as a political position. Especially in a (howsoever nominally) secular state.

And, "C'mon, Neil! Last time I looked, the PGA doesn't have a Navy or collect taxes or dispense justice. That's way too specious a tack to take."

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Prez. Shamwow COULD Reschedule Cannabis WITHOUT Congressional Approval

It's true. All Pres. Useless-as-Teats-On-A-Barack could simply order his Attorney General to re-schedule cannabis OFF the list of dangerous, addictive drugs. It wouldn't require ANY Congressional action. Yep: There's be a firestorm of protest. But what's the worst that could happen?
As many of you have heard by now, Jimmy Kimmel called Obama out on marijuana at the 2012 White House Correspondents’ Dinner last night. Kimmel asked, “What is with the marijuana crackdown? Seriously, what is the concern? We will deplete the nation’s Funyun supply? Pot smokers vote too. Sometimes a week after the election, but they vote. 
Kimmel’s comments were funny, and of course it’s always good to see celebs bringing attention to the movement, but what happened off stage is tremendous news for the medical marijuana movement.
Last Thursday, I reported on Obama’s response to a question during a Rolling Stone interview on why his administration is cracking down on medical marijuana. Here is what he said: “I can’t nullify congressional law. I can’t ask the Justice Department to say, ‘Ignore completely a federal law that’s on the books.’ What I can say is, ‘Use your prosecutorial discretion and properly prioritize your resources to go after things that are really doing folks damage.’ As a consequence, there haven’t been prosecutions of users of marijuana for medical purposes.”
The Huffington Post reported a comment by Attorney General Holder that everyone who supports medical marijuana needs to hear: “Attorney General Eric Holder was a guest of The Huffington Post at the correspondents’ dinner. Before it began, a HuffPost reporter noted to Holder that Obama’s reference to “congressional law” was misleading because the executive branch could simply remove marijuana from its “schedule one” designation, thereby recognizing its medical use. ”That’s right,” Holder said.
After Kimmel’s speech, a Holder deputy told HuffPost that there was no coordinated war on medical marijuana, but that some individual clinics were breaking both state and federal laws.” Did I read that correctly? Did our Attorney General admit that Obama could stop the war raging over medical marijuana at any moment, and that Obama’s comments to the contrary in Rolling Stone were misleading? Folks, the time is now to demand that President Obama immediately direct Attorney General Eric Holder to reclassify cannabis, or that Attorney General Holder do it himself as the Controlled Substance Act allows.
All of the excuses about the FDA, Congress, and the Institute of Medicine are smokescreens. Obama or Holder could end the war on medical marijuana at any moment. We’re talking about an action that over 70 percent of Americans support. What are you two waiting for? Just push the button already. AG Holder: roll yourself a fatty, walk into the Oval Office, light that sucker, pass it to Obama and ask him,”Are you in?”
Here is an excerpt from Section 811 of The Controlled Substance Act where the Attorney General’s authority to reclassify or remove drugs under the CSA is defined:
Section 811. Authority and Criteria for Classification of Substances (a) Rules and regulations of Attorney General; hearing The Attorney General shall apply the provisions of this subchapter to the controlled substances listed in the schedules established by section 812 of this title and to any other drug or other substance added to such schedules under this subchapter.
Except as provided in subsections (d) and (e) of this section, the Attorney General may by rule– (1) add to such a schedule or transfer between such schedules any drug or other substance if he– (A) finds that such drug or other substance has a potential for abuse, and (B) makes with respect to such drug or other substance the findings prescribed by [[Page 381]] subsection (b) of section 812 of this title for the schedule in which such drug is to be placed; or (2) remove any drug or other substance from the schedules if he finds that the drug or other substance does not meet the requirements for inclusion in any schedule.