Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Thank you, Nurse Jane

He did not know he was lifeless. He did not remember that he’d cooked a salmon dinner for his wife and nephew and then mowed the grass. He did not remember the chest pain. My brother just dropped. Just black -- like The Sopranos finale. No white lights of heaven or evil red imps escorting him to eternal flames.

Instead, his wife took charge. She called 911 and pumped his chest. A few minutes later, the paramedics arrived and continued pumping, defibrillating and radioing the hospital for guidance, because nothing worked. Sixty minutes later -- ONE HOUR OF CHEST PUMPS LATER -- the paramedics’ “last-ditch” gambit worked, and they hurried the body out of the suburban bedroom, down the carpeted stairs, and off to the hospital.

People who suffer out of hospital cardiac arrests usually die. Medical journals report survival rates of less than 1 in 10. And what is the quality of life if they live? The brain voraciously consumes oxygen, seizing 15 to 20% of what the lungs provide, even though the brain is only about 3% of total body mass. When my wife called, she was cagey. I was out of town questioning evasive jerks all day, so I put it to her directly, “Are you telling me that he is either going to die or be gorked?” “Yes,” she admitted.

Long story short: brother Ken survived without any anoxic brain injury that I detect. I want to share something one of the many things I thought about during the two weeks between my brother’s near death and his return home.

Nurse Jane works in Cardiac ICU. If statistics hold, then most of her patients do not leave the hospital alive. I raised that concept with her. She simply said that the folks in Cardiac ICU do the best they can.

Her answer was unduly modest.

Here’s the real question for all of us and how Jane answered it with her actions, not her words.

Question: If the odds were pretty good that you’d be the last person on Earth that someone would see, how would you behave?

What first struck me was that Jane wore make up, even though she worked her 12-hour shift helping an unconscious man on life support. When he showed some awakening, days later, Jane was a calming presence with her soothing voice and pleasant face framed by pretty blonde hair. Perhaps she put on her face because of self-respect. However, I believe it was to respect the people she serves.

At my prompting, Jane revealed her faith in God and her interest in learning Hebrew, so she could comprehend earlier versions of the Bible. With Jane’s scrubbed and conservative appearance, one would not imagine her in a tattoo parlor. Yet, there on her wrists were tattoos. They looked like Hebrew. “Yahweh,” she answered. Jane’s hands and wrists masterfully operated those 13 drips running into my brother. The hands of God, indeed.

Some people urge, “Live like there’s no tomorrow!” Jane got me thinking that maybe we should treat people like THEY have no tomorrow, and offer them the kindness and warmth we normally reserve for our dearest family and friends. Thank you, Jane (and each & every other caregiver).

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tigard Festival of Balloons


It’s always a treat to go out with friends, regardless of the event. This evening, the excuse was the Tigard Festival of Balloons with Ann, Terri & Allyson.

Four Balloons fired up within the confines of the festival booths selling elephant ears, funnel cakes, apparel from Peru, and many other things. Carnival rides also lit up the night. Johnny Limbo and the Lugnuts provided the roots-of-rock soundtrack, as they did the last time I visited, in the 1990s, when people used film in cameras. Tonight, dozens of people with digital cameras jockeyed for the good shots.

For anyone looking to go next year, your ticket is good for both days. Some people hang out all day to enjoy the festivities. $5 parking at the high school helps support the school.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Midnight in Portland


Picnic in a park, movie, and conversation highlighted my first full day of summer. Dina’s birthday celebration in Rockwood was a good opportunity to see my “cup of coffee” friends. Then, Allyson and I grabbed a bite to eat before seeing the movie Midnight in Paris.

I enjoyed Woody Allen’s essay on nostalgia and how one can overlook the contemporary avant-garde. In Portland, I suppose the vanguard includes those involved in the locavore and bicycle movements. I’m proud of the food in Portland: the restaurants, farmer’s markets, local brewers and spirit makers.

I’m shocked at how many bicycle shops I see around town. Just about every Portland neighborhood has one or more places to buy and repair bicycles. I noticed an ad for one that now includes an on-site cafĂ©. At rush hour, the designated bike lane on Williams Avenue is full. We’ve all seen bicycle couriers and pedi-rickshaws. But on Thursday, I saw this bicycle delivery truck in action.

What the locavore and bicycle movements have in common is that they offer something everyone can do to promote good for the world. You don’t have to be lawyer litigating the Endangered Species Act. You don’t have to worry about how Samuel Alito’s elevation to the Supreme Court has doomed the United States to Corporate Serfdom for at least the next generation. With the food and bike movements, everyone can do something today

After the movie, we walked to the Brassiere Montmartre, an establishment that has been around for decades. Woody Allen explores the concept of historical layers in a place, (which I explored previously).

Over a Pernod at the Brassiere, I considered a time in the 1980s, on a hot summer evening, when Knudson and I enjoyed a high-flying jazz band in the Brassiere. Back then, the tablecloths were paper and guests used Crayolas to draw. In fact, the bar sponsored art contests, and the walls used to be filled with some of the most amazing crayon drawings. Since the remodel, the Crayolas and the art are gone, replaced by a slightly more upscale look of wood, mirrors and exposed brick.

Even in modern Portland, the layers of history exist, they’re just not as widely known and respected as Paris in the 1920s. Ninety years from now will people wish they had been part of the Portlandia vanguard in the 2010s?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Lone Fir Pioneer Cemetery Reminds us to Eat, Drink & Be Merry.

My third June solstice of Carpesummer arrived without a visit to the Columbia Gorge Stonehenge. On the first day of summer, the second sunny & hot day of the year provided all Portlanders a burst of enthusiasm. We found our sunglasses and dug out our summer clothes from deep within our closets.

Although I’d driven past it 100 times before, yesterday was the first time I realized that the cemetery was the Lone Fir Pioneer Cemetery. I had time, so I took a stroll through, and it provided me with a bit of a mental challenge.

Initially, the cemetery met expectations: century-old trees over decaying century-old headstones. We all marvel over the dates and relations carved in stone. We read tributes from husbands who outlived their wives and children who buried their moms. There’s a peaceful, solemn beauty. Within the Lone Fir Cemetery lie many of the names which any Portlander would know: Banfield, Sellwood, MacLeay and Lane, to name a few. These names now designate to a highway, neighborhood, park and county.

Then, I noticed some modern black stones that were larger than the old stones in the corner I had been exploring. As I moved closer, I noticed that faces were etched in the stone: the digital age had reached the pioneer cemetery. Then, I noticed one stone did not use the English language, it was in Russian. And the names on others were Russian-sounding. I noticed several more.

I reacted. Initially, I was shocked by the modern stones in the old cemetery. They seemed out of place and out of character. They broke my mood of browsing through history. Then, I questioned my attitude: Am I prejudiced against Russians invading this very Oregonian place? Did I think that the modern has desecrated the antique?

Some of the old stones were not in English. Many of the old stones marked first-generation Oregonians. I’m the first of my family to live in Oregon. Obviously, the stone in the Russian language honors a woman who was the first generation of her clan to arrive here. She, too, was a pioneer, even if she did not arrive in a covered wagon.

Summer has arrived in Portland. My stroll through Lone Fir Pioneer Cemetery reminds me of the Biblical encouragement to live:

“And behold joy and gladness, slaying oxen, and killing sheep, eating flesh, and drinking wine: let us eat and drink; for to morrow we shall die.” (Isaiah 22:13)

“And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou has much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink and be merry.” (Luke 12:10).

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

One Night With Janis Joplin: Review

Performance: "One Night With Janis Joplin"

Genre: Musical Theater

Date: June 14, 2011

Venue: Gerding Theater, Pearl District, Portland, Oregon

In 6 words or fewer: Wow! How does she do that?

Performance Review: The musical blast from a seven-piece band and “Janis” busts open the curtain for “One Night with Janis Joplin,” a bio-musical of woman whose singular voice died, we thought, in 1970. We’ve heard other actors play famous singers, but it’s one thing to knock off Johnny Cash, it’s another to strain the vocal cords and achieve the melodic screech for which Janis is remembered. Actress Cat Stephani pulled it off. Ms. Stephani also showed us the quirky-jerky mannerisms in a performance that outlined the life and influences Janis Joplin.

Before last night, about the only musical I really liked was the “Blues Brothers,” movie. “One Night with Janis Joplin” joins the list, (despite never having been a Janis fan). The music was front and center, with Janis’s oral memoirs spoken from her living room couch, it seemed. The pauses served the purpose of giving all a short break from the sometimes-overwhelming power of the music.

Just as master chefs offer salty with the sweet, “One Night With Janis” balances Janis’s voice with character of “Blues Singer,” who appears, at times, as Janis’s living memory. Sabrina Elayne Carten’s assured, soulful voice was the tasty yogurt over pepper-hot. As the Blues Singer, Ms. Carten covered Nina Simone, Aretha Franklin and Bessie Smith. She has a lovely voice, and she provides many true highlights of the show.

The Portland performance is the World Premier of the show, which they extended until July 3. The Estate of Janis Joplin cooperated with the producers. I suspect that this show will move on to other cities and create renewed interest in Janis, her life and her music.

P.S. Props to the other talents in the show: Singers Moriah Angeline and Marisha Wallace, and the seven members of the band.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Jim Wallace Plays the Blues at Halibut's, Concert Review

Performer: Jim Wallace Band

Genre: Blues

Date: June 10, 2011

Venue: Halibut's

In 6 words or fewer: Satisfying, laid back, classic blues

Link to Video: Jim Wallace Blues Video

Performance Review: Jim Wallace stuffed his four-member band into the corner of this little bar. Jim on blues harp, plus a blues guitarist, bass player, and a woman drummer. This great little group plays the classics with at just the right syncopation, passion and humor. Band members are skilled musicians who simply seemed to like themselves and like playing the blues. I was in a gray mood when I walked in, and felt good when I left. One can't ask for much more than that.

Venue Review: In the bad old days of segregation, banks offered African Americans home loans in Northeast Portland, but not in some other areas of the city. In the past quarter-century, the area has become more diverse. Alberta Street, in particular, has benefitted from businesses investing up and down the street over the past decade. Now, NE Alberta may be one of the best streets to walk up and down on a warm Friday or Saturday night. Lots of bars, restaurants and art galleries have taken root.

Halibut's bar is small. Guests enjoy the intimacy of someone's living room or basement. On this night, the volume perfectly fit the room. The drummer even used brushes instead of sticks. What's great is that the music begins at 8:00 p.m., an hour at which I'm actually awake. This night at Halibuts, I might have been the median age, another positive.

Halibuts has a full bar, and its other side is a restaurant. Patrons can buy food off the restaurant menu while in the bar, at least at the early hour of my attendance.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

U2 at Qwest Field, Seattle, Concert Review

Performer:  U2

Genre: Rock

Date: June 4, 2011

In 6 words or fewer: Stadium acoustics mar great production.

Performance Review:  Bono & The Edge & 493 other tour employees produce a powerful rock extravaganza on the "360 degree" stage plus a  live video on a remarkable, changeable jumbotron hung under the "quadropuss."  That's what their rock revival tent looks like: an octopuss with four legs and a spire.  Under it is their oval stage with rotating bridges to the platform that circles the stage, from which the tour derives its name.  Within the circle is the "red zone," the high-rent area where people stand up-close and personal.

Any stadium show requires video for the distant fans in the stands.  U2 brings everything they need with them in what looked like about 30 trucks.  The jumbotron is amazing.  It is not static; at times, it stretched down to the stage floor.  After 93 shows, everyone knows what they are doing: the videographers, Bono, the video mixers, the lighting crew.  Pros. 

You know the music.  You know the band.  U2 delivered. 

Some of the video was preproduced.  The best introduced "Beautiful Day."  Bono spoke of Gabby Giffords and how she took a bullet for her public service.  The video showed the view of Earth from space. Then came Giffords' husband, Mark Kelly, on video from space, speaking to us and holding up words in zero-gravity.  Among the words was "It's a Beautiful Day." 

Venue Review: Qwest Field was built with acoustics in mind, but not for music.  One purpose for the roofs is to bounce sound down to the NFL football field and give the Seahawks a home field advantage.  Loud fans can cause chaos to opposing teams. Unfortuntaely, the roofs also cause chaos for music.  Initially, our seats were near the ceiling.  Literally, we could not make out the words of Lenny Kravitz, the warm-up act, or Bono.  It was just one loud, bassy, mush.  After a few songs, we gave up.  It was painful to listen, so wen went outside.  

Fortunately, we returned to find other seats that were not under the roof, and the acoustics improved.  However, literally, the band sounded better one block from the stadium after we left for good.  Others agreed: the sound that escaped the stadium was significantly superior to what paying customers heard. 

Officially, Qwest Field did NOT allow camcorders for the concert, but nobody frisked your cargo pants pockets.  These days, iphones can do video, which is what I used for the video linked above.  

Timing:  Ticket time 7:00.  Lenny Kravitz went from 7:30-ish to 8:20.  U2 started at 9:00-ish and rocked about two hours (which meant we had to cancel our 11:00 pm dinner reservations.)