Natural Bridges

Our latest mass shooting was in Dallas. Many people offered responses to this tragedy. For example, someone on the news said we need to build bridges. I was left speechless for a while. But now, here’s my response:

I see no need to build any bridges. Natural bridges already exist between us.

Kachina Bridge, Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah.  "Kachina" is a Hopi word for "spirit being." And just like a spirit, it's very hard to see. Look closely at the middle-left of the photo.

Kachina Bridge, Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah. “Kachina” is a Hopi word for “spirit being.” And just like a spirit, this bridge is hard to see. Look closely at the middle-left of the photo.

Sometimes it’s hard to see these bridges that naturally connect us. This happens when people insult and accuse and debase each other so that everyone seems less than human.

“Those bastards are criminals.”
“Cops are bullies.”
“Hoodlums!”
“Racists!”
“Terrorists!”
“Murderers!”
“Scum!”

When we demonize each other, we dehumanize each other. And then we can’t see our common humanity.

Sipapu Bridge, Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah. The closer you get to these bridges, the easier they are to see.

Sipapu Bridge, Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah. The closer you get to these bridges, the easier they are to see.

But everyone has the same basic needs. We all need to eat. We all need shelter. We need to be safe, secure, and comfortable. We need equal justice for everyone. We need respect. Anybody in this world, regardless of race, gender, religion, or political beliefs, needs these things.

Our common needs connect us like natural bridges. What disconnects us is our strategies for getting our needs met. That’s where arguments, wars, and mass shootings arise. But only when we dehumanize each other.

The arch of Sipapu Bridge. Sipapu means "hole", or "portal".. Hopi legend has it, that the first people entered this world through a sipapu, and then morphed from lizard-like beings into human form. From there they divided and separated into different tribes.

The arch of Sipapu Bridge. Sipapu means “hole”, or “portal”. Hopi legend has it, that the first people entered this world through a sipapu, and then morphed from lizard-like beings into human form. From there they divided and separated into different tribes. Reminds me of a theory of Darwin.

When we remember our common needs we are able to see each other as we see ourselves. And then it’s easy to find strategies that enable everyone to get their needs met, and that everyone can agree on. It doesn’t require genius or skilled diplomats. Anyone who recognizes our common needs, even a small child, is smart enough to find our natural bridges and figure out how to reconcile our differences.

Owachomo Bridge, Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah.  "Owachomo" is Hopi for "rock mound". The bridge is at the upper middle of the photo. And the eponymous rock mound is at the left abutment of the bridge.

Owachomo Bridge, Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah. “Owachomo” is Hopi for “rock mound”. The bridge is at the upper middle of the photo. And the eponymous rock mound is at the left abutment of the bridge.

Our natural bridges are solid as rock. They can never be burned or otherwise destroyed. They stand waiting to be found, patiently and eternally.

Owachomo Bridge. A quarter-mile hiking trail leads to the bottom of this bridge.

Owachomo Bridge. A quarter-mile hiking trail leads to the bottom of this bridge.

Always ready to support those who are willing to cross.

Below the Owachomo Bridge.

Below the Owachomo Bridge.

War and Peace

Leo Tolstoy in 1908, age 79. He died in 1910. This is also the first color portrait ever produced in Russia.

Leo Tolstoy in 1908, age 79. He died in 1910. This is also the first color photo portrait ever produced in Russia.

“When I retire, I’m going to read War and Peace.” So many people say that. In fact I even said it some years ago, after an abortive attempt to tackle this monumental tome.

I retired a few years ago. But just now I finally decided to make good on this vow. For the past month I’ve slowly been nibbling away and digesting this epic manuscript penned by Leo Tolstoy. I’ve even stolen some quotes from him, as you may have noticed today.

This book is FUCKING long. At over 500,000 words, it’s considered one of the longest novels of all the classics, and is more than five times as long as the average novel. I have a goal to read one novel per year. So after having read War and Peace, I think I’m good for the next five years.

Leo Tolstoy was a famous Russian author. He wrote War and Peace in the 1860’s, and it was an instant hit. Lucky bastard. Today it’s still a big hit. Fuck! How lucky can you get? In fact Time magazine has ranked it the third greatest novel of all time. Well shit on me.

This book concerns itself with Russia’s involvement in the Napoleonic Wars, as well as the intrigues and romances of five Russian aristocratic families. Even so, it’s not the snoozer you’d expect it to be.

I never knew much about Napoleon Bonaparte until I read War and Peace. Now I’ve learned quite a bit about this dimunitive emperor. I kind of like ol’ Shorty. In fact, sometimes I imagine that I am him. Yes, I really think I am. I am Napoleon Bonaparte in the flesh!

I must be Napoleon. After all, I have conquered a 500,000 word book. And this is a great accomplishment. Probably my greatest.

But unlike Napoleon, I refuse to retreat into the ignominy of one of the most catostrophic military defeats in history. Napoleon’s greatest accomplishment was the conquest and occupation of Moscow. But after just one month, he and his Grande Armee retreated from this famous capitol, trying to escape Russia before the vicious winter weather moved in. I guess he suddenly got homesick for the French Riviera.

He was not very successful. Of the 600,000 soldiers he led into this invasion, about 380,000 died of war wounds, starvation, disease, and exposure. Another 100,000 were captured, and about half of those also died. And this is not to mention the hundreds of thousands of Russian soldiers and civilians, who perished too.

I wonder who accomplished the most, Napoleon or me? He won many famous battles. But I read War and Peace. His decisions led to the deaths of millions. But my decision to read War and Peace has only caused me to neglect my blog occasionally, and sometimes my wife. (We worked it out.)

I can die happy, knowing that I finished War and Peace. Napoleon died unhappy, a miserable haunted has-been, while exiled on the remote island of Saint Helena.

I have no blood on my hands. Napoleon was dripping in it.

What is success anyway? I’m not sure. We all have our own definition. But my notion of success, and my personal ego, allow me to tuck my hand between the buttons of my shirt and gaze proudly into a mirror. I have killed no one.

I have only read a book.

Visions in a Park

At least eight states will have marijuana legalization laws on their ballots this November. California, Nevada, Arizona, Massachusetts, and Maine will be voting for or against legalizing weed for recreational use. And Missouri, Arkansas, and Florida will attempt to legalize pot for medical purposes. Way to try to go forward, Bible Belt!

I’m from Cali, and wasn’t sure which way to vote on this. And then my wife and I visited Capitol Reefer National Park. While at this enchanted park I saw several visions, and these revelations convinced me of the wisdom of legalizing Pakaloco.

Ganoobies Cliffs, Capital Reefer National Park.

Ganoobies Cliffs, Capital Reefer National Park.

In my first vision, a great white president rose before me. He was enwreathed in a mysterious, sweet-smelling smoke. Although he seemed happy in this smoke, he was holding his breath and refusing to inhale it. He introduced himself to me as the Great Clinton. In a raspy voice he proclaimed that in the capitol there are many reefers. He stated that this park was named in honor of all the great leaders of our nation who have secretly toked on the sacred herb of Mary Jane. And then he disappeared into a bush.

Indian Boy Valley, Capitol Reefer National Park.

Indian Boy Valley, Capitol Reefer National Park.

In my next vision, a great black president emerged from a bush, eating macaroni and cheese. Magic smoke swirled about his serene face, and he could be seen to breathe deeply of it. He fixed his gaze on me, then uttered, “There’s a reason why I am known as the Great No-Drama Obama. Reflect on it, man.” Then he sprinkled some salt and pepper on his macaroni and faded away.

Around 4:20 in the afternoon a third vision appeared. An older blonde lady in a pants suit was mowing the grass. She was working hard, and huffing and puffing like a dragon. Then she stopped and sparked up a conversation with me. She told me she was up against the stem, and asked if I belonged to the Tea Party. I told her no, and she said, “Well you win a gold star for that.” Then she pulled out a couple of pocket rockets and handed one to me. We torched up while she asked if I had ever seen the Northern Lights.

Alice B. Toklas rock, Capitol Reefer National Park.

Alice B. Toklas rock, Capitol Reefer National Park.

Yes I had, a few times, I revealed. “In fact, I belong to Triple A, so I have no problem driving up there.”

She got the wind of what I was saying, then got the good giggles. Finally she asked, “Do you know who I am?”

“Sweet Lucy!” I replied, “No, who?”

Zambi Mesa, Capitol Reefer National Park.

Zambi Mesa, Capitol Reefer National Park.

Her eyes drooped and got dewy and her face went solemn. “I have come from the Great Clinton,” she muttered in ghostly fashion. “And I shall be the new Great Clinton. I am going to leave the great Trump in a ditch, after he crashes the speedboat he’s on.

“And after I become the new Great Clinton, I shall make it possible for all Americans to visit this beautiful park.” She spread her arms out wide, gesturing to the desert hills all around her. “Yes, when I achieve my greatness, no one shall be denied entry. The leaders of our country shall no longer bogart this place for themselves. It shall be shared with everyone, and all people will be allowed to toke the sweet air, admire the red buds, and wake and bake beneath the trees.”

Sinsemilla Bluffs, Capitol Reefer National Park.

Sinsemilla Bluffs, Capitol Reefer National Park. If you look closely, you’ll see the contrail of a Jefferson airplane. Wow.

These words were as refreshing to me as a leaf salad. I recalled how so many people had to sneak into this park, and how some of them went to jail for a very long time, after being caught trespassing. I suddenly got very excited. She had won me over. I asked the aspiring new Great Clinton what I could do to help her.

She stared at me sternly and murmured, “Vote to legalize ganja.” And then a strong breeze lifted her up, with her sleeves and pant legs flapping enthusiastically, and she blew away in a vortex of golden leaves.

Kumba Overlook, Capitol Reefer National Park.

Kumba Overlook, Capitol Reefer National Park.

The Heart of Two Explorers

My wife and I continued our road trip through Utah, exploring scenic highways and the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Tributes to John Wesley Powell and other explorers that came before us can be found at various highway viewpoints.

My wife and I continued our road trip through Utah, exploring scenic highways and the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Tributes to John Wesley Powell and other explorers who came before us can be found at various highway viewpoints.

Many explorers crisscrossed the lands of southern Utah, but two stand out in my mind. One is John C. Fremont, and the other John Wesley Powell.

John C. Fremont

John C. Fremont

Fremont headed a number of expeditions through the American West, often passing through present-day Utah. In fact, the Fremont river in central Utah is named after him.

During the Mexican-American War, Fremont led a military expedition into California and defeated the Mexican army. He was then appointed by the Navy as California’s first military governor, but got into a dispute with the Army over the legitmacy of this appointment. Fremont was court-martialed over this, and convicted of mutiny. But he became a national hero during his trial, and President Polk commuted his sentence. It was the politically savvy thing for Polk to do for such a celebrated man.

Few people seem to live in or near the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. But here is one little settlement nestled within the rugged terrain.

Few people seem to live in or near the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. But here is one little settlement nestled within the rugged terrain.

In 1856, Fremont became the Republican Party’s first nominee for president. The newly-formed GOP was banking on Fremont’s national hero status in their bid for the White House. However they didn’t count on him being swift-boated. Revelations came out about a decade-old murder in California of three unarmed Mexicans, committed by Kit Carson. Carson had been under Fremont’s command at the time, and it was alleged that Fremont gave the order. This scandal, along with alleged military blunders, sank his chances of winning the election. He came in second to James Buchanan.

You may have noticed how dark my photos appear. Something very bad happened to my camera on this journey. I haven't figured it out yet. My wife likes this "sunglasses" effect and thinks it's an improvement. I'm not so sure. What do you think?

You may have noticed how dark my photos appear. Something very bad happened to my camera on this journey. I haven’t figured it out yet. My wife likes this “sunglasses” effect and thinks it’s an improvement. I’m not so sure. What do you think?

Yes, Fremont was a man of questionable character and judgment. In fact some of his questionable decisions led to several of his expeditions ending in disaster and lost lives. Historians describe this man as being controversial, impetuous, and contradictory. Not only that, but he also had poor business acumen. He died penniless in 1890, at age 77.

Utah's Highway 12 carried us past the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, to altitudes over 9,000 feet. We found this alpine meadow in full bloom.

Utah’s Highway 12 carried us past the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, to altitudes over 9,000 feet. We found this alpine meadow in full bloom.

John Wesley Powell’s character and judgment was not nearly as questionable as John C. Fremont’s. But they both possessed the heart of an explorer.

Powell grew up bucking his father’s wishes, in pursuit of his love for the natural sciences. But he was also an abolitionist. He put his beloved science career on hold and enlisted as a private, to fight in the Civil War.

John Wesley Powell

John Wesley Powell

At the battle of Shiloh he lost most of his right arm to a minie ball. But he continued to serve and fight until the end of the war, leaving the Army as a brevet lieutenant colonel.

In 1869, the one-armed Powell embarked on his legendary expedition down the Green and Colorado Rivers in Utah and Arizona. This journey included the first recorded passage of white men through the entirety of the Grand Canyon. What a ride that must have been! Three of his men abandoned him in the middle of the expedition, fearing they would not survive the rapids. They were never heard from again. But everyone else did survive.

Powell led a second expedition in 1871, resulting in fairly accurate maps and more extensive knowledge of the Colorado Plateau region.

A distant view of Capitol Reef National Park, from Dixie National Forest.

A distant view of Capitol Reef National Park, from Dixie National Forest.

After these expeditions, Powell devoted the rest of his life to public service. He led the U.S. Geological Survey, and directed the Bureau of Ethnology at the Smithsonian Institute.

Powell with Paiute Indian named Tau-Gu, during his 1871 expedition.

Powell with Paiute Indian named Tau-Gu, during his 1871 expedition.

And he possessed the vision to encourage water conservation in the West, while discouraging the use of widespread agriculture in America’s arid and semi-arid regions. But he was resisted by money interests from the railroads, and his recommendations went unheeded. Then the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s ruined the livelihoods of thousands of western pioneer farmers. After this, Powell’s ideas and policies were finally taken seriously, and implemented.

Powell died in 1902 at the age of 68. I wonder which was the most breathtaking: his journey through the passage of death, or his wild gauntlet run through the Grand Canyon, riding the rapids of the untamed Colorado River.

Aspen forest along Highway 12.

Aspen forest along Highway 12.

You see, death is inevitable. It’s an adventure requiring no courage or free will. But living, true living, is never certain. You must be brave. You must seek out on your own the whitewater maelstrom of risk and reward, and plunge forward with a lust for all things new and unexplored. To really live, you must possess the heart of explorers.

Explorers like John C. Fremont and John Wesley Powell.

The Dirty Devil river, and site of the former town of Hite, Utah. The town was submerged by the waters of Lake Powell, after construction of the Glen Canyon Dam in 1963. Due to the recent drought, Lake Powell has receded and exposed the town site again. I wonder when some slick operator is going to open up a real estate office down there?

The Dirty Devil river, and site of the former town of Hite, Utah. This town was submerged by the waters of Lake Powell, after construction of the Glen Canyon Dam in 1963. Due to the recent drought, Lake Powell has receded and exposed the town site again. I wonder when some slick operator is going to open up a real estate office down there?

The Hoodoos of Bryce

Black Birch Canyon.

Bryce Canyon is actually many canyons. Or they can be more accurately described as natural amphitheaters. This is a view of Black Birch Canyon.

Our next stop for my wife and me in our road trip through Utah this month, was Bryce Canyon National Park. The chief attraction at Bryce is tall columns of orange rock. These columns resemble petrified unicorn horns to me, but they’re actually called hoodoos. I guess they looked like hoodoo dolls to whoever named them.

Black Birch Canyon.

Another view of Black Birch Canyon. The many natural amphitheaters can be viewed by driving an 18-mile long road through the national park, and stopping at viewpoints. There are also several hiking trails.

Hoodoo dolls are a wicked fantasy. It’s a dark dream we all share at some time or another, to make those who’ve caused us suffering feel the same pain we feel. Throughout our lives we’ve been dealt a host of harms, both real and imagined, from a bunch of assholes. And sometimes we sure would love to pay them back.

Bristlecone Trail.

A view from Bristlecone Trail. The Bristlecone Trail is over 9,000 feet up, at the very end of the road. Most of the park is over 8,000 feet in elevation. (That’s 2,400 meters, for you Canucks.)

Wouldn’t it be nice to raise your abusive parents, and make them suffer at your mercy? Or how about blasting your loud, rap-music neighbors with 150 decibels of Slim Whitman hits? Or what if you could force TSA agents to work barefoot and without belts?

Bristlecone Trail.

View from the Bristlecone Trail. The Paiute Indians thought the hoodoos were the Legend People who, according to mythology, were turned to stone by the mythological character Coyote. Now there’s some ancient revenge for you. The Paiute term for hoodoos was Anka-ku-was-a-wits, which means “red painted faces.” This rhymes with Manischewitz, which is a sweet red beverage that can also get you stoned.

Revenge has a sweet taste. But Gandhi said that if we practice an eye-for-an-eye, the whole world will go blind. Darn you Gandhi for spoiling all the fun, with your great wisdom! If I could only come up with some wise retort for you, you’d know how I feel right now.

Bristlecone Trail.

Yet another view from the Bristlecone Trail. I managed to hike this one-mile path. The extreme altitude left me almost as breathless as the views.

Empathy is what peaceniks recommend over things like hoodoo dolls. It ain’t easy to practice, and it ain’t always pretty, but the sad truth is that it does redound in better long-term results. For instance, feeling the pain that drives the assholes of our lives to harm us, helps us to understand our enemies. And as a smart strategist once recommended, “Know your enemy.”

Natural Bridge.

This natural bridge reminds us of the connections we can form with our enemies when we stop relying on hoodoo magic.

The Buddha spoke of the Simile of the Saw. He taught that if some mean dudes are holding you down while sawing off your limbs, it is best not to think ill of them. Instead, wish them to be well, peaceful, and happy.

Natural Bridge.

Bryce Canyon is named after the Mormon settler, Ebenezer Bryce, who briefly homesteaded here. He tried to raise cattle, but the livestock kept getting lost amongst the hoodoos. After this and other difficulties, he moved away in 1880. I would have stayed and found a new vocation.

Well, peaceful, and happy?! Bullshit, right? Instead, you might rather flip them off, if only you had fingers left to do so. But just think, if these droogs were peaceful they wouldn’t be sawing your limbs off in the first place. And then you wouldn’t mind if they were well and happy.

Rainbow Point.

View from Rainbow Point, at 9,105 feet.

The hoodoos of Bryce are beautiful to admire. But be careful of their allure. Avoid the steep cliffs at their base. Revenge is a treacherous precipice, with ineluctable gravity. It only pulls you down.

Rainbow Point.

Another stunning vista from Rainbow Point.

So we gave the hoodoos a wide berth, and observed them from a distance. We avoided the edge and kept our feet on solid ground. And the temptations of the hoodoos were supervened by this one wish:

Yovimpa Point.

View from Yovimpa Point. Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument can be seen in the distance, below.

That all living beings would be well, peaceful, and happy.

A Little Piece of Heaven

My wife and I went unicorn hunting a few weeks ago. That is, we went on a 7-day road trip. We motored through the scenic wonderland of the great states of Utah and Arizona. It was a successful hunt, as we captured a number of those elusive one-horned critters along the way.

View of Zion Canyon, from Weeping Rock. Yep, plenty of unicorns to be found here.

View of Zion Canyon, from Weeping Rock. Yep, plenty of unicorns to be found here.

Our first stop was Zion National Park. Zion was originally named Mukuntuweep National Monument. Mukuntuweep is a Paiute Indian word meaning “straight-up land” or “straight arrow”, or straight something or other. We were lucky, as we were not shot by any straight arrows as we toured the region.

Looking straight up the canyon walls, near the River trail.

Looking straight up the canyon walls, near the River trail.

A Mormon rancher, who apparently couldn’t speak Paiute, renamed the area Little Zion, with the idea that it resembled a little piece of heaven. This got me wondering what heaven really is.

I passed at least one kidney stone last week. For me, heaven is not having kidney stones. Or better yet, heaven is having good health in general.

Court of the Patriarchs. From left to right, these peaks are called Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They all suffered from kidney stones, and therefore had these rocks named after them.

Court of the Patriarchs. From left to right, these peaks are called Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They all suffered from kidney stones, and therefore had these rocks named after them.

The Virgin River passes through Zion National Park, and some say that heaven is having 72 virgins. But I say, how long will they remain virgins? Heaven for these men is very short-lived, unless they suffer from erectile dysfunction. Besides, virgins make lousy lovers. They’re bashful, and you have to show them how to do everything.

The Virgin River. This river is renowned as a favorite swimming spot for young ladies and old maids.

The Virgin River. This river is renowned as a favorite swimming spot for young ladies and old maids.

For me, heaven is having one lover, and one only. Lovers can cause headaches, you know. Just one is enough for me. And a lover who you can communicate and work well with can be very useful in a unicorn hunt. But just try coordinating a hunt with 72 giggling girls. It can never work.

A closer view of the Virgin River, looking as pure and innocent as ever. But I'm skeptical. When I got real close I spotted some tadpoles.

A closer view of the Virgin River, looking as pure and innocent as ever. But I’m skeptical. When I got real close I spotted some tadpoles.

For the Mormon that named this area, heaven was beautiful scenery. I’ll go along with that. My wife and I love the beauty of Zion National Park. In fact, this was our fourth visit.

Our first visit was brief, as we just drove through it like a Mukuntuweep straight arrow. My wife was behind the wheel, and she was so impressed by the scenery that she would stop in the middle of the highway and back up traffic. She had a hard time keeping her eyes on the road, and at times I feared she would drive off a cliff. For her, the beautiful scenery was heaven. For me it was a living hell.

Checkerboard Mesa. Wouldn't this be the perfect spot to build a Senior Citizen Center?

Checkerboard Mesa. Wouldn’t this be the perfect spot to build a Senior Citizen Center?

We’ve since learned to enjoy Zion in safer ways. And our memories of this unique canyon are the unicorns we captured. Too bad we couldn’t remain in this little piece of heaven. But there were more unicorns waiting down the road . . .

Man Gives Birth

I had this same look of relief when my kidney stone passed.

I had this same look of relief when my kidney stone passed.

I know what it feels like to give birth. I passed a kidney stone. It’s said that the pain from passing a kidney stone can be as horrible as the pain of childbirth.

Women with children, I feel your pain.

My labor pains began while I was taking a nap. What a cruel trick mother nature played, interrupting my slumber this way. My right side suddenly began to burn like a gasoline fire. Damn last night’s chili! was my first thought.

But it got worse. Worse than any of the napalm bombs I’ve ever spooned out of my wife’s cast-iron dutch oven. Within forty-five minutes my wife was rushing me to the Emergency Room.

By the time we got there I couldn’t walk. I was assisted into a wheelchair, then trundled directly to intake. The lady running the joint began the paperwork.

“What is your name?” she asked.

“OOOOOOOHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!! OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!” I replied.

“Sir, don’t yell at me!”

I heaved up my lunch into a blue plastic vomit bag an orderly gave me, and then tried to explain to her that I wasn’t yelling. This was how I normally talk when my guts are exploding. But all that came out was, “OOOOHHHHHHH! NOOOOOOOOOOOT YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEELLLL! OOOOOOOOHHHHHHHH!”

She became curt with me. “Sir, I have to know your name, and I don’t appreciate being yelled at!”

Thank goodness my wife was there. She interjected and provided all the necessary info. Otherwise I may never have gotten past this officious gatekeeper.

This little interaction left me worried that the fine folks at ER had no interest in my well-being, but instead were completely focused upon rules of etiquette and record-keeping. And that just made the pain all the more worse.

Finally this bureaucrat wheeled me into the area where all the patients were ensconced. Meanwhile, the fire inside my guts burned higher and higher, and my OOOOOHHHH’s changed to “OOOOOHHHHHHH SHIIIIIITTTTT! FUUUUUCKKKKKINNNG SHHHHIIIIIT! OOOHHHH GOOOOOODAAAAAMNIT!”

“Sir, stop swearing. There are children around here.” the lady instructed me.

“FUUUUCKKK!” I replied. “GOOOODAMMMMNN MUUTHHHERRRFUCCCCCKKKKER!”

Another office lady joined her. “Sir, if you don’t stop swearing, I’m going to have to call security,” she sternly warned me.

I wondered what the hell the security guard was going to do, toss me out of the hospital? Handcuff me?

“OOOOOHHHHHH FUUUUCKKKK, ARREST ME!” I yelled.

The niminy piminy ladies gave up and handed me over to the custody of a male nurse. In between my groans and whimpers I managed to ask if I had been brought to a church or a hospital.

He was very sympathetic and understanding. He carefully helped me into the bed, and gave me the reassurance that my health and well-being was truly a concern in this facility.

After this I was able to relax into a delirium of loud screaming, groaning, and an occasional curse word, fueled by the fiery pain in my side.

At this point, I thought that I either had a bowel obstruction or a ruptured appendix.

An IV was started, and after what seemed like 15 lifetimes, but was actually more like 15 minutes, pain medication began to take effect. My screams decreased slightly in volume. The analgesic really wasn’t that effective. But it did help a little.

Then the very nice, kind, compassionate male nurse, injected a much more powerful painkiller into the IV. It must have been a horse tranquilizer. Within minutes my screams softened, to a more intelligible huffing and puffing and light whimpering. And I was actually able to lie still. That’s when Scott came along.

Scott was another nice, kind, compassionate healthcare worker. He wheeled me into a dark room with a monstrous-sized machine and gently CT scanned my abdomen.

Within a few minutes after the CT scan, the breech baby in my belly must have turned. I suddenly felt a wave of relief, and within minutes the raging inferno inside subsided to low-glowing embers.

It was over. Thank God it was over.

I had to wait around a while for a diagnosis. My wife said she thought it was a kidney stone. I told her she was crazy. No, I advised her that this was a bowel obstruction. That’s exactly what it felt like. Like a bowel obstruction that suddenly came loose, allowing relief. But she stood her ground. And I stood my ground.

Then the doctor came by and told us it was a kidney stone. Well hell.

But at least that mutherfucker had passed. I was happy. Now I could go home, relax, and get some sleep. My pain was a fast-fading memory. A story to recount to bored house guests. An aberration. A small bump in my history of relative good health.

Until the next morning, when my baby from hell returned.

Another trip to the ER. More agony, wailing, and screaming. But at least this time we knew the cause of the pain. It was yet another kidney stone, for crying out loud. And maybe now that the cause was known, they could go inside there right away, with some sort of pickax, and mine the offending boulder out of my belly.

That’s when I received the sad news. The doctor told me it was NOT another kidney stone. She identified it as the same culprit from the previous night. She said that this rock was on a long journey that had only just begun. A journey that begins at the kidney, goes down a very long, narrow tube, and ends in the bladder. A journey of a thousand miles, that begins with the first scream. She calmly advised me that I could expect intermittent periods of agony and relief for many more hours or even days, while this peregrination was taking place, and that there was nothing she nor anyone else on the ER staff could do about it. Except prescribe pain killers.

I was discharged from the ER and left to fend for myself.

And that’s the terrible truth about kidney stones.

I’ve done some internet research and discovered a few more truths. I’ve read that the pain from passing one of these can be more intense than medical conditions such as childbirth, gunshot wounds, and heart attacks. And if a stone is greater than 5mm it can obstruct urine flow and destroy a kidney. But I say, with pain that intense, who the hell needs kidneys anyway? Let those bean-shaped organs die!

Mine was only 2mm. That’s the thickness of a nickel. A very small stone. I guess you can say I gave birth to a preemie.

So mothers, I feel your pain. I know what you’ve gone through. I’m a man whose given birth. And I hope I’ll never have to go through this experience again.

Now if there was just some way I could have my tubes tied.

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