I watched the last ten minutes of Ellen a week or so ago, with Justin Bieber performing his latest hit. I didn’t catch the title, but then I didn’t really care. It was something repetitively innocuous about “love, baby.” The females were going crazy, especially the teeny-boppers, as they were once called, and even earlier called the bobby-soxers swooning over Frank. But whereas young Blue Eyes in those early years wasn’t as good a singer as he’d later become, he was a world or two better than young Master Bieber. Here’s this androgynous lad with carefully coiffed hair, doing his little dance steps with his backup singers/dancers, and the audience went crazy. The only parallel I could think of was Brittany Spears, the young sex-bomb who made all the pimply-faced boys soil their pants. She, like Justin, was a product of the media, both short on real talent, long on looks. I hear myself sounding like an old fogey who can’t appreciate the contemporary musical scene. True, I still most admire singers from the past who sang understandably and well without electronic help, singers like Frank Sinatra, Vic Damone, Jack Jones, Sarah Vaughan, Barbra Streisand, Ella Fitzgerald. But there are still plenty of legitimate singers today who rely on talent instead of media hype—Michael Buble, Carrie Underwood, Beyonce, Josh Groben, almost any cast member from Glee. So, Justin Bieber, let’s see if you can step up to the plate and become a real singer instead of just a pretty boy.
Monday, July 19
The Open coverage was strangely unexciting this year. It was great that the young South African with the nearly unpronounceable name won the prize. We can always just call him Louie Louie and forget the last name. He certainly deserved it, sort of walking it in on the final eighteen. When others were supposed to be making a charge, no one did. When he was supposed to be folding like a cheap umbrella on those final two rounds, he didn’t. Not even close. Good for him. And while the pros were universally gushing over St. Andrews, I kept thinking it was sort of stupid, especially the Road Hole, number 17. I’d probably like to play the course . . . once. But certainly not more than once.
Then there’s the matter of the folks doing the color commentary. Why in the world would the Golf Channel give a seat to Tom Weiskopf and Curtis Strange, two of the dumbest, most irritating, egocentric golfers ever to ungrace a broadcast booth? Weiskopf was always disliked by nearly all his peers, and nothing has changed today, and Strange still refuses to change his Virginia baked ham accent. If the young Jack Nicklaus were teeing off at 17 and Strange was doing the commentary, he’d say, “The young blond Nicklaus is hitting a blond shot over the hotel shed.” In contrast to their inanities, Paul Azinger can now join Johnny Miller as one of the most entertaining, most knowledgeable people with a mike in hand.
And how can I ignore the others, Phil and Tiger, that is? They both looked pretty averagely human this weekend, Phil once again letting his heart override his head, and Tiger having most uncharacteristic putting woes. The rest of his game looked on-target, but oh those many many putts. The good news is that most of the prurient interest in his sex life has diminished, almost disappeared. The bad news is that people are now suggesting his career is over. They’re saying he hasn’t won a major in two years now, so he must be at the end of his string. What nonsense. Jack had won twelve majors by Tiger’s current age (Tiger, fourteen), and six more to the end of his career. But Jack didn’t win every year: none in 1976-77, none in 1979, and none in 1981 through 1985. He won his last Masters when he was 46, eleven years older than Tiger is right now. For those of us who are eager to watch any tournament in which Tiger is playing, this past year has been painful to consider, for the rags at the grocery store counter, for his less than magical play on the course. But don’t give up on him just yet, folks. Like Arnold, “He’ll be bock!”
Sunday, July 18
It’s a good thing I’m not a claustrophobe, because when Freddie wheeled me into the HBO cylinder, it felt like I was being loaded in a torpedo tube. But the comparison ends there.
I arrived at the hyperbaric unit early enough for my nurse Freddy to acquaint me with the procedure. She pointed out my dressing room, where I’d strip and put on one of those annoying hospital gowns always impossible to tie. Then she checked my vitals (bp too high but pulse okay), checked my ears to see that no drums would rupture, asked me if I wanted to watch a movie. I made the mistake of saying no to the movie, thinking I could either nap a bit or simply explore thoughts while down. A mistake because I thought I’d be diving for 90 minutes (15 going down, an hour there, 15 coming back up, or at least that’s what my info from the Net told me). Wrong. She took me down slowly since I told her my left ear was hurting quite a bit, some 25 minutes. Then an hour and a half down plus an extra 10 minutes for two 5-minute air breaks, and then 15 decompressing for a grand total of two hours and twenty minutes. I began at 1:00 and was out at 3:20. And all that while without a movie. Now, I can dwell in my head better than most people, but that length of time felt like forty miles of bad road.
Back to the cylinder. I was lying on a well-padded surgical table, sheet over my legs, sippy cup in one hand, a bracelet on my right wrist that held an air line I was to use for five minutes twice during the dive. I was never told the purpose of the air breaks, only that I was to breathe only through the tube in my mouth, not through my nose. I’m guessing that the prolonged breathing of pure oxygen may not be good for the lungs. I’ll ask Freddie when I go in on Monday. The cylinder was heavy-duty plexiglass with a television attached to the top about three feet from my face. Freddie turned on the oxygen and I could hear it pumping in, slowly at first, then increasing in volume (both amount and noise) through my initial dive. Freddie communicated with me by phone, telling me what she was doing, asking me how I felt. Just as in a plane climbing from takeoff, I had to keep dropping my jaw to pop the drums. And in this first experience I had a problem with my left ear, feeling a building pain. But then I got it worked out and when I was at the double compression it felt all right.
Then my lengthy stay that first time. The noise of the pumping oxygen reminded me of the vuvuzela horns at the World Cup, but wasn’t nearly as annoying as the horns. And the sadists who designed the facility installed exactly one clock . . . way to the left and on the back wall. I had to nearly break my neck to see it. Everyone knows the feeling of being boxed in somewhere—no books, no magazines, no tv, not even any people to use for people-watching, no anything to occupy the mind. Time slows to a crawl, a glacial movement. I would wait as long as I could before craning my neck to see the clock. What should have been at least fifteen minutes was invariably five. Finally, finally, Freddie told me she was bringing me up. Oh, happy week. I had to keep popping my ears as I came up, with the left one popping and crackling just like when you take on water from a swim. And the pumping sounds receded and were finally shut off. And I was released.
Other than feeling a little dizzy, other than my ears continuing to pop, other than a slight loss of hearing, I felt all right. This is something I can live with, despite the commitment to nearly three hours a day, five days a week, for as many weeks as it takes to see some improvement in my wounds. And believe me, next time I’ll ask for a movie.
Wednesday, July 14
The series debut for Rizzoli and Isles on TNT looks like a winner. I don’t know how they’re doing it, but TNT keeps putting out more and more and better and better hour-long dramas. It doesn’t hurt that Angie Harmon is one of the leads on Rizzoli and Isles. She was arguably the most beautiful woman on television when she played the female ADA on Law and Order some ten years ago, and nothing’s changed since then. And Sasha Alexander, who plays the medical examiner Dr. Maura Isles, ain’t no slouch when it comes to looks. Unless scripts falter down the road, this series should stick around for more than one season.
The other series on TNT we wouldn’t miss is The Closer with Kyra Sedgwick as the funny Brenda Lee Johnson. But the writers may be doing the show a disservice if they plan to continue with the slapstick humor. The series opener had the major case squad moving into their new digs in the multi-million dollar offices supported by Chief Pope. But their first case was treated with light-hearted attitudes as the squad stumbled around in their new surroundings. Not a good trend. I don’t mean it has to be deadly serious all the time, especially with the comic nature of Sedgewick’s character. But they shouldn’t rely on humor as the series’ centerpiece. Please don’t fail me, Brenda Lee.
St. Andrews. Tonight at 1:00 a.m. on ESPN. Tiger and Phil and Ernie and others. Nearly all the furor over Tiger’s sexual follies has died down to a murmur, mainly because his golf game has died down to a murmur. This Open, played at his favorite site, may well be what makes or breaks his year, maybe even his career. I’d hate to see it end here on this sour note, but he certainly hasn’t looked like the golfer with whom we were once all so fascinated. Some were fascinated negatively, angered that he seemed to get all the tv coverage, hoping he’d fall on his face. Well, he certainly fell. But most, like me, watched him because we wanted to see golf history made, wondering what magical shot he’d pull off, how many majors he’d win. I miss those moments and hope they’ll return. And St. Andrews could well be the returning point. Last time he won here, he hit almost no drivers, only long irons off the tees, leaving him long irons into the greens. But no one in the game is better with long irons than Tiger. I can’t wait for 1:00 tonight.
Tuesday, July 13
I got the good news today that they found an opening on the hyperbaric oxygen therapy list, and I'll be starting the treatment this Thursday. Whoopie! I may be putting too much faith in what the treatment will do for me, but I'm so very sick of this half a year with wounds that just refuse to heal. In fact, to my eye, I can't see any improvement whatsoever in these dastardly holes in my leg. So, yes, I'm enthused about starting with the oxygen. Come on, bring it on. Freddie, the one I spoke with on the phone, will be my attending nurse. She went through a whole barrage of questions about my health, about the possible things that could go wrong. For example, I must not drink any carbonated soda before taking the dive; the bubbles would cause me huge gastric pain. Okay, I can relate to that. If there's an emergency and they have to speed my decompression, I could suffer a collapsed lung. I asked her what sort of emergency might prompt that—a fire, she said, or my having a heart attack or an anxiety attack. Okay, the likelihood of one of those is pretty slim and I'll take my chances. My mental image of a collapsed lung is silly: I envision my chest as caved in, both pecks sort of inversed. Nothing she said to me frightens me or makes me anxious. I just want to get started. Who knows, maybe it’ll make me feel like a kid again, maybe turn my hair brown again, cause me to lose these thirty pounds of blubber around my middle. Maybe I'll win a million bucks in the lottery. Oh, that's right, you have to buy a lottery ticket to win anything. I guess I'll settle for instant youth.
Monday, July 12
Our annual trek to South Dakota wasn’t nearly as long as it’s been in the past, feeling like only a week and a half instead of the two or three weeks from past trips. Please don’t misunderstand me. I love the relatives and friends we see back there, I love the old hometown (which is more and more unlike the old hometown we remember). But after four or five days I’m usually ready to climb aboard a plane and head for home. More than ready. This trip of seven days was more bearable, probably because daughter Jeri was with us. It was fun seeing old sights and old relatives through her eyes.
We managed to show her the lovely walking/biking trail from Fourth Ave. East, circling 2½ miles along the Oahe Reservoir west past the viaduct to below the outdoor theater, the lovely road to nowhere with the lovely light standards that continue to go unlit until the damn railroad okays the crossing at the bottom of Main Street. The water was right up to the level it once was, the level it should be, the level the Corps of Engineers too often drop by as much as twenty vertical feet to accommodate the barges on the lower Mississippi. We sat in the heat at the cemetery for the Living History presentation called “Business and Monkey Business,” one that featured Lars Larson, sister-in-law Doris’s grandfather and the founder of the Larson Furniture Store and the Larson Funeral Home; Meta Hellriegle, one of the sisters who had a lingerie shop that appealed to the “girls” from below the tracks; Oscar Heuttner, the father of photography in and around the Mobridge area; Ethel Wrigley, from one of the town’s most prominent families; and the nameless madam of the West End Tavern, the longest surviving cat house in the Mobridge area, outlasting several other houses of ill repute from early in the century, to be shut down finally in the mid-Sixties. We went to the Klein Museum after the history lesson at the cemetery for chips and soda and brauts, after which we wandered around the museum, examined the Wrigley house, the schoolroom, the post office, and most of the displays inside the main building. On July 3 and 4, we watched the parade from Doris’s front yard. Typical of Mobridge parades, most of it featured the tossing of candy to the kids along the way, a few dozen poopie horses, a few dozen small floats, old classic cars interspersed between the floats, and only one band, not even marching but riding a flat bed, a dozen instruments now comprising the Mobridge city band (oh, how the mighty have fallen, the city band for years and years featuring all the Zimmers in a band of at least thirty). Jeri wasn’t very impressed. But she and I were both very impressed by the rodeo on the Fourth. It was the first rodeo I’ve seen since I was about seventeen. They’ve come a long way since that long ago time. The bareback and saddle bronco riding was the same, the calf roping and steer wrestling the same, but the Brahma bull riding was a little more restricted by a green fence the workers set up. I remember when the bulls often came charging right at the fence protecting the audiences, way too scary for my taste. I enjoyed watching the young ladies on their handsome horses competing in the barrel racing. Several new events which were amusing. “Pink My Steer” involved teams of four who had to drag a roped steer to a line in the arena, then wrestle it to the ground, then don it in a pair of pink boxer shorts with the tail through the fly, and the first team to grab a nearby flag won the event. “Mutton Busting” involved about a dozen kids from three to six who were put aboard sheep, then released to see how long they could stay on. Not long for most of them. In fact, several times the sheep fell on top of the rider. No one got hurt, but it looked sort of dangerous to me. I’m guessing this may have been the last time they feature mutton busting. The arena clown and the announcer, riding a gorgeous palomino throughout, traded banter during the two-and-a-half-hour performance, both of them really excellent. At 10:00 the arena lights were extinguished and we enjoyed a half-hour fireworks display. In the distance to the north and west, other fireworks were going off, starting even before the one at the rodeo grounds, and when we left and drove north to see what was happening, the private displays were still bursting, at least four separate ones. And they weren’t little bottle rocket and Roman candle things; these would have to have cost between $10,000 and $15,000 each. We still can’t figure out how that many people in Mobridge could afford displays that expensive.
The rest of the week was taken up with the three girls finishing the cleanup of Phyl’s apartment and getting her settled in the Golden Living Center, arranging for the auctioning of her furniture, taking clothes to the battered women’s office and the thrift shop, going out to visit old Tatanka Iyotaka (Sitting Bull) where he rests on his lonely spot west of the big water, and donating our $90 to the Indian casino (Rosalie $20, Jeri $40, and I $30). We had two nice buffet meals with a bunch of relatives whom Jeri had never seen or had seen some forty years ago. We could quiz her on who was who, but she’d never pass the test. Just too many to keep straight.
The highlight of the week for Jeri, what would have made her visit a success even if all else failed, was the tale of the shirt, the bi-focal dark glasses, and the upper plate of false teeth. On the morning of the Fourth, we discovered the three items on the corner of Bonnie’s flowerbed near the sidewalk—a crumpled plaid shirt on the grass, the glasses and plate on the bricks near the flowers. No one really wanted to touch anything, so it was decided that the someone who had left them there would miss them, especially the teeth, and would backtrack to find them. We left them there for two days and no one took them. Jeri was about to take them to the police station and had written a note explaining how we had come by the items. She picked up the shirt and discovered a checkbook in the pocket, a checkbook now thoroughly soaked by Bonnie’s automatic watering system. But the checks were legible and showed that they belonged to an Art Nordstrom. When Bonnie heard the name, she chuckled and told us the Nordstroms were distance relatives on her mother’s side. On the morning of the sixth, we drove to the address given on the checkbook, knocked and were told that Mr. Nordstrom no longer lived there, but the fellow just one house east knew where he lived. Corky Jackson had been Art’s landlord and knew where he now lived, but he looked skeptical of our intentions until Jeri explained her story, that Art had apparently had too much to drink and had wandered back from Main St. toward his house, had decided that Bonnie’s lawn looked a lot like his bed, the flowerbed his nightstand. He took off his shirt, put his glasses and teeth on the “nightstand,” and fell asleep on his grassy bed until the automatic sprinklers awakened him the next morning. Corky, who knew all about Art’s propensity for booze, agreed that Jeri’s story might very well be true. Rather than try to explain where Art now lived, Corky rode along with us to a tiny, miserable shack on 8th Avenue, the place Art had acquired for $800 in a foreclosure sale. Jeri and Rosalie knocked on his miserable door, entered when someone shouted for them to “come on in,” and discovered Art in bed. They insisted that he not get up (for fear he was wearing nothing under the bedclothes), explained they were returning his belongings, and left after his hearty thanks. The story is golden for a lot of years to come, and it made Jeri’s visit equally golden.
Before we knew it, the week was over and it was back to Bismarck for our flight home. As we were checking our two bags, Rosalie looked up to the second level where people were going through the security check, and there they were—the young father and mother and their two loud children, the ones who had the seats in front of us on the flight to Bismarck, the two-year-old with the best set of lungs I’ve ever heard, the four-year-old who had kicked the seat in front of her non-stop for almost three hours. “Oh, no,” Jeri groaned, “not them again.” We were just sure they had the same assigned seats as before, but fate was kind to us and they were seated ten rows in back. An uneventful flight home, arriving in Mesa just over half an hour after boarding in Bismarck (thanks to the two-hour time difference). I retrieved the car and picked up Rosalie and Jeri and our bags right at 10:00. Dropped Jeri at 11:00, and home at 11:30. The kids were very glad to see us, not that they didn’t appreciate Jackie’s care for them. But, Auntie Em, there’s no one like Mom and Dad. Oh, and there’s just no place like home.
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