Monday, December 30, 2013

Good Bye Dr. Khan, 2013 and Thoughts on Writing...

This will be the last entry for 2013, as I work tomorrow and then will be traveling across California on New Year's Eve (a brave thing to do).

First off, I must pay my respects to a Psychiatrist that worked the occasional weekend with us at the hospital. Dr. Khan was always pleasant to me. He loved to hike and we always planned on taking hikes together. As it turns out, we only took one.

Dr. Khan (I'm old school when it comes to MD's and I have a  hard time not calling an MD "Doctor" even on a social basis)---passed away while visiting his native Pakistan over the Christmas break. He was only 52 and he left behind a wife and two girls under the age of 8. Dr. Khan was also the Medical Director of Napa State Hospital. He always asked me what I was writing about and when my next adventure was planned. We always talked about taking more hikes together.

You never know what is going to happen when you get up in the morning.

Or to borrow from John Lennon: "Life is what happens to you when you are making other plans."

Of course we are all terminal. Joni and I both got a hint of that this last year. Joni had a pacemaker placed on her heart, got infected, and then had a second pacemaker put in. The first pacemaker costs $21,000 and ended up in the trash (it was a newish kind that you can actually have an MRI done with this brand). So that's $42,000 that our insurance paid just in hardware.

And on May 3rd, I was assaulted by a patient and I haven't returned to my job yet. I remain in pain when not medicated. Thoracic Myofascial Chronic Pain Syndrome. It means that my rhomboid, trapezius and subscapular muscles are always in spasm. Activity makes it worse. So I spent much of the year in a Lazyboy. Both Joni and I experienced ER visits for dehydration. In addition there are a few other things that are a bit worrisome that we are keeping an eye on regarding my health.

I had my first stress echocardiogram. Things looked good. I also got to experience a Workers Comp system that blames the worker for an injury and always looks upon your response to the injury with suspicion that you are faking it. That gets rather tiresome. I actually laid into the Workers Comp MD and told him what I thought of his opinion of my injury.

So we start 2014 not really knowing what will happen regarding my employment status and whether I will ever be able to return to work again.

2013 was sort of a breakout year for me as a writer. I was made a Contributor to the Chico News and Review after writing two very popular pieces. I also have been doing some paid work for a couple other publications. A fun hobby. I don't consider myself a journalist; I consider myself a writer.

I don't think Journalists exist. There are Reporters and Writers---but Journalism doesn't exist. Too bad for all those kids who went to Journalism School, thinking they actually have a profession. Your profession is really reduced to being a Reporter, an Editor or a Writer. Journalists always think they are neutral and balanced. When they say they are neutral, we all should be very cynical. Best to get the bias right up front and let it be known that you have an opinion and that mostly you are an Advocate for a position. If you aren't an Advocate for a position, you are then a Reporter---a mirror that only reflects what the Reporter thinks is important. There are good Reporters, fair Reporters and bad Reporters. There are good mirrors, warped mirrors, circus mirrors and foggy mirrors.

I am not a Reporter. I am not a Journalist. I am a Writer who attends events searching for truth, as I see it. Writers write. Journalists don't exist; they are sort of a mixed breed of part reporter and part writer; some are good; many are bad. But journalism, as a profession, doesn't exist.

When I look at "Journalists" I admire, I see people who never went to "journalism school". Can you imagine what class would be like with Alex Cockburn trying to learn how to write a lead while Chris Hitchens sits in the front of the class--eagerly copying every word the teacher said while Hunter Thompson, from the back of the class, rolled a joint; Ed Abbey would be staring at the behind of Ann Coulter, who is busy scribbling an essay on how to be sexy and vile at the same time. Alex Cockburn, and the whole talented Cockburn family, learned the trade from his Commie father Claud. Hunter worked at a newspaper until he got lucky with his Hell's Angels book. Ed Abbey free-lanced his whole life and stitched together a living as a Fire Lookout, Ranger, Professor. Abbey famously said he failed the only journalism class he took. And he failed it twice.

So are  you saying there is no value in Journalism school? Yes and No. But I think journalists would be better served if they just took one class on how to edit and spent the rest of their time learning grammar. Writers should read. A lot. Writers should live hard. Get dirty. Tangled up in messes. Get divorced a couple of times. Fail. Live in many different cities. They should figure out who they are by figuring out where they came from. Look back to look ahead. Hell, all of us should do that. And all  of us write our own lives, whether we know it or not.

But I could go on with this all night. I have to get up early. Need to sleep.

So how was that year, 2013? I don't know if any year can be all good that has the number 13 in it. I'm hoping 14 is better.

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